For years I’ve been trying to squeeze down my portable office. I’ve gone from seven-pound laptops to five pounds to three pounds. Switched to Palm, Visor, Treo, MiFI/Smartphone/iTouch and so on. All so I could stay wired and have access to important files and not feel like a pack mule.
So naturally news of the iPad from Apple was received with interest. My mind did the bank account calculations to get that issue out of the way.
Next was the taste test. Is this a device that will satisfy my needs now and for the next few years? My expectations for the smartphones were pretty low. The small screen size, inability to print from them, and limited power and memory discouraged me from doing any serious work.
With the iPad it’s a little different. At this price, size, and ability to establish a fast connection to the cloud, I may want it to do more than just supplement my desktop, I may want it replace it on the road. Particularly on long trips when actual work is done in hotel rooms. That’ll mean a keyboard and possibly external storage of some sort (the WiFi + 3G model alone has a Micro SIM card tray). It may mean applications more capable than iWork and other applets. There’s no camera so I can’t video conference. It’s a little too small for giving a presentation to all but a couple of people at a time. So I’ll sit and watch for a bit. I have a feeling that there will be scores of replacements. Similar products are not new to the market and manufacturers are very active in this space after spending years trying to get the tablet market to lift off.
With the imprimatur of Apple and its elegant user interface, I’m sure the niche will develop fast, regardless of my wait and see attitude. The iPad is sort of a disruptive product. But unlike true disruptive products it just helps us do what we are already doing easier. As the iMac pioneered when it joined computer and monitor into one slim unit, so too does the iPad do the same for the laptop. With the iMac we lost expandability, with the iPad we lose some expandability and functionality. For those who can afford it, the iPad will be a welcome new multimedia delivery mechanism.
Clues to whether it will be successful or not have some precedent. Remember back maybe 15 years ago? Kodak introduced a technology for developing and storing pictures on a CD. It was interesting but not the instant hit they hoped for among ordinary consumers. When surveys were done and a post-mortem was held they found that they were selling huge numbers of CDs and film processing engines in Germany and China. The subject matter? Porn. Yes, the illegal porn market was using this technology to distribute original and stolen porn via cheap composite CD disks and selling them in the street markets and by mail.
Other technologies have also benefited by being adopted by the adult content industry. Online subscriptions and micro-payments found traction in the porn industry. Porn helped the VHS tape format dominate the Beta format. There’s nothing Apple can do to stop this potential reality. Everything is delivered through web browser streaming and out of their control.
Back to my use of the iPad. I do hope the arrival of Apple’s version of the tablet computer will ignite a new surge in need for content. Struggling content suppliers, newspapers, and wire services may be saved by it. I do hope publishers won’t just repackage their content for this format. I hope they will enrich it and index their data so I don’t have to have three-foot stacks of magazines around because of a need I may someday have for an article. I’ll be happy to pay a search fee given the chance. Embed a video of someone making the recipe along with a printable (is there a bluetooth printer driver on the iPad, hmm) ingredients list. Don’t take the lazy way out and send me to YouTube.
(I’ve been granted a reprieve on making a decision. iPads will not be available until the middle of April — more time to spend weighing its value and the alternatives.)