What Do You Think? Apple’s new iPad

January 27, 2010
By | 8 Comments

Thanks to the magic of live-blogging, Apple fans across the country were able to follow the announcement of Apple’s long-awaited tablet in real time. The new product, called the iPad, experienced a lot of hype prior to its official announcement.

Its focus as a media and web surfing device has been particularly intriguing. Would this product function well as an effective mobile entertainment center? Would it change the way that people consumed media? Would it contribute to the number of people who are forgoing cable internet or declining to watch television in traditional ways? Many of my students say that they only really watch television via Hulu and similar websites. Could iPad be the media delivery choice for them? The rather unsatisfying answer is that it depends on the future of app development but right now the iPad’s possibilities as a go to mobile-media device is troublingly limited.

It appears that because iPad is based on the iPhone OS and that you still cannot use flash on it, preventing users from using its web-surfing capabilities to watch Hulu or video from Comedy Central’s web site. It is clear that YouTube works very well, but YouTube’s offerings are limited. Similarly it would require new apps and patches to make Netflix Instant Watch viewable on the iPad or to make TIVO recordings easily uploadable and watchable on the iPad. However all of this would be theoretically doable and would make the iPad a good option for watching the ever proliferating options of on-line video. The extent to which Apple attempts to lock users into the iTunes store may remain telling in this respect.

On the other hand, this new development might have a far more serious impact on games. As pointed out elsewhere on this blog, games created for the iPhone have become an important sub-set of gaming. The iPad looks like a seamless and tactile device for the playing of games and may have its most impact on media consumption in this area. Like the iPhone the iPad will have multi-touch and games developed will have to adapt to the iPad’s specific kind of interactive platform. This will likely continue to produce slightly different kinds of games, including educational games, for different kinds of gamers. This might be a particular boon to the casual gaming market Electronic Arts presence at todays announcement demonstrated that at least some game designers are ready to step up to this challenge. It could be in the area of games that iPad has its most impact on media.

As expected, the device attempts to compete with the Kindle or, more realistically with the Nook, with the introduction of e-books through a program called iBooks. Certainly the large screen looks like an enjoyable way to consume text, particularly magazines and newspapers with lots of color pictures, although its lack of a paper-like display will limit its usefulness for some people.

Additionally while the Kindle attaches to its data service for free, it appears the iPad will require data service from AT&T if it is to be used outside of a WiFi network. Given the far lower than predicted price of $499 for a 16G WIFI only base model (some commentators had predicted precises more like $1000) and the tremendous buzz that the product has generated, one can expect the product will do reasonably well commercially at least in the short term.

Whether or not it has an impact on the extent to which people choose to consume more on-demand entertainment, whether provided by iTunes or through internet services like Hulu.com or Netflix’s Instant Watch, and whether or not it will change the way gamers feel about Apple will depend entirely on the Apps that are developed for it and whether or not Flash will eventually be allowed on the iPhone/iPad OS. (Or if companies like Hulu find a way around the Flash restriction) What do you think about this new product and its possibilities?


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8 Responses to “ What Do You Think? Apple’s new iPad ”

  1. Sean Duncan on January 27, 2010 at 6:48 PM

    Some great food for thought, Kyra, but I have to quibble a little. I just don’t buy the assertion that Flash is somehow important to consumers of these devices. Certainly, one can make the argument that the internet experience you get from the iPhone/iPad isn’t the same experience of browsing the web with your computer, that Apple’s playing dirty pool with Adobe, etc., but sales of the iPhone don’t seem to support that this has been a problem for many consumers. You mention games — if anything, Apple’s shown that their approach can, in a very short time, make them a player in an industry they weren’t part of before, something that had nothing to do with Flash support. I’m pretty bullish on whether or not the iPad represents a significant difference from the iPhone in terms of gaming, though (bigger screen, much better processor than the iPhone 3GS — but the best iPhone games IMHO have little to do with these factors).

    In my mind, these are all secondary issues, however… I’m interested in the iPad because, if successful, it could bring about Apple’s biggest (and the industry’s) biggest shift in decades. That’s not just silly blog comment hyperbole, I honestly think it has the potential to be that huge, if they can pull this off.

    Note how the keynote began: First, Jobs highlighted that they are now a “mobile devices” company, one of the world’s largest (depending on how you do the math). This statement alone is a significant change; what was once the personal computer company hasn’t had “computer” in the company name for a couple years now, and it now seems as though they’re trying to further redefine what it is the company makes and does. With the reveal of the iPad, they’ve continued to reverse the direction of OS design. Instead of features from the desktop/laptop computer trickling down into handheld device (first, the iPod playing music, then video, then games, next the iPhone with the web and apps), now the organizational scheme/user interface is working its way “up” from handheld devices to what’s traditionally been thought of as a “computer.”

    So, this is potentially a Very Big Deal — Apple’s basically trying to replace the laptop for a large number of its users, those for whom surfing the web, goofing around on Facebook, playing a few games here and there, watching a TV show, listening to music, etc. are all one really does with a computer. In other words, a very significant portion of “computer users.” I was struck by the video shown during the keynote (now available on Apple’s site), and the difference in tone they were trying to strike there as well compared to previous product videos. Note Jony Ive’s flabbergasted “I almost don’t understand how this thing works!” and another employee’s statement that, with the iPad, you “don’t think, you just do” when using it. It’s a difference in disposition they’re trying to impart with the advertising for this device, and unlike others they’ve released — they want to change (or at least make you believe they’re changing) how you interact with things you’ve normally assumed involved “programs” and “mouse clicks” and those pesky “physical keyboards.”

    They’re pushing this streamlined (some would say limited) interface of the iPhone into the territory that’s been normally held by the “computer,” scaling up a popular and easy to use interface to a larger device so that it can presumably occupy a different role than either the phone or the laptop. Having successfully shown that the iPhone OS works well enough for many people, they’re gambling that we need a new sort of device for our everyday digital media uses, that the laptop or desktop are overkill, and having a simpler, streamlined device will actually work better for most people. I buy this claim — I use my iPhone for a great many daily tasks, and a larger, easier-to-type-on, faster device with the iPhone OS might be even more useful. For most non-work purposes, do we want or really even need “computers?”

    And that’s what I think Apple’s asking us; it could be a brilliant question or just reflect a big steaming pile of Apple hubris, none of us know, but it’s certainly got the potential to be something we haven’t seen in the computer industry before (um, if this is even the “computer industry” anymore?) Apple held off on this release for years, so this isn’t about building a Kindle killer or just coming up with a way to effectively sell more downloads of Grey’s Anatomy, it’s about changing long-standing assumptions “computer users” have about how their media are delivered. And, of course, it’s about carving out — and dominating — a new market for those devices before someone else does.

    • Kyra Glass von der Osten on January 27, 2010 at 9:56 PM

      I completely agree with almost everything that you say here Sean. My interest in flash is exactly about how media is delivered, not about flash per se. I have so many students who are doing away with cable and watching their tv through streaming video on the internet: Hulu, ABC’s website and the like. I feel like the iPad could increase the ease of this kind of consumption if you could run Hulu etc. on it, which at the moment it appears that you can’t because of the flash issue. If Hulu, the television networks, etc. made applications available that allowed video streaming without the use of a flash player then I would agree that flash isn’t very important but at this moment in time the inability to use an iPad to view video from these kinds of websites seems limiting.

      • Sean Duncan on January 28, 2010 at 2:02 PM

        But, that’s exactly the issue — the iPad could definitely increase this kind of TV consumption, which is what Apple wants to avoid. They want television to cost something, to get a cut of the sales via the iTunes store. This is what I meant by “dirty pool” in the comment above.

        The question is if this will keep anyone from buying an iPad. I doubt it, at least in the short term; people seem perfectly willing to spend money on TV shows through iTunes so far, though I don’t know the exact numbers. Anyone have an idea how much Apple makes via TV show sales through the iTunes store?

  2. Myles McNutt on January 27, 2010 at 8:48 PM

    I think Sean’s on the right track in terms of where this thing is heading (in Apple’s most hopeful scenarios, at least). For some media functions, I think the thing is going to end up in the middle where no one really needs it to be: it’s not portable enough for gaming (I can’t imagine how you would play the thing and hold it at the same time), and it doesn’t offer that much more than an iPhone in terms of watching movies or TV shows (outside of the larger screen size, of course).

    I think Apple angling it as a Netbook killer was particularly interesting, because the netbook is the current default for when you don’t feel you need a “real” computer but you do feel like you need a computer. And what, as Sean mentions, if you had an alternative that could offer the usability of the iPhone OS but in a larger package, with more features and increased usability? Apple is banking on the iPad to, effectively, answer that question.

    The problem, of course, is whether there is anyone who actually sits in that particular third category; I don’t think it’s that substantial, which means the device depends on people who are currently Macbook owners or laptop owners making the switch to the iPad. The aggressive price means that they should be able to tempt people into this category, but the question is whether they’ll stay, and whether they won’t (as many netbook owners end up feeling) end up with Macbook envy after a few months.

    As for how we consume our media, I consider the iPad a larger iPod Touch until we get final word about potential Apps for Hulu/Netflix/etc. However, even then, it effectively becomes a laptop with 3G access, so it’s not really breaking any new ground on the media front either way, at least not until we see proof of how this new market forms in the next few years.

    • Kyra Glass von der Osten on January 27, 2010 at 10:33 PM

      Myles I think true success for Apple would not be people making the switch from Macbook to iPad but people who could own a Macbook (or other apple computer), iPhone and an iPad. In other words in Apples perfect world costumers would have multiple mac products for different parts of their lives. If some of the issues were ironed out, I could see doing this myself. Using an iPad for watching video, browsing the web, red the New York Times, taking simple notes and having something I could throw in a bag. A laptop would still be necessary for more serious work, significant data storage etc. This is something of the idea behind iPad being an entertainment and media machine, although they are making productivity applications available on it as well.

      • Myles McNutt on January 27, 2010 at 11:26 PM

        They’re also releasing that fancy Keyboard/Charge Station combo that effectively turns the thing into a Macbook without OSX, though, which seems to me like a bit of a mixed message.

        They’d LIKE if this would create an environment where someone would own all three (I’m 2/3 of the way there with my iPod Touch/Macbook combo), but they also need to sell the iPad to those who have neither. I don’t think that there is enough of a gap in terms of what the iPad can do different from a laptop (it’s not THAT much lighter, or that much slimmer) to suggest that the iPad fills an actual gap. Instead, it’s the product you didn’t know you needed, and that you will buy for one particular purpose with the promise of it being able to do much more than that. Apple’s job, then, is selling the user on the rest of the package: you might buy it as an E-Book reader, but then you’ll decide to pick up the New York Times App, or maybe try out one of the games, and begin using it to read your email.

        Some will simply use the iPad’s capable laptop-like functionality to make it work, buying the keyboard accessory. Others, meanwhile, might even be tempted to go on and buy a MacBook Pro to extend the Apple family (they’d love this). However, yet more might take a serious look at the product, and the limitations that would come with the $500/16GB model (especially in terms of storage space) and the touch keyboard and the like, and decide that their money is better spent on a white MacBook, or on another competitor’s computer for around the same price point.

        Apple’s job is convincing those people to take the plunge: once you get them hooked I think they’ll start to see the product’s potential (which, conveniently for Apple, will keep evolving with OS updates and App revolutions), but the product isn’t answering a common desire or anything similar – heck, most people don’t even watch TV and movies on their computers, yet alone on their iPods or iPads.

  3. Sabine Gruffat on January 29, 2010 at 9:05 AM

    I am attaching a link to an interesting review by Peter Kirn of Create Digital Music in which he points out the limitations of the iPad and how Apple is excluding a whole community.


    • Kyra Glass von der Osten on January 29, 2010 at 10:56 AM

      Sabine, thanks so much for contributing this link. In a way I agree with you about these limitations and exclusions and in a sense Flash is a small part of this because it radically limits what you can access even through the web-browser component of the system. (In other words the web I can get to on my laptop is not the same web I can access from the iPad in some fundamental ways.) I suppose it depends on what this is competing with. If it meant to replace netbooks and tablet PCs then everything in this article is accurate. If we are comparing it to certain media devices like the PSP or the Nintendo DS, as is done in this article here here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35132880/ns/technology_and_science-games/ users are more likely to expect and accept a closed system.