iPad…Can’t help falling in love…

Reactions to Apple product announcements follow a familiar pattern. First, hype-building speculations and guesses around the specific nature of the announcement. Second, bashing comments and complaints on what was announced. It remains to be seen this time around if the third phase will be repeated, the one with general amazement over the market’s demand for Apple’s latest gadget…

After last week’s iPad announcement, the overall scepticism and questioning have been noticeably fierce. Critics come at the iPad from two angles, the smartphone perspective and the laptop perspective. Although having correctly placed the device in-between these two mobile device types, the pundits somehow fail to address it as a new device type. Instead, the iPad is criticized for not being both a smartphone and a laptop.  As usual, we see a human need for categorizing the unknown while wanting to include all the known functionalities of perceived similar things. In our view, the iPad can be considered to represent a new mobile computing device category, a tailored combination of functionalities enabled by hardware, software and cloudware innovations channelled through a user friendliness-prioritized user interface where multi-touch is the key.

True, there have been several attempts at this tablet space before, and the outlook of the iPad beyond the niche of Apple fanboys is uncertain, but we can quickly list three aspects speaking in favour of the iPad:

  • User readiness – Over 75 million users know how to use an iPad, based on the iPhones and iPod Touches sold. These devices continue to sell well and are attracting converts well beyond traditional Apple customers.
  • Application readiness – Apple’s App Store ecosystem is ready to immediately deliver 140,000 applications for use on the iPad. In addition, a touch-centric productivity suite for word processing, presentation creation and spread sheets is available, making gesture-based computer creativity available for potential wide number of users.
  • Media readiness – The iTunes Store ecosystem is ready to immediately deliver music, TV shows and movies on top of the Internet experience.

One could go on and point to the competitive price of the iPad, the sad state of netbooks, which come close in the comparison game, the still-leading multi-touch interface, and, indeed, the overall strength of Apple in deselecting features rather than going down the traditional path of making spec lists longer and longer.

But, the iPad is probably even more interesting from an interoperability and connectivity perspectives. In addition to the external interoperability aspects listed above, it fits into the user’s “internal cloud” of social interaction and media consumption by sharing data with other user devices, such as the iPhone and a home PC, either via the home WiFi network or the cloud. Further, by freeing the 3G iPad from the operator’s grasp, Apple has taken yet a step at giving the user full control over connectivity. Prepaid mobile broadband service offerings are soon as flexible as those for voice, allowing users to pay by day, week, etc. Some users will clearly prefer capping their monthly use, while some will want unlimited data for their peer-to-peer gaming. Only the SIM-card itself remains as a small nuisance. It remains to be seen if Apple will be able to fully resist allowing operator –locking of the iPad outside the U.S. but the intention seems clear: This time users will be able to choose a data plan of their choice on the iPad itself and cancel it at any time. The next step is of course for Apple to provide the plan as an MVNO…

But, it is still only speculations, from us as well as others. For now, we can lean back and spare both vitriol and excessive hype for a while. However, we can safely predict that we will see people lining up for iPads as they are released at Apple Stores and that we are less likely to see exclusive lines at any operator stores.

And we feel we can also safely predict that Apple, along with other non-traditional telcos, will continue to unpredictably rock the foundations of what used to be a fairly foreseeable industry.

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