I remember this once, we were a big group coming back from a trip and everybody was waiting for an already late aircraft. I was sorting my music folder on my laptop when a friend, poked me and asked if I had iTunes. Usually, I would have a rather snide remark for that kind of question. However, my friend, was not very much into tech and them latest trends, she owned a mac (not that all mac owners are tech impaired) and she was in her late fifties (I guess). I said no. Then I asked her if she wanted to listen to any particular song, I said I could download it for her. She smiled and said, ‘don’t waste money, I can listen to what you have’!
This got me thinking and ladies and gentlemen, here’s my train of thought… All my friends have some kind of collection of .mp3 files. Most of these files are the ones they borrowed from their friends. They all also know where to download these files from online… iTunes! Ask them for another such site and they draw a blank… some say napster, rhapsody and then move on to music streaming sites like pandora, 8 track, grooveshark, last.fm, raaga etc. Few knew that you can download tracks from the Windows Media Player, for example.
Point. iTunes is where one can buy music online, not .mp3 or ogg vorbis or .wma or .flv file. Music, you are sure will play on your expensive hardware, whose workings you have no clue about or care about. For every geek out there who swears by 320kbps encoded .mp3s, there are hundreds of normal people, who just want to listen to good music and would like a music service that is compatible, virus free and extremely easy to understand and navigate. This was how iPod ‘destroyed’ companies like creative, archos and philips in the late 90s. It wasn’t talking to the guys who were already salivating in on the kind of files or bit-rates the archos media player could handle, It talked to those who wanted to listen to more songs on their CD player. In fact it talked to one’s who liked music. Period.
iPad is talking to people who like portability. Period. It was a deja vu moment for me when I was reading about the press trying to figure out the whole point behind this device, and then comparing it to the Kindle, Nook and some other e-book readers. It was like reading the press clip on the iPod launch all over again. iPad my friends, does not even support the .epub format!
Here’s what I would put next to the iPad. Your college textbook, your office notepad, your netbook (is the cheapest Apple mobile computing device if you discount the iPhone, same netbook processing power too), your laptop, your phone to an extent. Sony PSP, Nintendo gameboy, the entertainment console on the economy class, your next expensive christmas gift, the Robert Ludlum you were thinking of picking up at the airport bookstore, even the Xboxes and the PS3s!
iPad is catering to a generation of people who are either tech averse or are just getting to understand tech, and are looking for an idiot proof device that is light, legible, feature rich and easy to use. They don’t care about the e-ink and 40 day battery lives. They don’t care if they can lend a book for ten days and about the millions of books available for download. They don’t care if it can cut, copy, paste or whether it has a 12 megapixel camera. Runs on linux (most are afraid of it if you ask me, ‘where are my documents?’, ‘this has no start button?’), Windows, Ubuntu, Moblin, Android….
They do care however, if the device lets you send text messages to friends, play high quality movies for ten hours straight and a bigger screen to watch them in, stream from youtube and update you about what’s happening on your social network, edit notes, play a game with friends wirelessly, store and play their favorite music, look lot, lot nicer than the cheap netbook bound in cheap plastic, lot more real estate on your economy class tray table and no more crazy ways of holding the laptop to watch a movie, have ‘turn by turn’ GPS assisted navigation, make calls, browse blazingly fast on the internet, have apps that tell them about juicy celebrity scandals, paint, draw, make presentations and best of all, have the same aspirational values as that of the iPhone, not to mention the user interface. This device is for people who don’t know or care about the options already available in the market. Estimates put the Kindle sales at about a couple of million devices, iPad is looking at a market atleast ten times that, in my opinion.
iPad is a much bigger problem for the visually impaired than the Kindle. The latter at least has a physical keypad. I see the iPad replacing a lot of mobile computing devices, primarily the ones we use for leisure. iPad will have a far greater acceptance in the student community than any other e-reader, might soon replace bulky textbooks with the kind of rich interactive content, the Kindle can only dream of. Unlike the Kindle which had to pitch to the universities, I see students opting in for an iPad, and making it ubiquitous enough for universities to look at a default formats for iPad consumption and participation in classrooms. Unlike the bulky tablet PCs we have, I see people using this device on their shop floors. Unlike the tiny gameboys kids play with during lunchtime, I see a more immersive team based social network games happening in the cafeteria on them spanking new iPads.
iPad is Apple’s answer to the netbook and more. It now is, in all probability, the default christmas gift for your loved one. Hope it does not become synonymous with e-book readers and netbooks, the way iPod is to portable media players.