Nobody, repeat, nobody can make a bigger technology marketing splash than Apple, Inc. From the famous “1984” commercial to the iPod and iPhone, Apple has frequently employed the best and the brightest marketing folks on the planet. So, if the Apple iPad wasn’t a big deal, Apple would make it one. However, the iPad is a big deal. Apple’s new tablet computer was rolled out January 27th with more orchestrated anticipation for any computer product we’ve seen ‘this century.’ Whether it sells the socks off its competitors; whether it is the hottest technology ever to roll out of Steve Jobs’s insanely great brain; or whether it has a dead-on-target or dead-on-arrival price – it doesn’t matter. It’s still a big deal. Why?
As I think many in the computer industry have felt – the time has come for the tablet computer. It’s the right time to make a piece of hardware that has the mobility, touchability, and flexibility of the smartphone, coupled with the screen and virtual keyboard size vital for ‘work’ and meaningfully surfing of the Internet. Yes, there have been quite a few other tablets, mini-laptops, and Netbooks. None of them made the form factor (a manufacturer’s term) sexy (the marketer’s term). Apple can make its products sexy. It’s a matter of aesthetics; they look good. It’s a matter of haptics; they feel good and use sweet gesture controls. It’s a matter of product marketing – a little expensive, a little chic, and a lot wanted. Sexy, with class. Competitors may achieve none of this and still benefit from a burgeoning acceptance by the public of the tablet concept.
This time it appears that Apple went for the bicycle kick, and made it. Style associated with substance is a good trick, and the iPad covers it: Long battery life (10 hours), excellent screen (9.7 inch display, crisp colors), fully capacitive multi-touch capability (iPhone), enough power (Apple’s own chip), memory (16GB), storage (32 or 64GB), and connectivity (Wi-Fi, 802.11n, Bluetooth, and 3G wireless for extra money). Of course, time will tell if the mix of multimedia, custom applications (many ported from the iPhone and iPod Touch), Apple’s own iWorks office suite, and relatively open-ended connectivity really works as smoothly (and seductively) as the past Apple hits.
The iPad will have major impact on the computer industry, for sure, and it may affect the way people think of computing in general. That depends on whether Apple and others are successful making the tablet form the first all-purpose, carried-by-everyone, alternative to printed material (books, magazines, newspapers). It looks like they’re going to make a good run at it. With book deals with most of the major publishers and support for the largest open-source format, ePub, the iPad – in color – ought to steal a march on the rivals, especially Amazon’s Kindle. If I had to bet, I’d bet that the format, size, and features of the iPad will be with us for a long, long time.