Initial Thoughts on the iPad

On Wednesday this past week, Apple unveiled their vision of the future: the iPad. A bold move to create a new category of product, somewhere between a smartphone and a laptop, as described by Steve Jobs at the announcement. Do we really need another device to complicate our lives further? Or part with more of our hard earned money for a better way to browse the web while our laptops and iPhones sit idle? Or perhaps this device will usher in a new era of how we interact with technology, consume media and open up entirely new opportunities and businesses that will drive the human race forward, if only to make it to Apple’s next big announcement when the fun starts all over again!

Perhaps we are witnessing the next big technological revolution. Apple revolutionized the computer industry by commercializing the graphical user interface (GUI) and mouse in 1984 with the introduction of the Mac. At that time, no one would have predicted with great certainty that this was going to become the de facto user interface for millions of computers over the next 25+ years. It would seem that the iPhone and iPod touch had been the touchstone for the multi-touch user interface. Based on Apple’s latest quarterly financial results, it would seem that multi-touch is already a big hit. With 75 million iPhone and iPod touch devices sold, the iPad market has a leg up in customer familiarity and an already thriving content ecosystem, thanks to the iTunes and App stores.

Apple is in a far stronger position today to influence the direction of the future of technology than they ever were and Steve Jobs highlighted a number of facts to drive that point home. These include over $50+ billion in annual sales, 125 million iTunes credit card buying customers that have already downloaded 12 billion products from the store with one-click shopping. In addition, Apple is the #1 mobile devices company (as described by Steve Jobs), by revenue compared to Sony, Samsung and Nokia. These key points also give Apple tremendous leverage when negotiating for eBook, music and video content deals as well as wireless 3G data plan pricing to complete their end user experience and sell more hardware.

Apple has 284 retail stores throughout the world and has hosted 50 million visitors in the last quarter alone. Talk about an effective distribution channel! The hands-on-exposure the iPad will get is going to be phenomenal and from what I’ve read on this new device throughout the blogshpere, a hands-on session leaves a relatively positive impression in terms of the speed, responsiveness and richness of the display.

Another key takeaway from the announcement is the fact that Apple now produces its own silicon chip (Apple A4 chip made possible by their P.A. Semi acquisition in 2008), to power the iPad. In order to exert control over the end user experience, you must control the key components that build your device to deliver a unique and tailored experience that cannot be duplicated by competitors and your dependance on others for crucial components are diminished. After the PowerPC chip ran its technological lifespan and left Apple in a precarious position with respect to the competitive PC computer market, Apple doesn’t ever want to be compromised in this way again. Control over key components for their hardware and software will ensure that they are in control of their own destiny. The acquisition of PA Semi in 2008 made this breakthrough possible and it will find its way into Apple’s complete mobile products line up.

I find myself musing over the different applications this device can serve in my personal and professional life. How to become ever more efficient with the iPad so as to extract the maximum benefit from life with a minimum of time, energy and financial resources. It’s all very exciting. Look for further articles I will pen to opine on some useful tasks for which the iPad can be used to make our lives easier and our experiences more enjoyable, kind of like what Apple Inc. and its products aim to do.

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