iPad: A New Toy or Opportunities for the Taking?

February 5th, 2010 by | 1 Comment

Photo by benaston

Chris Dixon wrote earlier this month that the next big thing will likely be dismissed as a toy–too often we underestimate the pace and momentum of innovation and don’t look at what an item COULD be rather that what it currently is. It is with this in mind that I considered Apple’s new release, the iPad.

In the tech world, every innovation is based in either new technology or new convenience. Yes, that’s an oversimplification, but the biggest steps in innovative technologies are based in one or both of these things—think light bulbs, Facebook, electric keyboards, laptops, cell phones, the Adobe Creative Suite: all of these things introduced either a new technology or a new level of convenience. And at first glace, the iPad doesn’t really exemplify either of these two things.

Sure, it has a color screen, but is that really enough to set it apart from the Kindle by $200? Perhaps, depending upon how it is leveraged. With email access and content creation apps like iWork, suddenly a color screen means being able to create and edit content on the fly, something the Kindle certainly can’t. However, a netbook would give the iPad a run for it’s money here, as the iPad restricts you to the use of one app at a time. In terms of cool features, the iPad has a handful, but the biggest oversight is the lack of communicative properties. Any device that doesn’t facilitate users connecting with each other misses a huge opportunity to appeal to a larger audience. A smart phone can match the iPad on email and surpass it with communication options, from phone to text and and MMS to free chat IM and the like.

That’s not to say that they won’t sell like hot cakes. For early adopters that haven’t already purchased a netbook to accompany their smart phone, this could be the perfect next step; more functionality, more ease, and simply more packaged in one platform. The Kindle provides no more than the convenience of having your subscriptions and novels all in one place; the iPad has just that much further to travel with additional features. I think my hope for the Apple tablet was that it would surpass the Kindle by leaps and bounds and create a new category of mobile technology, a kind of alternative laptop that’s smaller, lighter, more affordable, and just as powerful. Unfortunately, with the iPad missing key technologies as simple as a camera, I think the iPad only skipped the surface of what could have been a huge splash for the tech industry.

However, I do believe that the iPad will be picked up by fanboys and girls and will get the same kind of frenzied response as most of Apple’s most recent innovations, and just like Chris reminds us, each generation will bring new features and functionality. Watching full-length movies on a decent-sized hand-held screen is nothing to scoff at; it just might not be what we were expecting. As the iPad continues to evolve with better technology and increased convenience, it’s audience will grow significantly from the already-excited public it has already attracted. And what will this mean for marketers? Opportunities galore.

The Barnes and Noble Nook already has a perfectly sized space for a banner ad. Many smart phones already have ads on their apps to help reduce their cost. Look what has already happened with the iPhone–now imagine a bigger screen, a better platform, and new technology. So begins the race to best leverage this new medium. Contextual ads, anyone? GPS-based coupons? The opportunities are endless. Add that to the fact that this will welcome more media consumption and it’s a marketer’s dream. We’ve only got 60 days until the first models hit stores. Now is the time to start thinking of how you and your brand can benefit from the iPad.

Claire Grinton is a brand strategist and writer based in San Francisco. Find more from Claire or contact her at claire[dot]grinton[at]gmail.

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