iPad: Game changer or iPod Touch for Boomers?

iPad (Courtesy of Apple)The IPG Media Lab team weighs in on Apple’s release of the much anticipated iPad device.

Is the iPad a game changer?

Scott Susskind, IPG Lab CTO: I don’t know if I would consider it a “game changer.”  However, I do think it raises the bar.  We saw several tablet devices this year at CES that leveraged the Google Android platform that have some similarities to the iPad.  However, the iPad will quickly leapfrog the competition due to the maturity of the iPhone OS and breadth of the existing application ecosystem. The heavy lifting was already done. It allowed Apple to focus their efforts on smoothing out the user experience for this form-factor as well as developing special ports of business apps that make it an attractive device for the workplace.

That said, I think it will be a short-lived lead.  As the Android App ecosystem matures, the marketplace will swell with a variety of Android-based devices Devices that will either compete directly with the iPad, or fill smaller, niche markets that would be too costly for Apple to support through multiple hardware versions.  And since the content (and app) distribution model will likely be based on an open ecosystem, I would wager that the lion’s share of the market will be non-Apple inside of a few years.

Lori H. Schwartz, IPG Lab Director: iPad is a game changer because it satisfies some basic consumer needs:  an all in one device that has portability and the usability that iPhone’s have popularized while being ‘open’ to other web services.  When you couple this with leveraging the distribution network that Apple has built out with iTunes it’s a huge advantage for them; they can continue to sell hardware devices through this channel, however they evolve them.   From the competitive set on the ‘ereader’ side, Kindle relys on Amazon for the distribution network but Amazon is mostly defined as a destination for physical goods not virtual entertainment assets.  While they are trying to break through  with their ‘Amazon on Demand’ solution which, played off of all their purchase data, is very powerful, iTunes is already there.  However, until we all start playing with the iPad we won’t really know how important this device will be; if it doesn’t live up to its promise, it will be a disappointment.  The AT&T network has obviously tarnished the power of the iPhone and no CE company can afford mistakes on launches, the competition is too hot!

Josh Lovison, IPG Lab Mobile and Gaming Lead: Not in the least bit.  It’s an evolved form of the iPod Touch product line.  While the iPod Touch had been designed with the primary purpose of a portable music player, Apple observed that users were mostly using it on WiFi in their homes to run apps and browse the web.  The iPad is designed around extending the functionality of an existing product line to new audiences.

What are you most excited about on this device?

Scott Susskind: That they actually built it.  It will raise the bar for all manufactures in the competitive set.  Consumers stand to benefit from an arms-race like feature escalation for this nascent product category.  I suspect that an innovation frenzy is on the near horizon.  It will refine this market at lightning speed.

Lori H. Schwartz:  I think the hype that Apple creates around it’s launches is an accomplishment in itself and that same ‘hype’ helps bring the solution to the forefront of the public eye.  It speeds up adoption and creates a demand for innovation.  It’s literally helping to drive the marketplace.

Josh Lovison: In all honesty, the processor.  I find it very interesting that Apple is making their own processors that bridge the gap between energy efficiency and processing power.  As for everything else on the device, I feel like I’ve seen it before.

What impact will the iPad have on the netbook, eReader, PC and mobile markets?

Scott Susskind: Initially, the tablet market in general (not just the iPad) will drive innovation into these related markets.  Ultimately, I believe we will see a platform convergence.  Certainly we are seeing the beginning of that convergence in the content that powers these platforms.  IE: iPhone or Android apps that run on multiple form factors.

Lori H. Schwartz:  As we’ve been chatting with our friends at the CEA,  iPad adds fire to the already sizzling market of the 5-12inch screen.  All of a sudden, this new marketplace has the consumer’s attention and that will again drive innovation.  Will it be an Android phone that wins, a netbook, a Kindle?…what do consumer’s really want and what can be the most ‘scaled’ solution.  This launch proves that there is a huge demand, “need”,  for a portable solution that allows content to be consumed in an organic matter without being tethered to a pc, even a notebook.  I believe the devices ‘winners’ will be split across demographics as different user’s have different needs.

Josh Lovison: There will certainly be synergies between the iPad and the next versions of the iPhone, so the device will indirectly influence the larger mobile market based on what cross over happens with the iPhone in June.  In terms of eReaders, the iPad doesn’t have an eInk display, or even an OLED display, which is going to make it as straining on the eyes to read text for a prolonged period of time as a MacBook screen.  And for the netbook market, the iPad may present a threat and drive interface innovation – but in reality, the operating system lacks much of the utility that a netbook offers.  If anything, it will be most interesting to see how this competes with Google’s Chrome OS when it releases late this year/early next year – as both essentially offer high-powered browsing at the cost of a robust operating system, but in two very different ways.

What opportunities does the iPad present for marketers, now and in the future?

Lori Schwartz: If this becomes the platform that everyone uses, the standard,  there could be scalable advertising solutions that will change the game for marketers. With its GPS and mobile functionality, the iPad will enable addressable advertising for users on the go. Think about the contextual advertising, location-based marketing opportunities; it could be very powerful.

Josh Lovison: This is actually the most interesting part.  Since the iPad runs the iPhone OS, and is compatible with iPhone apps, it further extends the reach and impact of a presence on that platform.  Ads served in-app will be served on the iPad, and branded applications will need to be updated to optimize the experience on the iPad.

This will be particularly interesting considering Apple’s recent acquisition of Quattro Wireless.  Just as they bought a processor company and are now building their own microprocessors, expect to see Apple working to develop an integrated advertising solution for their iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad ecosystem.

How does the iPad impact Google and other media companies?

Josh Lovison: As I mentioned before, the iPad may have preempted much of the promise of Chrome OS, just as the iPhone had preempted much of the promise of Android, but in terms of the “media” story, I think it is quite meaningless.  It’s not really an eReader, it’s not really a very mobile device (try putting it in your pocket), and it’s not quite a netbook.  It’s a iPod Touch for Boomers, presenting a large screen and easy controls to browse the web and look at iTunes content.  If anything, the biggest media impact is that it makes multitasking in the living room easier.

What’s missing from the device?

Josh Lovison: Quite a lot.  After the reveal of the device, I could sense the sigh of relief sounding at once from a thousand consumer electronics companies.  At the same time, I thought that here was an example of where crowd-sourcing could have really helped Apple.  I’d have bought the blogosphere’s version of this device in an instant – that was an amazing and revolutionary product.  But Apple’s hype machine undercut their big reveal, as there wasn’t much extraordinary about this device.  The screen is LED, not a much easier on the eyes and sharper looking OLED.  The operating system is the iPhone OS 3.2 rather than a streamlined multi-touch OS X.  There’s no forward-facing camera.  And most of all: There’s no subsidy.

Anyone remember back to when the iPhone was first released?  The price point was right around where the iPad is launching.  Despite being a very nifty device, it didn’t fly off store shelves.  It was the availability of a carrier subsidy, that could bring the price of the product down to that of a nice dinner, that drove 75 million unit sales (well, that number is iPod Touch + iPhone, but the point remains salient).  For a device that doesn’t replacement any of my other devices (for which I can rationalize the upgrade cost into the price of the iPad), and is in essence a lifestyle device, $499 is a mighty high price point.

Would you buy one?

Lori Schwartz: In a second. I wanted to buy one on Wednesday; it’s not surprising for a gadget girl, but for me, I’ve enjoyed the Kindle and getting content wherever I am in a tablet like experience. But I miss some of my web services on the Kindle, I can’t access Twitter, or my email. If you can expand on the portability and functionality of the Kindle, and open up the web to me, then that’s magic.