Growing Mobile Landscape

With less than half of U.S. adults owning a smartphone, it means there are still a lot of dumbphones in use and we’re not even at half-time in the smartphone revolution. Tablets are the big story with ownership doubling year over year.


iPad: The gadget we never knew we needed

Of all the things written about the Apple iPad thus far, this quote really resonates best with me…

So we have this new device, carefully planned by a company with a unique ability to reach new markets. And we have two types of products that have effectively failed to reach those markets. And you’re going to bet on the failures? The iPad has shortcomings, but they only betray Apple’s caution, just like what happened with iPhone No. 1. Now every 15-year-old kid asks for an iPhone, and the ones that don’t get them get iPod Touches.

We can sit here in our geeky little dorkosphere arguing about it all day, but as much as Apple clearly enjoys our participation, the people Jobs wants to sell this to don’t read our rants. They can’t even understand them. My step-mother refuses to touch computers, but nowadays checks email, reads newspapers and plays Solitaire on an iPod Touch, after basically picking it up by accident one day. That’s a future iPad user if I ever saw one.

Jobs doesn’t care about the netbook business, or the ebook business. He’s just aiming for the same people they were aiming at. The difference is, he’s going to reach them. And the fight will be with whoever enters into the tablet business with him. Paging Mr. Ballmer…

via Gizmodo

Gruber’s analysis of the iPad and Apple’s long-term strategy is also a compelling read – The iPad Big Picture.

They’re Microsoft and Intel rolled into one when it comes to mobile computing. In the pre-taped video Apple showed, Bob Mansfield said of the iPad, “No one else could do it.” Only Apple.

And so my takeaway from this — with the bragging about making their own CPUs and their annual revenue and their size compared to companies like Sony, Samsung, and Nokia — is that this is Apple’s way of asserting that they’re taking over the penthouse suite as the strongest and best company in the whole ones-and-zeroes racket.

And just to underscore that this is simply the opening shot, the first page of the proverbial iPad…

But wait. Here’s where Apple’s magic trick occurs: This is iPad 1.0. It’s amazing, it’s a game-changer, it’ll sell by the million. But you know that next year the iPad 1.0 line will get trimmed to a few models, and a price slash. Because iPad 2.0 will be out. With double the storage, with a camera (not a big omission in my mind, but your mileage may vary), with a speedier Apple A5 processor aboard, with better battery life, stereo speakers, extra whoofle-dust sprinklings and a built-in kitchen sink.

Its inevitable, it’s typically Apple–which followed this business model for the iPhone–and it’s typical for electronics. But you know that you’re going to want the 2.0 even if you bought the 1.0, since you’ll be seduced by its power, and by how much fun you had with the first version. And since you’re not in a data contract you’ll buy one, for probably the same price you paid for the 1.0. You might even spring for more storage inside, or a 3G one if you didn’t get that before. And then there are accessories…

The same will happen in 2012 too, when the iPad 4G comes out, stuffed with LTE goodness, cameras and god knows what else Apple’s squeezed into its chassis. If you go for the cheapest option every year, you might spend just $1,500. But if you’re a gadget geek with deep pockets you could end up forking over $3,600 to Apple and AT&T. You’ll probably have enjoyed the experience a whole bunch, though. Clever Apple, eh?

via Fast Company

David Pogue of the New York Times chimes in…

…Apple finally unveiled its tablet computer, the iPad. Thus concludes Phase 1 of the standard Apple new-category roll-out: months of feverish speculation and hype online, without any official indication by Apple that the product even exists.

Now Phase 2 can begin: the bashing by the bloggers who’ve never even tried it: “No physical keyboard!” “No removable battery!” “Way too expensive!” “Doesn’t multitask!” “No memory-card slot!”

That will last until the iPad actually goes on sale in April. Then, if history is any guide, Phase 3 will begin: positive reviews, people lining up to buy the thing, and the mysterious disappearance of the basher-bloggers.

…My main message to fanboys is this: it’s too early to draw any conclusions. Apple hasn’t given the thing to any reviewers yet, there are no iPad-only apps yet (there will be), the e-bookstore hasn’t gone online yet, and so on. So hyperventilating is not yet the appropriate reaction.

At the same time, the bashers should be careful, too. As we enter Phase 2, remember how silly you all looked when you all predicted the iPhone’s demise in that period before it went on sale.

Like the iPhone, the iPad is really a vessel, a tool, a 1.5-pound sack of potential. It may become many things. It may change an industry or two, or it may not. It may introduce a new category — something between phone and laptop — or it may not. And anyone who claims to know what will happen will wind up looking like a fool.

Robin Sloan from Snarkmarket says the iPad is a call to arms for artists…

Apple is great at inventing new devices, but it bums me out that they seem so content to fill those devices with the same same old stuff: TV shows, movies, music, and books. Books…in ePub format?

Apple: you did not invent a magical and revolutionary device so we could read books in ePub format.

Think about what the iPad really is! It’s the greatest canvas for media ever invented. It’s colorful, tactile, powerful, and programmable. It can display liter­ally anything you can imagine; it can add sound and music; and it can feel you touching it. It’s light and (we are led to believe) comfortable in the hands. The Platonic Form of the Perfect Canvas is out there somewhere – it’s probably flexible… and it probably has a camera – but the iPad is, like, a really amaz­ingly good shadow of that form. And this is just the first one!

So, we’re gonna use the Perfect Canvas to… watch TV shows?

Seriously: ePub?

Now, connect the dots. For all its power and flexibility, the web is really bad at presenting bounded, holistic work in a focused, immersive way. This is why web shows never worked. The web is bad at containers. The web is bad at frames.

Jeez, if only we had a frame.

So, to finish up: I think the young Hayao Miyazakis and Mark Z. Danielewskis and Edward Goreys of this world ought to be learning Objective-C – or at least making some new friends. Because this new device gives us the power and flexibility to realize a whole new class of crazy vision – and it puts that vision in a frame.

In five years, the coolest stuff on the iPad shouldn’t be Spider-Man 5, Ke$ha’s third album, or the ePub version of Annabel Scheme. If that’s all we’ve got, it will mean that Apple succeeded at inventing a new class of device… but we failed at inventing a new class of content.

In five years, the coolest stuff on the iPad should be… jeez, you know, I think it should be art.

Joshua Benton from Nieman Journalism Lab splashes some cold water on news executives who may have been hoping the iPad would be an iSavior…

…the iPad, as we know it today, doesn’t change any of the fundamental economics of news commerce. On the iPhone, you can sell news apps through the App Store; you can upsell specific pieces of content to people within your apps; and you can sell advertising within those applications. (Apple takes chunks of the revenue from those first two options.)

On the iPad, you can…do those same three things. The only thing that has changed is the size, and that big beautiful screen. Will people who weren’t willing to buy news on an iPhone be sold on the idea just because the text is bigger and the photos are prettier? I’d be surprised. The commerce proposition hasn’t changed.

It was telling that the first website Steve Jobs used to show off the iPad’s web browser was The New York Times. (Apple and the Times have a longstanding mutual appreciation.) Showing before showing off the Times’ iPad app illustrated the big problem device-as-savior advocates face: As long as a device is a great web browsing machine, and websites remain free, it’ll be difficult to push people into the walled garden of an application. Not impossible — difficult. And If you’re willing to put up a paywall on your website, then you have issues to consider much larger than the iPad.

I didn’t see anything today that made me change my opinion that device-based dreams of a news deus ex machina are wishful thinking, and that the difficult revenue decisions will have to be made pan-platform.

Catharine P. Taylor from MediaPost takes a closer look at how the blogosphere has hijacked the messaging…

So what is an iPad? Based on the (blogosphere), it’s a feminine hygiene product, reviewed by Walt Mossberg, consisting of nine iPhones glued to a cafeteria tray that can’t handle Flash. It’s worthy of people making fake ads about it, but may also put a damper on digital advertising while it is — or is not — proving to be the savior of the publishing industry. It also is the main cause of obsessive tweeting.

In other words, the bizarre echo chamber that we now inhabit has the ability to completely overwhelm the messaging about the product itself. To that extent, Apple is both the lucky and the unlucky one. Countless thousands, maybe even millions, will watch the video of the official Steve Jobs announcement of the launch, even though it appears that Apple has kept with its usual policy of not posting its content to YouTube, a practice I find increasingly bizarre. Even more will watch the 8-minute video posted on the site, and the real commercials, when they come out. Most companies can only hope to be so adored.

On the other hand, no matter how much Apple spends on advertising of the iPad, we are less dependent on its official messaging than we ever have been.

Maybe in Apple’s case, this barely matters. At this point, there’s a built-in base of people who will buy its products simply because they exist. But the rest of us should study the iPad launch for a peek into what democratized media really means. Think you’re in control of the message? Ha!

The iPad simply makes sense. I don’t need to hold one to know how it will work, because I have become so familiar with the iPhone experience. I don’t have to carry it from room to room while using the Web as I know I would, or read books or other content on it, instead of the Kindle, as I know it’s better from day one, with more functionality, a better screen and real color. I do not care about all the whining that is going on about it missing a camera, or whether it supports Flash, or whether it needs a USB port or two to fit in. This is the first generation, and like the iPod and iPhone before it, the first generation is going to get updated and antiquated in about a year’s time, as we continue to see the product evolve. The iPad, despite not being perfect, is the best product on the market at this pricepoint, period. It can make casual computing comfortable, and continue to erode the complexity so long associated with PCs from any source.

Have I purchased one yet? No. Having just purchased the Air, I am plenty happy with it. But I know an iPad, either this version or the next, will make it into my home. And if the twins have their druthers, we’ll probably end up with two. So it’s time to stop complaining about dream machines and misplaced expectations, and time to start trusting Steve. No other company, Google and Microsoft included, could have pulled off what Apple did yesterday. They are going to sell a ton of these machines, and you’ll see them in places you never expected. Casual computing and content consumption are going to drive it.

Mark Cuban is unreservedly making the call right now, the iPad will be nothing short of a massive hit especially for kids…

I cant wait to get my hands on the iPad. Its going to be a HUGE hit.

You can book it right now that it will be the product that kids of this generation grow up with and look back on with affection just like we did with the first video games. Video games changed how we grew up. The iPad will change how kids grow up.

Sci-Fi blog io9 says the iPad is nothing more than crap futurism unless hackers can melt Apple’s icy grip…

I know a lot of otherwise-savvy consumers and hackers who are already drooling over the iPad and putting in their orders. They hate the idea of a restricted device, but they love the shiny-shiny. I’m not saying that they should deprive themselves of this pretty new toy. What I am saying is that this toy represents a crappy, pathetic future. It is no more revolutionary than those expensive, hot boots I bought at Fluevog, and only slightly more useful.

The only way iPads can truly become futuristic devices is if we hack them so that we can pour whatever operating system we want inside. We need to jailbreak these media boxes so we can install the apps we want, not the ones provided by the Apple shopping mall.

Do not be content with a television when you can have a computer.

Do not be content with yesterday’s machines, because the future is before you. Ready to be hacked.

Will one of the Apple Tablet Commandments be ‘Thou shalt not overcharge for digital content’?

apple tablet pad slate

I guess this is my obligatory Apple Tablet/iPad/iSlate post which comes just a few short hours shy of the public unveiling of this new piece of kit from the grand techno-wizard, Tolkein-looking character himself, Steve Jobs. I had far more to write, but Jason Kincaid from TechCrunch broke into my brain yesterday with a crowbar and stole most of my thoughts on the subject.

The tablet will be nothing short of a runaway success for Apple. They will sell millions of units, and just about everyone with a pulse and a credit card will pine for one. Steve Jobs will walk us through an awe-inspiring demo that will clearly define and usher in a new era of personal computing. From doctors, lawyers, teachers, students, gamers, construction foremen and everyone in between, the shear utility of this computing device and the subsequent depth and scope of environments that it will touch and transform will be nothing short of revolutionary.

However, I can not help but feel a palpable sense of disappointment for some content producers. In particular those content industries that are struggling who may be viewing this device with the hope that it may pave a new yellow brick road of revenue gold that will lead them to a brighter future and rescue their industry from a dwindling fate. For those dear folks, this tablet device will likely change nothing. Let me back up for a sec. A new era of personal computing absent of ushering in a new era of pricing economics of digital content will likely change nothing for said content industries.

When I buy a song for .99 cents, chances are 5 years from now I’ll still want to listen to that song. When I buy an App game for .99 cents, chances are 1 year from now I’ll still want to play that game. But if a digital edition of a daily newspaper will cost .50 or .75 cents, chances are that content will end up in the equivalent of a virtual trash can in 7 days or less. That’s reality. And for most people, that pricing model needs to change, and change drastically to alter the value proposition of digital content to bring it inline with real-world usage, utility and virtual shelf-life. The largest consumer nation in the world is already up to their eyeballs in personal debt and there is a vast amount of digital content in some form or fashion available on the open web for free. Maybe the tablet paired with Apple’s iTunes store technology will indeed be the catalyst for finding that perfect pricing sweet spot for digital publishing much like it has for music and thus unlock a more prosperous future for those content producers who most need it. I’m truly hopeful, but remain skeptical until proven otherwise. Jason Kincaid sums my thoughts up best…

I’m still excited for the Tablet, I’m just not expecting it to live up to its potential for quite a while. The big publishers will figure out this new medium eventually. Well, maybe they won’t. But someone will.

Launch update: The Apple tablet is called iPad, and it is basically an oversized (9.7″ – 1.5 pound) iPhone/iPod Touch. A wonderfully simple, refined internet app-driven device. But perhaps not quite as revolutionary as some of us may have expected, and I bet there will be plenty of folks who are left somewhat underwhelmed by this offering. Nonetheless, the iPad successfully fuses together three micro-markets ie, tablet + netbook + e-reader thereby creating a new category of personal computing with no equal. In typical Apple fashion, subsequent generations of this product will see more features and functionality added, and one that I expect to see down the road will be a camera for ie, Skype video-conferencing. Perhaps above all else it is a swift, harsh kick in the groin to the Amazon Kindle and I’m not sure it will be able to get up off the mat. Then again, I never understood the value of the Kindle in the first place, so I may not be the best person to comment on that. My rule of thumb has always been to wait until the third-generation of an Apple product before I purchase, and I see no reason to deviate on this one. See you in 2-3 years iPad! Cheers.