Yes, I know that iPad analysis abounds in abnormal amounts right now. But still, now that it’s out, now that we know what it can and cannot do, one cannot help but think about its future. Is it going to be a hit? Is it going to be a failure? Is it good enough as it is, or will Apple need to change something to make it work?
iPad’s biggest problem is time, or lack thereof. I’m not talking about the passing of time; I’m talking about the time every user allocates to different activities each day.
It’s going to be very hard to find enough time to use the iPad. When you’re at home or at work, you’re going to use your computer. When you’re on the go, you have your smartphone. If you’re on a train or a plane and need to do some work, you can use a laptop. When you’re doing something else, such as running, well, then your attention is focused on that. When, exactly, are you going to use the iPad?
Check out your schedule. What do you do during the day? I spend at least 9-10 hours in front of my computer, working (if I were working on any other job, I still probably wouldn’t be able to use the iPad). I spend an hour or two training; add a couple of coffees or a beer with friends, perhaps a movie, or a night out at the concert, and the rest is sleep. I simply don’t see when I’d be able to pick up the iPad. The way I live my life right now, it’d be collecting dust.
This is why Steve Jobs pointed out so many times during his keynote that the iPad is better: better at browsing, better at sending e-mails, better at reading books. Unfortunately, even if that’s true, it’s not that much better. If you’re sitting at your computer, will you go fetch the iPad to send some e-mails on it? I don’t think so. Will you play on your iPad if you have a PlayStation? Ask your kid, I’m sure he/she knows the answer.
Now, if we had 48 hours in one day, the iPad would be a fantastic device. All those long walks at the beach you’re currently not taking because you have no time, all those times when you simply have nothing better to do, you’d fire up your iPad. But if you’re in Apple’s target demographic for the iPad, chances are you haven’t been bored or had too much free time on your hands in weeks.
I can think of only one activity in which the iPad really excels, and that’s book reading. But in that department, iPad competes against the less expensive Kindle, Nook, a bunch of other e-book readers, and, yes, physical books. It’s not exactly an easy road ahead, is it?
I’ve already discussed content versus activity: The iPad is not so much about creating or working, it’s about consuming content. Right now, Apple has its iBookstore, a deal with The New York Times, a couple of games and an SDK, waiting for developers to create applications. But I’m not sure any of those, except the book store, are enough to make you need the iPad (Yes, you may want it, but do you need it?)
If Apple wants to turn that want into need, it needs to sell content, not the device, because we don’t have the time for another device. The way I look at it, in the future, the iPad should be free if you buy, for example, a two-year subscription to a magazine, or a couple of seasons of a TV series. Right now, its price point is way too steep for those kind of deals. If Apple manages to pick up enough partners to sell us great content on the iPad, then the iPad has a chance. But it won’t happen right away. The iPad’s time is coming, but it may be very far ahead.