Like so many other people I know, I spent some time last night watching the live blogging from the Apple iPad launch event. Also, like so many other people I know, I was somewhat disappointed with what I saw.
The device itself, of course, is magnificent. It looks beautiful, it obviously feels beautiful, and the price, well it is a amazing. At that price – $500 USD – I’d say everyone who makes netbooks is in trouble. That, in fact, is the place Apple are pitching the device anyway. As a middle-man thing between your mobile and your laptop experience.
However, the fact of the matter is that Apple’s big product thrills only start to show up when they do their innovating in spaces aligned to the device they are trying to sell. I mean, iPad is magnificent from an engineering perspective of course it is, but that doesn’t make it thrilling.
We were thrilled with iPod because of iTunes and the seamless way it moves music from artist to the ears.
We were thrilled with iPhone because Apple made the shift from putting everything they could dream up onto amdevice to making it simple to put functions everyone else could dream up on the device.
I was hoping to be thrilled with iPad because Apple would make another play to move the stuff everyone else does onto a screen in another unique way. They didn’t, and even iBooks is just a rehash of what Amazon is already doing.
Ultimately, the iPad is beautiful, but it doesn’t enable anything new.
I knew I’d be disappointed because the fact of the matter is Apple almost never get around to thrilling us with new in a first release.
iPod was released first in 2001, but Apple didn’t add the iTunes store to sell music until two years later.
And the first version of the iPhone had no AppStore at all. It was in late 2008 that Apple added that, almost two years after the first iPhone came out. Now “there’s an app for that” for everything.
So its reasonable to conclude that Apple (who lets face it are masterful manipulators of all of us), have left their powder dry on the iPad. There will be thrilling new ways to get stuff others do on screens. They’re coming, but we won’t have them for, probably, two years.
Everyone who is disappointed because the iPad lacks some gizmo – like a camera or multitasking – is looking for engineering thrills that change the game. But engineering so rarely does. Its always adjustment of business models around the engineering that does that.
And Apple aren’t stupid. They know how to play us. The probably engineered the whole hype thing just to disappoint us. They know their big, game changing play will turn all this discussion around overnight.
Its not like Apple are hiding anything here, either, since they practically told us what they’re going to do during the announcement: “We want to be at the crossroads between technology and the liberal arts”, says Jobs. In other words, wherever talent lives, and whenever it can be rendered on a 10” screen, Apple is going to be your distribution partner and manage your relationship with your customer.
It is a very grand play. And its one that Apple have had some experience in: they did it already for musicians and programmers and studios.
So, in 12 to 18 months or so, when they announce (probably as a sidelight to something else) their game-changer, I am very confident we will all be thrilled.