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By phil

It’s not a laptop, it’s a SLAB – What people are missing about the iPad

On 28, Jan 2010 | In Blog, ideas | By phil

A lot of doubters are making a classic mistake in evaluating Apple’s iPad. They did the same thing after the initial announcement for the iPhone, or for that matter the Toyota Prius. The mistake is thinking in terms of existing categories and value propositions. For the iPad, the doubt seems to boil down to: “I don’t like it because it doesn’t fit my ideal for a great laptop.” The critiques don’t always state it those terms, but I think that’s where it’s coming from. No camera, no keyboard, no multi-tasking, no Flash (okay, actually Safari on the iPad really does need that), etc. – these are standard expectations for a laptop.

And the doubters are right, for those of us who want a cool, small, OS X laptop thing, the iPad does not hit the mark (of course, as the iPad matures it will get many of these things – the inevitable 4.0 release of the iPhone OS will likely address the multitasking and app organization issues. And maybe Adobe and Apple will finally make nice for the Flash plug-in. And the 2011 version will have a camera etc.).

But people who want a better laptop aren’t the target audience for the iPad. Just like people who wanted a better Blackberry weren’t the target audience for the original iPhone. And people who wanted a green-washed sports-car were not the target audience for the Prius. Guess what? These products were a success anyway, because they met a new need and found a new audience.

So what is the iPad? Well, that remains to be seen. It will evolve in the next year as developers turn the iPad into a range of completely new things that, once they exist, will be essential for many people. To start all this off, Apple gives us the basic foundation and a decent value proposition:

  • Read rich media books/magazines/newspapers
  • Comfortably browse the web
  • Use interactive textbooks and other learning material
  • Work with personal media (photos, music, video)
  • Play games
  • Shift low-intensity computer stuff off the computer (email, todo lists, calendars, presentations, note taking, etc.)
  • And as an add-on value, provide an admittedly compromised level of computer substitution for word processing, spreadsheets, etc. so we don’t always have to drag around a laptop.

That alone is a pretty good deal for $500. But what will come, and will likely make the iPad a major success, is a range of new apps that turn the iPad into an incredible device for doing more specific kinds of activities. For example, recording a song – it can be a complete recording system and tangible interface with faders, knobs, transport controls, etc. Or as remote control for your house and entertainment system. Or as a painting canvas. Or as a device that sits next to, and is an adjunct to your computer – wacom tablet, todo list, email, application switcher, etc. Or to organize your genealogy. Or to do scrapbooking (really, this could sell a millions units alone). Or plan a trip. Or evaluate X-Rays at your patient’s bedside… You get the idea.

I call these devices Slabs. The iPad, iPhone, Andriod, etc. are generic platforms that, via an app, turn into a product. And a 10″ Slab with multi-touch surface can be a lot of different products.

More to come in the following days on my thoughts about SLABS, SOFTDUCTS, and BESPOKE OBJECTS.

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