A few days ago here in San Francisco Apple announced the iPad. On Twitter and across the web the reaction was swift and overwhelming some positive and much negative. The follow on press hasn’t been very positive – much of is has been people complaining about features which are lacking or trying to define who the iPad is for – typically coming to the conclusion that is for some group of “others” (non-computer savvy folks, “your mom” etc).
I think most people are flat out wrong.
I didn’t attend the Apple Press event so I have yet to play with an iPad in person myself, when it goes on sale I hope that I’ll have had enough consulting (or writing or a new full-time position) to allow me to buy one for myself.
But I think that most people writing about the iPad are missing MANY important details about the device and the opportunities which these pose. Below I outline a number of business ideas which I think will be multi-million dollar businesses and which, in many cases, I think will drive many purchases of iPads.
A few important points.
- I see a lot of content creation and not just content playback opportunities with the iPad
- I see many serious business uses not just individual personal uses
- I also see some hardware & software combo opportunities (but need to confirm they are feasible)
- While I think there will be a huge, mass audience of iPad users I think it is actually the very technically savvy and demanding who will find great value from using the iPad especially as they (and others) build great & powerful applications.
Content creation and authoring
Apple demonstrated their full iWork suite for the iPad – Keynotes, Pages and Numbers. These will be very useful and powerful applications for any author or presenter. Indeed as an entrepreneur and writer I am looking forward to using an iPad w/Keynote to give adhoc presentations, using Pages to write anywhere and even using Numbers (making it likely the first time I use a spreadsheet on a regular basis) to track various things.
But I don’t think that begins to scratch the surface of the types of content creation applications which will be created on the iPad.
The Brushes application which was shown during the Apple iPad announcement and which was famously used (on the iPhone/iTouch) to create a New Yorker cover) is just the beginning. I predict that a very soon someone (likely more than one company) will create a comics illustration application (or likely suite of applications) for the drawing, coloring and lettering of comics. With output for the web, for eComic readers including on the iPad and even print-on-demand or just regular print publication. Idea #1 – comics creation tools (okay this might not be multi-millions but should generate real revenues & excitement, already existing eComics readers should also get a major boost by the iPad – but that isn’t a “new” idea)
On the music front the many single instrument iPhone apps will continue and grow in complexity given the greater surface area and thus greater amount of control and flexibility which the iPad could offer. Combined with either complex hardware devices connected via the 30 pin dock of the iPad, via Bluetooth or via the headphone jack the possibilities are quite complex. I also suspect that very quickly someone will create an iPad based sampler with a wide range of options, beat generation and remixing. Using the microphone (or Bluetooth connected microphones) to record additional samples as well as in-app purchasing of samples and even additional instruments. I can imagine a full ecosystem within a single music creation & remixing application. An application which very likely could rival physical samplers in capabilities and which could support a rich ecosystem. Idea #2 – music creation/remixing/performance + licensing of instruments, samples & content to remix = big $ opportunities for many different apps, artists & companies
The lack of a built-in camera may seem a limitation but the iPad will also build on the many existing iPhone applications which offer a wide range of photo editing and manipulation capabilities. The larger screen size of the iPad will offer greater ease of editing large photographs as well as more complex manipulations such as editing together panoramic shots. Many of these applications, such as Adobe’s existing Photoshop iPhone application will connect with a web based service for hosting and sharing the photos. I would also expect that professional image licensing services such as iStockphoto and Getty will offer iPad applications for browsing their images libraries and licensing those images. Idea # 3 – iPad app based stock photography (and perhaps video) stores combined with iPad based content creation tools as well as expanded features of photo editing applications
Writing on the iPad is more than just document creation it will also involve writing for web. Currently WordPress has a great iPhone application. I expect that the iPad version will make the creation of blog posts on the iPad even easier and more complex. Most competing web content creation services will have iPad (and iPhone) applications soon and I predict there will be a growing range of specialized iPad applications for content creation driven needs. For example applications for liveblogging events, for moderating & managing high volume online discussions and more. Idea #4 – iPad based web content creation tools which expand on what WordPress offers today.
Augmented Reality Games
But wait you are saying, the iPad doesn’t have a camera so how could you do Augmented Reality on it?
Well, and here is what I meant above, what the iPad does have which many people haven’t fully noticed yet is full support for Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR. Apple notes that this could be used to pair wireless headphones or a wireless keyboard. But that may not be the only things which could be paired – there are already a handful of Bluetooth 2.1 enabled cameras on the market with some specifically marketed to pair with Macs.
I predict that a number of creative companies will make a wide range of input devices via Bluetooth for the iPad. Cameras would be a very logical starting point for this and done well would expand the capabilities of the iPad immensely while addressing the many issues which a built-in camera would face.
One of these uses could be a Bluetooth camera which you would wear on your head or affix to your lapel and which would then be used with your iPad to drive an augemented reality application. Ideally this device, if this is possible via Bluetooth, would also contain a digital compass & GPS and pass that information back to the iPad as well. If not then the internal digital compass and GPS (if the iPad has is the 3G version) could be used to locate the device. But even without a GPS the digital compass could be sufficient for a number of really creative augmented reality uses – for example an app which when it fires up directs you to a known, fixed starting point and then uses the digital compass from that point onward to help direct you.
Idea #5 – Bluetooth connected devices beyond headphones or keyboards – cameras, microphones, sensors and controllers. Done well these products & the apps to leverage them could be major businesses.
These are just a few immediate ideas I have for how the iPad could be a driver of a lot of content creation as well as very creative applications and services. Far far more than just being a frame for content consumption the iPad will be a platform and connected device driving content creation and interaction.
UPDATE – after I wrote this I found http://emergentbydesign.com/2010/02/01/699/ which is by far the best summary of blog coverage of the iPad reactions I’ve seen yet.