Is the iPad for creating or consuming?

As an avid Apple follower and a web designer I’m interested to know. I saw Apple demo an iPad version of iWorks, but will this thing work for real-world productivity? If it’s just for consuming, then it’s all set up already. It has the screen for movie watching, the graphics for games and over 130,000 content delivering apps already developed.

But if it wants to follow on from the iPhone then it has to extend what’s gone before. It’s going to have to fill the space as advertised and provide some desktop-like features. To occupy the sub-notebook/netbook world, it’s going to need a bit more functionality than a mobile phone. It’s revealing that I’m writing this on an iPhone but will upload it from the desktop where I feel I have more control.

Screen size

When web browsing I’m expecting to get the full desktop version of every website, unless a page has specific browser detection this already happens with the iPhone. But on the desktop I expect to have extended ways to deal with the content, of which plugins and background processes are a big part. Will Apple allow me to install a Delicious plugin or chop and change between 2 – 3 apps running at once? Will I be able to have my web code open in one programme and the site I’m working on in another? Better yet, will they let me install an alternative browser, one with a wealth of extensions already developed? All very doubtful.

Size of the market

Currently I see good uses for the iPad in business and education. Imagine the delivery person using it to find your house, or the hospital doctor pulling up digital X-Rays, or the classes with lessons tailored to individual students with content delivered at a suitable pace and level.

If marketed and priced right, I can even see it becoming the next big gaming device at Christmas. Evidence suggests major games developers are already switching to the platform. But what will take the iPad into the mass market?

Essential or extravagance?

With the iPod and iPhone, Apple were entering established markets where demand for the product type was already developed. With the iPad it’s different since most consumers won’t have heard of a tablet, let alone be convinced of why they need one.

The boundary between creating and consuming could be what makes the difference here.

The adaptable device

The genius behind this device is that Apple haven’t bowed to the pressures of the rumour mill. They haven’t created an overcomplicated piece of hardware full of whizz-bang features (OK, it could’ve had a camera). The genius of Johnny Ive and co. is that they didn’t tinker with a winning formula. It looks like an oversized iPhone. This leaves the software people to work from a solid foundation and build features into later updates that match developer and consumer needs (sorry guys, not necessarily ‘wants’).

Another genius move is that Apple haven’t cornered themselves too much with the possibilities for this device, meaning that everyone interested has their own thoughts and hopes for what it can do. Software driven products like the iPad have a huge potential to capture the imagination.

So if anyone’s listening and if this post can be at all useful, I’d be interested to hear your ideas on what you’d like to see it do.

Posted on Wednesday 10 February 2010.

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