Whenever you hear an ace pitchman like Steve Jobs start a presentation promising something "magical," you know that he's probably about to overreach what he actually believes is true about the product. And then, within minutes he pronounces the "magic" of "having the whole Web site in the palm of your hands." His own customers have had the experience for quite a while now.
Yeah, the dude is selling himself as much as he is selling us. That is not a bad thing, necessarily. I really don't think any of us knows right now whether a device like the iPad will fit within our everyday use cases. Until then, we just have to try selling ourselves on the idea.
I hope Jobs isn't planning on trying to sell the iPad around my daughter's high school here in Delaware. In a dreadfully unscientific poll we did this morning, few of her iPod-toting, SMS-aholic, IM-consumed teen cohorts had even heard of the iPad. So much for the purported over-hyping.
"You mean iPod?" she texted me back when I first asked her to ask around. And before the parent police jump down my throat, no she doesn't dare text me during classes -- recess and between classes only.
We struck gold with a couple of friends, both of whom had seen or heard of it. Neither wanted it, though. Apparently "Greg" is not interested, my daughter was quick to relay. First I ever heard of a "Greg" in my daughter's life. So I asked, "Who is this Greg character, anyway?"
Way to kill the flow of info in a teen focus group, Dad. Haven't heard from her since.
Thankfully, I am less ham-handed with my friends in the industry, perhaps because I keep my nose out of their personal lives. But a quick survey last night and this morning of mobile marketers and agencies reveals more enthusiasm than I would have expected. Almost everyone is seeing both pros and cons here, but most I asked are enthusiastic about the possibilities.
Isobar's Gene Keenan is hot on the hardware, which runs iWork and has got some serious gaming potential. He thinks it might have a lot of social networking power, too. "They should have called it the iWant," he says. But the lack of a camera is a big omission, and the 3G premium is going to be tough pricing to swallow for a lot of people. "I have to wonder if the difference between the laptop and the iPhone is compelling enough," Keenan says. "Better battery life on the laptop side, bigger screen on the phone side. What does this do that I can't already do? No doubt it's sexy, though.
And that sexiness definitely attracts the media guys. Ujjal Kohli, CEO of mobile video ad network and app developer Rhythm NewMedia, is seeing a lush new palette and a lot of inventory. He's not as worried about the 3G pricing because a world of WiFi-only devices still maps well against the usage he sees. "We could not be more excited! 70%+ of our video usage is on WiFi anyways, and now our TV-class video apps will show beautifully on a much bigger screen," he says. Kohli's tech is behind the TMZ, AMC and new Ellen iPhone apps. He says that with ad space sold out in Q4 and 70% sold in Q1 this year, "We need more premium inventory and the iPad will drive more inventory for sure. The $499 starting price point is fantastic."
The fact that the iPad starts with a base of apps and a huge pool of developers already up to speed gives it a tremendous leg up on previous tablet and e-reader attempts. Transpera's CEO Frank Barbieri also fuels mobile video providers like CBS Mobile News, "The Today Show" and MSNBC. "We've already looked at the iPad specs and have adjusted our system to serve video ads on the iPad with relative ease," he says. "The larger screen is a great opportunity for video advertising, and because we are already compliant with the iPad specs, we see a great opportunity for our advertisers interested in reaching the iPad users."
A lot of backward-looking types like myself point to the trail of failed in-between devices that preceded the iPad. The e-readers, Tablet PCs, UMPCs, etc. raise serious questions about the need to fill the niche that hardware makers would like to appear. But Jordan Greene of MellaMedia sees through that history and suggests Apple is much better positioned to make it work. "While it may or may not be the grand slam that everyone wanted it to be, it is the first legitimate foray to create this category that has been long promised," he says. "Apple now has the infrastructure to support it and an educated consumer base that will understand how to use it right out of the box." Greene sees the possibility of the form factor and input making inroads on numerous industries where paperwork cries out for efficiencies. He makes the case (which I think will need to be made to me and others) that this is considerably more than either a Kindle or even an iPhone.
But are we really going to embrace this kinda-new way to consume media? That is the question, really. More than anything, this is a media consumption device. I am actually fairly shocked at how little this device is informed by person-to-person communication and interactivity. It is really a lean-back device. With a keypad that is going to be a challenge under any scenario and no camera for video-blogging, the iPad doesn't even have some of the basic blogging and posting tools Apple encourages on its Mac platform.
But Dan Flanegan of BrandinHand says this is exactly the in-between device that finalizes his shift of media consumption from analog to digital. "The iPad completes my content consumption transformation," he says. "To this point my iPhone and MacBook Pro have pulled me away from traditional broadcast entertainment and news. The iPad completes this, giving me a place for books, magazines, newspapers right alongside a better experience for TV and movies."
Flanegan is a true believer that this is the beginning of the end of paper. "I can see how my kids will consume media in their lifetime. Goodbye newsprint, annoying business reply card inserts and six-inch thick Stephen King novels. Hello, content anywhere! What took you so long?"
Well maybe Dan's kids will enjoy that post-analog world. It might take a while to peddle this one to that "Greg" character at our local high school.
For now at least, I am with Greg: not that interested. Whoever the hell this Greg is. Wait till that girl gets home.