iPad Field Notes

I wanted to post this a couple of days ago, but it has taken me that long to pry my iPad from my kid's fingers such that i could actually write with an informed perspective.  Anyways, a few months ago I wrote a post about the winners and losers in the tablet wars.  Now that the device has actually shipped and I have used it for the past couple of days, I thought i would share some quick impressions both on the device itself and an update on my take on the winners and losers.


With regards to iPad itself, the biggest difference relative to my expectations is that I think of it more as a net-book than i do an eReader or large iPhone.  To me this is the real genius of Apple: for the past couple of years people have been pushing them to release a net-book, which most people took to mean an inexpensive stripped down laptop, but instead they took that market need as an opportunity to create a whole new category.  In keeping with Apple's mantra the device is incredibly easy to use and set up.  My aforementioned kids had it up and running in minutes with no help and no documentation.  Applications download seamlessly and once installed they launch instantaneously.  The iPad native apps look and feel great and many of the iPhone apps are equally good, even when scaled up to fit the larger screen.  I fully expect that any successful iPhone app will be quickly ported over to the iPad and that the store will expand from the current 1,000+ apps to at least an order of magnitude larger in the next several months.  In terms of use cases, I find myself using it as a quick look up device for articles, news, videos and email and the kids also love it for gaming as the larger screen makes for a dramatically different and better gaming experience.  New games that take advantage of this real estate will be hits with my crowd.  The on-screen keyboard is also great and responding to emails, or typing up blog posts like this one, are no problem – a vastly different experience than smart-phones which I find to be primarily read only devices.


That said, like most first generation devices it is not perfect.  First, I am finding that I don't love it as an eBook reader.  Blog posts, magazines and newspapers are good, but the device is too heavy for long term book reading, especially if you are like me and you read the kindle one-handed while lying on the sofa.  Further, I find that the screen creates more eye strain than the Kindle screen, although if you read in low light conditions the brightness is an obvious plus.  I also found that the screen switches between landscape and portrait mode too quickly, which can be a challenge while reading.  Like many others, I also wish they had decided to include a webcam, although it sounds like that will be part of the second generation device.  Finally, after traveling with the iPad today, I wish I had waited for the 3G version as I constantly found myself looking for coverage and with such, feel it would be functional enough to leave my laptop at home for the day.


In terms of my winners and losers from my previous post, I am sticking by most of my assertions.  Winners, in addition to Apple itself, will include cloud service providers, real time web applications, and game application developers while losers include Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft.  That said, I don't think the device is quite the Kindle killer I previously thought and believe Amazon, through both the kindle device and their very well executed iPad app, will continue to do quite well in the eBook arena.  I also believe my list of potential winners was too limited.  Counter intuitively, the Android operating system should benefit as any original device manufacturer has to be thinking about their own iPad knock-off and Android is the most obvious operating system for them to work with if they want to get a device to market quickly.  The device will also be a boon to a broader set of application vendors than I previously thought not only because there will be an expanded number of devices upon which to run their apps but also because consumer's propensity to pay will be higher.  The average app in the iPad store currently has a price that is almost 50% higher than in the iPhone store and I think the screen rela estate and processor speed will lead people to understand the applications are more fully functioning and therefore more valuable.  As an example of this, my partner David plunked down $100 to fully "app out" his iPad, something that would be quite hard to do on the iPhone.  I also agree with Marc Benioff's assertion that the iPad will be a great opportunity for healthcare IT vendors as it is the first tablet that is both light enough and fast enough to be used in a clinical setting.  I also suspect the iPad will be great for ecommerce oriented applications where the broader screen real estate creates more merchandising opportunities.


If you have an iPad yourself, I will be interested in your take and comments.

Will hubris get the best of Google?

I would likely do the same thing if I had $25B in cash, was generating $9B more each year and had a legion of super talented engineers, but I wonder if Google is letting hubris get the best of them.  As near as I can figure out, over the last month the company has opened, or deepened, competitive initiatives with Facebook (Google Buzz), Apple (Nexus One and HTML5), numbers telco providers (high speed internet initiative) and a sovereign nation of 1.3 billion people (China) not to mention the ongoing battles with Microsoft in search, although this remains a lopsided fight, and enterprise apps.


All of these initiatives, in true Google fashion, are innovative, disruptive, principled or all three combined.  That said, the concern is one of focus.  Yes the organization has tremendous talent and capital resources, but do all the new battlefronts suck up the company's management and engineering talent in a way that keeps them from innovating on the core driver of the operating cash flow mentioned above: traditional search and search advertising?  Could this result over time in the equivalent of a Windows Vista search product that leaves them vulnerable to new competitors?  In the end, I conclude it is unlikely, but how the company ensures it continues to invest in the core and manages its ever expanding initiatives and ambitions will be interesting to watch.