Padding a category

This graphicapple revenue progress, of Apple’s revenues per quarter, broken down by products, tells several stories at once. One is that the iPhone remains huge. (I was amazed by how many I saw in the UK and France.) Another is that the iPod may be getting a bit stale. But the big one is the sudden size of the iPad business.

We have one, a 3G model that arrived when we were in Paris in June. It was nice-to-have but something short of its full promise until a friend in Paris got us a 2Gb SIM so the unit became useful outside of our apartment’s wi-fi zone. (Orange, Apple’s carrier partner in France, requires of Americans a French bank account — just one of many vexing problems with 3G outside anybody’s home country. It’s a freaking mess.) With that SIM, the difference became absolute. Now we could look at maps, shop, and read about topics of immediate local interest, live and on the spot, anywhere. (Even in the subways.) The iPad is much faster than the iPhone and much more convenient than a laptop or a netbook. Form-factor wise, it’s a whole new category.

The question is, can anybody else top it, or even compete with it? Certainly somebody should. Here’s what I’d recommend.

First, a second unit with a smaller form-factor: about half or two thirds the size of the iPad. There’s a need for something that’s bigger than a phone but smaller than the current iPad, which is a bit too large for most purses.

Second, freedom from anybody’s silo. Apple has done it’s vertical thing here. Now it’s time for the horizontal one. In product categories, the horizons are always wider than the skies are high.

Third, featuring the 3G or 4G model, rather than regarding it as a premium exception. This also means working energetically to expose and break down the national boundaries to mobile carrier data plans. We desperately need the phone system to become a data system that also does telephony, rather than the reverse. (More about those in another post.)

Fourth, better speaker(s). The iPad actually sounds quite good, for a speaker that talks out of the same flat hole that’s plugged by the power connector (just like the iPhone).

Fifth, two microphones, for binaural recording. This is hugely under-rated as a feature, and generally ignored by portable gear makers. With binaural recording, you get a you-are-there sound field when listening to the recording with headphones. Related idea: two cameras, for shooting in 3D. The latter would also be a cool peripheral.

Sixth, make the ‘pad a production and not just a consumption device. Shooting and/or editing video, and uploading it to a server on the spot, would be a way cool use for the thing.

Of course, consumer electronics makers are notorious copy-cats. But what they need to do is zig here where Apple zags. There’s infinite room.

7 comments

  1. Jonathan Peterson’s avatar

    multitasking is a must have for content creation, as is Flash.

    Also USB bus master built in allowing users to pull images/video from a camera for editing and posting. It also allows the addition of a second mic or camera for your binaural recording or 3D video. Until Apple builds bus mastering in, the ipad is a consumption device.

    3D photography is a smaller niche than video conferencing. If I was building in 2 cameras, I’d make them front and rear.

    And you’re dead on about non-siloed application development/installation.

    As a consumer, I also want HDMI out. I’m not buying media content that is stuck on a small screen.

  2. Andy’s avatar

    Re: binaural recording – I think Apple is content to let their stable of peripheral makers handle this type of thing. Things come to mind, like the Blue “Mikey” that is a stereo mic that plugs directly into the 10 pin.

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v228/sonaboy/transbuddha/577080.jpg

    it’s roughly the size of a credit card and can be attached quickly with no software boot up.

    Otherwise, is the iPad selling in large numbers to individuals only? I wonder if the iPad has made significant bulk sales to public schools? When I first read the specs, I thought it was tailor-made for this type of application, until I realized that there’s no USB port.

  3. Thoughtfaucet’s avatar

    Video/image production tools:

    1) Create images with iPhone. The size and haptics of the iPhone are much better suited to videography and photography than the iPad.

    2) Use the camera connector kit

    3) Use ReelDirector for iPad to edit and post video from the iPad. Use any number of interesting and useful photo editing tools for the iPad many of which post (for apps that don’t, Flickr app in doubler mode can post).

    There are lots of ways to produce content on the iPad. But the paradigm for creation is different than it is for traditional desktop production. This is a good thing.

  4. Don Marti’s avatar

    Cheap generic pads everywhere will mean that you could build a lot of products “headless” and let the user stick a pad on the front to control it.

  5. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Lots of good ideas.

    On the binaural recording front (and others), I’m not looking for Apple to do anything. They’ll do what they do. This post was really addressed to other developers.

    I like the “headless” approach. Makes sense.

    I hope no iPads sell to public schools. Nothing will be older in one year than today’s iPads.

  6. Chip’s avatar

    Barry Diller, interviewed @ Aspen on CNBC commented on pending wide range of form factors coming.

    Gifted one to Shirley for her birthday – she re-gifted it to me
    Using as book reader – to slash physical size of my library, works so far (but haven’t gotten around to trying annotation or dog-earing

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