The Apple iPad’s Impact on Mobile, Gaming, and E-Books: Local Techies and Startups React

1/27/10Follow @gthuang

[Updated 1/28/10, see below] The wait is over, but the endless mulling of the details and implications is just beginning. As Apple unveiled its long-rumored tablet device, the iPad, at a press event today in San Francisco, mobile industry insiders in Seattle, Boston, and elsewhere were watching closely. Which is exactly what you would expect, given Apple’s track record of disrupting industry after industry with previous iProducts like the iPod, iTunes, and the iPhone.

After all, long before Steve Jobs lifted the cloak of secrecy, the iPad was both feared and revered—feared because of the possibility that it will once again upend the way people consume digital content such as music, movies, TV shows, games, books, newspapers, and magazines, and revered because it could provide creators and distributors in each of these media with new ways to reach customers.

In case you’ve been offline all day, the iPad is basically a giant iPod Touch. It’s a 1.5-pound media device with a 9.7-inch LCD multitouch-sensitive screen and, according to Apple, up to 10 hours of battery life. It will have Wi-Fi Internet connectivity and will come in no fewer than six versions priced from $499 to $829, depending on whether you want 16 gigabytes, 32 gigabytes, or 64 gigabytes of flash memory, and whether you want 3G connectivity in addition to Wi-Fi. 3G data plans, available on a month-to-month (not contract) basis from AT&T, will cost $14.99 per month for up to 250 megabytes of data, and $29.99 per month for unlimited data. The Wi-Fi-only version of the iPad will be available in late March, and the 3G version will be available in April, according to Apple.

Those are the basics—but what will the device mean for consumers, entrepreneurs, application developers, and Apple’s competitors? To start the search for answers, Wade and I pinged a bunch of our favorite tech experts in Seattle and Boston, and below we’ve summarized their early reviews. So far we’ve gathered comments from Bill Baxter and Robbie Cape from Seattle-based Cozi (which makes family software for the home); John Chuang from Boston-based internet appliance maker Litl; Steve Hall, managing director of Seattle’s Vulcan Capital (Paul Allen’s investment firm); Todd Hooper, founder and CEO of Seattle-based Napera Networks; Mark Lowenstein of Brookline, MA-based wireless industry consultancy Mobile Ecosystem; Mike McSherry of Seattle-based Swype; and Greg Raiz, founder and CEO of Raizlabs, a mobile application development firm in Brookline that focuses on iPhone apps.

Our sources expressed a variety of opinions about the iPad, ranging from adulation to surprise to disappointment. One thing is certain: the device is kicking up serious dust in some very diverse consumer markets, including e-books, gaming, music, and video. That means it probably stands to gain much better traction than any tablet computer that has come before (sorry, Microsoft—though we know you have something in the works too).

Without further ado, here are our expert reactions:

Bill Baxter, chief technology officer, Cozi, Seattle:

The iPad is a game changer. The single-minded focus on enterprise was the mistake Microsoft made with Windows Mobile. It is the same mistake they made with the tablet PC. Now technology is such that iPad is a realistic possibility for consumers and nobody is positioned as well as Apple to make it happen.

The impact of this has already begun to ripple through the PC OEMs [original equipment manufacturers]. They are going to have to scramble to … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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  • Michael Sigler

    If the 3G model also has the ability to text message in the AT&T data plan. I am willing to bet it will become a very useful product. Especially with Baby Boomers and the hearing impaired.

  • Mark

    I was underwhelmed by the presentation and what Apple offered. I’m a big Apple fan so I had pretty high expectations. I fully expect an update at the end of summer. I really was hoping for a couple of things that would have taken this device to another level.
    1) a front facing camera (and camera/video in the back). When I heard game-changer, I envisioned a front facing camera that would allow you to perform video chatting with iChat. More importantly, I was hoping for a front facing camera that could recognize your face and change the settings on the device for the individual that was using it. The technology is there. iPHOTO already has a sorting function that recognizes faces and sorts your pictures based on the faces in the picture. I know its a stretch but this was the game-changer I had in mind.
    2) On the software side, I was looking for more innovation with old school media. I think there is plenty of opportunity there. Let me give you an example. What I’m looking for is something to replace my subscriptions. One green way of doing this is to still have the weekly subscription. Call it MagCast (magazine casting similar to PodCast). I would pay a similar one year subscription fee (maybe cheaper based the media used) and every week I’d get a new SI in my MagCast iTunes that I could download. Here, I could read my new SI every week. Now, the device is a multimedia reader for the whole family.
    3) On the media front, I do think this device offers a different opportunity. Now I think there should be dedicated teams that write specific articles with integrated video with the articles for the subscription. For example, if SI writes an article about Lebron James. The writer could write a short free article. This article would be posted on the website. Now the iPAD article would be slightly longer (prolly a little different), and have embedded video feeds from YouTUBE within the article giving exact instances where the article is talking about. If writer mentions the Larry Bird 86 championship series, the article has embedded footage from that championship team. In this case, what you have done is taken an article that is similar to the website article but enhanced with length, and enhanced the integration of the media on multiple levels with the help of the internet (youtube, nba statistic sites, etc).

    …just some thoughts.

  • Mark

    Another thing I was just thinking about, you know how Apple has that little box (Windows has it too) where you put a symbol or something that designates you before you sign on. What if the box was empty and the way the facial recognition worked, is you had to position your face so that your face fit in the box. You would position the iPad, with the camera (similar to the RedLaser functionality with your iphone) on your face. It would scan and then put the settings on the iPad device like it was yours. Should prolly patent that idea if you could…

  • http://www.yg.com aion database

    I’m not quite sure if iPad is a game changer. First, I’m quite disappointed with its name! iBrowse would have been better? :) Second, there’s no camera and lastly, it has no ability to multi-task. It’s just like an iPod Touch for the elderly.

  • http://www.gaminggalaxy.com Gaming Galaxy

    This is really a magical and revolutionary product from Apple. I love this.

  • http://jadedconsumer.blogspot.com JadedConsumer

    Apple didn’t launch the iPad to kill some specific competitor, any more than it did when launching the iPod. Apple set out to do something better, and to grow the market for people who wanted to do that. The iPad announcement is Apple’s announcement that it intends to be the premium supplier of the “paper” of the post-digital world. Apple might also draw the air out of the lungs of competitors that thought they were safe selling portable junk at the $500 price point. Apple may be doing to mobile computing what it did to MP3 players: moving down the price range to take all the high-margin business, leaving no safe price zone in which to harbor competitors.

    Apple launched the iPad so there’d be a product that did what the iMac promised to do – make it easy to get online quickly – but for people who either want to relax in a position that makes computer desks and tray-tables unworkable (or want a cheaper portable device that doesn’t suck).

    The fact that Apple might sell iPad buyers content like books is sort of like the fact that iPod buyers might also buy music from Apple. Sure, it could happen – Apple will offer it to make sure users aren’t kept away due to incompatible file formats offered by a diverse array of content vendors – but the expected payoff for Apple is in the hardware.

    The iPad wasn’t made to go head-to-head with the Kindle, which is optimized for one single task, or against any particular competing product. It was made for people who would be interested in a versatile product that addresses a broader interest in the internet and mobile computing, and maybe offers a game-pad opportunity or traveling movie-viewer.

    Apple’s list of “i” devices has grown from the original iMac. Look at the original iMac launch event, and at what Apple claimed to be doing with the iMac. Apple isn’t trying to make money selling books any more than it tried to make money selling music – it set out to sell hardware, and the other stuff is a byproduct of efforts to keep customers from being driven away by incompatible file formats.

  • http://www.tabletbucks.com Jamie

    Totally agree that the iPad is a game changer. Couch surfing around the World is about to face a huge increase as the tablet device market continues to evolve and Apple, having the first to market of this kind of tablet device will be seen as the game changer, if nothing else.

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