Riffing on the Apple iPad announcement

Is it a giant iTouch, a Kindle killer, a game changer? Or does it fall short?


developerWorks: This is a developerWorks podcast. I'm Scott Laningham with Todd Turbo Watson. Turbo, how are you doing, man?

Turbo: I'm good. How are you?

developerWorks: We are great. And we are gathered here today on this historic occasion for Apple, the unveiling of the Apple tablet. I think a drumroll may be in order here. What do you think?

Turbo: I think so ...

[DRUM ROLL on the SNARE, ENDING with a sharp single on the HI-HAT]

Turbo: And by the way, it's called the iPad. And there were a lot of immediate distasteful jokes (including from me) about connotations of that name.

developerWorks: Yeah. Maybe we shouldn't even go down that road.

Turbo: No, I don't think we should. This is a family program. Well, not really.

developerWorks: It was a very, very cool-looking product, didn't you think?

Turbo: I think it's absolutely gorgeous. I watched the video on their website later because God knows I couldn't watch anything in the live blogging and in the webcasting such as it was.

You know, I'm a big fan of Leo Laporte and TWiT, and God bless him for his pioneering and trying to get in there with an iPhone and do a USTREAM. And there were 100,000 people in that room. But the audio was just horrific, and you couldn't really see Jobs.

And why doesn't Apple just webcast these things live? I mean, 100,000 people in a USTREAM? There's huge demand out there to hear this thing in real time. So I was a little bit disappointed. I called it ... the live coverage was a big fail today.

developerWorks: Yes, I thought it was kind ... it was very difficult. The audio wasn't good through Leo's show and he was doing, like you said, he was doing the best he could with 100,000 checking in through him. But it was like peering down through a very, very small tube trying to take it in.

Turbo: Yes. And I told you I put a Windows® 7 install on one side of my Mac — I know, it's sacrilege — and I had like multiple browser windows open and I couldn't, you know, I was trying to follow the Engadget live blog and it was just a mess. And eventually it locked up my system. So Microsoft® Windows 7 fail as well.

developerWorks: Yes.

Turbo: But let's not let the messenger get in the way of the message.

developerWorks: No. You know, it seems to me, did you feel the same way? It's like you see new stuff come out and it's like the next step along the same line that we were on.

This one really feels like a new item. I mean, like it's living ... the Kindle is already going in this direction to some extent, but this feels like that space between the laptop and the smartphone world that this occupies another universe, and it's not necessarily going to pull away from those other items but it's just going to create a new market to some extent. Did you get that feeling?

Turbo: I got that feeling. I think that Jobs actually even said that, Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, for those of you who don't know who he is ... he kind of conveyed that.

I think that the reactions I'm seeing early are that a lot of digerati are not thinking that it was bold enough. And I think as we get into talking about some of the details that we can discuss that.

But I will say that the opportunity and the immensity of it is not belied by the razor, it's in the razor blades and we can go into that a little bit later as we talk about the content opportunity.

developerWorks: I also wondered, maybe you heard more since the announcement earlier when I was snooping around seeing what people were saying, but they were talking about it, you know, being marketed maybe through AT&T like the iPhone with kind of a mobile broadband plan involved and all that type of stuff. Is that what you're hearing too — that it's not like you're buying a laptop? I mean, it's more like you're buying a phone in some ways.

Turbo: Well, yes. Well, I actually made a joke about this. So, you know, what I think this device is, it's an iPod Touch for the Jolly Green Giant. "Ho, ho, ho, the Green iPad." Because if you look at it looks like a big iPhone, and that was the joke everybody was playing. It looks like a big iPod touch or an iPhone.

So I think that the mobility opportunity, who's going to carry this around? Maybe traveling folks, I mean, people carry the Kindle around. And by the way, I think this is a huge Kindle killer, you know, short your Amazon stock.

But I do think that the niche is going to have to, that it's serving, it's going to have to start to unfold and it may be more evolutionary than revolutionary as one Twitterer said earlier during the live blogging because it wasn't a bold enough step forward. But I personally, for example, would use this in my house with my WiFi network.

I wouldn't likely sign up for that AT&T plan, even though the data plan they said was $29.99 a month, which is reasonable, I guess. But I could totally see using it in my domicile because it can, let's talk about all the things it can do. You can read books on it, the new iBook store looks pretty cool. Could revolutionize publishing? We'll see.

It's got the app capability, so imagine with the new SDK all the new apps that can be built. It's got the ability to do music, and it's got the ability to do iPhotos — the iPhoto app is pretty killer-looking. When I was watching the demo later, I was pretty blown away by that. You could do e-mail. It's got a virtual keyboard. So there's a lot that can be done.

However, those things can be done on a Mac, and some of those things that you want to do ... on the iPad, rather, that you can do on a Mac you can't do with the iPad. So for example, there's no camera that anybody spoke of. So I can't Skype videoconference with you. I can't iChat videoconference with you. There's no microphone, so I can't podcast with you. There's no Flash support. So I'm limited in some of the content I can see.

developerWorks: Yes.

Turbo: I think one of the biggest downsides, Scott, it's single-tasking: I can't listen to Pandora while I'm also writing an e-mail. That to me was a huge missed opportunity. But I guess it leaves room for new features down the road as they recoup some of their early R&D.

developerWorks: Which kind of supports that opinion that it's just a really big iTouch and that maybe it, like you said, it's a first step and that those things will be coming. But it immediately made me think of a list of things that I would want it to be able to do and would like it to do, including having that built-in camera and some audio functionality so you could Skype webcam with people or whatever, iChat.

I also thought it would be cool if it had a fingerprint scanner for logon. That would be nice security, wouldn't it?

Turbo: Yes. Lenovo provides that, so why can't Apple?

developerWorks: And then really thinking outside the box, a display which doubles as a solar panel so you never have to plug it in. [LAUGHTER] That would be really cool.

It's got just about almost a 10-inch screen, right, so it's pretty big. So a virtual keyboard is almost as big as a small laptop keyboard then, right?

Turbo: Yes. And depending on how that whole touch interface is, I suspect that the virtual keyboard will be good enough. That was another thing in the demo that looked really cool was responding to e-mails, it looked like it was pretty elegant.

But you know, I think that this isn't about the razor; like I said, this is about the razor blades. And I think people need to kind of suck in some oxygen and either because they're way overhyped about it or they're way underwhelmed in what actually came out because I think first of all this is a first-gen, right, of this technology; and second of all, the content deals that we're likely to see moving forward, I mean, they talk about five publishers today.

We didn't even talk about this as a gaming device. A lot of people have said this is going to be a remarkable gaming device. And with the multi-touch interface along with that great screen and the sound and all that, that could be a huge market right there.

So if you look at ... beyond hat trick of the content opportunity, this is about the razor blades and this is about the deals that Jobs and Apple start to strike with those publishers, with the movie and TV networks and stuff, deals that maybe didn't get done yet, but that they're going to work on.

And let's not forget this is the guy and the company that really started to allow the record companies to actually make money in the digital realm, as opposed to losing money.

developerWorks: Yes.

Turbo: So I think that that's a story that really needs more of an exclamation point and is really what I think is at the heart of the debate, debut of this product.

developerWorks: Yes, and certainly in the tablet space as primarily a content consumption device. It certainly looks really elegant in that arena. I mean, if you're going to call it a big iTouch, then how much newspaper reading do you want to do on an iTouch, or magazine reading, or book reading? And this looks just wonderful from that be standpoint, doesn't it?

Turbo: Yes. I was looking in the demo, too, like one of the magazines had done a layout on the iPad, and it was just gorgeous. And you can just imagine with that kind of size and real estate, especially advertisers who may advertise, for example, because I'm in marketing I have to talk about this ... advertising inside the magazine and the kind of elegant interactive advertising that could be done there that actually could be valuable to people, not just, "Let me get your attention but we're here to learn about this thing and watch this little video."

And so I can totally see and now you know why Apple probably just bought Quattro ... is it Quattro? I forget the name, Wireless, which is a mobile advertising company, you know, in response to Google's acquisition of AdMob.

I think the other thing that's noteworthy, though, is the price point.

developerWorks: Yes.

Turbo: The entry is way lower. It's half of what everybody thought it was going to be.

developerWorks: I know.

Turbo: People were talking a thousand and the 16-gig version, which would hold plenty of content, by the way ... 500 bucks. I mean, so as we think about the longer-term play here and the razor blade story, suddenly volume becomes immediate opportunity as opposed to just waiting for all the early adopters to pull out their credit cards.

But on the other hand, I'm going to share an anecdote. I have a buddy who knows somebody who works at Google. There were a bunch of Googlers apparently listening in, their credit cards at the ready. By the way, they were wait and see. They kinds of ... and I'm like, OK, if the bleeding-edge digerati aren't ready to plop down that credit card, then we should wait and see what the pre-orders and the initial orders look like. But I think that that $500 entry makes the volume upside much, much higher and you're seeing the stock market after hours already reflecting that.

developerWorks: Absolutely. And this is something that we ought to keep our eye on and talk about it again as soon as get yours because I know you'll be ordering one. [LAUGHTER]

Turbo: I tell you, I was like ... I was like a kid, it's like, I'm going to withdraw in the corner, and I went to the website and I'm like "Oh, thank God. There's no order button yet." [LAUGHTER]

developerWorks: Well, they said maybe 60 days before it's going to be available, is that the story?

Turbo: No. I'm sure they'll start taking orders soon. But I don't think it's going to be available I think until March. I got to go, I've still got to read some of the details on the availability. But get ready to potentially crank up the production lines. Who knows? We'll wait and see.

developerWorks: Read more about this in Todd's blog, which you can find on developerWorks if you search "Turbo Todd." And he comes up just right below my blog. [LAUGHTER]

Turbo: I'm out of here.

developerWorks: Todd Turbo Watson. I'm Scott Laningham. This is a developerWorks podcast. We'll talk to you soon.

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ArticleTitle=Riffing on the Apple iPad announcement