The iPad has Entered the Building

by Dave Michels

Last week, I got an iPad. It was a very nice and appreciated gift from the gang over at UCStrategies. This is my first Apple product for several years – my last being a video iPod. By no stretch of the imagination could be I labeled an Apple Fan Boy, but I’m not really much of a fan of anything. Avaya, Cisco, Microsoft, Apple, Digium, ShoreTel, Mitel, NEC – all great companies that have a lot of things they need to fix.

But back to this new device. I have to say I was quite curious. No single product has made such an impact to computing, mobility, and communications – particularly in such a short span. I love to say ‘I told you so,’ and I am allowed to because I also say it when I was dead wrong. I remember the day Jobs announced the iPad and I thought it was doomed to fail.

The iPad filled a hole – evidently a gaping hole. It brought together so much value, that it’s simplistic proprietary approach was initially overlooked and eventually turned into a feature. The iPad nailed it, it addressed the following pains that are associated with desktop computers:

  • Mobility
  • Price
  • Software discovery
  • Software distribution
  • Software installation
  • Support
  • Reliability
  • Viruses
  • Battery life
  • The power of the Cloud
  • eConsumption (books, videos, newspapers, music)
  • Ease of use

Microsoft blew this vision twice – once with its version of its Tablet XP and then later with netbooks (see MS Killed the Netbook, not the Tablet). They weren’t alone either – the thin client, low maintenance, Internet savvy device has been “coming” as the next big thing for over a decade: Wyse, HP, Chromebooks, netbooks, and countless other versions of appliance-like Internet endpoints. Not to mention products like Citrix and Tarantella that promised the end of client server. But Apple took the vision, perfected it, and combined it with its iPhone IOS success and its magical ability to make great products and a star was born.

The iPad offered the end user freedom from all those ailments. It also offered one of the most effective software delivery mechanisms ever to developers. The ecosystem flourished, and application selection is unlike anything ever before. Apple also changed the model – and largely sells directly to actual users – it has effectively eliminated third-party retail and software distribution channels, and the IT buyer’s role got severely diminished. I also thought Apple was crazy when it announced a retail strategy – I thought retail was dead. The net was afire with Amazon, Dell, and others. Retail stores were closing, Gateway was choking on its retail strategy, and CompUSA and Circuit City were only a few years away from bankruptcy.

I confused the channel with retail. Retail isn’t dead. Direct factory retail is alive and well – see wireless carriers and airline retail outlets. The indirect channel is thriving where there is no direct choice – like groceries. The channel is a complex topic – and actually, I am feeling pretty good about the UC channel these days.

We as consumers put up with a lot of crap because we don’t have a choice (see bullets above). On my last UA flight, I was in boarding group 8. Eight? That’s about as ‘F**k you’ as it gets, but that’s the airlines. United is one of the biggest airlines in the world. I’m guessing they respect around 25% of their frequent flyers and everyone else is tolerated. My point is that when you find a vendor that more than tolerates, or even liberates – what might be perceived as loyalty with the status quo goes out the window, fast.

The iPad is clearly in a class by itself. HP and RIM couldn’t catch it, Android has potential, but a ways to go, and Microsoft has great aspirations.

I’ve had the iPad a week now. I’ve got some thoughts to share in future posts. Here’s a hint though – the whole ‘post pc era’ thing – is bovine scatology (BS). Yes, iPads are selling better than PCs, but they are cheaper. That’s not to say they are not compelling, liberating, exciting, devices – they are. Also, they are getting better and will continue to do so – and future will no doubt look very different than the past.