Following the launch of the Apple iPad, here are some thoughts on what new technology like this really means for consumers.
Apple iPad – just another piece of brilliant technology?
All across Silicon Valley and in laboratories and R & D centers in the UK there are storerooms and hard drives full of brilliant technology. Yet most of it will never see the light of day. You'll find the inventors of this wunderkind tech walking around the offices of venture capital companies and investment firms being consistently restored time and time again. These brilliant, yet hapless, souls are all being perplexed by one question:
'who's going to buy it and why?'
It is a galling prospect for a scientist to entertain – they have created a beautiful piece of engineering but they can not find an ugly problem to solve with it. Today, with the launch of the Apple iPad, I find myself looking at something very beautiful and clever, but which seems unbelievably to make any difference to my life.
Is there really a need for the iPad?
Do not get me wrong – I like Apple a lot, it is a great company with some fantastically-designed products. I am a proud owner of an iPod and the next time I buy a new mobile, the iPhone will be a temptation prospect. However, all of the world's best products, of whatever category, must address a real need, and Apple's best offerings are no different.
The Sony Walkman made music portable and the iPod finished the job by boosting storage space so much that we could choose from our entire music collection. The Apple Mac offered a real alternative to Windows-based computers and the aforementioned iPhone provided all the benefits of a PDA and an iPod in one device. But the question for the Apple iPad is: what does it really give us that we do not already have or need?
The 'third category'
Apple head honcho Steve Jobs is talking about a 'third category' which the Apple iPad fits, between the laptop and mobile phone. The problem here is that at the moment the 'third category' does not really exist and there's no clear evidence that should or ever will. Possibly this is why Apple has decided on such a low price point for the iPad. It needs to shift some units fast and then hopefully the public will decide what it is really for.
To be fair, the iPad has some scope. It comes with 12 pre-loaded applications and Jobs hopes that it will spawn a whole new generation of online invention. This is entirely possible but remains to be seen. Until then the iPad might just fall between two stools, too big to be a phone without really making it to computer level, either.