For those that don’t follow my Twitter or Facebook or FriendFeed streams, a few weeks ago I bought an iPad. I was sitting down at the Pool in Hawaii next to Chris Pirillo (we were both speaking at a conference – tough life, huh?), and he pulled out his iPad and immediately started working right there in Paradise. It was that which convinced me I needed to see what this device could do for me and why it was special. But what does make it special? Why is it so “magical”?
I’ve been debating that over the last several weeks. I have a 17″ Macbook Pro that works great and I can take it anywhere I go that I need a full computer. I have an iPhone that I can take everywhere else and access the internet, take brief notes, and get things done. Why would I need an iPad?
I had this discussion with a co-worker the other day, and it got me thinking. He suggested that the value in the iPad is not what it is, but what it could be, and most of all where this technology in general is going. He suggested the concept of bringing his iPhone or Android phone with him wherever he goes, and if he’s near a monitor and keyboard, pulling up an entire OS experience on the monitor via Bluetooth connection. That got me thinking back to the iPad – in reality, the iPad is about context. It’s about having a monitor-sized device that you can carry around in your backpack and display, in a large form-factor, images, video, and text that are relevant to the place you are at that very moment. It’s the monitor I can carry everywhere I go, but more than that – the potential is it could very well be a monitor that communicates with my iPhone, a monitor that communicates with my car, a monitor that communicates with my keyboard at work.
Steve Gillmor inferred this in his Keynote at the Kynetx Impact Conference recently. The Kynetx platform is all about providing a unified API experience that enables developers to provide contextually relevant experiences no matter where the user is. The iPad, in many ways is doing just this. It’s transforming the web from being just data endpoints that require their own displays that stay static, in one place (like TVs and Computer Monitors), to adaptable display interfaces you can take with you wherever you go. Now, instead of needing a TV, you can take the TV with you. Now, instead of your desk needing a monitor, you can take that monitor with you. Now, instead of needing displays throughout your house to control your thermostat, lights, music, etc., you can do all that with a device you have wherever you go.
One of the big rumors for the upcoming June 6 WWDC Keynote by Steve Jobs is that Apple will be announcing a new Apple TV device that is based on the iPhone OS. When you think about it, this idea is not that far-fetched. Now, on the same operating system developers are writing applications for that already stream TV (think Slingbox or Netflix), surf the web, pull up your favorite magazine publications, and more, developers just need to change the screen size to adapt the experience for that specific screen size and experience. For instance, the Scrabble application, when purchased on the iPad, has a mode that you can play Scrabble with different opponents around a table and allow those opponents to use their iPhones as letter holders so no one else in the room can see each opponent’s letters. The two different screen sizes adapt, and work with each other. The iPad, in that case, adapts to become the board in a board game.
The future of tech is in that contextual, ubiquitous experience. In the future, you’ll be able to take your iPad with you and when it detects a keyboard it will provide a different experience that works with the keyboard than the one that doesn’t. Future iPads will detect where you are, and provide new UIs based on the location you are at currently. The future of the tablet device will adapt based on the environment around it and provide an experience that fits the size and form factor of the screen it was built for. The future computing experience is about each display and/or device in the room adapting to the experience the user is having at any given moment.
This isn’t about your desktop becoming more portable. This isn’t about your iPhone becoming bigger. I believe what the iPad has done is rather reinvent the monitor, making the monitor itself more portable, smarter, and more adaptable than ever before. What I’m carrying around in my hands with my new iPad is not a new type of computer. It’s a monitor, a display interface, that follows me around wherever I go.
If you’ve got an iPad and you like this concept, be sure to check out the Air Display app, by Avatron Software, Inc., which turns your iPad into an entirely separate monitor that you can add to your existing Mac when it’s nearby.
What do you think the iPad is?