Why the iPad Will Be a Huge Success: 20-Year Veteran Consumer Electronics Developer Dissects Product Strategy of Apple iPad

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MOTO Development Group President Gregor Berkowitz Tells How and Why the iPad Will Fill a Gap as the Portable, Home Media Convergence Device —And Predicts Some Danger Spots Too

If the iPhone was the mobile convergence device, the iPad will become the home convergence device, and it will do it so elegantly that we'll quickly forget what life was like before it existed.

Product development consulting firm MOTO Development Group today published a Design Review column by its President Gregor Berkowitz on the forthcoming Apple iPad.

Full column available here: http://labs.moto.com/design-review-ipad-preview

Berkowitz overall assessment: “Based on 20 years of experience designing high-tech hardware, there's a lot I can infer about the iPad simply by looking at Apple's spec-sheets, communications, and publicly available images of it. That's enough to give me confidence that the iPad will transform the world of personal computing.”

Berkowitz continues, “With the iPad, Apple is basically asserting: this is not a computer. It's not a phone. It's a home media device. Just as people didn't understand initially that the iPhone wasn't a phone but a mobile computing device, the iPad isn't really a computer; it's a personal media consumption and browsing device.”

“There's a hole that exists between the laptop and the cellphone.” The gap is defined by an experience that's optimized for content consumption, rather than creation.

“Many of us already live online, so we're ready for a device that's specifically focused on allowing us to consume that media while sitting on the couch.”

Berkowitz points out, “The fact that the iPad comes standard with built-in Wi-Fi, with 3G wireless sold as an option, is significant: it tells us that the iPad is meant to be a portable device, not necessarily a mobile device.” In other words, the assumption is that we will typically access content in familiar settings where we know Wi-Fi connectivity is assured; namely, the home.

“ If the iPhone was the mobile convergence device, the iPad will become the home convergence device, and it will do it so elegantly that we'll quickly forget what life was like before it existed.”

Berkowitz knows hardware, and he says, “There's nothing unusual going on inside the iPad. Internally, the iPad is not particularly differentiated in any meaningful way, and there's nothing all that unique about the hardware. By and large, it's just like other tablets we've seen demonstrated over the years by companies like Nvidia or Intel.”

Berkowitz backtracks, “Well, I'm exaggerating a bit: The iPad's 10-inch projected capacitive touchscreen interface is pushing the technology hard and the A4 processor is likely the latest generation of ARM devices that are screaming fast. But these are Moore’s Law advances, not fundamental shifts.”

“Of course, the iPad will be very Apple -- meaning, it will embrace Apple's usual quality and exquisite attention to detail. For example, I suspect the big border around the screen of the iPad is there on purpose, probably to protect the screen from the reality of being dropped while also providing a place to rest your thumbs or your palms. It's safe to assume that's the kind of thing Apple identified through lots of prototyping. It's a classic Apple touch; allowing enough time in the development process to think through all the product development, user-experience, and interface questions that a new product category generates.”

“But in the end, the hardware is just a sideshow. The iPad is really just a delivery platform for the back-end, and the back-end is content.”

“Apple found success on the iPhone by trimming complexity. That's a favorite Steve Jobs approach –- less is more -- which so many companies fail to understand.”

“Developers creating apps for the iPad will operate in a similar environment of enforced-simplicity. Apple's software development kit (SDK) is very object-oriented and highly structured, both architecturally and graphically. That forces certain types of outcomes, and imposes a fair amount of conformity among apps. It's limiting in a way, but in the end it usually ends up being satisfying, because the tools make it easy to create apps that look and feel really great.”

Berkowitz asks, “What posture do we use when we watch video on the iPad? Do we hold it in our lap? Do we have a special accessory to hold it? It will also be interesting to see how the device survives drop-testing. Phones do that well, but laptops don't. Is it built like a phone or like a more fragile device?

Berkowitz also sees some potential danger coming from the new form factor. “The small size of the iPhone screen enforced a kind of simplicity and focus -- there's simply not much room for ads on the iPhone. But the larger iPad runs the risk of becoming overwhelming, with complex page layouts and competing elements, much like many of today's Web pages.”

Because the iPad has a much bigger screen than the iPhone, “there is a possibility that a deluge of advertising in apps could ruin the app experience.”

Berkowitz continues, “Granted, app developers have to make money somehow -- and not enough of them are making money now -- so the advertising model has the potential to make their work more viable. But it also has the potential to turn off many customers, because intrusive ads do degrade the content experience.”

Berkowitz is curious how Apple will manage this challenge. “Google has figured out how to mediate this so the commercialism doesn't overwhelm you. Will Apple figure out a similar path?"

Founded in 1991, MOTO develops products and product / service strategies for startups and Fortune 500 companies. Our methodology combines deep expertise in technology and consumer experience with a pragmatic focus on making the decisions required to deliver products to market. We help companies focus on key elements of innovation that provide differentiation, compelling customer experience, and market value. MOTO maintains offices in San Francisco, California and Hong Kong SAR.

MOTO Development Group President and co-founder Gregor Berkowitz balances a vision for new technology and compelling consumer experience with a pragmatic focus on delivering successful products to market. Gregor leads MOTO's services for startups and has driven key product development for startups including Pure Digital (Acquired by Cisco), Livescribe, Cepheid, Omnicell, SkyPilot. Gregor brings over eighteen years experience working across Asia, creating successful development partnership with companies from Japan, to Taiwan, China, Malaysia and South Asia. His understanding of cultural context, influences, and values has helped MOTO establish a reputation for building long-term relationships and ongoing partnerships with Asian suppliers and clients.

Gregor received a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, and contributed to research at both the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute (computer vision systems), and the Carnegie Mellon Engineering Design Research Institute (space vehicle design). Gregor holds six US and international patents in area including mechanism design and cloud computing.

Currently Gregor authors the Design Review column for CNET, sharing insights into how and why form meets function in consumer electronics. He also serves on the board of advisors for multiple startups including Twenty20 and JimmyJane.


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