It’s arrived. After more hype than the Olympic Games, yesterday Apple announced what could be a game changer in mobile business computing. Hitting stores in March with a price tag starting at $499, the iPad is Apple’s attempt to define a third category of mobile computing — it offers more power and screen size than a smartphone, but is less expensive than a laptop. Think of an oversized iPhone in polished glass and aluminum. Here are six ways that the iPad will change the way you do business.
The Boom of Applications
They were big hits with the iPhone, and now with the launch of the iPad, they’ll become nothing short of blockbusters: They’re apps, little software programs that can access the Web and enable small businesses to do a wide variety of tasks. For productivity, apps allow users to create, edit, and save documents; present slideshows; and crunch numbers on spreadsheets. To help drive business, apps allow users to browse, shop, find your store locations, view your weekly deals, and more. In addition, with more than 140,000 iPhone apps already available — and compatible with the iPad — this new tablet could further the business opportunities for budding entrepreneurs and developers. Research firm Gartner predicts that revenue from mobile apps will grow from roughly $6.8 billion this year to $29 billion in 2013.
In a Pinch: Multitouch Interface
When you’re told to push a button, you know exactly what to do. But what if someone says, “pinch to zoom out”? The iPad, building on the command gestures of the iPhone, is pushing us closer to the movie Minority Report, in which Tom Cruise madly waves his arms to manipulate secret information on his computer screen.
“The pinch-zoom gesture is not only incredibly easy to learn, it’s almost the kind of thing that you don’t even have to think about,” says Ryan Block, cofounder of gdgt, a social platform for technology devices. “Very different from learning to type, which can take months or years to become extremely proficient at.”
In short, the employees of tomorrow will need to be fluent in the growing language of multitouch inputs.
Know Where Your Customers Are
When you put a “Sale” sign in your store window, it’s difficult for the customer around the corner to see it. The iPad — like the iPhone — has a built-in GPS.
Imagine (once some thorny privacy issues have been solved) notifying interested customers across town that for the next 20 minutes you’re having a sale just for them. Or, if you’re an owner of a café, just think of the revenue possibilities if coffee hounds can get a map of your nearest location by using a special app. The iPad expands the use of this technology already used in the iPhone and other devices, and it will make these scenarios more common in the future. Rather than having your customers find you with a traditional search, the iPad gives your business the ability to grab the attention of your customers — even when they’re around the corner.
Power to the Peripherals
The iPad may be the next big thing, but it’s small in size. That’s where its ability to plug in to other devices comes in. Just think of the possibility of doctors attaching a stethoscope to it or car mechanics plugging in diagnostic equipment. Yes, the iPhone has this plug-in capability (Nike sells running shoes that talk to the iPhone to mark distance, speed, and more), but the iPad, with its souped-up computing power and larger screen size, is in a better position to take advantage of this peripheral power.
How are consumers going to carry all these millions of new iPads? What special cases and skins and docking stations are they going to use? Those businesses that create or modify their products to complement the iPad are likely to tap in to a revenue bonanza. A 2009 ABI Research survey says the typical U.S. owner of a mobile phone spends about $60 on accessories over the life of the handset and estimates that in 2009 the wireless handset accessories market was worth roughly $63 billion.
A New Space
Imagine your current office. Can you see the clunky desktop machine beginning to fade away? Sure, the iPad is a mobile device, but once it’s plugged in to a keyboard docking station it’s powerful enough to do many of the same functions as your old desktop.
“I don’t think these devices will replace computers, but I do think they will start to show up in unexpected places,” says Block. Why, he asks, would you want to spend thousands of dollars on an elaborate vertical application that may control a lighting system in an office, when “maybe an iPad and a little software is all you’d need?”
What will your company do with all that extra space on employees’ desks?