The Killer Apps

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2010-01-31 Print this article Print


What may have a larger effect on the tech world, however, was Apple's perhaps-necessary decision to release the iPhone SDK (software development kit) 3.2 beta in conjunction with the iPad announcement, allowing developers to start creating programs for the device in the two months ahead of its release. The SDK includes an iPad Programming Guide, iPad Human Interface Guidelines and iPad Sample Code. Already, about 140,000 applications will be available for the iPad through the App Store when the tablet is finally released.

Earlier in January, Apple announced that the number of applications downloaded for the iPhone and iPod Touch had reached 3 billion. The development ecosystem associated with Apple's mobile devices has helped it become a force in the smartphone world, and the company is likely hoping for the same effect in the tablet PC arena. Competition could come from Intel's AppUp Center beta, which will offer software applications for Windows- and Linux-based netbooks.

In a keynote presentation at CES, Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini suggested that applications from the AppUp Center would eventually be available in the "handheld and smart TV space over time." Presumably, Windows- and Linux-based tablet PCs from manufacturers such as Hewlett-Packard will be able to utilize applications from AppUp Center and similar online storefronts; if the number of applications is small in comparison with those available for the iPad, though, then a replication of the past years' smartphone-application competition could occur, with other companies attempting to play catch-up even as the number of App Store entries increases exponentially.

"The question for Apple is: What is the usage case for such a product?" Jagdish Rebello, principal analyst of research company iSuppli, wrote in a Jan. 27 research note. "What does it do that other products don't do-and what does it have that will make a large number of consumers want to buy the product?"

The iSuppli research note then suggests that the iPad's killer application, so to speak, may be its delivery and presentation of multimedia and other content; by uniting an ecosystem of partners to deliver everything from music and games to e-books and digital periodicals, Apple creates a footprint larger than that of the Kindle or other tabletlike devices.

"While the iPad might appear to compete with many existing products in specialized markets like e-books, tablet PCs and PMP/MP3 players," Rebello added in the research note, "the success of the product is intrinsically linked to its capability to change consumer behavior." Overall, iSuppli's view seemed to be that Apple's "loyal" customer base will embrace the device, possibly encouraging further adoption.

Furthermore, iSuppli postulated that the iPad's proprietary processor was designed by a low-power processor specialist, PA Semi, which Apple acquired in 2008. Low power consumption allows the device to balance a relatively low weight with the theoretical 10 hours of battery life.

Much of the focus of the blogosphere's criticism following the iPad's launch-besides the device's name-seemed to be on how closely it resembles the iPhone or the iPod Touch in use. Despite that, some analysts seem to feel that the iPad will not cannibalize those other devices' market share.

"Positives: 1) Not cannibalistic to existing product lines (more of a media player, in our view), 2) affordable (ASPs starting at $499), 3) wide variety of connectivity options at attractive price points," analyst Brian Marshall of Broadpoint AmTech wrote in a Jan. 28 research note.

"Negatives," Marshall added, included: "Downside of prepaid contracts is no high subsidy payments from carrier partners ... [AT&T] will be the initial carrier in the United States (versus hopes of [Verizon] ... virtual keyboard will take time getting used to, and ... no multitasking or camera functionality."

As announced, price points for the iPad will vary based on options. The 16GB version will cost $499 with Wi-Fi, and $629 with Wi-Fi and 3G. The 32GB version will cost $599 with Wi-Fi, and $729 with Wi-Fi and 3G. The 64GB version will cost $699 with Wi-Fi, and $829 with Wi-Fi and 3G.

Whether the device ultimately succeeds or fails in the marketplace, however, it could be of great benefit for developers and publishing partners looking for a new arena and format in which to market their products.

Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel