I’ve had a great time watching the changes in the IT world these past few months. And the following is my prediction for an upcoming gadget that will revolutionize an established industry in a way no other gadget has done.
And the man responsible for this latest change is none other than the inimitable Steve Jobs.
Without a doubt, Steve Jobs is the “Alexander The Great” of the IT industry. He single-handedly changed 6 industries with his company’s products and services, and he will soon change another 2 industries, in just a week’s time (Jan 27th).
Invitation From Apple For Its Jan 27th Tablet Unveiling Event
But first, let’s take a look at the industries Jobs has changed:
1. The Computer Industry
Jobs’s company Apple created a great line of computers including powerful desktops and notebooks. They’re not only powerful, but they come with a great Operating System and bundled software, they’re solidly built AND they’re super-sexy to both look at and to own.
While the majority of users in the world still use PCs, Apple’s fortunes in this industry is changing, due to its other products in other industries (see below) that are connected to the computer industry. Those products are slowly but surely lifting the superior Apple computers out of the minority league using the “foot in the door” principle discussed here.
As a result, Apple is now selling more computers than it ever had before. What’s more, I’m even considering switching to Apple after using PCs all my life because the barriers to doing so are getting lowered by the day due to multiple factors.
2. The Software Industry
With the iPod Touch or iPhone, I can download small software applications into it from Apple’s watershed iTunes store that can make my life more productive, more fun and more profitable. I could create a mind map, check currency rates, check the rankings of my URLs in Google, create a To-Do list, and many more.
I used to be able to do this using the computer, but with the iPod or iPhone, I can do this WITHOUT having to boot up my computer, or even have a computer for this purpose. And the applications are cheaper too since the business model is to have lots of people paying a few dollars for an application, and most people wouldn’t think twice about doing so.
3. The Computer Games Industry
Computer games are dominated by Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft, each with their own games console. However you do need a games console to play them – and hard core gamers will gladly buy those consoles for their entertainment.
There are also portable game consoles that you can carry around, like the Sony PSP.
However, there are even more less hard-core gamers who play games while waiting for their turn at the doctors, or getting into their planes, or as they go through their routine in the toilet. These group can just pick up their iPod Touch and download games applications from Apple’s iTunes store and within a few minutes they’re playing their hearts out.
For games developers, this is a new outlet for their simpler games, with a new market of gamers.
4. The Movie Industry
Steve Jobs’ Pixar Animation company has created box office hit after hit after hit with 100% computer animated movies, starting with Toy Story in 1995.
EVERY single movie created by Pixar have been unqualified commercial successes, which is a truly remarkable record in an industry where it’s notoriously hard to predict box office hits.
And now with its iTunes store, any movie from participating movie studios can now be downloaded for a few dollars each, directly into your iPod or computer, to be watched at your leisure. You can even download TV episodes the same way.
You’re now no longer tied to the broadcasting times of those shows as you can be viewing your favorite movies or TV programs at your convenience.
5. The Music Industry
iTunes changed the music industry and banished music CDs to the realms of history. You can now buy songs for 99 cents each, and download them via the Internet into your computer and iPod/iPhone from wherever you may be.
In the movies, music, software and gaming industries, a lot had gone on behind the scenes to make the business model possible. Steve Jobs has to be credited for aligning music, movie, software and gaming companies to his vision.
And the end result is BILLIONS of downloads of movies, music, software and games in just a few years, which also means new sources of revenue for Apple itself outside its old core business of selling computers. As such, Apple is now known as “Apple, Inc” starting from 2007 instead of “Apple Computer, Inc” that it began life as in 1977.
6. The Mobile Phone Industry
Apple’s iPhone redefined the “mobile phone” category. Microsoft was the first to notice the importance of getting its OS into the handsets of users with its Windows CE OS about 10 years ago – but it couldn’t capitalize on it the way Apple had done with its iPhone.
Which goes to show you that Microsoft doesn’t have ideas, just a stranglehold on you for its products due to a most lucky break arising from some opportunistic circumstances that arose some 30 years ago that Bill Gates didn’t create on his own. He had no clue that he would become the richest person in the world and he almost never did. Read that Microsoft story here.
So that’s a lot of industries that Steve Jobs has changed.
And in just a week’s time, he will soon change the Publishing Industry ANDmore, with the release of its long-awaited Tablet Computer.
The current crop of Tablet Computers all have similar features. It’s nothing more than a computer notebook without the keyboard, and you carry it around like a clipboard. Its screen responds to your stylus which you’ll use as a way to enter data into your computer and to interact with its various applications – exactly like you would with your notebook, using its mouse and keyboard.
Here’s my prediction as to what Steve Jobs would consider in his creation of the Apple Tablet, by stepping into his mind somewhat.
This is the most CRUCIAL issue. If the Tablet doesn’t invent a new array of categories that it can be used for, or do the same things a whole lot better, it’ll fail as a product.
It CANNOT be another tablet, which is simply a notebook without the keyboard. Tablets have existed for years already and I only know of one person who owns one – and it’s being used as laptop, propped up with some stand.
In fact, it shouldn’t be another notebook at all. Why? Because we already have notebooks that do their jobs very well. So why would you want to carry a tablet without a keyboard everywhere and then use it to do exactly the same things a notebook does?
Thus the form Apple’s Tablet takes will depend on what Steve Jobs thinks it’s best used for. He will look at what consumer’s needs have yet to be fulfilled (or fulfilled properly) by either notebooks, netbooks or existing tablets, AND iPods and iPhones, and then create the form (the body) for it.
He’ll be asking – why would anyone want to CARRY a tablet with him everywhere, like he would carry a notebook around with him?
The answer, is, of course, quite elementary. IF the tablet helps the consumer do things REGULARLY that the notebook doesn’t do for him conveniently, or at all – THEN it makes sense for him to CARRY a tablet instead of a notebook.
This is an important factor to consider, since if there’s no real reason for someone to carry a Tablet as opposed to a notebook, the Tablet isn’t a necessity or provide a great benefit, ALL THE TIME (not just occasionally).
This then begs the next question. WHAT can the Tablet do for the consumer on a regular basis, that the notebook AND the iPod/iPhone don’t do properly or at all?
If Steve Jobs can answer this question, and he has taken one big step to succeeding with it.
Related to this question is the following:
Even if the Apple Tablet does things that the notebook/iPod/iPod Touch/iPhone don’t do, WHY would anyone want to HOLD a big-sized screen to do his thing?
Because if the Apple Tablet does things for him in a way no other machine does, if it isn’t NATURAL for the user to have to hold a Tablet to do it – then it will fail once more.
Now Apple can look at existing uses for HOLDING a Tablet – which is to enter data directly using a stylus on the Tablet’s touch-sensitive screen. But you can do that already with a notebook’s keyboard, and some notebooks come with both a keyboard and a touch-sensitive screen (I own one).
Thus a Tablet is only useful when you don’t have a surface to put a notebook on, and you need to enter data into a computer.
It’s also only useful if your iPod/iPod Touch/iPhone cannot provide the same experience that a Tablet can provide.
The above has restricted existing Tablets to just specialized users like those in the logistics or medical industries who need to be mobile and at the same time enter lots of data into the computer.
So – what is hard to do on both notebook computers and iPods/iTouches/iPhones but a cinch to do on the Tablet?
Going in another direction; what is currently being done to iPods/iTouches/iPhones to fulfill a user need/want but the user wishes the experience can be a whole lot better?
If the new Apple Tablet can improve on this user experience SIGNIFICANTLY, then it has a chance.
Going in yet another direction; are there NEW uses for the Tablet that nobody else has thought of before, that is a NATURAL consequence of carrying it around all the time, that the iPods/iTouches/iPhones cannot fulfill adequately?
The iPods/iTouches/iPhones link is inevitable since the Tablet has to be very mobile. However the challenge is for the user to WANT to carry a much bigger screen EVERYWHERE he goes, and its usage must feel RIGHT.
It thus makes more sense to move up from iPods/iTouches/iPhones to the Tablet instead of to move down from notebooks or laptops to the Tablet, since the Tablet resembles the former more.
And when the Tablet can do similar things better than the iPods/iTouches/iPhones, and if it’s what the user would want to have, then the Tablet has got a good chance of succeeding.
So one way to position the new Apple Tablet is that it can do better at certain functions that the iPods/iTouches/iPhones don’t do very well.
Let’s see. The most obvious improvement in a Tablet is its screen size.
Movies would look better. However most users will not use it to view movies since it would be an ordeal to hold your Tablet for 90 minutes straight. A notebook would do a better job of that, unless the Tablet comes with an accessory WITHIN its body that can prop it up on a surface.
Photos can be displayed better, as they can appear bigger. However nobody will buy a Tablet just so that they can view bigger photos. A notebook computer is adequate for the job.
The iPod Touch/iPhone’s multi-touch screen navigation can now be used on a bigger area. However just because it can be done, doesn’t mean there’s any good use for it on a bigger screen – unless that bigger surface navigation significantly adds to the user experience.
As you can now see, the Tablet must not only do things BETTER, it must also do things that the user WANTS to do in that better way.
If Steve Jobs can answer that question, or CREATE those uses for the user, the Apple Tablet will be a winner.
Now one rather obvious use for the Tablet is to use it as an ebook reader, like Amazon’s Kindle, or Barnes & Noble’s Nook. However, it must go beyond what those 2 provide, else there really isn’t a good reason to go with the Tablet at all.
Thus at the end of the day, it isn’t so much WHAT the Tablet can do, it’s also what it can do that also makes sense for it to be done in Tablet format.
Tie-ups with Publishers providing good reading materials on the Apple Tablet is a step in that direction, and this is exactly what Apple has done (again, my guess). Right now reading ebooks on the iTouch/iPhone doesn’t exactly provide the best user experience.
And it’s almost certain that both the Kindle and Nook will be a laughing stock when Apple unveils its Tablet for reading ebooks.
With the multi-touch screen, sections of the page can be expanded (like photos or illustrations), for a better view. Publishers can now publish their ebooks and combine various multimedia elements within the book like videos and sound clips or music, like some publications on CD-ROMs of the past. A simple click on the multimedia links opens up the video or plays the music file without the user ever leaving the page.
This same setup can be created for newspapers. Newspapers can offer subscriptions and their news will now be richer in multimedia formats that are mixed with plain text for a richer user experience.
Most importantly, the FORMATTING OR LAYOUT of the books/newspapers will be as the publisher intended it to be. Current ebook readers do maintain the formatting of the publication, but this will be taken to another level with multi-media embedding of various other elements essential to it with Apple’s Tablet.
And Apple’s very intuitive multi-touchscreen that allows inputs from the user’s fingers would help enhance the user experience even more.
So the KEY success factor for Apple’s Tablet is in the CONTENT AND THE FORM THE CONTENT IS MEANT TO BE PRESENTED for consumption using the Tablet and consequently the EXPERIENCE the user will get from using the Tablet that he cannot get by using the iTouch/iPhone or notebooks.
For this reason alone Apple will likely create its own special ebook reader software that not only provides the same functions as all other ebook software, but adds even more on its own, like the multimedia embedding and the intended-formatting function.
And of course the Tablet is wi-fi ready so that the required reading materials can be downloaded from anywhere with an Internet connection.
So the ebook reading market is all wrapped up, and print books will soon go the way of music CDs. Amazon sells hundreds of millions of dollars of books every year – so this is a huge market.
Print newspapers have been dying a rapid death the past few years, so Apple’s Tablets will resuscitate this industry with its Tablet.
Magazines will get a new lease of life in electronic format since it’ll be cheaper to subscribe to the digital versions from anywhere in the world, as there is no postage to worry about.
All 3 major publication types have been covered by Apple’s Tablet – and there is hope yet for all of them despite the Internet onslaught, with ironically the Internet itself fueling Apple’s Tablet.
So what else is a HUGE market for the Tablet?
The Gaming industry, of course. If Apple can create or get game developers to develop games specifically for the Tablet and make it multi-player (so that another gamer would require another Apple Tablet to play with the others), it’ll have another huge market on its hands.
What else is there?
Well, what about the Education and Training markets? Education and Training are both HUGE markets, with billions of dollars spent every year on them. Apple will position the Tablet as a an indispensable education and training tool that is not only easier to carry around and use, but much more useful as well.
Universities and even schools will soon create education materials for the Tablet and students need only carry their one Tablet around. It is both a note-taking tool, a reference tool AND interaction tool at the same time (anonymous votes on any topic can be carried out and also instantly tallied). Assessments of students’ progress can also be done entirely online with the submission happening directly from the Tablet itself.
What about the Social Networking market? I’m talking about physical networking, not Facebook. We could all carry our Apple Tablets to social events – and instead of exchanging cards, we could simply “push” our contact details or photos or video clips or whatever digital files that we’re legally allowed to share, over to another Apple Tablet device. We could now do this with the iPhone using an application called “Bump” but the iPhone’s small screen is a handicap.
What about Sales Personnel? A tablet is much easier to carry around than a notebook and the multi-touchscreen allows for impressive presentations and highlights of certain points.
What about Presenters at seminars? They can now show their PowerPoint presentation using their Apple Tablets instead of a notebook. Why would they want to do this? Because their audience members will likely have Apple Tablets too (to take notes with) and there will be applications to enable the presenter to share his presentation directly with his audience’s Apple Tablets.
Of crucial importance is that there are enough common uses for the Apple Tablet that will enable it to stand on its own.
Some of those uses will need to be invented, others will provide much better experiences for the users when done on the Tablet.
In view of the above uses, here’s what the Apple Tablet needs to be or have:
1) Extremely Light
You’re going to be holding it for as long as you can, so lightness is crucial.
The existing crop of tablets are heavy and you really wish to be rid of it as soon as you can. When you feel this way about them, they’ll fail miserably.
Fortunately Apple has extensive experience in this area, with the MacBook Air and of course the iPhone. As long as Steve Jobs can make the Tablet into the lightest possible device, perhaps even lighter than the MacBook Air (my guess is that it’s very likely to be), it’s another step in the right direction.
2) Extremely Thin
It should be slightly thicker than the screen’s thickness itself, if this is at all possible.
Remember that one of the main uses of the Tablet is to read newspapers, magazines and eboooks – so the thinner it is, the more comfortable it is to hold.
3) A Protective Cover
The Tablet will be placed in my bag that will likely also carry keys and other things that can scratch its surface. So some form of cover will be required to protect it from harm.
This cover will be extremely thin and light and I think it’ll “fold” back to itself as the “back cover” of the Tablet when the Tablet is in use. Since it’s Apple designing, this cover will be INSERTED into the back of the Tablet, which has a slot for it.
It’s hard to describe what I mean, but the action is similar to opening the cover until it’s aligned 180 degrees in relation to the screen (so it looks like a fully opened, flat book), and then the cover is easily pushed into a slot at the back of the Tablet, all in one seamless move. The cover does not detach from the Tablet at all.
4) Onscreen Keyboard
This is similar to the iPhone keyboard. It shows up when you need it and disappears when you don’t.
There are a lot of screen real estate so this is a much better experience than using the iPhone to type.
5) Multi-touch screen
This goes without saying. Squeezing and expanding images and pages on a much bigger screen creates a whole new user experience that is very similar to manipulating physical objects.
6) No Heat
Apple needs to stop the battery from heating up the Tablet, since it’ll be held in the hands and a hot Tablet makes it really uncomfortable to hold on to for long.
I’ve got some experience using Tablets, albeit for only minutes at a time since they’re heavy, slow and really not built for my comfort in mind.
7) Instant Boot Up
It must not be like another computer even though it can do similar things. Quick boot ups will differentiate it significantly from computers and gives it a category of its own. The OS (Operating System) will likely be an enhanced version of the one that powers the iPhone.
8) Fast Responses
A fast CPU is crucial for the user to get the most out of his Tablet. This also means that no Windows OS should ever be allowed to power an Apple Tablet – or any Tablet, for that matter.
I think it’ll be called the iPad, since it sounds better than “iSlate” or “iGuide” or some of the other names that I’ve heard.
So those are my predictions. I could be right on all counts, or only on some, or I could be totally wrong.
Regardless, if I’m wrong, the above is my feedback to Steve Jobs on what makes me want to get a Tablet. Hopefully he’s listening…
Let’s see what happens on the 27th!
P.S. Incidentally, this post contains valuable lessons on how you should always step into your Prospects’ heads when you’re designing products for them. The best way to do this is to become your own Prospect and then ask yourself – what benefit would you want your product or service to have that would really enhance your enjoyment of it?