In my eyes, the original iPad suffered one flaw that I always found interesting: the overall lack of content creation and management. At the unveiling of the original iPad, it was obvious that Apple was positioning the device as a content consumption medium by launching new services (such as iBooks and the iBookStore) to rally behind that position. Though there were exceptions, Apple itself never seemed interested in positioning the iPad in a way that could truly compete with a laptop. After the 2010 event, I thought that third-party app developers would fill in that gaping whole, and some did. However, it wasn’t the tidal wave of apps that I initially thought would happen. Instead, it has been a slow trickle.
Sure, Apple released the iWork suite of apps, but even those weren’t radically different from their desktop counterparts and reeked of a clever ploy by Apple to advertise that the iPad can be used for office work. This isn’t to say that those apps weren’t useful, but that they were simply the desktop version of Pages, Keynote, and Numbers ported to a large touchscreen device with some minor UI enhancements. Those apps were released on launch day of the iPad
Fast forward a year, and the iPad platform is thriving. There are now 65,000 iPad apps. And most of them are still for consumption of some kind – books, video, music, internet articles, and even art.
At the iPad 2 event on March 2, Apple seemed to recognize this. Though they are undoubtedly proud of their platform in comparison to their competition’s (i.e., the 16 apps on Honeycomb), Steve Jobs and Co. seem to understand that the iPad and iOS can never truly compete with and destroy the PC market unless they offer a way to create content. So, that’s what they did: Apple showed off GarageBand and iMovie at the March 2 event. Big whoop, right? Two apps that you can create music and video with, right? Yeah, absolutely, but it is also a way to set the standard.
During the event, the GarageBand and iMovie demos seemed to carry on… and on, and on, and on. While I’m sure that that was at least partially an effort to drag the event out (there was no “One more thing!” type surprise), Apple also seemed adamant to show that the iPad is capable of so much more than being a glorified RSS reader.
It isn’t often that a program and its design team get to totally rethink the application, but it seems that that is exactly what happened with iMovie. I have used iMovie ’11 on the Mac, and it’s safe to say that, if I was given the choice, I would use the iPad version. No, I’m not a professional videographer of any kind, and my needs are fairly simple. But, it doesn’t matter – a tiny percentage of all iPad owners actually need the power of Final Cut, or even of the desktop version of iMovie. Want to create an appealing home video? Why boot up the Mac, and open the complicated version of iMovie? Why would you want to use keyboard shortcuts and drag a mouse around when you can simply tap exactly what you want done?
On to GarageBand: the demo was impressive, and it might make for a great on-the-go solution for those who need to record anything on-the-go (I’ve already heard talk of some podcasters looking forward to trying this bad boy out). Sound is a type of content, and you can create it with GarageBand. Boom. Content creation.
Apple seems to shape their ecosystem by example. When iPhone OS 2.0 was announced (yeah, back when it was still iPhone OS), developers and customers questioned whether the accelerometer was sensitive enough to actually do what Apple’s demonstrations seemed to suggest. Apple partnered with Sega (by partner, I mean give Sega early access to the SDK), who then created Super Monkey Ball for iPhone, which showed just how sensitive and useful the accelerometer could be in games and launched the day iOS 2.0 was released. Apple seemed to again do this as recently as iOS 4, by allowing Pandora early access to the SDK and the multitasking APIs so that they could update their app and allow Apple to show off the new multitasking system.
I think that we are seeing another round of this: they (Apple) want the iPad to sell as a consumption platform, but also have the ability to create and manage data, and other content. This is Apple saying, “We think the iPad can do so much more in this particular area. We’re going to show you all just how powerful this can be, and hopefully you’ll get the drift.”
In essence, the iPad 2 is a move against what Apple thinks are its main competitors: the PC market. iMovie, GarageBand, and every other content creation app that arrives in the coming year or so will help fit in the last major piece of the tablet puzzle.
It may not have a huge impact on PC numbers this year, or even next, but the fires are kindled, and we are witnessing the next great leap in computing. Whoever embraces it will survive and thrive, and those that don’t, won’t.