Today Apple announced it’s long rumored new product, the iPad. Hype has been reaching epic proportions leading up to the launch, though I would say that the device meets expectations without really offering anything truly groundbreaking in terms of technology. The most surprising part of the announcement was probably the price of the device – $499. This is a shock, considering Apple’s usual ‘luxury’ pricing on computers. But, while some people may be disappointed that it’s ‘basically a big iPhone’, I don’t think they realize the potential for a whole new breed of multitouch applications, and a slew of new usage scenarios. The simple addition of a larger screen (and a faster processor) allows for much deeper applications that just weren’t possible on the iPhone.
Like the iPhone, the iPad is a device you might use sitting on the couch, at a coffee shop or otherwise looking for some quick entertainment. The fact that a lot of the presentation featured Steve sitting on a comfy chair is pretty telling about how they see people using it. I believe that the biggest app areas for the iPad will be news reading and games (two areas already huge on the iPhone). Creative applications also stand to gain a great deal on the iPad. The launch presentation featured the Brushes app – Apple chose this app out of hundreds of thousands of apps because it’s easy to see how much better it is with a larger screen. There’s less need to zoom in / out and you can work on a larger canvas. Hopefully with a few additional brushes this app could be a very serious tool for artists. Having direct hands on contact with the screen makes digital painting so much more attractive than trying to paint with a mouse, or even a stylus.
Music apps, which typically are pretty processor intensive and have a lot of on-screen controls will greatly benefit from the extra real-estate. No longer will developers have to sacrifice features simply because there isn’t any more screen space left. It should be possible to make a basic studio app with a range of instruments, rather than just one-trick-ponies.
Casual games should be very successful on this platform. One can imagine a scenario where the iPad acts like a board game that players can pass to each other to take their turns. Or a multitouch game where both people can interact with the screen at the same time. One thing that game developers need to start doing more is to make games that are tap and gesture based, rather than trying to do poor imitations of on-screen game controllers. It just doesn’t feel right. It also remains to be seen whether people can hold this device (which is supposed to feel fairly heavy and is a lot larger than an iphone) and interact with the onscreen controls at the same time. Coming up with new types of games will take some creativity, but it’s better to go with the flow than to swim against the tide – make your application fit the physical abilities of the platform you are developing for! You’ll be more successful if you do.
Location-based services will be pretty useless since I doubt most people will go for the 3G option. There’s no camera either, so photo taking, video conferencing and augumented reality are out.
The New York times developed an application to serve their content – will other magazines follow suit? Someone has to figure out how to take these companies into the digital age.
In terms of new features offered by the SDK, I can’t really go into detail since it’s covered by a NDA. However, I will say that Apple has addressed one major gripe of creative app developers, which is that there is no built in way to exchange files with your desktop computer. This shortcoming should now be solved (and it’s used by Apple’s own iWorks apps). The rest of the new additions mostly focus on new GUI elements which take advantage of the extra screen space.
See also Apple iPad: Limited Options for Video Output, Visualists? on CreateDigitalMotion