Last month I wrote about the iPad and how I felt, fundamentally, the problem is software. The iPad hardware is plenty powerful. However for people who want to get their work done with an iPad, quite often they run into software-based obstacles that push them back to a Mac or PC.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only person thinking about it. I had a couple long drives the last few days and several of my favorite podcasters are also weighing in on the fate of the iPad. One of the most interesting points was by Myke Hurley who explained last year Apple sold 45 million iPads and 18 million Macs. So last year for every Macintosh Apple sold, almost 3 iPads went out the door.
I think a significant number of those iPads were sold to people that wanted to get work done on them. I’ve talked to non-geek friends who bought iPads to do work on but, over time, gave up on being productive with their iPad for the reasons I explained in my earlier post. In those cases, the iPad did end up a largely content consumption device but that was not by design as much as it was software limitations.
I think Apple has a big opportunity. The iPad could be an important piece of the future of computing. As things stand, the iPad hardware is awesome and the iPad software is too constrained. The first time an iPad user realizes she has to save 20 email attachments to Dropbox one file at a time, she is going back to her Mac. This is a solvable problem.
The trouble is that the iPad's role diminishes the longer Apple takes to give the iPad the software power it needs. People will move on as Microsoft ups its own hardware game and the general perception of the iPad further solidifies as something to surf on, not work on. The irony of this is that for years, other lawyers used to make fun of my Macintosh computer as a “toy” computer. Apple already knows how difficult it is to break that particular stereotype.
A few years ago I spent a lot of time banging on about cloud services and how Apple needed to get its act together. Right now I feel the same way about iPad software. There’s so much power in there to unlock. Now’s the time.