With the iPad, the medium is the message

Jim O'Neil

Note to all those iPad haters out there: Give it a break. Put your Apple envy back on the shelf, go out, shop for a Mac and be done with it.

The iPad isn't a game changer as a device for the online video industry because of its design. Yes, it's pretty, but so is every other Apple product. Even the packaging. It's one of those things that Apple always does well, like Herman Miller and office furniture. If they make it, it's going to be sweet. An oversized iPod? Please. You're sounding like your parents.

And it's not a game changer because it runs almost all of the 140,000-some iPhone apps available. That was a bit of a nice surprise (and it's sure to make some app developers happy), but really, that's just icing.

Anti-iPaddites are taking pot shots at Apple for everything they think the iPad isn't. It doesn't have Flash! It doesn't have a camera! It doesn't make phone calls! It's stuck with AT&T! (OK, that one I still don't quite understand. AT&T? There isn't an app to fix that.) And if I read one more article or hear one more newscaster snicker that "iPad sounds like a feminine hygiene product" I'll lose it. You're grasping at straws. That's not going to persuade or dissuade anyone from buying the iPad -- not even those Neanderthal's who are embarrassed in the grocery store when their wife or girlfriend drops a box of Tampons in the cart they're pushing. (You know who you are, man up.)

Forgive me for looking at all of the media hooey and just saying "crap," because most of it is just that. Here's a short (not a complete) list of the Apple products critics have panned at launch:

  • The Mac. "A computer only graphic designers will use."
  • The iPod. "A nice gadget, but people will keep their CDs."
  • iTunes: See above (and, can you say "What CD industry?")
  • The iPhone: "It's fun, but it will never be used in business applications."

Um, yeah.

Here's the real issue: Change is hard. Most people don't like it; some people hate it and an awful lot of people just can't accept that it happens at all.

The iPad is going to produce change, and it's going to open more doors in the online video industry. It will begin with Version 1.0, but it will accelerate with Version 2.0 and 3.0 and 4.0.

Apple is a company that pushes revolution through evolution. Its early products have short shelf lives, spawning new and improved versions almost as quickly as the old ones are plugged in.

And, the online video industry is going to benefit from it. We're all always talking about three-screen delivery; mobile, laptop and TV. Well, the iPad is a screen, a highly mobile screen that actually allows delivery of video in a large enough format to be enjoyed.

I've watched Major League Baseball streaming on a smartphone, I'm going to enjoy it a lot more on my iPad. And, I'm pretty geeked about not having to drag my laptop to Starbucks with me when I scoot into town for a cup of coffee, or fight to get it out of my briefcase and unfold it when I'm on a flight and already crammed into a seat with no leg room. If I want to watch some online video, I'll just slide it out of its case and, BOOM! There it is.

In my "other life" as a coach, I'll be able to use that 9.7-inch video screen to quickly review technique with one of my athletes, without having to drag around a laptop, or to try to get them to see a flaw on a video I'm showing them on a smartphone screen.

Online video advertising -- especially interactive advertising -- now actually has a way to address that mobile screen. You can do a lot more with a 9.7-inch screen than you can with the screen on a smartphone. As to the lack of Flash? Well, Adobe has made an effort to address the issue with an iPhone workaround; will it do the same for the iPad? At some point, perhaps by version 2.0, there will be a solution.  

The medium, as Marshall McLuhan wrote, is the message. The iPad is taking our medium in a whole different direction. Does your business get the message?-Jim