Who really is iPad's competition?

IPads and other web tablets (which will surely arrive, now that the tech is at a level where they have become feasible and everybody loves to copy Apple anyway) will have an interesting competitive situation. On the surface, it does not appear that they have competition. Some people are pitching them against subnotebooks; some are saying that they are iPhone competition (which I think BTW is insane). Some people say that they will kill the personal computer as we know it.

Well, I've been thinking (which became my favourite phrase after @MikaelJungner said that every time he utters it in the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation's management team meetings, everybody starts screaming). Perhaps the real competition is the television.

I have a few arguments. First, the situation is analoguous to the early days of the mobile phone: everybody had a fixed landline, which was shared. It was in one place, and everybody had to take turns. Much like the current television set: it's in one place, we usually have one room which enshrines it in some way, and you only watch one channel at a time. Yes, now, if you find this a problem, quite a few households especially in the Western countries own more than one television these days, which makes them personal televisions. But they're still largely immobile and tied to one place.

The second argument is that media industry loves the iPad. Here they have an opportunity to keep going what they already have, outside of regulation, and have total control of who watches and what. No more worrying about the analog hole, because Apple doesn't care about interop. They will control, together with Apple, the entire production chain from source to screen. No need to change business models or worry about privacy.

Now, if pad computers become personal television sets, that means that the advertisers will get extremely accurate data on who saw what and who bought what. The knowledge that is accumulated in the Apple App Store and iTunes Music Store about consumer behaviour is simply the best data available anywhere on the planet, except perhaps for the data collected by Google. And people give this willingly and even pay for the privilege.

The fourth argument is the fact that internet distribution is way superior to broadcast. Get what you want, when you want.

The fifth argument is that people are getting very much used to now living in a virtual world. Smartphones and computers have given people the opportunity of changing few but intensive connections to a large number of less intensive connections - and people have chosen those en masse. Just look at how there is always someone who fiddles with their Apple/Blackberry/Nokia/Samsung wherever you are. So losing one of the bastions of togetherness in the living room doesn't sound that bad anymore. (Though this is a fairly controversial argument - I think that it might actually be good that living rooms become living rooms again as opposed to consumption rooms.)

The sixth argument is that TV set makers know this already. The new high-end TV sets have integration to Youtube and social media services - but I think it's not going to work. TV sets aren't personal to the degree that social media would work on them.

The iPad form factor is excellent (though the bloody thing is still way too heavy, but that'll be corrected in a year or two) for snuggling in bed and watching telly. It doesn't heat up the same way a laptop does; it doesn't keep noise like a laptop does; and it doesn't bring in the cognitive complexity as a laptop does.

So I'm going to hazard a guess here: pads will be the personal media centres for home, killing off television sets the same way mobile phones killed landlines. They won't kill television as such, because moving to the iPad is the path of least resistance for the media companies, but it will punish them because now there will be a new distributor in the chain who will grab a bite out of every sale.




Comments

You're spot on as far as our family is concerned, anyway.

I'd imagine most household renovations as ex[t/p]ensive as the one we've got underway generally encompass TV upgrades, but as we've gotten on fine these last two years without one we've decided to leapfrog TV entirely. What remains to be seen is how the jailbroken iPad performs as home mediator.

--AG, 09-May-2010


Good thinking, methinks. What the pads need next is an interface to large screen tellys and projectors. Especially the latter.

--Tube, 10-May-2010


Nokia N8 has HDMI output already (though it's not a tablet, but it shows that smaller form factor devices are already able to do that), but I'm not sure whether that's really the point - after all, then it's no longer personal as such. But yeah, for sharing, possibly.

--JanneJalkanen, 10-May-2010


Sometimes people do wish to enjoy a large screen even if they're alone. Though it may be that once kids get used to the small screen, it becomes the default (just like bad quality sound has become the default for music).

Sharing and enjoying a full panorama experience, yeah. But in a few years those might be just as common/simple as the default audio port.

--Mikko, 13-May-2010


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