Sunday, May 29, 2011

No Killer App

It’s the easy question that has no easy answer that is quite often the most fascinating to ponder.  As the owner to two iPads, it was natural for me to get the “why should I buy an iPad?” question.  I would describe the iPad in glowing detail.  Lightweight, instant-on, all-day battery, touch interface and really cool smart cover.  Lots of apps in the app store, many of them free.  But the answers never really seem to satisfy, so I reflected on why that might be the case.  

Really ground-breaking technology always seems to deliver on something new, something so compelling that almost all people see it as a break-through and they want it badly.  Mainframes had back-office accounting apps.  PCs had VisiCalc, the first PC-based spreadsheet program.  Smart-phones have email and texting.  These “killer apps” drove the technology into an increasing number of people’s hands.  And new eco-systems grew up around these new platforms, propelling the technology world to new heights.

So the real iPad question I was being asked is: “What’s the killer app?”.  The answer: “There isn’t one.”

If not, then why all excitement?  Why do iPads fly off the shelves?  In my opinion, it’s the new “killer experience”.  All those things I was describing had to do with how it felt to use an iPad and much different and exciting is was to use it, not at all what I did with it.  It’s similar to my first HD TV.  It didn’t enable me to watch more TV, cable TV did that.  But I watch HD content almost exclusively because of the awesome experience.  I imagine 3D TV will be the same in 5-10 years.    

I suggest approaching iPads not as a new way of doing old things, or looking for the application that everyone is clamoring to get.  Look for opportunities to completely blow-up or dramatically revise what you’re doing today.  People can now carry a “computer” everywhere, all-day and interact immediately.  We’re not used to thinking that way.  Changing your mindset is the place to start.

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