The iPad: Changing How We Build Business Relationships
BY Brent Leary
The ultimate business value of Apple Computer's iPad may be that it encourages users to connect because it is so easy -- and fun -- to use.
It took less than a month for Apple to sell one million units of its iPad device -- less than half the time it took for the iPhone to reach that mark. And from most reports they're finding it hard to keep up with the demand.
In fact it seems the only thing more in demand than the iPad were iPad applications and books, with more than 12 million and one million downloads respectively in the first month. And after only a couple of weeks with my new Apple iPad, I can understand why there's so a ferocious demand for it, and can honestly say that the iPad has already changed the way I consume content -- which also changes how I interact with those who created the content.
Superior user experience = easier consumption
Let me get something out of the way right up front -- the iPad is cool. It's cool because it's like a TV set, library, and communications channel all rolled into one device the size of a note pad and priced starting at $499. The screen's 9.8-inch display is stunning, which makes it easy to look at anything on it, including YouTube movies, television shows from ABC, websites, and books. In fact, reading a book on the iPad is very much like reading a physical book, as you turn a page by moving your finger across the screen.
Turning a book's page on the iPad is a great example of how you navigate it. Most of what you do is by touch or by moving your fingers across the iPad's screen to make things happen, similar to what you do with the iPhone. I find this to be much more intuitive than using a mouse to point and click -- like a baby who sees something he likes and grabs for it, not a mouse to click it. And it's much faster for me to navigate than using a mouse. And if the on-screen keyboard is not your thing, you can buy the iPad keyboard for $69 for serious typing needs.
Easier consumption = more consumption
There is so much information coming at us that it feels like there's no way any of us can read, listen to, or look at any more than we already do -- which presents major challenges to businesses trying to turn content into conversations, trust, and eventually customers. But the applications companies are creating to take advantage of the iPad's interface has made it easier and quicker to take in more information.
A perfect example of this is the National Public Radio (NPR) application for the iPad. The way it is presented on the screen makes it easy to see the latest news by category, read, and/or listen to a news article, and post it to Twitter or Facebook to share with your friends and colleague -- all by just touching the screen. And if you don't have time to read something at the moment you can add it to your playlist to check out later.
The other thing that happens for me with the iPad is that I can read longer-form content much more easily. Long PDF files are really easy to read with the GoodReader application for the iPad. And in addition to reading books from the iBookstore, there's even an Amazon Kindle app, which lets you read books you originally bought for the Kindle.
More consumption = more chances to connect
I think the most important thing about the iPad is that it can present opportunities for businesses to connect with prospects -- and to do so in a more meaningful way. Going back to the NPR example, I can honestly say that I was not a big fan before last week. But I saw the iPad app and have been reading and listening (and tweeting to friends/colleagues) ever since.
The reason I wasn't a fan of NPR before the iPad had nothing to do with a lack of interest in their content. I know they put out quality information; it was just that I didn't have time to look at it. But the combination of great content and great delivery on the iPad platform converted me into an avid consumer.
The iPad is made to create a truly remarkable content-consuming experience. It's not a replacement for laptops (or a mobile phone), because it's optimized for consuming content, not creating it. It's not a perfect device, as there are no USB ports and no cameras of any kind. But you are able to run a Webinar from it via the Webex iPad application (or GotoMeeting or Adobe Connect). You can write a blog with the Wordpress app for the iPad. And you can collaborate with others in real time from wherever you are, in ways that may have been possible from a technical standpoint, but not the way the iPad allows you to do. And those who understand how to leverage the platform by creating applications and content can also create more opportunities to grab the attention of those they're trying to build relationships with.
Brent Leary is a small-business technology analyst, adviser, and award-winning blogger. He is the co-author of Barack 2.0: Social Media Lessons for Small Business. His blog can be found at http://brentleary.com, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/brentleary.