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Thoughts on iPad app direction



iPad001Still sifting through the iPad announcement fallout this morning. Couple of opinions that caught my attention regard apps. They’ve got me thinking about how the larger-screened iPad will affect the environment of Apple’s App Store, as well as whether it hurts or helps the future of programming and development.

MG Siegler at TechCrunch posted a commentary about “The Subplots of the iPad Blockbuster,” in which he highlights some important points that were overshadowed by the device itself. One of those points concerns apps.

“While the focus of the iPad event in terms of apps seemed to be on iPhone apps that would work on the iPad, it’s important to remember that developers are going to start developing apps specifically for the iPad.”

I don’t agree with the first part of that. Apple led the app talk by emphasizing the iPad had app support from the start, but that felt like reassurance that it wasn’t starting from scratch and that your existing apps would work on it. Definitely, however, the iPad specific development is important, and they spent plenty of time on that.

What’s interesting is the relatively upward value of the iPad apps they showed. The iWork apps were Apple’s example of what they envision for the iPad, productivity software each priced at $9.99. Contrast that to Apple’s Keynote Remote and Remote apps for iPhone, 99c and free, respectively.

The tone they’ve set is that the iPad is for more robust, higher priced apps that take advantage of the speedier processor and larger screen space. This opens a path to the premium App Store that’s been rumored, which 9 to 5 Mac pinned months ago to the then-rumored Apple Tablet (good call, BTW). Intead of making it an underused subsection of the iPhone market, they’re giving premium apps a device of their own.

Along with that, this sets the bar for sales expectations. No one expects the iPad to sell as well as the iPhone and iPod touch. Thus, it will have a much smaller audience for apps, reducing its allure to developers. The trade-off will be the higher pricing tier, as well as more screen space to sell advertising. And let’s not forget the focus on iBooks, which publishers hope to sell for more than $10 a piece. They’re definitely angling for premium pricing here.

Other food for thought: I was led by Gina Trapani at her Smarterware blog to an opinion on programming in general from Alex Payne in which he is “disturbed” by the iPad’s primary function as a consumption device.

“The thing that bothers me most about the iPad is this: if I had an iPad rather than a real computer as a kid, I’d never be a programmer today. I’d never have had the ability to run whatever stupid, potentially harmful, hugely educational programs I could download or write.”

That’s probably true, but here’s the thing: iPad users won’t face that dilemma. It’s intended to be partnered with a Mac or PC as a companion, same as an iPod or iPhone. So the either-or argument doesn’t really apply; people with iPads will have computers.

Contrast that against game consoles, which many of us grew up using, and standalone handhelds. These devices often displace computers, either by price or use, creating that either-or situation. In this context, I’d be far more “disturbed” by those devices than the iPad.

Furthermore, the iPhone has not only spurred a new wave of software development, but we’ve already seen kids get in on the action. Lim Ding Wen of Singapore made headlines by being the world’s youngest iPhone programmer at 9 years old. Granted, he’s a child prodigy so he’s outside the norm, but there are also the pre-teen Voorhees brothers and their MathTime app.

No, the iPad probably will not drive users to get into programming, but its users should all have real computers, and it expands a platform that is drawing young people into the field.

Bottom line: My view of app development for the iPad parallels my view of the device itself. It adds value to their mobile platform, expanding it to the next logical level. Calling it anything else, positive or negative, is hyperbolic.



  1. L Svenka

    01/29/2010 at 1:19 pm

    My 14 year old daughter has a macbook and an iphone. On her macbook she has almost no software installed and uses about three pieces of software. safari, itunes, and Microsoft Office. On her iphone, she has over 200 apps. What my 14 year old daughter doesn’t understand is that her macbook runs a real operating system that ships with a real operating systems and runs real software. She could have installed 200 programs on her macbook, if she knew how to install software on her macbook, but she doesn’t need to do that in order to do what she wants with her computer. Because of the limitations of the iphone OS and the low quality Internet browser experience compared to her macbook, she HAS TO install extra apps just to reclaim the functionality that she expects when using a computer and when using the Internet.

    If your car company sold you a “special” vehicle and then required you to purchase and install hundreds of components just to have a fully functioning car, would we either be defending the greatness of that car or heralding the “availability” of all of these “extras” as an actual feature that enhances the greatness of the car even more? If the iPad is going to be MOTS (more of the same), then I think people are going to eventually shake themselves awake from all of the nickel-and-diming from Apple and run back to their netbooks which are at least real computers running real operating systems. My husband and I did annual budgeting last month and realize that we are now spending more than twice as much on Apple-related expenses then in any other year, and our satisfaction is at an all-time low. It’s clear that Steve jobs wants my money, and everything else is just a detail. I’m hoping android takes off and we can migrate away from all things Apple. Sadly, most people who are being preyed upon by the appstore scam are probably new to the whole Apple experience, and those who stick it out long enough are going to be in for a second rude awakening when they get their first taste of Apple’s unfriendly attitude towards providing new operating systems for old devices.

    I told my daughter that she could have her iphone or an iPad. She explained to me that the iPad was for old people who carrying around big bags, whatever that means.

  2. Gary

    01/29/2010 at 2:12 pm

    Great article! A side note…I’ve just gotta say it after all of the insane iPad bashing going on. The most frequent comment I’m seeing is: “it’s just an oversized iPod Touch or iPhone without a dialer”. As much as that is only partly accurate…they say it like it’s a bad thing! What, because it doesnt run a full desktop OS and mimic’s the most revolutionary smartphone, app and content delivery system we have ever seen, only on a larger scale, more flexible device (based on the additional screen real estate potential)?

    There also seems to be many who aren’t getting the fact that this is a “companion” product to a laptop/smartphone. It’s not for everyone. Certainly not for as many people as the iPhone has been.

    All the same, the possibilities for this device, and the consumers and business markets it can reach once the devs hit stride is really exciting. I think there are a lot of folks who are going to be eating their words a year from now. No lack of excitement…It’s going to be a good tablet year!!

  3. Riles

    01/29/2010 at 3:29 pm

    I was writing about exactly this point yesterday. I just don’t think that the App Store will be as relevant on the iPad as it is on the iPhone/Touch. The percentage of apps in the App Store that are solely designed to make up for the fact that you are using a small screen device that cannot fully utilize the web is huge. If everyone can step back from their app frenzy for a few minutes they will likely realize that most of what they need is at their fingertips right out of the box. This will particularly be made true when Apple unlocks Flash and multitasking which I think has to be coming with 4.0. I’m sure there will be some compelling apps made available, but I would be astounded if the number of apps people find necessary on the iPad exceeds a dozen.

  4. Sam

    01/30/2010 at 2:10 am

    Apparently Squeak (a “popular” Smalltalk environment) for the iPhone exists, I’d like to see a multitouch-pervasive Squeak for iPad. (From googling, there’s been some work on multitouch for Squeak)

  5. Donald

    01/31/2010 at 6:00 pm

    For me there is only one thing keeping me from buying my first Apple product. This thing needs flash support. Half the sites i visit each day are flash users in some fashion. Farmville, Mafia Wars, random other flash games at yahoo. I really enjoy them all and without flash what kind of internet experience can one have. It really seems like flash has gotten stream lined enough in last year that it should work on iphone,itouch and ipad considering all the other small devices it now seems to work perfectly fine on. What gives? I want flash or I cant get an Ipad. Oh and that name is kinda lame. Still wish it had a pen. Maybe an after market pen will work well.

  6. Gary

    01/31/2010 at 10:14 pm

    “without Flash, what kind of internet experience can one have”?

    Answer – a perfectly awesome,enjoyable,and stable one. Sounds like the iPad is not for you if Flash games are what you live by. You’re not the demographic Apple is trying to bring in with the iPad, and a different device will certainly suit you better.

    Flash is not the future. Eye candy aside, Adobe has programmed themselves into a corner with all of the problems associated with mobile devices running it, the power needed, it’s scalability, security, and stability. Looking forward to what HTML5 will bring to all of the different mobile platforms, and moving to the forefront as Flash slowly fades away.

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