Having finally gotten its first glimpse of the new iPad today, the high-tech world has one major question: Does this tablet represent another game-changing product from Apple, similar to the Apple II, the Macintosh, the iPod and the iPhone?
iSuppli Corp. believes that while the iPad has met its lofty expectations and is likely to be a sales success for Apple, the jury is still out as to whether the tablet will define or redefine the technology market to the same degree these other products have.
“In terms of features, product design, software and content, the iPad delivered on all its promises,” said Dale Ford, senior vice president at iSuppli. “And at a starting price of $499, the product even exceeded expectations. However, with the iPad straddling multiple product categories and with the usage model for the product still unproven, it likely will be a number of quarters after shipments begin before whether we know the product will have a revolutionary impact on the technology world.”
What’s the Use?
The iPad ostensibly is a tablet PC, putting it squarely in the notebook computing category. However, with its extremely light weight, it use of the iPhone operating system and its focus on presentation of content, the iPad seems to occupy a position somewhere between the smart phone, the e-reader and the netbook PC.
“The question for Apple is what is the usage case for such a product?” said Dr. Jagdish Rebello, senior director and principal analyst iSuppli. “What does it do that other products don’t do—and what does it have that will make a large number of consumers want to buy the product?”
The killer app for the iPad appears to be delivery and presentation of content. The iPad’s portability, built-in iPod, display, touch interface, wireless connectivity and powerful processor make it ideal for convenient viewing of all types of content, from photos, to videos, to music, to games, to e-books, to online newspapers.
While Apple seems to have all the pieces in place with its iTunes store and agreements with many content providers, it may take a few years before the success of this content-oriented strategy will become apparent.
“What Apple is trying to do with the iPad is to try and create a new market by stimulating new user behavior and new use cases,” Rebello added. “So while the iPad might appear to compete with many existing products in specialized markets like eBooks, tablet PCs and PMP/MP3 players, the success of the produce is intrinsically linked to its capability to change consumer behavior.”
“The iPad will be a game changer if it becomes the Trojan horse that changes the slowly dying print information business to an electronic information market,” said Egil Juliussen, principal analyst and fellow at iSuppli.
What’s Important—the Hardware or What it Does?
It’s not hardware that makes an electronic product different and unique. For example, the ingredients of Apple’s iPhone are similar to the other 1.1 Billion phones sold in 2009, i.e. baseband, memory, radio frequency and power amplifier. What makes the iPhone so different, prompting sales of 8.7 million last quarter, is its unique usability, convenience and content. This makes the iPhone a commercial hit, and successful at redefining the smart phone category.
“The iPad has similar traits to the iPhone—being the right enabler at the right time” said Steve Mather, principal analyst for iSuppli. “For investors and corporate leaders, it’s all about identifying trends early, positioning for success. To this end, we believe an area centered on usability, convenience, and emerging content on the Internet, will prove increasingly relevant in the coming years. Furthermore, we believe Apple’s iPad will prove a unique enabling device, connecting new apps and content with emerging behavior trends.”
Developers are on board to propel usability, including social networking and business use, well beyond today’s successful Apple’s iTunes, Apps store and new book store.
While many early reviews concluded the iPad is simply a bigger, faster iPhone, iSuppli believes it more closely resembles Apple’s iPod touch. This is because the iPad is available in a version that includes Wi-Fi as its exclusive wireless connection, the same as the iPod touch.
Because of this similarity, the initial total available market for the iPad may be similar to that of the iPod touch. During the first four quarters after its introduction, Apple sold a total of 8.3 million iPod touch units, according to iSuppli.
Over the longer term, the iPad will benefit from Apple’s large and loyal customer base.
“The iPad’s success is expected to be substantial because a significant portion of the 200 million plus users of iPhones, iPods and Macintoshes will want one,” Juliussen added.
Inside the iPad
Apple’s iPad announcement also provided some insight into the product’s components. When the iPad is available, iSuppli plans to conduct a physical teardown of the product to determine pricing and all component suppliers.
One notable component is the use of a microprocessor described as a “1GHz, Apple A4 custom-designed, high-performance, low-power system-on-a-chip.”
iSuppli believes this part was designed by low-power processor specialist, PA Semi, a company Apple acquired in 2008. This part’s low power consumption, fast performance and high integration are partly responsible for the iPad’s light weight, prodigious processing power and long battery life. The iPad weighs just 1.5 pounds, it can display high-definition video and its battery can support up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi-Fi, watching video, or listening to music.
The iPad’s 9.7-inch LCD display uses the same capacitive touch screen technology as the iPhone and iPod touch. The display employs In-Plane Switching (IPS) technology which supports a wider viewing angle and better picture quality than conventional LCDs.
Like other Apple products, the iPad’s display probably is sourced from three suppliers. However LG Display and Innolux are the two most likely suppliers of the iPad’s IPS LCD, according to Vinita Jakhanwal, principal analyst for iSuppli.