Peter Smyth
Feb 3, 2010

Five things you need to know: The iPad

While the pundits continue to debate the iPad's merits, Peter Smyth (pictured), executive director of planning at BBDO Japan, offers five big things to keep in mind about the Apple tablet.

Five things you need to know: The iPad
1. Dismissing the iPad as just a big iPod Touch totally misses the point. The iPad (and especially the 3G-enabled iPad) is further evidence of Apple’s strategy to dominate the future of mobile devices (and by extension the future of mobile advertising). Mobility is the lens to use to make sense of recent developments in the tech industry. Both Google and Apple recently acquired companies that specialise in mobile advertising, and both have now released their own mobile devices, mobile operating systems, mobile browsers and mobile app stores. So don’t look at the iPad simply as an iPod with a bigger screen - rather it’s a key piece of the infrastructure Apple is building to try and dominate a new industry.

2. As the fight intensifies to control mobile access and the stream of advertising dollars that will flow through it, competition will make for strange bedfellows.
Before the iPad announcement, blogs buzzed that Apple was moving to dump Google as the default search engine for Apple products in favour of Microsoft’s ‘Bing’. Why? To deny Google the search data it receives from people using their iPhones on the go. This usage data is potential gold to both companies as they race to develop new products and services for their mobile customers. Expect more unexpected partnerships as companies jockey for position.

3. The communications industry will likely find it frustrating to keep on top of these shifting alliances. As the web fractures into more proprietary devices, certain common standards will fall away. Look at the current Adobe Flash/ Apple fight as an example. While Flash still enjoys a huge installed user base, there is no doubt that Apple’s continued refusal to include Flash on the iPhone and now the iPad will ratchet up the pressure on developers building in Flash. No one knows where the tipping point will be for any given standard, but prioritising marketing investment through different channels will only become more complicated in the future.

4. The iPad’s combination of hardware and software really will be a new way to interact with a digital device - something more akin to using an appliance than a computer. While it will take some time for the marketing industry to find the best way to make use of an iPad, it’s safe to bet the best communicators will not just repurpose existing content to fit the device - such as simply scaling up an existing iPhone app. Rather the most compelling content will take advantage of the unique proprieties of the iPad itself, and rest somewhere at the intersection between the digital and the physical.

5. The iPad will present marketers with exciting ways to get closer to and more engaged with customers. But new devices and channels will also push the best marketing services companies to reinvent their own processes for developing the next generation of compelling commercial content. Consider the difference between developing a print ad for Sports Illustrated versus ‘always-on’ content for a potential Sports Illustrated eMagazine. As marketing becomes more mobile, more fractured, more location-based, more timely and ultimately more personal, we are sitting on the cusp of a great new chapter in our industry.

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