What The iPad Needs Are iPartners
I drive a car that has a six-inch touchscreen embedded in its dashboard. That screen tells me where I'm going and what I'm hearing. If I had paid a little more, it would show what's behind me, so that I wouldn't back into anyone. That's pretty much all it does.
I have no idea what it cost the dealer, and frankly, no idea what it cost me. It came with the car and its price was one of many on the window sticker. I'm guessing that it cost at least $500. If given the opportunity to replace that screen with an iPad that clipped into place on the dashboard, providing navigation, entertainment and communication, and then unclipped from the car so that I could give a business presentation with it, and then followed me into the house so I could surf the web with it, I'd be all over it.
I'd buy an iPad if it came with my car. I'd buy an iPad if it came with my newspaper. I'd buy an iPad if it came with my daughter's college tuition. But would I buy an iPad just to own an iPad? Truthfully, I'm not sure. What Apple demonstrated last week didn't quite make me reach for my back pocket to replace what's already in my front pocket.
But with a little collaboration, all that could change. Imagine that your new Honda Element came with a detachable iPad that included a two-year subscription to Rolling Stone, including an exclusive app with a playlist updated every week with songs that you ought to hear. The Mobil app kicks in when your tank nears empty, showing directions on your Google map to the nearest service station and debiting your ATM card for the tankful of gas. Hungry? Summon a list of the nearest restaurants and have the food waiting as you pull up to the door.
Sounds futuristic, but all of those capabilities appear to be within reach of iPad 1.0.
What if your Yankees season tickets came with an iPad — pinstriped if you please — that included a subscription to a tabletized Sports Illustrated and an app that worked only at Yankee Stadium, providing video feeds from the dugout, bullpen, catcher's mask, pitcher's mound and each base; instant replays on demand; real-time scores and statistics; an interactive scorecard; play-by-play with between-inning player interviews; and a way to order a hot dog without leaving your seat.
Sell a few banner ads — Cold Bud? Click here! — and suddenly that iPad is nearly subsidized. The price tag goes down as its value goes up. Meanwhile, the Yankees sell more tickets, Honda sells more cars, Mobil sells more gas, and the iPad becomes the mass medium that the publishing industry craves, justifying the investment capital required to spend to develop enhanced newspapers and magazines. Across the board, everybody wins.
Perhaps one way to fast-track the iPad is for Apple to offer an OEM version that is meant to be bundled, in addition to the retail version that can be sold in stores. The OEM version would give companies a way to offer customers an iPad packed with content — value beyond the iPad itself. For publishers, it's a multiyear subscription, a searchable archive, or a collection of books and videos. Brokerages could offer tablets full of financial research, real-time streaming quotes and a way to trade anywhere. Airlines could hand them out as a premium to increase customer loyalty. The possibilities are endless.
It doesn't take an expensive navigation system to see where this could go. The faster that Apple can intertwine this technology with people's lives, the faster the future will come. With innovative partnerships, that change could come sooner than you think.