Saturday, May 23, 2015

Fixing the iPad: Family share and iBooks

It’s a geek consensus - the iPad is on its last legs. Mostly this is because it’s nuts to have both a single-user iPhone 6 and a single-user iPad. You gotta be both top 2% for assets and have time to burn. Everyone else will do with either an iPhone 6 or 6+ (or Android equivalents).

There are obvious future fixes. One is for Apple to sell an iPhoneMini, based on tech developed for the failing aWatch [1], and a complementary iPad. That complementary iPad would work standalone, but it would also seamlessly switch between iCloud/iPhone user profiles — so a family of four iPhones might start with one iPad but move up to three (see also). [2]

There’s something else that’s gotten lost though — and I want to call this out. eBook adoption has stalled. That includes eTexbook adoption — my daughter’s school backpack is still 25 lbs. The iPad has dramatically failed to delivery on reading device expectations.

That’s big — because reading is what the iPad does best. Chromebooks have clobbered iPads in the classroom because, without the reading advantage, Chromebooks win on cost, durability, ease of management, lack of theft appeal, and suitability to traditional educational models. Video? Easier to watch up close on a lighter phablet, or rest your arms and use an AppleTV.

So it’s not enough to fix the iPad’s standalone single-user device model. Apple has to make the iPad a first class reading device. Google owns the K12 market now, but there’s still an opening in the post-secondary textbook market. More importantly, there’s the global market for books and magazines.

For that market, Apple needs to rethink its DRM approach. Sure, keep FairPlay proprietary for video — but use something else for books. Something that’s owned by an independent standards body and licenses for free along with a cross-platform authoring tool. Or, more radically, start paying authors up front for non-exclusive book distribution and then publish without DRM.

Be creative Apple. The iPad is too good an idea to die quietly.

[1] There’s an emerging consensus that aWatch 1.0 has failed. I expected it to fail in the US, but we need to see what happens in China. There’s a lot of room for improvement beyond 1.0 though: "A waterproof $150 iOS 8 Nano-clip replacement in Sept 2015 will be interesting. Splitting the cellular phone into multiple components, for which iPad and Apple Watch are interaction elements will be interesting. Standalone Apple Watch 4 running on next-generation LTE will be interesting.”

[2] Apple’s FairPlay Family Sharing, iCloud enhancements, and iOS 8 handoff do point in this direction.

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