It was a fun week to be an Apple watcher. In addition to Thursday's introduction of the iPad, the company relented and allowed VoIP over 3G applications on the iPhone.
The two are not directly related, but both have significant implications for the future. The iPad has been over-covered, as any Apple introduction is. The only thing to add is that the introduction means that an important question-one I posted on last November-is firmly on the front burner. The issue is whether the future will favor purpose-built devices for major applications or if more generalized devices such as the iPad, other tablets or smartphones will suffice. The move of Apple into the tablet arena means that the industry's direction will soon become apparent.
Amazon released its quarterly results last week, and CEO Jeff Bezos said that it sold six e-books for Kindle for every 10 traditional books. The ratio would be even closer, according to the InformationWeek story on the results, if free books were included in the mix. E-readers and e-books-at least the Kindle version-are clearly hits. This means that the test case, so to speak, about whether consumers want generalized or highly differentiated devices will be in this sector.
This PC World piece suggests that if the iPad fails as a consumer device, it could find a great niche as an e-reader aimed at the educational sector. Though that point , the basic idea is the same: Tablets-and, by extension, other devices-can perform many of the same tasks as e-readers. The issue boils down to this question: Are people willing to carry a separate device for the bells and whistles related to a specific task, or do they want to consolidate tasks on a less fully featured -- but still functional -- device?
This debate will extend beyond e-readers into streaming, geo-location and other advanced applications that could be hosted on both unique and generalized devices. PCMag.com's Dan Costa offers his insights into where the iPad fits, and suggests that the advent of the Apple tablet means that the Kindle "has to change or die."
I posted on the subject of VoIP and 3G last week. Apple, of course, is a trendsetting company. Its move, reported here at ZDNet, will likely open the flood gates and make VoIP over 3G a standard approach. Service providers are advised to resist the temptation to try to squelch the new approach and, instead, think deeply about strategies to harness the new approach.