Apple let the public get their hands on their newest creation, the iPad, setting off a flood of hype and media coverage which has likely yet to reach its peak. Yes, this is yet another post about the iPad, and my apologies go to those who are tired of being choked by the frenzy of stories surrounding the iPad launch, but a few things I learned from this weekend might come in handy for undecided developers.On Saturday
Personally I tried to avoid the iPad hype this weekend, and not because I'm not a fan of Apple products or because I have a specific disdain for the iPad; I tried, and failed, to avoid the hype because I believe I underestimated its potential impact. This is just part of the reason I believe any developer even contemplating the idea of making an iPad application should do it, and do it as quickly as possible. Here's why.
There Aren't That Many iPad Specific Apps Yet
When I first joined Facebook in 2004 it was still very small and very young and I could remember being able to page through the less than 100 groups that existed on the site. Then it was easy to either find a group you wanted to join or to create one and gain a large membership. Now, the network has hundreds of thousands, if not millions of groups and finding the ones you actually want is much harder.
The iPhone has gone through this same process. When the App Store launched, only a few thousand applications were on it, making searching for apps easy and making the potential impact of new applications much larger. Now, as we know, hundreds of thousands of applications clog the App Store and make searching and discovering new applications exponentially harder than before.
The same thing will happen to the iPad, which means now is the time to jump on the train. A current search of the App Store for iPad apps turns up just over 3,200 applications, a fraction of the number of iPhone/iPod Touch apps which will likely pass 200,000 later this year. While the iPad does run these other apps, there is a dearth of iPad apps, especially those that are not just scaled-up versions of their iPhone predecessor. The time has, obviously, never been better for app developers because right now with so few iPad apps, the probability of being discovered early is much higher.
The Apple Buying Culture Wants Your App
People don't love Apple for their low prices; they willingly hand over hundreds, if not thousands of dollars for the company's various products. The culture of the people who buy these products has taught them that price is not the main motivation behind why they buy something, while at the same time making them more willing to hand over their cash in micro-payments for individual games and applications.
From the iPod to the iPhone, iTunes and the App Store have bred a new a customer willing to pay $1.99 for music, or $2.99 for an app they've never tried without hesitation. I know I've done it before, and I should feel worse about it but I don't. I've spent a few bucks here and there on applications that I used only a handful of times but I don't get angry about it. Honestly, my music purchases are much farther scrutinized than my app purchases. For better or worse, we've been taught to accept the throwing away of a few bucks here and there, and app developers have been cashing in on that for a while now.
The other opportunity around this buying culture for the iPad is that people will likely pony up a few extra dollars for each app on average. While developing an iPad app may not be twice the effort it takes for an iPhone, the customer will likely be willing to pay $1.99 for an app that was $.99, especially just after launch. If I had an iPad right now, I'd want to test out the best applications on it, and some of those apps are likely to cost as much as $9.99, but I would likely still buy them because, hey, I just spent $500 on a device, what's a few extra bucks?
The Hype Window Is Big, But Not Too Big
The hype over the iPad has just begun, and it will only get bigger as more people discover what it can do and start being stared at by strangers on the subway. The hype will continue later when the 3G version of the iPad launches, though it will not be quite as large as this weekend's surge. The 3G launch will likely get the media buzzing about it again, and it will help the hype live longer than normal, however, that window of excitement could close this summer.
New MacBooks and new iPhones are expected to be announced, if not launched, this summer, and they could likely steal a majority of the spotlight away from the iPad, especially if the mythological creature that is the "Verizon iPhone" does in fact become a reality. Apple will likely do everything in its power to keep the hype surrounding the iPad up until the holiday season when the company does its best business, by then, however, there will be a lot more iPad apps than there are right now.
This Thing Is Likely Bigger Than Most Expected
Originally analysts had estimated that between 200 and 300 thousand iPads would leave shelves this weekend, but Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray revised his guess to between 600 and 700 thousand after seeing the hoards of people waiting in line Saturday. Numbers aside, the impact of the device before its launch speaks volumes to its potential from here on out.
Several media companies announced they would be developing special no-Flash sites specifically for iPad browsing, and others said they would be providing HTML 5 video capability in anticipation of the device. All the while, several outlets, like WIRED and the Wall Street Journal announced they were working on iPad applications for viewing their content.
After Apple's past success with the App Store on the iPhone and iPod Touch, it's no surprise that these companies are jumping on board even before the iPad is in customers' hands; they recognized the importance of early adoption and being in the store at launch. Popular technology journalists have given mostly positive reviews of the device as it seems actually seeing, holding and using the device speaks louder than just reading, or hearing about it.
Personally, I didn't think the launch would be this big, but it has certainly been another success for Steve Jobs and Apple. That being said, the reasons to develop on the iPad pile much higher than those not to, so if you're even considering it, do it. Do it now.