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Wilson Kerr

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What Should Be Baked into the New Apple iPad and Why

Apple users are nothing if not dedicated

Macintosh on Ulitzer

Apple users are nothing if not dedicated. The landmark form factor and user interface innovations the company has ushered in over the last 25 years have created a fiercely dedicated customer base.

There are Mac clubs, iPhone fan sites, and even online photo collections of Apple logo tattoos!

All eyes will be on San Fran January 27 for Apple’s virtually-confirmed and much-anticipated launch of their new tablet computer.

A tablet is a touch screen minicomputer with a digital keyboard integrated into the touch interface (no mechanical keys). Imagine a larger, thinner iPhone.

The Apple tablet will likely rely on rich media and apps delivered over the web from some sort of Apple hub. Ever notice how half the yuppie homes you visit these days have a web-connected “kitchen laptop” set up? Now you see the market for the tablet.

Google has nailed the device-agnostic advertising model and is now moving into Apple’s hardware territory, with their Nexus One phone. Apple has actually helped solidify Google’s power by selling 13.7 million iPhones in 2008 alone, all preloaded with free ad-supported Google products (Google maps is the best example). Apple is now scrambling to sift the Google ingredients out of its recipe and will likely bake in its own unobtrusive ad-supported functionality.

Apple recently acquired mobile ad firm Quattro Wireless, a clear sign that they have seen the “infusion of alternate value-add as advertising” light. Quattro also brings Apple some interesting links to traditional media, via Quattro’s relationships with CBS News and the National Football League, for example.

So what will this new Apple Tablet do?

Rumor and speculation abound, but here is the recap. Like Apple’s landmark iPhone, it will likely tap the revshare % power of the App Store and sync with music from iTunes. Rumors and trademark applications by Apple suggest it will be called the “iSlate” or “iPad” and will display newspaper, magazine and book content feeds, to compete with the recent boom of “e-reader” devices (the Kindle, for example). It has also been reported that Apple’s software answer to Microsoft Office (called iWork) will be built in, along with some powerful unique new (and patented) finger-control user interface elements.  Price and positioning has also been discussed at length, as well as what the default search engine will be. Odds are it will NOT be Google, for obvious reasons.

The piece I am most-interested in is communication between these devices. If Apple can tap the viral power of its loyal fanatics to promote this device as a unique new communication interface that side-steps long-distance rates and phone company billing, they could really be onto something.

Ever notice how people still prefer to use the old copper land line at home, even though they have unlimited talk on the cell? Imagine if the new Apple tablet came with “Apple Orchard” in the form of a new VOIP voice and video link Apple product that facilitated communication with other Apple tablets, iPhones, and Apple laptops?

What if Apple offered an optional land line plug-in module accessory that linked to “Apple Orchard” via Bluetooth, so you could keep using your trusty traditional phone when you are at home? If you think this is a far-fetched notion, spend some time researching the “As Seen On TV” sensation Magic Jack™. (While these low-end devices are not perfect, they certainly demonstrate the potential for VOIP to replace traditional phone services- the company is reportedly selling 10,000 of these devices a day!).

If Apple did not want to tackle web voice and video communication head-on, they could simply open up a new “Tablet Only” section of the App Store and allow VOIP over the web connected tablet this way. Remember how Apple rejected Google Voice on the App Store?…hmmm.

In December it was reported that Apple was in talks to buy VOIP player iCall for $50-$60 million. As this article points out, an Apple VOIP technology play makes sense on many levels – and perhaps has already happened.

Google has mastered the art of giving away innovative functionality with unobtrusive, relevant ads. Apple should borrow from the Google model – and is now positioned better than ever to do so.  As the Gmail model proves,  most will happily accept relevant (and perhaps even useful) ads if they can ditch paid services as a result. While Apple certainly needs the wireless carriers today, Google has opened the door wide open to “carrier step-around” and the rules of the game are changing.

The inclusion of rich media content infused with relevant advertising value-add will be important for the new Apple tablet, but tapping the legions of hard-core Apple faithful through a unique new web-based proprietary communication service could be the key ingredient. We shall see. The latest Apple pie comes out of the oven January 27!

More Stories By Wilson Kerr

Wilson has 11+ years experience in the Mobile and Location Based Services (LBS) space. Recently, he became Director Of Business Development and Sales for Unbound Commerce, a Boston-based mobile commerce solution provider. He has deep expertise in the areas of mobile commerce, social media, branded location integration, branded content licensing, and is knowledgeable in a broad range of navigation technologies. Wilson has worked with top tier brands, content providers, device manufacturers, and application developers, including Nokia, Unbound Commerce, Tele Atlas/TomTom, The Travel Channel, Langenscheidt Publishing, Intellistry, Parking In Motion, GPS-POI-US, and others. Wilson is a blogger on all things location-based, edits the LBS topic page on Ulitzer, teaches a Social Media 101 class, and has served as a panelist and speaker at Mobile LBS conferences and networking events. Wilson has held positions in Business Development, Sales/Marketing, and Digital Licensing at The North Face, Outdoor Intelligence, Fishing Hot Spots Maps, Tele Atlas North America/TomTom and, most-recently, Unbound Commerce. Wilson left Tele Atlas to start Location Based Strategy, LLC in 2007. Company Website: http://www.LBStrategy.com. Twitter: @WLLK