One huge market in which the iPad could lose to an Android tablet

Sections: Features, iPad, iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, Opinions and Editorials, Originals

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iPad screenThe iPad has arrived, greeted by hundreds of thousands of happy customers in the first weekend. As the best tablet device available on the market today, this doesn’t really surprise me. Furthermore, while the hardware is simplistic yet outstanding, what really makes the iPad a great product is the software available for it.

For instance, as of the launch date, you could already purchase books, organize your projects, type papers, make spreadsheets, watch videos, surf the web, and do almost anything you could already do on your iPad or laptop. However, I still believe there is a huge market the iPad may miss out on by being such a closed system. Let me explain.

I’ll use the health system as my example. With the large screen size and great multi touch interface, the iPad may be perfect for doctors to carry with them to keep track of patients’ medicine and health concerns. If built right, the application could end the days of paper and pencil in hospitals and put the data straight into a database where it usually eventually ends up anyways. However, because of the way the applications and store on the iPad are set up, I can’t really see this happening.

Hospitals or other places that would depend on such an app would need the assurance that it would always be available to them. With the screening process Apple uses, you never know when they might take your app down or delay an update for further fixes. Also, an app such as this might not want to be available to the public as they wouldn’t really have a use for it, but you can’t do that on the App Store.

However, what may be the most prominent roadblock to the creation of such an app for the iPad is the access of the data. Right now, the only way you can really get data off an iPad from a third party app is emailing it to yourself as Apple doesn’t let developers interact with the 30 pin connector when syncing. In a healthcare setting, the data on this device would be the most important aspect towards using it, so users would need to be able to get that data to and from anywhere they want extremely easily. Emailing it around just isn’t the best care here. The application would need numerous ways to access the data and get it off of the device through wireless connections and wired ones.

For a case such as this, I can see an Android tablet device being perfect. Since it’s so open, you can do practically anything you want on the operating system to make it suit your needs. While it may have downsides as well, I can see it being a better fit in this setting than the iPad despite how great a product the iPad is for other needs. Unfortunately, the healthcare setting is a rather large market the iPad isn’t exactly all that well suited for.

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  • Wes Kroesbergen

    The iPhone Enterprise program offers in-house development and deployment of internal applications. This means that the business does not need to go through the iTunes App Store approval process when they publish applications or updates.

    As far as access to data goes, the case for healthcare almost depends on the device receiving data from internal company data. Consequently, the apps are built to connect to internal servers. What's to stop the applications from making updates to that data through the same connection? The only real obstacle is the implementation of wireless in the particular enterprise setting.

  • Mark Hernandez

    Opps. Josh, there are a couple of huge errors in your article.

    First, as Wes pointed out, there's a solution already available which is the iPhone Enterprise app development and distribution pathway meant to address exactly the kind of situation you've cited, e.g. hospitals.

    Second, industry bloggers such as yourself, and the readership confuse the word "closed" with the word "controlled." Apple does not have a closed system, but rather a highly controlled one.

    The control exerted over apps is one that addresses one of the big tradeoffs involved — a nice clean world vs. an wild, inconsistent and more complex free-for-all. If Apple's app world was "closed" it would not have 125,000 apps currently available, which is already so overwhelming it's ridiculous.

    Like everything in the world, there is no single clear-cut answer to anything, and one is always balancing tradeoffs. Because Apple is able to exert "control" over so many things, it can reap the advantages that such control offers, and find the disadvantages acceptable and manageable.

    So, your article is confused. It assumes that the inherent design of the touch interface should be able to address all possible needs for a lightweight hand-held slate mobile device.

    The design of the iPad hits a sweet spot for a marketplace Apple wants to sell to. Use that as a starting point. What is that marketplace, and how big is it? Does it matter that it's not appropriate for use everywhere, such as in hospitals, for instance?

    What are the advantages and tradeoffs being balanced when you have a highly "controlled" system?

  • sfmitch

    "Right now, the only way you can really get data off an iPad from a third party app is emailing it to yourself as Apple doesn’t let developers interact with the 30 pin connector when syncing."

    I think the author is making this more complicated than it needs to be. The iPad (like the iPhone & iPod Touch) can send and receive information over the network / internet. Think of Evernote or a webform.

  • Josh Holat

    Wes and Mark, you guys are totally right. With all the news surrounding the consumer end of the App Store, I had totally forgotten that Apple offered an Enterprise program for iPhone development. I don't know much about it, but as you've said, it seems like it would suit the needs of what my post was addressing.

    Wes, I understand what you're saying about the difference between "closed" and "controlled," and "controlled" would be a better word there. However, when you ask if it's appropriate for use everywhere, I'd say it could be even though Apple may not have initially had that in mind with their development of it. I wasn't trying to sound as if I was assuming that it address all the possible needs of a slate device. All I way saying is that there's no doubt it's the best hardware tablet out there with the best software backend behind it. There's not really a reason some companies/hospitals/whatever it may be could take advantage of this through the Enterprise program you mentioned earlier in your response.

    Sfmitch, you're right, but sometimes it's easier to have users complete an entire file or project or something and then have the iPad docked to a master computer and automatically draw this data off of the device. With the iPad, this isn't possible as of now. Plus, while internet forms works, they sometimes aren't as convenient as simply making a file and sharing it vs. text being send to a database. That said, perhaps the text being sent to this database could also be made into a file to be shared at that end of things, but that just makes it even more complicated.

    You all have brought up valid points, and I thank your for the clarifications!

  • Mark Hernandez

    Josh, it's way cool that you responded.

    First, a little lighthearted ribbing…

    Writing articles is not easy given such multi-way complex topics, but I think you should also consider "slowing down" a bit. It was me that talked about "controlled" vs. "closed" and you might have asked around and did a little digging before you wrote your piece with respect to Enterprise app development. And when authors say "What I meant to say…" the question follows, well why didn't you say that? :-)

    What I'm REALLY hearing you trying to say is that the Pad is so remarkable we want it to be successful at all things and crush the others. I'm with you on that.

    I've been saying for decades "Simplicity allows us to rise to a higher level of accomplishment, given the same effort." So things that are simple and beautiful are also incredibly powerful, besides fun.

    We should keep in mind Apple's statements that they "turn down great ideas" every day and that they keep things restrained and understated, and for important reasons.

    There's also the "geeks vs. the rest of us" dynamic at play. The geeks want a tablet that does all things, but Apple wants a tablet that's usable by non-geeks from ages 2 to 92, including geeks. Control and restraint is one side of the tradeoff that they're keeping a focus on.

    Given that, two things are worth considering…

    FIRST, is that there WILL be competition from HP and Google and Microsoft. But Apple will continue to shine as the "premium experience" because of it's attention to detail, control and restraint.

    Just look at what is already happening… The Android platform is already having severe problems with hardware fragmentation and the headaches it causes developers, causing them to develop for the lowest common denominator. That shows in it's apps. And their app store has spam in it. And look at the first reviews of the JooJoo. This is what "uncontrolled" and "open" results in.

    SECOND, because of Apple's restraint, they WILL eventually bend and deliver. For example, I'm pretty confident that tomorrow at Apple's iPhone OS 4.0 preview they'll offer up their solution for 3rd party multi-tasking which they've no-doubt had figured out for at least a year, if not longer.

    Thus, with your hospital example, a background task can continue to run, no matter what the foreground app is, and it can access and deliver patient files later if that's what works best.

    I hate not having rich text available. It's 2010 isn't it? :-)

  • Josh Holat

    Sorry, Mark, that was you that said that, I don't know how that one got messed up haha but I agree, there is definitely a lot more to this than simply yes, the iPad should be in this market and others and be designed for it or no, the iPad is perfect just the way Apple has made it and targets the perfect market, anything else that happens is just a nice addition. The debate between an open vs controlled system has long been a very complicated one with valid and logical arguments for both sides. I think we all want Android to win over Apple's tightly controlled way seeing as how it's so moldable to whatever developers need it for, but as you mentioned, it's almost impossible to make anything for that platform as hardware manufacturers have managed to fragment the market so much. In terms of American ideals, it is almost representative of freedom. However, while the concept and platform are there, the execution has never really been on the same page. Yet, on the other hand, we have Apple. There is most certainly a love hate relationship with there way of doing things. We hate that it is controlled so much because it can lead to things like strange and unpredictable app denials, yet we love it because that's what makes it so great. We almost need someone to keep such a disciplined amount of order in our lives and tech without even realizing it. Until the iPad, all the devices ran the same software at the same resolution. That made it so easy for developers as they could simply worry about coding and not which devices they wanted to support.

    In the end, it is a very complicated issue. However, all will sort itself out, and I'm sure we'll see Apple eventually bend to certain wants that make it just controlled enough to be both acceptable and awesome for all of our needs as you said.

  • Mark Hernandez

    I'm confused. Now you want Android to win over the Apple platform?

    The world is nothing but tradeoffs. I'm glad that not everything has to be like everything else. There has to be at least one "controlled" option in the marketplace. Lord knows there are plenty of "uncontrolled" choices.

    But I think you are confused about "freedom." Total freedom cannot exist at every level. We already have the freedom to choose between the iPhone, Pre, Blackberry and Android smartphones. What more freedom does there need to be?

    Total freedom within the iPhone platform would just make it like the others, and not being like the others gives it advantages that people have the freedom opt for.

    And if you're paying close attention to what's happening, and you should be, just watch what freedom you are going to be getting with the Windows Phone 7 platform. Get ready to read articles on how Microsoft is turning it's back on "freedom" written by people who don't know much about what they are talking about when they start hearing about the restrictions on Microsoft's WP7 apps.

    If Appletel wants more people reading these articles, you and Aaron and Bill need to learn how to write more thoughtfully and clearly. I know more about the industry and clear writing skills than you guys apparently do.

    Information Workshop