The launch of a potentially market-changing mobile device means a new "buy or don't buy" decision for general consumers: is it worth the price to have the latest tech gadget? But for developers in the self-service industry, the decision to integrate the iPad — and the effect the decision will have on the industry — carries higher stakes.
Apple's iPad launch on Saturday carried much of the hoopla anticipated by the media, tech insiders and gadget afficionados. The Cupertino, Calif.-based computer giant is pitching the iPad as a crossover of sorts — a third device to complement a user's laptop and his or her handheld mobile device. And while the full implications of the iPad have yet to be defined, self-service industry players are already investigating ways to incorporate it into their products and services.
Opportunities on both sides of the transaction
"There's a lot of hype about the iPad, but very few people have actually touched one," said Brian Ardinger, CMO for software developer Nanonation. "There are a lot of things that aren't known about how it will work in the long-term."
That hasn't stopped clients from jumping on the iPad bandwagon, though.
"As soon as it was announced, our phones were ringing with clients wanting to apply it," Ardinger said.
Nanonation plans to unveil a suite of iPad apps at KioskCom on April 14-15 in Las Vegas. The apps are designed to leverage the iPad's perceived strengths for both customer- and employee-facing applications.
Ardinger said such applications could include employee-carried iPads with readily available customer service information, or iPad-based employee training materials that could be easily updated and deployed during the workday. The iPad's 9.7-inch (diagonal) screen, immersive touchscreen interface, ability to communicate via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 3G connections, and its assisted GPS capabilities could make it very well-suited to applications requiring high mobility, frequent updates and an easy-to-use interface.
"We're looking at what engagement our clients are trying to create — that helps determine what platform is best suited to make that happen," he said.
Ardinger says the company's experience developing applications for Apple's iPhone helped smooth the transition into this new technology.
Streaming video for the iPad: a new weapon in the DVD-rental war?
The apps available for Apple's iPad have received as much attention as the touchscreen device itself in the days leading up to Saturday's official release.
And one of those apps, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, could have an effect on the DVD-rental kiosk market. Netflix announced April 3 that the Netflix iPad App, launched Saturday, will allow subscribers to instantly watch movies and TV shows streamed to the mobile devices.
"The innovation and consumer appeal of iPad make it a perfect device for instantly watching TV episodes and movies streamed from Netflix," Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings said in a company press release.
The effect of this move on DVD-rental kiosks such as NCR's Blockbuster Express and industry giant redbox logically depends on the success of the iPad. But Apple is projecting sales of more than 7 million units in 2010, and in the highly contested battle for DVD-rental market share, the extra viewers available through iPad technology could spell the difference between first place and "also ran" in that market.
As with any new device, the very newness of the iPad leaves much to speculation. Will it offer a more useful interface than smaller mobile devices, such as the iPhone? Will end-users on either side of the provider-client relationship adopt it as a standard operating tool, or will it remain a high-dollar plaything for technophiles? It's too early to answer these questions. But if the moves by Nanonation and Netflix are any indication, it's not a far reach to suspect the iPad will have far-reaching effects on the self-service industry.