The iPad kiosk debate continues
After reviewing the responses to my last blog, I thought it might be better to compile my responses into a new blog rather than address each comment separately in the comments section. I'm going to try to cover the most salient comments below. Overall, there seemed to be equal number of positive/negative opinions toward iPads being used as kiosks, and I found both sides of the argument to be valid. Below I'm going to cover a few topics that I picked out from the comments.
The iPad kiosk can't mimic my kiosk functionality cheaply
There are many simple uses where I think "iPad kiosks" can do well and perhaps even thrive, but for the purposes of my specific project I was working on where I was trying to mimic the functionality of my current kiosks, the iPad kiosks just weren't robust enough. My current kiosks do all sorts of credit card processing, printing and ticketing options that, unless I rebuild my entire platform for the iOS ecosystem, iPad just can't do. Would it be possible to retool my entire system to work on iPad? Most likely yes, but the experiment I was running was whether it would save money to put a kiosk system on iPad. And due to my requirements, I have found cost savings to be minimal. My app needs to be able to update all the time with fresh data, so I cannot cache the data natively on the iPad itself, as one commenter suggested. If I cache the data on the iPad itself, I would have to be able to update the app either manually or through the app store, and both of those solutions are not practical when considering several thousand units.
In the end, the iOS ecosystem just poses other problems that I would have to overcome, where in the end the cost benefit becomes very little. As one commenter suggested, I am aware of the option of building in extra Mobile Device Management (MDM) services to manage the iPad remotely and other options to help mitigate bugs, but that adds extra cost. Plus, my current system has the flexibility to be on different-sized screens, whereas building a program for the iPad leaves me with a one-sized option.
The iPad kiosk gave the kiosk industry a "shot in the arm"
One commenter said that the iPad kiosk has helped give the kiosk industry a shot in the arm. In partI agree with this, because it's hard to disagree with the kiosk enclosures that popped up overnight for a huge premium. But, I do not see iPad kiosks as the future of the kiosk world. What I think it did was to help people rethink kiosks and create new ways of building an even better interactive display. Plus, the trend in the industry is moving toward larger displays with each passing year. In the years I've been in business, I have gone from 15-inch touchscreens to 46-inch HD screens equipped with real-time interactive mapping. While iPads can offer a trendy solution, they just cannot match the eye-catching picture of large screen HD display, especially in public. The larger screens are a huge attractor to passersby, especially in heavily trafficked areas like a hospital or a mall.
An iPad kiosk will get lost in the crowd, whereas a large screen display will stand out incredibly effectively. Many describe the iPad experience as magical and instantly intuitive, but I would argue that there is something equally magical about being able to control a large screen display -- as long as the software is done right, of course.
Where iPad kiosks can be successful
Despite my misgivings, I do believe that iPad kiosks can serve some kind of practical function where a full-sized kiosk might be overkill. It all comes down to cost and functionality. If businesses have some relatively simple uses for the units, such as displaying simple interactive information, enabling a user to enter information or even offering guests tethered usage of an iPad and its apps for entertainment purposes, then they can be a viable solution. But, when the need arises to be able to offer complex content that needs constant updates, the cost becomes much higher.
Thank you all for your thoughts! Please feel free to sound off on my responses in the comments section. There is still one comment on my last blog that I will address next, and that is the idea of the "mobile kiosk." Stay tuned. I look forward to the discussion.
Michael Ionescu Since 2004, Ionescu has built a proprietary software/hardware package for state tourism and hotels. Ionescu believes successful kiosk networks are built upon ongoing collaboration between the client and provider to develop flexible systems that clients and users are happy with for years. www