This was written in 2010. I’ve updated it in 2015 with the results.

With six days to the iPad, I thought I’d test my punditry with a few predictions.

Year 1

The iPad will be a wild success. The effect will be viral. As they slowly pop up in meetings and classrooms, people will ask, “Can I try it?” They’ll be converted on the spot.

The launch was a spectacular success. My dad bought one the first year, and regularly used it with clients.

Year 2

We will see iPad clones running Zune OS and Android. By the time they catch up with iPad 1.0, Apple will release a desktop touch OS.

Remember Zune? Wow. But Microsoft did release a Surface running Windows, and there were a flurry of Android tablets. Apple didn’t release a touch OS, because human arms get tired, but they did move a lot closer to direct manipulation. For instance, they switched the scrolling gesture direction. At this point, I think full sized desktops are better off with the magic trackpad than a mouse.

Year 3

Flash will be as rare as “IE Only” sites. If your site has video, it supports the HTML5 Video tag but fall back to Flash for IE. There will be at least one artist authoring tool for HTML5 to fill the void of Flash.

Rejoice! Flash is dead!

Year 4

WebKit will surpass Internet Explorer.

What a difference four years makes. Internet Explorer is in deep trouble, and under new leadership, Microsoft is completely changing course.

This week, Microsoft released new tools let you cross compile to Windows from Objective-C. These strategies are defensive. Apple did it with Java, when OS X was a fledgling OS. People thought it was nuts for iOS to require Objective-C, but Apple knew they had the leverage to make developers work for it.

Let’s Put Things in Perspective

While formulating these predictions, I came across an innocuous status update by a skeptic. I think the debate articulates my reasoning pretty well.

“Who’s going to buy the iPad?”

They are sold out for launch day.

iPad is where computers will head in the next ten years. Maybe five.

The latest Macbook feels like a mashup between a Mac and iPad. However, it still hasn’t reached the “black box” that is an iOS device. I’ll give myself another five years to see the software reflect it.

“It‘s ridiculous. You can get the same thing in an iPod Touch for less. You can get a notebook for the same price.”

The iPad is ridiculously faster than an iPod Touch or iPhone. It’s 600mhz ARM vs a 1ghz A4, and that doesn’t even account for GPU or any other factors that, according to the people who have used one in person, make the iPhone seem downright slow by comparison.

Put aside the hardware. The iPad is not a big iPhone.

The iPad uses iPhone conventions because the iPhone is a touch optimized OS. Use the iPad emulator in the SDK for a while, and you see that an iPhone is actually a crippled iPad.

As for laptops, this isn’t supposed to be a laptop. This is a device you can pick up off a coffee table and use without thinking. The barrier to entry should be your grandmother, who has never heard of a file system. Mind you, it’s capable of much more than that, but that’s the minimum barrier to entry.

I’ve kept using my laptop, in part because I write code. But the iPad has found a great place in my life. I use it on the couch to browse the web and watch videos. I use it in the kitchen to display a recipe. I use it on a flight for its long battery live and the ease of transportation.

“But you don’t need an iPad. You can do the same things with an iPhone or a netbook. You can’t even view Flash.”

Flash is a non starter. Many Flash apps are not designed for touch, and rely on mouse movement. It’s like how your XBox can’t play Wii games. Even if you ported over a game, what’s the point without the input?

As for Flash video, major sites have either ported their video to h.264 MOV’s, or they’re in the process. h.264 files get access to hardware acceleration, cutting down CPU thus enhancing battery life.

Comparing a laptop to an iPad is silly, but let’s look at what a laptop doesn’t have:

  • iPhone apps (from day 1)
  • iPad only apps
  • Multitouch input
  • Accelerometer input
  • Digital compass
  • 10 hours of battery life

Most people will buy it for the bundled software. They want to be able to look at photo albums, read the New York Times in bed, and listen to music. Some people will never open the app store, much like Wii owners who never ejected their “Wii Sports” disc.

But what makes the platform truly unstoppable is the app store. The iPhone gold rush was caused by removing the barrier between developer and buyer. As a developer you get:

  • One click impulse buying
  • No need for credit card processing infrastructure
  • A homogeneous platform, dramatically simplifying tech support
  • Dramatically lower rates of piracy

Now that there’s a platform with a display large enough to support desktop class apps, and more power, you will see an explosion of iPad only apps. The Day-1 apps are solid, but the killer apps are yet to be written, and won’t be from Apple.

Too many feel like iPhone apps blown up for a larger screen. Maybe there isn’t much incentive, as often a website is a good enough, with its large screen real estate. Unlike iPhone apps, the iPad is better at home, laid back on the couch, so there’s no need to extract your website into a task-driven experience.

Some New Predictions in 2015

The charts say iPad sales have peaked. Anecdotally, I don’t upgrade my iPad because I mostly use it for web browsing, and a three year old model still runs websites great. But imagine if you got a free iPad every two years as part of your carrier contract.

The iPhone 6+ is the future of the iPad. It’s small enough to fit in a pocket, but it’s easier to read and write. The thing keeping me on the slightly-smaller iPhone 6 is one handed operation. If you get a notification while walking, you better have a good grip while you type “Sounds good!”

What if we split up activities into shortform and longform. Composing a one word reply should be fast, but a long email will always take a few minutes. A larger screen solves the latter. What if Apple released an even smaller device? One that’s impossible to drop while walking. Imagine if it were strapped to your wrist.

In the future, I see the flagship iPhone being 6+ sized or larger, for the people who own an Apple Watch. An iPhone 5 sized phone would exist for people who don’t want a smart watch. The phoneless iPad would exist, with the same relevance as the iPod Touch.

See you in 5 years!