Apple, the iPad, Home Automation and Why the iPad Will Be a Huge Success

The more I think about the iPad, the more I am firmly convinced it, and its future iterations, is going to be a hugely successful line for Apple.  The main thing that keeps circling in my head is the entry level price, and the fact that it will come down over time as Apple does with its products – think iPod and iPhone pricing over the years.  $499 today will probably mean $399 within a year or so, and $299 within a couple of years.

At Sooloos, we very much wanted to put out a handheld.  Our early CAD renderings from as far back as early 2006 look very much like the iPad, and we even tossed around the Pad and Slate names internally.  We didn’t bring it to market for several reasons, one of which were the technical hurdles involved with implementing our designs, 4 years ago.  So kudos to Apple for getting it done because I for one am excited.
Anyway, my point is that we thought long and hard about how this kind of device would be used.  We were — and I still am — firmly convinced that customers would own several in each home.  As a matter of fact, the larger the home and its corollary, disposable income, the more units we anticipated selling: more rooms + more distance to travel + money to spend = more units.  Yes, people are inherently lazy.
We knew users would go to the device to handle so many tasks that contextually exist both in an out of the home, things we currently go find a computer for, or use our iPhones and have an inadequate experience with.  Yes I know that we can do all this stuff on other devices, but stop and think about where the iPad will be used and more importantly, its form factor.  It’s thin and non intrusive so it can easily sit on a coffee table or kitchen island without invading a person’s space.  Why do you think that during the keynote, there was a recliner on stage?  It was all about reinforcing the psychological connection between comfort, ease of use, and home.
Again, think about it, do you really want a laptop on your coffee table all the time?  What about in the kitchen?  Do you want cake batter spilling into the keyboard of your laptop when you’ve got an iPad instead with some wipeable surface or film?  Try pinch and zooming when your fingers are covered in some kind of cooking goo.
So, just to list a few basic use cases and tThere are no doubt countless more:
  • Movies: looking up movies to go see and buying tickets, looking up info on IMDB while sitting on the couch watching, buying content through and controlling your iTunes or AppleTV (see home automation below)
  • Music: looking up bands and musicians, looking up info on AMG while sitting on the couch listening, buying content through and controlling your iTunes or AppleTV (see home automation below)
  • Reading: enough has been said about this but I will read much more with the iPad
  • Search: quick Googling because we all need our info fix
  • Food: looking up menus and hitting SeamlessWeb, finding a restaurant on Yelp and booking using OpenTable, maintaing a shopping list (my fav is SplashShopper) and then browsing and purchasing from FreshDirect, then searching for Epicurious recipes and bringing the iPad to the kitchen to reference while cooking
  • Commerce: browsing and ordering any number of things
  • Home automation: management of alarms, lights, temperature, blinds, and the all important home AV installations
That last bullet point hasn’t been really mentioned in all the hoopla about the iPad leading up to and after the Announcement.  Last I checked, and this was a couple of years ago, home automation was easily a $1B a year business in the USA alone, and up until now it has been mostly limited to the wealthy, the upper middle class, and DIY tinkerers because they have to be involved.  Companies like Crestron, AMX, Control4 and others’ at the high end,  and Insteon and X10 at the more DIY level, are complicated, require an ecosystem to install and maintain, and are IMHO not user friendly experiences.
So, since Apple is all about seamlessly integrating our experiences, I am just wondering when they are going to buy a home automation company to integrate with the iPad so that they can bring home automation to the masses.  Maybe it will be Insteon or X10 but I didn’t think either of their products or UX were good enough.  Anyway, based on $1B a year selling to the top 5-10% of people in the USA, that number for Apple could easily be $5B a year if Apple sells more iPads because of the initiative, apps, and all the associated hardware iDocks, and iLights, and iPlugs, and iThermometer, and iEverything.  It really is an iLife.