The iPad, AT&T and Advertisers

On the morning after the iPad unveiling people are still trying to figure out whether consumers will want the device, what it might be good for and even what it is. The mule (half horse, half donkey) of mobile computers, it seeks to create (or solidify) a new category of devices that offer the benefits of smartphone mobility, but with a larger screen is are lighter and more elegant than a laptop or netbook.

A number of companies rushed out releases saying they would build apps for or support it. In the mobile advertising realm JumpTap, Greystripe and Mobclix were among the first to make announcements or public statements. Motally said it would provide analytics for the iPad. 

Because of the high expectations there are a fair number of disappointed people. I'm relatively bullish on this device, but I see the confusion and hestitation as partly justified. 

Many of those disappointed have characterized it as just "an iPod Touch on steroids," using the tired metaphor. But is it? The iPod Touch analogy and the fact that it runs iPhone apps suggests that many/most of the advertising options will be comparable. I believe, however, that there will be many more and more varied opportunities for advertisers on this device -- assuming it sells. 

The 9.7 inch screen size means that ads on websites viewed through the Safari browser will be "viable" in a way they aren't currently on the iPhone or other smartphones. But it equally means that ads appearing within iPad-specific versions of magazines and newspapers will be more compelling and interesting than they could be within an iPhone app or on the mobile Web more generally.

Video will be central to the user experience, and so will video advertising. This is really the first device where mobile video advertising could get really interesting. 

And then there's retailing and catalog sales; this could be another very interesting opportunity on this device. Imagine the Macy's catalog on this device with embedded e-commerce -- not the Macy's e-commerce website but a visually rich version of the catalog, where users can turn pages as do in the physical, paper catalog. 

As these examples seek to illustrate the larger visual "canvas" will be a potential "game changer" (to use another tired metaphor) for marketers. 

Another striking element about the iPad is the pricing of the 3G plan from AT&T. Many (including me) had expected a more expensive devices with a cheaper version subsidized by a two-year carrier commitment. Instead the device offers two options: $14.99 and $29.99. The latter is "unlimited" and unlocked; there's no contract required. 

This pricing scheme may be a new precedent: low-monthly unlimited data on a non-phone connected device (Kindle doesn't count here). This isn't exactly like a dongle or wireless card. (BTW: this device can be used as a phone with a VoIP app.) However this lower-priced model for data could enable a wide range of new connected mobile devices. It could also bring competition from carriers like Sprint with additional capacity, looking for new revenue streams.