Out here at the InformationWeek 500 Conference, I was talking last night with a few CIOs about the iPad and what it is that makes it so special: why lots of big companies in various industries are turning to Apple's latest bit of wizardry.
And as I listened to the wisdom of our audience, I think the answer finally penetrated even my thick skull: the iPad allows individuals and companies to do what they could not do before.
I don't mean to trivialize the device with a description like that—in fact, that's about the highest form of praise I could offer to a technology tool. It's not the same as a computer company unveiling a smaller/better/faster/cheaper notebook, nor is it like the great leap from notebook to netbook, nor is it matched by even the extraordinary power of the smartphone.
The iPad engages its users to move beyond mere productivity—applying technology to a something you already know how to do and delivering a more-efficient outcome—and into the realm of innovation by allowing people to create new ways of seeing things, new ways of presenting ideas, new ways of communicating, and new ways delivering almost every fathomable type of information, from business graphics to images to text to video.
In the enterprise world, I think that in a year's time we'll look at the iPad as the ultimate business-engagement tool, allowing companies to equip not only their employees but also their customers with a device that expands the possibilities of how those customers can engage with business partners in richer and more-meaningful ways.
I think we'll see some crazy-smart companies buying iPads for not only their own employees but also for some of their customers, because in that way the seller's imaginative ideas and fresh perspectives can be fully shared with prospects and customers.
Is that an absurd idea? Sure it is. But it's also absurd to consider the sales success Apple's had with the iPad, where even a company like Apple that is consistently recognized as having one of the world's top supply-chain experts has been unable to make enough of the devices to keep up with demand.
This is not just a new thing that Apple's a little bit out in front with—this is a game-changer across multiple industries. And here's a specific example from the world of video, starring Apple's new white-hot partner, Netflix.
Investor and Apple expert Jason Schwarz, writing on SeekingAlpha.com, describes the market-shaking and industry-disrupting impact the iPad has had on the business of transferring video content to the human brain: