image via inventorspot.com

All jokes aside, I can hardly believe it’s been almost a week and I haven’t had a chance to sit and filter through all my ideas that I’ve wanted to blog about 5x a day and hammer out the ones that are the most interesting to me. (I can’t wait until I have a real job again and have time for this stuff!!!)

So… I’m guessing you all know by now that the iPad came out last week. Yes? Good. (No? I’m giving you the benefit of a doubt that you were either in a snowstorm in the Midwest without power for the last week, or that you made a pact with yourself to avoid any sort of external media stimulation until the beginning of February.)  From the moment that Steve Jobs announced Apple’s newest (and to date, most poorly named) gadget, there have basically been three schools of thought: the cynics, the skeptics, and the true believers.

The cynics have written articles for many a tech blog, moaning about what it can’t do, what it doesn’t have, how it’s basically a giant rock with wi-fi and a big shiny screen, and why they will never buy one. The skeptics are the people who are writing for outlets like the FT and Economist; they see the potential usefulness of this product, but will wait for the 2nd generation of products before forking over half a grand or more. And the true believers, well, they are simply Apple loyalists through and through. They will often buy before they even beta test, and they will buy again when a new model is released. Whether this is because they need the latest and greatest thing or because they simply trust the brand is debatable, but rest assured- no matter what the newfangled device does, they want it and they will get it.

Asking me what category I fall into on this issue is the equivalent of asking me what political party I affiliate myself with. (If pressed to answer, that affiliation would be Libertarian, which is rarely a check-box option on the paperwork, but this is beside the point.) What I’m saying is that there should be a fourth school of thought added to this debate, a group of people that are out there vocalizing not the strengths or weaknesses of this new piece of technology, but rather, the entirely new interactive advertising market that has been created by it.

Personally, I have yet to get my hands on one (although I hope to change this soon.) But already I can see the potential that it holds, with or without touching it. Do I think it will replace your laptop or desktop computer? No. (At least not yet, unless you are already an avid cloud computer and iPhone user.) Do I think it will replace your cell phone? Not at all, unless we are going back to the days when Zack Morris held up his super cool cinderblock sized cell phone for the rest of the Saved by the Bell gang to admire over fries and cokes at the Max. (And personally, I hope we don’t go there, as I refuse to develop an affinity for large-pocketed cargo pants or man purses.)

So where does it fit in? I think the point that people are missing here is that the iPad was not created as a device to replace anything. Rather, it was created as a device to support and interact with other devices. (Why else would it only run one application at a time?) Think about it this way: Would you like to comment on a TV show while you’re watching it or a game while you’re playing it? No longer will you have to clutter half of your prime viewing real estate with that chat and comment sidebar and risk your video skipping a beat- now you can simply sync your iPhone and comment from there while watching said program on your iPad. (And yeah, I know it doesn’t support Flash yet, but they’re working on it!) Or sync your iPad with your computer while watching said program on your Mac/PC, using the iPad to comment without needing to have a physical keyboard within reach. Want to manipulate photos, thoughts, ideas, maps, on a screen bigger than a deck of cards? I’m sure the iPad can do this too (among other things.)

Interestingly enough, a lot of advertisers are currently about 5 steps behind in terms of tech knowledge. Little specialized boutique social marketing firms are popping up all over the internet, but these companies seeking advice from said firms should already be integrated into the various social networks and ready to move on to the next step. (See my Twitter post from about a week ago.) And what do I think that next step is? Interactive advertising. I’ve discussed the notion of a two-way conversation with your targeted audience briefly before, and it’s technology like the iPad that’s going to step an advertiser’s game up. It’s as simple as seeing a commercial for Tide laundry detergent or Colgate toothpaste while browsing the internet on your touchscreen device, then touching the ad to send a coupon to your smart phone that’s already synced and networked. (No need to fill out information and request an email- all they’ll need to target you in the future is your remote IP.) It’s making a touch-screen matching game or puzzle that is an escape from whatever you do daily, which also rewards you with for being a valued customer with incentives and promotions. (You win, they win.) It can even be as minorly complicated as presenting all the new models of sports car that someone like Nissan has to offer, and being able to bluetooth a version of that vehicle with true to life driving specs to your Playstation or Xbox or regular laptop/desktop so you can test it out on a universal platform driving game, leaving a link open on your iPad to rate your experience and give feedback (and tell you where to go IRL to test drive that bad boy, once again pushing a message over to your smart phone with directions and contact information of the closest car dealer.)

Syncing. Organizing. Simplifying. These are all things that the iPad can do for both the producer and the consumer. It is potentially the much-needed bridge in our technology gap. We as consumers are not difficult to please: as in any relationship, we want to be told that our time, loyalty, and opinions matter and are valued by whomever we are interacting with. Otherwise, we know there are greener pastures elsewhere that will meet our needs.

Because in a world of 2.0 where everyone is constantly fighting to be heard, the grass oftentimes IS actually greener on the other side (as well as organic, sustainable, receptive to feedback, and, well… you get my drift.)