Last year, six months after the release of the original iPad, I published an article called “My Must-Have 20 iPad Apps” in which I collected my favorite iPad applications – the ones I used and enjoyed the most – as of September 2010. Fast forward thirteen months, the iPad’s software ecosystem has matured into something completely different from last year’s “experimentation” stage, when third-party developers, and quite possibly Apple as well, were still trying to figure out how, exactly, the iPad would change our digital lifestyles. Looking back to the iPad 1 and the App Store in 2010, it’s no surprise the list of apps I have today is so much different.
In the past year, Apple has sold millions of iPads and has seen the device being used in far more variegate scenarios than they initially expected. The whole point of the iPad: Year One video presented at the iPad 2’s introduction in March was, in fact, to showcase not only the hardware and software capabilities of the device, admittedly improved over the past months, but to demonstrate how the iPad has entered more markets than “consumer technology” alone. The iPad is being used by pilots, doctors, teachers, parents and artists who have found a whole new dimension through the tablet’s multi-touch screen. If the demographics of the iPad expanded to new segments and usage scenarios, so did the kinds of apps that are available on the App Store.
Once again, Apple itself has set new standards for developers to write their apps against. With iOS 5 and iCloud, released in October, the company is providing third-party app makers with powerful new tools to optimize their software and make it interconnected across devices and platforms. But I believe that there’s been a shift in “iPad development mentality” among developers and users alike that goes way back prior to iCloud’s announcement and launch. Sure, iOS 5 and iCloud will lead towards a future of invisible cloud backups and app connections, but Ambitious iOS Apps started making their way to the App Store before iCloud and all these latest, greatest software updates. It was immediately after the 2010 holiday season and the “second wave” of iPad apps that developers realized the iPad could be so much more. And so they wrote great, innovative, standard-setting apps that shaped the past thirteen months and are helping us transition to the next great revolution – the cloud and the post-PC device.
It’s always been about the apps. And I’m fairly certain that as long as Apple doesn’t focus on hardware specs alone and stands at the intersection of technology and liberal arts, it’ll always be about great software, rather than processors and RAM amounts. And more importantly, it will be about the people creating the apps that we use every day.