Aussie execs speak out on Apple's iPad

Key figures in Australia's information and communications technology community have been exuberant about the Apple iPad, calling it everything from "kick-ass" to a device that would be a tool for executives.

Key figures in Australia's information and communications technology community have been exuberant about the Apple iPad, calling it everything from "kick-ass" to a device that would be a tool for executives.

Launched Thursday last week, the iPad is a tablet device based on Apple's iPhone operating system. It arrived in two flavours: Wi-Fi only and Wi-Fi with 3G in 16, 32 and 64 gigabyte versions.

Australia's mobile giants warmed to the idea of being a carrier of the device, but an Australian Apple spokesperson could not confirm a release date for the 3G version.

Simon Hackett Internode

Simon Hackett
(Credit: Internode)

Being an aircraft enthusiast, ISP Internode managing director Simon Hackett believed the device would be "a great platform" for "kick-ass" touchscreen navigational assistance in a sports aviation plane.

"I think the device looks great. Not perfect, but definitely great. And most of the 'not perfect' are things that'll get further improved in software updates over time," Hackett said.

He believed the device stood to become "a genuine third category" between a smartphone and laptop. It was "a grown up smartphone" that had grown to become "a media device" rather than "a physically cut down laptop", like a netbook, he said.

The only fault Hackett could personally see with it was that it didn't have an SD card slot built-in. It would need a "silly dongle" on the side to do that, he said.

Airline Jetstar chief information officer Stephen Tame said he would be waiting for mark II before he purchased one for himself, but that he would be looking at the device as a tool for executives within the company. "I see it as a better tool for corporate information and collaboration," he said.

He did, however, believe Apple had some work to do when it came to explaining which device would be better to take on business trips. "It will be [an] interesting choice ranging from iPhone, iPad and perhaps MacBook Pro. Which two of the three would the exec pack to the business trip? I think Apple will have a challenge clearing up the messages around this."

Tame said the new platform would move Apple's App Store from toys to true functional business and consumer applications. "The larger screen size will significantly change the capability of available applications," he said.

He believed it may even see the end to in-flight entertainment on-board aeroplane flights. But he did not see it as a replacement of netbooks and notebook devices. This was because the keyboard and mouse remained "the most effective input toolsets".

Curtin University CIO Peter Nikoletatos

Peter Nikoletatos
(Credit: Curtin University)

Although Curtin University chief information officer Peter Nikoletatos said the device would add to the success of the iPod Touch and iPhone, he believed it was missing "key functionality", like an integrated camera.

The university has been looking at ways of integrating electronic readers into the university, which could make the iBook store a useful feature. Nikoletatos said that Curtin has "a few ideas in mind" as what to do with ebooks.

One of those was offering prescribed texts in digital format for students, something which could lead to a greener university. "The iPad may provide that capability," he said. Yet he believed that the 3G version would have to definitely be released in Australia for the device to become a success.

Gartner research director of mobile and wireless, Robin Simpson, believed Apple's way of "re-inventing" a market would allow the tablet to have success in Australia's consumer market.

"People have been waiting for this device for a long time and I have no doubt it will sell," he said. Yet how much, was difficult to forecast.

"The interesting thing is that the 3G versions have some $130 US premium which I think is a bit expensive and by the time it makes its way into Australia it'll be at least $150, maybe even $200 more expensive than the non 3G version," Simpson said. "Whether it'll be worthwhile for the telcos to offer it and will they subsidise it? That'll be the really interesting point."

According to Simpson, if telecommunications companies were to start subsidising it they would have to take a different approach to how they currently "bundle" netbooks with mobile data.

"I think most of the telcos except three have all been selling netbooks and bundling them with data to some extent. But the thing is they haven't really subsidised them. All they've done is spread the payments over 24 months and tied people into a contract. So it hasn't been very appealing at this stage."

If they were to start subsiding the iPad then the device had hope, Simpson said. "If they start subsidising it and selling it like other phones ... I think people will definitely go for it. But if people have to buy it out right and then get a data plan with it then that's probably where you'll find it might struggle a bit more."

According to, research firm IDC reports that Australians bought just 12,000 tablet computers in the last quarter of 2009, most of which were purchased for business use.

But past research surrounding tablets was unlikely to affect Apple, Simpson said. "The fact that tablets may not have been doing well in the past really doesn't have a lot to do with how this device will go in the market.

"I think the fact that it's Apple and has the Apple ecosystem behind it and the App Store with about 140,000 apps now as well as the new SDK ... I'm sure this device will do very well in the market."