Apple's iPad is stirring up a storm of media and analyst attention, probably because it's defining a whole new paradigm of mobile computing. But one potential use of the iPad has gone almost unnoticed: Its huge potential as a promo giveaway.
Over at GigaOm today there's a neat piece that describes the iPad effect in what may be its true light: Initializer of a whole new industry. And specifically an industry which could create a secondary $8 billion market for tablet apps alone inside five years. This theme has been echoed elsewhere, with people referencing the tide of other tablet PCs soon to sweep over the consumer, the success of the iPhone as an indicator for the sales potential of the iPad, the mobile gaming industry and a host of other pieces of market thinking. We've noted that peripheral sales (for new types of mobile computing interaction) may be one of the iPad's most important side-effects, and even intimated that one of the device's true secondary markets may be porn.
But here's the thing: The iPad is relatively cheap, highly desirable, has none of the "not quite a proper laptop" PR issues that netbooks have, comes coated, dipped and encrusted with shiny Apple cachet, and it's soon to be all over the media, and placed into every slightly-techy TV show you watch. This gizmo is hot. And that, perhaps more than anything else, makes it an absolutely perfect promotional giveaway.
I'm not talking about the kind of slightly scammy "fill in this online survey and win a chance to win a ticket to win an iPad"-type promotions, though they'll undoubtedly switch from their current win-an-iPhone mode to win-an-iPad mode too. Nope—I'm talking about the "Sign up to this bank account" or "Test drive this new car" or "Get a Best Buy loyalty card and get a free iPad" affairs. The advantage from the promoter's viewpoint is amazing, given the low price of the iPad (and subsequent low impact on revenues,) the halo effect from all its good PR, and the fact it'll be a highly desirable object. Banks and stores could even load their own apps on there before giving the device to you (or at least, heavily promote the app in the hope of persuading you to download them later) with the goal of increasing your future engagement with their business. This could even persuade you to spend a little more of that disposable income that you've been carefully protecting over the last couple of years or motivate you to—and this is crazy talk, I know—actually go into a physical retail store.
In other words, the iPad could be the perfect tool for many directly customer-facing industries that are urgently trying to claw their way back to a positive bank balance in the post-economic-downturn era. Just keep your eyes peeled for letter-box and windshield flyers, and roadblock and pop-up ads online: Soon, very soon, they may be peppered with images of Apple's shiny new tablet PC.
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