What iPad's Slick New Features Mean for Marketers

Video Chatting With Customers, More Media Multitasking and Better Web Apps Are Options for Brands

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Apple today unveiled the second-generation iPad with a suite of new time-sucking features. And with a slew of new tablets expected to flood the market this year, advertisers it's time to pay attention.

Fifteen million iPads have sold since the device shipped less than a year ago, said Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who, though ailing, made a surprise appearance at today's iPad 2 press conference. We can expect at least another 20 million iPads to be sold, representing 80% of all tablet sales in the U.S. in 2011, according to Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps.

Marketers might want to look into video-chatting on the iPad2
Marketers might want to look into video-chatting on the iPad2 Credit: Apple

"With 15 million iPads already sold, the cool kids all have it and more people are going to," said Dave Snyder, associate creative director for Dentsu digital agency Firstborn. "It definitely means marketers need to open up to custom brand apps."

Regardless, marketers and advertisers have been largely absent on the device, leaving experimentation up to media companies.

"For marketers, there's definitely a missed opportunity here," said Jaspreet Singh, who leads mobile strategy at agency SapientNitro.

As expected, iPad 2 will be faster, lighter and thinner than its predecessor. It has front- and back-facing cameras, as well as the gyroscope movement sensor we've seen on iPhones. But what does it all mean for marketers and media companies?

Here are five things the new features will and won't make possible in media and marketing.

'FaceTime' with consumers
While the iPhone has had a camera for some time, its unlikely apps on the less portable and bigger iPad will use cameras in the exact same ways.

"I don't see it being used heavily for barcode or QR scanning, which is one of the more common uses of the iPhone cameras, but there's some interesting potential for things like augmented reality," said Jeremy Lockhorn, VP-emerging media for Razorfish.

Not so fast, cautions Matthew Szymczyk, CEO of interactive agency Zugara. The iPad's new camera is certainly a stepping stone, but hardly the future of augmented reality, which plays graphics and games over real-world images. "There might be AR innovation with tablets, because they're more powerful than smartphones, but the expectations for mobile AR outpace what you can actually do. It's hard enough on websites and with kiosks."

Instead, Mr. Szymczyk said the front-facing camera will mean more people video chatting, making yet another way for consumers to get used to that type of interaction. Users can now use FaceTime, Apple's brand of video chat. But for brands the camera could also mean live, one-on-one customer service via video chat. Some marketers may also test "click to call" features from ads or apps to video chat, Mr. Lockhorn said.

Make way for web apps
With faster processing, the iPad 2 will likely open doors for bigger, badder browser-based apps, said Firstborn's Mr. Snyder. While browser-based apps are popular because they can be viewed on multiple devices, what's been possible on iPad has been limited because of built-in restrictions on its browser. But iPad 2's new horsepower will likely allow more speed on browsers, thus more powerful web apps.

iPad is big on TV
The device's new HDMI output -- a way to pipe what's on iPad off to to a larger flat-screen -- will also mean app experiences can become bigger and more shareable, said Sapient's Mr. Singh. "The output changes how sharing around the device can really happen," he said. "Web surfing or apps can now be shared on a 59-inch monitor." With one cord, the iPad goes from personal device to fixture in the living room.

The iPad's new speed makes media multitasking possible, said Mr. Lockhorn. "Nearly 40% of time spent on the mobile internet happens at home, and a lot of that is driven by using mobile and tablets in front of the TV," he said, which means more apps such as Nielsen's Media Sync that syncs content on the iPad with what's on the tube.

Less tablet fragmentation
Apple's second-gen tablet comes as most competitors are just getting their first try to market. That's a good thing, said Gene Liebel, partner-chief strategy officer for Interpublic Group of Cos. digital agency Huge. With less viable platforms, there are fewer parties fighting over admittedly tiny tablet media budgets.

"The iPad is so gorgeous and so far ahead, it helps avoid fragmentation," he said. "If the iPad wins, it's good. While I hope at least one competitor emerges so publishers don't get screwed, fragmentation makes it very difficult to reach people."

What the new iPad is not
"It's not light enough to lug into a retail environment," added Mr. Liebel. So forget iPads that are shoppers' personal companions.

There are also no meaningful changes for magazine iPad app usage, which has slowed in recent months. The new iPad's weight, which is only ounces lighter than the original, won't make the device a cozy reading companion either. "People don't like holding up the iPad for too long," he said. "IPad 2 is not easier to hold or easier to read long form." However, Mr. Jobs did tout more than 100 million books from 2,500 publishers have been downloaded from Apple's iBookstore.

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