Developers, not Apple, will make or break the iPad

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The iPad’s fate isn’t in the hands of Apple. Jobs & Co. has done their part and made the device. The iPad’s success lies solely in the hands of developers. Because unlike the iPhone or iPod touch, the iPad doesn’t really have a core function. The iPhone is nothing more than a glorified telephone and the iPod touch is just another PMP. But what’s the iPad? A big iPod touch?

None of the iPad’s functions seem to define it. Ebook reading? That may turn out to be just a novelty feature for many buyers. Web browsing? Maybe, but the Internet is formatted for a mouse and keyboard, a tablet simply doesn’t offer much, if any, advantage over a netbook or computer running a full OS. Early reports are even suggesting that the iPad isn’t even a solid media player because of its 4:3 aspect ratio.

Then there are the millions upon millions of apps Apple has accumulated over the last two years. They, and new iPad-specific ones, are the key to success for the iPad. Without them, the iPad would just be another concept-of-function device, targeted at a small crowd with its limited capabilities of web browsing, task management, ebook reading, and media playback. The apps will likely prove to be the justification many people will need to purchase the iPad.

Developers have had the last two years to prepare for the iPad. Of course Apple didn’t tell them that eventually they will be able to make apps on a 9.7-inch screen instead of a 3.5-inch one, but most have probably dreamed of a larger platform. Apple better treat these folks better than it did with the iPhone App store. The iPad’s future is riding on them.

Just think of how spectacular some of the iPad’s native apps might look. Almost every iPad hands-on article so far states that the screen is fantastic. Plus, the iPad is apparently speedy, too, although its processor is far from the mystery silicon we all thought. All this, combined with a robust SDK, should give developers everything they need.

Just a few key video streaming apps might push some potential buyers over the edge: Hulu, Netflix, Comcast’s Xfinity. Combine those with the 3G connection, and the iPad finally has a good reason to exist. Then there is the education angle with Wikipedia (it’d make a nice app), classroom screen sharing, and e-textbooks among other things.

But it’s up to the developers now. The iPad launches in 58 days, which should be enough time for coders to pound out a bunch of iPad apps using the just-released SDK. Hopefully Apple has retooled its app review process and is prepared for the onslaught. If not, Jobs might as well step down, and hide in a small cave like Bin Laden because he’s going to have a lot of shareholders and fanboys alike out for his blood.

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