With all the buzz about the iPad I find myself thinking about the implications of the device even though I hate myself for it.  I think one reason everyone is so focused on the iPad is because it hits a sweet spot in the marketplace.  The iPhone and iPad are productivity tools.  The difference is the type of productivity you are trying to achieve.  I believe the iPad is much more innovative from a productivity standpoint than the iPhone.  For that reason, I believe the impact of the iPad will be greater than the iPhone.

In my mind the iPhone was a gadget when it was first released.  Albeit a very cool gadget.  Even though users could access the Web with the iPhone they still had to adjust to the limits of the device.  Apps have increased its versatility; However, its main limits, size and connectivity, remain.  The iPad overcomes those limits.  Having more viewing area increases the number of things that can be done with it.  While the iPhone enables you to access the Web and has useful apps, it is not can never replace a desktop or laptop computer.  The iPad can’t either but it does offer improved access to online resources and the potential for more robust productivity tools.

Apple deserves credit for recognizing the potential impact cloud computing.  One of the overlooked benefits of cloud computing the iPad could exploit is customization.  Currently there are very few options when you buy a computer.  You can customize some features but most of what you purchase is standard.  The iPad challenges that assumption.  If most of what you publish and consume is online through social media you don’t need as much internal processing power.  You don’t need terabytes of internal memory because your pictures, movies, and music are all stored on a server.  You don’t need the full Office suite when most of what you publish is online.  How many people in your organization really need or use the processing power of their computer?  How would a workplace change if we could access all our data and tools online?

Both the iPhone and the iPad are ideal for informal learning interventions.  Instead of making large investments in event-driven learning or e-learning, organizations can create immersive learning experiences that are accessible at the point of need.  Blending social media with highly focused productivity apps create rich opportunities for informal learning and mentoring.  One of the challenges that confront traditional forms of learning is the gap between the learning and work environment.

Leveraging existing social networking tools and creating targeted learning interventions greatly reduces the need for formal training and can improve learning outcomes.  Lightweight development tools such as Flip cameras enable content to be created and made available faster than ever before.  Embedding learning objects such as videos or blog posts via social networking tools provides a great opportunities to improve performance.

Another way the iPad is unique is its flexibility and portability.  I tried using a tablet PC several years ago.  After a short time, I reverted to using it as a plain laptop because it was so cumbersome and heavy.  It also suffered because it did not have programs that utilized the design.  The iPad is lightweight and Apple has created a culture where developers create apps that take advantage of its unique design.

A frequent topic in learning circles has been enhancing learning through games.  I have explored the possibility of using gaming conventions to improve the learning experience and outcomes.  Some of the most popular apps for the iPhone are games.  I expect this will also be the case with the iPad.  A challenge for learning professionals is to create games that are fun and achieve a learning outcome.

I believe the iPad has the potential for creating new opportunities for learning and productivity.  By its very existence users can be more productive.  With thoughtful consideration, learning professionals can take advantage of the flexibility of the device to improve performance.  If this is possible with the first generation, imagine what will happen when when the next generation is released or a competitor enters the market.