The launch of the iPad, the latest shiny object from Apple, has generated lots of commentary about how the iPad is either going to save old media or be a spectacular failure.

I’m going to steer clear of such predictions, and talk about some of the technologies bound into the iPad that might prove to be important to real estate professionals, and the usefulness of playing with emerging technologies in general.

Playing with new toys

Usually when a new technology comes out, there’s a lot of conversation about it’s price, features and benefits. This is a common and useful way to look at things if you’re a consumer.

But if you make things, just looking at cost, features and benefits isn’t going to give you the full picture. Learning how a new technology works — or what sort of content or ideas or presentation it promotes — is extremely useful. If you are not only a consumer of content but a producer, there is an opportunity cost in delaying learning how to use new technology.

Real estate professionals make things and are not just consumers of things. In fact, real estate professionals make more things than ever: blog posts, videos, photographs, online communities, virtual tours and so on.

If a device or technology is going to have an impact on the way things are made, distributed or consumed, then having experience with that device is crucial for the person who makes things. And the more experience the better. Which is why people who make things tend to be "early adopters" and then, as the technology moves mainstream, are recognized as "experts."

You could, of course, let the first generation pass you by and let everyone else figure out how it works and what it’s good for. But the savvy early adopters will be learning how to make stuff for the platform and communicate with people — not just whether it needs a hardware keyboard or not.

We could use this line of thinking for any new technology, really. But, since it’s such a hot topic, let’s examine the iPad.

The iPad is for consuming media

The iPad, as a device, is mostly for consumers. Though it’s possible to make things on it, it appears to be primarily made for consuming media. I haven’t got my hands on one yet, but I’m willing to go out on a limb and predict that editing video with it will be a pain.

Interestingly, the iPad doesn’t really present any grand new paradigm of how that content will be consumed either. It’s pretty much the same touch-screen technology that’s behind the iPhone and Android platforms, only with a bigger screen. Two kinds of content that are going to be nicer to consume with that bigger screen are books and video.

New medium for book distribution

The success of Amazon’s Kindle bodes well for adoption of the iPad for consuming book-like content. Apple has developed a new distribution platform for books via an iTunes-like book store. …CONTINUED

Any books that are made with the open EPUB format can be viewed using the iPad’s iBooks app, in the same way that mp3s that you rip from your own CDs can be loaded onto your iPod. This is useful because it means that you don’t have to be a book publisher or have a distribution system in place with Apple in order to get your book content onto an iPad.

If you’re a real estate professional who has created long articles or book-like content to help your clients or grow your audience, there is an opportunity to repurpose that content for the iPad. If you haven’t made this kind of content before, then there may be an opportunity to start.

Of course, taking advantage of these opportunities will be easier the more experience you have with the device and formats. Actually playing with the device is one way to gain such experience.

No Flash video

You may have heard some noise about the forthcoming HTML5 specification. This is a change to the way Web pages are coded. There’s a lot being done with this new specification, but most relevant is that HTML5 has a native video tag. This means there’s no need for Flash to distribute video online.

The iPad, running the same OS that drives the iPhone, won’t run Flash. So if your video content currently relies on Flash, now’s a good time to start learning how to make use of HTML5 video tags. This particular issue may be a larger one for developers or vendors of video content than agents and brokers.

Just as with books, the sooner you start experiencing and working with video distributed via HTML5 technologies, the better and easier it will be for you.

Whether you get an iPad or not, it’s probably a good idea to start looking into how book content and video content are made using technologies like HTML5 or EPUB. If you’re a tech vendor, start looking at how you can streamline the creation and distribution of content in these areas.

For what it’s worth, I am getting the 16GB 3G iPad. I lived with a 16GB iPod Touch for two years and know what it’s like to be desperately searching for an available WiFi signal — and the 3G will make all the difference.

Since much of my work involves location-based technologies, the GPS was important. I sync my devices regularly and make heavy use of cloud-based storage, so I don’t anticipate being too limited by the smaller 16GB of storage. Note that my experience with an earlier, related technology helped inform my decision.

Gahlord Dewald is the president and janitor of Thoughtfaucet, a strategic creative services company in Burlington, Vt. He’s a frequent speaker on applying analytics and data to creative marketing endeavors.


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