With or without Steve Jobs, Apple's [AAPL] iPad isn't just a PC replacement, it's a completely new solution that will define the next-generation of computing, no matter how long the analysts take to recognize the device as more than the equivalent of a PC.
Take a look at the video above.
It shows 24-students in a music class at a UK school working together with an adult music teacher (Neil Johnston) to create a release-quality track using 24 iPads.(You can buy the song on iTunes in the US right here.)
The song is completely original, and guitars are linked to the iPad using Apogee Jam while drums and vocals are recorded through iRig Mic and M-audio midi keyboards, themselves all plugged into iPads.
"The iPad is a breakthrough device for the classroom because the opportunities are endless for app integration within an education curriculum," Neil Johnston (@storevanmusic), the music teacher featured in the video above, said to me. "For us, with music, the iPad now allows all students to be engaged in the learning and performing process."
This is a big deal, because it boosts inclusion, he explains. "Before, the kid who struggled to play an instrument was given a triangle and told to sit out of the limelight, trying to keep in time. Now that kid, can open up GarageBand and press some chords on a guitar or piano. That kid is now involved with their classmates, that kid is engaged, having a great time, and learning too! Our project was never about replacing real instruments, it was about an engaging music lesson, where every student had a role to play and could take part."
Johnston will fly across to the US this fall to tour New York and beyond, where he'll be hosting sessions inside Apple retail stores, I hear. Watch this space for details.
This isn't the first remarkable use of an iPad in music, or in the classroom. Look around and you'll find many, many more (including three at the end of this story), but it is an interesting reflection on just how much impact a device which is under two years old has already had across so many industries.
The evolution of both the PC and the Post-PC will both go down on the world-changing track record of Apple's ex-CEO, Steve Jobs. However, the significance will extend far beyond that: Apple is defining the new generation of computing.
Incidentally, the UK experiment above prompted Sting to say: "I'm very impressed... Your use of studio as classroom and technology as teacher is exactly what we need to maintain music as a vital part of the curriculum."
[ABOVE: An iPad orchestra plays us to the post-PC future.]
This is the real deal
iPads and similar devices will become the defacto way that people use computers. Laptops are too big and smart phones too small. For many, the iPad is the perfect size -- but the key to the future isn't the technology -- that must become ever more pervasive, but the apps. Apple's app empire is its key differentiation, raising the value of its solutions far above those from everyone else.
HP's move to launch a fire sale on its TouchPad will soon be emulated by all the other tablet vendors (bar Apple) who will perhaps realize that it isn't enough to talk about tech specs, and make sure a device runs Flash (which no one really likes), but you need to resonate with consumers.
And the way to resonate with consumers is to create devices which offer all the creative possibilities of a child's toy, alongside all the productive capabilities of a Mac and all the time-wasting potential of a television, a good book, or radio. And you get all this with the iPad, iTunes and, in future, the iCloud ecosystem.
No one wins a price war
Price is a factor. The HP fire sale saw a few foolish customers waste a hundred dollars or so on a device which will never see a software update, and which has no app market. The sale has raised some cash to offset HP's losses, but customers will quickly tire of a device they can't upgrade, and can't purchase software for. Though some may enjoy installing Linux on the things, that hardly constitutes a mass market.
The success of the sale ably illustrates that there is space in the market for a cheap tablet -- but can you make a cheap tablet? I don't think so. Those cheaper devices just don't have the build quality, the operating system, the screen, the interface, they just don't match up. Also, last time I looked, components were hard to find...
This means that for the present, Apple will maintain its tablet market lead until 2013 at the earliest. Given the company has today begun manufacturing components for next year's iPad 3, there's no end in sight for innovation yet.
What would Steve do?
That's because people at Apple ask themselves one thing in the morning and one thing at night these days, "What would Steve do?"
Reflect on this: The interesting thing about a company collectively and individually asking itself that question is that the result might actually be a post-Jobs renaissance of innovation, as even the guy in the back room suddenly comes up with a great idea.
Stay hungry. Stay foolish. Do what you love. That's a statement of philosophy that can't be matched by any dry focus-group-led discussion on Megahertz or memory.
[ABOVE: Here we see Lang Lang play a little iPad music at the San Francsico Davies Symphony Hall.]
[ABOVE: Here's a re-run -- the world's first iPad DJ.]
[ABOVE: Soon to be Apple's biggest market, China is iPad-crazy, iPad-mad, and here's the iPad band to prove it.]