What Screen Is The iPad – And Does It Matter?

There is a concept called the “fourth screen” (link goes to Wikipedia) that you need to be familiar with for this post to make sense. There’s actually a concept of the fifth screen (again, Wikipedia link) as well, but we need to chat about that later.

In short, the idea is that the “first” screen is the movie screen. The “second” is the television. The “third” is the computer. The “fourth” is any mobile screen (like a cell phone, iPod, or PDA).

I’ve been fascinated with the concept of the “fourth screen” because it is, in fact, the true power of what got me into Podcasting so quickly and so passionately. Being able to reach anyone at any place and at any time on that “fourth screen” has been such a pull for me.

The “fourth screen” concept gets a little murky with laptops and, now, the iPad. Are those “third” or “fourth” – or, something else?

This is an extremely important issue from a design an experience angle. I purposely try to make every piece of media I create effective for all the screens because I have an audience that spans them all (well, nobody watching Colligan.com at the movies yet). I recommend you take the same approach as it just makes sense. And it isn’t just me. If you don’t think Hollywood makes sure that the blockbuster Imax films will still work on my Mom’s SD television, you’re nuts.

Let’s admit it, there is only so much you can do with a few inches of phone space. “Fourth screen” marketing needs a gentle touch.

But with the iPad, I have to think a little bit outside of the box. If it’s just a “big iPhone” like some claim, then this will go away quickly.

But, if it is something very different, we need to ponder how we react with it.

Do we think in terms of a simple netbook – i.e., a “third screen” approach?

Do we think in terms of a bigger portable device – i.e., a “fourth screen” take on life?

Or, is this something very, to steal Apple’s term, “different?” If so, will we need to think of design, interaction, commerce, etc., in new terms to make way for what’s to come?

A “fifth screen” (not at all like the one described in Wikipedia above)?

One simple example. If you’ve heard my thoughts on mobile commerce, you know that I don’t think we’re going to see a ton of stuff purchased from a 9 digit phone on low battery. But an iPad on the bus, the classroom, at the airport, etc. We might be onto something very different here.

My gut tells me right now that this is, in fact, something very different. Maybe it’s the geek in me (or the Apple Fan Boy) – or something else. So, … here’s what I’m going to do about it.

The details will be tracked at PaulsiPad.com, but in short, I’m going to buy an iPad the day it comes out and run my business on nothing but the iPad for 30 days. Should be fascinating to say the very least.

So, I end with a few questions that I hope you’ll take a minute or two to answer:

What screen number is the iPad?

Does it matter?

Am I nuts – or on to something?

I look forward to your response ….

Update: I’ve launched A YouTube Channel for Paul’s iPad to keep up to date with great iPad videos (and some stuff I’ll make myself).

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