Now I may be relatively new to the travel industry, but I’m not new to controversy, so let me get this off my chest.
I like many others were glued to their computers listening to live audio streams of yesterday’s Apple iPad announcement, tweeting away. Now I won’t get into the whole debate as to whether or not the iPad met expectations or not. That’s been discussed ad nauseum, here, here, here and here. But I was reading through my RSS feeds and came across PhoCusWright’s (a leading travel industry analyst firm) take on The iPad Affect on the Travel Industry. Mobile is growing in importance in the travel space, and it figures prominently in the solutions that my firm, Ness Technologies will provide, so I certainly wanted to get their take. But unfortunately, it didn’t take them very long to miss the entire point of the implications of the iPad. Here’s the part that got me:
Yesterday’s iPad announcement…does not mean you need to build another app.
Ugh, you don’t. Let the dust settle on this announcement before drawing up plans for your iPad app. Let’s see how the consumer uses the device and then develop based upon their needs and opportunities.
HELL YES it means you need to redesign your app! I mean why continue to constrain yourself to the capabilities of a tiny screen if you don’t have to? The truth is that the iPad, especially as a super-media-consumption-device will let you do things that can’t be accomplished on a much smaller display. While the iPad looks like a gigantic iTouch, the trick to unlocking the value of the iPad will not be to treat it that way. Imagine the user experience differently. I thought that the MLB.com demo showed how you can significantly improve the user experience and the levels of interaction with the game.
Now imagine how a hotel could completely remake the education and trip planning phases of the traveler lifecycle if they used all 9.7″ of real estate and the touchscreen interface to immerse a potential customer into the experience that the hotel provides, using overlays to show details of rooms, launched video of featured activities, a tour of the spa, whatever. But the point is that instead of a bland website or an app that is transactionally-focused, you can create an experience that should increase the likelihood of them booking.
Bottom line: Don’t judge yesterday’s launch or create your mobile app plans based on what you saw yesterday. Think about what the apps will look like 6 months from now after developers have had a chance to play with the SDK. Now you can wait until the usage model is determined to make your decisions, but by then you will be behind your competition. 2010 is shaping up to be another tough year for the travel industry, don’t make it worse for yourself because you’re waiting to see what the future becomes.