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Why ngmoco’s CEO Is Bullish on the iPad

NeilYoung.gifApple’s (s aapl) iPad, which is soon going to find its way onto the market, has drawn criticism and scorn from many a technorati. But Neil Young, chief executive and co-founder of San Francisco-based mobile gaming startup ngmoco, isn’t one of them. Not only does he think that the iPad will make netbooks pointless, he believes it will usher in new opportunities for companies such as his to build new experiences.

“Most negative reviews are from people who I think who were expecting a fundamental new technology, not a new user experience,” he said in a conversation with me. “I remember the same type of commentary around when the iPod touch launched.” Of course, as we all know Apple has since sold many millions of those iPod touches.

Young, who just closed a $25 million round of financing from Institutional Venture Partners and previous investors Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Norwest Venture Partners and Maples Investments, believes that a big portion of the mass market of buyers are going to find the iPad “magical.”

“The iPad is going to occupy a different part of a user’s life — it will be at the intersection of your home laptop and netbook and personal game console,” he said. Unlike most, who are going to rebuild their apps for the larger screen resolution, ngmoco has devised a three-step strategy for targeting the iPad:

* Adapt six of its major titles to iPad specifications and have them available for download alongside the device’s launch.
* Enhance its games to take advantage of the large screen real estate and also augment them with other iPad-specific features.
* Once iPad has scale or shows a trajectory of scale, build new applications specifically for that platform.

Young isn’t the only CEO of an iPhone games company who is thinking differently. William Volk, CEO of San Diego-based PlayScreen, explained to me that the iPad represented an opportunity to create a whole new kind of game. In a recent blog post Volk wrote,”The big screen and connectivity makes it a natural for social and team gaming. Think of board games, MMORPG’s and card playing.”

Like Volk and Young, I am very excited about the iPad, and am wondering what different types of apps can be developed for this new platform.

If you want to talk to me about these new experiences, apps or the iPad, drop me an email, connect with me on Twitter or simply leave a comment.

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26 Responses to “Why ngmoco’s CEO Is Bullish on the iPad”

  1. I bought a $5 game (Godfinger) and my son and I thought he was earning credits and buying things for his World. I see my VISA has been charged $40 for “Awe points”. In a week. Have they made this so that it DOES NOT require my iTunes password for transactions to go through?? Also, it’s a rare thing for a web site to not have a direct contact form, email, or telephone number. You have to set up an account on their web site to communicate in any way. These guys are not as accessible as a company should be. They include a way to “Give Praise” if you set up an account but not for complaints. It’s all about them and marketing? ngmoco:) seems not to want to hear about “Issues” I guess. Do they suck? Yes, and I’m stripping that game off my iPad.

  2. we need something better than iPad ….preferably with open platform like android..with lots of applications …with stylus and video cam and better screen and usb connections and flash support ….I hope iPad will inspire “BETTER” slate devices

  3. Om, among the torrent of posts on iPad, this one is really insightful and changed my mind about the iPad. Maybe iPad isn’t the role model for web browsing, even for e-reading. But I must agree, like iPod Touch it really have a lot of potential and makes total sense for different kind of applications. Even me, actually drawn to Android/Symbiam/Maemo on my activities must agree that not only iPad, but the whole slate world is full of opportunities. Again, if would be better if Apple would be less greedy and make some concessions, like side loading or a program of trusted/premium developers putting some flexibility on AppStore, to gain critical momentum without sacrificing the price tag. For better interaction with cloud services, a more elegant notification system and multitasking (who knows, in the next iterations) would be a joy for developers. I got a glimpse of serious new apps that could be made. But again, it’s a device with a base price at min 2.5x greater than iPod touch, not subsidized and far from be an immediate necessity. I guess, finance and marketing at Apple have a homework to do. Another great post, Om.

  4. “Most negative reviews are from people who I think who were expecting a fundamental new technology, not a new user experience,”

    This is exactly it. He articulates perfectly the divide.

    Folks forget too the advantage over a netbook. This thing has an LED-lit IPS screen. No netbooks come close in that department afaik.

    For reading and surfing and watching video and looking at pictures this will be better just because of that.

    Add in multi-touch for browsing and the ability to kick back a bit easier on the couch and the browsing experience promises to be much more enjoyable.

    Then add a nice long battery life and always on capability and none of the hassles of a full-fledged OS and watch out.

    On the other hand there are downfalls. Text-input is a weakness although the dock lets you do serious typing on the device as does any BT keyboard.

    And the price, as cheap as it is, isn’t to be taken lightly when the device has to be tied to a computer.

    Can’t wait to get one and give it a whirl.

    • Most people have attacked Macs in general over the years for technical issues, ignoring the things that are most important — applications. The stuff we do with computers is most important, not the third button on a mouse or the floppy disk drive.

      I believe that this product, especially when placed in its keyboard dock is a re-envisioning of the original Mac. Simple. It does stuff. And, everybody will complain about what it does not do as opposed to what it does.

  5. I’m 100% in the “iPAD” will be a breakthrough crowd – it’s the first computer (or internet connected device) my mother will be able to use. I think the point that the invovation is in the user experience is spot on – there’s a huge amount of people who would just not do anything with a netbook (whatever OS it runs) – but on a iPAD they’ll read, surf, listed to music and email. I’m obviously disappointed it doesn’t run OSX and a lot of other stuff – but I’m we’re not the target audience – Apple know it.

    I have the purchase slated for her next birthday (which is happily mid July – in time for apple to release a V2 of the thing with the apple first Gen product bugs ironed out).

    Prediction: within 3/4 years Om will be posting about the death of the keyboard – most devices won’t have a (physical) keyboard – and by 2012/13 MacBooks will be two iPad like devices hinged together along one spine – one as the (fully configurable) input device (keyboard/mixing desk/drawing space & tactile feedback built in – whatever…), the other as the screen. RIP physical keyboards.

    • I have been saying that since it came out. It’s not made for the Geek market. It is made for everyone else and for the more advanced people to settle with this device is ridiculous, because the more technical person to carry something that big around is going to want more. This is a business product, it is meant to do two things. One aid the process of the app-approval across all platforms. Sooner or later I believe we are going to see it on Mac OSX. Two is basically sell to the market. The biggest market that is going to buy one is the stay at home Mom and possibly business applications.

  6. I think Neil Young is right. We’re talking about a completely different user experience with the iPad. Critics has been focusing on what iPad cannot do that a netbook can do – physical keyboard typing (and by the way iPad can be plugged to one), Linux, Windows, webcam, flash, etc. But what about the other way around? Let’s take for instance the way iPad plays games, since we’re talking about games here. I’ve seen the demo on Jan 27. No netbook, no PC, no laptop (including Macs) will give you that user experience. Now what about magazines? Yes what about them? Well, I remember a Sport Illustrated demo from a month or two ago. Again, nothing other then iPad will give you that experience. And I’m not even talking about movies and apps!!! For me, it’s obvious that thing will be a hit. Friends around me (non-techies) are ready buy. I got even one of them who rushed to the Apple Store the day after Steve Jobs’ presentation, only to find out he had to wait another two months. Here, at my work place, some guy told me his wife want it. Some other women here and there too. Yesterday, a guy pulled out a remote control in form of a tablet, a girl screamed with enthousiasm “Is it an iPad?!!!”. Ladies are hooked guys. I trully think that device will surprise bashers. Start to develop your apps if you want to make money!!! It doesn’t matter how many people don’t like. It’s in fact, you should turn the question around: Who likes it? Well, ask around you… you’ll be surprised.

  7. I agree the larger screen will provide a different user experience than the iPhone counterpart. I also agree it is going to make a lot of new experiences in the gaming world, maybe, will see if a big screen really makes the difference.


    There is a world outside of gaming. Productivity, Email, Media consumption, Production. I think the simplistic interface on a bigger screen is going to hurt in that area.

    I keep hearing conflicting accounts. Its not a netbook replacement according to Jobs, but in this article Malik says “Not only does he think that the iPad will make netbooks pointless”. Then Young quotes later in the article, “it will be at the intersection of your home laptop and netbook and personal game console”. So what is it? Another device in your house? Another Apple TV? I don’t get it.

    I can’t honestly give advice for someone going to College and tell them to get an iPad. I keep trying to picture this, but it just doesn’t work.

    Other than a gaming device I don’t see the major gain for a personal investment. I can actually see some business oriented applications that would work wonderfully on the iPad. I am actually maybe investing in that.

    I think the biggest thing is we want to see it as a fully functional computer, but in reality it is just a gadget that is used.

    • I think this first iPad will be a replacement for the 50% of laptop users who mostly browse media and web. The second version will cover 80% including the college kids. Of course this doesn’t count all the new users it will create on the gaming side. #Wiitaketwo

      • Ok you are confusing a program with the iPad OS. Yes to get apps working on the device with full interaction without a mouse is a huge accomplishment.

        Simplistic Interface I mean in comparison to the iPhone OS and iPad OS there is little difference. The iPhone needs a very simple interface, because it is half phone half whatever. When you set yourself to a bigger screen the simple interface from which the iPhone has is diminishing. Watch the video on this site about the future of tech. He is describing the iPhone as a Swiss army knife. The tool that handles all the things you need to get done on the go. The iPad is the Swiss army knife for the kitchen, it doesn’t work well within that domain. Quite frankly I am a little tired of the iPhone interface I want more, like categories, social integration, device connection, and multi-tasking. This is a gadget not a computer.

        Wil I am also concerned that people are not going to realize they can’t consume most of the media on the web. Apple only wants you to consume their media that they generate or endorse.

        I think none of us knows what is going to happen because it has its own niche market. I find it hard actually replacing anything. When I mean replacing makes other products obsolete. Will see what happens I am a little skeptical though.

  8. Back when I worked at France Telecom R&D, we got a bunch of Nokia N800 tablets and experimented with them in all kinds of ways. I took one home and tried to incorporate it into my lifestyle. It just didn’t click. I remember thinking it was good for “bathroom computing” and that was it. The (good) web experience wasn’t there, apps weren’t there, etc.

    Of course, the iPhone changed all that and showed that people were thirsty for a powerful mobile platform. I have no doubts the iPad will be a successful product. I really do think that there’s a “casual” space in between the computer and the mobile device.

    Following my line of thought, I don’t think that netbooks and iPads will overlap much, if at all. Perhaps for techies they will, but mainstream is where things get really interesting.

  9. Yogesh Pandeya

    We have been hearing about immersive media experience for quite some time but nothing came along. I see a huge potential for iPad to fulfill this long term dream of user experience. I think all kinds of media can now serve contextual advertisements in innovative ways to attract users who can easily navigate through touch screen…

    Apple can make iPad more interesting by adding heptic technology to the screen…..even better if Apple could use flexible screens and could give 3D shape to the screen…What say Om??

  10. I believe that some of the applications we began to see on the Mac over the last few years, such as Coda are well suited to this platform. We need to accomplish tasks not have access to everything. This is in fact the replacement for parts of the NetBook experience, not all of it agreed.

    Emacs for iPad!

      • I don’t play too much with Processing ( any longer,but somebody developed an online version. I hate to say that we are going back to a VAX client, but who didn’t love green phosphorous displays, but something cloud oriented would be fascinating.

        Amazon Web Services could become this virtual box on which to develop and test. A literal “virtual box” could be the application interface akin to Coda.

        I agree that we will see some cool new models for programming and development. I was certainly hoping that our last effort could get at remote build processes for things like iPhone or Android apps. Sadly, Apple will continue to be the gatekeeper for this platform.

  11. I have trouble seeing this guy as a big visionary when his company’s name in Spanish means “ng booger”. But then when I have my $25M in funding my criticism will be a bit more valid, no?

    Anyway, netbooks run Linux and Windows, which the iPad will probably never do. So as far as being a replacement for my netbook, I don’t think so.

    I think this guy’s world revolves around iPhone O/S and he thinks everyone else’s does too, therefore who needs netbooks? I think in his market (iPhone O/S apps) netbooks are indeed pointless, but there’s a whole world outside of that.

    • as a counter to your argument, he is putting his money where his mouth his — on iPhone OS based platforms. agreed that is a reason to discount him but it is also a reason to pay attention to him — his capital is tied in him beig right!

      what do you think :-)

    • The majority of people who buy netbooks, laptops and desktops only use them to consume media like: internet, email, games, video, social networking. Many of those people have no clue how to do anything else on their computers and wish it weren’t so hard to do the simple things they do.

      Tech support for these people includes putting a shortcut on the desktop to the 4 or 5 things they do and they never enter the start menu and wouldn’t know what it is for if they did.

      That is the market Apple is after, they sell laptops and desktops for people who want to do more than that. The iPad will sell like hotcakes to people who just want a computer to consume media.

      Laptops, netbooks, and desktops will continue to sell well to people who need to do more than consume media.

    • “Anyway, netbooks run Linux and Windows, which the iPad will probably never do. So as far as being a replacement for my netbook, I don’t think so.”
      People don’t buy Netbooks to run Linux and Windows. Running Linux and Windows by themselves does nothing.

      They buy them to run certain applications, chiefly video watching, web browsing and email. The iPad does all those things, has longer battery life, is lighter, is way simpler to use and will be far more suited to gaming and a host of other professional and personal applications.

      The only people left buying Netbooks are going to people shopping strictly on price — i.e. the can get a $250 Netbook vs. the $500 iPad. But buyers like that don’t buy third party software, so don’t look for anyone writing Netbook specific software. Thus they will be left running apps (badly) that were targeted at larger, more powerful computers.