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Is the iPad Launching the Two-Screen Revolution?

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iPad (s aapl) owners are starting to see more and more apps that encourage the use of the device in conjunction with other screens. I’m not talking about remote desktop apps that allow the iPad to act as a mirror of other machines; I specifically mean apps that allow the iPad to act as a supplemental screen for another, providing separate information that adds to the overall experience.

Apple is paving the way for true, two-screen viewing in a way that no company has been able to do before now. And it’s a change that could benefit traditional content providers just as much, if not more than new players on the scene. Movie studios, cable companies, and gaming hardware manufacturers should all be looking at the iPad not as competition, but as a new route to customer engagement.

Content providers that are taking the hint are seeing benefits. Real Racing 2 HD is an early mover in the dual-screen gaming space, and it’s seeing the rewards. The game is currently at No. 57 in the top paid apps charts on the iTunes App Store, and it garnered lots of media attention and downloads with its innovative approach that used the iPad screen in addition to full HD output on a connected television. The game displays supplemental information on the iPad 2, which also serves as a motion controller for the primary racing action displayed on the TV.

It doesn’t feel awkward, contrived, or unnecessary, and that’s because it doesn’t try to compete with the much larger display for a user’s attention. It delivers just the right amount of information in just the right way so as to inform without distracting.

Ryan wrote about the new VH1 Co-Star iPad app last week (s via). The app acts as a companion for VH1 programming, offering content-specific info and trivia, as well as curated social streams from Twitter and Facebook. It’s an app that aims to capitalize on the fact that social network interaction during broadcasts is becoming more and more common. It’s a great way to encourage engagement, which, when successful, can turn casual channel surfers into dedicated repeat viewers. It can also be a great avenue for making money from targeted ads since it gives networks a great idea of what viewers are watching what content. A second-display experience makes even more sense when it comes to televised sports programming, where a supplemental screen can provide the kind of statistical info and league scores and highlights without interrupting the main action.

A third way that iPads show promise as second-screen devices is as control surfaces for complex applications. Adobe (s adbe) recently showed off its Photoshop touch apps, and the company is releasing a public SDK so other developers can come up with equally innovative ways to use the small screen as a control or enhancement device for what’s going on a much larger computer screen. There’s great potential for similar implementations for other media manipulation applications (like DJ and film editing software), as well as for supplementary computer control surfaces in general.

The iPad’s success is perhaps most impressive because it’s done so well without impacting Apple’s other lines of business; people aren’t buying an iPad instead of a Mac or iPod. Rather, if anything, they’re getting them in addition to those things. Likewise, the iPad need not pose a threat to other means of media consumption. Instead, the tablet can act as a way to make users spend more, not less time with their existing entertainment devices. Companies hoping to use the iPad to achieve this goal need to be smart about development, but it’s a far better prospect than simply putting your head in the sand and hoping the iPad simply goes about its business with little or no negative impact on your business.

11 Responses to “Is the iPad Launching the Two-Screen Revolution?”

  1. bsangs

    Until they allow us to do this wirelessly, it’s very impractical for my setup. I would need a really long HDMI cable in all instances 10-to-15 feet or more – and it would be draped across our living areas with two children, a big dog and cat. Nope.

  2. greatwiseone

    Um…the PlayBook already allows you to do this. Just needs to have apps built using the presentation mode. I can 1080p video onto a full HD TV while surfing the web on my playbook all at the same time…

    • Um… the iPad already allows you to do this. That’s what the article was about. Plus, what you mention is apples and oranges (pun intended). The article talks about the iPad presenting one app on two different screens with complimentary functionality. You’re talking about doing two different tasks at the same time (watching a movie, surfing the web), which merits a big “whoopee” in my book.

  3. Laughing_Boy48

    The thing that puzzles me the most is that there are those that say the iPad is a completely useless device that they can’t use in any way at all. I’m not sure because it’s an overlapping product or what. It’s not as if the iPad is a one-trick pony since it’s being used in many different ways for many different people. So those that can’t find any use for the iPad must be lacking in imagination or something of the sort. Some claim if you have a smartphone, the iPad is nothing more than a large smartphone and is unnecessary. It may not be absolutely needed but the larger screen does enhance viewing certain things. The iPad doesn’t compete with my iPod in any way although it would limit my use of a notebook computer for simple browsing, searching and reading. I hope Apple is able to turn the iPad into a second screen for lots of consumers so many iPads will be sold in the future.

    • Hamranhansenhansen

      People see very different things when they use a computer, based on their skills and experience and the kind of work they do and other factors. Some people attempt to make iPad work like a PC and when they fail, they blame the iPad. For others, the fact that iPad is a computer that doesn’t work like a PC is the very best feature. People with very advanced PC skills see iPad as doing less than a PC, for example because you can’t do any programming on an iPad. However, most people see iPad as doing more than a PC, because they can do more with it. They don’t know how to install native apps or games on a PC, but they do on iPad. They don’t know how to edit video on a PC, but they do on iPad. They don’t want to read books on a PC, but they do on iPad.

      So iPad is not for everybody, but it is for most people.

      One thing to notice is that there are only about 1 billion PC’s in the world, which is much, much smaller than how it should be. The PC is too nerdy to truly go mainstream. The iPad is a necessary step in bringing computing to the masses. Just that by itself bothers some people because they look at the computer as a way to convert all of humanity into computer nerds. They don’t want a jock to be able to just pick up a computer and use it.

      • What’s wrong with general curiosity? Must there always be a motive? I don’t own AAPLE stock, but it’s always cool to know how many of these “useless devices” as everyone is calling the iPad, is selling…gives me a nice laugh at all the idiot fandroid drones that are out there.

  4. David Boycott

    Good article. Also worth the official F1 timing app, which typically appears high in the top grossing chart (at least in Europe) and provides additional information on drivers, circuits, lap times and race positions for viewers of Formula 1 races and qualifying sessions. It retails at GBP20 (c USD 30) so is clearly perceived to add some value by consumers.