Rumors that Apple’s highly anticipated iPad will ship with a webcam gives me reason to believe that Steve Jobs’ tablet from on high is, indeed, the must-have item of the next decade.
A webcam not only adds value to the iPad’s functionality, but it also can potentially transform how we communicate with one another, interact with the real world, and convey our identities through social media.
1. As a Portable Video Replacement for the Cell Phone. Imagine a world in which people replace cell phones with iPads. Looking into the face of callers on a 10-inch color screen replaces audio-only communication. Not only that — instead of paying for the minutes and data plan for your smart phone, you only pay one flat fee for unlimited iPad 3g/4g service.
2. Augmented Reality Viewer. Imagine pointing your iPad at an object and/or place and immediately receiving a wide array of information about the object, which is overlaid on the image. Imagine you’re an anatomy student looking at a cadaver. Now a person in a mall. Now an art lover in a museum. The possibilities are endless.
3. The Ultimate Social Media Device. Imagine a world of mobile video journals, equipped with what is effectively a 10-inch mirror. Narcissistic video bloggers will have an even better tool to give on-the-go, content-rich updates of their thoughts and physical appearance at any given moment. Enabling mobile, video-rich social media updates may also empower a new level of citizen journalism, beyond video snippets and mobile tweeting.
Assuming both strong networks to support iPad and that Apple will leave these features unlocked — admittedly “ifs” — these features (enabled by another big “if,” the webcam) can alter the communications landscape even more so, I think, than the reader features will immediately affect the old media landscape.