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Apple’s iPad means big changes ahead for real estate

I’ve had a week to mull over the announcement of the iPad and I’ve come to this conclusion.

The iPad is 26 years coming.

Those who blast the iPad as just a large iPhone, I think are missing the point. Fraser Speirs puts it best – they’re most likely in “Future Shock“.

Let’s take a step backwards…

Apple iPad

(AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

When it launched in 1984, the Macintosh was meant to be “the computer for the rest of us“. Its mouse-based GUI redefined what it meant to use a desktop computer. It presented a revolutionary new paradigm which, once adopted by its competitors, was overwhelmingly successful.

Within a few years, the mouse was the defacto way we interacted with our machines and we haven’t looked back since.

So, looking forwards, I believe the iPad is the next evolutionary leap. It’s about us taking the next step towards that simple goal. A place where the complexity, the barriers and the fear of computing have all but disappeared.

And just like the iPhone forced us to rethink mobile computing, the iPad will force us to rethink portable (read, recreational) computing. This is a device meant for the coffee shop and the living room. And to be sure, with the introduction of the iPad, the laptop won’t disappear. But just like the desktop before it, it will likely be banished to niche uses.

So what’s taken it so long?

The hardware is finally here. Combine a really fast chip (Apple’s new A4 silicon) and capacitive touch screens, which give us the ability for fluid gesture-based interaction (multi-touch), and you have the launch of a brand new computing metaphor.

It will redefine the way we approach our everyday digital tasks. Or, to put it into Apple-speak, become “the best way to experience the web, email, and photos.”

So what does this mean for real estate?

Well, you probably are not going to be writing college-length blog posts on a device like this – but you very well might find yourself creating a CMA.

Single, simple tasks will the order of the day on the iPad and the many devices that will follow its lead.

And bottom line, is that, for vendors, the launch of the iPad provides one of the single biggest opportunities to redefine the way your customers (brokers and agents) interact with your product. For Realtors, the iPad provides a tantalizing glimpse of what’s possible and ultimately, what you should demand from your vendors.

Just look at what Apple itself has done to some of its core applications.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBPnB3noTa8

It is about making computing more joyful, more simple, more intuitive. It’s about removing the artificial barriers to your work flow and letting you focus on what’s really important. Despite over two decades of innovation in this space, that’s something that can’t be said of 95% of all real estate business software right now.

Smart vendors recognize the opportunity presented by the iPad. Already, Mac software developers Omni Group have promised they will move all five of its products to the iPad this year. I expect many more to follow.

Let’s just hope we see the same from the brave in real estate technology too.

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34 Responses to “Apple’s iPad means big changes ahead for real estate”

  1. Tei Baishiki says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I think those who “blast the iPad” aren’t thinking with open eyes for the wide range of possibilities (both short and long term).

    I believe the iPad will be a HUGE success for two types of people to start with. The first set being those who travel often. The iPad’s is a super lightweight and compact (with a large enough screen to be useful) device providing superb email access, calendar management, web access, iWork software suite, and 140,000+ Apple App Store apps. I know when I travel I rarely require anything that the iPad cannot support.

    The second set, whom I see the iPad being beneficial to, would largely be characterized as those who embrace the web for everything that it has to offer. These individuals use the web for more than just standard surfing and embrace the direction of online applications (Ie. Google Docs, Salesforce.com, Mint.com, SlideRocket.com, MS Office 2010, etc.). Even photo editing can be done online with Splashup.com, bypassing the tradition software applications like Adobe Photoshop.

    I think the Apple iPad is a step in a very exciting direction.

    Tei Baishiki

  2. Ben Roberts says:

    Here, here. I wrote a similar (albeit, less eloquently written) article on my website last week. I probably should have pondered it for a week before writing but my first impressions seem to line up with much of what you said here.

    It’s always a pleasure to read your latest.

  3. Joe murphy says:

    I agree with you completely. If I was out of work I would be working on creating apps for the tablet. I am looking forward to eliminating the stack of mls sheets when out showing.
    I like the idea of a portable device to share and present from. One year from now I think that this will be a major tool for many Real estate agents

  4. Josh Heppner says:

    Joel,

    Great article, thanks for putting it so eloquently. Coming from a technology background and now being on the inside of a real estate brokerage, I can not stop thinking of the applications that could be developed for this type of tool for not only our agents, but also our managers and transaction management staff.

    Imagine if the iPad was fully integrated with all our day to day platforms (that are all pretty much web-based now) and was now that easy to use interface where we can keep it simple for our agents to complete those tasks that historically are filled with endless paperwork.

    I think the form factor, UI, and connectivity make it such an effective way for us to work with all the data that we touch in the real estate space. I just want to know which brokerage is going to take the bold step and say, “Upon joining our company, you are immediately outfitted with an iPad that is preloaded with all our tools that help you harness the power of technology and keep it simple so you the Realtor can focus on doing what you do best”. I can tell you, we’re doing more than bouncing the idea around…

    All the best from Vancouver!

    ~ Josh

  5. Amit Kulkarni says:

    Joel – While I think the iPad is a cool device, I am puzzled as to why Apple refuses to incorporate flash into its devices. Apple’s hatred of flash is not only shortsighted, it hampers its usability. Our local MLS here in uses flash and many standard web applications use flash – so to me, this is a HUGE drawback for not only the iPad, but any Apple product (iPhone, iPod touch). 2010 is slated to be the “year of the tablet,” with as many as 11-12 new tablet-esque devices set to be released, many of which will have HDMI outputs, multiple USB ports, larger storage capacity, integration of flash – the very things the iPad does not have, and many at pricepoints similar to, or lower than the iPad.

    While die-hard Apple fans will get and use the iPad, the technical shortcomings, at least for myself and my brokerage, are too many to overlook.

  6. Tyler Wood says:

    I am a big Apple fan. Will probably get one either way.

    But, as mentioned above, the lack of compatibility with many MLSs’ is a big downside to any real estate agents looking to be truly mobile. My MLS only works on IE. Not sure how you get around that on iPad.

  7. John Reinhardt says:

    I agree with you Joel. Simpler and easier ways to deliver conent makes a lot of sense. We need to make sure we are getting our content on the items that the consumer wants to use. Thanks for the heads up. I might have to get an Ipad just to see the potential first hand. It’s funny how we can rationalize the purchase of these toys sometimes.
    I just got my kindle and may hold off alittle while, but I do expect that I will be needing on one day soon.

  8. Josh Heppner says:

    I totally agree with Marian as we have a Windows based MLS here as well, although, maybe this is really the push that a lot of MLS’ needs to re-evaluate how they work with 3rd parties to allow them to develop useful and specialized applications and tools for Realtors.

    I’d love to see a product like Cloud CMA on the iPad and really, the other major functionality from most MLS systems is just advanced property searching, which isn’t rocket science today and could be built with a great interface on the iPad.

    Maybe the MLS needs to look at themselves as more of a central repository for the data rather than a software platform that everyone has to use. It really hurts innovation when data is held hostage.

  9. Michael Rahmn says:

    >>My MLS only works on IE. Not sure how you get around that on iPad.

    You get around that by having third parties (either brokers in-house tech team or their vendor), develop around it.

    Many MLSs provide “full feeds” to qualified 3rd parties. At my previous gig, we built a whole suite of tools based on MLS data: cma, map based listing search, agent web sites, etc.

    Whereas many of the MLSs were IE-only, our tools worked with any standard-compliant browser.

    The areas with the most innovation are those where the MLS focuses on their “core” (data collection & distribution, maintenance, compliance, shared-compensation), and allow for 3rd parties to build the integrated app(s) the market so desperately needs.

    -mike

  10. Tyler Wood says:

    @Michael, I agree, there are lots of great third party vendors and products. But, as real estate agents, we should not have to use a third party vendor just to access the MLS on an iPad or any similar product. Wishful thinking, but true.

  11. Joel Burslem says:

    @Tyler Wood

    Seems to me that the MLS’ should be working for its members not the other way around. If there’s a groundswell of demand from agents and brokers to use their iPads to access the MLS, then it’s their responsibility to respond.

  12. Amit Kulkarni says:

    @Joel
    According to a Techcrunch article from July 23, 2009, (http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/07/23/the-mac-versus-pc-debate-has-never-been-clearer/) Apple has less than a 10% marketshare for PCs. Apple makes products that fits Apple and their brand, great for Apple and their high margins on the products they sell, and it keeps with their brand vision and strategy.

    By doing things like keeping flash out of its products, Apple seems to not care about making products that will appeal to a wide range of folks who need products for business (business being the key term here). Unless you are a diehard apple guy or gal, or just like neat looking gadgets, i would even go so far as to say you generally overpay for a product you can get cheaper elsewhere.

    You are correct in asserting MLS’ should be working for their constituencies, but for a company with less than 10% market share in the computing world, it is foolish and shortsighted for a MLS to invest huge amounts of time, energy and effort to make their constituents conform to Apple’s way of doing things.

    It would be one thing if this was the only product in existence, but there are so many similar devices being released this year – most of which will fit right in to existing frameworks, and provide pretty much the same functionality that the iPad provides.

  13. Joel Burslem says:

    @Amit – Always love a good Mac vs. PC rumble… :) but that’s not really what this is about.

    I think the iPad is truly a new class of product aimed straight at the middle of the bell curve of users. Hence the $499 price point.

    This isn’t really aimed for folks like you or me, who are power-users/multi-taskers and can get into a friendly argument over Gigahertz and gigabytes.

    My point is this is for folks who just want their “computer” to do a one or two things well. Check email, manipulate photos, even search the MLS.

    As for the Flash argument, I’m not convinced. I’ve blocked Flash for the last few years on all my browsers through third party plugins and the web has never looked better. No more crappy ads. A combination of HTML 5 and H.264 will deliver all the content you need (and is already supported in Safari).

    You can see for yourself here – http://www.youtube.com/html5

  14. JIm Whatley says:

    It will be like any tool, in the hands if Fred Flintstone a hammer and chisel were used to make small useful objects. In the hands of Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, it was use to make something know one else could make.

  15. Ryan Elliott says:

    Let me start by saying I am an Apple Fan. I really don’t see this device being a game changer in the real estate business. The biggest reason for Apples’ explosive growth was when they released products that are compatible with Windows os. Ipods, Iphones, and IMac. The only reason I switched to Mac was the ability to run windows and Mac Os on 1 computer. I had windows programs that would not run on a Mac. I could have the best of both worlds. Imagine if Ipods and Iphones would only work with Mac computers. How popular would they have become? I was excited as anyone to hear about what the Ipad had to offer. Finally I would be able to watch the Inman connect videos on my couch or in the back yard on the hammock instead of parked in front of my computer in the office. Finally I would love to watch Hulu as well. Not going to happen with the Ipad. Has a great photo application with no camera? No video camera? Even the Ipod nano has a video camera. Can’t access the MLS in my area with anything other that IE. No writing devise for signatures, manual notes, and drawing? It is a great entertainment device but falls short as a business device. If you want to look cool in front of your clients, you may be able to do a slick presentation, just don’t ask them to electronically sign the listing agreement, oh ya if you want to take photos break out your camera, or better yet your cell phone.
    You say people have blasted the Ipad for being just a large Iphone, it’s a large Iphone that won’t make calls and has no camera. I was willing to live with restrictions the Iphone has because it is small with limited processor speed, limited screen size, battery size, etc.. Other than a larger screen, it really doesn’t do much more than an Iphone and is just as restrictive.

  16. Neil Kearney says:

    Cross browser compatibility was the #1 priority for our MLS this year. It will be great to have the opportunity to consider an Apple product.

    Neil Kearney
    Boulder CO

  17. mike gibbons | talkCharlotte says:

    Amit your focus on the mythical paltry MAC 10% or whatever that “share” number is ludicrous and so off the point – if MLSs etc would get off there lard asses and adapt to cross browser functionality I can assure you Realtors alone would jump that % share all by themselves (watch the Realtor.com app transform mobile search) Uh what’s Microsoft got to compare with that?

    Realtors especially are not tied to some dopey corporate habit and byzantine IT department – they are nimble, energetic move forward people who will use the software and hardware (which via cloud computing are now one)tat serves them best — talking about MACs not serving the business community is just really ignorant at best

  18. Amit Kulkarni says:

    @Mike

    1. The 10% is not mythical, I actually cited a source – read for yourself by clicking on the link I posted in my previous comment. With respect to your off-color comment about MLS’ – Take off your angry apple-user hat and put on your businessperson hat:
    Would you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars creating proprietary platforms and technology to service 10% of your constituency? Especially when you could do the exact same thing with agnostic platforms for the other 90% – for at many times half the cost? In these economic times, to me at least, the answer is pretty clear.

    2. Last time I checked, the iPad was a device, not a browser.

    3. As Joel reiterated above, this is not a Microsoft vs. Apple debate.
    4
    . Other than the creative field, Apple products have not served the business community.

    5. There really was no reason for you to use derogatory terms to describe MLS’.

    Mike, let me assert one more point here. As Real Estate Professionals, we need to be in touch with what works across a variety of platforms – your view of IT departments notwithstanding. We in the Real Estate industry do not live in a Realtor bubble. We interact intimately with so many other professionals and industries. With the iPad’s technical limitations, how will you seamlessly work with lending companies? Title companies? Your own MLS? Interact with your clients and adopt paperless forms of transactions?

    Even more simply, with the iPad, how will you take photos of your listings to upload to your MLS?

    If Apple upgrades the iPad with a few hardware and software tweaks, I will have no problem adopting it. But let’s remember, Apple did not create the iPad for Real Estate, so the chances are slim that they will do this.

  19. Chris Crocker says:

    Can I get an AMEN from the congregation of the Church of Apple? This is a bigger deal than most people expect. You get to take your laptop without taking your laptop everywhere you go. Any you get to leave your silly (and bulky) charging cord too and you get to stay connected and have a screen size you can actually use. Can I get a hallelujah for the great Mr. Jobs please. I’m first in line for this thing. The potential impact for real estate agents is huge.

  20. David Kurz says:

    All of this is wonderful, but what about the fact that the Realtor MLS does not run on the MAC or any Apple device. I love my iPhone but my only hang up is that people with Palms are running circles around me because they can work with clients on the MLS on the go and I have to lug around my laptop. What a deal it would be if the iPad could work with the MLS – and get digital signatures on Real Estate documents.

  21. Josh Heppner says:

    @ David

    I totally agree, it would be great if our MLS’ would get a system running on a browser agnostic platform and let us use some of the great browsers out there other than Internet Explorer.

    What we have done for our agents is allowed them to remotely connect into our office computer system using an app like iTap RDP which is available through the App Store and it allows them connect into a windows session on our internal network. Our agents love having access to the MLS on their iPhone through this and it will work on their iPad as well. They also use our website which has all the listings on it and most of the critical data they need to access on the road. This way, they get the best of both worlds while are MLS is working to put a system in place that works on both the MAC and PC platform.

    My dream is to have a set of apps for the iPad that completely integrates with our office operations from submitting deals, listings and other documents to having a slick electronic listing presentation as well as to see where in the overall transaction process their deal sits right at that moment. Kind of a timeline approach. The increased communication we could provide back to our clients would be outstanding and sure opens a whole new era of communications.

  22. Joel Burslem says:

    @David

    At the risk of repeating myself – it’s my belief your MLS should be working for its membership. If you want an MLS system that works on an iPad or iPhone, demand it. Write a letter to the CEO. Get your coworkers to sign the letter. Put the pressure on.

    We can make this happen, if we want it bad enough.

    @Josh

    Very cool what you guy are doing with iTap.. never had considered doing it that way. Nice work!

  23. David Kurz says:

    @ Carmen

    Yes – you could blow them away with looking cool – but not with your efficiency. If you had a slate (PC comparable to iPad) you could run the MLS, show them a home, sit IN THAT HOME and have them digitally sign their docs, fax/ email the docs immediately after signature digitally to the sellers Realtor and be done leaving the property. No going back to the office to print and scan. THATS WHAT I WANT FROM IPAD!

    Lets face it… MAC for fun/ PC for business.

    @ Josh

    What a great thing you have going there! Can you send me an email with info on that? I’d love to get my agents on board with that. With the tough market we are facing – efficiency is KEY to success.

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