Kleiner Perkins making big bet on Apple's iPad

March 31, 2010 7:06:38 PM PDT
Saturday is launch day for Apple's latest device, the iPad, and lines are expected to form overnight Friday at Apple stores across the country. Apple has been taking orders online and customers can pick them up (or have them delivered) starting Saturday morning.

The big question is what applications will be ready for the iPad at launch. Apple will have its Safari browser, a mail application and other basic software already installed. However, if the iPad is to replicate or exceed the success of the iPhone, the key will be third-party applications, especially games, that users will download from Apple's App Store. In just two years, the iPhone attracted 100,000 developers who have created 150,000 mobile applications. Three billion downloads have been logged.

While no one is saying what the number of iPad apps will be, popular iPhone game maker ngMoco says it will have seven apps available on Saturday, including Flick Fishing, Castlecraft, NBA Hotshot, Godfinger, We Rule and Warpgate.

"I think what the iPad is going to do is be a device that you use almost exclusively inside the home," said ngMoco CEO Neil Young. "I think the living room, the kitchen, in the kids' bedrooms."

Developers are convinced people will love the large screen and will play longer. Keith lee of Booyah thinks users will play twice as long.

"I wouldn't be surprised that we get over two hours of engagement on the iPad specifically," he said.

Analysts say video game consoles will still have better graphics and speed, but the iPad could be a threat to handheld game devices.

"Now that you have this larger screen that's fully touch, that can be manipulated, it will be interesting to see," said CNet editor Brian Tong. "It's definitely going to be a threat to portable gaming."

Silicon Valley's best known venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins, is putting up $100 million in new funding to help support iPad app developers. Kleiner Perkins is adding the $100 million to an existing $100 million fund, called the iFund, which was set up two years ago to foster development of apps for the iPhone.

The Kleiner firm was an early investor is such legendary Silicon Valley companies as Electronic Arts, Genentech, Google, and Sun Microsystems.

In making the funding announcement Wednesday in Menlo Park, Kleiner partner John Doerr hinted that his firm is looking beyond entertainment for the iPad. He hinted that a major iPad application for the health care field could be released in five weeks. Doerr said the iPad should be in the hands of every doctor and nurse in the country.

"I don't see any reason why every doctor, every nurse, every hospital worker, wouldn't have your information on their iPad to help coordinate your care and get better outcomes," he said.

Doerr's firm funded 14 companies making apps for the iPhone, yet only four are making money.

We will see soon enough if the iPad matches or exceeds the success of the iPhone, keeping in mind that over three billion applications have been downloaded from the Apple App Store.


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