Probably zero. But if that is the case, it is one less than they should have gotten. Why? Because they, and all communicators, need to understand how it works if they are going to communicate well with it.
The many news items about the huge number of pre-orders and long store lines for Apple's i-Pad tell a story. Add those numbers to that the dozens of other pads that are coming our way that increasing numbers of people will order, and there is the emergence of a plethora of new opportunities to meet consumer expectations if you are selling them something – whether it is merchandise, brands, medical products or public health.
The i-Phone seeded the ground for the i-Pad nicely. The industry for apps for one's phone has been breathtaking in its speed and diversity. Sadly, the medical products industry has been slow to the start, but there have been notable exceptions such as the nifty sanofi aventis Go Meals i-Phone app. That should change. Though one thing about apps – there are a lot to fit onto a tiny phone. With the prolific market in apps, the emergence of an i-Pad is timely, because it will combine my the appeal of mobility in my access with a larger spread of choice.
To my knowledge, FDA hasn't created an app for anything. That should change.
Why? Because communications vehicles need to follow where people go for communications. If television were suddenly invented and 300,000 of them were delivered on the first day while industry geared up to develop millions more, and you chose only to communicate via radio guess what would happen? You would not reach as many people as before. Your brand would be perceived as somewhat out of touch. And you would become less relevant to the larger population that has gone for TV. Yes, you would still reach people, but your communications would not be as efficient as it once was, and you would lose a connection with the consumer.
Everything about communications today speaks to the drive of personalization. People personalize the news they get, when they get it, and how they watch it. For myself, I get health news and political news and have minimized sports and entertainment. You could argue that makes me less well-rounded, but you could also argue it makes me more proficient in what is important to me. In any case, the trend is undeniable. News and communications has become highly customized. If you don't package your news in that manner, you have chosen to stick to radio.
The FDA has demonstrated some innovative e-initiative in the creation of widgets that track recalls. The agency should invest more in that line of work. There may be all sorts of apps that would benefit consumers from a public health perspective. As more and more information gets out about medical products, there is also an increasing number of misinformation. To the extent that the agency believes it has a role in protecting public health with information, the FDA should be considering what kinds of apps (as should industry) might be most helpful in getting information into the hands (literally) of consumers as quickly as possible. And it isn't just apps. As the role of short video grows with the spread of the i-Pad, one needs to consider what kinds of video one might want to produce to support patients and public health (and that would be something a bit edgier and more useful than what the agency has been producing on its FDA YouTube channel). To that end, one hopes that yesterday at least one i-Pad reached the door of the FDA, unless like me, they are waiting for the 3G version.