If you’ve ever seen a super-sonic fighter jet zip by, you know that it does so silently… until the sound traveling behind the plane, like the wake behind a speedboat, catches up to you with a chest-rattling sonic boom. In a way, you don’t really believe or understand that the jet was there until your ears confirm what you saw. For me, the jet zipping by was the iPhone. The iPad is the Sonic Boom.
We launched Zillow.com in 2006 on the Web. We thought it was pretty slick — a database of all homes, each with a continually updating Zestimate on the rooftop. Instantly, millions of people were using Zillow. Then, in 2009, when Apple released a GPS iPhone, we launched a completely re-imagined Zillow for this new device taking advantage of location-awareness (I’m standing outside my neighbor’s home right now. I know it recently sold, but what did it sell for?) and that nifty little touch screen. The Zillow iPhone App has now been downloaded over 1 million times. I realized that the iPhone was something magic, but, like seeing that fighter jet rip by, I didn’t quite believe it or understand it.
Until now. Having now spent a couple of days with my new iPad appendage, loaded up with, once-again, a completely re-imagined Zillow on iPad (which our design and development teams fell hard for while producing a gorgeous and interactive app), I will assert that we are looking at the first massive user interface (“UI”) innovation in personal computing since the mouse and graphical UI banished the DOS-prompt/command line to Purgatory in the late 80s. This is a time I remember well, as I was product manager of DOS at Microsoft at the time Windows 3.1 hit the scene.
So, why do I say the iPad is the UI Sonic Boom — why is it such a big deal? In a word: intimacy. Until I curled up with my new iPad, I hadn’t realized what an insanely lousy proxy a mouse pointer is for my hands. Before, I was watching a cooking show on TV, but now my hands are right in there kneading the eggs into the meatloaf. I’m pinching and drawing and swiping and twisting and holding. I occasionally type as well, and that is surprisingly fast and easy, too. Yes, I could do some of this on the iPhone, as well, but somehow the larger screen of the iPad, resting in my lap, has connected all the dots for me. My instinct is that this intimate interface is the future of how I will be interacting with all of the machines in my life. Unfortunately, my kids feel the same way, and I can’t keep them off of it. Even when I don’t see them using it, I know they were there, because they leave the tracks from their precious little grimy paws all over my lovely new friend. iWipes will be the next big Procter & Gamble product. Someone, please trademark that for me. 🙂
We’re excited to be one of the first iPad-designed apps in the App Store on opening day, with an all-new Zillow you’ll find quite different from our mobile apps or the Web site. You can read our launch blog post here or watch our video on how it all works. Meanwhile, we’re anxious to hear what you think — of our app, of the device, and whether you think this new interactive interface will forever change how people search and shop for homes.