The Heavens Opened and Thus the iPad Was Born

If you were somewhere in the Sahara this week, or living in the Beltway obsessing about the State of the Union Address, you probably didn’t know that the greatest boon to civilization since the invention of the wheel has come into our midst.  At long last, the mythologized Apple Tablet known as the iPad, has come, and we will all be the better for it.  While there was no way that it could possibly live up to the epic possibilities that were imagined about it, it’s possible that we actually will be the better for it eventually.  It’s also entirely possible that Jobs has again come up with something that will just about create a market. Practically everybody in the media world has an opinion about this device and I’ll link you to some of them. Such was the breathless anticipated build-up to this thing, that it would be impossible for tech writers not to experience some post-orgasmic tristesse, and there was a bit of moaning that it wasn’t quite the second coming.  Basically, in case you don’t know, the iPad is very much a large iPod Touch that will be, at certain price points, web-enabled via G3 networks.  Or should I say, a G3 network, namely AT&T’s (one great source of bitching and moaning at the unveiling of the thing). Now, the fact that it’s a sort of iPod Touch on steroids is not a bad thing at all.  I have one, and I think that the only thing that keeps it from being close to perfect is its lack of a G3 connection.  And, that it’s not a KitchenAid mixer, which from my point of view is the perfect machine.  But I digress. It is a media device – for all media.  It’s a video player.  It’s an e-reader.  It’s a computer. It’s an audio player.  It’s a breath mint.  So far, not so different from an iPod touch, or an iPhone, except that it has no phone or camera.

I said upfront that many are opining, or at least hoping, that it will save publishing.  Jobs has certainly been courting publishers, both book and periodical.  I ran a Google search for “ipad save publishing” and in the last week there were 192,000 articles about this (no telling how many of them were reposted from other sites) and just looking through the first four pages, the results were pretty evenly split between yes, it will save publishing and no, it won’t. I agree with Wired’s article which proffered no prognostication.

 “The good news is that book publishers, magazine publishers, newspapers, the recorded-music industry, television studios, game developers and film studios — all of whom need some form of lifeline, some desperately — each have a place at the iPad table. But in the advertiser-supported niches, print analogs still command higher advertising revenues than their digital equivalents. So, the question will turn on two issues: Will publishers get to control the customer relationship to a greater extent than has been possible with iTunes? And will publications be the kind of shiny eye candy that advertisers crave, but now delivered on a bright, crisp, LED-backlit touchscreen instead of heavy-stock glossy paper.”

So, it depends how the media choose to use it.

Next question – Will it be a Kindle killer?  It is a definite possibility. It addresses many of the problems that have plagued the Kindle, such as lack of color, which will make the iPad attractive solution to the text book market that the Kindle has yet to ignite. See GigaOm as I mentioned before. The Kindle is not dead yet, and it will be a while until there is enough content available for the new device for it to be a serious contender.

In the long run, it is an almost neutral device that will be what the content providers make of it.  But the capabilities of it can almost live up to the hype.



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