The iPad: first thoughts

I must preface this by stating that Wilkins Farago is a Mac house and I can’t imagine buying a PC for any reason except, perhaps, as a doorstop.

While I find its computers intuitive to use and full of good ideas, I’m also an admirer of the way Apple has gone about building its brand, and its approach to marketing and design. (I wish they’d design other objects too, like cars and public transport systems—you can just imagine how cool they’d be.)

So, I sat through the complete webcast of Steve Jobs’ presentation to launch the new iPad with high expectations, not just for the product itself, but also for the show Apple would put on.

While there were a few too many “amazings” and “incredibles” in the presentation (buy a thesaurus, folks), I thought the new iPad looked pretty interesting. It could be both a replacement for a laptop for some, and an alternative to the clunky home PC for others. I could certainly see my 74-year-old Dad throwing out his PC and using an iPad instead.

I was particularly enthused by the new online e-book store for two main reasons:

  1. Apple has already shown with the iTunes store than it has worked out how to retail digital files, and so will be able to deploy that skill selling e-books
  2. Jobs’ suggestion that e-books could now include video.

That e-books should contain video content isn’t a new idea by any means, but Jobs has clearly sent a message to publishers to start getting creative with their e-books, in the same way Apple has got an army of iPod apps developers creating a literally endless number of applications for use on the iPod (and now, as we discovered, on the iPad too).

This is the difference between Amazon’s Kindle and the iPad. The Kindle (from what I’ve seen and read at second hand—I’ve yet to sight one here in Oz)—is for reading black-and-white text and seems pretty good for that purpose. But that’s it. It’s still pretty conservative in its focus. The iPad, while lacking Kindle’s eye-friendly e-ink technology, is all about providing a platform for dynamic, entertaining content—it may lend itself to more visually interesting e-books (eg practical nonfiction, history, biography—imagine, for example, a film star’s autobiography with movie clips inserted into the relevant passages, or a cookbook that is able to demonstrate a technique using video).

Given Apple’s come-on to publishers, I hope you’ll begin to see some pretty cool multimedia productions in the iPad e-book store before long. The bar has been lifted. Whether small publishers like us can rise to the challenge (or will be allowed to participate at all) is another matter!