Tuesday, 6 April 2010

I've got an iPad for that....but I'm not giving up on paperbacks yet

Yes,  although I saw Stephen Fry's "unbox-ing" videos on YouTube last week, the iPad reached the excited clammy clutches of the US consumer on Saturday. It's only the WIFI version for now, 3g will come later but....

Apple reports that they sold 50k iPads in the first 2 hours, and 300k on the first day.

There were over a million iPad app downloads from amongst the 3k apps available (circa 75% of those available are paid for apps, ranging in price significantly and many with special launch prices attached), and 250k books were downloaded.

iBook titles vary in price from $9.99 to $14.99, at which point I really do wonder other than for show off value why you wouldn't just pick up a paperback.  Arguably you can do more with the iPad than a book, choosing instead to watch or listen to content but it's a question of how much gadgetry we need to lug around? I've already seen some articles on jackets with a built in over-size pocket for the iPad!

For me personally, space and weight counts in terms of what I carry around daily. I've been patiently awaiting the paperback version of the 3rd installment in this brilliant Stieg Larsson Millenium trilogy, because it weighs less and takes up less space than the hardback.

I'm far from opposed to e-books. I've been happily reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn via the iBook precursor 59p-for-20-titles app on my iPod Touch for a while now. It's perfect for rush hour reading on the Tube; small, easy to hold device, nice page turning animation, and small pages / small amount of text per page isn't a problem when you are on short journeys and constantly being jostled about.

I may yet eat my words, but for now I'm not convinced about the iPad for reading because:
  • if I am commuting, chances are I am already carrying my laptop +/or iPod + smartphone, another screen just adds un-necessary weight = shoulder ache
  • I have yet to be convinced that you'd be able to see the screen lying on the beach in dazzling sunshine, and would you want to expose your $500 toy to sand and sunscreen anyway / go for a swim without worrying someone'd nick it?
  • unless you take the example of the young Japanese girls who put their phones in ZipLoc bags so they can text in the bath, I can't see reading in the bath on an iPad being ideal either - the screen would probably steam up, the touch interface probably wouldn't work through the ZipLoc, and having dropped books in before, I'd be worrying about dropping it which would hardly be relaxing.
I see the iPad primarily as a "coffee table", sofa surfing device, and you only have to take the subliminal clues out of all the marketing to see the reinforcement of that.  Steve Job's original demonstration of it, saw him sitting in a chair, the ads, all show people kicked back with their feet up.

Perfect for quick searches because you saw an ad whilst watching TV, or you couldn't remember the name of that film that had so and so in, great for grab and have a go gaming, fine for a quick Facebook status update but not so easy to upload pics from your camera to, no good for video-Skype  (or chatroulette if that's your thing) as there's no webcam. Nor to surf any websites built in Flash.Won't work.

This might be a game changing device in terms of the increasing role of connectivity in our lives and more specifically our homes, but for me it remains a sexy looking, nice to use, handy home entertainment device. For now at least.  That's no bad thing at all, greater connectivity is a force we can't fight, it's happened, it's happening in more ways everyday, but the iPad,  it's just something else to add to the already significant collection of gadgets littering our living rooms, and one that duplicates functionality you are already likely to have to hand in the form of a phone or a laptop or digital photoframe.

Admittedly, coming from the Apple stable I am sure the user experience will change perceptions and expectations of computing, making it more intuitive, user-friendly and experiential than the keyboard and mouse world we've been used to.  That's a good thing. In a world where most of us have more than enough "stuff" providing brand experiences is going to be a big part of the marketing mix going forward and devices like the iPad with it's multi-touch interface, movement sensor etc will undoubtedly play a role in pushing the boundaries. Just as rhe BBC iPlayer dragged lots of older people into the VOD market by creating an easy user-experience, the iPad may push boundaries further. After all, even a 2 year old got the hang of it pretty quickly. Watch this...

As a home-centric toy I see the WIFI variant as valid as the 3g variant (who wants slow 3g entertainment out of home?), but unless someone wants to buy me one to play with, I'm in no hurry. Let's see if the 2nd generation iPad's include a webcam and some USB / SD slots. Then if my netbook dies I might think about it.

UK release dates TBC but there's speculation around the end of April. We'll see.

Meanwhile, you've got to give prizes to BlendTec for their speedy turnaround on a Will an iPad blend video, that's already racked up well over a million views since Saturday.

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