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After:The iPad is here, and what its arrival means

After:The iPad is here, and what its arrival means

After months of much hype and speculation, Steve Jobs finally took to the stage to unveil Apple's new highly anticipated tablet computer - the iPad.

With its official introduction at an event in San Francisco yesterday, Steve Jobs has finally laid many rumors about what the electronic device can do to rest, while igniting hopes about the iPad's ability to bring new life to 'old media' and to revamp the e-reader market.

'Hold the internet in your hands'

As many live blogs documented from the event, there were little surprises on the visual front. The iPad's specifications were as expected: sleek 9.7 inch, sensitive touch screen tablet that displays crisp and vibrant colors and looks much like a blown-up version of the iPhone. The actual price of the device; however, which speculation set at a pricey $1,000, was a pleasant surprise, with the cheapest 16GB iPad starting at $499 and the most expensive at $829 and 64GB. With that price tag, color screen, countless apps, and a 10-hour battery life, Amazon - the reigning king of e-readers - will surely be left behind with its $489 black and white, slow-to-load Kindle DX.

Although Apple's imaginative and visually appealing tablet seems to allow us to hold the 'future of computers' in the palm of our hands, the iPad's name was much less than creative than other rumored name ideas such as iSlate. For a company known for innovation, the iPad, simply falls flat in the creative title department.

Apple's iPad will run almost every application that is available for the iPhone, virtually unmodified, according to The New York Times.

Apple and The New York Times

As expected, The New York Times was one of Apple's media partners at the presentation. Martin Nisenholtz followed Jobs on the stage to showcase the NYT app on the iPad, the NYT live tech bits blog reported. He explained that three weeks ago, the Times had come to Cupertino, California, to develop an application for the iPad, Nisenholtz said.

"We want to create the best of print and best of digital, all rolled up into one", he said at the event.

Jennifer Brook, another NYT executive present at the event, added that the NYT app "had captured the essence of reading a newspaper" on Apple's iPad.

The New York Times app that will be available for users on Apple's tablet will allow people to save articles to the device, resize text, and change the number of columns, skim photos, and play video. The NYT's bloggers noted that it appeared to look quite a bit like the Times Reader application.

Jennifer Brook finished by lauding the application, adding that "it's everything you love about the paper, everything you love about the Web, and everything you expect from the Times".

In fact, the Gizmodo blog mentioned that the NYT iPad app just looked like the reader they have had for a while and that it is not too ambitious - it just looks like a newspaper on a screen. On that note, the Innovation Media Consulting firm announced on its Facebook page that it will start developing an "iPad newspaper app with a radical content architecture, navigation, and design" that will be launched this year. Multimedia design might be very important for newspapers as they develop apps for the iPad.

It is expected that as The New York Times starts to provide its content from behind a paywall in 2011, online subscriptions will also include mobile access, and consequently, tablet access but not Kindle access. It is quite likely that many other newspapers will start operating from behind a paywall this year, and newspapers that already charge for content, like the Wall Street Journal, charge separately for an online and mobile subscription. With tablets forming a third niche between smartphones and laptops, what side will they belong to? This distinction is more important than it seems and raises a number of questions about the role of tablets and how newspapers will deal with them.

Money in mobile

Part of the reason why many believe the iPad will revitalize the newspaper industry is the idea that people are willing to pay for mobile access. For years, consumers illegally downloaded music on their computers at home, but the advent of the iPod marked the shift to paying for music on the iTunes store to carry around on your iPod.

In fact, the iTunes model of small payments for content subscriptions may be key to revitalizing newspapers and magazines, according to the Cult of Mac blog. For one London fashion glossy, iTunes was the magic pill when it was shuttered as a monthly newsstand magazine. "Drama" was reborn later on iTunes at a cheaper price. A micropayment business model for newspapers and magazines could be the answer 'old media' have been waiting for, allowing consumers to pay, let's say, half a cent per article they read which would be deducted from a refillable account.

Recently, figures from paid-for iPhone apps have also seemed to suggest that users are willing to pay for mobile content. The paid-for Guardian app was downloaded almost 70,000 times in its first month, according to the Guardian. Although the Guardian's app costs £2.39 and competes with free iPhone apps from other news outlets like Sky News, the Financial times, and the Telegraph, these figures for January reveal that users might be more than prepared to dole out small amounts of money to access news content from their mobiles.

So, is the iPad the future?

But, if we have the iPhone on one side, and the Macbook on the other, and people are willing to pay for content that is delivered to their iPhones, but not on their Macbooks, where does the iPad figure in this picture?

If the iPad follows in the steps of the iPhone, the newspaper industry will have something to celebrate with successful paid-for apps for Apple's tablet. But if the iPad does not, what guarantees that the advent of a revolutionary device will prompt people to pay for news content they were not willing to pay for online? As some newspapers struggle to lure consumers to pay their fees to access news content from their computers or laptops, an innovative and visually appealing tablet may not be enough to change the story for newspapers.

For now, at least, it seems like the iPad could be a great niche product, but not a must-have device. It also will probably eat into the Kindle's audience, as it launches a colorful and visually engaging iBooks app with the iPad. Not only that, but it already has 125 million users' credit card information on file, users who are more than used to shelling out a dollar here and there for apps and movies, according to Crikey. On top of that, 75 million users already know how to use the tablet, because they own iPhones, presenting a possible audience for the product. As to what it may do for news publishers, we have to wait and see.

The LA Times' opinion section suggests that the real answer for the news business could be to come up with a paid product that is "significantly more timely and relevant to individual readers than what the Net provides at no charge, combined with an experience that's better than what they provide today." The advent of the iPad could definitely mean the creation of more graphically engaging and multimedia features. In fact, Apple is currently promoting its iTunes LP that it launched last year as a way to add artwork and DVD-like special features to music and movies, compatible with the iTunes store, Crikey reports. This would be a great way to integrate multimedia content in journalistic pieces to be sold through the iTunes store.

Expectations sure are high, but only time will tell, as consumers start buying the device, new apps are developed, and consumers test them, if the iPad delivers what it promises to both media consumers and content creators.

Photos: The New York Times, The New York Times Tech Bits Blog, Gizmodo



Maria Conde


2010-01-28 15:29

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