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First thoughts on the iPad

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The Apple iPad and its iDad

Well, it’s here and the world seems strangely the same…

My first thought was ‘Oooh. That’s lovely.’ But then I think that about any Apple hardware.

My second thought was ‘It’s a big iPhone.’

Because it didn’t seem that revolutionary to me. It couldn’t possibly live up to the ridiculous hype (a hype, incidentally, not whipped up by Apple, who merely sent out an invite. The hype was from the media, particularly the print media, who are desperately looking for the Saviour of the Newspaper to arise.)

It’s not a revolutionary new eReader – although I can see magazines and newsprint and certain books looking very good on this thing. What it is is half a laptop. That’s why is find it actually quite appealing. Because with the iPad I don’t have to carry my laptop around with me. I do a lot of speaking engagements and use KeyNote all the time. With the iPad I can do presentations from it, write on it, surf the internet on it. (Although how Jobs describes it as ‘the best web surfing experience ever’ when it doesn’t have Flash is a bit mystifying. Wave goodbye to YouTube.) Everything, in this case, though, depends on the keyboard.

And then there’s the books. The interface looks incredibly like the brilliant Delicious Library application, which Mac users can use to catalogue their books. But is this really anything special as an eReader? Why have the publishing companies rushed to sign up?

One reason: Amazon.

Publishers are nervous of Amazon. They don’t want Amazon to dominate the market – especially not the eBook market. What they want is for there to be competition.

Publishers have told me that Amazon sells eBooks at a loss. A book sold by the publisher to Amazon, for example, at £5 will be sold in its Kindle version at £3. Why? Because they want to dominate the market. They want to win this battle. This is the real significance of the iPad and, particularly, of the choice of ePub as the format. It’s a Kindle killer. Or rather, a Kindle wounder. Publishers don’t want to see the Kindle dead, but they don’t want it to dominate the market. Otherwise, what is to stop Amazon becoming an eBook publisher? MacMillan is already engaged in a price war with Amazon.

Publishers would surely be happier with Apple dominating than Amazon. Apple, for all the domination of iTunes, hasn’t launched a record label. But Amazon has already signed up Ian McEwen who has exclusively released his back catalogue as eBooks through them.

Anyway, the iPad. Time will tell about iths device, because in the end, it’s not the device that people buy, but what it can do for them – what Guy Kawasaki called ‘the Killer App.’ I can’t help thinking that the real importance of this device will be in education. I can see a situation, in a few years time, when cheaper versions of the iPad will be all a student needs to take to school with them. Imagine carrying all your textbooks, all yourhomework, your timetable – almost all the information you need for the day in one device?

Shame it can’t wash your P.E. kit. Although, even if it could do that, the media would still have been disappointed.