humani nil a me alienum puto

random rants about news, the law, healthcare law, economics and anything I find amusing

IPad Initial Impressions – a Magical Market

My wife bought me an Ipad (32G 3G) for my birthday. I have an IPod Touch that, like my earlier Nano, I use daily. But I primarily use the Touch for music and — even more — podcasts. I wanted an ebook reader but could not bring myself to get a Kindle because I wanted a device to read books as well as the various blogs and legal feeds I follow. I was thinking that I was going to wait until at least the 2nd generation. But Stephanie heard me talking about it, knew i’d love it if i got one, and ordered one for me. (We had gotten a laptop replacement for her earlier in the year). I have a beautiful wife.

Impression one. This is not a magical device. It’s cumbersome to input. Safari lacks any remote flexibility with add ons I regularly use with reading and tracking like I have with FireFox. The input keyboard is lightyears better than the Touch due to its size, but still forces me to regress back to the days of hunt and peck keyboarding before I learned to type in, oh, about 9th grade. Creating content that requires cut and paste between apps is possible but painfully slower than a laptop. Magical would be a tool that could be a laptop replacement in a meaningful way and offer the dynamite interface and app options that the Touch has only on an HD screen many times the size of the IPhone/Touch. It is not; but in truth I did not expect it to be and have been just testing some of its limits. I am actually writing this not on my laptop but on the WordPress app for the IPad and it is taking me easily 3x longer to do it this way. Of course part of this may be my multi- tasking as I watch the series finale of Lost.

Impression two. This is a magical device. I took it to my in-laws place the weekend I got it. Stephanie has three brothers with a combined niece/nephew mix of 7 (or 9 if you throw in our two daughters). Each and everyone of them used the IPad at some point. Not just them, but Stephanie’s cousin, brothers, sisters in law and aunt even played with it. At one point Stephanie grabbed it to take with her when she was taxi and chaperone for her nephew going to a teen birthday party. The young ones painted on it (Draw Free and Whiteboard Apps), played a block buster game (BClassic Lite); the teens checked Facebook, played some other games I had downloaded, checked out music, and wanted other game apps (for $) that I would have DL’d but their parents nixed (and I only bought the limited 250mb data plan anyway); the uncles checked out iTunes, my movies, YouTube, weather, sports and news apps. I literally did no reading on it the whole weekend, but got a kick out of everyone else using it – for its main purpose as a media consumption, gaming, light interactive input, time killer plaything device extraordinaire.

Impression three. This reinvents YouTube. My kids, who went through a YouTube binge on my Touch. But the IPad with wifi and a HD screen is a game changer. I’ve literally watched They Might Be Giants videos (I’m a Paleontologist, The Mesopotamians, Istanbul, Never Go To Work) with my kids at least 50x over the last week. They also love the old Muppets snippets I can find.

Impression four. Its about the interface and portability. While its input is slower, it’s an on the fly device. I can quickly look things up, do simple tasks (check email; check weather; check Facebook; look something up on the web; make a note in Evernote) quicker than I can with a laptop (if not right there and booted with a browser running). It’s more comfortable in my hand than a laptop is in my, well, lap. Its far more usable for certain tasks than the Touch or a cell phone. While I’m still reticent bringing it along with me when I know I’ll have some time to use it (watching kids at the park play with friends), I can see this use at the same time I couldn’t contemplate a laptop. I can also see this device (or a similar next generation or competing device) being the thing that Newton was supposed to be. I hear an app called Pennultimate with a stylus (photostatic of course) is great for handwritten notes be they not yet optically character recognized. I imagine that will come.

Impression five. It’s about the apps. 200,000. Task focused. Niched. One example – I like amateur astronomy. They have several really good apps including a soon to come one optimized for the IPad called StarMap Pro. I like this one because it has features (e.g., eyepiece view, Telerad view) that even with a Touch is an amazing aid for my dob when I am star hopping. I’m hoping that the HD version will be as visually stunning as the other IPad optimized apps and much easier to see outside with red-light mode of course. Another app I reviewed but have not bought plugs into any computerized telescope (with a necessary wifi interface you can buy for the scope) and shows you the view through the scope from the IPad perspective, skewing across the sky as your scope does. But if you dont care a lick about the night sky (and too bad for you – but it takes all kinds), the specifics of the apps I like are unimportant — there’s probably stuff you like and there’s likely an app for it. For kicks, I searched ‘knitting’. 29 separate apps if that’s your particular poison. Yuck, but it takes all kinds, right?

I think the final impression is the most important. The last decade of this Apple IPod/IPhone/IPad thang has created necessary platforms for a new niche ecosystem of content and now software. Through itunes and its app store Apple has made a distribution and micropayment market for content (music; audio books) and software (app store) function, for the first time, pretty efficiently if not a bit under the control of one monopolizer of the distribution system. The hardware will become a commodity over time. The market, however, oh the market created is the real magic going on here. And now created and sunk into the psychology of consumers, the distribution network won’t be long monopolized by any one company. Especially one whose products start to become a commodity. But Apple will command the high premium of the innovator and first market maker for a while yet. But more important, the tablet and this new market are here to stay.

Viva la tablet and the micropayment content/software market.

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