Will the iPad really change the game?

1 Apr 2010

This Saturday, 3 April, Apple’s lightweight tablet computing device, the iPad, goes on sale across the US. This will soon be followed by a selected European release in late April.

Is this device simply an oversized iPod touch as some critics have suggested or is it “magical”, as Apple describes it?

The reality is somewhat more and less than the above descriptions: technically there is nothing new about the iPad but it is more than the sum of its parts, due to Apple’s strong legacy of mobile apps combined with its loyal user base and the cachet of the ‘i’ product. However, the problem as some see it, is that the iPad is neither a tablet PC nor a smart phone.

The secret of iPad’s success

This is exactly why the iPad will be a success, says iPhone developer Steven Troughton-Smith, who is already creating apps for the iPad: “It will succeed because it is a ‘blank slate’ (physically and metaphorically) not encumbered by decades of legacy computing.

“It’s up to developers to take that canvas and make something fantastic, but Apple is already doing a great job with the bundled apps.”

But isn’t this whole mobile app ecosystem already flourishing on the iPhone? The iPad screen is bigger. Big deal. It’s not that simplistic, says Troughton-Smith.

“I foresee serious content creation applications on the iPad, the likes of which would be impossible on the smaller screen. Apple’s iWork office applications are testament to this; they’re not ‘mobile’ versions of the desktop suite crammed into a tiny screen, they’re fully featured touchscreen versions,” he explains.

“The Omnigroup has also produced a version of OmniGraffle for iPad, a $50 flowchart and design application; again impossible to do well on a phone screen.”

“It’s not that iPhone, or smart phones for that matter, are competing with iPad; they’re two totally unrelated markets. The only thing tying iPad to iPhone right now is the fact that it runs the same software and OS, which is only set to bolster iPhone and iPod touch lock-in.”

iPad stand-out feature

One of the stand-out features on the iPad will be iBooks: a combination of e-reader and bookstore that already has a potential customer base of the 100 million credits cards registered with iTunes and the App Store, points out Shane Mc Allister, CEO of mobile content-creation firm Mobanode.

“All forms of reading apps will come truly into their own on the iPad. Magazines, books, educational reference will all come alive on the iPad through enhanced user interface, interactivity and the incorporation of social elements.”

Mc Allister says that ebooks and subscriptions will initially be the driving force behind the device as the ease of use lends itself well to this market.

And the most exciting aspects of the iPad aside from the iBookstore? Troughton-Smith knows but can’t tell or he’d have to kill us: “There are some very cool ways different applications can interact now on the device. I can guarantee you that even at launch there will be some extremely compelling iPad applications from big names that may very likely change everything you expected about the iPad.”

By Marie Boran

Photos: The Apple iPad