Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Three thoughts about the iPad

Steve & Apple Inc.Image by marcopako  via Flickr
I've seen all the excitement about the potential of the iPad as the salvation of traditional media. I see some of that. I watched someone on the train this morning consuming plain text on an e-reader. Looked kind of... grey.
I can see it converting some traditional magazine buyers and TV viewers to consuming their broadcast content a little more interactively - a little more tailored to their downtime and their personal consumption preferences.

But mostly a device connected to the internet will always better serve participatory activity. This is the place where people do stuff - rather than have it done to them. The value created by all rather than a few.

So while the gorgeousness of the turny-page thing and the click-to-play video thing will be a pleasant distraction for those used to print, it won't allow them to write the magazine.

In this respect, traditional media hanging its hopes on the iPad is a little like scribes banking on the printing press to mass produce illuminated Bibles to keep them in a job. Broadcast media is not a great fit with a peer to peer environment - just as hand-painted books don't make a great deal of sense in print. And the killer app of the iPad, like every other wifi/3G-enabled device on planet earth... remains the internet.

So that's the theory. But there are also a couple of practical points.

First: I want my music updates to synch to all my listening points at once. It's a nightmare having to update all the ipods in my house every time someone gets a bit of new content to add to them all - even via iTunes.
Clunky, restrictive, crash-tastic and not the intuitive experience for first timers the black-polo-neck brigade would have you believe.

The solution, of course is streaming and it is cloud. Apple must know that, surely?

I hear rumours of a streaming service from Apple later this year. Which should have Spotify quaking in its boots.

Which dovetails nicely with my last point. Apple has made its fortune by being very device specific and device focused. To survive in the age of the cloud it must change.

For example - I'd love to see the iPod speaker doc that an iPad will fit in. My iPhone isn't compatible with mine - so good luck!

Already the device-specific nature of Apple's offerings are so focused they are becoming incompatible with each other. Some older macbook pro's won't charge an iPad either. Screw the legacy hey?

If they are prepared to do that to some current devices- why not all? Imagine all your ipods becoming as useless as your portable CD player. It's going to happen - and soon.

Right now I am waiting before committing to another long-term phone contract - waiting on the iPhone 4G due this summer (I have an out-of-contract 3G currently).

I'm waiting because of the lock-in apple has on my contacts, my music and all those apps.

But I'm starting to wonder how wise a strategy that is.

Services are everything in the age of the cloud - services that play brilliantly out on every possible device.

Those who make the best ones will win. Interesting that it has been outsiders (such as LalA, Spotify and LastFM, who are disrupting the iTunes model and showing the way Apple must behave.

Spotify doesn't make devices. Nor does Google. And perhaps one day soon, nor will Apple.
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The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?