I am quoted in the following Economist article about the launch of the original iPad.
Apple’s iPad will help persuade consumers that a tablet is a must-have
Apr 4th 2010 | SAN FRANCISCO | From The Economist online
GIVEN all the hype ahead of the arrival of Apple’s new tablet computer, the debut on April 3rd of the iPad in America was perhaps inevitably going to feel like something of an anti-climax. There were long lines at the company’s stores before daybreak and, as the doors opened, would-be buyers were met with rapturous applause from Apple staff. But many reports suggested that by mid-morning the fervour had died down in most places. At the Apple store in San Francisco late on Saturday afternoon, it almost felt like any other shopping day—except, that is, for the small scrum that had formed around the table where iPads were being tested. The company later said it had sold over 300,000 on the first day, around the middle of the range of analysts’ expectations.
The devices on sale this week are WiFi-only iPads; many people will be waiting for the mobile-wireless ones that are due to go on sale in late April. Moreover, customers were able to order iPads online from mid-March for home delivery beginning April 3rd, which meant they didn’t need to traipse to a store. And Apple agreed to let Best Buy, a big electronics retailer, offer iPads on the same day as its own stores, which siphoned off some traffic from Apple’s outlets. Your correspondent was able to pick up his own iPad from a Best Buy store mid-morning without even having to queue for it.
Several of the folk at that store with iPads under their arms seemed to be Apple aficionados already. Aimee Levine, a self-confessed “gadget girl” who already owns an iPhone and iPod music player, said one of the main reasons for buying an iPad was that she planned to take out electronic subscriptions to her favourite newspapers and magazines on it, and to do away with the printed ones. Jeremy Moore, another customer, said he was keen to get his hands on something that had the potential to reshape computing. “If it makes me feel like I’m in the future I’ll buy it.”
Consumers may buy a tablet as a “third device”, between mobile phones and personal computers
Apple will be hoping that when customers try the iPad it really does feel like a quantum leap in personal computing. Your correspondent has only had a few hours to play with the new device, but his initial impressions are that Apple’s gizmo will help to convince people everywhere that there is indeed a place for tablet computers in their future as a “third device” that sits between mobile phones and personal computers.
Among other things, the new iPad boasts a beautiful touchscreen that portrays images in deep, rich colours; simple controls that make it very easy to navigate around the device; and a specially designed chip that means most programs run at lightning speeds. Games such as Flight Control and videos from YouTube ran smoothly, and the quality of the sound produced by the iPad’s speakers was impressive. Although the on-screen keyboard isn’t ideal for extended typing—which explains why Apple is offering a plug-in version—it was perfectly adequate for dashing off emails and Facebook posts.
Tablets and e-readers will mean big disruption for the publishing business
Then there is the iBooks app, which lets users download texts from Apple’s iBookstore. These look amazing on screen and, together with the slick page-turning capabilities of the iPad, they suggest that the days of the single-purpose, black and white e-reader such as Amazon’s Kindle are numbered. Quite how long it takes for publishers to adapt to this new regime remains unclear, but both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal had apps available on the day that the new device appeared.
Much will depend not just on the iPad itself, but also on the way in which Apple develops a new “ecosystem” around it so that the company’s hardware is complemented by enough fancy software to make buying a package of both a compelling one. Many iPhone apps have already been revised to fit a bigger screen and others are being developed to take advantage of it. What seems certain, as we have reported, is that for good or ill, tablets will bring big disruption to the publishing business.