Illustration of Derek Powazek by Adam Ellis

What Apple Unleashed Today

iPad Spin

So yesterday I had a total nerdgasm imagining what Apple was going to introduce and how it could change the print industry. And today I watched the iPad unveiling and thought, well, hmph.

On the plus side, it’s a sexy piece of kit. As expected, the iTunes store will sell ebooks. The interface is akin to the iPhone but more developed. And it’ll come in two versions, with or without 3G connectivity.

On the minus side, the name is a joke (even if it is what I expected), the iTunes store is just adding books (not magazines or newspapers), the books are going to be way too expensive, there’s no word on how independents can get in on the act, and we have to wait 2-3 months to get it.

So was it what I hoped for? Kinda. It’s a beautiful device, and it’s a stumble in the right direction.

But the only periodicals shown in the demo (Spin and the NY Times) were shown in the web browser. (Update: NY Times also demoed an app.) The only content coming to the store is books. It’s clear that Apple is still thinking about magazines and newspapers on the web, not as a new kind of saleable digital content.

So the iPad is really just a laptop with less keyboard and a crippled OS. It does not solve the problems I was hoping it’d solve and may introduce a few of its own. (Do we really want Apple gatekeeping the apps we can put on our mobile computers?)

There is still an opportunity for publishers here. But instead of relying on Apple to save them, publishers will have to step up and create their own apps, for their own content.

And as a designer, I’m very excited to see what kinds interface experimentation the new format inspires. Designing for finger gestures is different than designing for mouse clicks. I also could see the iPad becoming a powerful social computing experience. It’s easier to use a iPad with another person than it is to share a laptop.

The iPad may not turn out to be the missing link in the media ecosystem, but it is definitely a fascinating glimpse into the future of personal computing. I’ve already picked the spot on my coffee table where mine is going to live.


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Hi, I’m Derek. I used to make websites. Now I grow flowers and know things. I’m mostly harmless. More.