It may not have the best name, but the Apple iPad has generated some intense buzz lately. Mobile Internet traffic on the iPad has surged so fast that it has already jumped ahead of Blackberry and Android in Internet usage (source: Net Applications). Games, apps, and even books are being bought at a rapid pace. I have had my iPad for awhile now and have had the chance to mess with all of its features. It’s hard not to like the iPad. By no means is it perfect, but if we take a step back and look at it from a global perspective, the iPad could truly impact mass media as we know it.
Everything is going digital these days. Thanks to devices such as Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook, books and publications are the latest to convert to a digital format. I will briefly explain how the iPad handles media from five different industries and more importantly, how it may potentially impact these industries for the future.
Buying music on the iPad is no different from buying it on an iPhone, or even a personal computer for that matter. Thanks to the iPad’s larger screen, Apple is able to closely resemble the shopping experience that you would typically find on a desktop computer. More screen means more room to advertise and promote featured items.
Listening to music on the iPad is enjoyable with its ample quality speakers. Of course, don’t expect the iPad to replace your surround sound system anytime soon.
Verdict: The iPad’s storage limitations are a big downer, but the quality of the sound and the usability of the iTunes music store is a breeze with its larger screen. I wouldn’t expect the music industry to alter itself because of the iPad anytime soon.
Impact: Moderately Low
TV, Film & Video
I have to admit, I am a big fan of the DVR. However, there are times when I either forget or cannot record my shows and watch them whenever I feel like it. That is why I have been addicted to going online to watch them. Most networks publish their recent episodes within 24 hours, available in high resolution. The iPad certainly takes advantage of streaming your favorite TV and film videos. Apps such as Netflix and ABC make watching your favorites a breeze.
Browsing and purchasing videos through iTunes is just as easy as buying music on the iPad. But I’m putting my bets on free streaming video to be successful with the iPad.
Verdict: The high resolution screen and ample audio quality make watching videos enjoyable. The lack of Flash certainly restricts the amount of content available to users, but I think that limitation is will soon be non-existent. Expect the TV and Film industries to provide greater access and more intuitive, engaging ways for users to watch their content.
Impact: Extremely High
One of the most popular features of the iPhone is the ability to browse the web with a similar experience to a desktop computer. The problem the iPhone had was that websites would get scaled down beyond the point of legibility. This not only used more bandwidth but also frustrated users. Websites either got optimized for the iPhone or ignored the problem entirely.
The iPad’s larger screen reduces the amount of scaling that websites had to endure. This nearly eliminated the legibility issue that the iPhone had with most websites. Apple has made it clear that they will not allow support for Flash on the iPad. While there are plenty of websites that use flash, they will need to find alternatives if they want their content to display on the iPad.
The real question that comes to my mind is at what point do we [as web designers] allow the device to render websites as it sees fit? There were a great number of websites that were optimized for the iPhone. But should we ignore optimization since the iPad has that larger screen? Or should we take the opportunity and make it just as unique as every other device? Sites that have taken the time to get up to current standards for the iPad have been generously promoted on Apple’s website.
Consumers who are used to browsing the web on the iPhone will find no trouble doing the same on the iPad. For newbies, I think they will.
Impact: Moderately High
Thanks to the Amazon Kindle, e-book readers have been populating the markets as of late. I can carry around all of my books in a single device. What the iPad does that other e-book readers don’t is display books in color. It will only be a matter of time before other devices like the Kindle and Nook release a color version, but for the time being the iPad shows books in their true form.
Some may argue that the iPad will cause eye strain due to the fact that it is backlit, whereas the Kindle and other e-book readers use e-ink technology. Other than the usual amount of eye strain I get from looking at monitors all day, I haven’t experienced any additional discomfort due to reading books on the iPad.
The iBook store is a breeze to find books and even download samples. For the most part, you’ll find discounts on e-books compared to their printed version. The iPad allows the books to be read in two orientations: 1 page at a time (portrait) or 2 page spread (landscape).
Book publishers will have a larger market to target to and they should be able to take some risks due to the lower costs associated with digital books distribution.
Verdict: The iBook store is visually impressive and I believe will be a big hit for those who read popular books. The current library is large, but not large enough. Once other publishers jump onboard (and trust me, they will), I think reading books on the iPad will become second nature. No more paperbacks! This could potentially be huge for higher education.
Impact: Moderately High
Magazines & Newspapers
I will admit, one of the reasons that I decided to even look at the iPad in the store was the demo that Wired Magazine posted online awhile back on their app for the iPad. They took their printed publication (which is amazing in itself) and created an iPad app that not only showed their publications, but showed them in an interactive way that will, in my opinion, revolutionize digital publications.
Newspapers, such as The New York Times and USA Today, have shown that the news can be interesting and interactive! The large screen size of the iPad allows publications to use a more traditional print layout, but at the same time give it interactivity.
Verdict: Depending on how publishers approach the iPad will determine if this media is ready to go digital mainstream. Some of the magazines are charging premiums for their digital editions, which may sway people elsewhere. Early apps show promise of what could be to come in the future. It may be too early to tell, but there is a huge demand for this media to go digital.
Impact: Extremely High
So What Do You Think?
Okay, so I’ve given my thoughts on how the iPad could potentially impact mass media. What are your thoughts on the iPad? Is it setting the standard for digital media? I’d like to hear from you.