Oh you thought you'd had enough iPadness had you? No such luck my fellow men. Here's a runaround from Jim Shelley of some of the people who were talking up the possibilities the other week…
Jim: After seeing Apple's unveiling, what do you think of the iPad now?
I'd say the biggest surprise, and probably the farthest-reaching feature of the device, was the deal with AT&T for a no-contract data plan. The pricing is still typical of wireless, but the idea that you can buy this device, activate service, and not actually have to talk to anyone at AT&T is very encouraging. This is the first step towards US wireless companies becoming the dumb pipes they should be, and that will get the devices in more hands.
The price point is a pleasant surprise, the entry level model is quite usable for someone who plans to read or watch video on the couch over wi-fi. As for the user interface, though the device is clearly targeted towards the content consumer rather than the creator, I expect that there will be quite a lot of good (and inexpensive) software for content creation as time goes on. Every thing missing from the device can be supplied by third parties, and accessed using the Apple external device APIs, so I expect you'll see plenty of webcams, card readers, etc. come out eventually. Apple's big priority was to keep the price down, I suspect.
I'm on the fence about the exclusion of Flash. I'd rather have a full web browser experience on this screen, but a touch browser is going to kneecap Flash mouseover ads anyway. So many sites have specialized mobile or iPhone pages, you can be sure that newspaper and magazine sites will work on the device when it comes out, but that still leaves a lot of the web. Flash is responsible for most of the browser crashes I have on my desktop machine, though, so I can see why they don't want to support it. The lack of Flash hasn't kept the iPhone from selling well.
As for comics on the device, we'll have to see what the ecosystem for iBooks is like, but the current road of building iPhone apps still will work, and the reading experience on the larger screen should be quite nice.
It's coated in three different types of market penetrating goodness.
1. Price. It's very, very low. So low that it makes it the best value portable gaming console out there, the best value eBook reader and the best value ultra-portable computer.
2. Unlocked 3G and the low price AT&T plans. Apple has turned 3G internet access into a commodity and have started a price war between the carriers at a ridiculously low price.
3. The iWork suite highlights the possibility of using this device for productivity apps. What percentage of the profit margin of the iPad is the USD$30 iWork purchase? Is Apple doubling their profit on an iPad if you buy iWork?
I can't wait to sink my teeth into this device and see what Comic Zeal can become on it.
The iPad looks great. Low enough price to have good market penetration, good capabilities (although a camera would have been nice!), and a great screen. We've planned from the beginning for larger screens so we'll be working day and night to get an upgrade to the app that properly supports the iPad as soon as we can. In the meantime, I love that the Comics by comiXology app will function on the iPad immediately and look forward to great digital comic distribution for years to come.
As publishers and software developers, we're already developing for it. And what excites us the most is that various creators have contacted us to create comics specifically for the iPad. Not only we will make easier to read existing comics on this device, we will be also creating original comics that make use of all the possibilities of the platform.
The iPad is an amazing device for its price point. And after reading the developer documentation and creating our first iPad app, I can say that it has more great features than what was announced last 27th, and one big change to the iPhone's philosophy. Unfortunately I can't say more because of our NDA with Apple. Word will spread out soon enough.
There's definitely lots of room for improvement, though. According to early reviews and Apple's specs, the iPad doesn't have a camera and doesn't support Flash nor multitasking. And personally I don't like my gadgets with that much bezel. As an user, I would wait for the next iteration. As Robot Comics, we will have to buy various iPads anyway. Advantages of working for a mobile comics publisher, I guess. ;)
A big IPhone without the camera and the telephone. It's a computer for the slate buyers who want to have color and the design :)
And as usual now with Apple, it is totally locked down. So someone who expects only some freedom (like browsing with flash), should wait for one of the upcoming Windows 7 Slates.
And did I mention that it's too small for eComics :)
Maybe the most important announcement was that Apple is now entering the book distribution business through the iBook app and the iBookstore marketplace, which unfortunately will be only available on the US initially. I can't wait to know more about how iBookstore will work. Will it be open to anyone? Will it require books to have ISBN? Will it support comics natively? Will it support free content? If we were talking about Amazon and its Kindle the answers would be: yes, no, poorly and no. Will Apple follow Amazon's model or change the rules of the game? If iBooks run on iPhone/iPod touch as well, we're talking about nearly dozens of millions of customers right off the bat. iBooks could be to digital books what the iPhone was to smartphones.
That all current iPhone apps run on iPad is an overstatement. They can either run in a tiny window lost in a sea of black, or in double-density mode, which makes everything look huge and is particularly hurtful for bitmap images. Most developers of popular apps will want to port their apps to the iPad, and make use of the iPad-specific controls that Apple has created, like the split view seen in the Mail and Notes app. There's a reason why Apple has redesigned all their default apps, and that the iPad App Store will highlight apps designed for iPad. iPad users will only use iPhone apps if there's nothing else available.
Another platform for us. New challenges. Lots of opportunities.
My feelings about the iPad have not changed. It is another form factor. Is it a better form factor for reading digital comics? Absolutely. But until publishers and creators see digital as a completely new platform for the development and consumption of the art of storytelling and discussion around comic books, new form factors are just that, new form factors.
I am excited that we are working with publishers and creators that get that, and are starting to put together some really interesting ways to take full advantage of form factors like the iPad.