iPad, therefore I am

It somehow seemed fitting that I would write my review of the iPad on the iPad itself. That is precisely what I am doing using the Pages application (if you want to see the nice looking product with pictures, click here and download the pdf). And I have to tell you that while it is no keyboard, my typing speed is just as fast as usual. For anything short this is great. What is more the auto-correct options work like a dream.

But I digress. Before continuing, an admission. Had Apple put on sale today an undisclosed item for $699 (which is what I paid for this) I would likely have bought it. Not a great strategy for an economist but that is how much faith I hold in Apple’s reputation at the moment. Fortunately, I knew quite a bit about what I was getting although that isn’t quite the same as experiencing it.

So what is the bottom line after a few hours of playing with my new toy? You don’t need to buy one today but you will end up using something like it fairly soon. Why don’t you need one now? There aren’t that many apps. Yes I know that all of the 150,000 apps will work on the iPad but unless they are optimised the scaling up doesn’t cut it. Fortunately, 1,000 odd apps are iPad ready but chances are your favourite apps aren’t and the ones that are don’t work the way you are used to. So if playing games is your main use for an iPhone or you just want to know what restaurant to eat at, no need to rush.

However, there is one group of people who will fall in love with this instantly: people who like to read. I’m sure you are thinking at this point, oh yes, eBooks. Now it is true that that is great benefit. What is more you are not tied to Apple’s iBooks. It is beautiful and there will be a future fight but there aren’t many titles on it at present. The booker reader of choice remains Amazon’s Kindle which has it’s own free iPad app that puts the actual Kindle to shame. Yes, the battery life is lower but it is far more book like.

Since Steve Jobs famously claimed two years ago that no one actually read anymore, it has been clear to all that reading is at an all time high. It is just that people read stuff on the web, blogs or emails rather than books and magazines. So much more of the day is spent reading. But it is completely unnatural. People who claim to hate the idea of electronic books spend most of their day hunched over a laptop or bolt upright at a computer screen. But the natural position for reading is reclined. Maybe you could do this with an iPhone but let’s face it, for anything serious a larger screen is required.

The iPad makes reclined reading possible again. This will be true for web browsing but also for emails as well. Once you have tried it you won’t be able to return to the standard computer for your reading needs.

As an academic, the tools are there for the iPad on Day One. The fabulous program, Papers, that collects all of your PDFs and organises them is there on the iPad. There is simply no need to print anything. We professors will find the idea of carrying around our filing cabinets irresistible and Deans, once they work it out, will love the idea of smaller offices.

As a parent, I can see even more potential just around the corner. The few children’s books ported to the iPad explode with colour and interactivity. This is as true of Dr Seuss as it is of the wonderful book, The Elements, which just falls short of letting you feel each individual one. There is unlikely to be any substitute. And just wait to see what it does to comics.

The killer app of the iPad is reading. And the amazing thing is it has so much more and also so much more yet to be done. It will define a part of our existence into the foreseeable future.

18 thoughts on “iPad, therefore I am”

  1. Good news at last!
    One can download and read on a shiny new iPad, an epub of my seven short stories .before country .

    (Rushed into production for iPad’s launch from an old indesign PDF file)
    I’d loved to know how it looks on one.

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  2. Thanks for the news Joshua, and exactly what I said I was after in one of my quite early posts on the next product I really want. Something to let me read easily in my armchair.  It amazes me it’s taken this long.

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  3. I only got an iphone last week and I have to say I’m on the bandwagon. While I haven’t tried any of the competition the iphone was just so easy to use and … futuristic? (though i have two complaints, the touch keyboard needs the arrow keys. my fingers aren’t nimble enough to ‘touch’ the right parts if i want to edit something and the only way iv been able to fix it is delete what i’ve already written till the part i want to edit, and the lack of ‘disk use’ :S ).
    because of this experience with the iphone I’m tempted to buy the ipad but i think i will wait until the next generation. I’m hoping 1. technology becomes affordable enough and 2. Apple is willing to add enough features to future ipads that they will make laptops obsolete (and therefore their own range of macbooks as well). This is just based on what I’ve read on the ipad but i don’t think the current package is enough to supplant laptops though I can see the potential for it. But of course the ipad is so much more than an potential laptop-killer.

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  4. The iPad could run thousands of games (sorry “apps”) tomorrow if it supported the Flash Player, but those games would be free and/or the developer of those games would not have to pay Apple a 30% cut.
    There is one reason, and one reason only why the iPad/iPhone does not support Flash:  Because Flash can do what Apps can do for free which undermines Apple’s App$tore model.
    As an economist you should recognise this as anti-competitive behaviour that should be denounced.  Imagine if Microsoft insisted that all Windows applications be sold through Windows.com, and only if approved by Microsoft, with Microsoft taking a 30% cut?

    Android tablets can’t happen soon enough. 

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  5. carbonsink: In regards to competition, the fact that Apple doesn’t support Flash on iphone or ipad should be commercially detrimental to those sales, i.e. leaves them open to competition from like you say a potential Android tablet or other competitors. There is no reason why ppl. can’t choose another product that supports Flash. The fact is Apple are taking a calculated gamble (or act of arrogance?) in not supporting Flash and so far in regards to the iphone anyway, they seem to be winning.
    If Microsoft can pull off what Apple already has i would consider them geniuses. Its exactly what you’ve said why I admire Apple as a company. I don’t know many companies that get paid 30% of sales from content providers for essentially doing nothing except provide a ‘shop window’. That’s what Apple has managed and they’ve managed to do this through their products create demand for content provided by itunes medium strategy i.e. combination of ipod + iphone + ipad + itunes. But the fact is there isn’t any reason why this strategy should work in the face of competition (i.e. ipod + iphone + ipad all have competitors in different device segments; itunes has competitors in the form of amazon for online music and books). The fact that Apple doesn’t support Flash or has proprietory controls on some of the content should be detrimental to this model, yet their strategy seems to be working inspite of these handicaps suggest to me that 1. competitors haven’t tried hard enough, or 2. Apple are leagues ahead of their competitors in product development, business strategy etc. (in regards to products that support content segment anyway). so kudos to them.
    The scary thing is with the ipad it opens up so much possibilities in selling content through the itunes. Add a bit more juice to ipad and Apple could has potentially a product competing against the Nintendo DS, PSP etc. (and that’s not to mention ebooks, movies etc. etc.) From a purely business strategy pov, i think Steven Jobs and Apple are geniuses.

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  6. David, I don’t disagree that what Apple is getting away with (via iPhone/iPad + iTunes + App$tore) is nothing short of breathtaking from a business strategy point of view.  What amazes me is that its legal, and that so few people criticise Apple’s outrageous anti-competitive behaviour, least of all economists.
    Its like everyone — journalists, developers, regulators, economists — are completely blind to Apple’s egregious conduct by the shiny object in their hands.  And yes, it is testament to Apple’s brilliant execution that they can get away with it.
    The iPad would still be every bit as beautiful if it supported Flash, you could choose which browser to use, and you could download apps and content from outside the Apple-o-sphere.  So lets have some decent criticism where its deserved.

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  7. carbonsink: Tbh I don’t understand where your competition argument is coming from. i don’t have the figures but of all the devices that could support Flash I would’ve thought the iphone/ipad would make a very small percentage of that. im sure Apple do want to kill off ‘flash’ but I think even they know they’re not going to do it by failing to support flash. hence, my reference to Apple’s arrogance (they believe Flash is going obsolete so in a sense they’re leading the pack in the movement away from flash in the similar fashion why they’re not currently supporting usb on the ipad (or ‘disk use’ on iphone) because they believe usb is dead and wireless is the future) .
    Sure failing to support Flash may support their appstore model but is that such a terrible matter? Surely there’s nothing insidious in making a commercial decision in their own interest, i.e. Apple weighs + (more revenue generated through appstore) vs – (lower sales of iphone/ipad b/c no flash + lower sales of non-flash apps. via appstore b/c less users of ipad/iphone).
    In regards to competition again, given the substitutes available (i.e. other devices that support flash like pc/laptop/mobile devices) i wouldn’t have thought Apples decision not to support flash forces developers from choosing to produce flash-based apps or not to.

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  8. Microsoft owns the dominant personal computer platform.  When Microsoft attempted to integrate its browser into that platform, all hell broke loose.
    Apple now owns the dominant smart phone platform.  Apple does not allow you to use another browser.  Apple does not allow you to download apps or content from anyone but Apple.  All apps and content must be approved by Apple.  Apple does not “fail to support Flash”, it actively prevents Adobe engineers from implenting the Flash Player while Apple’s CEO calls Adobe “a lazy company”, and declares Flash “a dying technology”.
    None of the above applies to Google Android.
    Why is it when Microsoft makes a commercial decision in their own interest, it attracts the attention of the regulators and mass media, but when Apple does the same it is blithely accepted by everyone?
    When Microsoft integrated IE into Windows you could still download and install another browser.  You could still use another platform (Mac, Linux).  But Microsoft gets slapped with an anti-trust suit.  Apple gets away with murder.
    I hope Adobe take them to court.

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  9. The difference is simple. Microsoft had a clear monopoly in micro-computer operating systems and in office suite apps. What is more, the behaviour you worry about occurred after it was an established monopoly and not when it was starting out. Apple has no monopoly in any market except the ridiculously narrowly defined “market for applications that work on the iPad.” Hence, no regulatory attention.

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  10. I was expecting this.  Essentially your argument is that bad behaviour is ok for Apple, because Apple is cool, but not Microsoft, because M$ is an evil monopoly.
    Microsoft never had a “clear monopoly”.  There was always MacOS, and more recently Linux.  People always had a choice.
    Apple may not be anywhere as dominant on smart phones (yet) as Microsoft was on PCs in 1998, but their anti-competitive behaviour is far, far worse.  When does Apple’s behaviour warrant attention from the regulators?  When they have a 50% market share?  75%?  Or never, because they’re Apple.
    As for the “ridiculously narrowly defined” market for iPhone/iPad apps, I would argue that it is the fastest growing segment of the market for 3rd party developers at the moment, but they are locked into selling through one vendor, only on approval by that vendor, and at the cost of a 30% commission.
    Please answer this question:  Regardless of market share is Apple’s behaviour regarding the App$tore, Flash, and crippling the Kindle app desirable or not?

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  11. Oh, I didn’t realise I was talking to a <a href=”https://economics.com.au/?p=5307″>disciple</a>.  Clearly I won’t get a balanced opinion here.
    “iPhone adoption has positive externalities”.  Hilarious!
     

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  12. @Carbonsink,
     
    I am with you.  I have no doubt that the cool companies that we are worshipping now – Google and Apple – are the Microsofts of the future.  They will establish their own monopoly sectors and then screw us for the next 10 years or so, until a new disruptive technology finally breaks them open.

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  13. @Dave:  I don’t object to tech companies keeping some or most of their technology closed.  They need to make money after all.  But Apple takes proprietary to a new level and makes Microsoft look like the champion of openness.
    I applaud Apple’s ability to out innovate everyone else on design, user-interfaces and the retail experience.  They deserve all the success in the world for this.  Equally they deserve strong criticism for keeping their iPad/iPhone platform closed and censored, but you won’t hear a word of that from the disciples.
    If Apple were to allow apps, movies and music to be downloaded from non-Apple sources, and if Jobs ended his absurd “War on Flash” and any other technology he didn’t want on Apple platforms, my criticism of Apple would evaporate.  Hell, I might even buy one.
    I don’t believe Apple would suffer financially by making these small changes, they might even benefit.  They could still have the AppStore and iTunes tightly integrated with the OS, and Flash need not be pre-installed.  Just give people some choice FCOL!

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  14. @carbonsink and others talking about Apple stifling Flash for business reasons only:
    Apple does not set the prices on its apps. The developer is free to create an app that is free of charge to the consumer. Your argument falls flat here itself. Had apple only been thinking about its profit shares, it would have set minimum prices for 3rd party apps.
    At the most, Apple may have a ‘grudge’ of sorts against Adobe, for whatever reason. But I don’t think that is a reason. Apple is too mature, and indeed too ruthless, to buy into ‘grudges’ that can affect the popularity of its products.
    Have you tried running add-ons on your browser that stop flash content from loading? Try it – you’ll see how much faster your browser runs. It’s true what Jobs says: Flash is buggy, and makes your system extremely slow!! Such high CPU loads on a mobile device was probably the major consideration for Apple.
    Apple is trying to direct the market towards HTML 5.0, which *it believes* will be a better standard.
    And guess what: http://code.google.com/p/quake2-gwt-port/. Quake 2 was recently ported to HTML 5.0.
    So developers are again free to implement apps in HTML 5.0 and make available for free… just like they did in Flash. And again your argument falls flat on the face.
    It’s fine to ‘not like’ Apple and its products – but at least don’t like them for legitimate reasons!!

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  15. “Deans, once they work it out, will love the idea of smaller offices”

    Joshua – I am so happy to see this. I can’t tell you how eagerly I have been eyeing off your office while you’re away… 🙂

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  16. @Arnab
    Why doesn’t Apple allow iPhone/iPad apps to be distributed directly from the developers website (like every other platform)?
    Apple does not have a ‘grudge’ against Adobe.  Why on earth would they have grudge with a software company that single handedly supported Apple through most of the 80s and 90s?  Apple knows Flash is a threat to the App$tore, and the App model generally.  If you’ve seen Flash run on an Android phone you’d know why.
    As for the Flash performance comment you are wrong, 100% dead wrong.  I might know sweet FA about economics, but I really do know Flash.  You should educate yourself before parroting Jobs propaganda about Flash performance.  If Adobe was allowed to solve the performance issues on Apple platforms, they could be solved within weeks, possible days.

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