If you believe some pundits and fanboys, the coming of the iPad and the new market for Tablet PCs that it is expected to open up will revolutionize how I use a computer. It will change the way I browse the Internet, do email and make coffee in the mornings. Here are a few choice marketing promises from the Apple website about the iPad:
"See and touch your email in ways you never could before."
"Lets you see web pages as they were meant to be seen."
"Feel completely immersed in whatever you’re watching."
Now take a deep breath and let's take a look at reality. The iPad is not a mobile device, it's too large for that. And it's not meant to be used at a desk (ie – at work for most people) since it would be too awkward for that (or you could get the external keyboard and mouse, but then it's just a glorified monitor). So if it's not good on the go and not good in the office, what does that leave? Two places: the couch and the bed.
What does this mean for how the iPad and tablets may change the way we use the computer then? Actually, not much – but that's not to say they won't matter or have an impact. Ironically, I believe that it will be "mainstream" media that realizes the biggest transformation. Here are three of the biggest shifts in media that I believe the iPad and Tablet PCs will bring as they hit the market in the next several months:
- Digital Magazines – For years now magazines have struggled to create digital versions and hardly any have found a profitable model to charge people to access them. Premium content, archived articles, or niche content are all micropayment models that have been tried, but it's just not a powerful enough reason for someone to pay extra. With the full interactive touch screen tablet PC, you can finally create an immersive magazine experience that duplicates the quality and design of the magazine layout. Full page images, unique text layout and most importantly … you can even go beyond by incorporating video or interactivity right into the story. If the story mentions a YouTube video, you can embed it right there and let someone watch it. Chris Anderson shared the vision for Wired's new iPad version of the magazine last week at the TED conference and it demonstrates the vast potential of this new type of device for magazines.
- Interactive Television – One of the behaviours that we know is growing is the idea that people are multitasking while watching TV. When ads come on, they go to the laptop sitting on their lap to do something else. The iPad and other tablet PCs have the potential to completely transform your TV watching experience. Now you can add complete interactivity to any program. Everything from live voting on a reality show to managing your Fantasy Football team, to interacting with an ad as it is being shown on screen, to watching extended bonus scenes during or after the show. There are limitless possiblities for how you could enhance programming through delivering extended content onto a device that is in your watcher's hands while they are watching TV. More than that, you could build in the programming controls so the tablet would also become your remote control. You could argue that some of this is already possible with a laptop, but the intuitive nature of a touch screen will make it far easier for programmers and advertisers to make the tablet experience part of the live experience of watching a program.
- eBooks & Social Reading – The one prediction I have heard that I do agree with is how the tablet could change the way that we read books. Everything from integrated links and images to live notetaking, to sharing notes with others in your community are all major shifts in behaviour when it comes to reading books. For students, the other major benefit (in time) could be that finally you don't need to lug tons and tons of books around with you for any class, you can just load them up on a tablet or iPad device. Even more importantly, the ease of sharing notes around a particular book will make reading and studying much more informed and perhaps lead to a next generation version of Cliffs Notes where you can get the context of a certain piece by how others have described it.