Jan 28, 2010

It’s called iPad, and the Kindle is rooted

2009 wasn’t just the year of the ebook reader. 2009 was the only year of the ebook reader. Goodbye Kindle, hello iPad.

Stilgherrian — Technology writer and broadcaster


Technology writer and broadcaster


Gorgeous. Awesome. Revolutionary. Yes, yes, yes… Apple’s new iPad is all of those things. Of course it is. That’s what Apple does. But iPad also means Apple has taken over the publishing industry just like they did the music industry. iPad also means 2009 wasn’t just the year of the ebook reader. 2009 was the only year of the ebook reader. Goodbye Kindle. Apple fans and slack-jawed gadget-bling-besotted media are crowing about the iPad’s technical specifications. They’re certainly a solid achievement, especially at the price. What’s important, though, is iPad’s position in the media food chain. A few weeks ago, Apple sold its 250 millionth iPod media player. Add in the iPhone, which commands around a one-third share of the smartphone market, and their laptop computers. Apple is now, or so they claim, the world’s largest mobile devices company. Apple’s iTunes Store is already the world’s largest music retailer. They’ve already got 125 million customers’ credit card numbers on file. Those customers are already used to shelling out a dollar here or there for an iPhone app or a song or a TV program. When iPad ships “worldwide” in late March for Wi-Fi models, or April for models with 3G mobile connectivity, there’s already 125 million pre-registered customers for iBooks, Apple’s new integrated online bookstore. Just drag and drop your simulated paper purchases into your simulated wood-grain bookshelf and your very real micro-payment makes a 30% retail margin for Apple. Five major publishers are already on board: Penguin, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan and Hachette Book Group (which before 2006 was the Time Warner Book Group). The New York Times is on board too, with their iPad newspaper app featuring heavily in Apple’s launch this morning, and on Apple’s website now. “We’re incredibly psyched to pioneer the next generation of digital journalism,” said Martin Nisenholtz, their Senior VP for digital operations, at Apple’s launch. Of course Nisenholtz is confusing “journalism” with “content delivery”, but we’ll let that slide. Almost all existing 140,000 iPhone apps run on iPad unchanged, and developers will soon develop new apps to take advantage of iPad’s larger screen. But Apple also has a sleeping giant. iTunes LP. Launched in September 2009, Apple currently promotes iTunes LP as a way to add artwork and DVD-like special features to music and movies. But it’s actually a general framework for integrating multimedia content, all compatible with the iTunes Store. So, actual new forms of journalism with integrated micropayments, anyone? With all that, why pay US$489 for Amazon’s Kindle DX to read static black and white text and listen to a few MP3s when for just $10 more you can get a base model iPad? The iPad’s the same size screen, but in colour and with video and games and the internet and 16GB of flash memory instead of 3.3GB and it is, really, a complete general purpose computer. Sure, iPad doesn’t seem to run content in Adobe’s Flash. Compared to the iPhone, the iPad doesn’t have a camera or GPS and isn’t, you know, a phone – though you could use VoIP such as Skype. “Lousy battery life,” did you say? But iPhone owners already scurry to find power outlets at 3pm. It doesn’t seem to have affected sales. I doubt anyone will care. In the US, Apple has cut a deal with mobile carrier AT&T so that iPad users can get 250MB of data transfers a month for $14.99 or unlimited for $29.99, plus free use of AT&T’s Wi-Fi hotpots. iPads use GSM micro-SIMs and will be sold  unlocked – unlike iPhones, which were sold locked to a particular carrier. Apple expects to finalise international deals by June. The questions now for Australians are how big will Apple Australia’s price mark-up be above currency conversion, and what data deals will carriers be offering? Oh, and how cheaply will we be able to buy second-hand Kindles? Bonus link: 8 Things That Suck About the iPad (and they're all spot on, except the first one about "Big, Ugly Bezel", which is just an inverse size queen thing). And it seems Amazon shares survived rather well, up 3% at end of day's trading!

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52 thoughts on “It’s called iPad, and the Kindle is rooted

  1. Nate

    “Of course Nisenholtz is confusing “journalism” with “content delivery”, but we’ll let that slide.” ZINNNNGGGG <3 it! HAHA!

  2. Looking Confident

    Great article and I have taken the ‘Liberty’ to have posted in on my blog. Thanks.

    And ….”Of course Nisenholtz is confusing “journalism” with “content delivery”, but we’ll let that slide.”

    I’ve already commented on this aspect earlier on today. – FWIW, of course.

    “Apple will become a huge player in Ad Marketplace”

    Apple’s purchase of Quattro heralds a big future for Apple as a ‘stand alone’ Ad Network or, an Advertising Exchange (?) of enormous potential.

    The Apple move to buy Quattro quickly came following Google’s own acquisition of the already very successful mobile Ad Network in AdMob.

    This linked article supports such a thought as it points out, “How Apple brought AdMob from zero to 4 billion-plus ad requests”

    And there may well be an even bigger (shared) “prize” for an Apple-Microsoft “get-together” and one that could be built along the very same lines as that of the Microsoft – Yahoo Search – Ad “deal”, that awaits for DOJ approval.

    Apple’s new “Tablet” (reader – just out) would quickly become most attractive (in competition with Amazon and it’s Kindle ‘portable’ plastic reader) particularly when considering the following scenario:

    “Can Apple’s Tablet Save Newspaper and Magazine Publishers?”

    Cheers and thanks again.

    Looking Confident

  3. Stilgherrian

    The New York Times being shown in Apple’s demo is the website, not a app. Oops. Also, there is GPS in the higher-end models of iPad that have 3G as well as Wi-Fi. Any other glitches?

    That said, those are all minor issues, and this isn’t meant to be a review. And checklisting features misses the bigger-picture issues I reckon.

  4. Leighton Haynes

    I’m still not convinced the Kindle and the iPad occupy the same niche. The Kindle reads books… that’s pretty much it – it’s better for reading books because epaper is better for reading extended periods than an LCD.

    The iPad won’t be good for extended reading sessions. You’re right, that it won’t matter, but it won’t matter because the people buying it aren’t buying it for reading books – they’re buying it to browse facebook and check their email while maybe occasionally reading a book.

    I accept the niches are similar, but until there is a display technology that gives the eyestrain free reading with a high refresh rate I’d say these uses can’t be effectively merged. People who read lots of books – most Kindle customers – will stick with ebooks.

  5. Blue Tyson

    Other things about it that will likely suck – they will sell very few books to Australians as most of them will be blocked.

  6. Patrick Brosnan

    Looks like a waste of money. You could buy a netbook for less that does more and is roughly the same size. And you could read email AND have a browser open at the same time. And if I wanted to read this kind of fanboi rubbish I can get it at the SMH. Apple seem to be having a golden run with the media, publicshing has always been their redoubt so it’s not surprising that we get fed this hagiographic tosh.

  7. David Chapman

    No doubt the 2nd generation iPad will be a real improvement (not to mention to the 3rd or 4th) – but the real question I have is: do I need one?

    Work provides me with a macbook, I have the iPhone – do I really need a toy for the in-between? I don’t think so…

    However – I did think of a market that may find it useful. My grandparents (90 and 86) still have no computer. Perhaps this would be a simple enough solution that would give them the instant connections without the learning curve of a full blown OS.

  8. Stilgherrian

    @Patrick Brosnan: I’m actually quite offended you think this is “fanboy rubbish”. I thought I’d avoided most of the gee-wow fawning and instead looked at the media pipeline. Plus I’ve been far from uncritical of Apple and its products over the years.

    Now you mention that you can buy a netbook that can multitask for less money. No argument. But that’s not the market Apple is competing with. A netbook is a small, cheap computer for use on the road. The iPad is a media consumption device. And in that context, the lack of multitasking isn’t as important — in the same way that that lack hasn’t harmed the iPhone market.

    Curiously, it feels like I’ve spent the afternoon listening to people saying “But the Kindle is better at X, Y or Z.” And they’re right. But, as I say, the individual technical specs aren’t important. If they were, then people would get, say, a Nokia Nseries smartphone. Which is what I did. Better camera, swappable battery, multitasking etc etc.

    But, media-consumers don’t give a toss about that. It’s the seamless integrated media experience that Apple sells, and here it is in another attractive form.

    Tell you what. If Kindle sales through 2010 exceed iPad sales, the bottle of whiskey is on me.

  9. Michael James

    People rabbiting on about cheaper Netbooks simply don’t get it. The iPad is designed to be an accessory to a full-function Mac laptop/desktop. I have a MacBookPro but on a recent 2 weeks waft around Asia I found myself frustrated–not wanting to lug the thing around, it ended up mostly in the hotel safe except at the end of the day. Like Stilgherrian I do not have an iPhone but have a Nokia N-smartphone. The iPad (not the early versions) will fill my needs and be in my shoulderbag 24/7, then mate with my laptop at the end of the day etc. I will have a Bluetooth keyboard (& BT headphones). Yes it will be a bit like a low-function Netbook but much, much nicer to use and have all the additional functionality of an e-Reader made by people who know how to give a user experience that doesn’t grate everytime you use it.

    Alas, the GPS is pseudo-GPS that simply triangulates as an approximation using the 3G cell towers. However, I suspect true GPS will arrive because more and more Apps will demand it.

    I wonder how many of those who claim that the Kindle is so much better on the eyes have actually used one (not me)? Here is David Pogue’s response: “Really? I think that’s kind of a myth. I spend 10-12 days reading on my laptop screen, and I’ve never had any problems with eyestrain. Don’t even really know what that is!— David Pogue”
    Sure e-ink maybe less straining but most people are comparing their clapped out cheapo Dell screens, not Apple devices made for the job (and I expect the 1.0 low-rez screens will soon be replaced with better options, but at the beginning Apple need to hit certain (low) price points.

    Incidentally Stilgherrian expressed surprise that Amazon shares have held up. That is because Amazon will be selling many of the e-books that will be read on the iPad. Amazon may shed a few tears over the likely demise of the Kindle but they will be crocodile tears…

  10. BoxingCandle

    Why are people griping about the lack of multitasking? Am I only seeing the complaints made by the Ladies? I have never been able to multitask and both my wife* and I consider that a great strength. This souped up little placemat iFad thingy sounds like a veritable pillar of Zen singularity. Takes this fanboy wistfully back to the days when DOS was King. I’ll have what he’s having, thanks.

    * I may not be quoting her verbatim here but her intent was clear to me.

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