Is the iPad a Game Changer?

It won't be easy for the iPad to change the e-reader and publishing markets, much like the iPod did to the music industry. But here's five recent Apple successes that give the iPad an edge.

Wed, January 27, 2010

CIO — Will the iPad really be a game changer? If history is any indication, it's a good bet the iPad will dramatically impact publishing much like the iPod and iTunes changed the game for music.

At first glance, Apple's (AAPL) long-anticipated iPad seems like only a bigger, more colorful version of the iPhone. Not much to it, until you consider the iPad's improved iBook app reader that displays nicely on the iPad's bigger screen. Then add a fully integrated new iBooks Store that's backed by publishing heavyweights Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Shuster, Macmillan and Hachette Book Group.

Clearly, Apple sees the iPad as a game changer in the emerging e-reader market and perhaps even a savior for the embattled publishing industry. "We think iPad is going to be a very popular e-reader not just for bestsellers but for textbooks as well," Apple CEO Steve Jobs told the invited crowd gathered in San Francisco.

More than just an e-reader, the iPad is a well-rounded media device for browsing the Web, emailing, sharing photographs, watching video, listening to music and playing games. Its large touch keyboard is supposedly easy to type on. Apple will also sell a docking station with a keyboard attached to it.

"It's so much more intimate than a laptop and it's so much more capable than a smartphone with its gorgeous screen," Jobs says.

Here's a quick tally of the specs: Half-an-inch thick, 1.5 pounds, 9.7-inch display, 16GB to 64GB flash storage, WiFi, BlueTooch, 10-hour battery life, A4 chip. The iPad comes in two flavors, WiFi only and Wifi and 3G (with AT&T). Consumers of the 3G iPad won't have to sign a contract and can choose from two plans: 250 MB per month for $14.99, unlimited data for $29.99.

Apple took the air out of any sticker shock for the iPad itself: $499 for a 16GB unit, $599 for 32GB and $699 for 64GB, with an additional $130 for 3G units. Most industry watchers had predicted the cost to be near $1,000.

The iPad is positioned as a game changer for publishing, evident by the New York Times playing a prominent role during iPad demonstrations. And the iPad will likely play a supporting role as the New York Times transitions to a paid-content model next year.

For books, the iPad uses the popular open book epub format. CourseSmart, which provides 8,800 e-textbooks for college students via an iPhone app, said it plans to release an iPad app at the end of March that will take advantage of the iPad's larger screen size.

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