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The iPad Catalyst Will Light a Lot of Fires

By Chris Maxcer MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Mar 2, 2010 5:00 AM PT

I'm still not personally sold on the idea that I need an Apple iPad, and while I might buy one anyway with some excuse that I ought to have one for work purposes, I very much like what I'm seeing in the publishing industry in response to the fledgling product.

The iPad Catalyst Will Light a Lot of Fires

First, consider the impending dust-up between Conde Nast, Adobe, and Apple. Conde Nast is the publisher of "GQ," "Vanity Fair," "The New Yorker," "Glamour," and "Wired," but most importantly, Conde Nast is a respected publisher that's looking to do something cool, new and proactive for its magazines -- create digital versions that push the boundaries of digital magazine delivery.

There's already a "GQ" app for the iPhone and iPod touch, but it's not nearly as full-featured as the Wired Tablet App video demo that shows off some interesting interactive possibilities for digital magazine content.

Of course, the demo wasn't built for an Apple iPad; it uses Adobe's publishing tools like InDesign along with its AIR, which lets developers use Flash in addition to other technologies (all of which basically gets confusing for everyone who's not into developing apps).

The short deal is, Apple won't support Adobe Flash with its iPad, so publishers will need to either accept Apple's App Store world to play on the iPad or ignore it completely and develop for everyone else.

Welcome to the Tech World, Conde Nast

Neither option is particularly compelling. While the iPad will likely be a raging success, it'll also help generate a market for alternatives -- more so than what's already out there. If the iPad turns into the iPod of the e-book and tablet world, dominating it easily, that would be a shame.

I'm guessing the Dells and HPs of the world, not to mention the Android backers, are not willing to concede just yet. Plus, if Microsoft wakes from its slumber in Redmond and decides it wants to be a player in the new world of consumer mobility, I would actually welcome that -- even though someone needs to be slapped for the "Windows Phone 7 Series" name.

So, Conde Nast finds itself in a wonderful new world ripe with electronic possibilities where two tech giants are battling for territory. I think this competition is good -- definitely rough and confusing for the short term, but ultimately, I think it'll help generate attention and investment in creating compelling mobile content.

Welcome, AP

Meanwhile, The Associated Press is already willing to join the mobile party. The organization is creating a new division called the "AP Gateway" that will be the launching pad for applications to run on the iPad. There's already a decent Mobile News AP app for the iPhone, which I happen to use, but again, it's fairly limited in comparison to what AP Gateway might be able to create for a screen as expansive as the iPad's.

Along the same lines, if AP Gateway can help its member newspapers deliver truly local content for the iPad via some sort of shared application or app foundation, lots of newspapers will be able to get onto mobile screens without major investment (or costly mistakes). A really good local mobile news app . . . now that's definitely a feature that I would add to the "pro" column for buying an iPad.

The Time Is Already Right

Of the 80 percent of Americans who have cellphones, 33 percent of them are getting at least some form of their news online via mobile handsets, found a recent study by Pew's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Personally, I spend a lot of my waking hours in front of a big screen connected to my MacBook, but surprisingly, I get quite a bit of my news from my iPhone. It's just handy, and fills in the gaps nicely. We will no doubt see some trickle-down action from new iPad app dev efforts for the iPhone, too.

Thanks in no small part to Amazon and its Kindle investment, e-books are gaining a pretty good head of steam. Amazon might find itself on the wrong side of the tracks, unfortunately, in favor of do-it-all tablets, but the fact remains: Apple has been getting an inordinate amount of press coverage due to its iPad.

Everything but the Stink

The question is, can we credit (or blame) the iPad for generating all this mobile action? Maybe not the iPad alone, but it's certainly the latest catalyst. No, you've got to go back to the iPhone, which made consuming media from your smartphone a worldwide phenomenon. That's the first catalyst.

The second is the Apple App Store and its App Store developer program. Developers answered the call, and Apple delivers the apps to consumers. Despite the hiccups, it's still an effective ecosystem.

If you add up all this action, I think we're going to get a lot of fantastic content options for mobile devices in 2010 -- even if you don't pony up for an iPad.

Oh, one last thing: I already subscribe to the print edition of "GQ," but if I can get a full-fledged copy of the magazine on an iPad -- without all the smelly cologne ads printed on hard-to-ignore thicker paper stock -- I'm all for it. I just hope the debut of a scratch-and-sniff screen that generates scent is a long, long way off.


MacNewsWorld columnist Chris Maxcer has been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and he still remembers the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. While he enjoys elegant gear and sublime tech, there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. To catch him, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at Gmail.com.


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