Not since the IMB PC was invented has a product hit the market that will change the way we view the world. While people talk about Apple’s new Tablet PC, the iPAD, being a rival to the notebook but there is a bigger picture. The iPad is the first computer that can change the way we view documents. It combines the visual appeal of print and the interaction of the web together, in a way no product has done before. The iPAD is the first step into a paperless world where all documents are viewed electronically.
Apple sold one million iPADS in the first 28 days, outselling the iPHONE when launched. The iPAD succeeds where previous products such as Amazon Kindle have failed but it was not greeted with universal approval when launched. “Isn’t it just a big iPHONE?” was the most common remark whilst others tagged it iLAME. Dom Jolly even revamped his mobile phone sketch using the iPAD. The iPAD name that Apple purchased from Fujitsu has also been the butt of jokes on twitter where users made fun of its resemblance to a female hygiene product. One twitter user posted “I am already going through 4 – 5 iPADS a day due to my heavy workflow”. However Apple have a loyal following in desktop publishing from the Steve Jobs Apple Mac and the iPAD appears to be exactly what they have been waiting for.
The Tablet PC is not a new idea. Bill Gates’s Microsoft made the term popular in 2001 when it launched “Windows XP Tablet PC Edition”. HP-Compaq produced the TC1100 series. Axiotron, in 2007, introduced a heavily modified Apple MacBook Tablet called Modbook and there was even a Linux based tablet called the ProGear manufactured by FrontPath. The iPAD is the start of a new era that will see the transition from Print to Pixels bringing the worlds of print and web publishing together. Beautiful pages where typography and design are not compromised can now be produced with interaction, animation and video streaming alongside articles. Notebooks don’t offer the same portability of the iPAD and the iPAD is the best in the field for screen based reading.
Printers and Photocopiers could become a thing of the past in a few years with less and less output to paper. Magazines, books and newspapers are set to be reinvented online. By changing how we read documents, Apple have created the next big hardware battle. Already Chinese manufactured iPAD clones working on Google’s Android Software have started to appear. Microsoft Courier is set for release soon, a 7 inch dual screen booklet that see’s Microsoft making further strides into hardware manufacture following on from Zune and Xbox.
The battle for the Screen Based Reader audience is unlikely to be defined by the operating system but by the hardware itself. Imagine a iPAD thats wafer thin and you can roll up and put in your back pocket like a magazine. That’s what the future holds. Flexible screen technology is very close to production with a team in Ireland close to a touch screen prototype. Samsung unveiled their 7 inch flexible LCD screen in 2005 and Fujitsu have a 3.8 inch flexible LCD panel that does not require a power supply. Ultimately its the flexible screen technology in the near future that will see us finally turn away from paper based publishing. Apple have won ’round one’ of the screen based reader and brought their product to market before Microsoft’s Courier but this hardware battle has a long way to run. Google having already produced the Nexus One, an internet mobile dubbed the Google Phone, and the Android operating system may yet enter into screen based readers as well. Amazon potentially have the most to loose if the iPAD continues to grow with Apple’s iBOOKS directly competing with another part of their core business following the success of iTUNES so presence in the screen reader market will be essential for Amazon.