Rumours end. Sometimes with a bang. In other instances they simply fizzle out thanks to collective impatience. So, till last week, if Apple’s iPad managed to hang in our cerebrums for sometime now as iSlate or Tablet or just as a concept, the credit goes to the company’s expertise at saying a lot but hiding even more. But did the mystery pay off?
As Steve Jobs, CEO, Apple Inc, measured the length of the dais while unveiling the iPad, the ‘what it is’ followed the ‘why we need it?’. Interspersed between a smartphone and a laptop, the much-anticipated 10-inch iPod-on-steroids made its first public appearance. Instantly, Jobs promised to give “the best browsing experience that you can have”. Coming from him, rarely did anyone doubt such a thing. Just like the iPhone, it will revolutionise the market, we thought. What most people missed were the magic words: ‘browsing experience’.
The iPad has added a new dimension to the decade-long chicken-and-egg debate between content and gadgets. It takes us closer to bridging the gap between two camps. A sleek, new age tablet computer, which is neither a phone nor a laptop, will perform, as Jobs asserts, “Specific tasks”. What he means: here’s a bitter tablet for you to swallow, rivals!
Which raises some vital questions: Who are the rivals? Or, is there even one yet?
Much before the iPad acquired fibre and chip, it had sent out warnings to all those who posed as its competitors. For if the iPad was hidden behind purdah, it wasn’t because Apple wanted to keep its curves secret, the strategy was to uncover a bigger plan at the right time.
That Apple operates content stores by the names of iTunes and App Store — and has included the iBook — is not unknown. Its storehouses are stuffed with content — media, software and applications — that can be downloaded at nominal prices. In short, if the golden age for third party enthusiasts and experts — who are the key contributors towards content development — began with iPhone, it will be further glorifed by the iPad. Tablet computers — not just the iPad, mind you — will force all tech giants to pay heed to what wasn’t a priority till now.
So, as it turns out, the battle is still on but the rules have changed slightly. It’s no longer just iPad-versus-Kindle. It’s any device against all gadgets that rely on their platoons of content — music, pictures, applications, e-books, movies etc — and its creation, distribution and marketing.
And that’s where Apple could take the lead. It’s put in about half a decade to nurture the content orchard that’s, hopefully, about to bear fruit. Which means that iPad in itself isn’t a game changer. But what is significant is the range of possibilities that it’ll open up and alter the market dynamics. So, now, did you also really think it was just about a sleek, new age, electronic tablet computer?