Back in March, I asked if the Apple iPad would be the hottest device of 2010 (see iPad article). Turns out it was, according to Mashable founder and CEO Pete Cashmore. Cashmore wrote an insightful column about the iPad’s impact on CNN.com (Dec. 17), pointing out that the device was predicted by some to “fail big time,” yet it has soared to 13 million sales.
“The tablet computer pushed Apple over the top and defined a new computer category,” Cashmore wrote. “(It also) helped seal the ‘app store’ model of selling programs.”
Cashmore notes that the iPad -– ranked by Retrevo as the most-wanted gift this holiday season -– has reshaped more than the device market. It is “changing the world in unexpected ways”:
1. Pushing Apple over the top.“It’s no secret that the iPad has accelerated Apple’s rise to the top,” he writes. “In May, the month after the iPad’s release, Apple became the world’s biggest tech company (see iPad Success). Apple, which had seemed perpetually in Microsoft’s shadow, had outrun the Redmond giant.”
2. A new device category.“The iPad has also reignited interest in what seemed to be a dormant market for tablet computers,” Cashmore added. “Apple’s competitors have raced to enter the market, with notable competition coming from the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Even so, Apple will retain the lion’s share of the tablet market, eMarketer predicts.”
3. Publishing renaissance.“Whether the iPad can truly be print publishing’s savior remains to be seen, but the device has certainly sparked the rebirth of seemingly stagnant magazines and newspapers. Wired’s iPad app generated a storm of publicity for bringing the tactile nature of print to the digital realm, while groundbreaking applications like Flipboard are combining the social aspects of the web with the truly engaging experience of holding a newspaper. What’s more, the iPad has enabled publishers to once again charge for content – although it remains to be seen whether this trend persists as more content options become available on the iPad.”
Personally, I share Cashmore’s guarded enthusiasm for the iPad’s news-reading capacity, mainly because I’m not certain millions of people will be willing to pay for tablet-based subscriptions. In my case, I find it more convenient to read headlines and content via Twitter on my smartphone: short, 140-character bits of content, with quick links to full articles suit me just fine. It’s free and I don’t carry a second device. Mind you, if I were a daily train commuter or a hard-core iPad user, I would likely be more interested in paying for electronic periodicals. I believe it’s more of a niche market than a mainstream one. In the end, free-and-convenient will always win among the masses over pay-for-something-bigger.
4. Reshaping web design. “Put this one down to the laws of unintended consequences: The iPad is actually changing the way websites are designed, writes Mashable’s Christina Warren (Sept. 30). A growing number of companies have found that their iPad apps offer better usability than their websites, and so the latter are being molded to match the former. Most notable among these iPad-inspired interfaces: Twitter’s recent redesign borrowed heavily from the company’s iPad app.”
5. App store victorious.“For better or for worse, the iPad has cemented the app store model as the preeminent way to access applications and content on a mobile device,” Cashmore writes. “The iPad is not a web-centric device but rather an app-centric one. Although specialized applications are obviously beneficial on tiny iPhone screens with slow connections, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that the same model would apply to a device with a larger screen that’s used mainly on Wi-Fi networks. After all, wouldn’t consumers rather access free websites than pay for the same content via an app? (Yup, see my comments above, for #3.) And yet, consumers have spoken: For now, apps are at the center of the mobile experience.”