Apple announced the new iPad yesterday, essentially a large format iPhone. Some are disappointed that it is not more revolutionary with respect to the iPhone. I think the device is exactly what it needed to be.
Many of my friends and colleagues who own iPhones have noted that they already use their home computer much less, instead simply using their iPhone. The iPhone is already a decent replacement for a home computer if you are just surfing the web, playing games, reading email and looking at photos.
What it needed to be is bigger. So they made it bigger.
I think Steve Jobs did not position the device entirely honestly in the release announcement. He positioned it as sitting between the PC and the smart phone, implying that it was a device that consumers needed in addition to these products. I believe he did this because he knows the early market already owns the other two devices. If you want the Apple faithful to buy the product then you have to convince them they need an additional device.
I wrote in July 2007 about the iPhone’s potential to herald in a new age of consumer computing and my views about operating systems for consumers. The real impact of the iPad won’t be felt for some time. The iPad has the potential to replace the personal computer for the casual user who is not a knowledge worker. If your mom needs a replacement for her aging computer, the iPad would be a great recommendation. If she occasionally likes to type long emails, get her the optional keyboard. Even for knowledge workers, the iPad will work just fine when they are doing things other than work.
I don’t believe the iPad will help the newspaper or magazine industry much. The iPad is an information appliance and the forces that are eroding newspapers and magazines will continue unabated. In books, its nice to have another player selling the media.
I agree with Jeff Bezos that avid readers may still buy a purpose built device for quite some time. And I agree with Jobs that most people will buy a more general purpose device that can read books. Long term trends favor the iPad; the greater user base will pay for more advanced development and we will see the same cannibilization from the low end that we see in photography and GPS devices.
As for what percent of books will be able command charging anything or whether the basic format of a book will survive is a larger open question.