Is Apple’s iPad “underwhelming” or “a game changer”?

After a whole lot of hype about Apple’s newest “creation,” the company
launched the iPad yesterday in San Francisco.

before the existence of the device had been confirmed, enthusiastic
tech and media watchers were wondering if Steve Jobs’ latest wonder
product was going to sweep in and save
the publishing world

And the
predictions continue.

For instance, CBC’s Andy
Barrie said
of the iPad
: ” I think this is going to be as important as
Gutenberg. I really do.”

Tech writer and former
Globe and Mail
communities editor Mathew Ingram isn’t so sure. In a GigaOM column titled “Will
the iPad help media? Possibly. Save media? No.”

He wrote:

“..does the iPad contain anything that could be
seen as throwing a lifeline to the foundering ship of traditional
media? Well, no…

“Could the iPad be used to help
create and distribute content or connect to services aimed at specific
groups, through the kind of membership-based model with which The
Guardian is planning to experiment? Possibly. But that again is a nut
that newspapers and magazines will have to crack with or without the
iPad, and the existence of the device isn’t necessarily going
to make finding the right business model any

Another tech writer, Matt Hickey from CNET was “underwhelmed” and listed “Five things the iPad is missing.”

New York Times media columnist David Carr is
unsure of the value of the device for the publishing industry, but
still thinks the “game changed” with the iPad’s launch. After attending
the San Francisco launch, he

“It is clear that the iPad
– which will cost $500, $600 and $700, depending on how much
power they have – will allow consumers to develop a
high-touch relationship with media. Whether they will use their other
hand to reach into their pocket and pay for some of that gorgeous
content is uncharted territory.

“There was all
manner of hyperbole as is customary at these affairs –
‘Isn’t this awesome?’ Mr. Jobs said as he gathered steam
— but you get the feeling that the iPad is creating and
killing categories at the same time. The game changed

While many are optimistic about the iPad
and what it could do for the publishing industry, magazines, newspapers
and books were not a big part of the launch presentation. As MediaWeek

“…magazines and newspapers
did not receive much stage time during Apple’s event on
Wednesday, and Apple did not even mention selling print subscriptions
in its press release.”

UBC journalism professor
and new media watcher Alfred Hermida suspects “we may end up
underestimating the long-term impact of this device, both on what we
consider personal computing and how we interact with

He wrote
on his blog

“Apple’s secret
is in marrying form and function into devices that are focused on the
user experience. The iPhone has demonstrated how a device can serve as
a platform for new media experiences. On first impressions, the iPad
appears to offer an ideal platform to rethink journalism in a more
visual, interactive and multimedia

There’s no doubt that the starting
cost of the iPad (which ranges from
$US499-$829) is much more accessible than anticipated, which will help
to make the device more popular among average users. But what news
organizations, magazines and book publishers will do with the device
remains to be seen.