Jan 27th, 2010
Tablets like what Steve Jobs and Apple just introduced have long been forecast in science fiction, so you just knew that sooner or later devices like this would become reality.
For example, in Arthur C. Clarke’s 1968 novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, Clarke describes something called a “Newspad” that Heywood Floyd, “plugs into the ship’s information circuit and scans the latest reports from Earth. One by one he would conjure up the world’s major electronic papers; he knew the codes of the more important ones by heart, and had no need to consult the list on the back of his pad. Switching to the display unit’s short-term memory, he would hold the front page while he quickly searched the headlines and noted the items that interested him.”
While there will be little need to know codes by heart, Clarke’s vision of getting electronic papers on a pad-like device is finally here. To be sure the iPad is likely far from perfect, I fully expect that it will inevitably become more refined and in the process move us much further to full electronic delivery of premier content – much of which is currently paper-based.
Sure you can get content on either a smartphone or a laptop, but neither is ideal. The smartphone is just too small and the laptop is too clumsy. I just don’t find myself sitting at breakfast surfing news on my laptop, or trying to peer into a tiny screen on the BlackBerry.
Instead I get volumes of newspaper – big piles of it that inevitably end up being recycled. Speaking of which, the environmental impact of all that paper is not good. Paper consumes large amounts of water and energy, levels forests, and requires many gallons of fuel to get it to my doorstep. Electronic delivery has almost zero impact in comparison.
I can, however, imagine using the iPad as my daily news feed. What’s more there’s economic justification simply on the basis of replacing paid-for printed content I currently consume. While I expect to still pay for the electronic content, the price will go down significantly. Note that some of the publications have yet to adopt eReader technology like what the NY Times currently offers, but publishers that expect to survive will offer similar technology. Based on my calculations, I figure I could save $652 per year, easily justifying a $499 iPad.
Beyond lowering costs, the iPad will deliver a much improved experience. Publishers will be able to blend video and printed words. Instead of a few photos, I will be able to see the entire sequence if I so desire. I’ll also be able to look up related information, or make comments. Basically it’s everything we love about the Web, but in a nice magazine-like format. When I’m travelling, all I’ll need to pack is my iPad and a cell phone. No longer will I need a few magazines, a couple of books, media player, GPS, or even a laptop. And, of course, there will be countless numbers of cool apps.
Sounds like science fiction? Not anymore.