iPad dooms paper products

For the London Free Press - December 20, 2010 Read this on Canoe

Many people, including myself, predicted 2010 would be the year of the tablet computer. Apple has sold millions of iPads since its introduction earlier this year. But competing devices are only now coming to market.

The iPad was not the first tablet computer - but it was the first one with the right combination of features, form factor, and price, to be successful. It set the bar, and is the tablet by which all others will be measured.

In my view, the advent of tablet computers will be looked upon in the future as a game- changing event. Tablets will forever change how we consume information and media. Paper- based newspapers, magazines and books are already being supplanted by electronic versions. The portability and ease of use of tablets will accelerate this trend.

This is partly because the "lean backward" experience of tablets is more comfortable and more like reading paper than the "lean forward" experience on a computer. Tablets are as portable as a newspaper or book, and have the same instant-on experience.

Electronic formats allow a much better and more interactive experience than static paper. That experience will improve over time as publishers learn how to better use the medium.

Eventually, newspaper carriers will be mentioned in history books (electronic versions of course) alongside milkmen.

So is an iPad the perfect Christmas gift?

No doubt it will be for a lot of people. But many of us would rather impatiently wait a little while longer. The iPad is a compelling device, both for personal and work use. But it is a first generation device with a few compromises. Competing devices that were expected to be available this year are just starting to appear. The year 2011 will see more choice, and more competition.

Competitors available now include Android based devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab, and the Windows 7 based HP Slate 500.

Blackberry recently announced the Playbook tablet, which it shows off in a video demonstrating its superiority.

Others will be available in various sizes, running various operating systems, with different features. It is hard to predict which brands, models and sizes will ultimately be successful, or will for various reasons fail.

iPad version 2 will probably be available within a few months, which will improve on some of the current version's shortcomings. For those of us willing to wait, that would be a good time to take stock of the iPad and its competitors to decide which is the best choice.

It seems that there are as many viewpoints on what tablets should do, what size they should be, and how they should operate as there are people writing about them. One thing that is certain is that there will be enough competition and choice to ensure continuing improvement in the devices, and the content we consume on them.