This is the time of year when newspapers, magazines, blogs and TV shows line up their “best of the year” programs to fill the space between Christmas and New Year.
Well, we’re no different over here at the Book Designer. But looking back over the year, although there have been lots of big developments in publishing, indie publishing, social media and the wider world, there’s one development that looms largest over the year: Apple’s wildly successful launch of the iPad.
You could argue that the iPhone was a bigger technological leap, in that it changed the behavior of tens of millions of people and ushered in the smartphone era almost singlehandedly.
But this year, the iPad had a tremendous impact for a number of reasons:
- It finally hit the target for a tablet computer. Companies have tried to introduce tablet computers for many years, and each was a failure. When the iPad finally came out—and remember, at the beginning of the year we didn’t even know what it was going to be called—it simply brushed aside all the failures of the past, along with the eInk screens of the ebook readers that came before it. If you use an iPad, you know that it has shifted forever the personal computing paradigm. There will be other tablet computers, probably many of them, but the iPad showed once and for all that tablets were real computers with a real market.
- The iPad has begun to revolutionize periodicals. Delivering rich media in beautiful color on a fast, connected and stable platform is the only future for many magazines, newspapers and other periodicals. We’ve seen good versions and crippled ones already, but developers are only beginning to explore the ways the iPad can be used to deliver subscriptions of all kinds.
- The iPad is the only mobile platform for rich media “books.” There’s a lot of talk about developing books that seamlessly interact with video, audio, and other media. Although these products have yet to gain a foothold in the market it’s reasonable to predict that they will find their way there. The iPad is designed for this type of content, and nothing else even comes close.
- The iOS is developing into an enormous market. Because the iPad and iPhone run the same operating system, many apps are now being designed to run on both. As Ian Paul reported in PC World, “Apple’s total iPhone user base may reach as high as 100 million users by the end of 2011, according to Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty. In a widely reported research note, Huberty expects to see about 42 million iPhones sold by the end of 2010.” iPad sales are now expected to top 20 million during 2011, adding to the 8 million already sold. This will bring the worldwide iOS market to almost 130 million devices.
- The iPad is the “stickiest” technology ever invented. Marrying portability, robust display properties, processor speed and the intimate experience of the touchscreen interface has created an incredibly “sticky” device, one that quickly brings “computing” to a level of personal interaction you never dreamed of while sitting in front of a big black desktop computer. The longer you use the iPad the more ridiculously useful it becomes. The device has shown us that computers can be fun again, no small achievement.
- The iPad will only get better. Apple will continue to try to stay ahead of the Android-powered tablets that are starting to come on the market by pushing more functionality into the iPad. Rumor has it that the next version will have the dual-camera setup of the iPhone 4. Think of the communications device an iPad becomes as a real-time videophone with a huge, gorgeous color display. That’s a game-changing leap for personal communication.
I think a lot of the innovation yet to happen on the iPad will involve personal creativity. Already it’s made the idea of publishing PDF versions of art books and photography books a reality, although we could use a better marketplace for these publications.
But people want to create on the tablet, that’s the ultimate activity that will exploit the touchscreen interface and the personal connection people feel to the iPad the most. That will be exciting.
For all these reasons, and for the vast potential yet to be unlocked in this remarkable, convergent device, I vote it both the top technology and the top publishing story of the year.
How about you?
Image licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License, original work copyright by Veronica Belmont, http://www.flickr.com/photos/earlysound/4490601295/