Getting Excited About Apple’s New Baby

As we approach the launch of the iPad on 3 April, I’ve been thinking about how people might use it.

Once again Apple has cleverly created enough hype and buzz around a new product to ensure hundreds of thousands of advance orders; it’s certainly the latest must-have gadget for the “technorati”. But this left me thinking: what will the first few weeks of life with iPad be like for a user like me?

It’s a long-standing joke among my colleagues and family that the arrival of the iPhone in the Wood household in July 2007 was greeted with more excitement than the birth of my second son just under a month later. Of course, I dispute this, though there’s little doubt that there’ll be similar excitement when my iPad arrives a few days after launch.

Like when a new baby comes back to the house for the first time, I’m sure there’ll be a stream of my more geeky friends who will “just pop in” to see the new arrival and gain some kudos from having Apple’s latest creation in their hands. John Jackson was lucky enough to spend some time with the iPad at the launch in late January, and he says the device is much more compelling in the hands than you might think listening to assessments by commentators who have only seen the iPad from afar.

Once I’ve got the iPad – what happens next? The temptation will be to carry the device around for a couple of weeks. This’ll give me a chance to show it off to colleagues, clients and other people, although, like when I had the iPhone in the early days, I’m not sure I’ll be too comfortable using it on public transport. I fear it would be the equivalent to wearing a hat with “mug me” written on the front.

However, is the iPad really something I want to carry with me everywhere? The slick marketing focuses on it being a mere 13.4mm thick and weighing 680 grammes, but the reality is that I’m not going to sling my precious new gadget into a bag without some protection. A case is likely to make it much more bulky, and given I’ve usually got my laptop, BlackBerry and another phone with me, do I really need to have the iPad with me all the time? I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that the answer will be no.

So, where’s the iPad going to end up? My best guess is the table in my living room. It may even be my wife who uses it more than me. Rather than sitting on the sofa in the evening with a heavy Dell notebook burning her knees, she may find the iPad suits her needs. A bit of light e-mail, checking Facebook, browsing the Web (perhaps for something that has come up on the TV news or that a friend has recommended on Facebook) and maybe even some Internet grocery shopping. And, if there’s time, a quick game of Bejeweled, which we’ll end up buying again, even though we’ve already paid for it on the iPod touch, which will also be lying on the table in the living room.

Of course, this view may be too cynical. I’m convinced the iPad will quickly garner a significant group of owners, making it worthwhile for media companies to optimise content specifically for it. I’m hopeful that some of the publications I enjoy reading, such as Autosport magazine and the Economist, will become available. Apple will make it very easy to pay for a subscription or for individual items, especially as at least 125 million people have already registered a credit card on iTunes. I’m also sure I’ll find plenty of use-cases for the iPad I haven’t thought of yet.

I’m awaiting the iPad’s arrival with barely contained glee. I believe it has the makings of a breakthrough product that could accelerate the shift in content distribution from analogue to digital, from paper to electronic media. This transition is reshaping the media business in ways that were unthinkable two decades ago.