On May 3, Apple, Inc. reported an interesting, if not amazing, statistic: the firm had "sold its one millionth iPad on [April 30], just 28 days after its introduction on April 3. iPad users have already downloaded over 12 million app[lication]s from the App Store and over 1.5 million e-books from the new iBookstore," a statement indicated.
"One million iPads in 28 days--that's less than half of the 74 days it took to achieve this milestone with iPhone," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO, in the statement. "Demand continues to exceed supply and we're working hard to get this magical product into the hands of even more customers."
OK, so Mr. Jobs might be allowed just a soupcon of hyperbole, his firm having accomplished something of this magnitude. (Industry insiders say approximately 300,000 of those one million iPads are the new model with 3G wireless data capabilities as well as Wi-Fi access, by the way.) But any hype doesn't diminish the accomplishment: this is an amazing device, and your columnist, apparently, isn't the only one who feels that way.
Just as the iPhone created a new market for applications and, indeed, new kinds of software applications, the iPad is doing the same thing. E-books aren't necessarily flooding out in the ways some would hope - more on that in a moment - but they are coming. At the same time, I suspect many of the 1.5 million e-books downloaded from the "iBookstore" are of the free variety, i.e., "public domain" titles adapted to the Apple e-book format. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's something to keep in mind.
But along with "The Last of the Mohicans," the iPad is (and will continue to be) a platform where you can find interesting content displayed in interesting ways. I'm impressed with several efforts to bring print content to the iPad: Zinio's magazine reader for the iPad is a great product; now all we need are more titles in the iPad format, something I'm sure the firm is working on. Ditto for PixelMags reader, and a gaggle of others.
The biggest form of print-to-pixel conversion, however, is the very standard Portable Document Format, or PDF, pioneered by Adobe Corp.'s Acrobat software and available through any number of means. Several magazines, National Review among them, offer a PDF as well as printed version to subscribers. And, of course, you and I probably get an armload of PDFs via e-mail each week.
How to read all these? My personal favorite, so far, is GoodReader from Good.iSoftware, online at http://www.goodiware.com/goodreader.html. It'll set you back all of 99-cents, but once you've linked to an online file server such as Apple's MobileMe, you can wirelessly download PDFs and read away to your heart's content. The program will also allow transfers from your desktop computer via a USB-to-iPad synchronization cable.
Apart from price, GoodReader's assets include an easy way to navigate through PDF documents and a convenient index of the titles you have. It's software that works, and works well. What more could you hope for?
Among news organizations, National Public Radio, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal have, in my view, done an outstanding job of bringing news to their audiences via the iPad. NPR's free application, much like USA Today's free app, pulls a wide range of content together and offers a clear view. The USA Today app very much mimics a print newspaper layout, with the ability to "jump" to stories and sections quite easily. The Wall Street Journal will not only "deliver" that day's paper, but also provide the latest news in a separate update. However, you must be a paid subscriber to access all of the Journal's content.
On the day this column was written, a "pitch" came in from a public relations firm: Would I want to review a new, off-brand e-book reader? No thanks, I said, the iPad has settled that question. As the remarkable sales figures from Apple confirm, this new device delivers content writ large, and I'm still convinced we're only at the beginning.
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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.