At last the iPad: Moving On

By Graham K. Rogers


Life on the iPad"

It seems somehow fitting to write the penultimate eXtensions column on the device that (in my hands finally) is beginning to create major ripples not just through the halls of the computer makers, but the dusty palaces of the news businesses as well. Although it was available in Singapore and Hong Kong a while back, it arrived in Malaysia 3 days before Thailand and in the Philippines a couple of weeks later. It is now also in Indonesia, South Korea and Vietnam.

With all the rumours of an impending iPad 2, which would not actually be released until April if the speculation were right (and Heaven knows when in the Land of Smiles), it was an easy decision for me to walk in and buy one. I actually bought two as they make excellent Christmas or new year presents. Not only did I have a couple of hundred apps that were begging for the larger screen, but I also had a few that would only work with the iPad, particularly Life, New Yorker and the local Mars Magazine. At a local user's suggestion I downloaded the Guardian's Eyewitness app and followed that with the UK's Sunday Times which, like the Economist, has a limited amount of free data.

Guardian Eyewitness Many commentators have never grasped the possibilities of the iPad in the same way they failed with the iPhone before it, irresponsibly leading many consumers to believe they had to jail-break their devices which left them with limited functionality in the long term.

[Additional note: as an illustration of this, I spent last Saturday trying to help a friend, who in turn was helping a computerless friend. The latter had in innocence (or ignorance) bought an iPhone 3G for the phenomenal price of 17,000 baht in Mahboonkrong and when it was connected with iTunes, the method of jail-breaking rendered it useless. It was again unlocked at a local mall but the new user has no chance of getting the full performance out of it and this will be a bad advertisement for the device.]

It is no good Acer and others who are facing dwindling sales in finite markets shaking their stubby corporate fingers at a receding customer base and claiming "They will come to their senses." The buyers have moved on. There is something more exciting to play with. The years of little innovation are exacting a terrible price. The only thing between them and failure is the operating system. The iPad (and its cousins the iPhone and iPod touch) now make that irrelevant as the key to consumer access is content.

The demonstration at the introduction of the device was the warning. Jobs and his helpers sat on a sofa to make the point that this was a consumer device: the corporations that would provide content were on notice. It is their varied responses that are defining this technological catalyst. We may fear and despise Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, but the wily Australian knows a good thing when he sees it and jumped at the chance of a new publication for the iPad and other tablet devices: The Daily. This is due for release on 17 January, according to the latest information and is expected to be 99c a week.

Newspapers are going to have to rethink their subscription methods; and their subscriptions. There are others, seemingly as astute as Murdoch, although Richard Branson's supposedly international Project for the iPad is not available for Thai users.

ST New Yorker New Yorker help

Of course there will be an iPad 2, as there will be an iPad 3 or something in that vein, and an iPhone 5 (whatever Apple decides to call it). Indeed, Apple is said to be investing in a $1.2 billion factory in Japan to produce retina Displays for the iPhone 6 (Yes, Six). And when it is released, if not available here, many of those who must have it will rush to Mahboonkrong or Phantip and pay ridiculous prices for the pleasure; while others who are on convenient trips abroad -- conference, business, vacation -- will pick up their own at more sensible prices (if you ignore the airfare and hotel costs).

That more people buy Cupertino's products is clear: a simple measure is the number of retail outlets now open in Thailand: six in Siam area alone and all busy. After years of me making the suggestion, an iStudio opened on Thonburi side at Central Pinklao: now there are two; and both are busy. The provinces too now have several more stores. While there is wider availability, it may be that some staff, both in Bangkok and beyond, could improve the service as I do hear negative stories from time to time.

Like it or not, Apple products are interesting, reliable (with the occasional exception) and not as expensive as some would have you think. Compare the top of the line Sony with a Mac; and then compare a bottom of the line Phantip special. We can pay more; we can pay less. These days, users don't even have to live without Windows, although I must be honest I have never understood anyone volunteering to use that operating system. I guess you can get used to anything.

And what of Microsoft? This thick-skinned corporation lurches to a less certain future. Propped up by its operating system, it does have the occasional sign of hope, but is held back by a management that concentrates on the bottom line rather than the product line.

Mars on the iPad"



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