– Hi! I’m an iPad.
– And I’m Amazon Kindle…
So the much rumored “Kindle/netbook/everything killer” is revealed to the public and we can finally make a first guess about it’s prospects in eBook/eReader market that is getting increasingly crowded as well as it’s general chances of success.
First of all it turns out that most of the speculations turned out to be wrong. It’s called iPad (not iSlate), the price point is $499..$829 not $799..$1000. However some people were right – it basically is an over-sized iPod Touch with and optional 3G data connection. It does run all or most of the iPhone/iPod Touch applications that are the main selling point of it’s smaller siblings.
I’ll save readers the suspense: I don’t believe that iPad will be a a Kindle-killer. It will capture a noticeable portion of the eReader market but I find it highly unlikely for it to even become #2. Here’s why:
1) It’s not as mobile as Amazon Kindle because:
1.a) Battery file. Since it uses a back-lit display even according to the specifications it can only sustain 10 hours of usage which is nowhere near week-long stretches eInk based readers can go on a single charge. In reality it may end up being even less than 10 hours since I’m yet to see a device that would live up to it’s battery life spec in a real-world usage scenario. Although 10 hours would seem like a lot, it is not if you think about scenarios like trans-Atlantic flight from the west coast or even domestic flight with several connections. Surely you can charge up while at the airport but then you are likely to end up sitting on the floor next to a restroom. Another option would be to carry iGo Power device or something similar but that’s not too convenient either.
1.b) Size and weight. Although it’s similar in weight and dimensions to Kindle DX, neither of these devices are truly “mobile” as both fail the “coat pocket test”. Personally I find 6″ screen much more convenient for reading on the go than larger 9.7″.
1.c) It lacks free Internet connection. You are either bound to use the WiFi or pay$14.99..$29.99 per month for 3G data plan. It’s nice that this plan doesn’t have a contact commitment but still… I’m already paying a hefty sum for my iPhone plan and another hefty sum for a separate data-plan to keep my netbook connected (AT&T still doesn’t allow iPhone tethering and with iPad hitting the market the chances of that happening are getting even slimmer. There definitely isn’t going to be an iPad tethering option since tethering a notebook to a tablet is as stupid as it sounds) so paying some more on top of that doesn’t seem reasonable to me.
2) There are fewer books available via iBooks and they cost more more. Until recently I though that convenience of books in under 60 seconds is the main selling point of Kindle, however after having to buy some books from Sony store (and finally putting my PRS-600 to a proper use) I would say that book selection is just as significant. What is the use of instant availability of nothing after all. But having fewer books at higher price that are not instantly available unless you pay even more for data-plan doesn’t seem like a recipe for success to me. iBooks app is ePub based to it’s possible that this shortcoming can be supplemented by buying books from other stores. It’s also possible to use apps to add support for other formats and stores. After all there is Kindle for iPhone that would make Amazon’s entire eBook selection to iPad users.
3) iBooks is only available in the US for the time being while Amazon has already gone international. Others will follow in time but it will not be very soon and it will not be easy for the eBook stores because of legal complexities involved.
4) Price. Although iPad is price point is close to that of Kindle DX, if all you are interested in is reading books and an occasional visit to Wikipedia, you can get Kindle 2 for almost half the price and with free Internet lifetime connection to boot.
5) Whether backlit screen is optimal for prolonged reading still remains a point of debate but it’s definitely not a plus for the iPad as far as eBooks are concerned. It will very likely to provide a sub-par experience under strong sunlight.
However not all is bad in the Apple camp. Here’s why the device might become successful:
1) Color screen will provide good reading experience for picture rich books (comics), newspapers and magazines. eInk’s lack of color is not a virtue in itself but result of direВ necessity.
2) Touchscreen canВ enhance the reading experience when properly used. В I consider gestures-based page turns a useless toy, sinceВ ergonomically it’s much more optimal to press a simple button. But navigating table of contents, links etc as well as looking up dictionary definitions is much easier if all you need to do if poke the word with your finger.
3) iPhone applications and almost fully functional browser do add some value to the device (if you are willing to carry it around despite it’s weight and dimensions).
4) Apple products == COOL! This will be reason enough for at least some people. It is possible though not likely that Apple will actually launch “I’m an iPad and I’m a Kindle” ad campaign that might prove successful.
So in short term my predictions for iPad are not great especially in the eBook niche. However I considered 1st generation iPhone to be a joke when it came out. Only after a year when app store was introduced, 3G was added along with at least partial Microsoft Exchange support the ugly duckling was transformed into a swan. The same might happen with iPad but it will not be soon.
Amazon has already introduced 70% commission to publishers and self-publishing authors (although with some strings attached) as the result of increasing competition. It’s likely that we’ll see Kindle DX price drop some time soon to make it more competitive against new rivals. Also it’s quite possible that by the time first iPads will start shipping in March, we’ll see first Kindle Apps become available that will make the entire Kindle product line more competitive.
I promise to get some hands-on time with the iPad as soon as it will become available and share the experience here.