The iPad is a game-changer - content owners beware

REVIEW: Having spent the past 24-hours experimenting, playing and testing the iPad, it appears Apple has once again created a product that, although far from perfect, will have far-reaching consequences for the world of media and technology.

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The iPad is going to be a hit. It has its problems, but there is no getting away from the fact that it looks great and has a learning curve no steeper than your average high definition television.

As a piece of industrial design, it is sleek and incredibly easy to use. Brushing the pages across the screen and tapping an item of content to read more, is intuitive and natural. Adding new apps is simple.

The BR team has put a number of iPads under the spotlight, focusing on the media and branded apps currently available, including GQ, The New York Times, Marvel, Gap 1969 Stream, The Wall Street Journal and Men's Health, as well as a few scratchy iPhone apps such as The Guardian and Telegraph.

As a lot of early reviews have said, the iPad really does feel like a consumer device. Some techies have called it "counter revolutionary", as it takes a step back from computing and a step towards television, passivity and the AOL-like walled gardens of yesterweb.

You are going to be using this in bed, on the couch or at the breakfast table, and while, in most of those instances, you could use a laptop or netbook, the iPad has added convenience and ease of use.

Flicking through The New York Times Editor's Choice and the WSJ app, I could so easily imagine sitting at home having breakfast while reading the morning papers on the device, or watching a movie on a plane or train.

Holding it up as you would a page of a newspaper while you drink coffee is a natural reflex, and it's a lot easier than trying to use a laptop for the same purpose (and a lot less risky if you live in fear of spillage). It's maybe a tad heavier than I imagined, but not so much that it's an issue.

The experience is little different from the web. Newspaper apps like WSJ and The New York Times feel very much 1.0, but when I say that, I don't really see it as a bad thing.

Both apps navigate smoothly and the text is very readable. The pictures are crystal clear and the video can look amazingly good. Handing it to your other half across the table would be natural as you share an article, and hints at where you will eventually find most iPads.

The same is true of Men's Health and the much better Time magazine apps. They look great, particularly Time's great use of pictures that blow up perfectly and flow across the screen like a coffee table book.

Marvel's comic app was also very good. The animation is well rendered and no doubt having a stash of back issues to hand on your iPad would be cool, if that's your thing. Flicking from scene-to-scene on a single page with a single sweeping motion is a really nice added touch.

The ads work well and my hunch is that the interactivity they offer could yield much better results than they do online or in a magazine. The ability to check out pictures of a car and watch a little video as you scan Time feels very rich and natural.

I'm not saying people will start clicking on ads like mad, but decent advertising with content (which will become an even greater issue for advertisers in such a rich and tactile environment) will only work in its favour. Rates of engagement could improve on the iPad.

Toyota had a nifty little photo album idea and some video. Sure, I was playing around, but I was quietly impressed and entertained by what they had done.

Time magazine might look like the web, but it is more than that. A lot of that is down to the navigation, which helps to deliver a different experience.

The way you can call up the contents at the bottom of the screen and then flow this across the screen is a novel and innovative way to browse, content drifts across the machine and its really pretty cool. Again, great for lying on the couch or in bed and, interestingly, it doesn't feel like a computer. Would I pay $4.99 a month? Probably not for Time, but for something else I might.

The Time issue we had is the one with Steve Jobs on the cover and the headline 'Launch Pad. It's here. It's Hot. But what on earth is it for?' All good questions.

It appears the answer is that its for pretty much all of us when it comes to the family. Your parents, you and you partner, and your kids could all get on with this without having to worry about some of the things that people do with PCs.

PCs come with a label that says 'computer' and in many homes still live in a room set apart. It doesn't matter where the iPad lives, as it is such a utility rather than a technology device.

That's underscored by the music, videos and games you can play on the iPad. All look great, although the Namco game we had, 'Pole Position', looked a little grainy – but then I suck at driving games on any platform.

Where I really struggled with the iPad was the virtual keyboard. Right now I am (as you do) resting my fingers on my keyboard… paused in thought.

On a non-virtual keyboard this is not an issue, but when I did this on the iPad it filled half a line with random letters before I noticed. Others in the BR team were less concerned, but for some it will be an issue.

It is really hard to touch type and it feels more like a two-finger (or thumb) device. Slight downer, but the iPad does not feel like a replacement for a laptop device. It is a definite addition with a different role to serve than the PC. But an additional USB keyboard would be a nice extra (for some at least).

I'd definitely like one. I am no Apple fan, but as with the iPod, I think the iPad transcends the brand.

Even those who are normally PC and Blackberry types like me will feel the pull. That is down to the versatility the iPad brings as I switch from reading a newspaper, to reading an iBook (we only had Winnie the Pooh, but that's all you need), to flicking the pages or scrolling through Gap's nicely done '1969 Stream' digital look-book – it's worth noting we couldn't yet access the store from the UK, the main point of the Gap app.

For brands there are opportunities, and for media owners, new and interesting ways to rework display will no doubt develop, but for the latter, there have to be concerns.

There is a danger, due to its ease of use and fantastic browsing experience, that it will hasten the decline of print products.

If you are The New York Times or Wall Street Journal, and soon to be The Times, whether you're accessing content via an app or via the web, you will have to pay. But if you are The Guardian, for example, and you're giving your content away free, what's the next step? Will the paid-for app experience be superior enough to free browsing to make it worth buying? It isn't currently.

And with an iPad, with its natural and relaxed reading experience, I might think very seriously about splashing on the Saturday Guardian if I could have it for free without having to leave the house.

Time will tell, but it strikes me that that the iPad will have unexpected consequences for content owners no matter what their previously stated line is on paid content. I think it could change.

I could write more, but other than to say: A). I like it; B). It's very easy to use; and C). I still want one_ I'm not sure there is much more to say. Nice job.

More videos and galleries to follow as we get to grips with Apple's new device...

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