I, for one, am extremely excited about the iPad. I want one. But I warn you, I have something of a mutant power when it comes to early adoption: I have a superhuman ability to always make the wrong decision*. Nevertheless, as cool as the iPad may appear to me and as flawed as it may actually be, I think Apple has missed a huge opportunity to stake a claim on a genuine revolution.
The image above represents the five channels of digital communication all brands should be adopting for their web strategy in 2010 (you can add social and widgetised channels as well). Notice the big iPad-like object second to the right? My big hope for Jobs’ announcement was not just a new piece of hardware, but a complete rethinking of how the internet is designed and digested.
To get an impression of what I was thinking, watch this video of the Mag+ concept.
Vaguely similar in concept to what the NY Times showed off during the presentation? Maybe. And, yes, there have been rumblings from the big A about distributing magazines via the iPad. However, this approach assumes (wrongly and perhaps, in the case of newspapers, wishfully) that the only problem facing traditional media in the internet age is a question of viewing format. This ignores the matter of the real-time web, rich media and interactive content – i.e. everything you already get from a website.
What the web does lack (and this is something that’s been bugging me for some time) is the dull appearance and lack of creativity in layout and form – this is what makes reading magazines so special. I also believe that the ability to go nuts with the design of your site (beyond changing the header) is something that many bloggers will love.
Imagine, every blog post you write looking completely unique, arranged in an ever-expanding “blogzine”. Look around you and pick up the most recent copy of your favourite magazine. Flick through to the first double page spread that ensnares your attention and think “I can do that!”. Because, given the right tools, I’m sure you can.
This goes beyond homebrew magazines and news sites – fashion, tech, travel… these are just three industries in which brands would thrive on a lavish, brochure-like website layout – as easily navigated as a magazine (easier even – I see great potential for revisiting website navigation, in particular redesigning the ol’ sitemap and injecting greater user value into the term). Arguably, there is also a huge benefit for advertising as creative directors are given a broader scope beyond pop-ups and banners (if you don’t see why this is such a good thing, remember: goodbye advertising revenue, hello subscription-based internet). All in all, a good thing.
This could all still happen. For the moment though, all we have are more apps. I could’ve sworn a year or so ago the web was awash with excitement about the future of browser-based applications. Sure, in reality there’s room for both but I hope the app craze isn’t going to replace the evolution of the internets. Instead of waxing lyrical about “revolutionary” products and “magical” devices, Apple could’ve done something truly inspiring.
P.S. The little device second in on the left (sitting between the ‘keypad’ mobile and ‘touch’ smartphone) is a dedicated augmented reality device I christened ShopMate(TM). More on that another time…
*For example: Twitter annoyed me but I jumped on Pownce and Plurk (what? you might reasonably be asking); I bought a netbook at the point when they were all utterly useless; and I rejected the iPhone to buy a G1 – and don’t even get me started on the fucking G1.