FE Editorial: A magic tablet

Written by The Financial Express | Updated: Jan 30 2010, 03:21am hrs
Two of Americas biggest showmen went head to head on Wednesday, in a bid to grab the most eyeballs and interest. In the long scheme of things, the President may have had the easier job. Barack Obama was trying to convince his countrymen that he was serious about creating more jobs for them, about reforming healthcare and the financial system, and about balancing the budget. His primary audience is going to judge Obamas delivery in the short term. Steve Jobs, on the other hand, was promising the entire world a truly magical and revolutionary product, something fanboys had nicknamed the Jesus Tablet in advance of its release. Obama rode in on the wings of change only to get albatrossed in problems that he patently hasnt been able to resolve in a year, even if under his captaincy the worst of the storm has passed the US. But Jobs has a history of delivering on his promises. He rode Apple through the home computer revolution of the eighties, and then went on to transform the music industry with the iPod and mobile computing with the iPhone. There were duds along the way, such as the Newton and Apple TV. But they didnt keep the company from becoming a byword in innovation. Time after time, it offered a novelty of design and defied user-expectationsoffering real life competition to the fictional worlds of Arthur C Clarke and Hollywood science fiction. When the US economy started shrinking, Americans started losing their jobs and global credit markets went into a deep freeze, this innovative aura kept Apple in good spirits. It has just ratcheted up its most profitable quarter ever.

So, will the iPad change life as we know it Will it transform the future of publishing, from print to video Will it stir up the video game business into a completely new shape Record companies crib about the profits that come in through iTunes, but Apple did provide them a way to make profit online. The likes of Penguin and Simon & Schuster were happy to be on stage (figuratively) with the iPad because they hope, like the newspapers, that it will give them a better deal than Kindle and the like. Consumers hoping to merge their laptops and smartphones into a single entity can take hope from the fact that Apple has defied most predictions by pricing the iPad at around the price that was originally demanded for the iPhone. If enough consumers are seduced by the iPads unique interfaces, then businesses will follow suit. But your guess about whether or not this device will waltz to popular success is as good as ours.