iPad: Gutenberg 2.0?

Allright, I’m going to give in to the craziness and put out my own prediction for the Jesus Tablet that Steve Jobs is about to unleash. While everybody’s speculating about the hardware and price (as if this were PC-land, where such things matter), or about the deals with major publishers and the kindle-killing potential, I’m not hearing much about the software. And the software is what matters.

Let’s not forget that Apple makes great hardware because they’re passionate about software. Multitouch was a success on the iPhone for the never-discussed reason that Apple perfected the software layer, the one that converts the shaky, jerky motion of my fat fingers into smooth swipes and pinches. The software that ignores accidental taps, that leverages a rich language dictionary to decide which character I most probably wanted to type, when I mashed the side of my thumb over a large portion of the keyboard. These software interface layers are not trivial work. The fact that everybody took them immediately for granted is a credit to Apple’s user experience designers, as good UX should be invisible.

Apple gets the hardware/software melding right, because they care about creating the ideal experience. Apple wasn’t first to market with an MP3 player, or with an internet-connected smartphone… but once they entered the market, they reset the standard. Apple is not first to market with a tablet computer or an e-reader. But PC tablet and netbook manufacturers are waiting for the shoe to drop. Amazon’s Kindle and Wacom’s Cintiq’s days are most likely numbered. Apple is going to get it right, where everyone has gotten it wrong.

Among the rumors that are flying around, one caught my eye particularly. Apple is working on a multi-touch version of iWork, their office software. This is important. Apple is making deals with news and book publishers to provide them with a platform that enables high production values. Magazines will look good on the iPad. It will usher a new era of publishing, a new target format, that will rapidly take over the web and more. This is music to publisher’s ears, as high production values will again justify high margins.

But Apple will also raise the bar for everyone. Because the reason Apple is passionate about software, is because Apple is passionate about changing the world. They’ve raised the bar in the mobile app space, by providing a superior platform and toolkit, removing the need for developers to worry about the business of sales, and enforcing quality and user experience requirements. They’re going to raise the bar in publishing, but also in business documents, emails, and all forms of the printed word, and of multimedia publishing, by making some cloud-based, multi-touch version of iWork the superior platform and toolkit, as well as the sales and distribution channel… and a large segment of that will be free.

This won’t just be an e-book reader. This may also be the new printing press. EAVB_VFDMVVKEXU