iPad – Racing Towards Publishing’s Future?

This afternoon I’m sat watching the first major motor race of the 2010 season, the Rolex 24 Hour sports car race at Daytona in Florida. When the race started it was raining, but over the last hour or so the drizzle has stopped and the track started to dry out a bit.

As in any race where the conditions change several drivers choose to come in early and switch their treaded wet weather tires for slick dry weather tires while the track was a little damp. Racing drivers being racing drivers several set off at full throttle back on to a damp track with cold slick tires and promptly spun off, some of them several times. While others balanced the risk with a degree of caution and soon found them selves making rapid progress.

Watching the race unfold over the last hour in changing conditions made me think about this week’s launch of the Apple iPad and the various reactions to it among the digital and technical publishing markets.

There is no doubt that the iPad is a clear sign of changing conditions in the industry. The trick will be how you approach those conditions.

Some will go full out to get to the first corner, by making hasty judgments, rush into new markets without testing, or just repackage existing material without adding any value. I believe that many of these chargers will ‘spin off.’ Some of them will crash and be out of the race, others will work their way back.

Others will take a more cautious approach, feeling out the new conditions, making small adjustments, see how the chargers are doing, watch others make mistakes and learn from them.

Over the last few days I’ve been asked several times what I think about the iPad. I think it’s too early to make a call about doing a ‘pit stop’ to start ‘changing tires.’

At this point I’m not sure what additional value the iPad brings – sure I’ve seen the videos, but I need to see one in action, maybe take a look at what some of the hard chargers are doing, and then maybe I’ll get a better idea of what race strategy we need to peruse to get to the finish line.

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