The Coolest App Ever is Coming to an Apple iPad

The internet is abuzz over tomorrow’s unveiling of Apple’s new iPad computer. Will it be a game changer like the iPhone? Or just another overhyped misfire like the infamous Newton? Without knowing any facts (that’s never stopped me before), I think it’s going to have a very big impact. I’ll explain why in this article.

Amazon’s Kindle is a very cool product. It let’s you store your entire library in one device. It has a great, book-like user interface, optimized for reading, with an amazing battery life. And Amazon came up with a very clever way of implementing the wireless function so that you aren’t required to have a service contract with a wireless carrier. Got that? You buy a Kindle and it does its thing over the air with a ubiquitous network and you don’t need to sign up with Verizon or AT&T or anybody and you don’t have to shell out $75 dollars every month for wireless service. For people like me who love reading books, it’s a killer product with a killer service concept.

So you might ask, if it’s so great, why don’t I own one? The answer is simple: Kindle is a single purpose device. It’s really, really great for reading books and newspapers and magazines. But if you want to surf the web or play a game or do your taxes or watch a video, no can do. It’s a bit like buying a computer that only does spreadsheets.

Which brings me to the Apple iPad. Although the details are top secret, it seems reasonable to assume it will look like an iPhone scaled up to a bit larger than a Kindle, which has a 6″ screen. It will likely have the iPhone physical design with a beautiful, big, bright multi-touch screen. It will undoubtedly have WiFi and 3G connectivity so you’ll have internet access everywhere, just like you do with an iPhone. It will store music like a jumbo iPod. It will run iPhone apps natively and will spawn a whole new breed of apps specially designed to take advantage of this device’s unique hardware. And, of course, it will let you find, purchase, download, store and consume all kinds of media: newspapers, magazines, books, TV shows, movies and all sorts of new “hybrid media” combining elements of all of the above.

It will probably not be as perfect for reading as the Kindle, which uses a special technology called E Ink that is optimized for reading and low power consumption, but I suspect you’ll get very reasonable reading functionality and you’ll also have a general purpose computing device with the ability to run the 100,000+ apps now available in Apple’s app store. Still not sure how useful this will be? Here are a few scenarios that I find compelling:

  • I’m a night owl but my wife goes to bed early and likes the lights out so I have to sit in another room to read or surf the web at my desk. I would love to be able to read a book or surf the web in bed without disturbing my wife. Yes, I can do that with my iPhone but the screen is too small. Yes, I can do that with my laptop but it’s too big, too heavy and too hot.
  • Have you ever watched a movie on a iPhone or iPod Touch? It’s ok for a short youtube video but for anything substantial, the screen is just too small. I think this device will have the perfect size, weight and screen to serve as a
    personal video/TV viewing device.
  • Have you ever watched a movie on a iPhone or iPod Touch? It’s ok for a short youtube video but for anything substantial, the screen is just too small. I think this device will have the perfect size, weight and screen to serve as a
    personal video/TV viewing device.

And, finally, I will now reveal the coolest app ever…imagine a classroom in which each student has one of these iPads. All of those big heavy textbooks we used to have to lug around in our backpacks are now a bunch of bits inside your iPad. And those textbooks are retooled to incorporate audio and video and interactive features like end of chapter quizzes that tell you how well you are understanding the material. And there’s no blackboard in this classroom. Thanks to integrated WiFi, everything the teacher writes is automatically and instantly transmitted to all the students’ iPads where they have a complete record of the audio, video and whiteboard. Guess what? No more note taking; instead of spending your energy transcribing what the teacher is saying, you can focus on listening and learning the material.

I’ve been thinking about this app (really a family of apps) for a long time – I’ve always been interested in harnessing technology to enhance eduction. Until now there really was no viable hardware platform at a reasonable price point on which to realize this vision. If I’m right about Apple’s upcoming announcement, I think that will change tomorrow. We’ll see.

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