Apple’s genius lies in creating desire for its products—and the iPad’s launch is raising the gameby Tom Chatfield / May 25, 2010 / Leave a comment
iPad: iconic trailblazer for a whole new culture
Led by British-born Jonathan Ive, Apple’s design team has created another iconically elegant piece of hardware: the iPad. Lying somewhere between the portability of a mobile phone and the functionality of a laptop, it is a “tablet” computer—and the trailblazer for a whole new culture of media consumption. During its first 28 days on sale in the US in April it shifted over 1m units. Available in Britain from 28th May, it will fly off our shelves too, its starting price of £429 notwithstanding.
Portable, powerful, sensuously satisfying, the iPad takes the appeal of Apple’s touchscreen iPhone to the next level. Yet the iPad is also as much the consequence as the cause of an associated transformation whose effects are far larger than any one company or device: the triumph of the app.
An app is really just a cute term for an application—identical in essence to those that run on your computer. Thanks to Apple, however, an app’s delivery, use and style have very different connotations to the old-fashioned world of applications. Instead of bloating users’ experience with a myriad of features, as old-fashioned applications like Microsoft’s Office have tended to, apps tend to do one thing simply, instantly, and in the palm of your hand. Simply touch the icon and you’re off.
Today, there are more than 185,000 Apple apps available and more than 4bn have been sold. There are word processing packages, GPS navigation systems, calorie counters, lightsaber emulators, birdwatching guides, electronic books, and many more. Yet, staggeringly, apps are less than two years old—having been born in July 2008 when Apple opened its eponymous “App Store.” Based on the iTunes model that transformed the music industry, the store is a digital service that allowed consumers to download apps for, initially, their iPhones and iPod touches, for sums starting at nothing and averaging under $5.
In April 2009, to mark the billionth app download, Apple released a list of the 20 most popular free and paid-for apps. Fun was high on both lists: games claimed ten of the top 20 paid spots and seven of the free ones. “Entertainment” accounted for nine out of the other ten paid and five more free spots, ranging from a $1 motion-sensitive program allowing users to simulate drinking beer on-screen to the $1 “iFart Mobile,” the “world’s most popular digital fart machine.”