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Kindle on your iPad?

Last week, Amazon rolled out two more Kindle applications to bring their e-book distribution to more platforms — an app for MacOS and a plan to bring it to the iPad.

Kindle on the iPad

A Kindle application for the iPad.

At first glance, it seems counter intuitive for Apple to allow its biggest competitor in the e-reader market to develop distribution applications on its own platform. The company has been in negotiations with media conglomerates to supply content for the iPad, but Amazon’s application would steal users away from the company’s new iBooks store.  Apple’s locked-in philosophy has become infamous, best exemplified by its iTunes-iPod strategy. By controlling both the content distribution and platform, Apple dominated the competition. Why let Amazon break the chain?

It’s time for some speculation. Even though it goes against traditional Apple ethos, allowing Amazon’s app on the iPad could still hold benefits. For years, Apple users have railed against the company for locking them into proprietary platforms and services. Relaxing that legacy of control could hold more appeal in the e-reader market, where market segments are still developing.

The move may also appeal to users already using Kindle software. Amazon already has a substantial user base. Wired reported that Kindle books outsold real books on Amazon last Christmas. Offering the service on the iPad platform could give Apple an opportunity to reach users that have already bought into Kindle, enticing them back to the fold with glossy screens and color display — perhaps before ultimately cutting the umbilical.

Of course, all this is just speculation. Amazon’s new Apple applications remain a mystery. And the development could highlight a greater controversy in the making: Who distributes e-books and who makes e-readers? Currently, it looks like that battle will converge on the iPad, with retailers all fighting for the vaunted platform.

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iPad an iReader?

February 2, 2010 Leave a comment

Apple released the long-anticipated iPad last week to tremendous hype. From Apple fanatics to juvenile humorists, we all held our breath as Steve Jobs revealed the device that months of rumors had promised would be the end-all device and the new hip tool to tote around.

But as the tweets and blog reviews came to a boil, the blogosphere seemed decidedly mixed. Publications like Wired released a lists of problems that come down to the realization that Apple left so many features out of the iPad — not to mention compatibility with all those adapters — that many people viewed the devise as a huge step backward.

However — and here I’m getting to the meat of the story — there is one feature debuting on the iPad that struck me off guard: iBooks. Apparently, Jobs means for the new iPad to become a prominent e-reader device. With its larger, glossy screen and the new iBooks store (an iTunes-esque download store), the iPad could be in a great position to bring convenient e-reading to consumers. Of course, Apple insists the iPad offers much more than e-reading, but this striking feature has many publishers and news organizations drooling over possibilities.

Will the iPad work as an e-reader? Price is certainly an obstacle. Even the cheaper, wifi-only version will run consumers a cool $499, the G3 model $829. The extra price may be justified by the fact that, after all, the iPad is more than an e-reader. However, because the device can only run one application at a time, it might as well be just another e-reader while running iBooks.

Compatibility is another potential problem. Apple has cultivated an infamous reputation for locking users into proprietary hardware and software. I can only imagine the frustration of trying to transfer my downloaded e-books to another platform.

One thing the iPad has that Amazon’s Kindle and other competitors never quite grasped is the all-important cool factor. Owning the latest Apple gadget will always be a priority for some, and that market impetus may be enough to grab dominance.

In addition, many publishers seem eager to have their content associated with the iPad. Print news media in particular will be looking for a way to monetize content on a platform of users they suspect will be willing to put up with the extra expense. Of course, answers will have to wait until the official release date, April 2010, but that won’t stop speculation.