What iPad means for radio
The iPad is the technology item of the moment, causing months of geeky anticipation as everyone wondered if it is the next Apple iHit gadget.
Adam Bowie, who is the Head of Strategy and Planning at Absolute Radio, has been looking at the new iPad in great detail, working out what opportunities it has for the industry.
[b]Adam told Radio Today his views on about the latest gadget sensation:[/b]
Did you hear that Apple launched a new product on Wednesday? You may have missed the news, although the iPad did feature on the front covers of the Daily Telegraph, The FT, The Times and The Independent. And it received coverage on the BBC Ten O'Clock News, Newsnight and ITV's News At Ten.
Not bad for a product launch.
At first look, I'm not a fan of it. It's pricey, doesn't seem to be especially good at anything except idle web browsing, and it'll be awful to type on. Come on – admit it! Even the iPhone is pretty awful to compose messages on. It doesn't have a USB port or an SD card slot. It won't run Flash, and you can only run what Apple let you run on it.
But what – if anything – might it mean for the radio industry? As it's largely an over-sized iPod Touch or iPhone, it probably means as much – or as little – as those devices already do. I think most stations and groups that have developed mobile applications are pretty pleased with the uptake. It does, after all, almost certainly lead to more listening, and that's the name of the game. And the good news is that if you've developed an iPhone App, then it'll work just fine with the iPad. You might want to go back and optimise it for the rather larger screen of the iPad, but otherwise you can just watch and see.
Beyond that, it's really dependent on whether or not the market that Steve Jobs thinks exists for it really does. And we won't know that until at goes on sale in a couple of months' time. I remain largely unconvinced that there is a significant new market somewhere between the smartphone and the laptop. A well designed netbook does the job just fine, with Samsung, Asus, Sony, Nokia and others producing some exceptional products often at very attainable price points.
The iPad is certainly a beautiful device; and if your home looks like something that might appear in Wallpaper* magazine then it will sit just nicely on your Danish designed coffee table alongside the Bang and Olufsen remote. And given that it has a 3.5mm jack, those Bose headphones can be plugged in without much trouble.
While Steve Jobs thinks that $499 is cheap – and it is much less than the $1000 some were suggesting – it's not really a bargain. While $499 might superficially convert to £300 at today's exchange rates, that's before things like VAT and import duty are applied, as well as the 'special sauce' that tends to mean that the numerical cost in sterling of any Apple product is not far from the dollar price in the US.
Don't forget, people largely buy large numbers of expensive devices like iPhones at subsidised rates over 18 month or longer contracts. You're probably going to have to go out and buy this device unsubsidised when it reaches these shores. And I was surprised that the premium for inbuilt 3G was $130 before data costs. That's a lot for the equivalent of a £20 3G USB stick that you can pick up on pay-as-you-go for your laptop and netbook.
Let's step back and consider radio a bit more. The UK Radio Player is coming this year, and it'll undoubtedly have mobile application versions at some point, notwithstanding the nervousness of some over consumers running up huge 3G data bills. A UK Radio Player on this device would look fantastic. But unfortunately, like the iPhone, the iPad doesn't allow multi-tasking. There's probably not a programme director in the country who doesn't like the idea of his or her logo station's logo sitting proudly on the screen, but let's be honest. We know that radio is a secondary medium; we tend to be doing something else when we listen to the radio. And that's a shortcoming of this device. Unless you've found a workaround solution (as Kiss has with its Kiss Kube app) your listeners aren't going to be able to surf the web while listening to your station on the iPad.
We shouldn't forget that current iPhones and iPod touches already have an FM transceiver in them which is perfectly capable of receiving FM radio. It's used to communicate with Nike+ devices placed in runners' shoes. Rumours have abounded for ages that Apple will turn this on and launch a radio application as they have on the most recent generation of iPod Nanos, but it's yet to happen. Perhaps there's an FM transceiver in the iPad? It's not clear, although I suspect that few runners will be taking their iPads jogging with them at a weight of 700g or so.
Overall then, it's probably not going to make a great deal of difference to radio. If your station has already produced or is in the process of writing an iPhone App, then you can ride the iPad wave. But if that wave turns out to be just a ripple and sales don't follow, then you won't have wasted too much time producing apps for a niche product.
Read more from Adam on his [link=http://www.adambowie.com/weblog/]blog[/link].