By now, you've probably heard all about the iPad and seen the pictures of Steve Jobs displaying his new "tablet" in a manner undoubtedly familiar to the late Charlton Heston. So far, reaction to the device has been mixed at best, with some people already lining up to take potshots at Apple's latest doohickey.
We still think it's pretty neat, mostly because we're curious about what it could mean for the music biz, which is still struggling to find an attractive replacement for physical product. And as long as whatever new gadget plays nice with independent and unaffiliated creators who want to join the digital party, we're cool.
But back to the gadget in question.By now, you've probably heard all about the iPad, and seen the pictures of Steve Jobs displaying his new "tablet" in a manner undoubtedly familiar to the late Charlton Heston. So far, reaction to the device has been mixed at best, with some people already lining up to take potshots at Apple's latest doohickey.
We still think it's pretty neat, mostly because we're curious about what it could mean for the music biz, which is still struggling to find an attractive (and profitable) alternative to physical product. Look, as long as whatever new gadget that comes along plays nice with independent and unaffiliated creators who want to join the digital party, we're cool.
The iPad's specs are certainly interesting: the touch screen (multitouch) is 9.7 inches in length (on a diagonal), and, because the body is only half-an-inch thick, it weighs a mere 1.5 pounds. In the weeks preceding today's unveiling, Jobs was rumored to have said that the iPad represented "the most important thing he's ever done," and, as the proud papa dangled his newest creation in front of a packed house in San Francisco, some may have wondered. . . "um, why, exactly?"
The iPad will not actually arrive in stores until March, meaning, for the next six weeks or so, bloggers nationwide will sing its praises and tear it down as if on "shuffle." None of this is likely to phase Apple, who seem eager to compete in new markets — the eBook reader biz among them. And, with the iPad's "introductory price" of $499, it very well could give Amazon's Kindle a run for its money.
Of course, we're here to talk about music.
For those of you out there who miss the days of liner notes, producer credits and the good old fashioned "album experience," there is reason to think —” or at least reason to speculate — that the iPad will could indeed be something special for musicians and fans. Assuming that people do, in fact, want an digital facimile of old-fashioned LP, then the iPad — with its ten-inch screen and lush graphics — might take the not-so-major thrill of buying a digital music file from iTunes to a whole new level. To push this entirely speculative argument one step further, the iPad could give musicians more incentive to produce albums (and not just singles), by bundling the files in an oh-so-groovy package that could also include links to an artists' website, tour dates, videos and so on and so forth. Again, the relative awesomeness of all of this depends on whether Apple keeps its storefront accessible to all artists, or becomes another gatekeeper. Currently, it's pretty easy for even an unsigned artist to get their stuff on iTunes, and we have no reason to believe that this will change.
While the iPad obviously will not match the tactile experience of dropping vinyl on your turntable (unless you consider putting your index finger on a touch-screen to be "tactile"), it just could be this generation's equivalent. Consider this: according to Engadget, the iPad's book display "is nice. You can turn pages slowly — really slick looking page animation." Gdgt, meanwhile, noted that "the scrolling is super smooth, it's pretty damned nice." Which gets us wondering what an album gatefold might look like in this format. Somebody tell the guy who made those Yes covers!
Obviously, the long-term impact of a single device on a fluid and evolving marketplace is tough to predict. (Razr, anyone?) It remains to be seen if the iPad will have a "since sliced bread" impact on the music world. One thing is for certain: weâ€™ll know more come March.
Perhaps it is important for us to temper our enthusiasm — at least a bit. After all, not every musician (or every fan) will have the ability to access what is essentially a fairly pricey lifestyle device. And, at the end of the day, it's quality of the music that counts, not the device upon which it is played. That said, it seems that the iPad could be a positive thing for both music-makers and music-lovers.
What do YOU think?