iPad here today, competitors on their way

Breathless commentaries around the launch in Australia today of the Apple iPad will soon give way to a market reality that accompanies most new tech platforms. Chief executives be warned: if you’re investing in new skills and technologies to deliver to content on the iPad, ensure you have a strong strategic view of the future for this technology genre.

And do not get carried away with the somewhat abstract news overnight that Apple now has a bigger market capitalisation than Microsoft.

The iPad is a second-generation tablet computer – the first generation having faded away about 10 years ago because they were too heavy to carry for long periods, and the Microsoft software of the time was less than embracing of touch-screen computing.

In my view, Apple and the iPad won’t be a market leader for long. Alternatives from a myriad of companies, such as Dell, HP, Acer, Asus and goodness knows who else, will offer cheaper alternatives. And software developers and telcos will do the rest.

The power of Apple today is not the iPad or its iPhone, but its Apps Store.

Apple has distribution control. That’s not good. A few local publishers have felt the pain. And I doubt such control will last. It’s not how the internet, as a mainstream digital media, has behaved in the past.

Already in the US, the iPhone’s popularity has been overtaken by Google’s Android handset platform. America – always the powerful early-adopter leader – shows early signs of moving away from Apple’s proprietary business model.

Fairfax Media has announced apps for the iPad are available today. Its Sport and Style magazine has been in the iStore for a few days, and so has an offering from a competitor, The Australian.

The Sydney Morning Herald commented that its owner, Fairfax, was seeking a “young, more tech-savvy audience”.

I hope not. Firstly, the iPad is too expensive for the young. It will be bought, as always, by the 30+ professionals, who can afford to be the innovator and early adopter of new technologies.

Those who have read Geoffrey Moore’s “Crossing the Chasm” will have a fair idea of how this will play out. Any newspaper publisher putting money on iPads and iPhones alone should read it. The game will change.

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