What the iPad means for sportswriters and sports fans: not much right now


The big day has come and gone with the landscape of print media staying exactly the same. Shocking, huh? While others focus on how the iPad has been a colossal letdown to all of humanity, I'll choose to focus on the segment of that audience who is interested in sports.

I'm bummed. I had big expectations for how this could affect the daily life of a sports fanatic like myself. While some of those expecations were a bit unrealistic and others may even be met, I—like almost everyone else—come away from the announcement disappointed.

To be fair, the iPad does do some things that make it a valuable device, but are those really all that great? Let's look at what the device can do and where those abilities fall a bit short.

  • Mainstream media outlets will have iPad-specific applications. Not entirely surprising but it'll be interesting to see how newspapers utilize said applications. The mockup of the Sports Illustrated application seems cool but does it offer enough for you to pay for it over going to CNNSI.com? Same with the New York Times, does a new layout make me all that much more interested? Also, are small local papers going to be able to fund the design and development for slick iPad applications? Almost more importantly, what kind of prices are we looking at for the applications? Are they subscription based or a one-time fee? How do they work? Do I need to be connected to the web in order to read them or is the data downloaded and stored? There are a lot of important questions that need to be asked.
  • You can watch live sports. This isn't entirely new as the iPhone already has applications for the MLB, NBA and soon the NFL. Now, the larger screen not only gives you a slightly better look at things but also opens up the potential for displaying other items (stats, replays, etc) but at the same time, what are games streamed over 3G going to look like on a 10" screen. Sure they'll look great over WiFi but if you plan on using WiFi to watch games, why not just use a computer, where you can have multiple windows open, perusing the web or glancing at Tweetdeck during downtime?
  • You can read books on it. No surprise here. While screen won't be quite as friendly on the eyes as the Kindle, some still hail it as the the Kindle-killer. Great. We were expecting to hear much more on deals Apple may have struck with publishers. So far, no such luck.
  • It has a slick onscreen keyboard and the ability to attach traditional keyboard. The goal with this is getting it close as possible to being a serviceable computer in times of need. You can write emails, tweets, blog posts and documents. Just not at once. Say you want to follow Tweetdeck while writing a post? No way. Listen to Pandora while browsing? Nope.
  • Games! Not only can it run every iPhone App/game but the improved hardware will no doubt see several iPad-specific games geared to take advantage of the machine's ability. However, will these be able to stack up with products produced by Nintendo and Sony? Because, honestly, where are you going to be playing the tablet version of Madden? It's not ideal to pull out and play at random moments like the iPhone. And if you're at home you'd much rather be playing the Xbox 360 or PS3 version. It may be good for longer road trips or flights but the available games—until we see how great they can be—are not a major selling point right now.

So, what gives? How did Steve Jobs let this happen? My take: this isn't the OS the tablet is really meant for. It has the speed to handle multitasking but the software is absent without reason. Is it not ready yet? Possibly. Or maybe it's other hardware. ReadWriteWeb's Sarah Perez sums up—approximately—what I've been thinking since the presentation.

So why not let the iPad multitask right out-of-the-gate then? Because Apple wants to push the multitasking update to all its iPhone OS 4.0 devices at the same time. That means cramming a smaller version of the A4 into the power-hungry iPhones and iPod Touches then announcing that those people with the new devices can multitask thanks to the new technology. Speculation? Sure. But possible? Definitely. Of course, you probably won't need new iPad 2.0 hardware for this - the feature will come via a software update and likely even sooner than iPad 2.0. It will just sweeten the deal when you get ready to buy the second generation tablet device.

The intiial disappointment of the tablet won't last forever. Once the tablet's true ability is opened up, we'll get a much better look at how this can influence the lives of sports fanatics.

Photo credit: New York Times

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