Media Perspective: Will the iPad bridge the gap between old and new media?

So, the iPad has finally landed and you really should have a go with it. Because, like so many other things, it only really makes sense when you have had a play with it yourself.

It's a little heavier than you might imagine, the screen makes the web look gorgeous and, as you tap and poke at it, you realise that this is a rather new and thrilling way of interacting with a computer. Yes, superficially it's just a big iPhone, but only in the way that a horse is just a big dog. Doing away with files, folders and finders makes many things impossible but it gives everything else a real simplicity and focus. When you're doing something, you're just doing that thing - the temptation to multi-task recedes and you can dive into your task with abandon.

And you can see why publishers are pinning so many hopes on it. It's a controllable, closed system that means they can charge for content. And it's a rich, immersive, multimedia environment that can enable gorgeous media experiences. Which is obviously good. But which sends a chill down the spine of those of us old enough to remember CD-Roms.

Remember them? Remember when the CD-Roms were the rich, immersive, multimedia future?

I went to work at Wieden & Kennedy because Microsoft hired it to create a consumer brand to market CD-Roms. Everyone thought that was the media future - Encarta and recipes on little shiny discs. And then came the internet. And it turned out that shiny content wasn't the future; everyone was perfectly happy with really ugly pages because they let you do things you'd never been able to do before.

It turned out that connecting, creating, transacting, playing, discovering, learning, teaching and messing about didn't require expensive art direction and high-end photography; they needed openness, robustness and a collaboratively agreed set of standards. And it became clear that we preferred doing those new things to just doing the old things in a glossier way.

Which is not to say that the same thing will happen again. Maybe the iPad is the first hint that we're ready for a glossier aesthetic to be layered on top of the internet. And maybe this will be the way that the big production values of "old media" and the connective, transactional possibilities of the new world will be combined.

That's clearly what Apple's hoping for - just look at how it's talking about the advertising platform built into the next version of the iPhone OS.

But it's worth remembering that rich and immersive don't always win and also tend to imply slow, expensive and closed. The iPad feels like an exciting future to me, but I'm not sure it's the future we're all expecting. We shall see.

russell@russelldavies.com.

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