If there is ever any word that best describes Apple it’s showmanship. And Steve Jobs is master at this craft.  With the iPod, Apple re-defined an existing market and launched a product that created the illusion that it would alter the way we did things. In reality, the iPod (including iPod Touch) and all the MP3 and MP4 players that came before and after it, is a music/video player. What differentiated it was the user interface (or software) that made it easy (and sticky) to transfer music, videos and applications (the last two on the iPod Touch). Apple also made it easy to acquire music by creating the iTunes ecosystem – and this is where the real money for Apple comes in – through gut-wrenching profit-sharing agreements with content creators. What’s more, Apple also opened up iTunes for you and me to create content and allow us to be potential “stars” in the Internet. Youtube saw it too (but that’s another story).

Also, Apple didn’t really invent laptops. Its MacBook and MacBook Pros belong to the same family of computing devices that allow users to write, work on spreadsheets, create slide presentations (we call them PowerPoint slides), create home movies, watch movies, listen to music, and surf the Internet. If you have the computing power, you can play nerve-wracking games or designwork. As with the iPod, Apple created this very consumer-friendly user interface – the OS X operating system – that made it almost intuitive to use the device (I say almost because no matter how much she tries, my wife still can’t use the iMac we have at home to do her work. She is Windows-bound forever!).

Apple saw an opportunity when Amazon launched Kindle with some degree of success. This brings us to January 27 at 10am PST when Steve Jobs unveiled the newest offering from Apple – the iPad. In truth, it looks like a very large iPod Touch dressed like a MacBook Pro. What it dropped off from the Touch series is the camera. Instead we have this 9″ screen that allows you to do almost everything else the Touch can do – listen to music, surf the Internet, watch movies, and most importantly, read an electronic book in comfort (something the Touch tries to do miserably) although I have reservations about the reading issue as proponents of eInk say people can’t tolerate the current generation of LCD and OLED for long-term reading. A friend says he can read reasonably well on his iPhone. Personally I would find it hard moving left to right, up to down on my Touch – so I never really use it as a reading device. In fact I can’t watch movies with sub-titles on the Touch – so no original Japanese animae for me.

And as with the Touch and iPhone, Apple created an ecosystem it calls iBooks that allows iPad customers to consume hordes of electronic books offline by buying these online. This is Apple genius repeating itself. For sure, it will create tons of money for Apple from online book sales. If the newspaper content generators can do it right, it should also allow the millions of newspaper readers to consume their daily thirst for news online with the iPad. Sports Illustrated’s purported egazine is a very nice piece of software engineering if they can get it out the door.

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