However, I also believe that the iPad is a solution looking for the right problem to solve. If Apple can find the right problem to solve with the iPad, it could really change the world! Wikipedia defines a Killer Application as :
.. any computer program that is so necessary or desirable that it proves the core value of some larger technology…. A killer app can substantially increase sales of the platform on which it runs.
In short – you buy the device just so you can run the application on it. One of the best examples of a killer application was Lotus 1-2-3 - a spreadsheet program for theIBM PC in 1982. Businesses scrambled to purchase IBM PCs just so they could run Lotus and PC sales skyrocketed. Before Lotus came along – the IBM PC was a solution looking for the right problem to solve. The iPad is currently such a device – there is no compelling problem that comes to mind that it can solve better than other devices out there. So is there such a killer application for the iPad ? I believe there is. Actually, it struck me rather suddenly what such an application may look like and searching on Google I found at least one company that makes it. And they call it a Vook.
So what is a Vook ? Here is how it is described on Vook’s website :
A vook is a new innovation in reading that blends a well-written book, high-quality video and the power of the Internet into a single, complete story.
You can read your book, watch videos that enhance the story and connect with authors and your friends through social media all on one screen, without switching between platforms.
(Quick disclaimer – I have no relationship to Vook and they did not sponsor this post )
Books have essentially not changed since they were invented in the middle ages. The Vook – (which probably comes from video + book ) is trying to reinvent the book for the 21st century. It is a new paradigm in reading that offers a rich blend of narrative, multimedia and interactivity using all the great technologies we have today. And the iPad seems to be the perfect device for the Vook. Why ? It offers all the capabilities a Vook needs – a great display, high quality video, internet connectivity plus the most important one that makes it the killer application for the iPad - the ability to snuggle up with a good Vook in your favorite reading chair ! The already immersive, interactive experience of a Vook will only be enhanced further on an iPad because it is portable and you can hold it in your hands and read it like a book. It certainly appears that it would be much more enjoyable than reading a Vook on a computer, a laptop or an iPhone. My earlier points about some of the iPad’s drawbacks when used as a simple book reader compared to the Kindle still hold, but when used as a Vook they become less relevant. The benefits of the rich multimedia experience outweigh any such drawbacks, So while I am yet to try the Vook on an iPad - I will go out on a limb and say that the iPad and the Vook will be perect together.
The iPad certainly appears to be a great product innovation for the consumption of interactive content – and they should leverage that capability for books. The Kindle and other ebook readers try to faithfully replicate the experience of a physical book – but the iPad can do so much more. So Apple should forget about replicating the experience of the Kindle and other ebook readers and instead license and directly integrate the Vook application into the iPad. It appears that the Vook already has an iPhone application – so it should be ready to run on the iPad as well. It also appears that the Vook has partnerships with several major book publishers including Simon and Schuster and Harper Collins.
In any case, Apple should create some brand new compelling content for it in partnership with Vook - maybe convert some classics and best sellers into multimedia narratives. Imagine reading Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland, Pride and Prejudice, The Civil War or 2001 – A Space Odyssey – just to name a few – in a multimedia Vook format with all the rich color illustrations, imagery, sights and sounds of these classics coming alive. Or what about a non-fiction Vook on World history or even Cosmos by Sagan, complete with narrative, videos and sound that flow seamlessly ?
The possibilites for rich, engaging content for children and adults that can be consumed on a portable reading device seem endless. Even if the Vook is only half as compelling as it promises to be – ultimately every parent would want to have one of these for their children. In any market segment, particularly one targeting children, affordability and pricing are of course key challenges - but it could start as a shared device in schools or libraries until drops in pricing make it more affordable for families. And let us not forget about the market for interactive fiction or non-fiction for adults – which is also huge. The potential for both entertainment and education is unlimited and besides the market potential it is also easy to imagine a new generation of children growing up with it. And that surely would make the iPad a device that does change the world !
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