|Since the iPad's initial release in April 2010, the impact of Apple's tablet on digital publishing - and the consumer electronics industry as a whole - has been far greater than even the most bullish prognosticators anticipated. The introduction of the third-generation iPad will do nothing to lessen Apple's tablet dominance.
While the main functional additions to the new iPad - 4G wireless network support, faster processor, a higher-resolution "Retina" display, and voice dictation, with the same 10-hour battery life as the iPad 2 - don't alter the playing field, publishers still have plenty of incentive to tune their digital editions for the iPad while exploring new ways to create iPad-specific content.
The iPad remains the gold standard for tablet devices in a market that Forrester proclaims as "white hot." In a new report, Forrester has revised its tablet forecast upward, predicting that more than 112 million U.S. consumers will own a tablet by 2016 - representing more than one-third of all U.S. adults. Cumulative sales between 2010 and 2016 will surpass 292 million units, Forrester says.
Amazon and Barnes & Noble are expanding the low end of the market, but Apple continues to dominate the market as a whole, finishing 2011 with 62 percent of the global tablet market, according to researcher IHS. Other numbers further support the scope of the iPad's reach:
• Ad impressions on iPads accounted for 90 per cent of Q4 tablet impressions, according to a new report from Velti, a mobile marketing service provider.
• The iPad accounted for 94 percent of all tablet activations in corporate environments in the fourth quarter, according to a recent report from Good Technology.
• At Wednesday's launch event, Apple CEO Tim Cook said more than 200,000 native iPad apps are available, and the company announced this week app downloads for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch devices have reached 25 billion in the App Store.
• The iPad brought in nearly 40 per cent more revenueduring the holidays than Apple's Mac computers, the New York Times reported this week.
• Apple's iPad shipments in Q4 - 15.4 million - surpassed the PC shipments of every major PC maker, including HP, Lenovo and Dell. The iPad, Cook said Wednesday, is the "poster child of the post-PC world."
For publishers, the rise of the tablet as a distribution channel, led by the iPad, is having a tangible impact on digital revenues. Cosmopolitan announced on Wednesday that it was the first Hearst Magazine brand to surpass 100,000 paid individual subscribers to its digital edition. Across all its magazine brands, Hearst has sold more than 500,000 digital subscriptions and expects to reach 1 million by the end of this year.
Apple's new iPad (contrary to reports, it's not called the iPad 3 or iPad HD, just "iPad") will give consumers more reason to download well-designed magazine apps or browse mobile-optimized websites. The 2048-by-1536 Retina display produces stunning images and text, and the 4G support should improve the Web browsing experience.
One of Apple's goals, Cook said, is to make the iPad the best device for Web browsing. That's good news for publishers still not ready to sink their resources into native app development, or those that prefer investing in HTML5-based apps that work across multiple platforms.
We're still a long way from Apple's "post-PC world." But as Apple continues to position the iPad in ways that attract more and more consumer and business users, it will enhance the device's status as a required platform for publishers of all stripes.