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iPad in Academic Institutes

February 2, 2010

After last year’s disappointing Kindle experiment at Princeton, it would be interesting to see how the newly announced iPad will spare in the academic environment. Coming on the heels of the iPad announcement by Apple is the news of the first academic institute to try the iPad. Abilene Christian University said they intend to play around with the device. According to the director of educational innovation at the university, “we’re very excited about this device,… because it’s big enough and robust enough to create content, not just consume it.” The University will test the new devices and are seriously considering giving away iPads rather than iPods in the future. In a statement the University also says “the plan is to mix audio, video, and text in ways unseen even since the advent of laptops and smart phones”.

The Apple’s brouhaha announcement didn’t include any news on academic publisher partnership. In spite of a number of “me too” things (proprietary chip, iBooks, iWorks etc), the iPad still comes in the shadow of failed Newton tablet; probably Apple learned a great deal in that experiment of the 90s. One missing aspect of the current version of the iPad is flash support. Falsh, Adobe’s proprietary software, is more or less the industry standard for video display and the lack of support in the iPad is being seen with suspicion. But Apple is not the only one hoping to see flash disappear, HTML5, the new version being developed has the audio, video elements built in.

What captured my attention the most in the iPad is the ability for layered display, this allows custom applications to overlay content objects (figs, tables etc) on the main content. The question facing the publishers now is “if we do it will they come” and the academic experiments like the Abilene should give us some clues as to the usefulness of the device.

On a related note, Nature just came up with a news release extending the ePub support. With players like Nature and Apple there is no doubt things will move at a much quicker pace in the display of digital content on mobile device.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mark Cassar permalink
    February 2, 2010 9:34 am

    scalable graphics and equations that properly flow with the text are our biggest barrier to entering this market full scale. How will the iPad help with this?

  2. Aravind Akella permalink
    February 2, 2010 10:47 am

    Good point. SVG is a better utility with ePub because of the formatting capabilities the latter offers. iPad is more a platform for deploying custom apps. According to Apple our own iResearch app should work on iPad. As I see it, the the bigger screen on the iPad (the size of a normal print page) and the layered functionality obviates the need for SVG but sure SVGs are cool, if we can find a way to use them in custom apps.

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