According to a Nielson report published today, the iPad release in the Asia-Pacific has reached ‘fever pitch’ in recent weeks, despite still only being available in Japan and Australia. Nielson has also found that, unsurprisingly, since the iPad’s Asia-Pac debut, the highest levels of buzz surrounding Apple’s latest were within the first week, and that the general reception has been positive. But what is surprising, is that the most online discussion currently going on about the tablet is in South Korea, where it’s not yet even sold. Meanwhile, Reuters yesterday reported that the iPad in Asia is starting to make a mark in the business world—it’s for example already being used by a Japanese wedding planning company, will soon be integrated into the day-to-day operations of a luxury hotel chain and an Australian airline will offer it to clients on their flights for a small additional fee. And over in Australia, one businessman and restaurateur is bringing the latest technology into fine dining with his plans to, according to the national newspaper, ‘convert his restaurant to an all-iPad operation with specially written interactive software that he claims will make it the first restaurant in Australia to employ Apple’s red-hot tablet for both menus and wine lists.’
With all these reports coming in, I wanted to get some firsthand insight on the exciting topic. So I managed today to nail down busy social media and marketing expert Willy Lim, the founder of marketing company NetProfitQuest, for a few quick questions.
He told me that in terms of the iPad’s consumer market in Asia, it’ll be divided into categories of larger corporations and Small and Medium Enterprises (SME). Lim said in his opinion, the tablet will become popular among the SMEs, in particular in the retail and service industries, because it will bring ‘a factor of coolness into the customer experience’ and that the problem for larger corporations will be security. When I asked him what the future holds for iPads in the region, he told me that Asian consumers won’t be going any more crazy for it over the rest of the world, and people everywhere are likely going to start ‘dumping their netbooks for iPads.’ The affable Lim also told me that both the iPhone and iPad will lay foundations for a major shift that will see PC users switching to Mac over the next few years.
I also had a chance today to speak to Craig Mod, a Tokyo-based digital publishing expert who spoke to me about the more creative aspects of the iPad. One of Mod’s personal and professional aims is to ‘do interesting work connected with the future of the book,’ which he explores through various projects and collaborative initiatives, And for this, he told me, the iPad now ‘plays a huge role,’ especially as all of his current eBook related work is ‘inevitably connected to it.’ And when I asked him how he thinks the iPad is going to be both used and received in Asia, Mod was cautiously optimistic, saying that ‘something is brewing, but it’s far too early to make any real predictions.’ However he raised the interesting point that we must remember that the use of such devices is ‘defined by culture’ and went on to suggest that the real success of the iPad as a reading device will be up to the publishers and niche groups of readers. Mod also asserted that in Japan, for one, the publishing industry is ‘most certainly paying attention.’ He said Japan in particular is a unique market for the iPad, because ‘the country has a history with digital books—the ‘keitai shousetsu,’ or cell phone novel. So clearly there’s an interest in digital reading here, especially if it’s easy to integrate with the long daily commutes many workers face.’
However, Mod, who himself uses the iPad daily for reading (‘Kindle and Instapaper’) and has been quoted by media predicting technology like the iPad will replace books, does maintain a soft spot for the printed book. Just a certain kind of printed book. While he won’t be mourning the disappearance of cheap modern English titles, the kind he describes as ‘horrible Western (mainly American) abominations of books—awkwardly sized, slapped together with cheap glue and printed on sandpaper,’ he does hope that books in Japan of various kinds, the ‘very minimal, rational and extremely well bound’ sort, will stick around and not be bullied out by things like the iPad.