The iPad is a content strategy

As a geek and a journalist who often covers technology, I pay attention to the gigabytes and gigahertz that most people don’t. To be honest, in the era of giga-computing, the average user can’t really tell the different between a dual-core computer running at 2.3Ghz or 3.2Ghz. It does whatever they need it to.

The tech spec arguments have now moved on to netbooks and mobile phones, devices where a beefier processor can mean the difference between a smooth experience and a jerky, frustrating one. The spec counters have come out in force to denounce the Apple iPad: A 1Ghz chip sounds pretty weak. No USB. No expansion slot. 3G as an option.

As they do so often, spec counters and feature fanatics miss the point. There are phones on the market that do more than the iPhone but few do those things so well. When you’ve got a device that doesn’t have the almost limitless power of today’s desktop computers, you have to make choices.

However, with the iPad, that’s actually beside the point. The iPad is first and foremost a consumer electronics device. Do you worry about the processor in your cable box? No. The set-top box is merely an electronic gateway to content, and that’s what Apple is hoping to create with the iPad.

Yes, there are other media slates out there. Just look at the nearly dozen slates that NVidia was plugging at CES. HP will release a tablet later this year, and Amazon is going to beef up the Kindle. However, none of those devices has iBooks or the apps, games, music, movies and television available from the iTunes store. No other device offers this kind of content. I’ll agree with Joshua Benton at the Nieman Lab that the iPad is focused on ‘reinventing content, not tablets‘. iTunes and its effortless integration with the iPod helped differentiate it from the crowded market of MP3 players, and the content is what Apple is hoping will ensure the success of a new type of device, the iPad.

Consumers still have to render their verdict on the iPad, but the stakes for Apple aren’t just about the success of a single device but really about a much broader digital media strategy.

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