The iPad is Not Your Savior

Some people really think you should buy an iPad. Others really think you shouldn't. Some people think it will save magazines. Others think it will not. We would like to point out that it's just a computer.

People—on both sides of the debate—seem to see the iPad as an item all of us must make a decision on. Right now. As if some government program is going to force one into the hands of every citizen and bar us from using any other device.

What if it's just a beautifully designed computer with an unusual form factor that we can purchase, and use, like any other product? No one is telling us we must, or must not, buy Nike sneakers. They trust us, on the matter of footwear, to judge our needs and our budgets and how much we want said sneakers and spend accordingly. But not, apparently, when it comes to how to read magazines or books or browse the internet.

Admittedly, Apple's industrial design is peerless. They find a problem in the world and seek to solve it as simply as possible (which is why competitors who merely seek to replicate with touch screens or accelerometers fall short).

But to argue that one device will save any industry is to miss basic economics—newspapers, magazines and TV will make a profit based on supply and demand. Currently people are used to getting their content for free. If and when publications and networks begin to charge for this content, their success will depend entirely on how many people are willing to pay at the price they set (and how many ads they can sell).

A thoughtful, incredibly well-publicized device that is ideally suited to consuming media may help increase that number. It may even begin to persuade people to pay for journalism again. But ultimately it's not going to rescue anyone from anything. Ask the music industry how the iPod revolution affected them.