Much ado about iPad apps

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Thursday, 27th January 2011 by Simon Hilliard

Having wondered last week why The Guardian is still lacking a fully fledged, gung-ho iPad app, some light has been cast upon the digital dealings.

There is, unsurprisingly, an app in the works for the much loved, much advertised, other iOS device. Editor of the good old fashioned Guardian.co.uk website, Janine Gibson, gave some insight to sister site PaidContent. “It’s in the early stages of development…”

Only in early stages you say? But other papers have had an iPad app for yonks. How is The Guardian, now on its second iPhone incarnation, lagging so far behind? Well, it’s not so simple making an iPad app you know. Gibson explains:

“The original iPhone app was quite groundbreaking at the time. You want to do something that feels appropriate to the device… we’re not a fan of PDFs with the sound of a page turning… We’re focusing on designing a product we think is true to The Guardian, true to iPad, and is brilliant.”

A lofty target, but one that is certainly achievable. While there are a number of iPad apps out there, none have been a runaway success. Perhaps this is because the average iPad user is still working out where exactly the iPad fits into their life. Compared to an iPhone (which acts as a phone, remember) and a laptop (for lap-topping things) the iPad didn’t fit an obvious need.

Gibson seems fully aware of this, stating “What (content) is appropriate to what (device)?…Is an app more of a closed, finite reading experience, and is web browsing more of an infinite, take-you-anywhere experience. iPad seems to be a laying-down-on-your-sofa experience, judging from the research.”

The ‘research’ seems to add up to me. Which leads me to believe The Guardian app will be something quite special, and worth paying for. Perhaps there is a niche for evening reading to be exploited, with readers collapsing on the sofa at the end of a hard day and diving into the digital left wing. That would require less news content, but there’s no reason any app in development can’t focus on features, lifestyle, analysis and comment.

Whatever it looks like, there’s a good chance of grabbing some decent subscriber numbers – and for PRs an interesting new avenue for client coverage.

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