Apple fans prepare for iPad launch
Most app makers haven’t so much as touched an iPad but scores, including several Australian firms, are hard at work on apps for the device, as Australian fanatics prepare to travel abroad for the US launch next week.
Apple has begun accepting iPad apps for review and approval before the device launches in the US on April 3, several weeks ahead of Australia, which gets the device “late April”.
Developers must submit their apps by March 27 if they want to be included among the first apps to be featured on the iPad app store. The device’s 9.7-inch touchscreen interface is seen as a game-changer for mobile apps and the earliest apps are likely to be the most successful.
Analytics firm Flurry, which provides real-time user data to thousands of app developers, crunched the numbers for AppleInsider and revealed that, like with the iPhone, games will be the most popular iPad app category, commanding 44 per cent of the apps being tested for the device. Entertainment follows with 14 per cent.
The iPhone’s 150,000 apps will work on the iPad, but developers are planning to do a lot more with the device than simply stretch their apps to fit the larger screen.
Media companies in Australia and abroad are hard at work on porting their publications to tablets such as the iPad. Already, Wired magazine has shown off a tablet version, while the ABC has confirmed it is actively looking into developing iPad apps.
Graham Clarke, through his new Glasshouse Apps company, is one of several Australian developers beavering away to create their apps in time for the launch.
“The iPad to me is just the start of something much bigger. April 3, 2010 isn’t just the date of another Apple event, it’s the first word of the next chapter in the history of computing,” he said.
Clarke developed the Cellar and Barista apps for the iPhone but would not give away much about his iPad plans.
“People are pretty tight-lipped about it, which is understandable because Apple haven’t really approved any apps yet – you can’t give too much away until you know for sure that everything’s going to work out,” Clarke said in a phone interview.
Another Australian app maker, Firemint, which made Flight Control – one of the iPhone’s most popular games – has said it is preparing to release an iPad version, Flight Control HD.
Most iPad developers bar a few major media companies such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have been unable to test their apps on the device before launch, instead relying on iPad emulation software.
Apple has told developers not to give away too much about their plans, while the few organisations that have received an iPad in advance of the launch are forced to abide by strict secrecy rules. These include, according to The New York Times, “keeping the iPad hidden from public view, chained to tables in windowless rooms”.
Some developers have complained that Apple’s immense secrecy measures are limiting their ability to create apps that are optimised for the new device.
One of the main selling points of the iPad, the ability to buy e-books from the iBooks store, will not be available to Australians at launch. But Amazon said this week it was developing an iPad Kindle app, which would provide access to more than 450,000 Kindle books and allow users to turn pages simply by swiping their fingers.
Anthony Agius, founder of the MacTalk community website, said he worried Apple would reject the Kindle app because it competed with iBooks, after similarly banning the Google Voice app on the iPhone.
Agius and Clarke are among several Australian Apple fanatics who will be travelling to New York for the US launch in an effort to obtain the iPad weeks before other Australians.
“For me, Apple is kind of like my favourite band. If your favourite band had a new album that was out and you can’t hear it for a month, it’s painful,” he said.
Agius will fly to New York on Friday and hopes to bring home about 10 iPads for friends. Apple has limited purchases to two per person but Agius hopes to get around this by pre-ordering with several credit cards and Apple IDs.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that hundreds of thousands of iPads had been pre-ordered ahead of the US launch. Some analyst firms, including the NPD Group, believe the iPad’s sales in the first few months after launch will exceed those of the iPhone.
One company, iPodMeister, is offering a free iPad Wi-Fi + 3G model to people who send it 1150 used CDs or DVDs, which will then be distributed at a discount in poor countries.
Clarke believes the iPad will spark a major shift in desktop computing towards the use of more touch-based interfaces.
“You’ll probably have to change the way that you use them [desktop PCs] because you obviously can’t sit down in a chair and hold your hands up to the screen all day, but I just think that it’s so much more intuitive to connect with the computer by touching it, rather than using a keyboard and mouse all the time,” he said.
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