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Apps, Apps, and Away! The Information Industry Flies onto Apple’s iPad
by
Posted On April 19, 2010

Or has it? Despite all the hype about the new tablet computing device from Apple (www.apple.com/ipad), a review of apps for the new device reveals only a smattering from the traditional information industry players. Of course, the new device accepts many apps already in place for the iPhone, but a search strategy using the term "iPad" in the "Apps Store" portion of the Apple iTunes store did not find many descriptions of information industry apps that had added the term "iPad." In total, I scanned 4,316 apps and learned the true meaning of the phrase, "blinded by science." Nonetheless, with Apple selling 300,000 units on launch day and another 200,000 the first week, one should expect information providers to play a quick game of catch-up.

Navigating the iPad apps lists was difficult, at least for me. When I asked an accomplished app-chaser of my acquaintance, he advised checking blogs and other user-based advisories. Although Apple does provide some suggestions as to apps of interest, he admitted it was no Amazon.com in terms of pushing possibilities into the user's line of sight. So information industry players who want to move into the iPad community had better plan on doing their own marketing of iPad app availability.

The dominant category of iPad apps is Games. The categories that should most interest information industry firms and their clients include Books, Reference, Medical, Education, News, and Business. There is some overlap between categories, e.g., Books and Reference and the Books category includes magazines. The Business category can include tools that one might consider more appropriate to the Productivity category.

One interesting quirk, all apps that cost something have a price ending in 99 cents. And one tip, if you plan on introducing multiple apps, remember to use standard art to link your icons. In the case of one vendor with multiple products, a few of the products did not incorporate the name of the vendor, only the icon art tipped you off to look for the provider's name.

Another caveat for iPad users, when looking for an app to provide a content service, think about whether and how often the information must be updated to be safe to use. For example, a number of state legislative codes are available, but provided by individuals. There are two primary ways that apps work, according to my app-wise colleague-through connections to maintained websites or through direct downloads to the iPad. For example, if you go to the Wall Street Journal app, you will have a short delay while it reaches the headlines, then you select the articles of interest, and await their arrival. On the other hand, if you want a book, it could arrive as a single download. However, if you got your ebook through Amazon's Kindle for the iPad app, it should take you back to a WiFi-based reading. What you need to recognize, however, are the items where changes could be critical, like legalities or tax forms or latest weather reports. Critiquing the reliability of the provider is another key issue.

Traditional information industry providers that already have iPad apps in place and identified as such include the following:

USA Today for iPad (free); Google Mobile App (free); eBay for iPad (free); Bloomberg for iPad (free); NetNewsWire for iPad (from Newsgator) $9.99; yellowbook.com Local Search for iPhone and iPad (free); Citrix Receiver for iPad (free); Reuters News Pro for iPad (free); WolframAlpha, $1.99; Kindle (from Amazon, free); IMDb Movies & TV (free); Craigsphone - craigslist for iPad (free); WebEx for iPad (from Cisco, free); Dragon Dictation (from Nuance Communications, free); iBooks (from Apple, free); World Atlas HD from the National Geographic Society, $1.99); Zillow Real Estate Search (free); Netflix (free); NASDAQ OMX Portfolio Manager (Qfolio HD for iPad, free); TIME April 12, 2010 ($4.99); Zinio Magazine Newsstand & Reader (free); The Wall Street Journal (free); NYT Editors' Choice (free); WordPress (free); AP News (free); Thomson Reuters Marketboard (free); Le Monde (99 cents); and Paris Match (free).

Clearly the term "free" can have multiple meanings. It can mean free completely or free because someone else has sponsored our app (e.g., Weather Channel Max for iPad sponsored by Toyota) or free because you're already our customer and we'll check your identity when you arrive, or free because we're going to sell you something before this app becomes useful. Some of the free offerings link to web membership and through that both a free and a premium pay service, e.g., Pandora Radio. Some content might have started off free, such as public domain books or government publications like the CIA's World Factbook, now priced at $1.99 in an iPad version from a private citizen. There are quite a few apps that link to Wikipedia content, some for free and some not. Some of the news readers appear to link to free content from established news sources such as the Washington Post (e.g., White Noise Pro). By the way, there is also a whole category of Social Networking apps.

One traditional vendor set a very independent course when it came to pricing its iPad offerings. Apparently impervious to internet fantasies of "all information wants to be free" (or anything close to it), Lexi-Comp offers three apps at $299.99 each (Lexi-Complete, Lexi-COMPLETE for Oral Surgery, Lexi-DENTAL COMPLETE); two apps at $219.99 each (Lexi-Select, Lexi-DENTAL SELECT); four apps at $179.99 each (Lexi-TOXICOLOGY SUITE, Lexi-Nursing SUITE, Lexi-CLINICAL SUITE, Lexi-PEDIATRIC SUITE); two at $119.99 (Dental Lexi-Drugs & Lexi-Interact, Lexi-Drugs & Lexi-Interact); six at $74.99 (Lexi-Drugs para Pediatria/Pediatric Lexi-Drugs - Spanish, Medicamentos Lexi-Comp Manole, AHFS Essentials, The 5-Minute Clinical Consult, Harrison's Practice, The 5-Minute Pediatric Consult); one at $9.99 (Little Dental Drug Book); and-finally-two free (Lexi-Comp Individual Application, Lexi-Comp Institutional Application). By the way, the description of the Lexi-DENTAL COMPLETE is accompanied by what must be one of the scariest pictures in the App Store.

Of course, this is only the beginning. At the time of this writing, the iPad was less than 2 weeks past its launch.


Barbara Quint is senior editor of Online Searcher, co-editor of The Information Advisor’s Guide to Internet Research, and a columnist for Information Today.

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