What hath Jobs wrought?

Unless you have been hiding in Rattlesnake Canyon the past few months, you’re probably aware that Apple and its founder, Steve Jobs, on Saturday began selling a new product called the iPad. You may not understand what this latest electronic gadget does, but you understand it is supposed to be a big deal.

If you’re a forward-thinking techno-geek, you may have pre-ordered an iPad and you may have one in your hands right now.

If you didn’t pre-order, you will have to wait most of this month — along with the rest of us dinosaurs — to either acquire an iPad or at least see what all the fuss is about.

There is plenty of fuss, no question about that. There’s also plenty of dispute about just what sort of impact the iPad will have.

Is it just another gadget in the ever-growing buffet of often-unnecessary electronic toys? Or does it mark the beginning of the next revolution in the way we disseminate information?

Frankly, we don’t know. But we do think it’s worth mentioning that Apple has repeatedly been derided for its latest products, from its desktop computers to the iPod and iPhone. But those products proved to be major new developments in the information revolution. Now, Jobs believes the iPad can carve out its own place in leisure activity, something between watching TV, using the Internet and reading a newspaper or book. We wouldn’t bet against him.

The information revolution has been going on for quite some time, and not just with Apple. Newspapers, of course, have had to adapt. The Daily Sentinel now includes GJSentinel.com, providing immediate news updates, videos, blogs and other features that aren’t available in a conventional print newspaper.

The iPad promises even more electronic adaptations for newspapers, which is why large companies, such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, have already created their own applications specifically for the iPad.

The information revolution may be having an even greater impact on conventional television news. On Friday, Nielsen figures showed ABC and CBS evening new programs hit new lows in viewership during the first quarter of this year. The Internet, cable news shows and other factors have steadily diminished traditional network viewership. Many more news choices are now available, but that has also meant more polarization. There is no longer a nationally shared understanding of news, as existed when Walter Cronkite visited most American homes each evening.

It’s hard to imagine the iPad will produce such massive changes as that, but it does seem to arrive at a peculiarly opportune time. Even if it does not fundamentally alter out political discussion, it will cause changes in people’s lives. For instance, Hyundai’s latest luxury vehicle will have its owner’s manual available only through the iPad, according news stories. Owners will also schedule maintenance and service calls through their iPads.

And, while Apple purposely developed the iPad without a phone function, at least one company has already developed a phone application for the iPad.

The Daily Sentinel remains committed to the print edition of the newspaper, and we believe paper versions of newspapers will be around for a long time. But we also see great potential with new electronic forms of delivering the local news, and we are continuing to examine new ways of doing that.


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