The iPad As Quorn

January 28, 2010

Yesterday, Apple announced their long-rumoured and much speculated-upon iPad.  The world, it would seem, waited with bated breath for confirmation of the “Jesus Tablet“.

What we got was a competent looking, stylish device that many have already deemed a disappointment and doomed to failure.  I wanted to try to down-play the physical iPad somewhat and think about its place in the society of the (very) near future.

The key to the iPad is to think of it as one would Quorn.

The iPad as Quorn

If you don’t know Quorn, let me elaborate: Quorn is a mycoprotein-based food-stuff made from eligible fungus and high in protein.  Doesn’t sound too tasty, no?  But wait, there’s more.  It is healthy and forms the basis for an entire industry of vegan-compatible meals.  Everything from sausages to meatballs to scotch eggs, minced beef and chicken fillets.  Except they’re not.  Quorn is most commonly regarded as a substitute for these non-vegan/vegetarian foods, and favoured, shaped and marketed as such.

However, as someone familiar with Quorn, I’ve personally found that when you treat it as a meat substitute, it is often found wanting.  I’m not vegetarian – I do enjoy the occasional piece of chicken or beef, and I know what they taste like.  I know the texture, I know the mouth-feel, I know the taste.  When I eat a Quorn ‘substitute’ for any of these, I am only too aware of the differences.

My success with Quorn has been to treat it as its own category of food.  Work with its characteristic flavours and texture – don’t fight against them to make them into what they’re not.  If you do this, you end up appreciating Quorn for being its own thing; a versatile and healthy alternative, not a substitute.

So, thanks for bearing with me whilst I’ve seemingly lost the plot.  There is a point to this, and I’m getting there.  We were talking about the iPad and I was trying to give it a fair hearing.

I think the iPad should be treated in the same way – not as a substitute for anything, but more as a new device – and it should be thought of simply as a piece of a larger system, rather than as a device unto itself.  This is where it’s connectedness is key.  The iPad v1.0, then, is simply the first generation conduit into a wider ecosystem of premium content.  iTunes for the publishing industry, if you will.

Something which finally facilitates a workable model for book and magazine publishers to really exploit the possibility of paid content.  Sure, Amazon has its Kindle and a pedigree in online publishing retail (not to mention the beginnings of an e-book empire) but this is limited by the Kindle reader itself.  A fine device, it sadly falls short of providing an interactive, ‘added value’ reading experience – a void which Apple is keen to fill.

How Apple will achieve this will be down to its clout, established and new business agreements and the fact that it has made a (huge) success of doing the same within the music industry, perhaps even saving said industry along the way.  The traditional publishing ecosystem will be looking to Apple as some sort of savior, a means to finally offsetting the decline of conventional publishing with a new emergent marketplace.

Perhaps nobody else can do this – who knows?

So, whilst the masses may quibble about little things such as the size of the device, or the lack of this or that, the key here is how this ‘first attempt’ device will place the final link in the chain of a truly viable premium content publishing model.  I believe the initial iPads are largely irrelevant in the grand scheme, much as were the original iPods.

The next few months will be interesting times!


  1. Hmm, interesting thoughts.

    think you may be misrepresenting history a little as these landmark models were hardly ‘irrelevant’ – iPods entered a dull and uninnovative market – indeed the devices on the market were aptly described as “big and clunky or small and useless” with user interfaces that were “unbelievably awful.”

    Apple dramatically innovated (or rather licensed/bought IBM et al’s innovations and packaged them) in a way that offered a dramatic innovation.

    Likewise iTunes launched and was a dramatic shake up to the status quo.

    Both these were immediate successes and became market leaders shortly after their launches.

    The iPad appear by most accounts to be almost the complete reverse – a very uninnovative product, in what has become a very innovative market.

    A little too much of the Apple advertising makes one forget that they have screwed up as many opportunities as they have succeeded – indeed who remembers the original iPod launched in the states? A set of internet kiosks for accessing the web. The initial iPod was a total disaster, moving the brand to the portable player saved it entirely.

    So in conclusion, agree that there is certainly room for recovery – but this launch was a damp squib and it’ll need to await the next 12-18 months before anything worthy comes out.

    This is a very basic iteration, not a step change. And I think the market was expecting the latter, and it didn’t satisfy the demand that exists for this type of device.

    Most interestingly, I think their fate lies in their competition’s hands now, not theirs.

  2. Great post, I completely agree.

    If it does replace anything it could be a netbook, since both are designed for lightweight-work plus full entertainment, and the iPad is presumably similar for the former but better (or at least flashier and more fun) at the latter.

    But yes, it’s a new breed of tech. We’re so quick to categorize things when really they are brand new types of thing!

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