The Kindle/iPad> showdown is here.
No one has ever accused me of being an early adopter, but I was so eager to try out the new iPad that I pre-ordered it online and it arrived in a plain brown wrapper two weeks ago. My eagerness reflected my previously-expressed frustrations with the Kindle, as well as the fact that I own both Apple and Amazon shares.
Since then, I ve been trying out the iPad in a variety of settings, including train, plane, bus and, naturally, in bed. I don t have an iPhone or iPod Touch, so the touch-screen technology, virtual keyboard, and dizzying array of applications were all new to me. One envious friend tried to pry my iPad away from me on grounds that I m not iPad worthy.
My first impression on removing the iPad from its box was that it s a beautiful piece of work, very slender with a great screen, but also rather heavy compared to the Kindle. Then I started using it, and that concern disappeared. The first thing I downloaded was the Kindle app, and with it came the entire contents of my Kindle s home page, complete with book covers in color, and I was able to resume reading right where I d left off.
All my problems with the Kindle were addressed and surmounted. The iPad s subtly backlit screen provided the sharp contrast of a real book page, not the strangely uniform gray of the Kindle page that bothered my eyes whenever I read it in anything but the brightest light. On the train and bus, the page was as visible in a tunnel as in direct sunlight. Using my fingers to turn a page is much more book-like than pressing on the Kindle s button.
Newspapers and magazines are more satisfying thanks to the color and sharp graphics. Pages are much better displayed and easy to navigate. Readers can get a sense of the editors choices and priorities.
And this is just the reading dimension of the iPad. It also brings movies, TV shows, videos, music, the Internet and email right into your lap, as well as all those apps I ve just begun to explore.
In short, it s really no contest. I find I m carrying the iPad everywhere I go.
The iPad doesn t do everything. I m writing this column on my MacBook Air, using Microsoft Word and flipping to the Internet for research. But the iPad shouldn t try to be all things to all people. To me, it s the ultimate leisure device: the book, newspaper, magazine, television, stereo and movie theater all rolled into one. So far, it seems to do all those things quite well. If that s not revolutionary, I don t know what is.
I suspect it s over for the Kindle device, despite its first-mover advantage. My Kindle has been sitting untouched on my bedside table. But the good news for Amazon is that the Kindle app, and its link to the Amazon store, is just as good if not better on the iPad than on the Kindle itself. I checked out the iBooks app as well. But other than a graphic page turn, I didn t see any advantage. Amazon has more books at better prices. Amazon isn t really a hardware maker; it s an Internet retailer, which is what it does best. I expect I ll do plenty of Amazon shopping on the iPad.
Amazon shares fell Thursday after the company posted stellar first-quarter earnings but a disappointing forecast. Still, ahead of the report, shares hit $151, an all-time high, and the price-to-earnings ratio is a steep 63. Apple certainly isn t cheap, either. Its shares hit an all-time high of $272 last week after it reported surprisingly strong earnings that didn't yet reflect any iPad sales. Still, Apple's P/E is a more reasonable 23. I don t like to buy anything at an all-time high, so I d urge investors to wait for at least a modest pullback before buying either.
Of the two companies, Apple seems the relative bargain. If my enthusiasm is any indication, everyone who reads or watches a screen is going to want -- and get -- an iPad. After seeing mine, two of my friends headed straight to an Apple store this weekend. I think this is a breakout product for Apple, and if you agree with me, I d invest in the stock sooner rather than later.