With the latest version of Apple’s iPad due for delivery to initial customers tomorrow, it’s a good time to look at this tablet from a Technical Author’s perspective. It needs to be considered (a) as a medium for delivering User Assistance and (b) as a tool for creating User Assistance. As a tool for creating content, we can break it down further by looking at it from a hardware and from a software perspective.
In this post, we’ll look at it as a medium for delivering content. In further posts, we’ll look at it as an authoring tool for Technical Authors.
iPad as a tool for delivering content
There a many portable devices for viewing content – laptops, mobile phones for example – so is there anything different that the iPad offers the user?
One key aspect is the affordability of the iPad. At £329 for the iPad 2 and £399 for the iPad 3, it’s at least half the price of an Ultraportable laptop such as the Macbook Air. It’s not yet at a price where the device could be given away to customers, but it does mean more and more users will be buying and using an iPad.
Another is the iPad 3′s ‘retina’ display. With a 2048×1536-pixel resolution at 264 pixels per inch, users are less likely to suffer from eyestrain after long periods of reading, compared to using a laptop or mobile phone.
The User Interface, with its pinch and zoom arguably provides a more intuitive way of using a computer. The YouTube videos of babies and toddlers using it are certainly eye-opening:
Apple has also released iBooks, as a proprietary software platform for viewing textbooks on the iPad:
There was controversy over the initial Terms and Conditions of iBooks, which Apple subsequently modified to state
If you want to charge a fee for a work that includes files in the .ibooks format generated using iBooks Author, you may only sell or distribute such work through Apple, and such distribution will be subject to a separate agreement with Apple. This restriction does not apply to the content of such works when distributed in a form that does not include files in the .ibooks format.
According to Tuaw:
Apple intends to control the sole paid delivery portal for this technology, freely offering the tool to create new .ibooks files, taking a 30% cut of all commercial material developed using this specification. At the same time, they’re the ones who are developing both the authoring tools and the distribution apps on their own nickel.
With the Federal Aviation Authority approving use of the iPad as a pilot’s Electronic Flight Bag, and other regulatory bodies approving its use, there seems little doubt the popularity of tablets, and the iPad in particular, will grow and grow.
At the very least, it provides new opportunities to display and explore diagrams.
If users would benefit from your User Assistance content being more visually engaging (through static images, animations and video), then there’s a good case for creating content for iPad users.