Every year the most powerful man in American makes his big speech. It happened again on Wednesday, and the media flocked to hear his words. The world once again tuned in. “Yes we can,” he said, or at least he uttered words to that effect.

That’s right, Steve Jobs was revealing another world changing product from Apple. And it really is world changing, make no mistake about it. The latest foray from Apple changes the rules by which we do things, and it changes the rules for a reason that the media have not yet woken up to.

“All of us use laptops and smartphones now,” teased Jobs said. “Is there room for a third category of device, something between a laptop and an iphone? Tough hurdle. It has to be better than the other two.”  The crowd awaited expectantly, but before, he put them out of their misery, there was just one more bit of teasing. “Netbooks aren’t better at anything,” he said, prolonging the agony.

Then he revealed the iPad; the teasing was over, Jobs had cut to the chase. “What this device does is extraordinary,” he proclaimed.

We won’t bore you with too much detail. You can pick them up anywhere. It’s light, but not unusually so. It’s really an iPhone with a bigger screen. Or as one reviewer in The Times said: “An iPhone on steroids.”

Some reviewers focused on the touchscreen typing capability. It is so easy to get this wrong, Well, the feedback from those who tried it is that Apple has pulled it off.  Jobs said: “It’s a dream to type on.” Well, he is a tad biased, but not many people who tried the product disagreed with this description. Some reviewers said you had to hold it to understand. If that is so, then the rest of us can only guess. Other reviews focused on the separate keyboard and stand for the iPad; the accessories turning the device into a conventional PC. The markets were not so sure, until the price was revealed. When the starting level price was revealed at less than $500, or $499, the company’s stock soared.

Some reviewers were not so convinced. They worried about the lack of a camera. Others about the lack of handwriting recognition. Others that it didn’t support Adobe Flash.  They surely missed the point. This is the launch product; do you really think these features will never be added?

But the real significance of the iPad is that it threatens to do to the book, magazine and newspaper industry, what iTunes did to the music business.

Apple made it clear the e-Reader market is in its sights. It is opening a new iBook store, and has agreed deals with Penguin, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins and Hachette.

John Makinson, Chairman and CEO of the Penguin Group said: “Today’s announcement represents an important step in the development of a digital audience for books. Penguin already maintains a close partnership with several digital platforms and channels, and is delighted to extend our approach with Apple. The iPad and iBookstore will, we believe, appeal to existing Penguin customers and also attract millions of new readers to the world’s best books.”

So what does this mean? Consumers have just been handed their biggest reason yet to start reading electronic books. The product represents a massive challenge to Amazon. Sadly, bookstores will have a struggle to survive.  So will newsagents. e-Reader products use an ink style display; apparently the iPad display may not be quite so suitable for reading, but presumably this will be tweaked.  

The product is not perfect. Of course it isn’t, it’s brand new. But it will improve, and the way we read books, magazines, newspapers and even read recipes while cooking will change, and will change for good.

The iPad has taken computers into the world of consumers like no machine has done before. Whether this device itself will be the ultimate winner is way too soon to tell, but that it represents a massive change in the way we read, view and listen to information and entertainment, there is no doubt.

© Investment & Business News 2013