The iPad from Apple, which was developed as a way to fill the gap between laptops and smartphones.

On Jan. 27, Apple Computer Inc. unveiled its latest product, a much-anticipated tablet computer. It is called the iPad.

It is a pretty slick looking piece of machinery, just as expected. It is an Apple product after all. It is aimed to fill the void between smartphones and laptops, and it seems like it will fit the bill pretty good, even though it looks a lot like an iPod.

Some people in the journalism world questioned if the iPad would be the savior to the beleaguered industry. Will that be the case? I don’t know. I think a product like the iPad, which is going to have mass consumer appeal due to the various applications, portability and functionality it already offers and future product generations will surely reveal, could help media companies.

However, I’m skeptical about putting to much faith in it. I don’t think anyone should ever put all their eggs in one basket. The possibilities are good, but only time will tell how everything will shake down.

Of course, some people are willing to just dive in head-first.

Take, for example, Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. ACU’s student newspaper, The Optimist, is planning to pioneer publishing on the iPad.

According to a press release, “Dr. Cheryl Bacon, chair of ACU’s Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, says students and faculty already are working to achieve this goal.”

“This is yet another opportunity for our students to make use of a cutting-edge delivery system – the third version of mobile media delivery we have pioneered,” Bacon said in the release.

Bacon sited “her department’s track record:  dissemination of The Optimist student newspaper via iPhone in the fall of 2007; adoption of an updated application in the fall of 2008; and now, ACU’s preparation for delivery of The Optimist on the iPad this spring.”

This is pretty cool. This school is forward-thinking enough to work on developing a unique publishing model to get their news onto this new system.

See, that’s the key with news organizations making use of the iPad. It is going to take more than simply putting the print edition up and making it available to iPad users. There is going to have to be value added. Video and links will be a must, but in order to come up with another version of the information will be time consuming. It is basically going to turn into another, separate process in the publication cycle, and since so many professional, big-media companies are cutting staff members in order to save money, finding people who have the time to produce an iPad edition is going to be a stretch. I fear media companies will be so worried about an iPad version that they will just regurgitate the print edition as it is paginated, which won’t be an advancement. It will be a step backward.

See, the iPad is an opportunity, but it has to be done right. It has to take innovation to make anything published on this new platform viable. This is something The Optimist understands, as was made clear in an editorial it published.

“The only thing we know about the iPad is that we don’t know its limits. We like that,” the editorial said.

What The Optimist is embarking upon could be industry-leading innovation. College newsrooms are already laboratories, and now that laboratory could produce results the news industry could greatly benefit from as they scramble to adapt to higher online readerships that don’t produce the revenue that is being lost due to the decline of print advertising and the absence of classified ad sales to the likes of online sites like Craig’s List.

“Mobile technology has rocked the journalism boat even more than education, leaving newspapers and magazines scrambling to maintain readership and meet their readers’ needs,” the editorial said. “We understand how efficient and convenient mobile devices can be, and we realize the profound impact they will continue to have on news delivery and consumption. Designing an iPad interface will ensure you, the student, can get the news you want, the way you want it, whether it be on your computer, iPad, iPhone or iPod. It also will allow us to mirror the scenario every professional news agency is faced with: How can we use a new technology to enhance news coverage?”

I think The Optimist’s staff understands the journey it is embarking upon, and I wish them luck. The current state of media in America is in turmoil. Journalism will undoubtedly always survive, but without a viable way to fund and produce it, I worry about what it will turn into.

Again, the iPad isn’t the answer to the problems currently being faced by the media industry, but it could be yet another component of the solution.

The only thing that really gets me is the name. iPad? Really? It sounds like a feminine hygiene product, as several people have pointed out.

What’s even funnier, though, is that Mad TV aired a spoof about the iPod in 2005. The product they were selling in the spoof was called the iPad, and it was a feminine hygiene product.

Here is the video of the spoof:

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