First news apps for iPad draw mixed reviews

Very few people have actually touched an iPad, much less tested the already thousands of apps dedicated to the new tablet. But, based on screen shots and some limited demos, early reviews of the major media apps are starting to come in. And “magical” they are not.

Mathew Ingram at GigaOm leads off the charge, saying some of the demos, including Wired, looked promising but overall “I have to say that the initial prototypes I’m seeing are, well … underwhelming.” Ingram worries media organizations may be repeating old mistakes. “Part of the problem with mainstream media Web sites has always been that they replicate the same user interface metaphors that appear in the printed versions of their products.”

Joe Zeff takes a more design-centric look at the first news apps out of the gate, complimenting the BBC and criticizing USA Today and the Associated Press. “Somewhere along the line, the designer of the AP app (APp?) got carried away with the virtual thumbtacks and paper stacks and turned what could have been a go-to site into a mess. People trust the Associated Press for a quick read on the latest news, but the iPad app fails to deliver that immediacy. Instead, the pages look like the walls at Applebee’s.”

At Fast Company, they managed to get one of the few people with an iPad to drop by for a test drive. Andy Ihnatko of the Chicago Sun Times provided the tablet and Tyler Gray shows off the NYTimes.com with live HTML5 video working on the iPad.

Jeff Bercovici at AOL’s Daily Finance rounds up the thoughts of a few media thinkers, all of whom are either cautious or pessimistic about whether the device can save journalism. Christian Science Monitor editor John Yemma wonders who the real audience is. “It feels like a transition technology for laptops (though hampered by a virtual keyboard and a lack of multi-tasking) than the new, new thing that everybody will want,” Yemma says.

And finally, Cory Doctorow writes at Boing Boing that you shouldn’t bother buying an iPad at all. For media companies he has this indictment, “I think that the press has been all over the iPad because Apple puts on a good show, and because everyone in journalism-land is looking for a daddy figure who’ll promise them that their audience will go back to paying for their stuff. The reason people have stopped paying for a lot of ‘content’ isn’t just that they can get it for free, though: it’s that they can get lots of competing stuff for free, too.”

Related: Gizmodo’s Essential iPad Apps (Gizmodo)

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