What the iPad Means for Social Media

94.365 - WHOO HOO IPAD!Image by josh.liba via Flickr

My poor editors. I don't get to thank them enough (that means you,
Phyllis), but when writing a column about the iPad while using an iPad, I'm out
of my element. Without multitasking, I can't readily fact-check. I'm less prone
to make major revisions. And I may miss a few autocorrections that guess the
wrong spelling.

Then again, do you know how many times I am checking Facebook,
Twitter, and Digg while writing this? Zero. Score one for the iPad, at the
expense of social media.

It's a fitting segue, as social media isn't one of the best-use
cases for the iPad. In the few days since I got it, I've come to pick up the
iPad for quick email checks early and late in the day, and while my PC boots up
at work. I loved watching "Lost" and "Flash Forward" with
ABC's media player. Reading news has been great, and reading books has been
enjoyable, though I still prefer the glare-free Kindle for the latter. Gaming
has proved especially fun, ever since I downloaded Real Racing HD (though I had
to exit this document app, Apple's Pages, to look up the name).

Real Racing wound up being a very social game, and it started to
make me aware of the social possibilities for the iPad. Anyone who has come by
my office over the past week has had to take a turn playing Real Racing, with
my COO so far the only one to place first. I also joined racing leagues to
compete against others, and I can compete with anyone live when we're on the
same Wi-Fi network.

Another new favorite is the game We Rule, which isn't too far from
Farmville in principle, though it's more about growing your medieval turf, and
farming is just a part of it. We Rule can search your iPad contacts and find
friends, and you can interact with their feudal territories. I can blame my
colleague Matt Wurst for introducing me to that one; if there's ever a way to
pillage someone's castle, please pillage his first and tell him I sent you.

Scrabble is another social favorite, thanks to one innovation. You
download the $10 game on the iPad and then get the free Tile Rack app for your
iPhone or iPod Touch. When turning on Bluetooth, up to four people with Tile
Rack can compete in the same iPad game. Each can keep their tiles on their
smaller devices, shuffling tiles and even looking up words. Then, when a player
is ready, he just flicks the tiles from his own rack on to the
"board." Cool? Hell yes. Better than the board game? It's far more
portable, and you'll never lose your tiles — unless you lose your device.

That's a taste of how social gaming works today on the iPad. It's
going to get far more interesting when Apple debuts its Operating System 4.0
this summer. It will include Game Center, which will have built-in features
such as friend lists, leaderboards, and a matchmaking engine to pair similar
gamers with each other. This could transform social gaming on the iPad and
iPhone from games with a few social features to games that are inherently
social.

It's not just gaming that's social on the iPad, but it does have
the most potential. Most mobile social media as we tend to think of it (mobile
social networks, photo sharing, check-in services, etc., etc.) will still
happen on pocket-sized devices, not tablets. Yes, you can check in to
Foursquare on the iPad, but why, especially if you're mostly using the iPad at
home? Loopt has an iPad app, but it looks more like a city guide and less like
a mobile social tool.

It has only been days since the iPad has been out. By the time it
stars in a "South Park" episode we'll have a better sense of what it
can do, socially and otherwise. Don't expect it to transform social media, but
it will transform your office if you get a few people to download the Tile
Rack.

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