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Case Studies in App Application

Tablet Apps Take Over the World


Tablet Apps Take Over the World


The ubiquitous Apple iPad is bringing revolutionary changes to education, music, business and even hair styling. Just step out of the house and you'll realize that tablet computers have already quietly changed the world around you.



Tablet Apps Take Over the World

By Yueh-lin Ma
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 465 )

Children's Author Ma Ching-hsien

Educational Audio Books for Kids

"What's an iPad? I don't have the slightest idea," exclaims well-known children's author Ma Ching-hsien. The 80-year-old is somewhat embarrassed to admit he does not even know how to use a mobile phone, let alone other electronic gadgets.

Lulu Yeh, managing director of Quick Language Learning Inc., smiles at his side, nodding her head. She gets excited at the mere thought of how lucrative it will be to adapt Ma's more than 150 volumes of children's songs, fairy tales, picture books, children's novels and play scripts for use on the iPad – all the more so since many of the xiangsheng comic dialogues that Ma has written for children have become popular as aids for learning Mandarin.

Due to the craze about the iPad and competing tablets, Ma's works have become a hot commodity. Young parents are eager to find audio book applications for their high-tech savvy offspring as well as content that is not just entertaining but also educating. Eying the booming education market, content providers are also eager to find suitable materials to create sought-after content that can be bundled with applications.

"In the past, language learning applications for smartphones could still be developed in-house, but the tablets now require more sophisticated content. So we outsource content programming," says Yeh. The company's first iPad compatible e-book was Ma's Mandarin translation of Stone Soup, a traditional children's tale from Sweden, published along with the English version for the purpose of bilingual learning. "Developing educational audio books is somewhat different from ordinary e-book publishing. You need to have a deeper understanding of child psychology and diverse learning. So authors of children's literature like Master Ma are obviously particularly important," Yeh notes.

Business Opportunities for Taiwanese Content Providers

Yeh notes that audio books made in China leave much to be desired in terms of content and recording quality. "They're used to getting everything for free. That's why they don't want to make any effort on content. I guess that's where the opportunities lie for Taiwanese content providers in the Chinese language market," she muses.

Yeh therefore decided to expand the company's portfolio from language studies content for adult learners to the production of audio books for children. She also asked an Italian illustrator to create 10 different characters to feature in a variety of children's stories, as a basis for developing a market for lucrative spin-off products such as dolls and computer games.

Most children may not know who Ma is – the author of the popular comic dialogues, and a major literary figure on familiar terms with such A-list Taiwanese writers as Lin Liang and Lin Haiyin. But thanks to the rising need for quality content in electronic apps, Ma and his literary contributions are staging a comeback.

DV Hair Salon

Stylists Use iPad to Document Work

The Gongguan area in Taipei, a popular hangout for trendy youth and students, is not only dotted with eateries and fashion boutiques, but also boasts many competing hair salons. Although DV Hair's prices are on the higher end, the salon is brimming with customers. In the light and spacious reception area, a stylist discusses with her customer what perm and hairstyle will be best for the Chinese New Year. Instead of leafing through piles of hair styling magazines, the pair is looking at the screen of an iPad.

In August last year, stylist Anita and her nine colleagues bought themselves iPads. They use their new devices to access the salon's hairstyle database, as well as the individual hairstyle creations of each stylist. They also download celebrity photos from the Internet for inspiration, and collect avant-garde and retro hairstyles. "Customers are more likely to find the hairstyle that they dream of after looking at a collection of beautiful photos that have been categorized. Our chances of persuading customers of our ideas have increased 20 to 30 percent," says Anita.

Customers are also captivated by the new approach. "I feel that communication (with the stylist) has become very efficient and interesting. The hairstyle photos that the stylist collects also tell you a lot about her devotion to the job," notes Ms. Hsieh beaming with satisfaction after successfully picking her favorite hair color and the curliness of her perm.

Stylists with Personal Websites

Aside from facilitating communication with customers, the iPad also allows the stylists to showcase their personal styles. The personal file of technical vice director Asam (Yeh Cheng-hui) includes many shots of strutting models. After looking at the photos, clients tend to be bolder and more ready to try out new hairstyles.

"Since we have Wi-Fi access in the salon, I can readily search the Internet if a customer tells me she or he wants to have the same hairstyle as a certain celebrity, or one they saw in a TV series or music video. This enhances mutual trust and makes it easier to match ideas," Asam points out.

The company has also established a cloud-based database. All stylists have personal websites where they can upload their creations and access the company's own hairstyle e-books. "The stylists buy their own hardware (iPads), but the company designs the software for us," says Yasen in describing the model. To keep the iPads up and running, a charging station has been set up in the salon. "In the past I used to use my mobile phone and a digital camera to communicate with customers. Now that we finally got the iPad, there's an inexhaustible supply of large-format photos," says Asam.

DV Hair is the flagship store of the Davie Concept Group. That all ten stylists at the salon are using iPads has also rubbed off on other Davie hairdressers. About one third of the group's 200 hair stylists have gotten themselves an iPad tablet.

Internet Novelist Hiyawu:

Writing Books Is a Service Industry

"The sum of all those things I've done in the past seems to have been leading up to this moment!" So says Internet novelist Hiyawu while flipping through the free downloadable iPad app associated with his latest novel The Rainless City. The app includes two short video snippets, three essays and four original musical tracks. For US$4.99, it comes with the full content of the novel as well. "I'm really all set!" he enthuses.

Hiyawu (real name: Wu Zi-yun), who's been cranking out romance novels for eleven years, with each selling an average of 150,000 copies, actually doesn't even use an iPad himself. "My iPhone already takes care of all my communication needs, and I still don't see the need to move into a world of such big images," he says.

But with the publication of his first print edition in 2000, We Won't Marry, OK?, he began including CDs of original songs inserted into the cover of each copy. Thereafter, he continued to expand on that notion, including animation segments and full-color images of scenes from his novels in each copy.

Be it video novels or releasing video vignettes of new works, as he did with Poetry of Summer, Hiyawu's creative energy has never been limited strictly to the written word. His meanderings into the world of multimedia have put him in an ongoing tug-o'-war with the marketing conventions of his publisher.

"Every time the publisher hears I want to try some new hook to accompany a new book, they always feel a little uneasy at first," he says. "But I always want to try something new. If the publisher doesn't have the budget for it, I turn to friends for help."

It's a Pity Not to Mess Around

Now an Internet novelist adored by his young readers, his childhood dream was in fact to be a cartoonist. When writing his novels, he often begins by visualizing the logical progression of a comic strip, so his prose has no lack of vivid imagery, and there is no shortage of material when he goes to add the multimedia application component.

"I'm not really an author – I'm just someone who likes to mess around with stuff," he insists.

Hiyawu describes himself as a bit of a hammy fellow given to flights of fancy. When he writes a song, he also wants to be the one to sing it for his readers, and when he creates a video, he wants to post it for readers to watch. The advent of tablet computers "opens up even more future possibilities for me. It would be a pity not to mess around some when you're young."

Although he likes to joke around, Hiyawu is not lacking for capital ideas. He's fully aware of just how far his sales volume can support his own creative endeavors and counts on new twists to raise his readers' expectations. To seize the lead among Taiwanese authors in having their new books available through iPad, he had hoped to publish the iPad version of The Rainless City simultaneously with the print version late last year. That didn't happen – the iPad version is still awaiting publication. So readers wanting to see Hiyawu's discussion of his "director's dreams" on their iPads may have to wait a little longer.

"Writing books used to be a simple affair. Now it's getting to be like a service industry, where you have to provide every bit of creative entertainment for readers. These days you can't just simply do your own thing," he says.

With the advent of new technology, Hiyawu's relationship with his readers keeps getting redefined.

Magic Power Band

Playing Music – The Barriers Are Falling

One of the more compelling features of the iPhone is the multiplicity of software apps available for download through the Apple App Store. In the music world, people use them to play the ocarina, the piano, the electronic piano or the guitar. And the iPad, with its bigger screen and more powerful features, not only allows musicians to directly compose musical pieces on it but is better suited for ordinary users to embark on their own musical adventures. Be it classical or techno, rock and roll or hip hop, the dreams of your youth are all here at the snap of your fingers.

In a basement off an alley on Taipei's Eastside, Magic Power, a band formed two years ago, is practicing. Like their veteran colleagues Mayday, this six-member group that writes its own material is particularly adept at live performance. Mixing rock with hip hop, funk and rap styles, they have performed numerous shows in Taipei, Singapore, Shanghai and other cities.

Mixing Music at the Touch of a Tablet

Band leader/bass player KaiKai (Lai Shih-kai) and DJ GuGu (Lu Siwei) are big fans of Apple, and the iPads they carry with them are in constant use for both creative work and for entertainment. A highly skilled percussionist, GuGu was the drummer on pop diva Chang Hui-mei's "Amit" concert tour.

"In performing as a DJ, most of the music is created on a computer, and with electronic music, it's the beat that's most important. The iPad has a lot of apps I can use any time to lay down a simple track immediately and save that moment of inspiration," he says.

He observes that anyone can quickly become proficient with apps like DJ Sampler, Loopesque, MixxMuse and Garage Band.

"Really, you just need to mess around with them and you can mix music like a pro. It's like playing a video game!" he gushes.

Putting together a band is a dream for many young people, and the iPad's software apps have virtually eliminated the threshold for playing music, with one Hong Kong band even directly using their iPads for live performances.

Like many contemporary young people, bass player KaiKai has downloaded a popular free iPad app known as Flipboard, a sort of social media magazine.

"It takes content from websites we habitually use like Facebook and Twitter and blogs we read and lays them out in magazine format that's pleasing to the eye." Since buying his iPad, KaiKai says his iPhone has once again been relegated strictly to mobile phone functions.

Translated from the Chinese by Brian Kennedy&Susanne Ganz