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Apple’s (s aapl) iPad is the subject of no fewer than four panels at the upcoming South by Southwest Interactive festival next week despite the fact that it won’t be out until two and half weeks after the show ends. No matter — the iPad is one of the hottest memes welling up in advance of the show. A quick glance at tweets, panels and a few conversations with hopeful attendees reveal that the others will be Android (s goog), location and real-time anything.
Sure, Ev Williams of Twitter is keynoting and will hopefully provide us with Twitter’s revenue model, and Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek is up for a talk as well (perhaps to tell us when the rockin’ music service will be finally available in the U.S.?), but it’s the iPad — and the mobile experience overall — that’s underpinning South by Southwest Interactive this year. The iPad is the most visible symptom of the mobile trend, but the underlying cause of the iPad excitement is the search for the best mobile experience for users.
That theme is exemplified with Google’s all-day Sunday Android Hackathon going up against Facebook’s Developer Garage (among the gathering’s hottest events in 2008 and 2009) on Sunday. The SXSW “who’s attending” function appears to be broken, so it’s hard to know which event will have more participants. But my guess is that the promise of building mobile apps for multiple devices will win out over social networking.
Other indications that mobile is taking over are the panels which focus on iPads, location (one that focuses on both), new user interfaces for phones and several on augmented reality. In a very cool way it’s like South by Southwest Interactive has realized that the interactivity the began with blogging and progressed to social media is now ready to invade our gadgets, thanks to smarter, more power-efficient chips and ubiquitous wireless. So even as attendees scratch their iPad itch, the true cause of that excitement isn’t just a new tablet, it’s the opportunity for mobile computing that’s, yes, interactive.
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