Qwiki Hits the iPad

You haven’t used Qwiki, the multimedia reference service bankrolled by Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, until you’ve tried it on the iPad.

The San Francisco startup announced this morning that Apple has approved the new mobile version of its “rich media narrative” technology for distribution through the iTunes App Store. Owners of iPads can download the free app now.

Qwiki had little choice but to build a native iPad app if it wanted the growing legions of iPad owners to explore its site. The Web version of the site doesn’t work in the iPad’s Safari browser because it’s built around Flash—the Adobe multimedia format that Apple has banned from its iOS mobile operating system.

But now all of the same functions that Qwiki offers at the site—Web images, videos, Wikipedia text mixed into short slide shows narrated by a friendly computer voice—are available on the iPad. In fact, the app actually improves on the site by adding maps and other features tailored for the tablet platform.

I got a preview of the iPad version of Qwiki launch party at the company’s new SoMa headquarters last week, and it was a bit of a conversion experience. Whenever I find interesting resources like Qwiki that are designed for the desktop Web, my heart sinks a little, because I’m really not looking for more reasons to spend time using my PC. Whenever possible, I’m trying to offload tasks to my iPad, which makes both work tasks like e-mail management and leisure activities like Web surfing more pleasurable.

And Qwiki is the rare example of a Web resource that works even better as a native iOS app than as a Web service. Watching the mini-slide-shows, pausing to examine the individual images, and swiping to surf between “Qwikis” (the company’s name for the shows) via … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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