OK, I’ll admit it. I got up early Thursday morning Sydney time to watch Steve Jobs keynote on the mysterious new tablet concept from Apple. While I’m quietly excited about the change this device will bring, there was really only one part of the show that I got out of bed early for. How was thing going to handle email? It lasted about 90 seconds in total, but that was enough.
Since then I’ve had a few ideas stewing in my head that I wanted to share with you guys. What sort of impact this will have on how you approach email design, does this open any new doors or techniques to try? This morning I started throwing some of these together, and then stumbled across this great post from Paul Farnell of Litmus fame that generally summed up what I had to say. Go check it out and then read on for a few additional points I wanted to expand on.
HTML5 video an even stronger option
Back in October we discovered support for HTML5 video across all Apple products (Apple Mail, Entourage, MobileMe and the iPhone/iPod Touch). This meant you could include video in your email that would work reliably across every one of these email clients, with the benefit of falling back to alternate content for every other email client. This could be an image, a link, anything you like.
There is no reason to assume Apple will not use Webkit to render HTML emails on the iPad (just like all the email clients mentioned above). This means we can look forward to even wider support for the HTML5 video technique in the future. In further support of this, MPEG LA announced yesterday that its h.264 patent (which the HTML5 video technique uses) will remain fee-less for free internet video through to 2016.
Compared to every other web and desktop email client on the market, the iPad email client is noticeably free of the distraction. There isn’t a crowded chrome loaded with options, a sidebar of mailboxes and folders or a column of advertising. It’s the cleanest email experience out there for a large screen device. This, combined with Paul’s observations about the typical environment the iPad is built for should combine to give you a more engaged subscriber.
A good thing for standards support
We were all surprised when the iPhone grew to more than 5% of the email client market within a year or so of its release. If the iPad experiences a similar sort of growth, it’s a great thing for standards based email design (even with Outlook 2010 looming). As always, this is going to come down to your subscriber base.
Provided the iPad sends a unique user-agent to us when they render images, we can tell you guys exactly how many of your subscribers are using the device in your email client reports. Look out for the news from us the moment we can get our hands on one.
Don’t lose sight of the lowest common denominator
While the gorgeous, full-screen display and giant preview pane might tempt us to push our designs a little further, it’s important to remember that most of our subscribers are still using older email clients, likely at lower resolutions.
To me this is the most exciting thing to happen on the email client front for a long time. Do you guys feel the same or have a different perspective to share?