When Steve Jobs launched the iPad back in early 2010 no one was really sure what it was aiming to do, and how people would use it. Well, 18 months on and we've got a much better idea - and we've been able to serve up news in an entirely new way by offering a tailored on-demand service that is both based around video and is fully interactive.
When we launched Sky News for iPad in March it became the top iPad-specific news app in the download charts on its launch day, and now, nearly six months on, we've had close to half a million downloads. It was clear from the outset that there was a real appetite among tablet users for a news service which did more than just reproduce online articles and video clips.They wanted the news delivered to them fast, watch live events unfold before them, and engage with the stories they cared about.
In our daily lives we're used to consuming information from multiple sources at once. And one of the most powerful attributes of Sky News for iPad is that it lets users flick though relevant background charts, maps, analysis and twitter updates whilst keeping one eye on a live news event.
This year has been an incredible one for news - and also one that has seen our app come into its own. During the Royal Wedding in April – the fourth most popular story on the iPad app since launch - people turned to see image galleries of the iconic pictures of the day, catch up with video highlights, and use our interactive 3D graphics to explore the wedding procession route and layout of Westminster Abbey.
And when Bin Laden's death was announced – the third most viewed story so far on the app - our users came to us to follow the rolling coverage while using our maps and graphics to get a better understanding of where the world's most wanted terrorist had been hiding right under the noses of the Pakistani army. A couple of months later, the news that Amy Winehouse had been found dead at her north London flat led to a fourfold increase in hits on the app within one hour alone and became the second most popular story on the app since launch.
However the biggest draw for iPad users came in early August when disorder erupted in the capital and spread across England. Our audience turned to their tablets in to follow the growing unrest and subsequent police response. As off-duty Sky News reporter Mark Stone filed reports filmed on his iPhone, we were able to provide easy-to-navigate features explaining the key political and public reaction, iPad-exclusive maps showed whether areas of disorder correlated to pockets of social deprivation, as well as real-time updates from our teams across the country. It's this depth to our live coverage which has allowed Sky News for iPad to stand out from other news apps.
Since launch we have continually refined the app, listening to feedback to ensure our customers are getting what they want. Users will have noted enhancements to the navigation systems, simplification of the 'Top Stories' section making it much faster, and the creation of more interactive infographics and touchable maps, with more features and improvements just around the corner.
Our dedicated team of iPad journalists at Sky News are quite rightly proud of what they've achieved so far with the app. I believe we've created a truly premium product that consumers genuinely value, and this week we are making some changes to how users can access it. For the 10.2 million Sky TV subscribers, it will continue to be available free of charge driving even more value into a Sky subscription. All Sky subscribers need to do differently is enter their unique Sky ID the first time they visit the app.
And in line with our announcement when we launched the app that we would in time introduce a charge to non-Sky TV subscribers for access, from this week it will now be available on a monthly subscription via iTunes. For more details on how this will work, please click here.
In the current news climate we know Sky customers want to keep up with all the big breaking stories, and they want rich in-depth coverage delivered in the way they want it. We'll continue to drive forward the app and its content to meet, and hopefully, exceed that demand.