Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tablets, pads and paper

In a little less than an hour Apple will begin an announcement that is likely to include a few new things, but one has gotten plenty more press than the rest.

It is widely believed that the announcement will include a tablet-style computer (imagine an iPod Touch or iPhone that has miraculously grown). In and of itself, it might be interesting but is just another computer (albeit one that looks different from the ones you're used to). Where the excitement comes is what has been developed to encourage it's use.

The iPod had iTunes to make it easy to (legally) get plenty of music to carry around with you. The iPhone (and iPod Touch) had the "App Store", part of the iTunes store dedicated to programs that would run on the iPhone/iPod Touch to turn it into all range of products (from GPS tool to dog whistle).

Rumour has it that the latest introduction from Apple will use the existing App Store. This ensures over 100,000 programs would be available for it at launch. But to me, 100,000 programs designed for something else aren't nearly as good or interesting as a few designed specifically for the new system. I like gadgets, and Apple gadgets doubly-so, but if this is just a large-scale iPhone then I can do without. I'm interested to see what they have in place to make people say "I need to have that." Rumour again has it that Apple has been in discussion with publishers who, in turn, are designing new approaches to their newspapers, magazines and books for publication electronically. This is where it gets exciting for me and where it's likely to influence the way we all consume media.

We're used to having access to huge quantities of information from "trusted sources" through the web. Some of these same sources have experimented with requiring subscriptions (and some are planning to return to that model) to allow you access to their online resources. Many others have offered the information for free and relied on advertising revenue to support their efforts. I get the feeling like this new system will provide a new avenue for publishers to monetize their product and whether you buy Apple's Tablet/Pad/Slate, you will see the online environment change as a result of its introduction.

While I expect this will all eat into the sales of hard copy media (just as iTunes did for music), I think that publishers have already dealt with that reality as the web became so pervasive. This may just be their way back if it provides a more effective way of monetizing their product than the ad-supported model that many have been relying on.

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