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9 Questions About the Apple Tablet's Potential

Ken Doctor profile picture
Ken Doctor

The tablet dream -- with its inevitable Apple (AAPL) intrigue and drumbeat of Amazon (AMZN)/Apple war -- has rekindled interest in digital publishing, providing hope for magazine and news industries pummeled mercilessly over the last decade. Already Forrester's Sarah Epps is estimating 10 million tablets to be sold within a year, which may be an ambitious number given inevitable customer BluRay/HD-DVD, VHS/Betamax confusion.

Next Issue Media, the new magazine consortium of Hearst (HTV), Meredith (MDP), Time Inc. (TWX), News Corp (NWS) and Conde Nast, could be a serious player to come. It could become a leader in the business and product development for tablets, or it could be just another industry gabfest, advocating for open standards and common ad formats. Lots of questions here as we approach the year and decade, as news and features suss out whether the tablet really enables a a fresh start (Content Bridges "Digital Do-Over Time," Dec. 8, 2009).

Here are my first Nine Questions. What's yours?

1) How does the tablet blur our notion of what's a book, what's a magazine and what's a newspaper? The web atomized everything, and the tablet is one form of reordering. Each device though -- a Sony (SNE) Reader, a Kindle, a [Barnes & Noble (BKS)] Nook, a JooJoo, an Adam, an Ultra, whatever -- will have a singular interface, regardless of the source of the content. That eliminates the historic difference in page size among newspapers, magazines and books, which is in fact one of the key ways we've long differentiated them. Another differentiator -- paper stock -- of course, becomes a dead (tree) issue.

2) If Apple is willing to pay video/TV production companies like Disney (DIS) and CBS (CBS) per channel/program to break into the TV business, is it willing to pay news content providers of

This article was written by

Ken Doctor profile picture
Ken Doctor is an analyst with a ringside seat at the greatest story ever told about the global media industry. Fully employing more than 35 years of experience across a wide range of media, he’s become a go-to speaker, press source and consultant for legacy and emerging press around the world, talking about emerging Newsonomics. He writes regularly on the business of media change for Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab and for Capital New York. He also contributes to CNN Money and Politico. He is at work on his second book, following “Newsonomics: Twelve New Trends That Will Shape the News You Get,” which has been translated into Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Portuguese and Russian. All of his work can be found at his own Newsonomics.com website. In the past couple of years, he’s spoken to groups and worked with companies on four continents, from Berlin to Sydney, Moscow to Sao Paulo and Orlando to New York. Ken’s keynotes and engagements level with his audiences – and find the ways forward with company and industry strategy. The audiences – whether conferences, trade groups or staff groups, large or small – say they are both challenged and energized. The Newsonomics “practical forecasting” discipline is about fact and metrics, not journalistic religion nor habit, and derives from a trusted access across the legacy and digital news marketplace. A veteran of the digital media industry, he combines deep experience as an executive in strategy, revenue models and journalism. His experience includes 21 years with Knight Ridder, as well as time spent in the worlds of licensing, corporate development, business development and syndication.

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Comments (12)

Great points throughout. This is an extremely exciting time for the journalism industry...whether it turns out for the better or worse is yet to come.
The battle will be with the publishers of the content. Apple is offering 70% to the publisher while Amazon pays 50%. Amazon will get a big margin squeeze on the Kindle which is the real war.
05 Jan. 2010
As there is room for iPhone & the "other" smartphones there will be for iSlate and the "Kindles". It's a matter of finding a niche and serving it well. I doubt if "reader" oriented devices will initially be strong delivering video as that would be a big power constraint aka strength of Palm PDA's vs. Winmobile; longer battery life, simplicity of use and reliability were key. I suspect iSlate will be in a different category and its' reader function will be just another prong on the Swiss army knife.

For the "readers" it comes down to ergonomic form factor, good content display format (uncluttered and crisp) and a workable micro-payment scheme for periodicals.
Not sure what's coming but whatever it is will, and this is no hype, change the world. If someone can put an appropriate sized e-reader into my hot little hands, something I can read books, articles, blogs and even watch embedded video with, all from the curled up comfort of Recliner One, then I'm in, if I can afford it.
Now all I need to know is just exactly how to invest in this thing, who's stock do I buy, what's the tail look like and how long do I have to be in before I can start looking around for my own little bizjet?
Ken Doctor profile picture
A lot of people who have seen the SI demo share that feeling, and it will be a powerful one. In fact, it's a similar sense of how the iPhone changed mobile news reading, the problem remaining: it's a poor ad platform so far.

The Apple tablet, with its built-in App store, ready to be enlarged for the Apple tablet, offers a big headstart to Apple, beyond the usual buzz that will accompany any Cupertino introduction.

January sense: Apple Buz + Tablet intro + App Store + ad possibilities = something of major significance.
brewer profile picture
In five years, hardly anyone will remember the Kindle.
Backlit screen eye strain, is real. If not factored into a product, the public will not accept it as a "READER". That simple!
This does not mean however, that the new Apple offering will not be hugely successful. From what I read it is a different product, as different as a computer and a book!
In which case there will be room for the Kindle, as it so beautifully address the eye strain issue along with reading in the sun.

04 Jan. 2010
"The tablet dream -- with its inevitable Apple (AAPL) intrigue and drumbeat of Amazon (AMZN)/Apple war -- has rekindled interest..."

pun intended ? :)
...as best I can tell, Apple's "whatever" is NOT going to be competing with Kindle or other e-readers...currently ANY color display is NECESSARILY LCD-based...as such, it is basically impossible to use as an e-reader for more than a few minutes at a time without developing severe eyestrain...Kindle and the others are all based on black and white e-ink technology which produces an image like a real book and, hence, NO eyestrain...not to mention the ability to read it even in bright environment such as sunlight...although in development, there is NO color e-ink foe the near future...unless someone has proof otherwise, speculation regarding AAPL versus AMZN as regards e-readers is foolish...
Jkirk3279 profile picture
".currently ANY color display is NECESSARILY LCD-based...as such, it is basically impossible to use as an e-reader for more than a few minutes at a time without developing severe eyestrain..."

That's just you, dude. I used to have a similar problem with any resolution over 640x480, but it went away.

I sincerely doubt that more than 3% of users will have any difficulty whatsoever.
fairinfo profile picture
I think the Apple tablet will come in 2 versions. One that has it's own cell capability and one that links to the iPhone to use it's cell connection. I've often wondered why you can't connect your Apple laptop to your iPhone to get cell capability where there is no WIFI available. One thing is for sure the Apple tablet or whatever it is will push the envelope in some new way just like the iPhone did.
David Jackson profile picture
I saw the Sports Illustrated demo of how it could be displayed on a tablet, and it's remarkable: www.youtube.com/watch?...

Totally different from a standard website.
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