Tuesday, June 15, 2010

So what exactly has Murdoch bought?

I see that some writers (here and here) think Murdoch's acquisition of Skiff was a brilliant move. I won't necessarily disagree simply because at this point I haven't a clue what the head of News Corp. has actually acquired.

(It seems some are under the mistaken impression that Murdoch has acquired an actual tablet, but the acquisition only involves the platform, not the device.)
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Back in January, when the iPad was still just a rumor -- and still being called the iSlate -- Hearst and others introduced their own idea of what a tablet should be about. The pictures were pretty cool, and since there was nothing out in the market other than Amazon's Kindle, Hearst looked to be part of the cutting edge.

My own experience working at Hearst -- admittedly a long time ago -- made me think something was not quite right, though. This is, after all, the same company that in the early eighties thought converting its Los Angeles daily into a tabloid would be a good idea to attract all those Angelinos who took the subway to work morning (subway? L.A.?). The trial run of the soon to be abandoned tablet ended up being dumped on the street in front of the Herald Examiner office by union drivers who wanted to make sure employees saw what the company had in mind -- man it was ugly.

Now, almost six months after the initial Skiff announcement, we are still waiting to see the first Skiff tablet. That's why I think the headline on this Slate story is better than most of the others I've read: Hearst Abandons Skiff.

"Hearst seems to have thrown in the towel on Skiff," Marion Maneker writes for The Big Money blog for Slate. "Can you blame them, as the world shifts rapidly toward tablets and the apps that drive them? Skiff's black-and-white e-ink screen just doesn't have much firepower next to Apple's show of force. And Journalism Online, run by Gordon Crovitz, a former Dow Jones executive who still has a column with the WSJ, may simply be another way to keep tabs on the competition for a low cost."

Only time will tell whether Hearst got out while it could, or whether Murdoch got a great deal.