Wednesday, March 2, 2011

With the iPad 2, Apple wants to solidify its position as the number one digital media consumption device

As the hype of the latest Apple event dies down, most talk will be about the changes the Apple iPad 2 bring to consumers, and what may be missing (they will continue to mention Flash, of course). But now is a good time to think a bit about what this all means for publishers and others in the media business.

First let's go through the many changes to the iPad that you will see March 11 when iPad 2 launches:

The new Apple tablet will be faster, both in terms of processing speed, and in its ability to render graphics. Its dual core A5 processor means the iPad will not fall behind the new tablets recently launched, or those expected to be launched this summer.
The iPad 2 will be incredibly thin. At 8.8 mm thin, it is even thinner than the iPhone 4 (9.3mm). I already can see an ad using the iPad 2 to chop onions ("but wait, there's more. If you order now we'll throw in a set of Ginsu iPads for all your cutting needs").

The new iPad will have two cameras for use with FaceTime, as well as a new cable with will allow for HDMI-out -- more on this later.

This is all great, but media professionals who paid attention today really should have gotten excited by the changes that are coming in iOS 4.3, and how they will effect their future app development plans.
As expected, the new iOS 4.3, which will also be released March 11, brings with it the ability of apps to stream video content using AirPlay to Apple TVs. This is great, but not everyone owns an Apple TV. Well, Apple has done something that I find courageous: they are allowing apps, and everything else for that matter to be mirrored through the HDMI-out cable. In other words, your tablet edition is now ready for the big screen -- or at least, that HDTV in your family room.

(An aside: back in my Hearst days in Los Angeles, our advertising director left to join a start-up. This start-up, Silent Radio, brought those ticker-tape like displays into bars and restaurants where you could follow the latest news. The vision, long term, was that eventually people would "read" the news on their televisions and other devices. It didn't happen, of course, but the idea was that print media could somehow migrate to television. Now it can, even though what publishers will want to give consumers shouldn't be long form print, but video and other interactive content.)

Today's Apple event, in my opinion, absolutely blew away the original iPad event, which I found disappointing. While I didn't adopt that "it's just a giant iPhone" meme, it still didn't seem to work for me.

But today's event, realizing all the developments that have occurred in the past ten months, really adds up to something: I'm actually pretty excited about this new iPad, and I find that surprising. (My favorite tweet so far is this one: "Apple has such a special way of making me feel like a douche for buying the first model of their product."
Today's event had far emotion, at least initially, than I would have thought. First there was the surprise presence of Steve Jobs, looking pretty damn good. That got things rolling. Then there was this long, and almost over the top recounting of where Apple is with its tablet. As Jobs talked about the use of the iPad for medical uses, and its effect on autistic children, Joshua Topolsky of Engadget blogged "Man this is actually really emotional...Damn you Apple for making everyone here cry about the iPad."

The event bogged down a bit as Apple unveiled its two new apps for the iPad, iMovie and GarageBand, but this will answer many of those critics who say the tablet is not for creating content, only consuming it -- tell that to all those bands out there who will be using Garageband to cut demos.

So where do we stand now that Apple has launched its second generation tablet? Well, we now have a couple of interesting Android tablets out there.

Andy Ihnatko plays with the iPad2,
photo courtesy of Ihnatko's Twitter feed.

But Steve Jobs was taking no prisoners today. He rolled through a series of Apple accomplishments including 15 million iPads sold in the first nine months since its launch, $2 billion in earnings for developers of iOS apps, 200 million Apple ID accounts (iTunes predominately), 100 million books downloaded though iBooks, and of course, the recent addition of Random House to the iBookstore.
Then he went after Samsung by quoting back Samsung VP Lee Young-hee: "As you heard, our sell-in was quite aggressive ... around two million. In terms of sell-out, we believe it was quite small." Ouch, that hurt.

Then Jobs went after Google by projecting the Honeycomb logo and showing the number of apps they think are available for the platform (100) while comparing that to the number of apps available just the iPad.

So, to ask again, where are we? Answer, we are about one year into a whole new medium, tablet publishing (if you are a publisher). This new medium was made possible by the introduction of the original iPad. Now we are ten months future along and a new iPad will most certainly accelerate the growth of the platform. We are still waiting on a vibrant Android tablet market. In many ways, the iPad 2 will help things out by allowing media app developers to continue to concentrate on the iOS platform, while waiting for a more mature Android 3.0 market to develop.

Of course that is one side of the story. The other side is represented by people like those behind the new website A representative of the group was outside the Buena Vista Center for the Arts passing out flyers, as you can see at right.

The company behind this site is Zuora, a subscription billing company that obviously views in-app billing though Apple as a major threat. Tien Tzuo, founder of Zuora, recently penned a piece for TechCrunch where he warns publishers of the dangers of adopting the subscription methods of Apple.
Don’t be tempted by that juicy red apple called the iPad. You need to build your own online subscription commerce strategy, one that allows for lots of different ways to package up your content and sell it.
Tzuo joins those like Jeff Jarvis who issued similar warnings when he wrote "the iPad is not, not your salvation. Oh, it’s nice and elegant but your editors are leading you over the lemmings’ cliff because they think the public wants the world packaged just as they used to package it."

So there you go, not quite equal time for the other side of the publishing spectrum, but their views, nonetheless. If you are publisher you can look at the iPad with its Apple controlled system and say "I'm not playing", or you can move forward with your development plans. Give it some thought.