Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Expect Apple's iPad event to include seemingly minor announcements that may have a big impact on media

Today's Apple event will focus mainly on the introduction of the new iPad – to be named the iPad 3, the iPad HD or Doug's New iPad. But in addition to the main event there will, no doubt, be other, minor product introductions, as well as possible software updates and changes to the App Store.
One of those changes may have been leaked late yesterday when several observers noticed that there appears to be a new category inside the App Store. Catalogs, which have become a big new tablet publishing focus may receive its own category today. Already many digital catalog apps are showing
"Catalogs" as their category, but so far, at least, the category is not showing up in the menu in iTunes.

But clicking on "Catalogs" in the IKEA Catalog for iPad app, for instance, will take you to a page that has an unfinished look to it. You can see a modified version at right (the top columns have been altered to bring them closer together.)

One might guess that Apple may decide to use a digital catalog in its presentation today to showcase the higher resolution display of the new iPad – we'll see, which is what could be said for a lot of the speculation being voiced.

Apple is also expected to announced the availability of a new Apple TV. The Apple TV is one of those products that seems to split consumers – many consumers just don't see it as an important buy for them for a number of reasons, while users of the Apple TV can't live without it.

For someone who owns an iPhone or iPad (or both) the Apple TV is a no brainer to buy. For only $99 the user gets a device that allows them to stream photos and videos from their mobile device to their televisions, allows them to watch Netflix, YouTube and other content, rent movies, etc.

The new Apple TV is expected to be able to display higher definition content – it is currently limited to 720p – and will sport a faster processor which will certainly be useful.

For me, buying a new Apple TV means I get to use the old one elsewhere, which is will be very handy, indeed.

What else? Well, much of the goodies Apple delivers are found in the software updates it delivers, and one can expect at least a minor update to its iOS – maybe an end to the "beta" tag for Siri?

It is often the software updates that effect media companies the most. In fact, I'll go further: if you are in media ignore the hardware introductions and concentrate on the software ones.

Why? Well, imagine if the iPad were simply a keyboardless laptop, one that ran Mac's OS X and only didn't include third party apps? Would a publisher seriously care about tablets in that scenario? Doubt it.

It was not the iPhone nor the iPad that revolutionized digital publishing, it was the introduction of third party apps that did the trick. But allowing publishers to launch their own apps they created new publishing platforms. This begs the obvious question: if this is so, why would a publisher not also be an Apple (or Android) developer? When I meet a publisher who hasn't also become an Apple developer I immediately ask them why they remain in the publishing business (jsut to get to see the strange look that comes to their face when they are amazed at the audacity of the question).

One thing that Apple could introduce – but is not being rumored anywhere – would be a magazine or newspaper equivalent to their iBooks Author software. I know many digital publishing vendors who would immediately faint at the news. But it is not out of the question that Tim Cook or another Apple presenter could utter a simple sentence like "Oh, and there is a new version of iBooks Author called ..." that would appear like a throw-away line, be completely ignored by most of the media, and would end up being the most important thing to come out of the presentation.

I watched the 2008 iPhone 3G presentation the other day and had to rewind several times find the spot that mentioned third party apps. Everyone that day concentrated on the fact that the 2nd generation iPhone would now have 3G and that the price was being lowered. The introduction of third party apps was not ignored in media reports, but it wasn't the lede – it should have been.