Is Apple moving in on another news platform?

When on Wednesday, March 7, 2012, Apple unveiled the Ipad 3, expectations were running high amongst Apple lovers all over the world. In the first significant launch since Steve Jobs passed away in October of 2011, it was more than just the new product that was on the spotlight. Tim Cook was being evaluated as well.

In my opinion – he passed the test. Wearing a discrete button down (as opposed to Jobs’s signature black turtle neck) and accompanied by Apple senior vice-president, Philip Schiller, Cook showed himself to be a dynamic, likeable guy. He kicked off his talk pitching the idea of a “post-PC world,” one where the personal computer is no longer at the center of the online experience. According to Cook, Apple has 3 post-pc inventions: the Ipod, the Iphone and the Ipad and any company would be thrilled to have “just one of these devices,” while Apple has all 3. “Apple has its feet firmly planted in the post-PC future,” Tim Cook claims before he goes onto tell you how the Ipad has changed and will change your life. This is a classic Apple approach, one that Jobs used every time he stepped on stage. Before he would tell you what he was releasing, he’d first tell you how you needed it all along and how it was going to change your life. And we nod in awe, every single time.

About 22 mins into his talk, Cook finally shifted gears to introducing the new product. “Everyone has been wondering who will come up with a better product than the Ipad… Well stop wondering, we are!” The audience bursts into applause and cheer. Of course Apple, of course you will be the one to outdo yourselves. The one slip-up however, was not naming it. While we get that naming everything with number might sound a little ridiculous – will we have the Ipad 45? – not naming it anything makes it confusing. But anyway, at this point, Cook wraps his speech up and hands over the stage to Phil Schiller, Apple senior vice-president. Schiller goes into the new features: the retina display, 4G coverages, new iOS, Siri in new languages, voice dictation and Cloud support for films too.

Now what is key about these new features? What does it say about where Apple and Tim Cook are taking the Ipad? According to Juliette Garside in an excellent article in The Guardian, the new Ipad is, above all, an attempt on Apple’s behalf to move into broadcasting. The new features all focus on improving the definition and visibility of the screen, carrying more pixels than the HD TVs. This “retina” display, as they are calling it, when combined with the new Cloud storage capabilities and AirPlay, which allows displaying content from your Ipad or Iphone onto a TV screen, it becomes clear that Apple is moving to dominate the television scene as well.

How broadcasting companies will feel about this and what impact it will have on the average users TV watching experience, is still unclear. A direct parallel arises between what the Ipad has done for publishing and what it can do for TV though. When Apple first released the Ipad in 2010, it was quickly hailed as the press savior. Two years out, the effects of the Ipad on the publishing industry are still somewhat inconclusive.

While there are some disagreements on whether the Ipad has helped the publishing industry, it is clear that the Ipad does play a role in increased news consumption. After checking your e-mail and general web browsing, reading the news is the third most common activity in the Ipad and is significantly ahead of other popular uses such as social networking and gaming. 77% of all Ipad users in the US claim to consume news on a weekly basis, as compared to 54% of the general population. The problem though is that no research has been able to show whether this happens because of the Ipad usage experience or whether it is because Ipad users are more likely to be avid news consumers. Either way this indicates a willingness to read news on the Ipad, for which Apple can take the credit.

Though this is all well and good – one thing has still proven itself problematic: People are not paying for news on their Ipad anymore than they were online. Only 14% of users have paid for news on their tablet, while 5% have paid for news online. While the 11% can be considered a significant gap, its also not significant enough for Apple to claim to have saved the publishing industry, as its done to the music industry.

What Apple will do to broadcasting is still unclear. The new Ipad definitely indicates that it is moving in that direction, but we can’t tell where it will strike and whether it will be helpful or hurtful to the broadcasting industry.

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One Response to Is Apple moving in on another news platform?

  1. Amanda says:

    A piece by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism presents an important point in regards to the iPAd’s ability to help save the publishing industry. They say that tablet users are more likely to access news through the tablet’s web browser than through a news app. According to the same study, 23% of people who consume news on a tablet get access through a paid print edition subscription. Users have grown accustom to consuming news for free on their desktops, and therefore, continue to do so on their tablets. The New York Times and other established media outlets have launched apps that offer full access to all of their content for a small monthly fee. But tablet users are bypassing these news apps for websites like Yahoo! News and Google that offer news for free via a web browser. In turn, media outlets lose out on potential revenue from tablet news consumers.

    When the iPad was first released, several of the biggest names in magazine publishing were rumored to be discussing the creation of something called “iTunes for magazines” that would bring a high-resolution version of their product onto a digital platform and would be easy to purchase directly from a user’s device. None of the other similar magazine consortia seem to have taken off. Is there a way for media outlets to automatically re-direct users browsing their sites on tablets to their app (much like Facebook and Twitter do)? Or would it be in their best interests to further pursue a magazine/newspaper consortium on a larger scale (something like the “iNews store,” modeled after the App Store, iTunes, and iBooks)?

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