For a large part, the Apple tablet was seen as a potential solution for the media industry problem: a digital infrastructure for delivery and transactions encompassing a vast array of media products — instantiated in a device destined to become a de facto standard.
Many blame the media industry for not being able to come up with such an ecosystem. This is an unfair criticism. Building a universal payment system for the web, even at the limited scale of a single country is already complicated. Let alone an interconnected system allowing users to jump from one country to another. Even the music industry — can’t we think of more global product? – couldn’t do it. As for agreeing on a set of specifications for a device, it would have been impossible. Too many views, ideas, concepts, priorities to unify. To say nothing of egos.
Hence the reliance on Steve Jobs’ vision. As the media industry kept unraveling, such reliance mutated into a desperate hope. Can he save us? Can he do for the media business what he did to the music industry with the iPod + iTunes magic combination?
In this respect, the January 27th release of the iPad fell below expectations. The device is great, it has all the attributes of an Apple product: a sleek design and a gorgeous interface. But Steve Job’s presentation was short on contents. We had a glimpse of the New York Times reader apparently crash-coded in three weeks, but no magazine, nor mind-blowing hybrid content (I’ll come to that notion later). Given the hype, maybe Apple could have waited until May or September to roll-out its magic slate fully loaded with ready-to-purchase news contents. Evidently, Apple is hampered by its obsession with secrecy and its habit of making deals on its own terms – a “here-is- our-device-now-here-is-the-deal ” posture.
Granted, the product won’t ship for two or three months, depending on the version (wifi or 3G). Then, let’s give Apple and its partners the benefit of the doubt and let’s move the clock forward to spring 2011 to see what a true news media game changer could look like.