Calling Apple an electronics company is like calling NBC a television network, like calling the New York Times a newspaper -- accurate descriptions, all of them, but they miss the larger, broader picture.
NBC, created in 1926, was the first major broadcast network in the U.S.; before the epic Conan-versus-Leno meltdown, it was the home of "Must-See-TV" and still home to formidable franchises such as "The Today Show" and "Meet the Press." The Times, on the other hand, is the country's "newspaper of record"; founded in 1851, it's arguably the most respected newspaper in the world, featuring some of the most influential voices in journalism (Frank Rich, Thomas Friedman, Maureen Dowd).
Well, it's a testament to the increasing influence of the nearly 34-year-old company that NBC and The Times, among other content-creators, are collectively watching Apple's latest platform. It's entirely about that -- content and platform. They create content, such as it is, and Apple provides a glossy, state-of-the-art platform. Conde Nast and The Times, to name just two, have already gotten on board, realizing that Apple will play a part in their salvation equation. In an interview with CNBC, Terry McGraw, CEO of the book publisher McGraw-Hill, said the gadget is "really terrific." And this was before reviews from tech geeks started pouring in. Hours before today's formal announcement, one of the Apple tablet's lucky beta-testers tweeted his followers about what he called the "greatest device ever." (Read our live blog of the announcement. Watch video of the event. Look at some photos.)
In less than 10 years, platform-making Apple has become a bonafide game-changer, its technological tentacles touching on practically all aspects of life. How we communicate, how we entertain ourselves (and others), how we read the news and engage with news -- our very relationship with a piece of gadget. There's a reason why it's called iPod, iPhone -- and now, iPad. It is all about us, each individual user, and that reality posts a formidable challenge to content providers who, for the most part, are still stuck in their old ways.
How will news organizations interact with their readers? Technology changes the relationship between news consumers and news creators. It raises the expectation that readers have as to when, where and how they get their news. Kudos to The Times for being the first publisher to have an iPad App. But how will The Times's iPad App evolve with the times? How will it further engage its readers?
How will entertainment and news programs like "The Tonight Show" and "Meet The Press" survive -- and thrive -- in a more mobile-driven environment? No offense to Conan O'Brien -- I'm a big fan -- but the continued success of "The Tonight Show" relies less on its time slot and more on its content. And with all due respect to David Gregory, his show's format -- starring the same talking heads, repeating the same Republican v. Democrat talking points -- needs to be more in touch and accountable to its viewers. Technology can go a long away in helping with that, as press critic Jay Rosen has pointed out. Fact is, "The Tonight Show" and "Meet the Press" are no longer just television shows.
Especially not with a platform like the iPad, which serves like younger but bigger brother to the iPod Touch. Whether it's a hit or bust, the digerati will be blogging about for days and weeks to come. Already, many complain that the tablet doesn't offer basic features like camera, USB port, SMS-capability, etc. Nevertheless, it's a serious buy for serious gadget lovers. Larger than your phone, sleeker and more intimate than your laptop, with a full touch-screen, the iPad is multi-media, multi-layered platform that again places the user at the center of the gadget menu. You can read a newspaper, or scan a magazine. You can play games, not just by yourself but with others. You can watch videos, or order tickers to see a movie.
Alone on the stage, wearing his usual geek-meets-chic, black-turtleneck-and-jeans get-up, Steve Jobs sent a very loud message today: It's the content, stupid!
Will you buy the iPad? How will it push content providers in packaging and presenting their content?
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