Is Apple ready to change the way we read newspapers?

by Kevin Slimp, November 2009


Is Apple ready to change the way we read newspapers?
Jeremy Horwitch, editor-in-chief at iLounge.com, thinks it’s a done deal. Brian Lam of Gizmodo.com says he has sources from major newspapers and book publishers who have told him they’ve been in conversation with Apple about the new device.


Daniel Lyons, in the October 15 issue of Newsweek, seems to think the new apparatus might warrant all the speculation, even though it’s yet to be released. Jason O’Grady, editor of PowerPage. org, wrote in July 2008 that Apple was working on an iTablet. He also predicted it would arrive around the end of 2008.


And, to keep things in perspective, Stefan Constantinescue of IntoMobile.com seems to think there never will be an iTablet and all the hype is just that: hype.


What is an iTablet, you ask? Beats me. I don’t even know if there really is such a thing. Rumors have been swirling for years that Apple has been at work, secretly working on a tablet-style creation that does it all. Looking for constant access to the Internet, no matter where you are? Check. Want a device for reading newspapers and magazines? Check. Want to watch your favorite TV show while you sit on the park bench? Check.


Well, maybe.


Even though bloggers and writers are enamored with the idea of this new mechanism, no one outside of Apple seems to know if it really exists. Frankly, I’ve pretty much ignored all the hype. That is, until I read Daniel Lyons column in Newsweek. We’re not talking about some blog out in the stratosphere. We’re talking Newsweek. And if Daniel thinks this might be real, I’m willing to spend a few hours seeing what I can learn for myself.


Since I couldn’t find anyone that knows for sure (I did email an old buddy at Apple, but got the response I expected: nothing), I decided to poll some folks who are in the know about this type of thing. After all these years of speaking, writing, teaching and working with software companies, I’ve gotten to know quite a few really smart people. People who know things. Surely at least one of them would have an inside track on the iTablet.


What did I learn? Nothing.


Everyone seemed to agree that it’s feasible that Apple could be working on such a device. Although one wrote, “If it is real, it will probably be smaller than people expect, heavier, more expensive, or have a battery life of an hour.”


And, possibly as a nudge to Apple, all of them volunteered that they would buy such a device as soon as it hit the market. But no one had any inside information. I’d make a lousy crime reporter.


In his Newsweek column, Lyons wrote, “Now imagine a larger form factor, with a screen big enough to hold multiple panes of information. It has no lag time and lasts many hours on a battery charge. Here, then, is your morning newspaper, with videos next to stories and the ability to customize the panes to deliver what you want and leave out what you don’t. This device is your TV, your stereo, and probably your telephone too.”


I’m sure that many of us are both excited and scared to death about this prospect. What will happen to our newspapers if this is true?


Lyons writes, “In 10 years the print newspapers we have today will seem as quaint and primitive as those old Uncle Miltie shows.”


My friend Ken Blum and I have disagreed about the future of printed newspapers for some time. While he expects printed newspapers to disappear from the scene entirely over the next ten years, I’ve always felt like the future will include newspapers in print as well as devices like the iTablet that will allow the reader to receive news electronically as easily as picking up the morning paper.


If you wonder what this new device might look like, just go to Google and enter “iTablet.” Artists and techies are having a field day guessing what the iTablet might look like, if it exists at all.


This brings me to a point I’ve written and spoken about for more than a decade. It’s imperative that newspapers keep abreast of new technology. Whether it’s the computer, the Kindle or some other new gadget, dismissing new technology is never a good idea. And, if the bloggers are right and Steve Jobs announces an iTablet in January, my suggestion would be to get one and figure out how to use it to your advantage.


Do I think it’s real? I have no idea. But if it is, I’ll be the first in line to buy one.