April 3, 2014 marks four years and counting for Apple’s iPad
The tablet publishing platform was born four year ago with the launch of both a tablet, but also new tablet editions produced by brave, innovative and far-sighted publishers
Four years ago today, the first iPads were delivered to those buyers who had preordered the original iPad. On that Saturday, buyers waited for the UPS truck to pull up so that they could get their hands on what promised to be (they hoped) the world’s first commercially successful tablet.
The iPad wasn’t the first tablet, of course, but it certainly was the first tablet to gain a foothold in the market. In fact, that was the first question every had – would the iPad reach enough buyers to make creating digital publications for it worth while. Some bet that the effort would be worthwhile and launched apps immediately.
Among the first apps release in April of 2010 were The New York Times (original post here), Zinio’s digital newsstand app (original post here) and a digital magazine from the students of Abilene Christian University (original post here).
Also, betting on tablets were the team from Bonnier that included Mike Haney, executive editor of Popular Science. Because of this, their story about the development of Mag+, through interviews with CEO Gregg Hano and Haney, is the very first chapter of Talking Digital (link to interactive eBook edition here). The Bonnier team made sure Popular Science made it into Apple’s new iPad App Store in time for new iPad owners to be able to download.
Haney has commemorated the four year anniversary with a blog post on the Mag+ website (which is very much worth reading in full) where he gives readers four lessons learned from four years of digital (tablet, really) publishing. Haney is very optimistic, as any platform owner should be, that we are still in the infancy of the platform.
Haney has some numbers on his side, but the one that is most important for me is 200+ million. That is the number of iPads that have been sold by Apple since April 2010.
John Gruber of Daring Fireball likes to collect what he calls claim chowder. These are claims made, usually on tech or media sites, that are predictions that end up looking pretty silly. With the iPad there are no shortage of bad calls.
“The Apple iPad is not going to be the company’s next runaway best seller.” – John Dvorak, MarketWatch, February 12, 2010
“I’ve been covering and reviewing notebooks and battery technology for the past decade, and I know what the current technology is capable of. There is no way that a 1.5-pound computer is going to be able to drive an IPS display for ten hours as Steve Jobs claims. It just can’t happen.” John Breeden II, Government Computer News, January 28, 2010
But the one that has stuck in my craw for four years comes from Jeff Jarvis who received an iPad on the first day like the rest of us then made a big deal of it by reboxing the tablet and sending it back to Apple. “So I reboxed the iPad so I can return it to Apple. As I say in the video, it’s not out of dogmatism but because I simply don’t see a good use for the machine and don’t want to spend $500 on something I’m not going to use.”
But Jarvis had gone even further. A week earlier he went apoplectic over the iPad calling it “retrograde”.
“It tries to turn us back into an audience again,” Jarvis wrote. “That is why media companies and advertisers are embracing it so fervently, because they think it returns us all to their good old days when we just consumed, we didn’t create, when they controlled our media experience and business models and we came to them. The most absurd, extreme illustration is Time Magazine’s app, which is essentially a PDF of the magazine…”
It didn’t bother me that Jarvis thought the iPad worthless and sent it back to Apple. It bothered me that Jarvis was, and presumably still is, an advisor to a newspaper company, as well as a frequent speaker at industry events. It bothered me that Jarvis was essentially telling the newspaper industry to forget about tablets (or at least any tablet from Apple). Maybe Jarvis succeeded, because while the magazine and book publishing industries have embraced and developed their tablet publishing products, most newspapers are producing dull, unimaginative tablet editions.
Back in 2010, producing something for the iPad meant learning Xcode, unless you had access to what would become the Mag+ platform, or were working with Adobe, or were willing to settle on a PDF replica edition like that offered by PixelMags.
Three years later, when we started work on the Guide to Digital Publishing Platforms found inside our Tablet Publishing app, we had a database of barely 50 companies to which to send the survey form to. By the time we finished we had 75+ companies, and when the app was released several more immediately contacted TNM to let us know that they were out in the market, too.
And just today I learned of a new platform called Triobo which touts itself as an alternative to Adobe DPS for building interactive editions for not only iOS but Android, as well.
Whether the publishing industry, or all segments of it, are fulling onboard the tablet publishing bandwagon is still unknown. One company told me yesterday that they had met with a major UK publisher and was told that all they were interested in talking about was an easy, cheap way to get their magazines onto tablets – even it they were PDFs. Cheap would sell them. Interactivity, cross-platform compatibility, was not as important. But this same company said that they more and more saw that these professionals did not comprise the real publishing market anymore, that new players were coming in who did think that producing interesting, native tablet publications was important.
Gutenburg’s first movable type was operational in 1450, but it was not until five years later that the Gutenberg Bible was first printed. But still, just as few years later, Gutenberg was effectively bankrupt and had lost his print shop. Only in 1465 did Gutenberg actually get any recognition for his achievements.
Four years into the tablet platform, it is still far too early to say what will become of the platform. But today many, many companies are betting on tablet and tablet publications. Millions of people around the world own iPads or other tablets, and over 10,000 publications can be found inside the Apple Newsstand alone. It seems to be that those companies that were brave enough to launch their first tablet apps back on April 3, 2010 have been proved to have been brave, innovative and very wise. Congratulations to the pioneers.