September 9, 2015 Last Updated 10:16 am

Apple unveils larger iPad Pro at iPhone event, new Apple TV

iOS 9, with the new Apple News app, will be released on September 16 – and still no word on when the Apple News Format will be available to participating publishers

The Apple iPhone event began with a short update on the Apple Watch but then immediately went right into introducing its new larger iPad. With a 12.9″ display, the iPad Pro would seem to be a great media tablet, perfect for reading digital magazines and newspapers, as well as viewing movies, doing design work, and the like.

iPadPro-820But Apple’s base model, priced at $799 skimps on storage, though admittedly its base model 32 GB of storage is more than previous models. Will it be enough for digital publications, let alone movies and other media? Certainly Apple wants you to stream your content rather than download it, but the reality is that users want their media on the go, even on flights when an Internet connection is not available.

The new iPad Pro is significantly more expensive that the iPad Air, and so some buyers will certainly wonder if the tablet is worth the cost versus buying a laptop. To lure customers, Apple is bragging about the display’s resolution with 5.5 million pixels, and its fast A9x chip. The new iPad Pro will become available in November (which makes one wonder why they didn’t introduce it in October as they have the past couple of years).

AppleTV-new-600Apple then introduced its new generation of Apple TV, complete with a new remote that incorporates Siri for voice search and commands. The new remote also features a glass touch pad that will allow for easier navigation.

The big change, though, is the introduction (finally) of an app store and a new OS, tvOS. This was rumored years ago, and Apple competitors such as Roku have a head start, but Apple has a huge group of developers it can call on to develop apps.

Apple demonstrated games with have been ported over for the Apple TV, as well as new versions of familiar apps such as Netflix. Gilt, the fashion brand, also demoed an app that pretty much reproduces their iOS app on the Apple TV. MLB also will be bringing its player available on the web as a beta, to the Apple TV.

The key to Apple TV, though, is streaming: do you have a good broadband connection, can the data get to your Apple TV reliably enough to prevent buffering.

Apple would likely have preferred to have been able to unveil a new streaming service, but the company has found it hard to line-up content – they won’t have as much difficulty with game developers.

The new Apple TV will set you back $149 or $199 depending on storage, well above the cost of Apple’s competitors.

Apple’s event, of course, was about the iPhone and the company introduced upgraded versions, now called the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.


Apple CEO Tim Cook struggled to get his audience excited about what is really just a hardware bump, not a major redesign, or radical change in the way the phone works.

But iPhone owners tend to upgrade every two years, so there is no doubt that Apple will continue to sell millions of them.

As expected, the new iPhones will feature the company’s pressure sensitive touch mechanism called 3D Touch (at least they didn’t call it iTouch). This addition will allow for new gestures. It will also lead to a more complicated user experience, though so many owners have worked with their iPhones, for so long, that they may become good at using it properly.

Cook-350-screenWhat was startling was how little Apple’s new iPhone is about doing new things, rather than just doing the better or easier. Compare this to the original iPhone presentation which was all about doing things previously impossible on your phone. Maybe our expectations have gotten too high, but Apple is getting more about refinements rather than innovation – though some tech observers have been saying that for a while. (Roku, for instance, has offered voice commands on its device for a while now.)

The new iPhone 6s line will feature the new A9 chip inside for better performance, which will incorporate the M9 motion coprocessor. The camera has been upgraded, as well, of course: the new camera is 12MP, with an upgraded sensor.

The new iPhone will take 4K videos, which was expected. But Apple’s new Apple TV does not stream 4K, so iPhone owners may have to look for a solution to display any videos created.

One cool new feature Apple is introducing is called Live Photos, a short animation of sorts. What it does is extend the capture moment which creates the equivalent of a very short video, though they don’t want to say “video”. But with a camera with more megapixels, and Live Photo, the files will be bigger which means the need for more storage.**

The iPhone line will cost the same, but very disappointingly, the same storage levels will remain. Apple simply doesn’t want you to store media. This can’t be repeated enough.

From a consumer point of view, there were a few times during the event that I felt I might be lured into a purchase, but either disappointing prices (too high) or disappointing storage (too low) killed any desire to pull out a credit card.  I’ll just might upgrade my Apple TV, but I see no new iPad purchase on the horizon.

Finally. iOS 9 will be released on September 16, a couple days earlier than expected. Not surprisingly, as there was nothing about publishing or media in this event (no NYT app for Apple TV, for instance), there was nothing mentioned about the new Apple News app, or when publishers will gain access to the Apple News Format (a select group have access now, but everyone is still waiting).


This is a very different Apple than under Steve Jobs, who was very much obsessed with traditional media. At each turn he wanted to include The New York Times in his presentations, but was often disappointed with the way publishers looked at the new digital platforms (he was famously upset with the original NYT iPad app, for instance).


What’s old is new again, the Skiff tablet in 2010

So, with the introduction of the new, larger iPad, it is interesting that there was no demo involving a publisher. Yet, a larger display iPad makes reading both digital publications – newspapers and magazines, in particular – so much easier, right? One would think that those who have pushed PDF replicas down our throats the past five and a half years would be thrilled – maybe we can finally read those suckers!

In fact, it is ironic that Apple would now introduce such a large iPad as one of the first digital devices conceived for newspaper consumption was about the same size as the new iPad Pro. Called the Skiff, it had a black & white, 11.5″ display and was seen as a simple way to turn print into digital. Shown off at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show, it simply could not compare to the original iPad as far as features and potential, but that didn’t prevent Rupert Murdoch from buying the company later that summer (and then we never heard of it again).

So, why couldn’t the new iPad Pro be the answer publishers have been looking for? Well, not at those prices. Then we have the issue of iTunes and that godawful app store. No, there really wasn’t anything new here for publishers that can be called a game changer. Apple has moved on, and publishers probably should, too. That is painful to say. But the piss poor roll-out of the Apple News app has me convinced that Apple is not looking to be a partner with publishers in the same way it had in the past.

Instead, Apple wants to talk apps, and that is probably OK. Apps have always been the answer to how publishers were going to interact with their readers on digital devices.

It is interesting to think about the decisions major publishers like Condé Nast made back in 2010 and 2011. While some inside Condé Nast wanted the publisher to move towards native app building, others thought developing replica editions (or hybrid editions) using Adobe solutions was the way to go. But now even Adobe has moved in a new direction, more closely related to what those who lost the original argument were advocating. I find that sad, by the way.

roku-3-tv-360Now, it is both Apple and Adobe arguing for native apps, with publishers, originally persuaded that this was the wrong way to go, now being asked to change direction.

(Maybe publishers should have been asking themselves the important questions involving their readers rather than listening to the software and hardware vendors. After all, who knows more about publishing… than publishers.)

About the Apple TV, now might be a good time to also say “I told you so.” Apple is about to launch an app store for the Apple TV and the writing has been on the wall for a long time: publishers need to get serious about video and creating video channels. Many have understood the value of video for building their websites and attracting video advertising.

But here we are talking about creating channels. Some have experimented with this already – The Wall Street Journal, TIME Magazine and others have played around with channels for Apple and Roku. With the introduction of tvOS, Apple is saying that there is no reason why one can’t launch an app for the iPhone, the iPad, and now the Apple TV.

But will it be worthwhile? Apple’s previous app store efforts show that the Cupertino company is not a reliable publishing partner, so caution is in order. Partners communicate, but with Apple communication goes in one direction. This is one reason why Apple is failing in its efforts to building an advertising business. One seriously doubts that Apple News will change things, so with this track record it is likely that few publishing brands will look at the new Apple TV app store and see a real opportunity – at least not unless that publishers is an enthusiastic developer of apps. If they are, we might see some interesting new channels. But, please, no replica edition apps for the Apple TV, OK?

** I explained Live Photos to someone and their first reaction was “like Harry Potter and the pictures on the walls of Hogwarts?” I guess that is about right. In the end they thought it not a very important new feature, and one that is more a gimmick than a real innovation. Maybe someone can find something useful to do with it.

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