I feel like I’ve been posting way too continuously and too much about Apple, but it may be a while until the next time we bear witness to history in the making, and there will be plenty of opportunity later to write about all those other subjects that are piling up in the vault. Being keenly aware of the vault’s sealed contents, I promise you, you’re better off as long as I stick with Apple. Besides, the subject is incredibly interesting. When the company unveils whatever it is that will be unveiled next week, there is a good possibility that the media industry will become forever different. The iPod, the iPhone, both revolutionary and disruptive, will be seen as mere stepping stones if Apple is about to do what some anticipate.
Now, I have on occasion expressed a perhaps unpopular perspective around these parts, that much or most or maybe almost all of the great technological disruption in media has already occurred, and we will for the foreseeable future be primarily presented with features and products that smooth around the edges and polish the surfaces of prior iterations: evolution rather than revolution. I do not retract this. In fact, the anticipated Apple tablet will according to reports be based on iPod Touch architecture, but larger, and maybe with a couple of additional features thrown in. This will not be a technical shakeup, or at least not to the same extent that the iPhone was at its initial launch.
Precisely because this product is technically likely to be old hat, however, is what sets the stage for massive repercussions. Apple took time to get us used to touch-screen technology, we are by now accustomed to the iTunes system of entertainment distribution, Amazon prepped the market with eReaders and eBooks, YouTube and Netflix and others have showed us the charm of streaming web video, we know how to surf the web thanks to Google, and some of us are always still falling in love with the functionality and design of Apple’s suite of Mac products. Now, take all of these things, currently available in different forms from different vendors, and combine them into one sleek unit: a self-contained all-entertainment all-information portable device that can be shared. And the consumer does not have to accept a new system, because the innovation is not the product per se, but the content that will be made available on such a product, for the first time in one bundle.
In a sense, the innovation of this product will be its grand-scale business development and legal complexities: strategic deals and content packages from across the full spectrum of media.Â According to accounts, Apple has been in discussions with television networks, book publishers, magazines, game producers and other content providers, so that, like the iPod’s link to the iTunes platform (which will also be added to the current mix), the new system will not be merely a piece of hardware but a new (well, why not say it) lifestyle. According to accounts, Apple is working with at least one of the wireless networks on a consumer subsidy structure, which means that wireless network access and all that such functionality implies, will be an important component of the service.
For a while now I have argued that Apple’s important January announcement will not be the tablet but a content offering, which I supposed was going to be television related. It looks like I was on the right track, but was still thinking too small. If what I’ve described here comes to pass, Apple will not only reshape the way we consider pay television service, but may well be on the verge of redefining consumer media.Â True to form, Apple has in a tasteful way made revolution evolutionary, so that we hardly notice the shakeup. Please bear with me while I can’t make myself look away from the beautiful design.