Friday, January 29, 2010

I Am Become Ouroboros, Devourer Of Tails

To the left, my only joke about the iPad's name; the toilet-related ones strike me as a bit weak, really.

Anyway, what of the new Apple device ? I don't know, I haven't seen one or tried one or whatever, and anyway we all know that later models will be faster and cheaper and do extra things and so on.

What I do think is interesting, though, is much of the media coverage of the product's launch; after a fair amount of speculation about its possible existence (and of possible capacities), there's a lot of coverage of the iPad's launch, both in traditional media and online (such as in posts like this one).

And I think the reason why the media coverage has probably been disproportionate to the genuine level of interest (aside from the usual thing about filling airtime or column inches or what have you) is less because of what it does, but because of what it could potentially do in the future; because if the capabilities of it were developed to their full extent, this sort of device could have a serious impact on a lot of jobs relating to the media. Because it could, at the far extremes of possibility, replace books and magazines and newspapers in the same way that, for many people, the iPod and iTunes have replaced CDs and music shops.

Print media have been struggling in recent times with falling sales and/or ad revenues, and one of the main expenses for print media is, well, you've got to print the thing; if, on the other hand, you can just edit your copy of The Daily Blah and send it wirelessly or what have you to your subscribers, that saves you a sizey chunk of dosh on printing and distribution costs. And of course you could correct or update stuff as the day goes on, add in video stuff, make your ads link directly to the advertiser's sites, and so on. All of which will involve very different 'skill sets' (as the cool kids in HR say nowadays) for people working in print media.

So, for that reason, I rather suspect the press coverage (whether it's manifesting as Apple Acolyte behaviour or sneery dismissal, or something in between) is, in a large part, born of an awareness that this device, and others with similar capabilities, could have a serious effect on the press, who may need - as the music industry has done - to find themselves a new (or parallel) business model pretty sharpish.

Whilst the unveiling of the iPad is, for the vast majority of people, an item of only marginal concern as they may not be inclined (financially or in terms of interest) to buy one, for anyone working in the print media, it could have a serious effect on their livelihood in their not-necessarily-distant-future.

It's probably not the greatest innovation since the invention of movable type; but the high-profile launch of a device which enables words which have been typed to be moved through the air and presented in a form akin to print media has to send waves of concern through the fourth estate.

And that, I would suggest, is motivating a lot of the coverage. And in covering the coverage, I am drawn to quote Robert Oppenheimer (allegedly) quoting the Bhagavad Gita. But that's the kind of pretentious idiot I am.

Or, perhaps, I am become.


The Factory said...

You make a good point, and I agree that it's probably the future iterations that will deliver on the potential.

sfauthor said...

Nice posting. Do you know about this edition of the Gita?