Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Crystal Balling it into 2010

Bigger than an iPod Touch, around the size of a Netbook, somewhat similar in size to a Kindle, but much more capable and versatile. There’s an aura of mystery and anticipation about whatever it is that Apple is going to introduce early in 2010, some say as early as the end of January.

Most of the folks who follow this stuff say whatever-it-is will be about ten inches tall, and will have a high-resolution screen. You’ll likely be able to read PDF’s on it, which would be important to the medical and legal professions, and school districts may be able to save on the cost of buying textbooks.

Some have gone so far as to say it’s a “Kindle-killer”, that Steve Jobs is out to put the Kindle to bed without supper and make this new device the last one you’ll ever need to read books. Sony and Barnes and Noble have products that compete with the Kindle, but some techies say the new Apple device will knock them to the curb.

I have a friend back east who knows a lot more about the tech world than I, and he casts a gimlet eye on the Apple whatever-it’s-going-to-be-called tablet. He points out that the young folks are almost always the early-adopters, and it’s not like they’re voracious readers. They can already watch video and listen to music on their smart phones and iPods, and he says they’re not likely to lug around a battery-gobbling tablet or trade in their web-enabled PDA for one.

As a former broadcaster, though, here’s what intrigues me. I keep hearing in the blogosphere that the iTunes store is being revamped, and it’s more than just a facelift. A guy whose stuff I read a lot, another former broadcaster, Jerry Del Colliano, thinks the iTunes store is getting ready for books, newspapers, video and audio blogs, and…..TELEVISION.

Television on a ten-inch tablet?

Be afraid, my friends in the local TV biz. If Apple develops the paid subscription model everybody’s been trying to do, you’re in big trouble. The FCC is already being pushed hard by the purveyors of mobile wireless communications to do away with the entire TV spectrum and auction it off to them, relegating all TV to cable or satellite transmission.

If Apple becomes the paid subscription model for streaming music “stations”, it could either provide local radio broadcasters with a tremendous business opportunity….or, more likely, further damage an industry which has been in self-destruct mode for a long time. The typical radio station cluster in markets the size of Madison spends less than 5% of its budget on developing “new media”. Not the smartest move in the 21st century.

Broadcasters have long said local content will win most wars, but - they’d darn well better figure out how to get their “local content” onto diversified delivery systems in the next year, or pay the price of being a buggy whip in the jet age.

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