Apple’s new tablet needs television content

This week Apple will announce its new tablet-sized computer — a device that has excited media companies throughout the world as a new way to revive magazines and print publications. However, the new device should be considered equally important to television producers because, with the tools to present text, video, photography, animation and sound in a highly interactive (and portable) way, it will open up new methods for storytelling.

Apple was in New York City last week showing the tablet to media companies as a new way to sell books, newspapers and other reading material through its iTunes online store. Using the tablet device, that material will be redefined as it moves from static printed-paper to the full-motion color digital display.

Watch a demonstration of a future issue of "Sports Illustrated."

The possibilities appear to be endless. With the tablet novels — no longer just words — can include audio and video clips. Historical books could contain documentary footage of the events they portray. A new breed of travel books and restaurant guides will show video of the actual venues laced with text descriptions.

Reports said Apple intends to focus its tablet on providing content from multiple “old media” business sources — including textbooks, newspapers and television. The company is reportedly pitching the tablet as a device that can be shared amongst family members reading news and checking e-mail.

As has been rumored for months, Apple is also in negotiations with TV networks for a monthly subscription service. The plan would include a “best of TV” subscription for on-demand access to content. It would offer about four to six shows per channel.

Referring to traditional media companies, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs was said to be “supportive of the old guard,” a source that once worked with him told the “Wall Street Journal.” Jobs allegedly wants to “help them by giving them new forms of distribution.”

Apple’s pending introduction set off a flurry of new pricing and media deals last week. Amazon changed the pricing of its author deals for its Kindle book reader, which is a black-and-white only device that now accounts for 70 percent of electronic reader sales. Amazon also said it will allow programmers to create what it calls active content — similar to applications — for the Kindle and keep 70 percent of the revenue from each sale after paying for wireless delivery costs.

However, until Amazon introduces more advanced models of the Kindle, developers will be limited by its slow-to-refresh and black-and-white screen. Apple’s device is full color.

Apple’s move this week promises to shake up the media companies and perhaps provide an answer to the discouraging economic prospects for print publications. It will also offer new opportunities for video producers.

“If Apple enters this market, and in three months Google follows, we may be looking at a completely different e-book world in the next year,” said Mike Shatzkin, chief executive of Idealog, which helps publishers develop digital strategies.