Apple Tablet can only help print media

apple tabletLater today Apple will likely announce the company's latest creation, the Apple Tablet. This slate-like device is expected to be the cheapest portable Mac computer retailing in the $700-$1,000 range; a price that could go lower if another rumor, that you can purchase it with a contract from Verizon or AT&T, comes true.

Though Apple is traditionally tight lipped about these kinds of devices Engadget has several exclusive photos that show the Apple Tablet will likely have a 9- to 10-inch screen and appears to include a front facing webcam that would allow users to do video conference while using the device.
It is still not clear if the device will run a full version of Apple's OSX, though it appears that the may share more with the iPhone than the traditional line of Macbooks. This is based on an interview Terry McGraw, CEO of textbook publisher McGraw-Hill, gave to CNBC Tuesday during which he said that all of the current MCGraw-Hill ebooks will be available on the iPhone and also on the Tablet.

Currently the ebook version of texts, which represent 95% of the company's titles, are sold through McGraw-Hill's CourseSmart service are priced at about half the cost of a new hardcopy textbook.

In other book related news, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple wants to charge $12.99 and $14.99 for ebooks of popular best sellers, a higher price than Amazon's Kindle ebooks. This could be a tough sell for consumers who expect to purchase ebooks for $9.99, just as they expect to purchase songs for 99 cents.

All of this leaves to question how magazines and newspapers will price their content and how enjoyable it will be to read on an Apple Tablet.

This all begs the question. Can the Apple Tablet save the print industry? Jim Gaines, editor in chief of the digital multimedia publication FlyPmedia and former corporate editor of Time Inc., weighs in on the affect that Apple's Tablet could have on the industry in an e-mail interview with WalletPop.
"We have to completely, thoroughly re-imagine and rethink what these products are and what people want for new forms of media and new methods of consuming media. Nobody knows anything just yet about where the industry will truly end up, but collaborative efforts between publishers and readers will eventually lead us to be a better and more enhanced media industry."
Gaines' observation rings true, especially if Apple wants to charge a premium for electronic print content. If the Apple ebook is the same as the Kindle ebook, without any additional features or benefits the Apple Tablet will be a tough sell to price-conscious shoppers.

The evolution of tablet-type devices marks a new period for print journalism to expand how its readers interact with news, stories and information; one that to succeed will take experimentation and the addition of the richness afforded to the Web.

So will the Apple Tablet be the cheapest portable Mac or a good budget computer? It all depends what you want to do with it. If you are looking to consume media like books and magazines it looks like you'll have access to plenty of content but you may have to pay more for each book than if purchased on the Kindle. On the flip side the price of buying a TV show may be cut in half and a slate based device looks like a great way to consume half price textbooks.

"I don't think this will be the killer device quite yet, but it will certainly point the way," Gaines told WalletPop, "The children of this device -- that is, the next generation and iterations of tablets -- will truly be the devices and platforms that will shift how media and content is produced."

My take is that the Apple Tablet will likely wow the crowd today but, like Jim Gaines, I think that the real affect of the tablet will hit in the next generation especially as other manufacturer's like HP join the party with their HP Slate that was shown off at CES and will be released later this year.

If you are a consumer looking for a cheap Mac, and you want it to be your only computer, then you should look at the entry level Macbook -- unless Apple's big surprise is a Tablet under $500.

If you are part of the print industry, don't go popping that champagne yet; there's still work to be done after the Tablet is announced.
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