The [Ad]vantage: Dude, Where's My Flying Car?
Here's to the future we live in. It's 2010, a favorite time period among science-fiction writers, when fantastically advanced technology would be infused into everything that surrounds us. Computers would take on new forms and wait attentively for our next command, intergalactic travel becomes commonplace, and flying cars dot the skies to relieve the earth's crowded surface and serve as a symbol for our ingenious solution to breaking the bonds of gravity that held us to the ground for so many centuries. Sounds pretty cool, doesn't it?
Of course, the flying car hasn't exactly taken off, but many other marvels of innovation that may have seemed possible only in science fiction have entered our everyday lives. If you look, you may find that we're further into the future than you may have thought.
Although they may look different than the Hollywood versions, most Americans actually do find themselves surrounded by advanced technology designed to help with a wide variety of tasks and make our lives easier (although the jury is still out regarding how much easier it really is).
Consider your mobile phone. Today's so-called smartphones represent the evolution of the personal computer more than the evolution of the phone. With features that can include a built-in video camera, voice command-driven functions, GPS services and a Web browser, which itself opens up a whole world of additional capabilities, it's easy to see why these devices have become standard issue for nearly everyone over the age of five.
Unlike anything before it, the Web has created a tidal wave of change that's impacted nearly every form of media and communication and opened up opportunities for the creation of millions of new products and services that have reshaped the entire consumer marketing and media landscape. It's in this consumer-empowered, hyper-connected, technology-infused, economically challenged and rapidly evolving market that publishers of print media (among many others) find themselves pondering their future and the best evolutionary path for survival and advancement. Once again, our science fiction future may be closer than we realize.
For more than a year, technology blogs, Wall Street analysts and Mac fan sites have been buzzing about the long-rumored Apple tablet. Although most people expect the device to be as revolutionary as the iPhone, what's really interesting about the discussions surrounding the Apple tablet isn't just its form factor, operating system or even price estimates, but also its potential impact on the publishing and print media industry.
The experience of reading a printed magazine is so very different than reading the same content on the publisher's Web site. The inherent utilitarian nature of the Web shows when content is ported from a print publication to online. Although the content is there on the publisher's site, it's as if something was lost in translation. Well, there was. The experience.
What has many of us buzzing, aside from rumored meetings between Apple executives and several magazine
publishers, is the possibility of Apple developing a hybrid media experience, specifically for the tablet, that would combine a print publication style design and experience with the powerful technological capabilities of digital media.
With this approach, viewers could flow through a publication's content more naturally, similar to how one would read a paper or peruse a magazine, as opposed to the typical menu-driven approach found online where discovery can often be impeded due to the limited view of surrounding or related content. Plus, because of the technology platform and Internet connectivity, this evolved print media experience can come alive with embedded video, interactive media, data-driven and personalized content, and even integrate with other applications native to the tablet, similar to the iPhone.
Regardless of whether the Apple tablet turns out to be real, the potential has captured the interest and imagination of publishers. In November of 2009, without any acknowledgement from Apple that the tablet even existed, Condé Nast declared that they were readying a digital version of Wired magazine for the new tablet, just in case it turned out to be true.
As with everything Apple does, the world will know if the Apple tablet is real when Steve Jobs decides we're ready. Only then will we all know if Apple could turn out to be the missing evolutionary link for publishers of print media.