The more I hear about the rumored Apple tablet coming later today, the more I’m convinced this isn’t going to work. The love child of an iPod Touch and a Kindle might be pretty but it isn’t world changing in the way the iPhone and the Mac were. More to the point, it won’t save the media industry from their own outdated business models. Newspaper publishers and magazine publishers and book publishers are so desperate for some hope of salvation that they’ll swim to anyone who promises to throw them a life preserver, not noticing that the life preserver is made out of lead. Remember, we’re talking about people who think the problem with HTML is that it isn’t more like PDF. The surest sign that a technology will fail is when senior citizen C-level execs are gaga over it.
I could be totally wrong about this, as could everyone else who’s been posting rumors about what the Apple tablet is actually going to be and actually going to do. It could well be that the use case for the tablet is something we haven’t even imagined yet, and if so all bets are off. However, if the fundamental raison d’être for the tablet is simply to be a nice e-book/magazine/newspaper reader with network connectivity and a built-in iTunes content store, it’s DOA. Microsoft made this mistake with Blackbird, MSN, and Silverlight. AOL, Prodigy, Genie, and Compuserve all made this mistake; and it killed three of them, and is slowly killing the last. Apple made this mistake before itself with eWorld. (Remember that?)
Sorry Big Media. This has been tried before and failed before, many, many times. Sprinkling magic Apple pixie dust over a bad business model won’t make it profitable. Tim Berners-Lee and Marc Andreesen gave you the most important technological development in publishing since Gutenberg, and you’ve spent 20 years proving you have no clue whatsoever how to use it while teenagers blogging from their parents’ basements beat you up and took your lunch money. A shiny new toy from Apple won’t save you from your own incompetence.