Will one of the Apple Tablet Commandments be ‘Thou shalt not overcharge for digital content’?

apple tablet pad slate

I guess this is my obligatory Apple Tablet/iPad/iSlate post which comes just a few short hours shy of the public unveiling of this new piece of kit from the grand techno-wizard, Tolkein-looking character himself, Steve Jobs. I had far more to write, but Jason Kincaid from TechCrunch broke into my brain yesterday with a crowbar and stole most of my thoughts on the subject.

The tablet will be nothing short of a runaway success for Apple. They will sell millions of units, and just about everyone with a pulse and a credit card will pine for one. Steve Jobs will walk us through an awe-inspiring demo that will clearly define and usher in a new era of personal computing. From doctors, lawyers, teachers, students, gamers, construction foremen and everyone in between, the shear utility of this computing device and the subsequent depth and scope of environments that it will touch and transform will be nothing short of revolutionary.

However, I can not help but feel a palpable sense of disappointment for some content producers. In particular those content industries that are struggling who may be viewing this device with the hope that it may pave a new yellow brick road of revenue gold that will lead them to a brighter future and rescue their industry from a dwindling fate. For those dear folks, this tablet device will likely change nothing. Let me back up for a sec. A new era of personal computing absent of ushering in a new era of pricing economics of digital content will likely change nothing for said content industries.

When I buy a song for .99 cents, chances are 5 years from now I’ll still want to listen to that song. When I buy an App game for .99 cents, chances are 1 year from now I’ll still want to play that game. But if a digital edition of a daily newspaper will cost .50 or .75 cents, chances are that content will end up in the equivalent of a virtual trash can in 7 days or less. That’s reality. And for most people, that pricing model needs to change, and change drastically to alter the value proposition of digital content to bring it inline with real-world usage, utility and virtual shelf-life. The largest consumer nation in the world is already up to their eyeballs in personal debt and there is a vast amount of digital content in some form or fashion available on the open web for free. Maybe the tablet paired with Apple’s iTunes store technology will indeed be the catalyst for finding that perfect pricing sweet spot for digital publishing much like it has for music and thus unlock a more prosperous future for those content producers who most need it. I’m truly hopeful, but remain skeptical until proven otherwise. Jason Kincaid sums my thoughts up best…

I’m still excited for the Tablet, I’m just not expecting it to live up to its potential for quite a while. The big publishers will figure out this new medium eventually. Well, maybe they won’t. But someone will.

Launch update: The Apple tablet is called iPad, and it is basically an oversized (9.7″ – 1.5 pound) iPhone/iPod Touch. A wonderfully simple, refined internet app-driven device. But perhaps not quite as revolutionary as some of us may have expected, and I bet there will be plenty of folks who are left somewhat underwhelmed by this offering. Nonetheless, the iPad successfully fuses together three micro-markets ie, tablet + netbook + e-reader thereby creating a new category of personal computing with no equal. In typical Apple fashion, subsequent generations of this product will see more features and functionality added, and one that I expect to see down the road will be a camera for ie, Skype video-conferencing. Perhaps above all else it is a swift, harsh kick in the groin to the Amazon Kindle and I’m not sure it will be able to get up off the mat. Then again, I never understood the value of the Kindle in the first place, so I may not be the best person to comment on that. My rule of thumb has always been to wait until the third-generation of an Apple product before I purchase, and I see no reason to deviate on this one. See you in 2-3 years iPad! Cheers.

4 Comments Will one of the Apple Tablet Commandments be ‘Thou shalt not overcharge for digital content’?

  1. Kris

    My thoughts exactly – it’s nice, but after all the hype, I feel underwhelmed.I was at the doctor’s the other day and the doctor was using a sweet touch screen tablet to access patient records, etc. That makes the iPad feel…more incremental than revolutionary.Nice price tag though!

  2. James Cogan

    @Kris – Yep, feels incremental and your point about nailing the price-point shouldn’t be understated. There were rumors of a $1000 price tag floating around and that would’ve been a severe miscalculation. I guess, in lieu of the unprecedented hype, it would’ve been darn near impossible to exceed expectations. Apple has once again left plenty of runway for added features, so I’m very intrigued to see where this product is at in a few years.Your doctor uses a touch screen tablet? Cool. My doctor touches but…nevermind 😉

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