No Tablet Predictions

Nope. Not at all. I will not even hazard a guess. Not even to the name of the thing which will probably be “iBook” but you didn’t hear me say that.

But I will say this. When you watch the coverage or read the recaps or whatever you do with the Apple event on Wednesday, remember this little anecdote.

A few months ago, after Jobso’s rather concise dismissal of the whole concept of a tablet, he came in to a small meeting with some of his inner circle at Apple and halfway through a sentence about something else entirely unrelated stopped and said “Why do we have television networks and broadcasters anyway?” There was about 20 seconds of silence at the table, and then Jobs got up and left.

This is not an uncommon way for conversations with the man to work. And if you were one of his inner circle you would have immediately known that his comment and subsequent silence and blow-off of the rest of the meeting actually meant this:

Broadcasters and television networks are nothing but a filter between you and content you may want to enjoy. They control the distribution, and because of that they control the advertising revenue, and because of that they get to decide what you get to watch and what you never see. Sort of the way the record companies and music retailers were before iTunes. Now you have a situation where no store manager gets to choose what you can buy. No slob of a record company executive gets to choose what you can hear. Anyone can put their work on iTunes, no middle man, no “choosers of taste”, no distributors, just the people creating the work and a storefront where the listeners can get it. And consumers have realized they like this. A lot. And if music consumers like this a lot, then consumers of all media will probably like this a lot too. And if they do like it then we better make sure we do it first, and best. Especially best.

Yes, I know, that extrapolation is not entirely obvious to you or I from the words that came out of Jobso’s mouth, but the people around him are paid staggering amounts of money to make that mental leap. Just go with it. Either way, shortly after this “conversation” he started putting his full-time attention to whatever-it-is that they are announcing this week.

Remember that on Wednesday. The idea of all media – books, music, current news, periodicals, movies, what we now call television, everything – available in a direct pipeline from the creator to the storefront. Anywhere, at any time. Open to all. And driven by pure demand instead of the money in the pockets of a few “tastemakers”. With the “entrance fees” to providers so low that it is just as viable to cater to a small market as much as a big one. It might not be the message that comes out on stage. And it might not be obvious for a while. But it could very well be the end game.

Stay tuned.

2 comments

  1. L-A F says:

    I think Apple simply wants to become The Middle Man (capitals are intentional).

    They’ve already presented themselves as “choosers of taste” in the way they carefully pick what song to put in what iPod ad (see The Ting Tings career before and after Shut Up and Let Me Go)

    They’ve already presented themselves as as the “store manager who chooses what you can buy” in the way they manage the App Store submissions.

    They just haven’t shown any douchey behavior on the scale of record and TV/movie executives i.e. blackmail, extortion, cocaine busts and dead hookers … yet.

    Just sayin’! 😉

  2. geekboy says:

    Interesting take on it – but there is a difference between “marketing” and “restricting”. Apple is still in the business of selling music, both for their own success and the success of their vendors. So yes, they pick songs for the ads that they think are cool and fun – but they don’t explicitly pick them to sell those songs. If they were doing that, they would pick songs with greater sales potential and less of a “quirk factor”. More to the point, ANYONE can get their album or single into the iTunes store. If you have ever been in a band, you know that was simply a pipe dream for 99 out of 100 artists when it came to A&A or the dreaded Sam Le Record Man. This is where the system has changed. They may not pick you to be in their ads, but at least the people get a chance to decide if they like you.

    Your point is valid about the apps store, however, and that was why I made a point not to mention apps in the post. They do need to restrict and arbitrate there – mostly for system stability and legal liability – but not to the extent that they do now. Most of the spurious and inane rejections (and oh yes, there are spurious and inane rejections, you betcha!) are due to the process being far, far beyond critical mass. Something has to give there, and give soon, or the whole apps store is going to collapse upon itself. Phil knows this, Steve knows this, you know this, and I know this.

    And I wouldn’t be surprised it there is an announcement of some sort about this on Wednesday. The chances are about 30% of that happening if the deal with AT&T remains the same, and about 80% if they announce that the AT&T deal is ending. And if you read into that something about AT&T having some sort of input or some sort of affect on the application approval process that is causing a chokepoint, well, that is your own conclusion. I didn’t say a word.

    Wink wink.

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