What the Apple Tablet Really Means

Dan Lyons is a journalist who writes for publications like Newsweek and online sites like The Huffington Post. He also writes a blog called The Fake Steve Jobs where he masquerades as the CEO of Apple.

He had an interesting piece in The Huffington Post which, although written in a certain fashion, offers an important business lesson about change and redefining the business for future success. Although the story is about newspapers and technology, it is not hard to see a parallel with other industries.

The driver for the article is rampant speculation about a new device that Apple may be bringing to the market — a new tablet computer. And Fake Steve offers his perspective on the traditional, staid “big guys” in the publishing business. Here is an excerpt:

There’s loads of buzz about this Tablet that we may or may not be developing at Apple. For now the product is entirely imaginary — and yet, oddly enough, it’s already received more reviews than most devices that actually exist. That’s the nature of the beast here at Apple. And I know, I should feel lucky. Most companies would kill to have the kind of hype that we do

Nevertheless, I despise you. That’s right, every last one of you. Mostly because, for all the blather about our Tablet, nobody seems to recognize what’s really significant about this device. Little hint: It’s not about technology…

It’s like this: New technology creates new ways to tell stories. That’s the exciting thing. Not the tablet itself, but what it means for news, for entertainment, for literature. Gasp. Geddit? Is the light going off yet? This is what Anton Chekhov meant when he said that the medium is the message. This is why the Tablet is so profound…

Now we’re at the point where things are going to take off. The Tablet is part of that. Frankly, there is no point in moving to digital readers if we’re just going to do what we did on paper. That’s why Kindle is such a piece of junk. All Amazon did was pave the cowpath.

That’s also why we’ve held back on our Tablet — not because the technology wasn’t ready, but because the content guys are such idiots that they still can’t create anything that makes it worth putting the Tablet into the world.

It’s stunning how few of the big guys in publishing actually understand this. We’ve invited them in for meetings, and while we’re talking we sort of give them a little quiz, in the form of a very simple question: Where do you think publishing is going?

Most of them can’t see anything other than what they’ve done in the past. To them this is all just another blip, a little shift in their business, like going from black-and-white newspapers to color, or going from broadsheet to tabloid.

But that’s not it at all. We’re talking about an entirely new way to convey information, one that incorporates dynamic elements (audio, video) with static elements (text, photos) plus the ability for the audience to become content creators, not just content consumers.

The funny thing is that the publishing guys still refer to themselves the “creative” side of the business — even though they’re probably the least creative people I’ve ever met.

The irony is, they’re the ones holding everything back, because they don’t have any vision for what the future should look like. Honestly, you should see them sitting there in meetings, their mouths hanging open. Sooo creative. Yeah.

Worse yet, they still have loads of attitude. They really think it’s unfair that the tech geeks keep reaping most of the rewards from digital media. “Content is king,” they keep saying, and I’m like, Yeah, but not *your* content. Your content is lame and stale. You’re selling a product that hasn’t changed since the 1950s.

The full article is here.

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