The most inspired thing to emerge from the iPad launch is the notion that book publishers will be given firmer control over their pricing ("Apple Tablet Portends Rewrite for Publishers," Wall Street Journal). For this reason, perhaps, iPad launched this week with the support of Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Hachette Book Group and Macmillan Publishers ("iPad Launch; Apple Unveils iBooks"; PaidContent).
Perhaps Apple sensed the scorn of so many publishers and content producers over their treatment by third-party distributers and tech enablers -- angry publishers like Rupert Murdoch that have decided to erect pay walls, and ones like CBS Interactive that have decided to dump ad networks. Perhaps in the midst of that scorn Apple sensed an opportunity. It has the brand, the device, the distribution and the objectivity to be the partner of choice for content producers. It has no portal, no ad network, no search engine, no ad exchange. It has no dog in the fight for ad dollars. It has only a gleaming, portable device and millions of loyal users.
Microsoft has wound-up in the content business. Not Apple. Google has wound-up in the network business. Not Apple. Each of them is in the media business, but only Apple doesn't have to sell advertising -- so far -- which means content producers may be breathless to work with them. Indeed, Martin Nisenholtz of The New York Times was sounding pretty excited in the report in Paid Content:
"Martin Nisenholtz said that since The New York Times website is beautiful on the iPad, why bother with an application? "Well, our app for the iPhone has been downloaded three million times, and we wanted to create something that combines the best of print and digital all in one. It captures the essence of reading the paper. Articles can be saved, and read later on the iPhone."
If you step back and squint in order to have a dimmer view, it's possible when looking at the whole of the media landscape to see nothing but the hunched over frames of depleted, disaffected content owners and producers worn ragged by the ungratefulness of new technology. Enter Apple with a potentially credible solution to finally help many publishers get upright again, and in the process catapult itself into the hands of millions more users eager for content relationships that you can still practically touch.