What’s wrong with the Sports Illustrated tablet demo

December 10th, 2009

Ok, so, this:

Slick, right? I’ve watched this video twice, because I love reading and I love magazines and I love software demos and I love hardware demos. Full disclosure: I don’t completely love sports, so maybe there’s something I’m missing here. But all this tablet hype is reminding me of something I am almost hesitant to bring up:


Remember CD-ROMs? I do. For about a year or so, you couldn’t buy a magazine without a CD-ROM falling out the side. Then it was DVD-ROMs, full of music videos and shareware demos and to tell the truth, I don’t think I ever even put one in the computer, because by that time there was something else out there:

The Internet.

The above video obviously represents a richer experience than can be experienced on the web right now (barring those fancy-lad, full-screen Flash sites that everyone in reality hates) but I maintain that the above product, once you finally iDownloaded all 860 MB off the iTime iMagazine iStore would be very boring, mainly because all those fancy photos and videos and stuff whizzing around on that tablet? They would be so old by the time they put all that together for you that you would have watched it or read about it already.

On television, and on the Internet.

Never mind that a multimedia presentation and layout as complex as the above demo is going to require an entire new generation of digital producers skilled enough to tightly integrate video, audio, print, web, fixed layout and dynamic, non-linear page layout. There are not many of those producers out there right now; the above product represents a pretty rare intersection of skills, most parts more akin to software designer than graphic designer.

So anyway. I tend to pooh-pooh ideas at first, before I eventually embrace them and via revisionist history pretend I felt positive about them the entire time. But, seriously, ‘mythical Apple tablet computer’ as white knight, print magazine savior?

We’ll see.

6 Responses to “What’s wrong with the Sports Illustrated tablet demo”

  1. cauley says:

    I really enjoyed this post and it got me thinking.

    I think you’re probably right on all counts, but I wonder if they developed (if this is even possible– I am a moron in terms of these things) a template for each issue, or, rather, several and just dropped the stuff in there as needs be, eliminating some of the heavy stuff of making each issue. Is that even a possibility?

    I kind of want this to be, but… I think you’re right: I have it all in front of me on my laptop. And even though I have many fond memories of poring over an SI as a kid for *hours*, I can’t imagine spending that time with a reader, I just can’t. Not in the same way, anyway. Well, off to look at Facebook for an hour!

    We’ll see, indeed! Great post!

  2. Jeff says:

    My feeling is that most of these ‘tablet demos’ are stuck in (and somewhat nostalgic for) a time when the Internet was a publishing medium rather than a hybrid publishing/communications medium. The fact that no one can imagine a means for any large amount of text entry on a tablet makes this doubly clear — these demos are for companies who want to return to a time where publications were monolithic and self-contained, and that publishing format simply does not exist any longer.

    I think the success of a form-factor like this will hinge upon the idea that something like this can be used as a new form of ‘communicator’ (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, all that junk, maybe with a higher ratio of optimized multimedia content — video Facebook status updates, maybe?) as well as a reader (of web pages, PDFs, eBooks, literally everything), which is something I haven’t seen in any tablet so far.

    My guess is that Apple comes along and knocks it out of the park, sometime in the next two months. They’re so blindingly happy with the App Store model — let’s face it, this software distribution model is the one that Jobs has always wanted — so it will run a superset of iPhone/iPod apps; which means it gets Kindle books, but also all the stuff I listed above. Josh will be bummed out that it doesn’t run Mac OS X 10.6 proper, but there’s no real reason for anything Apple makes to run OS X proper anymore, not really.

  3. I agree with you about the new medium being a publishing/communications hybrid. The funny thing about this demo is that the Monty Python-looking magic hand doesn’t use the keyboard even once.

    People’s reading habits have been fundamentally changed by social networks. I don’t (and never did) read any publication cover-to-cover, and although there are a dozen or so sites I actively seek out, a large chunk of my online content consumption is stuff shared by my friends or people I friend/follow/stalk on social networks.

    If any of these tablets are going to be useful, they have to allow the user to create content, too, and most of their keyboards suck. My girlfriend has an iPod touch, and there’s a serious learning curve on that thing, because whenever I try to use it I feel like I need a dialing wand.

  4. Joshua says:

    Josh will be bummed out that it doesn’t run Mac OS X 10.6 proper, but there’s no real reason for anything Apple makes to run OS X proper anymore, not really.

    I don’t care about industrial strength OSes unless I’m actually creating content. See what S.P. there is saying? What makes communication media tools work now is not just selection of pre-assembled content, but integration with it. And not in some secondary way, but as a primary function.

    It looks like the iTablet won’t have a hard keyboard. That means that interactions will all be of the “Sorry from the terseness, posting from my iTablet” variety. It’s wholly conceivable, though, that it’ll allow for a Bluetooth keyboard. And maybe it would have a slot for a MicroSD card for photos. If it has iPhoto (admittedly probably an abbreviate version, but with Flickr/Picasa/etc.* upload integrated) on it, we can start to talk.

    *Apple’s online services have always been terrible. I’d say they keep trying and failing, but I’m not sure I’d call any of that “trying”. From eWorld to MobileMe, they’ve all been C-grade.

  5. kristen says:

    I like what opportunities the tablet format will provide for education. I think being able to interact (in a tactile way) with the images on the screen offers significant opportunities for delivering other methods of teaching kids how to read or how to add and subtract, etc. Sure, schools need to have the money to be able to have this kind of technology, but being in the educational publishing field, this is where our industry needs to be–delivering our methods of teaching across many different platforms, because the tipping point will happen with any one of them eventually.

  6. Jeff says:

    Over the past month, I have come to realize that the tablet represents the ideology of “I AM WILLING TO PAY FOR CONTENT ON THE INTERNET,” which honestly might be just what we need right now.

    Plus, yeah, textbooks. Let’s face it, I’ll buy one no matter what, I’m just that dumb.