What REALLY Delayed The Apple Tablet

July 25, 2009

all the electronic reading gadgets on the market are subpar, if you ask me, making the reading of books, newspapers, magazines, and even cereal boxes painful. The resolution is poor. The fonts are crap. The navigation is chunky. Not since the eight-track player has modern technology produced such a heap of garbage. If you’re looking for the reason e-books constitute just 1 percent or 2 percent of all book sales, stop the search.

Emphasis added by me.

I agree with that quote.

It’s from Does the Book Industry Want To Get Napstered? at Slate.

Not only do I agree with that quote, I’m here to say he is absolutely correct.

Who have been the majority of eBook hardware buyers? Not the young!

the total number of Kindle owners [are] between the ages of 40 and 69[,] an incredible 58.6%. Owners above 70 make up an additional 8.1% — Kindle Demographics

What generally characterizes those age groups? It’s usually this sentiment: I know what I want and that’s all I want.

That is the perfect profile of the oldster buying an eBook device: I know I want to read and that’s all I want to do.

Well, good luck! Because, with crappy eInk, that’s about all you’ll be able to do — and that’s after first undergoing a screen-refresh initiation period. And then undergoing a beating so you’ll know never to expect any sort of fast, randomized access to text.

You are, ultimately, taught to lower your expectations to those below that of print.

And what’s the gain? Sure, fewer boxes to pack. Less clutter. In some cases, lower than print prices.

But in all cases, you’re locked into a dumber-than-paper format that’s also handcuffed with pernicious DRM.

But hey, at your age, does that matter? You’ll be dead soon!

Fortunately for the fate of the world, not everyone in those age groups surrenders their repugnance for lower standards. Some people will not accept anything less than the best.

Such a person is Steve Jobs.

You just know at some point he had to have handled a Sony Reader or a Kindle.

And found them far less than Insanely Great.

He’s discounted reading and eBooks before. And I was the first to call BS on that.

What I think has gone through Steve Jobs’ mind is this: We have a lot of work to do to get the iPhone to its next Insanely Great phase. In Getting It Done, there are many little things we’ve had to leave out. And we’re All Hands On Deck with just the submissions to the App Store. Plus, I don’t think an iPhone-sized screen is the best eBook experience.

But now that the iTablet has been in development, now that the chip fab has done its job, and the device is in the active pipeline for a real introduction, Steve Jobs can begin to turn his attention to eBooks.

Because there will finally be a device that will be superior to the paper reading experience: a wireless iTablet.

October has been touted twice as its date of introduction. Now the latest date is first quarter 2010. Dissatisfaction with the capacity of the AT&T network has to account for part of this delay, but I really think another part of the delay is Apple developing eBook reading software that will be worthy of the Apple logo.

In the past, Cringely has called for Apple to buy Adobe. That would have given Apple the high ground in eBooks.

But what high ground would that have been?

ePub. Which is basically a created-by-committee method for lightly tarting-up text files! Serial, linear, and a godawful PITA for writers to really deal with if they want to do direct publishing (Atlantis notwithstanding).

ePub is a format unworthy of the Apple logo.

Why would Apple want to do what everyone else has been doing?

That would have been akin to the joke iPhone:

Where does any part of ePub bring to mind these words:

Not any part of it.

There are other precedents for Apple dismissing the herd and going its own way, but the standout one has to be QuickTime. Apple was faced with fierce competition from Microsoft (and also Real) for the dominance of Internet video. Apple didn’t knuckle under. Adobe ultimately managed to slip in to dominate Internet video with Flash — but many times when you see a movie trailer on a Flash site, that video has been ripped from Apple’s own site offering MP4 trailers! Today, really, who aside from malicious porn sites uses Windows Media Video? (And does anyone even bother with Real?)

Apple has the courage to say All Other Solutions Are Wrong — no matter how many people have adopted something, no matter how pervasive another method currently is.

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, he said Apple was out to:

ePub in no way “reinvents the book.”

But next year, Apple will.

And maybe a little bit of it will resemble this.

But you can expect it to be even better. Expect to “Read Different.”