…it’s driven by the same old media love affair with distribution lock in. I’ve been on about this ever since I studied Google in 2001: Media traditionally has gained its profits by owning distribution. Cable carriage, network airwaves, newsstand distribution and printing presses: all very expensive, so once you employ enough capital to gain them, it’s damn hard to get knocked out.
The web changed all that and promised that economics in the media business would be driven by content and intent: the best content will win, driven by the declared intent of consumers who find it and share it. Search+Social was the biggest wave to hit media since the printing press. And the open technology to make better and better experiences has been on a ten year tear: blogging software, Flash, Ajax, HTML 5, Android, and more and more coming.
But the iPad, just like the iPhone, is designed for vertical integration and distribution lock in. Apple is building its own distribution channel, just as it did with iTunes, and media companies are falling over themselves to make an app for that. Why? Well sure, for once, it’s sexy and cool and hip. That’s why everyone loved the Wired demo.
But the real reason media companies love the iPad is the same reason I don’t: It’s an old school, locked in distribution channel that doesn’t want to play by the new rules of search+social. Sure, you can watch a movie on it. Sure, you can read a book on it. And sure, you can read a publication on it. But if you want to use the web natively, with all the promise that the web brings to media? Not so much. Apple will include a browser, of course. But will media you find through that browser be able to interact with the iPad platform so as to bring full value to you, the consumer? Nope. Not unless that same media is approved by Apple and makes it into the iPad app store.
And that’s why I don’t like the iPad. Don’t tell me, as a media maker, what I can make and how I can leverage the technology in my audience’s hands. And don’t tell me, as a media consumer, what’s OK for me to interact with, and how.
Yep, I really don’t like what the iPad augurs. And I hope, in the end, it’s consigned to what it should be: A sexy version of a portable DVD player-cum-Kindle. Nice to have. Not a game changer. Certainly not revolutionary. Unless you’re longing for yesteryear, when owning distribution meant owning audiences. Oh, and by the way, Traditional Media Folk: This time Apple owns that distribution channel, not you.