About Me

  • I've spent more than 25 years at the intersection of traditional and digital journalism. I've helped to invent ways to read and interact with the news and advertising on computer screens and iPads, and before that, I wrote news stories on typewriters and six-ply paper. I co-founded WashingtonPost.com and hyperlocal pioneers Backfence.com and GrowthSpur; served as editor of Philly.com; taught media entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland; and have done product-development and strategy consulting for all sorts of media and Internet companies and startups. You can read more about me here.

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« Rupert, The Grinch and Google | Main | Visionaries in Action »

January 03, 2010


Christopher Herot

If Apple could really pull together all the threads of innovation as you suggest, they might indeed remake the computer industry, but most of these breathless predictions assume some major technological breakthrough that will provide the power and flexibility of a laptop at a size and price not much more than a mobile phone. There is a reason the Kindle is black-and-white and has a slow display - that's how Amazon makes it so small and light with a battery that lasts for days. If Apple just replaces a real keyboard with a virtual one, how is that going to bring about the changes you predict? If Apple knows how to do all this stuff, why haven't they already done it on their existing platforms?

The iPod and the iPhone, as well designed as they are, were successful because the strength of Apple's brand allowed them to do things their competitors could not. In the case of the iPod, only Apple could set the price high enough to incorporate a hard disk when all the other MP3 players could only hold a few songs. With the iPhone, Apple was the first consumer electronics company with the clout to dictate terms to the carriers, and even there they had to go with their second choice (AT&T). So maybe Steve Jobs last act will be to take on the movie and television industries, but otherwise what is the iSlate other than an overpowered Newton?

Mark Potts

Christopher: All good questions. All we have now is speculation about the tablet's capabilities. But the consensus seems to be that it will cost somewhere between a mobile phone and a laptop, and that could make a lot of those capabilities possible. We just have to wait and see.


I completely agree with this vision, wrote more or less the same thing: http://www.andrejkoelewijn.com/wp/2009/12/21/why-tablets-will-be-huge-media-convergence/


As the proud owner of a new Kindle, I agree that the device itself is, to be generous, transitional. But I am struck by the potential of the distribution system Amazon is creating. Much as the iTunes interface was key to the iPod's dominance, I wonder if Amazon is positioning itself to do the same for text. And like iTunes, I assume Amazon's attachment to a proprietary ebook/etext file format will be short-lived.

I've also been struck by how the Kindle experience via the iPhone/iTouch app is differently good from the experience on the Kindle itself. I presume that experience would translate to a new iSlab as well.

Ted Mann

Ok, that does it. How to I pre-order one of these bad boys?

One question I have about the device, thouhg: Will it have any cell connectivity and/or GPS (read: location awareness) built in?

Mark Potts

Well, we still don't know any specifics about the Apple tablet. But it seems reasonable to assume that it will have iPhone-like features like cell connectivity and GPS/location awareness. That's what makes it particularly interesting as a news-display and -interaction device. I strongly doubt it will merely be a reader.


Mark, I have been a huge fan of your analysis of the news industry for several years now but this post reads like a parody of the clear-eyed, rigorous pieces you normally pen.

I don't know if you've noticed but while the iPod and the iPhone have been great for Apple they have not really done that much to help revive the struggling music industry and even less (virtually nothing so far) to help get the next generation of tv and moviedom off the ground. Apple TV was written about in the same breathless manner upon its arrival and it has been a near total flop. Steve Jobs is reduced to calling it a "hobby."

Now I'm not blaming Apple. The various players in the media industry have made more than their share of awful strategic decisions. DRM and the format wars have put a lot of people off and I don't understand the pricing offered for a lot of video content at all. Not to mention the Internet's destruction of the distribution monopolies that used to provide hefty profit margins for publishers and TV stations. Finally, I think many pundits are underestimating the barrier to mass adoption that a $750 or even a $500 price tag poses.

Do I think the iSlate or whatever will be a big winner for Apple's bottom line? I'd say that's a strong possibility, particularly because Steve Jobs doesn't sell stuff cheap just to gain market share. But is it somehow the game-changing savior of all media? I just don't see any evidence for that belief.


This is the one device that has been waiting and waiting for technology to catch up to the vision. Sure there have been tablet-shaped objects in the past, but they were rubbish, really. I must agree with the tone of this article that the true potential here is not even something speculation can reach. I am excited to see how tablets integrate themselves over the next 36 months. I have a notion they'll pop up everywhere, expecially if they're under $1000 (I'll believe that when I see it).

The bottom line, however, is that I must have one!


I for one hope that there is NOT a cellular radio in there. Wifi/Bluetooth tethering is good enough.

Few people are going to pay yet another monthly fee for something like this. I would expect the carriers to price it at another $30-$60/month.

The cellular radio also adds significantly to the BOM for the device. Depending on the type, it's likely the next priciest thing after the display.

I never understood why Kindle has a cellular radio. Most places people are likely to buy books -- home, work, coffee shop, airport -- have some form of WiFi connectivity.

Could have reduced costs by doing deals with Boingo/T-Mobile HotSpot/etc.


Today apparently is Tablet Day in the news blogosphere. I'd love to see how we'll look back at our prognostications here (mine: http://www.contentbridges.com/2010/01/nine-questions-on-tablet-dreams-schemes-.html ) just a year from today.

Many of us focus, understandably on the user experience and its potential here, as Mark lays out expansively and well.

In a sense, it's a vision of iPhone on steroids. One major potential difference: while the iPhone changed mobile news reading, it's not been a game-changer in advertising.

The tablet, though, if full-color, could be the kind of immersive, experiential environment that digital ad agencies crave. That could mean lots of dollars expended there -- and that will further goose publisher investment and adoption. A new virtuous circle.

The other big headstart Apple brings to this race is its App Store, ready to be enlarged for the Apple tablet. These Apps just need to be optimized for the tablet, and you can bet smart developers are already moving on that.

My January, 2010 sense: Apple Buzz + Tablet intro + App Store + Ad possibilities = something of major significance.

Todd Maisel

This new product can be a savior for the newspaper industry and I think the Times knows this, otherwise they wouldn't be working with Apple.
The real issue will be whether the industry continues to just give their product away for free. How can newspapers continue to give free stories and free content? The advertising simply hasn't supported it the way it was envisioned and News Corp is already pushing the industry to charge. Even small amounts of money would add up big. At 10 cents a story, it doesn't sound like much, but it would add up. Those interested in certain types of stories can create accounts that would automatically bill a customer, or, a subscription would give a customer open access. Just some thoughts, but this may be bigger than all of us. Enjoy the ride.
Todd Maisel, NY Daily News

Account Deleted

Hi, Mark. Your post is the best summary I've read of the potential for the iSlate-or-whatever-they-call-whatever-it-turns-out-to-be. I particularly liked your attention to the potential for Skype videotelephony and your attention to the popularity of watching movies on iPhones and iPods Touch. This post should be read widely. It makes me think that this is the reason Steve Jobs came back to Apple despite his health issues -- to roll out this product.

Best wishes to you.
-- Doug Davidoff

Sam Elowitch

I think the best indication that the iSlate will be something of significance is the rumor that Steve Jobs is really pleased and excited about this particular device.


My God, it's depressing how the point of this kind of stuff is not so much empowering people as making fat cats fatter. A world of sheep deserves this.


This is a very insightful article. I think you're right in that this tablet could be the next innovation that fills the gap between cell phones and laptops (the missing electronic link as it were) because it's as portable as an iPhone and as robust as Mac Book.

One other possibility for this tablet would be its functionality as an all-purpose passport or master key to your house, car, and identity. This is 20 or 30 years down the line of course and will come after/if the tablet has been accepted into American homes, but imagine every house and car with a square hole to fit your tablet into. With your profile uploaded into your house, you can enable and disable your security system and optimize your house to be green. With your car you could use augmented reality apps with your GPS to find places to eat that you've previously visited based on your bank account that can also be accessed via mobile banking from your tablet. It'll be a seamless API experience for your life using Apple's hardware as the backbone and an array of third party ingenuity as it's life force.

I believe in the success of the tablet because it's going to build upon others' success and failures of the many e-readers, Chumbies, and Newtons before it.

Here's to the future.

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