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Thursday, 28 January 2010

Apple and the future of publishing

We wanted shock and awe, instead we got shock and confusion. What to make of the launch of the iPad? The first rule for the folks who live at Infinite Loop, Cupertino, is that great products create their own market. Second, Steve Jobs actually knows quite a bit about publishing and print. With that in mind we shouldn't get too fixated on the iPad as a Kindle killer.

When it comes to divining the the future of publishing  activate the link. It will take you through to a fascinating mock up of what an e-magazine or e-newspaper could  look like. Think National Geographic, Life - um maybe Playboy - with high quality graphics, some of which mutate into speaking videos when you click on them. This is surely the kind of thing that someone would watch on the iTab. The Kindle is better suited for long reading sessions, but the iTab still has great potential  in the publishing arena.

As for its prospects in other markets, we will have to wait and see what the Apps  Community make of it. My guess is that the ITab will take off slowly but will then build considerable momentum a year or more out. Video traffic, which is already growing at 130 compound, according to Cisco is the real market for this device. I think a number of vertical markets, such as medical, could also run with the iTab.

The really big news out of Apple this week though has to be the astonishing breakthrough the company has made in Asia. Asia as a per centage of profits, doubled to 20%. Sales in Taiwan and Japan were up several fold and in China, 200,000 legal iPhones have been activated. I say legal because several hundred thousand have been smuggled into the country. China Unicom confirms that 70% of those buying an iPhone are switching to 3G. 

To put that number in context, the iPhone sells for $1000 dollars in China, a country were per capita income is around $3,400. Furthermore, you cannot use WiFi on the official iPhone, though you can if you smuggle one in. The new official number for 3G users in China is 13m. That could double this year. Chinese operators are a accident prone as their Western cousins. 3G wont be big there unless they embrace a device like the iPHone. Apple growth in Asia will be the single most important event of the coming year.

A few days after Apple announced, LG Electronics published a 70% drop in mobile profits. I think we have seen the high water mark for Asian handset makers. It used to be possible to travel the length and breadth of Asia without seeing an Apple product but that is now changing. Asian handset makers compete on hardware design, but that doesn't count for much in the Smart Paradigm. Apple can now fight on its own terms - applications and content. Asian handset makers and Nokia will struggle to equal the richness of the Apps Store. I wonder what Good Night Vienna is in Mandarin