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February 1, 2010

Can Jobs walk on water or is he the god that failed?

Steve Jobs, Apple Inc’s visionary CEO, may not be in the same league as Moses, but he has the potential to solve the current media crisis with Apple’s most innovative development:  the iPad. But is it a Tablet delivered from on high or a dud?

The almost religious delirium expressed by the self-appointed high priests of the Mac world, devotees that have dubbed the iPad the “Jesus Tablet” (more like Moses in my view), could be the solution to the crises the computer, print, music and telecoms industries.

This tablet-shaped device is, amongst everything else, to be the answer to the recent paywall controversies between Google and News Corp and the revival of sluggish advertising revenues.

In my various blog attacks on Mr Murdoch’s big business aims in transforming the web from a free-for-all to subscription-based, it is tempting to repent. But has Mr Job’s vision been transformative enough to convert this blind Lazarus into a true believer? And, if it ever does take off as the media have hyped it to pass, will it be the answer to the incessant squabbles between sinner and sinned against?

Not only is the iPad a colour eReader, it is also a music/video player and games console. Add to the list Apple’s online stores and this device could prove to be a winner, especially for newspapers, magazines and books.

To date, consumers have been highly reluctant to pay for online content and advertisers have been hamstrung by eReaders that cannot display their ads. In contrast, the iPad now offers this and more and gives multi-industries the opportunity to bring their corporate online strategies into the 21st century.

According to The Economist: “Apple has already attracted some blue-chip media brands…with leading publishers such as Penguin and Simon & Schuster…” and gives users “access to electronic versions of newspapers such as the New York Times.”

But with all the fizz in The Economist this week, Doubting Thomas’s abound. The newspaper, of course, has a vested interest in getting paid-for content into people’s heads, but it seems as if consumers don’t entirely share their optimism.

Within hours of Job’s introducing the “internet-changing” iPad, it was reviewed and instead of beseeching Jobs with praise from on high, they delivered a list of its pitfalls. This permeated the internet community very quickly and the general reaction to it was negative. From a former rise, Apple’s shares dropped over three per cent.

Mike Gartenberg, vice-president of strategy and analysis at research firm Interpret, told BBC News: “Everything they [Apple] have done up until now is in this device — the iPod, iTunes, multi-touch, the applications. And then they added new features like the iBook store and productivity.”

However, on the dark side, Blogger and TechCrunch took a different view: “Is it a must have? The quick and dirty answer is: for many people, right now, no. Unlike the iPhone, which filled an already well-established need, there is no existing need the iPad fills.”

One comment on TechCrunch  went even further: “I cringed at the hate being directed its way on sites such as Slashdot and Digg. Even the guys at Penny Arcade, whom I normally agree with, said ‘that iPad presentation had to be the worst thing I’ve even seen on on the Apple stage’ and that Apple had failed to make a case for the device.’ If you believe them, the iPad is going to be a massive flop. Well, the unwashed masses on the internet also predicted that the iPod would be a failure. They were wrong then, and they are wrong now.”

So, perplexing and contrasting views on the subject. It all made perfect sense to me as someone who is keen to see resolution in the newspaper and magazine industries. And yet, consumers seem not to agree.

John Sylvester is the media director of V9 Design & Build ( and an expert in search engine optimization and web marketing strategies.