In April 1977, Steve Jobs introduced the break-through Apple II. 26 years ago on 24th January 1984 the Macintosh, in October 2001 he brought us the iPod and at Macworld Expo in January 2007 he introduced the iPhone. Tomorrow on 27th January 2010 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco it's widely expected that Steve Jobs will unveil Apple's new creation - a mobile digital tablet.
Some see the product, as a super iPhone or potential laptop replacement - but Jobs, who over the last thirty years, has dramatically influenced the Personal Computer, Music and Phone industries will hardly be content simply to announce a new device.
Apple's visionary goal could be no less than the recreation of the whole publishing industry by providing an integrated hardware, software and distribution eco-system. A total system that will start to change the way content is created, consumed and purchased on mobile devices.
It's quite possible that Apple will reference or evoke the Sumerian clay tablets dating back 5,000 years. These tablets written in cuneiform scripts are the earliest known writing system. They chronicled stories of creation, the Flood and the arrival of Halley's comet as well as the commercial activity of the period.
Apple may believe that their electronic slate will have as dramatic an impact on information as did the ancient Mesopotamians.
Of course, Apple is not new to driving dramatic change in the publishing industry. In the mid '80s, Apple's Graphical User Interface (GUI) on the Macintosh along with Aldus (PageMaker), Adobe (PostScript) and Hewlett Packard (LaserJet) introduced Desktop Publishing and gave powerful but easy to use tools to a new generation of designers.
For the last decade and a half, digital publishing has been evolving from print to the web. Generally, it's not been a happy experience for publishers. The traditional print models have not transitioned well.
Brands' direct interaction with their readers have been weakened, audiences fragmented and content is widely created and distributed across the web. Search and social networks have had a dramatic impact on traditional publishers.
Trying to protect legacy businesses by trying to create digital replica models of print products especially magazines and newspapers resulted in a dreadful user experience. Content, which had been designed for viewing in portrait orientation, was forced into a landscape mode forcing the reader to pan, scroll and zoom.
For centuries, print publishing has been a world of publisher controlled, static information. However, we're now on the verge of having dynamic real-time, multi-media content delivered to our personal mobile computing devices in a format that is optimized for the device. Publishers now have another opportunity to work out the digital opportunities.
Mobile is offering publishers a reset opportunity to deliver target content in formats that work for the consumers and the mobiel devices they are using. Because of the personal nature of mobile devices, brand have a better opportunity to directly connect with their audiences than is possible online.
Apple is likely to provide tools for the creation of great content available via new software development kit (SDK) and is able to deliver a massive buying audience via iTunes.
Publishers will have an opportunity to experiments with variety of revenues models. Analytics built into the SDK will allow publishers to truly measure the engagement of their audiences and better understand their interests.
Already books are the second largest iPhone Apps category. Expect to see exponential growth in the broad category of content - books, newspapers and magazines as publishers sign on to Apple's distribution services.
(image credit Dale Stephanos )
Bright creative entrepreneurs will change the moribund textbook industry, children's books with be brought to life via multimedia, the travel guide industry and special interest publishing will be revolutionized, comic books anime and manga will reach massive new audiences. Where it makes sense text can be enhanced by audio and video, readers can be connected to discuss and share content, and new business models can be developed that take account of how readers want to access and consume content. The whole of the publishing industry could be revitalized. The journey is the reward.
Apple cannot save the publishing industry but it can provide great tools to help publishers save themselves.
Tomorrow Apple's is likely to showcase an incredible consumer device that will raise the bar for the a number of industry, not least publishing.
As with the launch of the Mac, iPod and iPhone it took time to fully appreciate the devices impact.
Over the last three decades Apple has released devices that excites and engages their customers - products that makes them go "wow - I want one, now! The Apple tablet will continue a great tradition.
For additional insight on the true significance of the tablet - read Fake Steve Jobs and WIRED on content to be the tablet's focus , Bloomberg's Apple Tablet May Lure Publishers With New Features, the WSJ article on the pricing discussions going on between Apple and publishers and the NYTimes on why the media is hoping for a payday.