This Week in Tablets: Apple TV’s tablet disconnect, and the evolution of print publishing

December 15, 2012

I finally took the plunge this week and converted my living room to Apple courtesy of Apple TV.  It’s…okay.

I confess to finding myself a little surprised at how much like every other set-top product—Xbox, Google TV, Roku—Apple TV feels.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just that streaming Netflix, Hulu, and NBA TV are commodities at this point. Everyone does it. Every device has it.

And the one feature of Apple TV that I thought I’d frequently use—the ability to mirror my iPad’s display onto my 50-inch flat-screen—I have yet to really take advantage of. The trick in this mode, I’m discovering, is that if you’re operating your tablet, you’re looking at it and not the TV it’s mirroring on.

I’m sure I’ll use it some day when my family is over and I want to show them pictures of my daughter.  (My wife: “Don’t you think they’ll just want to hang out with your daughter when they’re here?” Good point.)

In the meantime, I’m beginning to think that the iPad needs some kind of gesture recognition mode when you’re mirroring so that you can swipe and flick and click and pinch zoom with your hands while you’re staring at your TV. It wouldn’t be too hard—Lenovo has accomplished a very simple version of this in its new Yoga tablet convertibles.

Also frustrating: a number of the apps I use every day—like Spotify, Facebook, and Amazon Instant Video—have yet to make their way to Apple TV. The fact that this platform isn’t app-ified yet is also surprising. I expect this to change over time.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. I’m all in on the Apple platform now. But for now, I’m surprised at the lack of tight integration between iPad and Apple TV. It’s clear that they were not designed to work together.

Perhaps this is some of the backstory behind rumors that Apple is moving closer towards making its own TV set

Is Microsoft’s Surface tablet succeeding or failing?

People are going to keep asking this question until we get an answer. And the longer Microsoft delays putting out real numbers, the more it’s beginning to look like Surface sales are lackluster…at best. 

Now that Microsoft is selling the Surface RT device in conventional stores like Best Buy and Staples, analysts will probably have an easier time understanding how quickly it’s moving.

The bigger problem for Microsoft right now revolves around its presence in the App Store. It appears that Microsoft is upset over the 30% cut Apple takes of app sales. At the same time, Apple has a problem with Microsoft’s in-app subscriptions for Skydrive, and has pulled the app from its library.

The biggest problem for Microsoft, in my opinion? The company’s failure to release Office for iPad and Android two years ago. Had it moved on an earlier timeline, Microsoft would be rolling in cash, Office would be ubiquitous on mobile platforms, and SkyDrive would have extra momentum behind it.

As it stands now, app suites like QuickOffice and Pages are good enough that Office’s eventual iPad debut in 2013 will feel like an afterthought.

Newspapers evolve to the razor blade approach

Pretty much every year in November and December, I grow a beard. Every year I do this, I realize how much money I’m saving on razor blades.

The Gilettes and Schicks of the world clean up by giving away razors and selling the blades themselves at very high prices.

Newspapers are beginning to adopt the same business model, it would appear. Last year, the publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News created headlines when it announced that it would subsidize tablet sales to its subscribers in exchange for a one- or two-year commitment.

At the time, the move felt a little…well, desperate. But now I’m beginning to wonder if Philly wasn’t ahead of its time.

In recent weeks, both the Financial Times and British newspaper The Times have made similar offers. FT is giving away Google’s 8GB Nexus 7 for free to print or digital subscribers, while the Times is offering the 32GB model of the Nexus 7 for the bargain price of £50 ($80) to readers who sign up for a ‘Digital Pack’ subscription.

These aren’t the only evolutionary paths for the industry, of course. The New York Times is taking a less defensive position these days, having announced earlier this week that it will begin selling short-form digital books designed for tablets and e-readers.

The good news here is that print-based magazines and newspapers appear to be finding multiple ways to make money from digital products. Not surprisingly, tablets are at the center of the action.

By the way, if you haven’t checked out yet, I highly recommend doing so. I stumbled across this site a few months ago—it’s the cleanest-looking aggregator of long-form journalism I’ve seen in some time, and allows you to clip articles into Pocket’s app.

And, as an added bonus, they also sell e-singles and subscriptions by a number of fairly well-known authors. 

This Week’s Winner(s): Apple’s Best iPad picks for 2012

The awards season, which kicked off a few weeks ago with TabTimes’ Tabby Awards is in full swing now. Apple recently announced its best iPad apps of 2012.

The winner for best iPad app of the year was FiftyThree’s highly decorated Paper drawing app. Winners in the “Post-PC Creation” category were DocuSign Ink, Adobe Photoshop, and word processor iA Writer.

Winners in the games category include puzzle game The Room, Walking Dead, and one of the weirdest games I’ve played all year: Waking Mars.

You can find the complete list of winners on iTunes.

This Week’s Loser(s): IT People

It’s not something I’d thought of before, but TabTimes’ international editor Doug Drinkwater makes the point that the continuing trend of tablet BYOD policies will put considerable pressure on IT departments after the holidays, as employees begin showing up en masse with their shiny new iPads and Android tablets.

Sorry, guys. But here’s one thing that might make IT types smile this holiday season: a top-ten list of the best portable tablet-charging devices on the market today. 


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