Saturday, June 12, 2010

Steve Jobs and the publishers

With the creation of the famous IPad tablet, Steve Jobs gives an incredible opportunity to press industry. This industry must certainly leverage the power of these devices but does not need to give all the power to the enlighten despot.

"Steve Jobs and the publishers". It sounds as the name of a rock band but it's not. It's the title of the story that we live for a few months.

Early January, CES Las Vegas, all device manufacturers were announcing their E-reader devices, all more black or white than the neighbor. All these devices would bring a revolution to press and book industry. Amazon was considered as a king based on Kindle sales figures : about 2 millions pieces everywhere in US in about 2 years.
Device manufacturers were proud of capabilities of their devices but a bit worried about info leakages or rumors around next Apple announcements. All device manufacturers were present ? There was only one missing : Apple. But Apple is not only a device manufacturer. It's a dream factory. They play at another level.

A few weeks later, Steve Jobs announced the IPad device and was demonstrating it, reading a newspaper in the sofa. Then, as usual with new devices from Apple, started an unbelievable hype period where press world has been shaken. One company announcing an IPad version of its magazine every week. Model was clear for Steve Jobs. As an angel saving press industry, he deserves a sales commission of 30% on all sales as it happens for music on iTunes.

Then came announcement of Murdoch - the pope of the English written press through NewsCorp religion : Washington Post news would not be bought through Apple but readers would download a free app and pay for news usage within the app, not through Apple. Moreover, the app proposed a better user experience than New York Times - the preferred magazine of Steve - proposed through Apple.
During April and May, a lot of magazines have published their specific app to deliver content : some of them copying Murdoch model - bypassing Apple.

Steve Jobs publicly demonstrated his disappointment in front of such low loyalty from the ones he is willing to save. Steve jobs behaves as an exclusive guy. Either you are his friend and he will help you, taking an important part of your money or you become his enemy. He creates new kingdoms but wants to rule these kingdoms in all dimensions, behaving a bit as Louis XIV "le roi soleil" - playing enlighten despotism. This kind of "no compromise" attitude is definitely a key success factor when designing best products. It does not necessarily help in all aspects of business.
All polemics last months about its ruling of app store - latest one about definition of "independent advertising aggregation" (commented here) - prove that the despotism, even if enlighten, starts to federate a lot of enemies which will be ready to jump supporting Apple competitors as soon as they have recovered.
Everyone wants his devices but not under his tough conditions.

When will these competitors be ready ? Will these be smart enough to take benefit of this perceived despotism ? Will Steve smoothen his positions ?
To be continued ...

Benoit Quirynen

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