Monday Signal: Oh, the Irony of the Wired “iPad App”

wired tablet demo.pngHappy Monday! This past weekend was dominated by coverage of the SXSW conference, which I’ve pretty much ignored, because I figure the good stuff will come out in the next 24 or so hours (folks usually wait for a Monday to announce anything newsworthy). Also hot was advance sales of the iPad, which were predictably good. And with that in mind, I spent part of the past few days thinking more about Apple’s device, its spat with Adobe (and Google, for more on that, see this NYT piece), and why my piece last month (I Don’t Like the iPad Because…) brought such strong response. We all know Apple has its fanboys, as well as its detractors….but there’s more going on here.

What I find interesting is the media’s response to the iPad (and I include tech blogs in the category of “media”). Overwhelmingly, the media wanted to believe that a hip magazine like Wired (caveat, I was a co-founder) would, natch, have the hippest iPad demo, a demo that, natch, would prove the viability of … the media’s own threatened business model!

The truth, however, is a bit more complicated.

The Wired demo was pretty much the starting gun for a month of media frenzy about how great the iPad is going to be. Wired’s own posting about its demo is titled “Wired Magazine on the iPad”.

However, the truth is this: This demo was made using Adobe software (not available in native runtime on the iPad) and run off a Dell laptop. I’ve confirmed this with Adobe. Also true: the software used to create the demo will absolutely NOT create or compile apps that work natively on the iPad. And this is due to decisions made by Apple. Yes, there is a kludgy workaround that Adobe has authored, but it’s handicapped, to say the least. As much as the Apple would like to claim it has banned Adobe for technical reasons, by all accounts outside of Cupertino, Apple has banned Adobe due to control and economic issues: It simply doesn’t want developers able to create software from which Apple won’t profit.

So why is the Wired app called an iPad demo? Good question. Up until the iPad came on the scene, this demo was, according to very well placed sources, a tablet demo – after all, nearly 50 such devices are coming to market in the next year.

But at the moment it as unveiled at the prestigious TED conference (where, by the way, both Wired and the Industry Standard were also unveiled), Wired’s tablet demo became an “iPad demo”.

And therein lies the issue I have with the mainstream media’s approach to the iPad. It is, in the main, uncritical in its large type. Some representative coverage: Wired iPad Edition: Best Magazine Tablet Demo Yet – Wired – Gawker. While I won’t go so far as to say “breathless”, I will say this: It’s unquestioning. All the coverage points out that there’s this tiny little issue of how the software actually won’t run on the iPad, yet they all title their posts as “Wired’s iPad demo”.

Even Wired’s own post attempts, either awkwardly or disingenuously, to gloss the issue of Adobe’s participation in the demo’s creation by dismissing the technology as unimportant: “But enough of the technical details”. Well, NO, Wired. Not enough. In this case, technology is really, really important. But by ignoring this issue, the spin cycle regurgitated the headlines, and boom, there you have it: Wired has a kick ass iPad app.

Expect the truth is, the app was developed by Adobe and Wired engineers using InDesign and Air, which run on operating systems that are open and allow anyone to play as long as the code compiles correctly (this is true for Windows, Mac, Linux…but not the iPhone or iPad). If it weren’t for open operating systems, the very demo that has has become the poster child for how the iPad is going to save media companies….well, that demo would never have existed.

Somehow, the irony of that is lost. I have no doubt that Wired will indeed create a kickass iPad app. However, I sense that Wired, like most media companies, will soon come to realize what a huge pain in the ass it is for them to port, edition after edition, all their native Adobe InDesign workflows (not to mention their website content) into Mr. Job’s iPad straightjacket. Mark my words. The headlines here are going to change.

OK, I feel better now.

Well, anyway. More on this if time and your patience permits. Moving on to the weekend’s best linkages:

I Just Ordered an IPad: Here’s Why (AdAge) Look, I may not be a fan of the device’s approach to open standards et al, but I’m probably going to own one too (after the first or second generation, of course). Also read Do Marketers Still Need News Brands? (AdAge)- more on tablet mania.

Advertising: Instant Ads Set the Pace on the Web (NYT) The Times notices the speed with which marketers can purchase and deploy messaging. One of the many reasons we’ll have the Google’s head of product at the CM Summit this year – this is really “marketing in real time.”

U.K. and U.S. Agencies Throw Cold Water on Standards for ‘Black Box’ Data (ClickZ) Look, data is dull but important, right? Right. But I’m paying attention.

Google to shut China search (FT) The report claims it’s all but a done deal. I tend to think a deal will be done and Google will stay in China. However, if it does not, it will be historic, I think, in terms of a major company standing for something.

The Brand Dashboard: A Window to Relevance (Brian Solis) A detailed review of various free services to monitor social media conversation.

Consumer Confidence Rallies in March: RBC (MarketingProfs) Who doesn’t want to hear that?

Marketers Buzz About ROI (eMarketer) Ah the elusive game that is determining what a real return on investment is.

4 Ways to Effectively Use Social Media as a Catalyst (Mashable)

If you read FM’s Signal, then you’ll want to come to the CM Summit this June 7-8 in New York City. Join the founders of AdMob, Boxee, Foursquare, and the CEOs of Razorfish, Moxie, GroupM, as well as top execs from Adobe, Google, The New York Times, Starbucks, AT&T and more.

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3 thoughts on “Monday Signal: Oh, the Irony of the Wired “iPad App”

  1. I think the important thing is that iPad can demonstrate (even if just once) how awesome ‘print’ media can become using tablets to a wide audience. If Apple screws up and makes everything difficult for publishers – then they’ll end up lobbying the likes of Google & Dell etc to get busy building GOOD tablets based on Android which will run Adobe Air.

    I picked up on the comment re: Adobe Air in the video myself and made sure to mention it in a post I wrote in February:

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