The word this week that The RIM folks, who brought you the Blackberry, were readying their first tablet product gives us a chance to look at where this genre is in the development scheme. It’s my belief that the Tablet format will be the one that finally puts the new digital platforms into their place as a new medium and accelerates development of new digital storytelling tools and products that change our lives.
You will begin to see that while the early success of the tablet revolves around bringing traditional forms of media, like books, tv shows, magazines and newspapers, to us in a more convenient and economical way, the later success of this technology will be that it was the way we bring a new form of storytelling to the mass market. All forms of media – words, pictures, video, graphics, interactivity – will be combined to tell stories and communicate better, for all forms of communication. This isn’t just about news or email, which will benefit, it’s also about advertising, marketing and education.This new format will be the best platform for teaching or imparting information and wisdom. It will allow every story to be told in the best way, whatever that way is. If you are trying to explain how a building fits into its environment, you can show it with a photo or a 360-degree panoramic view; if you want to show the dangers of a street corner you can show video of cars missing signals; if you want to explain the impact of having a strong, or weak, dollar, you can include an interactive graphic that traces the impact on prices; if you want to describe how powerful a speaker John F. Kennedy was you can show his speech at the Berlin Wall. Or, sometimes, words alone can make a point best. No Matter.
What we are still waiting for are the next generation of storytellers who will recognize the power of this medium and create uniquely for it. And we are waiting on the next generation of entrepreneurs who will build businesses that can exist on this platform. Some will come from the usual places, Venture Capital or Angel funded startups, but others may come from some of our existing media companies that are starting to understand the power of this new media and are working on figuring out how to build for it while understanding where it leaves their existing business of print, television, radio, movies…etc.
But bet on…they are coming. They will likely emerge around certain markets that are the most obvious places where a business model can emerge. Textbooks are a great example. This new medium is a tremendous teaching tool, bringing an entire classroom experience to the user on a screen, including — soon — the ability to interact visually with a teacher. That it makes learning more efficient and more interesting is obvious. Also, the fact that students don’t want to carry 40 pounds of outdated books in their backpack doesn’t hurt either. The educational publishing business might be a good example of one that will turn sooner.
The race is on between traditional and new media players. No matter who gets to the finish line (if there is one) soonest, the consumer will win.