Apple is going to have a bite taken out of their pie-shaped tablet by a newspaper giant. The Tribune Company, based in Chicago, owns many dailies, such as The Baltimore Sun, The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune. They also have twenty-three TV stations. Now they have made the decision to snatch a piece of the action from the Tablet industry.
Tribune will give subscribers the opportunity to obtain their own touchscreen tablet, which will run a customized Android. The main piece of software showcased will be one that displays the tablet owner’s hometown paper. This news was leaked by more than six employees of the company, on the condition of anonymity.
The plans are a little murky still, but it is possible they will offer the tablets either for free or for a small fee, but to people who subscribe for a longer period to one of their papers. Rumor has it, from five employees who were supposedly briefed on the project, that there might even be a connection plan with a cellular company to provide wireless connectivity.
Tribune is just recovering from bankruptcy so this venture is a bold one. Rumours suggest that Samsung is one of the companies mentioned to build the hardware for this project.
The iPads and smartphones both have free software from Tribune for reading their daily newspapers. The Samsung Galaxy Tab, Windows phones and tablets have the Mosaic multimedia app, from Tribune. The newest Android, Honeycomb, is lacking any targeted software from Tribune, though.
This tablet project is not some flash in the pan at Tribune. It has the utmost attention of the hierarchy. They are delving into the deep end of the pool on this one. Yet, in the context of this they have made deep cuts in their media and publishing, reducing their editorial staff. In addition, do not forget that they are still in court dealing with the bankruptcy.
Tribune’s current CEO, Eddy Hartenstein, is pushing the tablet more than anyone, but he has a track record of supporting technology. He is a board member of SanDisk, Sirius XM Radio, and Broadcom, and he founded DirectTV. Tony Hunter was made chief of the Publishing division by Hartenstein, with the recommendation that “he is sympathetic to the digital efforts of the company and their importance to the publishing group’s ultimate success.”
Analysts support the idea on the grounds that printing papers is expensive and dependent on the prices of ink. The biggest fear is that advertising revenues may never come close to replacing those in print. Unless this can be remedied, electronic papers on subsidized tablets will come and go.
Tribune is not the only company who wants to make tablets work as a delivery system for their product. Philadelphia Media Network will be pushing Android-based tablets at huge discounts, loaded with their proprietary software for displaying their Daily News and Inquirer papers. September will see a couple thousand of these offered as a trial run.
These newspaper tablets will function completely as normal tablets, and we can thank Apple for the impetus. If they had not cracked open the enthusiasm for tablets last year, this would not yet be possible. Already, 8% of Americans own a tablet, a Pew Research study shows. Imagine the amount of expansion and competition in a market that is so sparsely populated.