Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

No Time Inc. for the Tablet Next Week

si tabletHere’s someone else you won’t see onstage with Steve Jobs next week: Anyone from Time Inc. With good reason–the magazine company doesn’t have any tablet-ready stuff to show off yet.

Time Warner’s (TWX) publishing unit is intensely interested in the device that Apple (AAPL) is scheduled to unveil next Wednesday.

But it doesn’t know a whole lot more about it than anyone else reading this story, because Apple has only recently started sharing minimal information about the device with the publisher, sources tell me. And most of that came in the past few weeks.

So what about that concept version of a tabletized Sports Illustrated the publisher showed off in December? It’s still a concept version. And there are lots of basic questions still unresolved.

Such as:

  • What kind of content will show up in the final version?
  • What kind of interface will it have?
  • How will ads work?
  • How will people pay for it?

Time Inc. has plenty of ideas about what it would like to do, of course. For instance, it hopes to sell subscriptions to a tabletized magazine directly, without involving Apple in the transaction at all. You can see a video that shows off other potential features of a digital magazine at the bottom of this post.

But for now, Time Inc. executives are thinking about this stuff in a bit of a vacuum, because they don’t know exactly what Steve Jobs has up his sleeve. Tease that out a bit and you can tell the story of most media companies: They’re excited to start taking advantage of the tablet–as soon as they find out what it is, exactly.

Meanwhile, Sports Illustrated has always said that its digital demo is a work in progress and that it is aiming to have a finished product ready by the middle of this year. Other Time Inc. titles are supposed to follow.

So if Apple meets its reported March shipping date, the tablet’s first wave of buyers will initially have to find other ways to read their favorite Time Inc. magazines.

On paper, perhaps.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus