Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

More Stuff You Won’t See on Tablet Day: Condé Nast Magazines

I got a great glimpse of the future of magazines last week. It’s the March issue of Wired, transformed into a digital edition that takes full advantage of the Apple tablet we’re going to see Wednesday.

I’d show you a video demo, but Wired publisher Condé Nast is keeping it under wraps for now. But not because the company plans to show it off at the Apple event.

It doesn’t.

Like just about everyone else in the media world, Condé Nast executives think they know what Steve Jobs is going to unveil, but they’re in the dark when it comes to details. The demo they showed off at an industry dinner was much more advanced than the one they showed off in November. But as beautiful and engaging as it is, the demo is still just a demo.

I should note here that the Condé guys–along with the Adobe (ADBE) team helping them–are appropriately proud of their demo. They point out that it is built on live code, as opposed to Flash movies they and other publishers have shown off in the past.

But as Adobe design manager Jeremy Clark told me last week, Condé Nast can’t build a digital magazine for an Apple tablet–or a Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) tablet, for that matter–until it gets its hands on one, and it hasn’t done so yet.

Which is why when you do see the first Condé Nast products on the tablet later this spring, they are likely to be supersized editions of the GQ app it is already selling for the iPhone and iPod touch and not the more ambitious stuff Wired is working on.

Condé executives have talked to Apple (AAPL) about their intentions to build tablet-ready magazines–as have executives from Time Warner’s (TWX) Time Inc.–but those conversations are pretty much one-way affairs, sources tell me: The magazine guys tell the Apple guys what they’d like to do, hoping for some kind of guidance from the Apple guys. And the Apple guys listen politely, but don’t say much.

This applies to both technical stuff–the Condé guys don’t know if Adobe’s AIR platform, which they used for their demo, will work on the tablet–as well as big-picture business questions. For instance, Condé would like to sell tablet magazine subscriptions directly to consumers, without having to work through Apple’s iTunes store. And through an Apple proxy, the publisher has communicated that desire to Apple CEO Steve Jobs, I’m told. No word back, though.

Again, you can extrapolate this scenario for all but a select few media companies. Even for some that you’d expect to be on board for an Apple launch. Disney’s (DIS) ESPN unit, for instance, is sending representatives to the Wednesday event, but won’t be participating, sources tell me.

The good news for Apple’s would-be media partners: All of this should become much clearer by Wednesday afternoon.


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