Peter Kafka

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Video: Sports Illustrated Shows Off a Google-Ready Digital Magazine

Sports Illustrated hasn’t come to Apple’s iPad yet, but the magazine is already showing off a new version of its future: A digital version designed with Google in mind.

This one, which Editor Terry McDonell showed off at Google’s I/O developer conference today, looks a whole lot like the one the publisher says it is bringing to Apple’s gadget soon. The real difference here is the way readers/buyers get their hands on the thing: Rather than buying it from Apple’s App Store and downloading it to your iPad, you would access it via your Web browser, after purchasing it from an app store Google manages.

For most users, this may not matter very much. Regardless of which store you buy it from, the magazine should function the same way. (Don’t get hung up on the fact that it’s a Web-based app.)

But for publishers like Time Inc., the Time Warner (TWX) unit that puts out Sports Illustrated and titles like Time and People, it’s potentially a big deal: It opens up a much wider audience for the company’s publications, since they should work on any device that supports Google’s Chrome browser. Just as important, it gives Time Inc. another vendor to work with, one that might be willing to grant it concessions Apple (AAPL) won’t–like control over subscriber information, perhaps.

But all of this is a little speculative, as neither Time Inc. nor Google (GOOG) has released concrete details about the app store or the magazine. But the hope is that both will be ready in the fall.

Meantime, here’s McDonell’s presentation. He’s introduced at the event by Sundar Pichai, Google’s vice president of product management.

And here’s cleaner version of a similar demo, which McDonell taped in advance:

This doesn’t look remarkably different from the tabletized magazine demos Time Inc. and Sports Illustrated have shown off before. That is, SI (and mag publishers in general) are still primarily concerned with porting their printed product to digital form, adding some audio and video, as well as selected links to the Web. This makes sense given that both demos were produced with the Wonder Factory design shop.

See for yourself: Compare and contrast today’s demo with the one SI showed off last fall:


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