Jesus Tablet: Savior Of The News Industry? Or In Need Of A Resurrection?

Euphemistically called the "Jesus Tablet," Apple's iPad seemed to be the answer to ever newspaper man's dream, including Rupert Murdoch's. It was the first portable device with a large enough screen to make computing and reading convenient and expeditious. Apple finally produced a product that out-did the Kindle. Why wouldn't people pay for newspaper and magazine subscriptions with a tablet that was so handy?

In a Guardian report titled "iPad apps- still more dash than cash," Jemina Kiss notes that "the news industry embraced the launch of Apple's iPad in April 2010 with something that felt like true love: feverish anticipation at that first meeting, lengthy sentiment eulogies and whispers of hope that this must finally be The One."

But in less than a year, the Savior with more than 280 million built-in iTune built followers seems to be in a stalled position and according to some reports are actually declining. The hopes of publishers making early money via mobile devices might have a longer wait than anticipated.

Condé Nast's Wired US iPad magazine sold 73,000 copies through their app in the first nine days of May 2010 but then fell to 23,000 in November. Vanity Fair sold 10,500 in October but only 8,700 in November, and GQ's average fell from 13,000 in October to 11,000 in November. And Men's Health, published by Rodale in the US fell from 2,800 monthly shortly after the iPad launch to 2,000 by November. Although not large fall-offs, the indication is that the iPad is not scaling as Steve Jobs and most in the digital publishing space had hoped.

The answer might be in the future if publishers have the stamina to wait it out for a decent return. Screen Digest's senior analyst Dan Cryan expects that 6.5 million people will an iPad by 2014. Others see that number as modest -  and are predicting 5 to 7.5 million iPads will be sold by the end of the first quarter 2011.

Rupert Murdoch's The Daily, the first newspaper designed specifically for the iPad is scheduled to launch soon. Both Jobs and Murdoch will host a joint event at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to unveil the new  digital newspaper. Murdoch a firm believer that the iPad is the savior for all of his newspapers has devoted considerable resources to The Daily, committing $20 million to the paper's first year.  Banking on this success, the iPad might receive that necessary resurrection.

Albert Read, general manager of Condé Nast UK also acknowledges that while Apple's tablet is a major investment and a risk, his long-term hope is that "we create something exciting for readers and advertisers - and that brings its own returns over time. In five years we will have reaped those benefits."

However, the other piece of the pie is the competition. While iPad was one of the first movers in the space, the blogosphere has been cyberventillating over the number of competitors that will all try to eat away at Apple's market share. (For more on how competitive this field is getting, please see my consumer report titled, "Tablet Wars: iPad vs HP Slate vs JooJoo…")

At this year's 2011 International CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, the Notion Ink Adam tablet is gaining a lot of attention. With a similar sized-screen as the iPad, the Adam's Pixel Qi technology has created a product that won't eat into one's battery like an LCD screen and one that can be easily viewed without any reflection issues as has been criticized with the iPad.

While there is a lot of secrecy about the iPad 2, perhaps the tablet's resurrection will occur with the launch of this new iteration. Solving the reflection issue, the iPad 2 is also rumored to be lighter with a larger display area than the original. Whether is will sport a camera and finally concede to offer Adobe Flash is yet to be seen.

So while the iPad is agreeably the most sexy device in the space today, the product is not the "slam-dunk" many thought. There is a lot of work ahead for the Apple team if their "Jesus Tablet" is to remain the true leader of millions of followers. So while I wouldn't count on the Last Supper just yet - let's see what the new tablets will have to offer, when Jobs returns from the mountain after communing with the digital Gods!