Today I checked what is the Apple's new iPad all about. A very nice looking tablet as expected but I was more curious how the content available for iPad will look like. This device comes with browser so normal web content is available as usually. Books, tunes and videos are sold via Apple's own stores. But the announcement featured 'The New York Times' app and that shows where the progress is taking us.
Traditional web or mobile optimised version of the print publications wont cut anymore. Some publishers have announced their own iPhone application but many of them are simple page flipping applications. Not much difference to PDF reader. Seamlessly embedded videos and photo galleries are not that common as one would expect. Especially when new devices like iPad support much larger screen and computing power than previously so they should be able to handle them easily.
At the moment many of those magazine or newspaper reader applications are free with their content but paid content will definitely become more popular. Instead of subscribing or buying physical printed magazine you would receive an access to the extra content - all edited and formatted in a single package. Simple 'subscribers only' area with content snippets lying around might have been the way to do previously but now users are expecting much more elegant presentation. I see iPad and similar devices as premium content platforms and their users are already used to pay for applications, videos and music.
There are two sides of the iPad publishing - a CMS and a reader. Recent development on digital photography has enabled photo reporters to shoot both stills and video - actually they expected to do so now. Presenting this variety of media formats is not straightforward. Publishers had to find way to add all this content in to their sites and I can imagine how their CMSs are being pushed against the limits. Publishers need to have highly flexible content management system that handles vast amount of different media formats and is able to transform them to another (i.e. downscaling videos). The same content needs to be available for normal web, lightweight mobile devices, smart phones and now also for tablet. The extra effort and cost required for each platform version should be minimal.
The content reader can be either the standard web browser or a custom reader application. Publishing content for specific application allows much more freedom for layout and media formats. is an example of how a digital magazine would look like in the future. Developing such reader application is not trivial task but I assume iPad SDK has some new features supporting this. Unfortunately the documentation is available only for members of the iPhone Developer Program.
As Apple did not announce their own de facto reader for rich content there is now an open space for iPad developers to conquer. The solution offering the intuitive user interface on iPad, excellent performance and seamless integration with content management systems will be a winner.