Digital Newspapers and Magazines

I was reading this news today about Apple losing their appeal regarding the Galaxy Tab being too similar to the iPad. A court has ruled that Apple couldn’t claim some “characteristic elements” of the iPad were Apple’s, due to the fact that someone else made a video in 1994, which features a device with the same elements. 1994! The video in question is worth watching (although slightly long), so I’ve embedded it…… here:

Incredible, isn’t it?

It plays both audio and video, yet this must be loaded onto the device by an ENORMOUS memory card (presumably because neither WiFi nor digital mobile networks were available yet). Also interesting to see it uses a stylus. Up until the iPhone was released though, that just seemed like the way mobile devices would work (irritating and uncomfortable as styli were). Although, I say “mobile” device, this thing is bigger than an A4 notepad. It’s huge. No way would the iPad have been as popular if it was this big.

I can’t remember if I had a computer in 1994 at all, but it was somewhen around that time, that I had a laptop loaned to me by my mum’s boyfriend. Don’t let the term “laptop” deceive you. It took up an entire table, had a dodgy battery (meaning it couldn’t leave the house, even if I had a spare wheelbarrow to carry it around in), and had a colour screen. That colour was orange. Different shades, but all orange nonetheless. So that I didn’t immediately get tango-blindness, this was connected to an external monitor the size of a coffee table, which had only a 14″ screen, and would manage a maximum of 800×600 resolution (less than most mobile phones, now). I’ll stop here, before I go down the “kids these days don’t know they’re born” route.

Anyway, what fascinated me about this, is that it’s actually better than a lot of digital newspapers/magazines I’ve seen.

If you take a look at something like the Guardian’s app on the iPhone, it’s pretty good right? But it’s not really a newspaper, is it? It’s more like a mobile-version of their main website, made a little bit better. You can’t browse it like a newspaper, and it’s not even that easy to find the same article if you know what section it’s in. I spent ages a couple of days ago trying to find a Victoria Coren piece on the mobile version of the “Comment is Free” section, before I hauled my lazy ass out of bed and onto my computer to find it there.

And I had an incredibly short-lived trial of electronic magazine service Zinio, where I discovered that the iPhone is completely incapable of being used to read their magazines. OK, not completely incapable, but you can’t do it without an enormous amount of zooming in/out on every single page. It’s in no way designed to be read on an iPhone, nor is it converted as such. It’s not even as if the software recognises individual articles and shows you those – it’s just like someone has PDF’d the entire magazine, and now to read any of it, you must now go through the excruciatingly tedious and repetitive task of zoom in, zoom out, scroll, zoom in, zoom out, scroll. It’s not what anybody wants. Even the guys from 1994 had found a way to do it better. (Before you think it, no it’s not just down to the iPhone screen size. I tried it on my Mac too, and to get the text readable, it still doesn’t fit on my screen without scrolling/zooming. It’s only a 20″ screen, but even still – seems a bit poor.)

This 1994 video correctly predicts that newspapers won’t die out, because it all still has to be written by somebody. Even in 2012, physical newspaper sales might be down, but people are still reading news online, or watching it on TV. The idea of clicking a button to share an article with a friend is nice though. Can you imagine magazine publishers letting you do that?

I like this device/concept a lot. Right – where’s my time machine? I’ll stop and get one of these just after I’ve picked up a hoverboard and a robot to make my dinner.

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