PDF In-Depth

The Tablet: What it means for publishing

About the Author
Duff Johnson picture

Duff Johnson

Since 2011, Duff has worked in the ECM industry specializing in PDF technology since 1995. An industry leader, Duff co-chairs the international committee that manages ISO 32000, the specification for the PDF file format. Responsible for marketing and product...  More



Editor's Note: Duff Johnson is the CEO of Appligent Document Solutions. This article originally appeared on Appligent.com on January 22, 2010, prior to the January 27 release of Apple's iPad, and has been reprinted with permission.

The 2010 CES featured a notable proliferation in slate/tablet/oversized handheld devices, with media attention to match. Consumers now await the unveiling of Apple's iThing, now scheduled (in an unfortunate collision with Obama's State of the Union address) for January 27.

With several false starts in the past dozen years, never have expectations for a new category of device risen so high.

Whether made by Apple or someone else, tablets are going to happen, and they will be a very big deal. Improved battery life (and/or reduced power consumption), high-resolution touch-sensitive screens, the amazing look and feel of modern manufacturing and the ever-more pervasive reach of broadband will beckon consumers towards a new kind of relationship with their "personal computers" (a term soon to be redefined).

The meek shall inherit

The impact of tablets on content producers will be profound, but perhaps the greatest opportunity is for small publishers.

The tablet offers a fresh lease on life for traditional print-publishing concepts and skills. The coming tablet economy will allow the smallest of content developers to present their material with professional flair.

Tablet publishers will not need server infrastructure, Flex/Flash expertise and streaming video feeds in order to succeed. Content producers and (yes) individuals will be able to generate attractive, professional and effective tablet content using nothing more than PDF files. Expensive animations and other eye-candy, while you'll see them heavily featured in the days to come, are entirely optional. For quality content, the absence of movies and animated control-panels won't be a barrier to entry. The cost of electronic publishing is about to fall through the floor.

For today's (remaining) large publishers, tablets are the last, best chance to resurrect their moribund industry. The new format will soon be essential to publishing survival, and to thriving the day after tomorrow. Why is this so?

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