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Publishing for Tablets: What You Need To Know About iOS and Android

Publishers know that tablets are not going away. They also know that publishing for tablets is no easy task. In this article series, I will address many of these publishing challenges; this article will begin with which operating systems and devices to target.

Challenges of Publishing for Tablets

It is hard to believe that the first iPad went on sale only 15 months ago. Today, virtually every major newspaper and magazine publisher now has a presence on tablets. Some have been very successful and are still investing heavily; others have suffered setbacks and are slowing down a little. All, however, agree that tablets are here to stay, and that a long term publishing strategy needs a strong tablet element.

But publishing for tablets isn’t easy. Once a publisher has decided what content should be accessible from a tablet, there are suddenly a host of new questions which need to be answered:

  • which devices, operating systems and distribution channels should I target?
  • should I be writing native applications, web applications, or use a “create once, publish anywhere” framework?
  • how will my production workflow need to adapt to support these devices, with all the different form factors, aspect ratios and user experience metaphors?
  • should I be producing a single, constantly updating edition like my website, or a daily/weekly edition more like my print product?
  • should I be publishing from my InDesign/Quark print system, or the Content Management System that powers my web and mobile sites?
  • how will I make money from this new channel via subscriptions and/or advertising?
  • how will I be able to track the success of these applications, and will I own my subscriber data?

In this article, I will talk about the tablet landscape. Future articles in this series will address the other challenges listed above. The articles are aimed primarily at those publishing newspapers or magazines, but elements are also very relevant to book publishers, or “non-publishers” creating brochures, portfolios or other magazine-like applications. On to the first challenge — picking the operating systems and devices to target.

Operating Systems and Devices

As things stand, there are five or six operating systems that may become important in the longer term. The table below summarizes these systems. Click on the image to see a larger screenshot.

  Operating System MarketPlace Hero Tablet Devices
Thumbnail image for ipad.jpg   Apple iOS App Store iPad
iPad 2
Thumbnail image for SamsungGalaxyHoneyComb.jpg Google Android MarketPlace for Android
Amazon Appstore for Android
Samsung Galaxy
Motorola XOOM
Asus Eee Pad
Vizio VTAB (Q3 2011)
Amazon Tablet (Q3 2011)
Thumbnail image for hptouchpad.jpg HP webOS App Catalog HP TouchPad
Thumbnail image for rim-playbook.jpg BlackBerry Tablet OS
(QNX Neutrino)
BlackBerry App World BlackBerry PlayBook
windows-tablet.jpg Windows 8 / Nokia Windows Marketplace Likely released in 2012

So how should a publisher choose where to focus their attention? The chart below highlights the fact that iOS and Android are likely to maintain their dominance for the next three or four years — publishers are wise to focus on these until something major happens.


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