With the new tablet device that is debuting next week, Apple Inc. Chief Executive Steve Jobs is betting he can reshape businesses like textbooks, newspapers and television much the way his iPod revamped the music industry-and expand Apple’s influence and revenue as a content middleman.
In developing the device, Apple focused on the role the gadget could play in homes and in classrooms, say people familiar with the situation. The company envisions that the tablet can be shared by multiple family members to read news and check email in homes, these people say.
For classrooms, Apple has been exploring electronic-textbook technology, these people add. The people familiar with the matter say Apple has also been looking at how content from newspapers and magazines can be presented differently on the tablet. Other people briefed on the device say the tablet will come with a virtual keyboard.
Apple has recently been in discussions with book, magazine and newspaper publishers about how they can work together. The company has talked with The New York Times Co., Conde Nast Publications Inc. and HarperCollins Publishers and its owner News Corp., which also owns The Wall Street Journal, over content for the tablet, say people familiar with the talks.
New York Times Chairman Arthur Sulzberger declined to comment in an interview Wedensday on its involvement in the new device except to say, ‘stay tuned.’
Apple is also negotiating with television networks such as CBS Corp. and Walt Disney Co., which owns ABC, for a monthly TV subscription service, the Journal has reported. Apple is also working with videogame publisher Electronic Arts Inc. to show off the tablet’s game capabilities, according to one person familiar with the matter.
Apple’s strategy contrasts with how other technology companies are approaching media. Notably, Google Inc. offers content to consumers largely free on properties like its video-sharing site YouTube, making relatively little distinction between clips from users and that of professional media companies. Web sites like Twitter and Facebook also provide outlets for user-generated content.
Mr. Jobs has a longstanding strategy of devising new ways to access and pay for quality content, instead of reinventing the content. Apple’s iTunes Store, for instance, became the world’s largest music retailer partly by making it easy for people to buy music, most of it from major record labels, by the song instead of by the album. Its digital media receiver Apple TV was also designed so people can buy and rent movies and television shows.
Apple’s divide with Google over how it views media content also drives the wedge deeper between the two companies. Apple’s iPhone, for example, currently closely integrates Google’s mapping and search technology, but a person familiar with the matter said Apple was in serious discussions with Microsoft Corp. to incorporate its Bing search engine into the iPhone as the default search and map technologies. Microsoft declined to comment.
YUKARI IWATANI KANE / ETHAN SMITH