Tablet computers as seen from 1994


The rise of news on tablets such as the iPad is one of the defining themes of our times. This was foreseen by some, even down to the language that we use. The following video, created by Knight-Ridder in 1994, describes their vision of the future of tablet newspapers.

Some things they got absolutely right. The size and format of their device looks very similar to the iPad. Their description of the tablet’s role as primarily interacting with information rather than creating it. The way in which text, images, audio, video and animated graphics are combined in displaying news. Being able to clip and share articles. The personalization of news.

Other things they got wrong. They suggest we’d have it at the turn of the century, over a decade ago now. The newspaper front page was presented on tablet exactly the same as a current newspaper, which only the worst iPad news apps do. The role of today’s newspaper brands in the future.

Indeed, one of the most interesting issues raised (from 7:43) is the power of newspaper brands.

“…people don’t buy generic news. They buy a specific newspaper with a branded identity.”

“Many of the technologists ….assume that information is just a commodity and people really don’t care where that information comes from as long as it matches their set of personal interests. I disagree with that view.”

On one level they have been proved wrong. Certainly a handful of the most powerful news brands still dominate and are likely to continue to do so for the foreseeable future. However only a few of Knight-Ridder’s brands of yesteryear still hold any lustre (Miami Herald, Detroit Free Press, San Jose Mercury…).

Overall the video provides a highly prescient view. Unfortunately that didn’t save Knight-Ridder.

(Hat tip to Bronwen and Bree_Clare)