All hail to the iGod

As the February edition of Marketing magazine makes its way to the printers something very different is taking place on the far side of the globe.

At 10am on Wednesday 27 January, Steve Jobs, the co-founder and chief executive of Apple took to the stage at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, in San Francisco, to unveil a shiny new piece of hardware that may or may not change the world.

Called the iPad (I’ll save the obvious jokes for later), this hybrid tablet device is both smartphone and laptop in one. Weighing in at just 680 grams, this fabled Apple product is being sold as the company’s most advanced piece of technology yet, merging the best of an iPhone with the iPod, as well as e-readers and game consoles.

The iPad will allow users to stream videos, read books, newspapers and magazines from Apple’s new iBookstore, watch TV (in HD), play games and interact with the wider web community.

Apple also announced a new iBooks app in partnership with major publishers, including Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan.

Indeed, iPad is being touted as the “next big thing”, but I suspect, for good reason. I recently crossed over into iPhone territory and apart from a few technical hiccups (all of which are my own doing) I’m completely hooked.

My emails are cleared before I get to work, our website has taken on a new and more mobile element, I’m reading more newspapers than ever before and fronting up early to meetings in Kowloon Tong thanks to Google Maps.

But while the personal benefits are obvious, nowhere are the expectations higher and more intense than in the publishing industry.

Early into 2010 and already there are more signs the print business continues to take hefty blows from the digital sector. Our annual Magazine of the Year Awards coverage looks at just how hard the digital crossover is hurting publishers.

As we reported in January, the New York Times will begin charging readers to consume its web and mobile content from the beginning of 2011, a move widely interpreted as part of the iPad strategy.

The Wall Street Journal and Condé Nast are said to be in talks with Apple about getting their content into the Apple ecosystem.

Jobs is without a doubt the ultimate showman and there will be those who shrug off the rivers of copy that will surely flow from the iPad launch.

But it is also worth noting that since Apple launched the iPod in 2001, the company has led the consumer electronics market and changed the face of how music is sold, marketed and consumed. It’s hard not to think the same will happen with the media business.

So as our magazine begins its – let’s be honest, slow – journey to your desktop, it’s really just a matter of time until the process of printing a magazine, waiting a day for the proofs to return, and then a further week or so until it hits your desk – becomes redundant. While it’s a process I love, it’s also a process I’m increasingly starting to realise will soon become part of a very old publishing era.