Will Apple's iPad Get People to Pay for Content?

There have been many rumors and articles in the past several months about Apple courting "old media" for its tablet launch. The Wall Street Journal devotes much of its article from yesterday on the forthcoming Apple tablet to the topic:

Apple has recently been in discussions with book, magazine and newspaper publishers about how they can work together. The company has talked with New York Times Co., Condé 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 Wednesday on its involvement in the new device except to say, "stay tuned."

Apple is also negotiating with television networks such as CBSWalt 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 pitched media companies on a "best of TV" subscription service to television networks under which customers would pay a monthly fee for on-demand access to programs from a bundle of participating TV networks, giving consumers another way to readily access television content.

Clearly people are buying books and newspapers via the Kindle. But Apple may be uniquely positioned to pull off this pay model because of the "culture" of paid apps for the iPhone and its iTunes payment platform. It may be the case that out of the gate to get specialized, formatted content on the tablet you'll have to pay. 

However, undoubtedly there will be a Safari browser. And with an Internet connection many people might navigate around the pay wall to the desired publisher's free Internet site. As the anticipation builds toward launch, how can the company possibly live up to the hype?

We'll see next week. But in the meantime, here's a scenario to consider . . .

Are people going to have an iPhone or other smartphone, a laptop (with a dongle) and now a tablet (with a plan)? That's a lot to ask and probably closing in on $300 in monthly connectivity fees. That's not counting the home ISP charges starting at $30 per month at the low end.  

But let's say that Verizon or other carriers offer a reasonable subsidy, bringing the device down to under $500 with a two-year contract. An all-you-can-eat data plan or MiFi hotspot (as an alternative) might run $40 per month. What if this tablet could truly be a netbook substitute (with a dock and USB keyboard) as well as have a gallery of apps like the iPhone. That would be pretty interesting. 

You could potentially do VoIP calling (Skype, Truphone, Vonage, Google) and entirely ditch the carrier voice plan. Most people won't pursue this, but it's quite possible. This also argues for a time in the next three years where people are only interested in a fast data connection and are less and less willing to pay for voice . . . 

Here is a roundup some of the latest speculation: