Apple is planning a New York City event for later in January centered on media and publishing, according to reports.
The initial report came Jan. 2 from AllThingsD, which suggested that the event will have nothing to do with either the iPad 3 or long-rumored Apple TV. Instead, it will apparently focus on either advertising or publishing, and involve Apple Senior Vice President Eddy Cue. TechCrunch also confirmed the January event through its own independent source, who apparently said the focus will be e-publishing.
Fox's Clayton Morris, citing unnamed sources, suggested in a Jan. 3 blog posting that "this event will focus on iTunes University and Apple in education" and be "small in size but large in scope." He also suggested that the project had been years in development, with Apple co-founder Steve Jobs "intimately involved" before his death in October 2011.
Jobs harbored an abiding interest in developing some sort of textbook-related product. "He wanted to disrupt the textbook industry and save the spines of spavined students bearing backpacks by creating electronic texts and curriculum material for the iPad," read one passage from Jobs' recent biography by Walter Isaacson. At another point, Jobs "agreed" with News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch that "the paper textbook business would be blown away by digital learning materials."
According to the biography, Jobs viewed textbooks as an $8 billion industry "ripe for digital destruction." He held meetings with education publishers like Pearson Education about a potential partnership, and apparently envisioned iPad versions of textbooks.
"The process by which states certify textbooks is corrupt," he told Isaacson. "But if we can make the textbooks free, and they come with the iPad, then they don't have to be certified. The crappy economy at the state level will last for a decade, and we can give them an opportunity to circumvent that whole process and save money."
In the battle for e-publishing supremacy, Apple faces a formidable competitor in Amazon, whose Kindle franchise has proven a hit with consumers. Education is a potentially lucrative segment for any company that can place its products in the hands of thousands or even millions of students; if Apple makes a significant play in that area, it stands to reason that Amazon and other companies could quickly follow with initiatives of their own.