Tuesday, March 30, 2010

iPad, YouPad... WePad?

It's not that I haven't previously heard of this supposed savior of the European book scene, it's that I'm really questioning the wisdom behind the name. I mean, come on. "WePad"? Is that really what you want to call your iPad competitor when the name of the original has already been likened to both a maxi pad and an adult diaper?

Regardless, said WePad has recently been adopted by Germany's largest publisher, Gruner & Jahr. While the WePad (no, I will not stop saying it) does seem to have some advantages over the iPad—for example, Adobe Flash—its brand recognition (particularly outside of Europe) and full specs are still iffy, and likely will remain so until the official press release on April 12th.

It's interesting to note, however, that not only has Gruner & Jahr's involvement already been made known well ahead of the official announcement, but G&J is owned by (dun dun dun!) Bertelsmann (they hold a 74.9% stake in the company). You may recall from Friday's post that Bertelsmann is the parent company of Random House, currently the only one of the big six publishers that has not signed on with the Apple iPad. Curious, no?

Whether or not there's a significant connection here is anyone's guess, but I do wonder whether a potential WePad/iPad controversy may be part of the reason Random House has resisted jumping on the Apple bandwagon too soon. I'm not insinuating that either company would insist that Random House/G&J/Bertelsmann not do business with the other, or that translation issues would be a disaster down the road, but I do wonder how the politics of electronic publishing are going to play out as companies like Apple, Amazon, Google, and perhaps even Neofonie (the company that produces the WePad) begin playing larger and larger roles in the industry.

Thoughts?

9 comments:

  1. WePad? Really? Seems almost like infringement.

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  2. There seems to be a tradition of calling these devices something silly. If they had some brought French publishers on board, they could have called it the OuiPad, with a miniature scottish version called-- yes, you guessed it...

    ... the WeePad
    :)

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  3. Hmmmmm, Apple vs Android? This is the second time Android has trounced the Apple o/s (first case, iPhone vs. Android handset) in terms of functionality. And, being open-source, Android isn't going to lock in developers the way that Apple does.

    I think you raised an interesting point about the Random House connection, Eric (I laughed when I read it), but I'm taking a more meta-technology view of this as well. As a geek-girl with multiple Linux machines, I say, Go Android! (Real, and I mean REAL, sucky name though. WePad?!!11 Good grief.)

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  4. If there was a pad of the people it could be called the PePad.

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  5. It's like politics, everyone wants a WE piece of the pie.

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  6. As an European, I'm looking forward for this WePad thingy. But I'm sceptical: has the European publishing industry skills to compete with Apple? Apple has huge exprerience on how to distribute their products (e.g. iPhone) and how to handle support, application distribution and content distribution. As Nokia has painfully learned with their Ovi Store, to set up a working multinational online application store is not an easy task.

    As for the device itself, there is currently no info if "the fast internet connection" is 3G or WiFi-based. There is also no pricing information yet neither for content nor for the device itself.

    But I'm wishing all the best for this project!

    /PT

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  7. Oh, one thought more:

    If Gruner&Jahr/Bertelsmann can get Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing (owner of e.g. Macmillan) and Springer to support WePad in textbook (and other non-fiction) publishing, we definetly have a winner. Those three publish around 75% of world's textbooks and non-fiction and are already the leading publishers in web-based medical databases.

    We discussed earlier about iPod and textbooks and came to conclusion that the "real" future (and real money) of e-books are in non-fiction business. If the WePad is priced right and the publishers offer all their textbooks for it, they will also have huge potential for fiction e-books. After all, if the student already has bought the device for study, why wouldn't s/he use it for free-time activites, too?

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  8. I emailed the incontinence device guys, congratulating them on the specs but pointing out that the name seriously sucks. Haven't heard back yet.

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