Sports Illustrated iPad app goes horizontal

Sep 20, 2010

The pioneering sports magazine changes how its iPad version can be displayed. Design is one reason, but not the critical factor. Also, a primer on what’s going on with tablets.

SI app plays up photos

Sports Illustrated is forgoing the iPad’s ability to showcase photos in portrait mode, only allowing readers to properly view images in landscape mode. The reason: photos look better this way, writes Peter Kafka in an All Things D media memo.

But that is not the only reason. Others may be more significant and include cost, staffing issues, new product development for the Android platform and an ongoing frustration with Apple. Many publishers are waiting for a proper subscription service to deliver the electronic version of the magazine to readers each week. Kafka points readers to Josh Quittner’s personal blog to explain the change; he is a Time Inc. editor working on digital products.

Quittner writes that he really likes the horizontal approach to laying out a photo-driven magazine like SI.

“I’ve come to believe that, for now, and for photo-driven magazines like SI, the horizontal view is the optimal experience. In fact, by concentrating on that one view, we’ve already been able to innovate: We’ve created a new way to view extraordinary photos that we call the ‘Super Looooong View’,” he writes. Quittner explains that resources play a role too, as overtaxed designers (have you noticed how challenging it has become for media companies to make a buck?) cannot spend as much time as they’d like to work on horizontal and vertical image views.

“If we were able to build a real business, with subscriptions that offered our iPad versions to readers at a reasonable price, that would be a no brainer,” he writes. “But we can’t yet, so the best approach for us is to experiment with the format, marshal our (human) resources and start building products on other platforms that will allow us to scale up as our business grows.”

Quittner’s candor is refreshing and speaks to several issues facing publishers. But his concluding point stands out among the rest, as it nicely sums up what’s going on at big publishers today: “If readers tell us they don’t like this, we can always go back to two views—that’s the beauty of the current, experimental period in new media. There are no fatal mistakes.”

Tablet news, recycled

Having trouble keeping up with the latest tablet computer news? Me too. Developments change thrice weekly, including an announcement last week that Verizon Wireless will start selling a new tablet from Samsung very soon. The other major carriers will have a version of the Galaxy tab too, just like they have Galaxy versions of smartphones.

At the New York Times, Sam Grobart offers a piece titled “Everything you need to know about tablets right now.” It’s essentially a round-up piece of the iPad competitors available now (the Dell Streak) and those expected Christmas. There’s a lot you’ve read before in this space and elsewhere, but Grobart’s step-back overview will bring you up to speed. Also, he points out that the Android marketplace isn’t the only sphere where we’ll see tablets.

“Of course, there are other players, like Microsoft, Blackberry and Palm, now part of Hewlett-Packard. Microsoft’s Windows 7 has built-in multitouch capabilities, which makes it a good candidate for tablets. For the past year, H.P. has had a tablet, called the Slate, in the works; it may well feature Windows 7 inside when it is released later this year,” Grobart writes. “But don’t forget that with H.P.’s recent purchase of smartphone maker Palm, it has a well-reviewed but so-far unsuccessful operating system called WebOS. Now that Palm is in H.P.’s embrace, it’s expected that the Slate could be made in two versions: one Windows, one WebOS.”

If you’ve been following these developments and rumors, which have picked up the pace since Labor Day, you can skip this piece. But if you’re just now considering a holiday purchase of a tablet, take a look. And then wait, because things will be changing again … and soon.

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Eric Benderoff

Eric Benderoff is the principal of, an editorial services firm, and a founding member of the Appolicious content strategy team. His personal technology column for the Chicago Tribune has appeared in newspapers and websites nationwide. He is a regular guest on Chicago's WGN Radio and is a frequent commentator about consumer technology on national TV news programs.

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