How to Know if the Apple Tablet Will Save Print

When Steve Jobs unveils his tablet computer today, print media's old guard will be watching closely — and praying his magic saves their businesses. But does Jobs love them back? We'll be closely watching his speech and keeping score.

For all the talk that the Apple Tablet will be the best platform yet for digital books, magazines and newspapers, and for all the evidence of Apple's quiet talks with publishers, little if anything is known about Jobs' priorities for his forthcoming device. Sure, Jobs wants glossy magazine and textbooks on the tablet, but he might pitch the product to consumers primarily as a great way to watch videos, check email and play games. E-books will likely be a major selling point, too, given Amazon's success with the Kindle, but at what length Jobs will emphasize sales of magazines and newspapers remains to be seen.

One could hardly fault Apple for focusing on media other than print. After all, the company's only real priority is to make money selling attractive products to consumers. And consumers show they are less interested in buying print content every year.

On the flip side, Apple has repeatedly shown that it leads consumer demand as much as it follows it, expanding markets (online music stores, smartphones, MP3 players) through elegant and simple design and ease of use.

So the tablet's potential impact on the oldest of old media is ultimately bounded by Jobs' own priorities. If he keeps his reality distortion field focused on their products for a good portion of his speech, magazine and newspaper executives will take heart. (The book guys, again, have less to worry about.) If he doesn't, they'll no doubt be reaching for their heart medication.

A few specific things to watch for:

  • Does Jobs bring a print exec on stage? +1 point
  • Does Jobs bring a magazine exec/editor (Jann Wenner?) on stage? +2 points
  • Does Jobs bring a newspaper exec/editor (Robert Thomson?) on stage? +3 points
  • Does Jobs demo an interactive magazine or newspaper? +2 points for each minute (or fraction thereof)
  • Does Jobs demo an e-book? +1 point for each minute (or fraction thereof)
  • Does Jobs spend more showing off print on the tablet, or on shiny video and videogame content? +/-5 points
  • Is there a print media store ready to go today? +5 points
  • If the tablet isn't shipping today, is a print media store promised to be ready when it does ship? +3 points
  • Does Jobs tell a personal anecdote highlighting his own personal love for a particular piece of print media (Rollling Stone, New York Times, etc.)? +8 points
  • Does Jobs reference Gutenberg or Moses? +5 points

Post your own rubrics in the comments and we may include them in our post-announcement analysis.