Microsoft Partners See a Tablet PC-Reading Market

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NEW YORK ( -- A variety of publishing companies working in cooperation with Microsoft Corp. are preparing to launch e-periodicals designed for
Photo: Microsoft
Microsoft is putting $470 million behind its initial push of the Tablet PC as the next big thing.
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reading on Tablet PCs, according to the company.

In the second quarter The New Yorker, The Financial Times, Forbes, Microsoft Corp.'s online publication Slate and a handful of international publications expect to start putting out versions of their content in Tablet PC format. The exact timing of the move depends on ongoing software development tweaks and tests with publishers.

Being hyped as the next big thing, the Tablet PC serves as both a laptop computer and a digital notepad. Different versions of the hardware are being manufacturered by Acer, Fujitsu, Compaq and Toshiba.

$470 million
Microsoft is betting big on the device, pouring $400 million into developing the operating system and handwriting-recognition tools that allow users to write directly on the Tablet's screen. Another $70 million has been earmarked for promoting the product.

As with most emerging tech products, the Tablet PC, which launched in November, is expected to attract early adopters, mobile professionals and business customers first. Gartner's Gartner G2 unit projects that 50,000 Tablet PCs will be sold in the fourth quarter 2002 and 425,000 by year's end 2003, or 1% of all mobile PC sales.

"Microsoft is really committed to creating a viable model for the viewing and reading of magazines and newspapers on the Tablet PC," says Grant Duers, director of ePeriodicals for the Advanced Reading Technologies Group at Microsoft.

Advertising possibilities
The hope of all involved in the project is that advertisers in the print editions of the participating publishers will want to extend their messages to the Tablet PC. There, advertising

Photo: Microsoft
A prototype Tablet PC ad for Audi.
can be further enhanced with streaming audio and video. For instance, advocates point out, advertisers could repurpose their broadcast TV commercials on the Tablet PC and extend the creative beyond the typical 30- and 60-second time frame.

The e-periodical versions of the content can be downloaded into the Tablet PC for reading during a commute or while on a business trip. While the participating publishers plan to leverage existing content from their print and digital editions, original content for the Tablet PC could eventually create unique sponsorship opportunities for advertisers.

"If the media partners are just talking about putting their online content on [the Tablet PC] it won't have nearly the same traction as if there is something unique to the medium," says John Klein, executive media director, McKinney & Silver, Raleigh, N.C.

New Yorker advertisers
At least two of the Havas agency's clients, Audi of America and Nasdaq, which also advertise in The New Yorker, will appear on the Tablet PC, along with several others that New Yorker Publisher David Carey declined to name. No rate card exists yet for advertisers. Some of the initial advertisers are participating as an extension of existing ad deals with The New Yorker. Volvo will advertise on the Tablet PC via Slate.

Audi is also keen, according to Mary Ann Wilson, Audi's national advertising manager: "It's perfect from an Audi perspective because Audi is all about advanced technology and innovation; if our potential owners and prospects are there then we feel we should be too." The hook, Ms. Wilson adds, is the Tablet PC's potential to have print, interactive and TV media in one place and to do lead generation.

Mr. Carey has been an early and enthusiastic supporter of the Tablet PC. "The opportunity exists for us to do something that some advertisers have been able to do well on the Web, but now approximating what you might see on TV -- there will be a range of richness," he said. That range will run the gamut with a "mix of static and then varying levels of deep, rich media."

Mr. Carey expects to offer the e-periodical version of his magazine for a free trial period, followed by a paid period, the lengths and price of which have yet to be determined.

"For the first real edition, we will have some rich ads designed just for the Tablet," he says.

'Long-form' advertising
"You can potentially do long-form advertising and craft deep content that would emulate the content of a Web site or could link you to a Web site," McKinney's Klein says. "The way we're looking at it from a media and a creative perspective is that this medium allows us to use a new technology to basically merge different kinds of advertising content," he adds.

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