Nick Bilton wrote in the NY Times last week:

Consumers are witnessing the beginning of a new war between computer companies. Instead of the Apple-Microsoft conflict of the early 1980s, this fight is taking place between Apple and Google.

In a follow-up article, Bilton has the graphic below, that I’ve tweeked to emphasize what will certainly be a key element in the Apple-Google competition, and why Microsoft makes a logical ally for Apple — Microsoft has the Bing online search engine but doesn’t have mobile hardware. Apple has the iPhone/iTouch, but doesn’t have a search engine. Google has both …

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Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

John C. Abell, in his recent Wired article Steve Jobs’ Legacy Is the Missing Clue to the Apple Tablet, suggests that in the same way that he invigorated animated film with Pixar, the music industry with iTunes, and the mobile phone market with the iPhone, Jobs’ next mission is to invigorate the publishing industry with the Tablet. Abell talks specifically about the newspaper and magazine publishing industry, but his comments, I think, can easily be broadened to books also, as he talks about making readers forget about the printed page. I’m excerpting here because the words about publishing may be missed by many readers — Short excerpts, but with considerably more valuable nuggets than will fit into a 140-char Tweet:

If he is looking for One Last Thing, saving journalism would be the Holy Grail. … The device will have to make readers forget — really forget — the printed page. E-readers, for all that they do, don’t do this yet.

After detailing Jobs’ accomplishments in invigorating other industries, as mentioned above, Abell concludes with these words:

Even given this track record — and what we choose to believe is the all-trumping motivator of perfecting his legacy — a device-centric initiative that saves newspapers and magazines that seem to be in perpetual, some say irretrievable, decline, sounds next to impossible.

But is anybody seriously willing to bet against the house — of Jobs?

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Many possible takes on this picture. What comes to my mind first is the idea of the Attention Economy –The idea that in the days of the traditional library, before the Internet, information was a limited resource. Libraries could afford to work under the assumption that “we’ve got the good stuff, and our users have to to come to us to get it.” There was little motivation to improve overly-complicated search interfaces like the picture on the right above, because users had no choice. In the new environment of the Internet, however, the limiting factor is not information, but attention. The problem of users now is not finding information, but being flooded by too much information. In this environment, users naturally gravitate to the easiest information to find, which, of course, Apple, Google et al are glad to provide.

Another take on this is the high cost of Simplicity –The simple interfaces of Apple and Google are just the tip of the iceberg, built upon the costly labor of armies of engineers. Libraries just can’t afford to compete with this sort of juggernaut. Personally, I consider myself lucky, as a librarian, to be working in a medical library — Medical libraries have a long history of generous federal support, in the interests of the country’s health, which has enabled the creation of tools to streamline access to medical information, from Index Medicus to PubMed. For libraries generally, however, it’s still hard to compete with the resources of dotcom information providers. To end on a hopeful note — It’s encouraging to see that libraries are increasingly realizing the importance of providing Google-like interfaces for their catalogs, to gain back the attention from users that they’ve lost in recent few years.

The picture above, and the title of this post, are adapted from an article by Scott Monty — Thanks!

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Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey