This is being touted as a big thing in some of the stories coming out of this, when really, the technology for developing electronic editions has been around for years now, albeit being hawked through various vendors. The Microsoft move means that the media companies might just work directly with the software giant. Or not.
Anyway, Bill Gates and NYT CEO Arthur Sulzberger showed off the new software and NYT’s version, the Times Reader, at the American Society of Newspaper Editors conference going on in Seattle. All the features described in the stories in NYT, Seattle Times, Seattle PI, AP and News.com are already present in vendors solutions from the likes of Zinio, Olive, NewsStand and others. This might be slightly new: The software also morphs the page layout on the fly to work with smaller screens and devices.
Microsoft will include the reader software in Windows Vista, the next version of its OS, whenever it finally comes out. Microsoft also plans to offer a SDK for newspapers and other publications to make their own adaptations of the program.
NYT: The Times said it would charge advertisers to appear on the new version of the newspaper but it had not decided whether to charge readers for the service.
Couple of questions arise:
— As I alluded above, what happens to competing vendor solutions? It is up to the e-editions solutions providers to come out with differentiation points.
— As an interesting aside, NYT was/is a major investor in NewsStand, a company which has been having some trouble of the last few years, and did a recap round earlier this year. Not sure if NYT’s stake got wiped out with the recap..
Updated: Make sure you read Jeff’s post and especially the comments, here, on the general implications of electronic editions and how “publisher-centric” these solutions are.