Well, actually, they have done little more than announce their intention to develop such a platform (thanks to The Register). This announcement contains a whole lot of ho-hum in my view, bland statements about interoperability, rich design, and “a rich array of innovative advertising opportunities”.
There is one “oh dear” in there, though, according to John Squires, the interim director of the project:
Once purchased, this content will be ‘unlocked’ for consumers to enjoy anywhere, anytime, on any platform.
This fairly shouts DRM to me. Granted, there just isn’t a lot to this announcement but my gut feeling on this is that they want to develop yet another closed system where the publishers maintain control and merely allow others to participate, let alone innovate.
It seems to me that if they wanted to create something new and open, they’d just get to the business of creating it and let the work in progress draw the interest. You know, like those book publishers who are putting titles out in ePub format.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of some of the content produced by outfits party to this announcement, in particular those parties that are already offering content in an open format, the web, and experimenting with advertising and other models. Ars Technica, which was recently bought by Condé Nast, serves ads and just recently launched a subscription service that does appear to be trying to provide value for dollar spent.
There are ways already for periodicals to participate in the new ecosystem of portable devices like the iPhone, Android and the Kindle. I just don’t see the need for yet another large scale initiative like this when small scale experimentation would yields better results, more quickly, and would truly better serve the needs of the readers.