How Will the iPad Transform Media?

By now, you know that on Wednesday, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) introduced the unfortunately named but still interesting iPad. Let's take a look at how it might affect the media business.

What happened?
Its display measures slightly less than 10 inches, and like the iPhone, the iPad can switch between landscape and portrait views by flipping the device. Users can also resize text inside the iPad's Safari browser. Taken together, these features should make for a good newspaper and magazine reading experience. Mix in the iTunes payment system, and you've got a platform for delivery of premium digital content.

Winners
Of all the partners who took the stage with Apple CEO Steve Jobs when he introduced the iPad, only one was from the traditional media: New York Times' (NYSE: NYT  ) Martin Nisenholtz, who oversees digital operations for the company's namesake newspaper.

The Times created a custom iPad app just for the event, and it looks good. It's everything you'd expect from an interactive e-reader, and it's slightly more feature-rich than what you'll find at the classic nytimes.com website.

Losers
On balance, I agree with my Foolish colleague Seth Jayson. The iPad isn't much of a breakthrough as far as breakthroughs go, and it's not a Kindle killer. Not yet, anyway.

But it doesn't have to be. It just has to be a viable alternative, and Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) will lose. The Kindle has mostly enjoyed life without credible competition, with Barnes & Noble's (NYSE: BKS  ) Nook e-reader being a notable exception.

Even Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) , whose planned Courier tablet looked like a brilliant entry before it went missing, has failed to seriously challenge Amazon. Apple just changed that. As a reader, the iPad has the ingredients to be PepsiCo to the Kindle's Coca-Cola.

How to play it
A basket of good media stocks might make the most sense here. My two favorites are Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA  ) , which could benefit from a wider audience for the digital editions of its NBC video programming, and New York Times, whose custom iPad app could transform browsers into readers and readers into customers.

Do you agree? Disagree? Make your voice heard using the comment box below, then check out the rest of our series on how the iPad could change the world.

Amazon.com and Apple are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Microsoft is also a Motley Fool Options recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He had stock and options positions in Apple at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy would bail out the newspapers but it just paid the rent. Sorry, guys.


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