Your iTable Is Coming

Two years ago, I wrote a column talking about some of the things that still bring value to newspapers, even in the Internet age, particularly its size:

It isn't that there's anything inherent in the process of ones and zeros passing through the ether that precludes an experience that duplicates what we get with newspapers. The problem, actually, lies with our screens. The screen on your computer is probably somewhere between 100 and 200 square inches, and Web sites are designed to fit in this rectangle. In contrast, when it's opened, a copy of The New York Times measures 546 square inches, five times as much area as the 15-inch screen on your laptop. All too often, news sites respond to the dearth of space by cramming in hundreds of links in tiny type, making it even less likely that any one will catch your eye.

I hope I don't sound like a grumpy old man lamenting the passing of the telegraph—I'd have a much harder time giving up the Web than I would giving up the newspaper. But I'm sure there are many people like me, for whom reading the paper with breakfast is a kind of daily sacrament of engagement with the world. Perhaps sometime soon, someone will design a dining table whose entire surface is a touch screen—that way you could sit with your coffee and cereal, looking down on a virtual recreation of a newspaper in its full expansive glory, flipping pages with a swipe of your hand. (The technology is certainly available today, but the table would probably retail for $30,000.)

Well, we're getting closer to having your dining table be basically a scaled-up iPad. Check out (via the Nieman Journalism Lab) the grooviness from the folks at the Times' R&D lab:

New York Times R&D Lab: The kitchen table of the Future from Nieman Journalism Lab on Vimeo.

The hardware is from Microsoft (see here), and although I'm not sure I'm excited about every feature they're playing with, it does show that once we start getting really big touchscreens in five or ten years, content providers will have to find ways to make them more than a scaled-up iPad but devices that actually take advantage of all that glorious space. Don't know about you, but if I can have one of those, I won't miss the paper I've loved all my adult life.