Richard Branson beats Rupert Murdoch to the punch with launch of iPad only magazine

Colourful billionaire Sir Richard Branson has launched the first edition of Virgin Group’s new iPad-only magazine, just weeks before Rupert Murdoch is expected to launch an iPad-only daily newspaper.

Virgin Group’s new monthly publication, called Project, will cost $US2.99 an issue. The first edition includes political coverage, travel stories, luxury product guides and articles on food, culture and technology.

The cover story is on actor Jeff Bridges and his upcoming movie Tron: Legacy. Bridges also appears in two videos.

While Branson’s new publication beat Murdoch’s daily newspaper, to be called The Daily, by a few weeks, the British billionaire tried to play down any iPad race between the two.

“It’s not a battle,” he said at the magazine’s launch.

“It’s about giving the millions of iPad users around the world something truly innovative.”

However, Branson conceded that the new iPad medium was “all about choice, and a fair bit of competition doesn’t hurt.

“If it’s a battle, it’s a battle over quality. Based on 30 years of reading News of the World and other papers [Murdoch] publishes, I think on quality we’ll be willing to be judged.”

However, early judgements on quality may not be what Branson was hoping for.

CNet UK described the videos as “cringe-worthy” and admitted it was not sold on the entire concept of the digital magazine.

“As slick and swooshy as it looks, an interactive magazine is essentially a website saddled with the restrictions of print.”

GigaOm also expressed some reservations about the useability of the app, saying it is “confusing to navigate, and as a result has a complicated diagram with instructions in how to move from story to story and how to trigger the various ‘easter egg’ features in each piece.”

Branson told CNN that he expects to take Project to other tablet platforms in the future.

“We’ll work with the iPad initially. It’s a fantastic platform. It’s exploding around the world. It enables you to do things with a magazine on the iPad that you could never do with a magazine on the stalls. In time, we’ll obviously move onto other platforms as well.

“I think the relationship with Apple will run very deeply, but I think Apple accepts that we won’t forever just be on the iPad.”

In typical Branson style, he appeared at the launch dressed in a suit made out of newspaper.

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