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Murdoch predicts iPads all round

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Rupert Murdoch is betting big on the iPad, claiming it heralds sales of "hundreds and hundreds of millions" for tablet computers, and a revitalised newspaper industry.

His optimistic assessment was delivered as News Corp posted a net full-year profit of $2.5bn, reversing a $3.4bn loss a year earlier.

TV and movies - including Avatar - were responsible for most of the turnaround, but the last of the great 20th century newspaper barons told Wall Street analysts he still believes the iPad is a "game-changer" for news.

"I think we're going to see, around the world, hundreds and hundreds of millions of these devices," Murdoch said on Wednesday.

On current sales, the prediction seems a tall order. Last month Apple said it had sold a total 3.27 million iPads since its launch in March. Other manufacturers are preparing alternative Windows and Linux-based consumer tablets, however, which are likely to significantly undercut Cupertino's pioneering machine and broaden take-up.

"There will be all sorts of things we can do with them. As they develop technologically, we've got to develop our methods of presentation of news," Murdoch said.

"We'll have young people reading newspapers."

Among his newspapers, the Wall Street Journal has so far made the greatest impact on the iPad. In June Murdoch said its app had been downloaded by 10,000 subscribers, each paying $17.29 per month. The broader News Corp effort to convince web users to start paying for more general news - spearheaded in the UK by the Times and Sunday Times - is meanwhile "going well", Murdoch said.

Dan Sabbagh, a former Times media correspondent, recently reported company insiders saying the £2-per-week paywalled websites had attracted just 15,000 subscribers, but Murdoch refused to be drawn.

"With our paywall around the Times, we have had an encouraging number of people subscribing at a good price," he said.

"We're not going to release those numbers at this stage, but we think we're on the right strategy."

Despite sniping, most of the rest of the UK newspaper industry - its journalists at least - are quietly hoping he is right. ®

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