Monday, March 22, 2010

Handmark ready to take on iPad challenges

Speaking to a magazine executive a week or so ago the conversation turned to mobile media and the frustrations faced when attempting to get their company to enthusiastically support the new mobile mediums. My suggestion was simple: you currently work with third party vendors on flip books, iPhone apps and other types of projects -- make these companies do the heavy lifting. A really good partner will want to keep their clients up-to-date and will embrace the new opportunities in tablet publishing.

One such company committed to assisting its clients in the new tablet environment is Handmark, a company I've talked about a few times in regard to their iPhone applications. (See this short post on their New York Daily News app.)

Last week the company publicly committed to supporting the iPad. “We look forward to supporting quality, innovative mobile experiences for iPad customers, leveraging our development expertise and relationships with major newspapers, magazines and other content providers,” Paul Reddick, CEO of Handmark, said in a release.

On Friday I spoke with Jon Maroney, Senior Vice President of Mobile Publishing about their iPad efforts. Prior to joining Handmark, Maroney was president of FreeRange Communications, a company Handmark acquired in January of 2009.
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☜  Handmark already supports a wide range of smartphone platforms, now it eyes the iPad.

Handmark already supports the iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Palm webOS, Kindle and other platforms, but the iPad clearly excites Maroney. "One of the things that is most interesting and most exciting about the iPad, from my standpoint, is how people are going to interact with this device isn't know. We are going to find out so much the week of April 5th," Maroney said.

The rush of new platform announcements does not faze Maroney.

"The reason you work with a company like ours is because the iPad comes out, and in six months there will be a software upgrade. And in the meantime there's also some new Blackberry's out, and that's going to break whatever works today. There's going to be new versions of Android coming out and more changes to the Android ecosystem. We take care of all that for you from a development standpoint," Maroney said. "And then the other side of it, of course, you work with a company like ours because we also let you monetize on these devices."

Handmark works with a number of ad networks which gives publishers an option to go this route while they reconfigure their sales staffs for mobile advertising sales.

The iPad will present publishers with some interesting challenges, as well as opportunities.

"The engine is essentially the same as a mobile engine on the iPhone, but the user interaction is going to be much more web like. Yet it's not a browser. What I really think we're going to see happening is that it is going to be an applications based experience because people want that kind of immersive experience you can get from an application," Maroney believes.

The Daily News app allows you to share content through social network sites like Twitter.  ☞

Because the company is limited by what it can say prior to the iPad launch (those darn NDAs), we won't be able to see much in the way of iPad screenshots until launch day, or soon after. Maroney sees that what publishers choose to do with tablets may be markedly different than what we currently see on smartphones.

"If you look at iPhone apps … they've all settled down into a couple form factors. And I think that has to do with the fact you're dealing with a constrained device, in terms of the UI."

"The whole beauty of the iPad is that you can pull in all kinds of additional information. We're going to see an explosion of innovation over the course of this year around that. It's not just taking what you have on the web site and putting it into a format that looks like a magazine on the tablet … There's other things we can do here," Maroney predicts.

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A Daily News article on their Handmark iPhone app.

While Handmark will be able to give its customers iPad support, as well as support for other upcoming platforms, publishers need to be thinking now about what they want to do with tablets -- both from perspective of monetization, as well as editorial and art direction.

"You can't simply take the issues that you had in the constrained environment of the iPhone and just blow it up. It's just not going to work. Yet it's not a full on computer screen either. So there is a new way of consuming content that has to get figured out. And that's one of the bigger challenges right now," Maroney warns.

Indeed. I look forward to seeing the first iPad application introduction from Handmark. Now if Apple would only send along an iPad so I can test out these new apps!