Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Morning Brief: Triumph of the tablets as study shows tremendous growth potential; Palm tablet on the horizon; Apple's app policies begin to worry even supporters

Good morning. Following today's Morning Brief I will finally post my look at the new tablet edition of Hoodgrown Magazine. After that a few words about some new media apps to be found in iTunes. Otherwise today is a travel day for me.

Considering that the first commercially viable tablet media device (as opposed to computer) only appeared nine months ago, it is remarkable how the public has embraced the form factor. This impression is reinforced by a study released yesterday, The study from Harris Interactive, and sponsored by Fuze Box, showed that one in five Americans plan to own a tablet by 2014. I think these numbers may actually be low.

The reason they may be low is simply that there are few decent tablets currently available in the market. Besides the iPad, the Samsung Galaxy Tab is about the only thing currently available that would entice buyers -- who otherwise are still looking at e-readers such as the Kindle or Nook.

"Since before the iPad launched in April, we’ve persisted that tablets would soon become a widely used business tool,” Jeff Cavins, CEO of Fuze Box, said in the company's release. “With 2 in 5 tablet owners using their device for business by 2014, we have officially entered the post PC era and the potential is there to reinvent the business environment for collaboration with portable and tactile computing devices, complete with cameras, document sharing, cloud computing, and storage.”

All we need now are more tablets . . .

Fox News (I know) is reporting that HP owned Palm is set to introduce three models of the PalmPad at the Consumer Electronic Show in early January. According to the fair and balanced™ report, the PalmPad will run on a new version of WebOS and will run on Sprint's 4G network.

Supposedly the three devices will have displays of a similar size to the iPad's 9.7 inch screens -- an important point if newspapers and magazines are to be read on these devices.

No word on whether it will be the official policy of Fox News to promote these devices -- we'll keep our eye on MediaMatters to see if they can get the memos.

Most people think competition in the tablet arena will be good if only to advance the use of these devices as media consumption tools -- an alternative to print, but also a good companion to print. With Apple dominating the platform so far, some have expressed concerns about Apple and its app approval process, as well as its inability to understand the needs of publishers. Some have even accused the company of being an evil empire with nefarious intentions and instincts.

I've often defended the company because I felt it had entered into areas that were new to them. They have always been a company that has had to defend itself from larger competitors, and the Windows crowd has never been kind to its little brother. It's "Think Different" campaign captured the mood perfectly: stop being being a conformist, be creative, stretch the possible, think different.

But an incident yesterday has me really concerned.

Yesterday it was reported that Apple had pulled an app from an independent developer called WikiLeaks App. The action caused a minor uproar on the Internet as many people were quick to scream "censorship!". But I looked into the app, its developer, and wrote last morning about this.

I defended Apple because I saw that this seemed like the right move: here we have an independent developer taking the content of another entity that is available free online and trying to monetize it through a paid app. Plus, they were using the name of the other entity without their permission. It seemed to me a clear case of both violating trademark and piracy.

I thought "let's look at this from another perspective". What if the app was called "New York Times App", and all the content was derived from the NYT website. The developer then produced the app with the NYT name and charged readers for access to the content. Shouldn't that app be pulled from the App Store?

But it may turn out that Apple didn't pull the app to defend a media entities name or content. Late yesterday a representative of Apple reportedly contacted Business Insider and said "We removed WikiLeaks because it violated developer guidelines. An app must comply with all local laws. It may not put an individual or target group in harms way."

This is doubly bad, if true.

First, no reference is made in this response to the stolen content and brand name -- in other words, my own defense of Apple is wrong. According to the statement, Apple didn't protect either the content or brand name of the firm involved.

Second, if this statement is an accurate reflection of Apple's thinking, then Apple has joined PayPal and Amazon on the dark side. I hope to God this is not true.

No matter what you think of WikiLeaks and the whole controversy surrounding the leaked diplomatic cables, the idea of a private corporation joining with the government to suppress another entity, all outside the judicial system, is chilling, frightening.

Let's hope the "representative" from Apple simply got it wrong. It's definitely one of my Christmas wishes.