Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The New Year brings new media apps and a few updates; OS updates, Honeycomb creates dilemma for developers

Things certainly slowed down during the holiday season, as they always do, but now that the New Year has arrived and the folks in Cupertino are back to work, new media apps are arriving in the iTunes App Store, as well as a few major updates.
One of the iPad's most popular paid media apps -- and there aren't that many of them -- is from the Financial Times. I've written many times about this app and it remains one of my favorites because it is a non-nonsense kind of app: simple layouts, good mechanics, logical navigation. It is similar to the NYT iPad app in appearance, but because it is a financial newspaper it forces readers to pony up to access the content. (When you first download the app and register with the website, the reader can access ten articles for free before being forced to pay.)

The update just released brings more content, a few layout tweaks, and some programming fixes.

As some media writers are beginning to figure out, some of the most useful new media apps are not coming from "media" companies but from developers who are using the content of news outlets and repackaging the content for the new platform. It was something I worried about last spring as publishers sat back and waited to launch their own apps, and at the same time failed to see that tablets would be a new format, not simply an extension of print (most publishers still don't seem to get this).
Johaina News for iPad is a very useful tool for journalists and others tasked with keeping up to date with news coming out of the Middle East -- both from Western news sources as well as news from Arabic language sources.

The free app toggles between Arabic and English, and also brings in content from French-based news sources, as well.

"Johaina News Reader is powered by Sakhr’s machine translation (MT) technology that translates current Arabic news content instantaneously," the app description says. "The resulting English translation is highly accurate and readable, helping users to obtain the gist of the news content. Sakhr’s Arabic to English machine translation is consistently ranked #1 by industry and U.S. government evaluations for human comprehensibility."

Some light testing shows the app is very quick and well done. I have not really examined the accuracy of the translations, though, and that will be the key thing, won't it?

I've almost posted something about the release of Maclean's Magazine, the new iPad app from Rogers Publishing. What stopped me was simply that there is nothing very special about the app.

Maclean’s is Canada’s leading news magazine so its release would seem to me to be pretty important, in general. Released on the 21st, the app hasn't garnered much attention -- there are only four reviews in the Canadian iTunes App Store and not enough ratings to register. But the reaction from readers, I predict, will be one of disappointment. Here we have one of Canada's most important magazines getting treated very poorly by its publisher.

The app is what I like to call an enhanced replica edition: a digital replica of the print edition with enhancements like video and such. But calling it a replica edition is probably unfair because it does give the reader layouts in landscape mode. But generally, this app was not ready to be released: there are no back issues in the in-app store, and for a weekly magazine it seems strange that two weeks after the launch of this app the only issue available for purchase is the special issue. It appears that the app was ready before the publishing staff was.

Brad Delong likes to write "why oh why can't we have a better press corps" on his website. For me the equivalent would be "why oh why can't we have better B2B media publications?" The media business is definitely ill served by its B2B publications and websites. None of the leading publications that cover the media in the US have launched a mobile or tablet edition yet (am I missing one?), and many of them seem to be trying hard to hide their actual hostility to the new formats.

The same can not be said of Europe. The Swiss B2B magazine for the publishing industry, Publisher, released an excellent tablet edition back in September, and now the Norwegian trade magazine Journalisten has started the new year by releasing its first iPad app. The free app gives the reader access to the first two issues of 2011 free of charge, but then will begin charging for access -- NOK 439 for 20 editions over 12 months, which translates to about $75. Single issus will cost 29 Kroners, or about $5 per issue.
The app gives readers different portrait and landscape modes -- I generally prefer reading my iPad in landscape mode, and these layouts are particularly good.

But Journalisten and their app really deserves to be praised for having one of the best written descriptions in the entire iTunes App Store. The description clearly tells the reader what the charges will be, what their currently thinking is in regard to charging (telling buyers, for instance, that they still haven't decided what to do about print and digital charges for 2012), and including both advertising and editorial contact information right in the description. Well done guys.

Yesterday I wrote a post about some of the events occurring in the first quarter of this year including a slew of new tablets expected from computer makers. But two other events will occur that currently have no public time table: the expected release of Android 3.0, otherwise known as Honeycomb, and an update of iOS from Apple.

Both OS updates will be both a blessing and a curse for developers: a bless because supposedly Honeycomb will be a leap forward for Android, and will make it tablet-ready (we'll see); a curse because all mobile OS updates force developers to relook at already launched apps to make sure they will be compliant.

It has been rumored that Apple will release an update very soon -- some even though it would appear weeks ago -- but it may make more sense to release the new iOS with the release of iPad 2 assuming it will ship shortly after the announcement (which itself should come in late January).

1 Comment:

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