Friday, February 25, 2011

Late Friday Rants: CNN says that Parker goes, Spitzer stays; Verizon iPhone 4 owners warned to mind the gap; solving the Libyan crisis; we're still on for invading Fiji

The cable news channel CNN says that they are renaming the "Parker Spitzer" show "In the Arena". As a result Kathleen Parker will be dumped, presumable because they could not find someone name Parker Spitzer.

I assume that "In the Arena" will involve lions and scantily attired guests, its the only way CNN will get any bump in this show's ratings.

Consumer Reports claims that the Verizon version of the iPhone 4 still has reception issues caused by Apple's antenna design. The independent, nonprofit organization says that users of a Verizon iPhone who hold their phones tightly with both hands, while spinning in circles, four hundred feet below ground are experiencing reception issues.

However, Consumer Reports also says "The phone performs superbly in most other respects, and using the iPhone 4 with a case can alleviate the problem."

It's also possible that they mixed up their phones and were testing their old AT&T models, who knows.

UN officials are trying to negotiate the resignation of Muammar Gaddafi. One idea being floated is to send Col. Gaddafi to an island where he, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and other former dictators would live out their days. The island of Elba, where Napoleon was exiled, has been suggested by some. Others have suggested Staten Island.

Apparently the plan ran into trouble when Col. Gaddafi heard that Dick Cheney might be one of those exiled. "Man, that dude is mean," Gaddafi said, and then dismissed the idea.

According to the New York Times, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates told cadets at West Point today that “any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it.”

Gates, however, would not rule out invasions of tropical islands, Las Vegas, or the Mall of America. "It helps with recruitment," Gates told his audience.

Did I just hear a gong?

In case you missed it, this is what passes for democracy in Republican run Wisconsin. Count the seconds the vote was open -- maybe 17 seconds max? Totally sickening.

The Daily updates its app, extends free trial period; thoughts on the 'need' for The Daily, or the lack thereof

News Corp.'s iPad-only digital news app was updated today, extending the free trial period and claiming to fix several important bugs -- though after updating the app I found that it crashed continuously, deleting the app and reinstalling fixed the problem.
The free trial period has been extended to March 21. News Corp. probably picked this time because Apple will have updated its iOS by then. iOS 4.3 will bring in the new subscription services, as well as other improvements. Apple has scheduled an event for March 2nd where it is assumed that the company will unveil the iPad 2 -- we may get some guidance concerning the iOS update then, as well.

Today's app update did not contain the warning that the app should be deleted before installing the updated app. In fact, the description promises a "seamless app update experience" -- in fact, I've never experienced bigger issues with app than what I had this morning, as the app continuously crashed upon launch. As I said, deleting, then reinstalling the app did the trick.

As the days have gone by, and The Daily has essentially evolved into a tablet version of the NY Post, I begun to wonder about the value of Rupert Murdoch's tablet newspaper. It has been hard to separate out my professional judgement from my personal judgment as the iPad-only digital news product has moved steadily further to the right.

There is no doubt a strong argument to be made that it was vitally important for some major media company to launch a tablet-only newspaper to both experiment with the form, and to try out different business models.

But over the past few days I have begun to wonder if The Daily is, in fact, violating the basic principals of all media launches -- fulfilling a need in the market.

At first you could argue that since there are no mainstream media tablet only newspapers that The Daily is creating a first. But that confuses the product from the platform. What do I mean? The New York Times' iPad app may not be an iPad-only news product because it also has its website and print newspaper, but so what? There it is, on the iPad. Same goes for all the other news apps. So is being "iPad-only" a strategic advantage? It is hard for me to see it, other than from a design standpoint.

So why do we need The Daily? Isn't it just another News Corp. publication? Well, increasingly it is. Where Rupert Murdoch said during the launch that he wanted The Daily to appeal to everyone, the editors have increasingly moved the tablet product towards a New York tabloid look and feel. Instead of the grimy, inky feel of the Post, we get the shiny, brilliant look of the iPad. But it is still the same product, isn't it?

What News Corp. ended up producing wasn't something new, it couldn't, it staffed The Daily with News Corp. veterans and asked them to create for this new digital product. That is why The Daily today is filled with celebrity stories and, well, celebrity stories, and then an AP story about the Wisconsin Assembly passing the budget repair bill (looks like they just stuck that one in there late last night to go in front of the two other stories on the subject).
But there are some things that I will admit are coming out of the experiment that will be useful.

First, advertising is being designed for The Daily, it's always good to get some creative made for use both at The Daily and elsewhere. But I really, really think the ad agencies NOT careting for the iPad are missing out big time. The multimedia ads are fantastic and fulfill the promise of multimedia far better than those Flash ads for the web. Whether anyone want to play in the sandbox with Apple's iAds team is another story, but the medium holds tremendous promise. Further, those iPad owners who complain about ads in the apps don't seem to be complaining about these new ads that often have video embedded in them, as well as being animated.

Second, story length: The Daily is naturally going to produce shorter stories -- this isn't The New Yorker. But the standard length of a one-page iPad story is going to be different from your standard short web story. These things are getting worked out through this experiment.

But, I'm still at a loss to explain the market need The Daily is filling. It has been almost one year since I first unboxed my iPad and my reading habits have gotten pretty well established: I use the browser and some news apps to find instant information; I use the news and magazine apps to read long form content. I can see that if I were a Post reader, or Fox News viewer I might be interested in The Daily, but I would also be interested in the Post, WSJ or any of a number of MSM news products. The Daily is bringing me something new.

For "new" I will probably need to find something that is both iPad-only, and not produced by a major media company. Maybe that product will get launched later this year.

What keeps many B2B mags open? Bankruptcy laws

It's the only conclusion I can come to when looking at the latest batch of magazines to hit my mailbox. Some of the books, many put out by fairly large B2B media firms, get lost in the flyers and coupons mailed along with periodicals and electric bills.

For most of these B2B magazines, the road from profitability to red ink was typical: cuts to staff, including sales, followed by a stubborn adherence to a wacko corporate philosophy, often brought in by the PS firms that funded the original acquisition of the properties.

While many of the struggling B2B magazines have pretty poor web strategies -- and absolutely no mobile or tablet strategies -- the real problem lies in the corporate offices. Whereas ol'Norm Cahners would flood a particular market with sales people, these new titans of industry believe that the fewer heads the better. No wonder that so much business is lost each year.

How bad is it? Well, I got done looking at about a dozen B2B magazines that contained between 4 and 8 ad pages a piece. Obviously not enough revenue to cover production costs, but probably not enough revenue to pay for the winter heating bills! (Many of these books are clearly no longer producing the number of copies their media kits say they are.)

So how are they continuing to publish? Like drunken gamblers at a roulette table, these publisher think they are only one issue away from turning it all around. What they fail to notice, apparently, is that the croupier has taken away the wheel and the ball -- or in this case, the sales staff and the BPA audits.

At the other end of the spectrum, some of the market leading books appear to have started the year well -- Grocery Headquarters looks to be doing well, though I must say that I have not actually counted ad pages to make the year-to-year comparison. I expect this will remain true pretty much across the board: the stronger, well-staffed books will continue to find advertisers, while the weaker books will find that agencies will move the money spent on these second tier books into New Media products. Folks, this money isn't coming back.

Upgrading your Motorola XOOM to 4G looks like a nightmare, as users must ship off their tablets

The upgrade guide found on the Verizon Wireless website looks like something The Onion would have produced. To say that the upgrade will prove inconvenient to tablet owners is a wild understatement -- maybe Motorola needs some "genius bars"?
Verizon warns prospective owners of the XOOM that to prepare for the upgrade you should back-up all your content (pretty obvious), encrypt and reset your XOOM, then pack it up and send it to Motorola.

That's right, you have to ship off your tablet and lose it for about a week. The upgrade, according to Verizon, will be available about three months after the launch of the tablet. Sounds like a hell of an inconvenience, but I suspect that the biggest market for the XOOM will be the techies that have been rather vocally criticizing Apple's iOS devices as being "closed" -- it is a very small, but very loud community you no doubt have noticed.

Morning Brief: The Aurora Sentinel finds new owner; Google makes "big algorithmic" changes to search results

The former vice president/CMO of the New York Times Regional Media Group, James Gold, will take over the publisher position at The Aurora Sentinel after it was sold to a new group of owners, Aurora Media Group LLC. The editor, David Perry, will remain with the property.
“Professionally and personally, we are thrilled to be part of a community as culturally rich, innovative and thriving as Aurora,” Gold said in a post on The Sentinel's website. “The Sentinel and Buckley Guardian will continue their historical commitment to serving the community with exceptional journalism that instills a sense of place and perspective. In the months ahead we will extend our print and digital media, to engage the city’s political, business, educational, cultural and artistic communities in new and compelling ways.”

Neither the new or previous owners, the Aurora Publishing Co., disclosed the final sales price.

"Our goal is simple: to give people the most relevant answers to their queries as quickly as possible." So starts a blog post from Google that may have a major effect on the search results users get through the leading search engine. It could also effect the content farms currently gaming the system.

"Many of the changes we make are so subtle that very few people notice them. But in the last day or so we launched a pretty big algorithmic improvement to our ranking—a change that noticeably impacts 11.8% of our queries—and we wanted to let people know what’s going on. This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful," the Official Google Blog post continues.

The changes will only effect search results in the U.S. to start, with the changes rolled-out worldwide "over time".

The current meme in the media is that we are in an economic recover, even if it is a jobless recovery. But the underlying fear of just about everyone is that we will fall back into recession because of the lack of jobs, stimulus, and consumer buying power -- especially if oil prices continue to rise.

Today the Office for National Statistics (UK) reported that the British economy shrank 0.6 percent in the last quarter of 2010, hardly good news for those expecting growth. The government office maintains that the contraction in the economy was mainly due tot he harsh winter weather experienced by the British Isles and mainland Europe. But even taking the Office for National Statistics's December numbers into account, the economy as a whole still shrank somewhat during the quarter.

"The government's hope of an upwards revision of growth has been dashed. It's time to wake up and smell an economy in big trouble. We need a plan B that doesn't send it over the edge with deep rapid spending cuts," The Guardian quotes Brendan Barber, General Secretary of Trades Union Congress as stating.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ihnatko's take on the XOOM is the one to read

When the first iPad reviews came out most writers tried to be first out of the gate -- Andy Ihnatko took a bit more time and got it right. (He also had a column on the iPad a month before it was released, but the link I have to the Sun-Times site for that article is for dead now, for some reason.)

This time he has moved a little faster, but he has again come up with a very good, extensive review. You can find it now on the Sun-Times website. And while acknowledging the tablet's rough edges, and its lack of a price advantage, he does say that with "the release of the XOOM, the phrase 'a lightweight tablet that’s powerful enough to sub in for a notebook' no longer exclusively means 'iPad'."

Reviewers get their hands on the Motorola XOOM: few raves and few outright pans for the Honeycomb tablet

Last April, like many consumers, I eagerly awaited the UPS truck to deliver my iPad. Now, over ten months later we have another eagerly awaited tablet coming onto the market -- the Motorola XOOM.

But folks, I can not buy every tablet that comes onto the market, and I have not worked to get included on the list of media people who get loaner products for review purposes. So, like many of you, I am at the mercy of the tech writers.
So here is a sampling of reviews of the Motorola XOOM that might give you an answer to the big question: is this a legitimate competitor to Apple's iPad? Here goes:

Engadget: Motorola Xoom review - Joshua Topolsky.

Pretty exciting headline, huh?

"The Xoom is a handsomely built tablet Topolsky writes, "though at a glance, you'll think you've seen this before. Maybe it's that little can be done within the constraints of the tablet form factor (or Motorola isn't really trying), but the general shape and build of the Xoom comes off looking just a teensy bit like the iPad's longer, more dangerous cousin."

Later: "Unlike Apple and it's single-minded iOS, however, Android is still filled with variables and choices which make general navigation a learning process, and even though Honeycomb has made huge inroads to making that process simpler, it's not 100 percent there."

It's a good, extensive review -- one of the best one's out there. In the end, he appears a bit disappointed in the user interface.

WSJ: Motorola’s Xoom Starts Tablet Wars With iPad - Walt Mossberg.

Papa Mossberg said, to his obvious surprise, that the XOOM felt heavier than the iPad. Maybe it is the way something at first feels. I know I was surprised by the weight of the iPad in my hands.

"Though it works fine in portrait, or vertical, mode, the Xoom is mainly designed as a landscape, or horizontal, device. The screen is long and narrow, proportioned to best fit widescreen video. The HD screen boasts a resolution of 1280 by 800, versus 1024 by 768 for the iPad."

Later: "I’ve always felt that Android had a rough-around-the edges, geeky feel, with too many steps to do things and too much reliance on menus. But Honeycomb eliminates much of that."

Conclusion: "Bottom line: The Xoom and Honeycomb are a promising pair that should give the iPad its stiffest competition. But price will be an obstacle, and Apple isn’t standing still."

This is kind of a theme: the XOOM gives you a lot, and Honeycomb is a better tablet OS, but then there is that price . . .

NYT: Before Rush, One Tablet Stands Out - David Pogue

"...the Xoom costs a stunning $800, $70 more than the equivalent 32-gigabyte iPad (WiFi and 3G cellular). You can get the Xoom for $600 if you’re willing to commit to a two-year Verizon contract."

Pogue looks at the hardware, which he approves off, especially the cameras (I think cameras on tablets will be necessary for marketing purposes, but will end up being use far less than people think). Then he turns to the OS:

"So how is Honeycomb? Four words: more powerful, more complicated," Pogue says. At one point he says "these icons are darned cryptic; you’d think they were were designed by aliens."

It's a fairly positive review but he ends with this advice: "If you’re interested in a tablet, you’d be wise to wait a couple of months. You’ll want to consider whatever Apple has up its sleeve for the iPad’s second coming, of course, but also Research in Motion’s business-oriented BlackBerry PlayBook and Hewlett-Packard’s juicy-looking TouchPad tablet, which runs the webOS software (originally designed by ex-Apple engineers for the Palm Pre smartphone)." Motorola Xoom (Verizon Wireless) - Tim Gideon, PJ Jacobowitz.

Jacobowitz talks a lot about apps in his review, something that is vitally important. When Apple's iPad came out, of course, there were few apps specifically developed for the tablet. Apple said that all iPhone apps would work on the iPad, but users quickly realized that apps must be optimized for the iPad to be a good experience -- and I would add "redesigned", as well.

Jacobowitz says "The bad news is that there aren't many apps optimized for Honeycomb yet." Now we enter the chicken or the egg dilemma. If the XOOM is a hit, Android developers should be eager to launch apps in volume. If it is not, well, many will stick to developing for mobile. We'll see.

In the end Jacobowitz seems to see the Motorola XOOM as a work in progress, and does mention some crash issues he experienced. "The Motorola Xoom has tremendous potential, so it's disappointing to see it lacking key features out of the gate," he concludes.
ZDNet: Motorola XOOM and Honeycomb — not ready for prime time - James Kendrick.

Kendrick looks at some other reviews and then concludes this way: "I’m not sure Google has the luxury of time to get the tablet experience nailed down to the point it is ready for consumer adoption. The recurring mention of crashes in early reviews is not something we should be hearing about a shipping product, and with the XOOM Honeycomb is indeed now shipping. Honeycomb needed to come out swinging for the fence, but it’s still in batting practice."

CNNMoney likes the XOOM and they've posted a YouTube video. I would have embedded the video but frankly found the review inane, and rather embarrassing for a news network -- but then again, its CNN.

Apple launches FaceTime app for Mac, but Apple keeps its video chat service in a small, closed box

How many times have heard that one day everybody will be video chatting? From François Truffaut's film Fahrenheit 451 to Star Trek, the future is supposed to involve calling one each other using cameras.
But it seems the future is, well, some time from now.

Apple today released a Mac version of its FaceTime video chat feature found on iPhone 4s. The app is in the Mac App Store and costs 99 cents due, apparently, to accounting requirements.

FaceTime is supposed to be open source, encouraging developers to include it themselves, but FaceTime remains a strictly WiFi, Mac or iPhone 4 based service, slowing the adoption of FaceTime to a crawl.

There are many reasons why video chat hasn't really caught on -- the biggest one being the just-of-bed look most of us have during the course of the day -- other reasons are a fear of stepping on the toes of the telecom companies.

Unlike Google Voice which lets you make free domestic phone calls from Gmail, Apple's FaceTime is in a small box: you can only call Mac or iPhone 4 owners, and iPhone owners must be on WiFi or the service won't work. It is, in a nutshell, not very useful under most circumstances.

But if video chat doesn't work under most circumstances whose fault is that? Apple is to blame for limiting FaceTime to a select few users and a select few circumstances. As a result why would a developer really care if FaceTime is 'open source' or not?

Update: Ever since I've installed this little app from Apple I've encountered all sorts of problems with my iSight camera, with my computer suddenly failing to recognize the camera, no volume, etc. This is one software application that is not ready for prime time -- kind of like FaceTime itself, I guess.

Libyan government warns foreign journalists entering country that they will be treated as Al Qaeda collaborators

The Libyan government is not only at war with its own people, but apparently wants to go after foreign journalists trying to enter the country, as well. Today the US State Department posted a warning on its website following a meeting with Libyan officials.

Here is the statement in full:

Notice to the Press
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
February 24, 2011

In meetings with senior Libyan Government officials, U.S. diplomats were told that some members of CNN, BBC Arabic and Al Arabiya would be allowed into the country to report on the current situation. These same senior officials also said that some reporters had entered the country illegally and that the Libyan Government now considered these reporters Al Qaida collaborators.

The Libyan Government said that it was not responsible for the safety of these journalists, who risked immediate arrest on the full range of possible immigration charges. Foreign journalists already in Libya who are not part of the approved teams were urged to immediately join the approved teams in-country.

Be advised, entering Libya to report on the events unfolding there is additionally hazardous with the government labeling unauthorized media as terrorist collaborators and claiming they will be arrested if caught.

Apple introduces updated MacBook Pro models while offering developers a preview of OS X 10.7 Lion

You know the PC era is over when a leading company can introduce a whole series of newly updated products and everyone (including me) yawns. It's not that the products are in any way disappointing, its just that we seem to be moving into a new era of tablets and mobile devices.

Today Apple updated its line of MacBook Pro laptops improving features, adding new ones, and the like.
“The new MacBook Pro brings next generation dual and quad Core processors, high performance graphics, Thunderbolt technology and FaceTime HD to the great design loved by our pro customers,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “Thunderbolt is a revolutionary new I/O technology that delivers an amazing 10 gigabits per second and can support every important I/O standard which is ideal for the new MacBook Pro.”

I found it interesting that Apple describes its new webcams this way: "The FaceTime HD camera built into the MacBook Pro display is even thinner than the camera inside iPhone 4." You know you've entered a new era when computer cameras are being compared with mobile phones.

The new line of laptops will be available immediately, with pricing inline with previous models.

Apple also offered its developers a preview of the upcoming new version of its operating system, OS X 10.7, dubbed 'Lion'.

In addition to new Multi-Touch gestures, developers will also like the ability to make their apps Full Screen capable. This will allow apps to look, feel and act like apps on the popular iPad. It may, may, encourage more media apps to be built for the Mac App Store, which today still only has a grand total of 17 news apps in it.

Morning Brief: Assange loses in UK court; stock markets edgy as oil prices rise on Libyan turmoil

Unless he can win his appeal, Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, is to be extradited to Sweden, ruled a court in London this morning.

The Guardian:

In his summary the judge (chief magistrate Howard Riddle) also accused Assange's Swedish lawyer, Björn Hurtig, of making a deliberate attempt to mislead the court. He added that Assange had clearly attempted to avoid the Swedish justice system before he left the country, saying, "it would be a reasonable assumption from the facts that Mr Assange was deliberately avoiding interrogation before he left Sweden".
Stock futures fell this morning as oil prices continued to rise, at least partially due to the apparent civil war conditions in Libya.

U.S. crude oil futures soared 3.6 percent a barrel to above $101 on mounting fears the unrest in Libya that has cut more than one-quarter of the OPEC-member's crude output could spread to other major producers in the region, including top exporter Saudi Arabia.
As for Libya, things are going from bad to worse.

Army units and militiamen loyal to Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi struck back against protesters who have risen up in cities close to the capital Thursday, attacking a mosque where many had taken refuge and opening fire on others protecting a local airport.
The Guardian:
Opposition activists are increasing their hold on Muammar Gaddafi's ailing regime, by shutting down oil exports and mobilising rebel groups in the west of the country as the revolution rapidly spreads.

By late this morning, Gaddafi's hold on power appeared confined to parts of Tripoli and perhaps several regions in the centre of the country. Towns to the west of the capital have fallen and all of eastern Libya is now firmly in opposition hands.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sideways releases second 'Buddy Edition' app; tablet editions of books lag behind other publishing products

The folks over at Sideways have released their second "Buddy Edition" book app for the iPad. This one is called Jeremy Fisher: Buddy Edition in the iTunes App Store, though the full name of the Beatrix Potter classic is The Tale of Jeremy Fisher.
Sideways, the Cleveland, Ohio based publishing software and app development company, previously released another Beatrix Potter book that is in the public domain to showcase their Buddy Reading technology which integrates Apple's Game Center into the app. (You can find the Peter Rabbit: Buddy Edition in iTunes here, and my own post on the app here.)

The Buddy Reading technology allows out-of-town parents to read a bedtime story to their child in real-time by using the app on two iOS devices. Because of this, the apps are universal so that the buyer will have access to the app on their iPad, iPhone or iPod touch.

“Nothing can take the place of a parent reading a bedtime story to a child. Now with the Buddy Reading technology, parents can keep that precious connection to their children at home, no matter the distance. The success of Peter Rabbit shows families welcome this chance to read together,” Charles Stack, CEO and co-founder of Sideways in the company's press release.

“New multi-media devices offer great ways of telling classic stories. We’ve taken the century-old delight of The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher and respectfully extended it using new technology, which can be efficiently applied to books new and old,” Stack said.

While Sideways continues to release apps showcasing their own digital publishing solutions, the whole tablet book publishing business appears confused and directionless. Does an iPad owner buy books through iBooks, the Kindle app, Google Books, one of the two Barnes & Noble NOOK apps, or maybe the Kobo free books app?

But then there is the option to buy book apps through both the iTunes App Store and the Android Market. The book apps hold the promise of interactivity and multimedia. Surely this looks like a great new market as there are over 15,000 book apps currently available in Apple App Store, of which more than 13,000 of them are paid.

But a look at the best seller list, so to speak, shows that the top sellers are almost all children't books. Those that are targeted to "adults" -- and I put that in quote because we really mean anyone over 12 -- are often by independent developers.

One book on the list is Dark Prophesy is from Level 26 which released the book under the name Dare to Pass Inc., with a seller name of Crickets & Credits LLC -- for reasons that are mysterious. Here is a video promoting the book:

The book app, which goes for $12.99 in the App Store, has gotten raves from iTunes reviewers. But unless a book gets the attention of Apple, or else gets a bit of word of mouth, it is hard to get noticed in the mass of products in iTunes.

This may explain why many major book publishers continue to shy away from launching apps. Penguin Group, for instance, that made such a splash back in March of last year only has a couple of apps currently available.

"We will be embedding and streaming audio, video and gaming in to everything we do. This will present us, and the platform owners with technology challenges," Penguin Group’s CEO John Makinson said at the time.

Maybe I need to be more patient, after all, the book publishing business has a different heartbeat than does newspaper or magazine publishing. Things take time.

Just about a week ago Dorling Kindersley, a division of the Penguin Group (which itself is part of Pearson) announced that it had named a new digital agency, AKQA. The new agency will be tasked to create iOS apps for some of the publisher's best-selling titles. The current five iPad apps inside the App Store were created by the publisher's previous digital agency Cogapp.

Exclusive: What Apple will introduce at its March 2 event, as based on the intelligence obtained from 'analysts'

So let the hype begin. Here we reveal, based on the information we have collected from our experienced, tech savvy, well-connected analysts, exactly what Apple will introduce at its event on March 2nd. Write it down, we are 100 percent sure we are correct. 100 percent.

Photo of the new iPad with its front-facing camera, secretly obtained by a well-connected 'Analyst'

Apple will introduce a smaller larger same sized iPad. It will be delayed because of production issues  most likely released immediately  probably come out in April, about one year from the date the first iPad was available.

The new iPad will have a retina display  x-ray vision that will reveal what you ate for breakfast  basically the same display as current models.

Sales of the iPad will be  zilch because the damn thing doesn't have Flash  pretty good, with long lines outside Apple retail stores, but only a couple of T-Mobile customers outside Verizon stores.

After the release of the new iPad all eyes will begin to focus on the upcoming release of the smaller  larger  invisible  iPhone 5.

Apple sends out its invitations; TNM still not on the list

Well, I see that John Paczkowski of the WSJ has received his invitation to the Apple March 2nd event in San Francisco. But your humble servant at TNM has yet to receive the special invite -- oh the horror of neglect.
What does the WSJ, with its millions of readers have, that TNM, with its dozens of loyal readers lack? Hard to figure.

In any case, Apple has made it official: March 2nd, at the usual place -- the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in SF. There the company, as you can see from the invite, will "unveil" its second generation iPad.

Frankly I'm thrilled to see the invite, the rumors created by media sites craving search engine traffic were driving me crazy. Besides, did anyone who follows Apple really think they would let Motorola, RIM, Samsung and other have the spring all to themselves?

I expect that the weeks between launch announcement and actual launch of product will be condensed. Expect to see iPad 2 in stores sometime in April -- though who knows exactly when, general predictions is as far as TNM is prepared to go.

Morning Brief - Part Two: Las Vegas daily eliminates investigative reporting unit; Future may bid on BBC mags

I've decided to break out the editorial statement (see post below) from the media news briefs for sake of, oh I don't know, editorial "integrity". Ah, what an idea.


ABC News: Las Vegas Review-Journal Cuts Investigative Unit -- The Las Vegas Review-Journal said they will lay off 12 employees and eliminate its special projects unit, the group responsible for investigative journalism. The newspaper supported Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle last November in her bid to unseat Sen Harry Reid.

BBC: Sunday Tribune closes with 43 job losses -- The Irish newspaper The Sunday Tribune which stopped publishing at the beginning of the month when it went into receivership, has fired its 43 employees. When the Independent News and Media, which owns about 30 percent of the company, said it would no longer fund the business, the writing was on the wall for the paper and its employees.

Washington Post: The Washington Post Names Patrick B. Pexton Ombudsman -- "Formerly deputy editor for National Journal, Pexton’s two-year term with The Post begins March 1."


The Guardian: Future a possible buyer for BBC magazines -- Future Publishing would have to bid more than £100m for the division which includes the magazines Top Gear and Radio Times.


There have been so many silly rumors about Apple lately -- the iPad refresh will be delayed, look for smaller iPhones and iPads -- that one has to wonder if the critics are using rumors as a way of poking at the increasingly controversial company. But these rumors have done more to lower the credibility of the journalists and publications promoting them than to effect Apple.

What we do know, and that media folk should care about, is the iPad refresh, since this involves a product used to display their own apps. Word is that Apple will have an event on March 2 to unveil its second generation tablet. As for the rumors . . .

TechCrunch: Rumors Of Apple Rumors Now Leading To Rumors Of Counter-Rumors -- MG Siegler writes "Let’s say the top tier Apple bloggers bat around .500 with regard to Apple rumors — Apple analysts are probably batting .050. Maybe less. Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s far less."

WSJ: Apple Halves Minimum iAd Buy -- John Paczkowski writes that Apple has its minimum buy for its its mobile ad network to $500,000. He gets this quote from the agency side:

“This new minimum buy is a great step forward and a necessary one, I think,” Mark Read, CEO of WPP Digital, the digital arm of global ad giant WPP, told me. “Lowering the minimum buy to $500,000 from $1 million will certainly make the platform more appealing.”

Morning Brief - Part One: More on Madison

A little editorial statement to start the morning:

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo tweets: Embattled leader goes on TV to claim outside agitators are behind mounting protests ... Walker or Qaddafi?

It would be funny if it were not so true. Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin simply lied to the citizens of Wisconsin last night:

Our bill is about protecting the hardworking taxpayer. It's about Wisconsin families trying to make ends meet and help their children. -- The inference is clear: union workers -- that would be teachers, police, firefighters -- are neither taxpayers, nor families with children.

And so does the factory worker in Janesville who was laid off nearly two years ago. He's a union guy in a union town who asks simply why everyone else has to sacrifice except those in government. -- Walker again is inferring that state workers are not ready to make sacrifices, to accept cuts in wages and benefits in order to help the state balance its budget -- but this absolutely untrue. The unions and its members have said over and over that they are prepared to do just that. But they are not prepared to have their rights taken away.

The media has done a piss-poor job of covering events in Madison. A few are starting to finally get a handle on the story. Meanwhile, though, "the story" is spreading to Iowa, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. Yet most media outlets continue to treat the story as a battle between the citizens of a state and their state workers, rather than a battle of the right of workers everywhere to collective bargaining, and a decent standard of living.

Update: I've broken out the politics from the news briefs and made this a separate post.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tablazines releases its second tablet 'magazine' app, Band of White Rose, a citizen publishing project

The publisher and developer behind the tablet magazine Hoodgrown, has released a second app today for Band of the White Rose (BWR), a citizen publishing project -- more a manifesto than a commercial magazine venture.
The app is a scaled down affair, with only a portrait mode available for now, though BWR's editor, John Walsh, says the next edition will have a landscape mode. There is no pinch-to-zoom, or type adjustments built into the tablet magazine, so getting typography right is important, Despite its relatively modest size of around 80MB, it is still a very slow download.

The navigation is easy, with several features added to assist readers such as a slide in table of contents (seen below), and a pulldown slider that gives the reader thumbnail views of each page. The entire magazine consists of 97 pages -- a fun number, isn't it, as this is a reminder that one doesn't have to count by fours when you are talking about a tablet magazine.

There is only one ad, a house ad for merchandise. If ads are sold, it will probably be the responsibility of Tablazines to manage that function.
The app itself is free, as it the first issue's content. Walsh told me the next issue, though, will cost $1.99. It appears as though this app has a built-in library function, so users will not have to download a new app to access future issues.

The plan right now is to publish six times a year, and Walsh said that producing the second issue is well under way. "This has turned into a full time job," Walsh said, sounding quite surprised.

The relationship between publisher, editor, designer, developer and the like is not really applicable when you talk about these home grown publishing efforts. Tablazines is listed as the "seller" in iTunes -- actually Christopher English, who "is" Tablazines -- and so the editor, John Walsh, is really more the publisher and driving force behind the magazine. English's role appears to be one of developer, and interface between editors, designers and the technical people at Alligator Digital Magazines, who helped out with Hoodgrown Magazine.

Walsh said that his wife and English work together and started to discuss his efforts on Hoodgrown. "He was going on with Hoodgrown, and talking about it, and talked to her about it, said 'hey, you know, maybe you'd have an interest in doing the same kind of thing'," Walsh told me.
This becomes possible once someone has gone through the process of becoming an Apple developer, a pretty easy first step, and then has experience with launching that first app. Walsh said the whole process with Apple took about a month: delayed a few weeks because of an icon issue, but only two weeks once things were straightened out.

Kathy Walsh is in charge of design and production for BWR. "Kathy is a print designer," English wrote me, "so where as my magazine was designed in HTML5, theirs is designed in Quark (and not the new tablet version)."

BWR also has a new dedicated website found as a subdomain of the Tablazine site.

Unlike Hoodgrown Magazine, which is designed very much like a traditional magazine (in the best sense of that term) Band of the White Rose is, as I've said above, more of a political statement. It's not the role of TNM to talk much about content, though I will admit that I have sometimes made rather snide remarks about some of the consumer magazines that have produced apps. So let's just say that after reading the first issue you will either want to become an avid reader of Band of the White Rose, or will be deleting it rather quickly. It would be rare indeed to see BWR on the same iPad as The Daily.

Amazon releases free software update for Kindle

Kindle owners will be getting a free software update today that will bring a bunch of new features to their e-readers. These include 'real page numbers' for easy reference, public notes and ratings.
The public notes feature is pretty interesting: "This feature lets Kindle users choose to make their book notes and highlights available for others to see. Any Kindle user -- including authors, their fans, book reviewers, professors and passionate readers everywhere -- can opt-in to share their thoughts on book passages and ideas with friends, family members, colleagues, and the greater Kindle community of people who love to read."

The software update will also add new browsing layouts for newspapers and magazines.

And now is as good a time as any to once again plug the Talking New Media Kindle Edition, available on for a mere $1.99 per month (you get the first two weeks free). Hey, don't let not owning a Kindle stop you from buying the TNM Kindle Edition!

CBC adds to its stable of mobile and tablet apps by launching universal app for CBC News division

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has released a new universal app in the iTunes App Store for CBC News. The free app offers users access to news, CBC radio news bulletins, weather and photo galleries.
The CBC News app joins the Canadian broadcasters other apps for CBC Radio and its ever popular Hockey Night in Canada app, CBC Hockey, as well as a specialty app called Vancouver 125, which celebrates the 125th anniversary of the city's incorporation.
The new app for the news division is a useful app, though it has received a definitely mixed reception from users in the Canadian App Store. Complaints have ranged from the absence of commenting, to it being too easy to click on ads. Nonetheless, the app does finally provide readers in Canada and elsewhere with some access to CBC News via an app.

The CBC Radio app has been one of my favorites since it was first introduced. Like all the CBC apps, it is universal, though I prefer radio apps on my phone. The app gives listeners access to the many local CBC radio stations, as well as Radio 2, which offers classical and jazz, Radio3 with popular music, and finally CBC TV audio access.
For those of use who grew up in Detroit, CBC TV means only one thing: Hockey Night in Canada. The CBC Hockey app does limit its content for users outside Canada, but the app does bring users live box scoresd, standings, stats, etc.

The limitations of video content, of course, comes from the broadcasting contracts in place in the U.S. Hockey game broadcasts are spread out between local channels, the NHL Channel, Versus, and the weekly game on NBC. Sadly, by limiting the games to these outlets, the NHL is mistakenly making the game of only local interest. The good news for hockey fans is that the NHL Network shows Hockey Night in Canada games occasionally.

Verizon will price the Motorola XOOM for $600, if you sign a two year contract for data service, however

Do you really want to sign another contract? I have a contract for my television, my office phone, my cell phone, my wife (open ended) and who knows what else, do I really want to sign a two year contract in order to get a discount on my tablet?

Verizon announced this morning that they will price the Motorola XOOM, the Honeycomb driven tablet, at $599.99 with a two year customer contract for 3G data access. Verizon's price for the XOOM without a contract will be $799.99.
The Motorola XOOM will be launched on February 24, and will be the first Android powered tablet that has a chance of competing aggressively with Apple's iPad. The XOOM's specs are impressive: 10.1 inch display, front and rear facing camera, and, of course, the new Android 3.0 operating system. (Recently it was discovered, though, that the tablet won't be able to play Flash content until an updated version of the player is available from Adobe.)

The lowest priced 3G capable iPad current costs $629 and does not require a contract, the 32GB model is closer to the XOOM's pricing at $729.

A look at the first tablet editions from Times Publishing Company, publishers of the St. Petersburg Times

A 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit the South Island city of Christchurch in New Zealand early this morning local time. The quake has resulted in at least 65 confirmed deaths and considerable damage and injury.

The news from New Zealand has temporarily pushed the events in Tripoli, Manama and Madison from the lead story position for most media outlets. As the day progresses this will no doubt change.

The Times Publishing Company has released its first tablet editions yesterday. The free apps for the St. Petersburg Times and the tabloid Tampa Bay Times brings readers replica editions of the print newspaper, a rather disappointing option for papers owned by the company behind the Poynter Institute. Disappointing because one would like to see PI more out front in the development of tablet editions, rather than following the ol' flipbook model of electronic publishing (though, to be honest, Poynter's columnist have expresses rather negative attitudes towards mobile and tablets while grudgingly covering the developing mediums).
On the bright side, these replicas have all the bells and whistles available to the format. The issues can be seen in both portrait and landscape, there is a thumbnail navigation option, and articles table of contents, and internal help guide.

The app also has pinch-to-zoom, which is absolutely necessary if you are going to produce a replica edition. While pinch-to-zoom is one of the things that makes tablet reading possible, it is a double edged sword. Once the reader zooms into an article the page begins to float about, making it a bit difficult to continue to navigate as pages don't flip as easily.

The pages are definitely crisp looking, and the type jumps off the "page" when viewed on the iPad.

What I am a bit confused about is the subscription process, and how the app complies with Apple's new subscription policies.

Once the app is downloaded and installed, the user is required to sign-in to their account in order to access that day's edition. Current 7-day print subscribers get free access, all others need to register. So I dutifully went through the registration process.
The process is easy enough and is contained completely within the app. Once you are done the reader is prompted to check their e-mail for a confirmation message -- clicking that message completes the process. You can then go back to the app and sign-in.

This is where it gets strange: you are instantly informed that you have a $10 credit, and asked if you want to use 50 cents of that to get that day's paper. My first instinct was to assume that I had just made a purchase through the App Store, though my brain told me no, can't be. It looks different, plus I did not get that confirmation warning.

So, in essence, Times Publishing is giving you a ten dollar credit for registering. Will I be asked to buy a subscription after I use up the ten dollars? It's hard to tell because the paper seems to have been caught off guard that their app had launched. The support page just goes to a contacts page, and I don't see any news of the app's launch on the newspaper's website.

Additionally, the website says that an 'Electronic Edition" subscription to the St. Petersburg Times costs $49 for a year -- quite different than what the price structure is for the iPad edition. To me, it looks like they are -- at least temporarily -- giving away the iPad edition, while charging for the print and e-editions.

A quick look at the Android Market shows no apps from Times Publishing Company for Android.

Times Publishing Company also released their first iPad app for the Tampa Bay Times, the free weekday tabloid newspaper aimed at a younger demographic -- "younger" meaning younger than me, I suppose.

The subscription process is similar in that you must register to access content. But after the reader has received and clicked on the confirmation e-mail they have full access.

As TNM readers know, I am no fan of replica editions, and have more than a few interesting conversations with the vendors that promote them. But these replicas are about as good as you will find. Though continue to not see the point of created electronic versions of print products, these apps are at least well designed and executed.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Two Libyan fighter pilots land their jets in Malta, ask for asylum, refused to bomb anti-government protesters

Another incredible day of news around the world: The Associated Press is reporting that two Libyan Mirage F1 fighter jets have landed in Malta and their pilots have asked for asylum. According to the AP report, via The Guardian, the pilots had been ordered to bomb anti-government protesters and obviously refused.

Unfortunately, this has not stopped other air force pilots from carrying out their orders as word is coming out of Libyan of bombings in Tripoli. Reuters has been reporting on the air raids, quoting Adel Mohamed Saleh, a political activist, as saying "Our people are dying. It is the policy of scorched earth." he said. "Every 20 minutes they are bombing."

Meanwhile, back in the States, Tom Morello, formerly of Rage Against The Machine, performed for protesters today in Madison., which is has been doing a great job of reporting on events, quotes the guitarist and singer and saying "The future of the rights of working people is going to be decided on the streets of Madison. You're making history here and the whole world is watching."

I can tell you that the weather has turned bad in the upper Midwest with snow and sleet hitting the area since Sunday. Today is worse.

The Democratic State Senators remain in Illinois, preventing a quorum. However, the Assembly is schedule to reconvene tomorrow at 11 a.m. to take up the controversial budget repair bill. Democrats are working on amendments, but so far Republicans legislators and the governor do not appear willing to compromise on their stance to end collective bargaining rights for most state workers.

So far no readers have written in to complain about the occasional news or political story here. Thanks for your understanding. The events both in the Middle East/North Africa and here in Wisconsin are, in my opinion, far too important for anyone to ignore -- even a site dedicated to New Media.

In any case, it is hard to just pretend the world is going on its merry way when momentous events continue to occur around us -- some of them very, and I very, close to home.

Woodwing says its ready for launch of the HP TouchPad; company to offer publishing support for webOS tablet

The company that offers digital publishing software support for such companies Time Inc. announced that they are ready for the launch of the first webOS tablet, the HP TouchPad. (edited, see note below)
The new tablet is expected to launch in June, though the company has only said that prospective buyers can expect to see the new tablet in the summer.

“I am very impressed with the HP TouchPad – it's nicely built, very user-friendly and it looks simply great,” said Erik Schut, President of WoodWing Software, in the company's press release. “But what a technical person like me appreciates the most is that HP webOS supports native HTML5. This is a great basis for now and the future. As it is part of our strategy to support all platforms relevant for our customers, we are pleased to include the webOS platform for publishers at this early stage.”

Amazon has already said it had readied a version of its Kindle app for the webOS tablet so that owners will be able to use the new tablet as a Kindle reader from day one.

Note: a reader kindly sent me a note correcting this first paragraph. I had originally included Condé Nast as a customer of WoodWing. In reality, Condé Nast is working with Adobe's Digital Publishing Suite.

Engadget reported this morning that the Motorola XOOM, the Honeycomb (Android 3.0) driven tablet, will be missing Flash when it first launches. The company had used Flash as a point of differentiation from Apple's iPad in its sales pitch to consumers and developers.

Now, apparently, it appears Motorola will be waiting for the launch of a new version of Adobe's media player before implementing it on its tablet.

TNM's report from Madison, Wisconsin

As the protests in Madison continue, those from outside the Midwest would be hard pressed to understand the issues at hand by relying on the mainstream media, a sad commentary on the state of journalism in this country.

I drove up to Madison myself on Saturday and will give you my own report following a sampling of media coverage below:
Fox News starts it's report today on with the subhead How Long Can Wisconsin Dems Stay in Hiding?, followed by a quote from the governor: “For us, this is about balancing the budget. We've got a $3.6 billion budget deficit. We are broke. Just like nearly every other state across the country, we're broke. It's about time somebody stood up and told the truth.”

Of course, the issue is not about the budget at all, it is about the governor's attempt to end collective bargaining rights for state workers. So why is the governor saying this? Because Fox News will report it without correction. But listening to the reporters that are considered the stars of the American journalism profession you already know that their job is to report the lies from both sides, not find the truth. Where the hell did these people go to get their "J" degrees? Certainly not from the same school I did.

USA Today's report this morning, GOP presidential hopefuls rally behind Wis. Gov. Scott Walker, quotes Sarah Palin: "As goes Wisconsin today, so goes the country tomorrow."

CBS News this morning: Wis. labor protests a "tea party for the left". The idea that a group of union protesters that span the entire political spectrum would want to be associated with the Tea Party in any way is quite intentionally insulting.

For the past few days, and especially on Saturday, the protests in Madison has been the number one or two story in the news, depending on events in the Middle East. So Saturday I drove to Madison to see the situation for myself. If this is the number one national news story, and it is in my backyard, I simply felt I had to go.

A couple of observations: Saturday was a perfect day for the media to focus on Madison. That day, for the first time, there was a counter protest in support of Governor Scott Walker's budget bill. So CBC radio led with the story, dutifully reporting that people were protesting on both sides of the issue.

But, as you might guess, this missed the truth by a wide margin.
The crowd estimates have varied widely, but police estimates, as quoted by, were that there 50,000 people outside the Capitol, with 10,000 actually inside the Capitol. Tea Party supporters estimated their side had about 10,000 supporters, while the union claimed the counter protest was much smaller.

My own estimates would be that there were about 30,000 union supporters outside the Capital, and about two to three thousand Tea Party supporters -- I never made it inside the Capitol, so I can not comment on those numbers.

Inside a ring of police, there to separate the two groups, the Tea Party supporters had a chance to have their own rally. What separated the two groups was how they got there: the vast majority of those Tea Party protesters had arrived on bright new busses, chartered for the occasion. They were bussed in, had their rally, and then beat it out of town.

That was not to say that a few did not come in by themselves -- I saw a few along the streets of Madison. They were mostly white and older. I spoke to a few and they did not see the irony of protesting that their tax money was going to pay for union benefits -- after all, it was these same union workers whose taxes were going to pay for their retirement.

In fact the whole counter argument seems to be this: we pay taxes, so we do not like the idea that state union members get good benefits, while we have lousy health care, etc. In other words, we want everyone's economic status to decline to a same common level.

Union supporters have the run of the town: they are clearly supported by the locals, who appreciate the fact that the protesters are frequenting the restaurants, cleaning up after themselves, etc.

According to the Journal Sentinel as well as the Badger Herald, the police have said there have been no arrest over the past few days involving protesters. A few days earlier there were reports of nine arrests for disorderly conduct, but it should be pointed out that this number would be less than half the number of arrests made following the last UW Badgers football game.
All photos by D.B. Hebbard