Friday, June 10, 2011

Paramount Pictures using apps to promote new films; Super 8 movie in theaters today, iPhone app in May

As the week winds down I'm torn between looking at a new German tablet edition for a daily newspaper, or a promotional iPhone app for a movie that has gotten mixed reviews – the movie wins!
Paramount Pictures is releasing a new film today, Super 8, which is directed by J.J. Abrams, and produced by Steven Spielberg – in others words, it has plenty of box office potential.

So, this being the era of smartphones and mobile apps, why not release an app to go along with the new film? And that is what Paramount did back in May. Super 8, the app, was initially a free download but will now cost downloaders 99 cents.

While the app is being distributed by Paramount Digital Entertainment, it was created by QMx Interactive and Bad Robot Interactive, though my guess is that QMx Interactive, headquartered in Canoga Park, California, is the actual developer, as Bad Robot is actually a company owned by the director J.J. Abrams.

The app has gotten great reviews, while the film is a more mixed affair (here is the A.O. Scott review from the NYT).
The app, like several other photography apps, is a filter-based app that adds effects to the video shot shot using your iPhone such as scratches, color variation, X-Ray and negative, etc. As someone who used to actually shoot Super 8 film (though I generally shot 16mm) it is funny that there would be an app that would add defeats to the results in order to duplicate the Super 8 experience when we used to work pretty hard to make sure these same defects wouldn't appear in our shot film.

Paramount is now using app development as a regular part of its movie marketing efforts. In addition to the app for Super 8, Paramount has launched an iPhone app for Thor, a universal app for The LXD, and an iPad app for the Coen Brothers film True Grit.

The Guardian says its new iPhone app has been downloaded over 400K times; no word on tablet edition

The Guardian today bragged that its newest version of its iPhone app, launched in January has been downloaded over 400,000 times – its first generation iPhone app was downloaded over 200,000 times after its debut in December of 2009.
Despite this, the paper seems to remain of two minds concerning app development: admitting that its mobile app now accounts for more than 10 percent of its traffic, yet still with only its The Guardian Eyewitness app available for the iPad, an app released very early on – and there is still no word of an Android app which has encouraged the creation of a couple knockoff apps.

The iPhone app released earlier this year comes in two flavors: while the US app is free and is supported solely by advertising, the other app only offers limited content for free, but then requires a modestly priced subscription to access the complete content – £2.99 for six months or £3.99 for a full year.

The Guardian announcement gave no clue to its future tablet plans. Back in January The Guardian's editor Janine Gibson said an iPad app was in development and that whatever would emerge would not be a replica edition. "You want to do something that feels appropriate to the device… we’re not a fan of PDFs with the sound of a page turning," Gibson told its affiliated website

Lodsys patent lawsuits get attacked on two fronts: Apple files motions in case, while Michigan company files new suit in Illinois court seeking declaratory judgement

Florian Mueller, on his Foss Patents website, reported early this morning that Apple has filed a motion to intervene in the Lodsys patent lawsuit case.

According to Mueller, the developers involved in the patent case are bound by a non-disclosure agreement, preventing them from speaking on matters involving Apple. Assuming the Eastern District of Texas court allows Apple into the case, their position appears to be the same as expressed in its letter to Lodsys from two weeks ago, that developers, and Apple, are protected by the existing license agreement.
So far only Apple has asked to intervene in the case. One of the developers involved in the patent lawsuit is the developer of an Android app and so far nothing has been heard from Google. This illustrates the importance of the Apple letter and now its move to intervene: developer relations are vital to the success of any tech company's mobile and tablet platforms, and so companies such as Apple and Google are most likely compelled to defend their development partners in such situations – or else face a backlash from the development community.

Two days ago Mueller also reported on the case being brought by ForeSee Results, a research and consulting company which has a mobile app in the Apple App Store called ForeSee Results Mobile Portal.

The Michigan based company is seeking a declaratory judgement against four Lodsys patents. As Mueller explains, a declaratory judgement would not force an end to the Lodsys lawsuits, but would put the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, the court where ForeSee Results filed their case, on record in the case pending in Texas – as Mueller writes, "It can prevent a lawsuit, or even a whole series of lawsuits, by resolving an issue pre-emptively."

Thursday, June 9, 2011

étapes redesigns its English language print magazine into a free, natively developed iPad edition

The French design website étapes has launched an iPad app edition of its monthly English language magazine. Etapes magazine is a free app which also currently gives readers free access to the content, as well.
The app is a natively designed iOS app for the iPad which is designed exclusively in landscape, but because of the amount of photography and animation found within still weighs in at 440MB. It can be found under the Lifestyle category in the App Store.

The app does not create a library, so either an updated app will have to be released for this, or else the publisher will choose to launch separate apps for each edition published.

As separate print edition of the quarterly magazine can be found in the Zinio digital newsstand, as well, for the rather odd price of $36.19 for four issues.

This new app is the third to be released by the publisher: Etapes HD is a French language app of the design site's daily news, and Open Projects, which is $7.99 book app and describes itself as "a stroll to the heart of contemporary design, from Amsterdam to Montreal."

To illustrate the cover and uniquely designed TOC, as well as the animation, here is a short video look at the app:

Question: why do so many news sites have to quote others in regard to Apple's developer guidelines?

Whether they have intended to or not, quite a number of media news websites (and magazines) have revealed a rather startling fact today: they don't have access to direct information about Apple's developer guidelines because they are not developers themselves.

First a definition: an Apple developer is someone who has registered with Apple and paid the $99 fee to become part of the program. One does not need to actually create an app themselves. So if you want to know what is in the guidelines one simply signs in and looks at the guidelines themselves.
But unfortunately it appears that those who write for many of the leading news sites that report about such matters are completely left out in the dark and desperately in need of others with access to the developer site in order to write their stories. It is as if I were writing a recap of yesterday's Giants game (they won) without seeing the game myself, only reading reports from other sources.

Do you find this shocking? I have to admit that I do. Not everyone who writes about apps will be a registered Apple developer, but I would think that those who write about the subject of app development guidelines might consider it a good idea to become one. I certainly would not employ a reporter to cover the subject without this little detail being taken care of, would you?

No wonder then that so much misinformation is being posted today. I don't demand that the reporter that covers the Giants has been a baseball player in the past, just that he knows the rules of the game. It especially helps when the subject of the story is . . . the rules of the game.

Google's Doodle and in-house development

This morning's Google Doogle, probably one of their best yet, reminds me of a conversation I once had with a newspaper manager a few years ago.
I was speaking with someone who was in charge of all things digital at a major Midwestern newspaper discussing online video. We were offering an opportunity to add customized video content to their website and the woman in charge had some questions about what they would need to do on their side of things.

Somewhere in the conversation she said "you know, we don't want to become programmers here." At first I let the comment go by. Later, when it was apparent that the newspaper had no interest in online video, claiming that they wouldn't be able to see ads for the video, I had to say what was on my mind.

I asked the newspaper manager if they had people on staff who knew anything about digital photography. Of course, she answered. And did they have people on staff who knew how to create charts and graphs it illustrate news stories. Again, of course they did. So why would they be against employing people who could help them develop new digital products? The answer was that that was not what newspapering was about, that they could outsource that activity.

It's an odd attitude some publishers have concerning programming and developing. Yet when the industry transitioned from hot type to cold type to desktop publishing the publishing executives of those eras saw the importance of having those skills in house.

For the record, the Google Doodle above is a tribute to Les Paul, the guitarist, songwriter and, more famously, a pioneer in the development of the solid body electric guitar.

YouTube is quickly filling up with examples of people using the Doodle to create music videos. Here is a little Beethoven:

Apple loosens rules for in-app subscriptions

Here is a mea culpa: I just signed the damn developer agreement without reading it. Because of this I missed an important change that was spotted by several websites that watch such things. Sorry about that.

The big change involves in-app purchased subscriptions. The new section, 11.14 now reads as follows:

11.4 Apps can read or play approved content (specifically magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video) that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app, as long as there is no button or external link in the app to purchase the approved content. Apple will not receive any portion of the revenues for approved content that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app
There are two big changes here:

First, subscriptions sold outside the App Store are now approved. A media app using this subscriptions sold outside the app will be considered a "reader" app, like the Kindle App. The good news is that if a publisher wants to avoid the 30 percent fee Apple charges it can do so.

This is an obvious nod to services like Netflix, which I would think Apple considers vital to the success of its hardware sales. This also avoids any conflict with Amazon, another important "partner", even they are also competitors.

But publishers need to remember that they can't have it both ways, either a publisher uses the in-app subscription process for convenience and pays the associated fees, or the opt out and have to do this themselves. This seems very fair to me.

The second big change is the absence of language that talks about price regulation: where once Apple stipulated that no subscription offered on the iPad could be discounted further outside the app, this language has simply been eliminated.

I think Apple's lawyers probably told the App Store team that this was simply not an enforceable rule and that if challenged they would lose.

Apple still forbids a developer from including a "Buy" button in their app that takes them outside the app. Instead, a developer would have to do something more like the Kindle app does, including a "Shop" button, or better still, a "Learn More" button that would take the reader to the publisher's website.

Joshua Benton on Nieman Journalism Lab today wondered if publishers were kind of beside the point here, that the changes were really meant to effect Amazon, Netflix etc. Kind of a "duh", really. Of course, newspapers and magazines are beside the point.

Apple tends to respond to the demands of media professionals, but in its own way, and often only after a bit of damage has been done. In the end, the amount of money Apple hopes to make on in-app subscription purchases is still a small amount compared to their overall business. Media folk, on the other hand, have been way overestimating their own power. It is important to keep in mind that the total sales generated by Apple current exceeds the total ad sales of the newspaper industry as a whole – by 100 percent. So if the media executives out there really think they can muscle Apple they better think again. On the other hand, Apple knows they need content partners, whether they are Netflix, Amazon or newspapers and magazines.

Oh, and by the way, the Apple developer guidelines still says "We don't need any more Fart apps."

Morning Brief: NYT reports US at war in Yemen; U.S. Department of Education admits to using SWAT team; NPR blog writer cautions press to "slow down'

The New York Times last night reported that the Obama administration has stepped "has intensified the American covert war in Yemen," Mark Mazzetti, NYT reporter wrote. If you are keeping count, that would make four wars U.S. forces are currently involved in.
According to the story, American air force jets were active in southern Yeman, reportedly killing an Al Qaeda operative, Abu Ali al-Harithi.

The United States is, according to NYT reports, working with the government of Saudi Arabia in the attacks in Yemen, and involve the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command working with the Central Intelligence Agency.

The NYT report did not include any comments from members of Congress.

The WSJ reported last night, as well, that outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in what it termed a "very blunt" speech, urged other members of NATO to step up its involvement in the growing conflict in Libya.

"I have requested such broadened support either by new contributions or increased contributions or more flexible use of assets provided for the operation," Gates was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S., the Department of Education admitted that did indeed use a S.W.A.T. to break into the home of a Stockton, California man, but that the break in, and six hour detention was not because of student loads that were in default, but because of a criminal investigation. The DOE issued a statement that “the offices conducts raids on issues such as bribery, fraud, and embezzlement of federal student aid funds," though they would not divulge what specific criminal actions were suspected.

Media reports did not ask when the Department of Education had begun getting involved in the use of S.W.A.T. teams, or whether other departments of the federal government had now begun using such tactics.

Mark Memmott, writing on NPR's news blog, The Two-Way, says that the news media needs to "low down and let the facts become more clear" before rushing to report on the news. Admitting that NPR made the same mistake themselves in the Rep. Gabrielle Giffords shooting story, Memmott said that the story involving the supposed finding of bodies on a property near Hardin, Texas – which proved false – was an example of "intense competition and instant reporting".

The story, if you are not familiar with the episode, began when police authorities got a"tip" from a psychic who said their were bodies to be found on a property. The police, and then the media, took the story, believed it, and ran with it.

During the feeding frenzy that followed, writes Memmott, the NYT sent its readers a Tweet that read "NYT NEWS ALERT: Up to 30 Dismembered Bodies Found Near Houston, Reuters Reports."

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Here comes another iPad-only daily newspaper: iMaverick, from South Africa, will launch August 15

The independent online news site, Daily Maverick, has announced it will launch an iPad-only daily newspaper, à la The Daily. The new tablet newspaper will be launched on August 15th and will be called iMaverick.
A landing page explaining the move has already been launched which explains the new publication.

And here is a twist: readers can sign up to subscribe at a cost of R395 per month – about $58 – but that price includes an iPad 2, a well. A higher price level will get an iPad 2 with more storage.

"In a world in such turmoil, the emergence of the computer tablet as a platform suddenly promises to solve a vast numbers of problems," the Daily Maverick says in their announcement. "Here is a device that successfully marries the beauty and cohesion of print with the immediacy and connectedness of online, made to come alive through full use of multimedia. All of it on the perfect screen, where photographs outshine anything that printed glossy magazines could ever offer."

In explaining how the new tablet newspaper will differ from its website, publisher and editor Branko Brkic told the Mail & Guardian, a South African daily newspaper, that "It makes sense that a subscription based, daily iPad newspaper is the next generation of the Daily Maverick."

The Daily Maverick online news site was the result of the demise of print magazines Maverick and Empire. Then in October of 2009 the news site was launched with Brkic telling Chris Moerdyk of "We want to once and for all to solve the online advertising model as we believe that the current one simply doesn't work. We also believe that there's no need to annoy the reader to get the advertising message across.”

Now they can try and make tablet newspapers profitable, as well.

Update: Oops, almost forgot the obligatory promotional video. I don't know what to make of this one, but here it is anyway!

Northcliffe Digital (UK) relaunches its 26 "This is" regional news websites

Northcliffe Digital announced today that they have relaunched of its network of 26 'This is' regional websites. The new sites serve readers in the UK areas of Midlands, South West, North East and South East of England and South Wales.

"Delivering great local news content remains at the heart of our mission, but we are now moving towards a more interactive and relevant social experience for our users," Roland Bryan, Northcliffe Digital managing director said in the company's announcement.

"The new sites are built around our users and promote interaction between people, local businesses and our content. Every piece of content across the Thisis network has calls to action to allow our users the opportunity to create, respond or discuss. As the internet becomes more social, it's crucial that we enable conversations between individuals in the community, the businesses that serve them as well as the journalists who are leading the local news agenda," Bryan said.

The websites show a common look, and sport a rather wide top banner of around 1080 pixels, though the live area is a more standard 960 pixels.

The new sites contain local business directories that can be set up by the local companies themselves, creating "Business Profiles".

"These rich profile pages include information on services offered, images and video content, the ability to highlight featured customer reviews and attract followers who want to receive profile updates, location details and a link through to their own dedicated website. Local Deals give businesses the added option of uploading relevant special offers and discounts - adding value to their customer offering and increasing sales for specific lines of products and services," the company's announcement explains.

I'll admit that I find the look rather unappealing myself, and while there are plenty of new advertising units available to sell, only the top leaderboard makes an appearance 'above the fold'. But to each his own.

Sacramento ABC affiliate reports that U.S. Department of Education used SWAT team to pursue defaulted student loan; team kicked in door, held wrong person for 6 hours

The local Sacramento ABC affiliate, News 10, today reported that a Stockton, California man had his door kicked in, was handcuffed, and then held for six hours by a S.W.A.T. acting on behalf of the U.D. Department of Education. The team was attempting to search the house in pursuit of a woman who had defaulted on student loans. (Update: changed link to story as website has posted a revised story.)
The woman is the estranged wife of the owner of the house and was not there at the time of the incident.

The story was reported by ABC News 10 reporter Leigh Paynter (picture at right). So far the story online has already gathered over 160 comments from readers of the website.

I would be shocked if this story does not go viral and is used during the upcoming political season. The video report is worth a look:

The Financial Times, one day after launching HTML 5 web app, releases updated version of its iPad app

It's hard to say whether one hand doesn't know what the other is doing at The Financial Times, or if Apple just played a nice trick on the UK-based newspaper. In any case, today the FT released a newly updated version of its iPad app, one day after the paper bragged that it had launched an HTNL 5 web app, designed to bypass Apple's App Store, with its commission fees and developer rules.

The Financial Times iPad Edition, a free app that requires a paid subscription to access the content, was updated to version 1.6.1 today. But since it usually takes a while to get updates through Apple's app review team, this update was no doubt submitted prior to yesterday's announcement that the paper wanted its iPad readers to use a browser based solution based on the HTML 5 standard (though that might not be the proper term to use at this point).

Many media writers hailed the decision by The Financial Times as some sort of liberating event. Since the majority of publishers have yet to launch even their first mobile or tablet editions, it is hard to figure out what they would need to be liberated from since they have already found a way of not being in the App Store – don't launch an app!

Left: The native iPad app for The Financial Times, updated today; Right: the HTML 5 web app version, with a missing picture (for some reason).

Google begins to offer mobile templates for its Blogger customers; lack of customization limits feature

The search giant Google began offering its Blogger customers the ability to use mobile templates for their websites, a feature that can be turned off and on in the settings area.
The new feature will be helpful for those sites that have not set up mobile sites themselves. But unlike their regular website designs, the mobile website templates themselves are not customizable at this time. As a result, some bloggers will wait to see if the designs begin to offer more options.

The Talking New Media website offers a good example of the pluses and minuses of using Google's mobile services. The old TNM mobile website was set up by myself many months ago. It features site consistent coloring in the fonts and background, as well as ads brought in by Ad Mob. The flag, or logo, for TNM is a variation of the one used on the website to keep things consistent.

The site's coding was then altered to make sure that iPad users were continued to be directed to the regular website rather than a mobile site when they use their templates – a common error of those using mobile sites.

The new Google mobile site uses the information inside the settings area to build its mobile site. So, in the case, of TNM, the site description is brought in to the top of the home page, an element completely missing from the old mobile site.

The Google site has some its own layouts which work very well, but can't handle the special coding I use to create a drop cap on each post. The old site, since it is using the site's RSS feed, doesn't see the coding at all, and so just renders the first letter of each post as a regular letter. The Google site ads some space.

Of course, ads are missing from the Google mobile site, probably because I no longer use Ad Sense. Google, over a year ago, turned off my AdSense without any explanation, and has, over a year later, still not responded to my inquiries (one of several issues I've had with Google where they have simply not bothered to respond to customer communication).

Overall, the look is fine – and it is all free, of course, as Blogger remains a free service. For some website owners this may eliminate the need to develop a separate mobile app, something that may have motivated Google's decision to finally offer the service.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Round-up: Native and replica media apps from Europe

Time to clear some apps off my iPad: here is a quick round-up of recently released, non-U.S.-based media apps – a few are native apps, a few are replicas. All are free to download, though one will require an in-app purchase to read the content.
LeMatin HD is a free app from the Swiss news site of about the same name. The app is the fourth app to be released by Edipresse Publications, all having been released since March: 24Heures HD, Tribune de Genève HD, and Femina HD.

The app is well done, though one wonders about the business plan this long term – selling advertising? Since the market penetration of the iPad is probably still small in Switzerland, the publishers have some time to figure this out, though the app description makes no mention of a future subscription requirement.

The Jakarta Globe for iPad is a free app for the relatively new daily newspaper from Indonesia. The English language paper was launched near the end of 2008.

The app takes a bit of a different approach to tablet publishing in that single articles dominate the page. The app works in both portrait and landscape, though I have it shown here in portrait just to make the photos fit!
Two replica edition apps are for Suedostschweiz ePaper and B.T. digital avis.

Suedostschweiz ePaper, or "The South-Eastern Switzerland Press", is a free app that gives you access to a whole portfolio of PDF based publications from the publisher, most or all of which will cost you $1.99 per issue to read.

B.T. digital avis from Berlingske Media is the sixth iPad released by the Danish company, they also have ten apps available on the iPhone side of things, as well. This new one may actually be one of the least interesting of the bunch, being simply a replica edition of the colorful tabloid.

Berlingske Business til iPad, on the other hand, appears to be a more ambitious attempt at tablet publishing, assuming your Norwegian is up to snuff.

HTML 5 compliant browsers, tablet sales, and the market

Keeping with the theme of HTML 5 alternatives to app development, here are a few thoughts about browser compliance and tablet sales.

Developers of media apps are always asking about the size of the market they are developing for, hinting that there is this sinking feeling that the market is still way too premature to generate the kinds of results they would like. Brian White, an analyst with Ticonderoga Securities, has projected that Apple has sold about 25 million iPad units, a very impressive number considering the tablet has only been on the market for 14 months, but still not much of a market compared to print or online.
So the solution du jour is creating HTML5 web app publications. The solution seems so obvious and natural – that is until you look at what browsers online readers are using, it's not a pretty picture.

Although there is some dispute online about which browsers are the most compliant with the HTML5 standards, as well as how important it is to be, in fact, very compliant, the fact of the matter is that only a relatively small portion of web surfers are using up-to-date, recently released web browsers.

According to Net Applications, nearly half of all users are still using old versions of Internet Explorer, only 4.19 percent having upgraded to IE9. Further, while the users of both Chrome and Firefox tend to instantly upgrade when a new version is released, their market share for their latest browsers is still under 20 percent – and adding in Safari doesn't even get you to one quarter of the market.

Of course, many publishers are considering HTML 5 developing as simply an alternative to the iPad, or as a way of reaching all tablet owners through their browsers, and there is some value in thinking this way, in my opinion. But the market is still defined by the number of tablets sold by Apple as we continue to wait for "soon-to-be-launched" tablets from the usual suspects.

All these facts might be kept in mind when considering throwing your app development efforts away in pursuit of glory through the web alone.

Financial Times web app: HTML5 based app proves a usable alternative, though not a great user experience

Efforts to access the Financial Times website in order to retrieve its HTML5 web app finally proved successful. Here is a look at the results:

The war appears to be on: some publishers have decided that they don't like Apple's sandbox so they are going off on their own. The question is whether their readers will go with them, or whether readers will end prefer the 'walled garden, as some critics have called Apple's iOS platform.
The Financial Times today launched an HTML5 web app version of their previously popular iPad app.

Accessing the website and the page that allows you access to the app is a chore, you can read about that here, but once you do the experience is acceptable, if not totally satisfying.

To be sure, the FT iPad app was not revolutionary: it was essentially of the same design as the NYT app, but it's simple design and functionality worked well enough that the FT bragged about its download numbers. Last fall, for instance, the FT reported that it had brought in a £1 million in new revenue through 400,000 subscribers.

But the attitude of the FT, and indeed many publishers, especially in Europe, soured when it became apparent that Apple would not instantly hand over customer data to publishers without the consumer agreeing to do so, some publishers began to rebel.

"It is unclear how their proposal is going to work, we are still talking to them," FT chief executive Marjorie Scardino said, according to The Guardian. "The important thing to remember is there are many, many tablets coming out and multiple devices ... [from] Kindle to mobiles. If indeed Apple are not happy to give us customer data then maybe we will get it somewhere else."

So what was a huge benefit for consumers, secure data, was a point of contention for some publishers. (It should be said that many publishers have simply begun asking their readers for this data themselves. Image that.)
So in a move very much timed to coincide with Apple's own slew of announcements, the FT has launched a web-based app version of its iPad app – the design is identical to the iOS version.

Readers familiar with the iPad app will certainly feel right at home on the HTML5 version. Once a reader has accessed the entry page (iPad link) they are instructed to add an icon to their home screen as one does with the aside mag magazine web app.

"This is our best app yet, and it is an important step in our strategy of providing multi-channel access to our global journalism quickly and simply,” John Ridding, CEO of the Financial Times said in the company's announcement. “The FT Web App offers our customers flexibility and freedom of choice with access to our global journalism anytime, anywhere, with a single login or subscription. In a world of increasingly digital complexity we want to keep our service simple, easy to use and efficient to offer our customers the best possible experience of FT journalism.”

Unlike aside, however, which attempts to duplicate so many of the features of native iOS apps in its HTML5 alternative, the FT here is only trying to duplicate a much more modest iPad app – and it does so fairly well.

The HTML5 version here is almost the same experience as the iPad app. Readers will notice some glitches as the home page loads. The slow load times, combined with the pages elements flashing on and off are about the only signs one is dealing with a non-native app.

The irony here, of course, is incredible: newspaper publishers who have not found a winning formula online are returning to an online solution in order to avoid the App Store, and when doing so are trying to duplicate the native app experience – Apple, in their minds, is both the enemy and the prophet of future media ventures.

Media analysts would be making a huge mistake by looking to the FT or the WSJ as models for newspaper strategy. The financial category is the exception to the rule, in my opinion: business information is very valuable, readers will pay for it as witnessed by the success both papers have had with both paid app subscriptions and paid online access. The value of a story about, say, Kraft Foods, to someone in the grocery business, is far higher than the value of a story about Charlie Sheen or Lindsay Lohan.

This is the mistake many small to mid-sized newspaper publishers are making, assuming that their local news has a value so high that consumers will be happy to jump pay walls in order to access it. Good luck with that.

But if you can make me money by giving me good business news, or if I can write off that expense with my employer or the IRS, then I will be willing to pay. (Ironic, isn't it, that the biggest critics of government interference in the free market, the WSJs and FTs of the media world, are the ones being subsidized by the government through the tax code.)

Update: added quote from company release.

The Financial Times launches web based app to bypass Apple's App Store, but strategy is a comedy of errors

This post was written before being able to reach the FT website page in order to access its new web-based app. For a look at the actual web app go here.

I see the Financial Times, which has says it has done well with Apple's App Store, has decided to launch a web version which seeks to bypass the App Store altogether. The problem appears that in their rush to regain that 30 percent commission back from Apple the publisher appears to have forgotten a few things.

In a rather bold move, the FT is telling its readers to stop using its native app and to move over immediately to the new web-app version:

We have launched a new, faster, more complete app for the iPad and iPhone which is available via your browser rather than from an app store.

We're encouraging our readers to switch immediately to the new FT web app, as many new features and sections will be added over the coming weeks. Make sure you don't miss out on these updates.
The move, and its attitude, is sure to anger Apple – and clearly this is a violation of the developer agreement that requires that one not launch apps that are more expensive than other solutions, and further it violates the rule that one can not charge for content when one is offering the same product for free online. So Apple would be well within its rights to pull the FT app from the app store.

But the real problem here is that the Financial Times has launched a web-app then not made sure the page used to install it can be accessed. All morning the page readers are directed to has been unresponsive.

Worse, when one uses their browser on their iPad to try and reach the page through the website one is immediately rebuffed by the FT themselves who require you to register with the paper before accessing the story about the app. It's Catch 22, they don't want you to use the native app anymore, but are making it impossible to use their new solution.

For me, all this was inevitable: when you have media writers and critics telling publishers to avoid working with Apple you end up with a situation where conflict is inevitable. No surprise then that many independent publishers believe the App Store offers them the best chance to beat their old media competitors: when it comes to New Media traditional publishers have shown they haven't a clue.

Well, assuming the FT finally gets their web page to begin working again you might be able to get access this new version of the Financial Times. For now, this video will be the only someone will be to see what the publisher is trying to do here:

A few thoughts on apps and browsers, cloud computing and storage, security and the like

Here are just a few thoughts still bouncing around my brain this morning after a late night of watching the Giants win after one thousand innings, or whatever it was ...
With the Mac OS now geared towards full screen apps, everything computing (at least on the Mac side) will begin to resemble the tablet experience, rather than the other way around. But at the same time we are heading towards full screen apps along side full screen app publications, there is a counter move towards browser based solutions such as HTML5 magazines.

In the end, publishers need to ask themselves if they want their publications trapped inside the browser window, or trapped inside an app. The advantage to the browser is that it cuts across platforms – all PCs and tablets will come with browsers, of course. The advantage of apps is at least two fold: they utilize the entire canvas (even if that canvas sometimes is one size on one device and another on a different device) and that they can more quickly add features as Apple and Google add them to the platform's OS (an example being AirPlay).

It used to be said that online retailing would suffer because older consumers would be hesitant to buy online, handing over their credit card information to an online entity. Consumers, despite their ages, seem to have jumped that hurdle and now share far too much information online, including silly pictures of themselves in their underwear (oh, maybe that is only politicians).

Discussing some of the new features to be found in the new Mac OS, iOS and iCloud with some people yesterday I was struck by those who simply thought the whole thing irrelevant to them. Features like Versions, which automatically save and then recall past versions of documents, didn't really appeal to them, they already save multiple versions of their documents. The same was true of cloud storage, everything they need, they would say, is already on their laptops – they saw no need for constant access to their documents, they felt they already had that.

One part of me says that there is merit to this point of view, do we really need cloud storage options in this day of 2 TB hard drives, flash drives, etc. But at the same time it is clear that Apple, Amazon, Google, and a large number of consumers feel that this is the direction to go in.

But how will corporations feel about their employees using iCloud and similar services?

Apple is already starting to roll out some of the features to be found in their new vision of computing such as instant and simultaneous downloading and installing of apps (screenshot above).

In my case I download and install lots and lots of apps, then delete them almost as quickly. For me, having an app that I have downloaded for my iPad automatically installed on my iPhone means that I have to go back and uninstall it later on.

But, of course, my situation is unique. I think most users will find the service convenient – and, of course, like all things Mac, Apple will allow the user to turn this feature off (which is what I will do).

Monday, June 6, 2011

Apple posts iOS 5 Beta; developer site a bit overwhelmed

Apple posted its first beta version of its new iOS 5 software for developers to work with. Unfortunately, the developer site has been overwhelmed and is not performing as it should.
Developers would probably be wise to wait a few hours before trying to access the site.

Once you get there, however, you will be required to sign a new agreement (assuming you haven't done so already) before downloading the beta. Needless to say, only developers who are registered with Apple and have paid the $99 per year fee will be able to access the beta.

In addition to the ten new features highlighted in the keynote presentation this morning the beta will also reveal more new features, some of which were hinted at in the keynote: AirPlay mirroring, a new iPad music app, a personal dictionary, endless prosperity (OK, we made up that last one).

As an Apple developer I had no luck making it all the way through the Apple developer site due to the glitchy performance so I can not update media app developers about the beta at this time, so best of luck downloading the beta.

Will 'Newsstand' only include media apps that use Apple's in-app subscription service? new feature part of iOS 5

One of the new features inside iOS 5 that was announced today by Apple was Newsstand, a bookshelf-like place within the App Store where readers can get find their favorite publications – assuming they are part of the App Store.

Newsstand is a beautiful, easy-to-organize bookshelf displaying the covers of all your newspaper and magazine subscriptions in one place. A new section of the App Store™ features just subscription titles, and allows users to quickly find the most popular newspapers and magazines in the world. If subscribed to, new issues appear in the Newsstand and are updated automatically in the background so you always have the latest issue and the most recent cover art. – Apple Press Release
PhotobucketBased on this description, it would appear that those apps that don't take advantage of the in-app subscription process might be excluded. But Apple has not announced much about the new features and it is possible that this might simply be an extension of the App Store itself, simply another way to feature newspapers and magazines.

TNM has been consistent in calling Apple out for not curating its news app portfolio in a more logical way – both to help readers find periodicals and to assist media companies get their apps in front of readers. In the past the App Store has had a promotional area called Newsstand, but no real formal, permanent place for daily newspapers and monthly magazines.

The new beta of iOS 5 is being released today, so it is only a matter of time before developers get a handle on all the new features inside the latest version of Apple's mobile OS, and with the public release not until the fall, there is still time for rules for Newsstand to be worked out.

"iOS 5 has some great new features, such as Notification Center, iMessage and Newsstand and we can’t wait to see what our developers do with its 1,500 new APIs,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO in one of the company's rare press releases. “Perhaps iOS 5’s paramount feature is that it’s built to seamlessly work with iCloud in the Post PC revolution that Apple is leading.”

Note: this post on the WSJ website is a rather snarky take on the new Newsstand feature, while this one from Peter Kafka dismisses Apple's new iCloud Match service. Maybe Apple should pull the app for The Daily and tell News Corp. call RIM the next time they want to launch an app.

Apple lays outs its new software offerings for developers at WWDC opening event; free iCloud service introduced

Apple CEO Steve Jobs, along with key Apple executives today introduced major new software updates for Mac operating system, as well as its mobile iOS. In addition, Apple took the wraps off its new iCloud system.

Received like the rock star he has become, Steve Jobs kicked off Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference at Moscone Center by letting participants know that today's event would be all about software. Phil Schiller, SVP WW Product Marketing, and Craig Federighi, VP OS X Software, kicked things off with a tour of Lion, Apple's latest version of the Mac OS.

According to the presentation, the newest version of the Mac OS X will contain 250 new features, ten of which were demoed at today's event:

1) multitouch gestures available through your Mac's trackpad, or track pad accessory; 2) Full screen apps; 3) Mission Control, retake on Expose; 4) updates to the Mac App Store bringing it right into Lion; 5) Launchpad, a way of allowing users to quickly access and launch apps; 6) Resume, a way from programs to relaunch where the user left off before quitting; 7) Auto Save controls; 8) Versions, a sort of Time Machine for documents where users can retrieve previous versions of their work; 9) Air Drop, a peer-to-peer Wi-Fi-based network, essentially Dropbox built into the Mac OS; 10) and finally, a new version of Mail, Apple's email management app that adds a "Conversations" view.

(The "Versions" feature could be very useful for reporters and editors who need to write drafts of stories on the fly and will need to archive past versions.)

The new OS will only costs users $29.99 and will be available exclusively through the Mac App Store, eliminating the ol' CD way of installing upgraded OS's. The launch dates for Lion is sometime in July.

During the preview of iOS 5, Steve Jobs mentioned that so far the company has sold more than 25 million iPads. Though this number is impressive, it may be below many sales estimates, including my own.

Steve Forstall, senior vice president of iPhone Software, walked developers through ten of the more than 200 updates to the Apple mobile operating system:
1) Notifications will be getting an updates UI through Notification Center that will let users access their notifications instantly and from any place without being disruptive; 2) Newsstand, a single place in the App Store that combines newspapers and magazines that allows for background loading of content; 3) Twitter integration into apps, though this may depth of integration may prove less than what many anticipated; 4) a new version of mobile Safari (sorry, still no Flash) that includes Safari Reader, a sort of built-in Instapaper/Read It Later, as well as a tabbed experience similar to the desktop version; 5) Reminders, a list generation feature for such things as grocery lists; 6) Camera updates that will now allow users to use volume up button to take pictures, as well as other in-app enhancements like grid lines for composing shots, built-in editing, and photo enhancements; 7) Mail will get an update that includes search and composition aid features, as well as a built-in dictionary that all apps will now be able to access; 8) PC Free, freeing up iOS devices from having to sync through their computers, a much requested features from those who are using their mobile devices in lieu of a home PC; 9) Game Center, which now has 50 million users, will get an update; and 10) iMessage, a new messaging system between iOS devices (iPhone, iPad and iPod touch) which works on both 3G and WiFi and which will include deliver and read receipts – essentially BlackBerry Messenger for iOS devices.

Other features mentioned by not demoed include wireless AirPlay mirroring and WiFi syncing through iTunes. The developer "seed" will be available immediately and the ship dates is the fall, probably in line with the newest version of the iPhone.

One recurrent theme of the presentation was that Apple is adding features to its iOS that many developers have created apps for in the past – such as reading features, Reminders or the new camera features. Many developers won't happy that they are being edged out by Apple, but it is inevitable that Apple would want to incorporate popular features directly into its iOS platform.

Steve Jobs reserved the introduction of iCloud for himself. As Jobs described it, the problem solved by iCloud is syncing media such as music and photos between devices.

Collectrium releases separate English and Dutch language apps for Amstel Gallery

Part two of two: dealing with multiple language requirements in tablet publishing. Here the developer has created separate apps.

While embedding different content for different audiences, such as English for the U.S. market and French for the French market, is an option for some publishers and developers, the other option is simply to launch separate apps for each market. This is the approach Collectrium has taken with its apps for the Amstel Gallery.
Collectrium is a New York-based company founded in 2009 by Boris Pevzner. The company has over a dozen mobile apps in the App Store, many of them universal apps that can be used on the iPad, as well.

Each is for a different gallery or art fair, such as SF Fine Art, or Olympia LIAF for the London International Fine Art Fair.

This weekend a couple of new apps launched for the Amstel Gallery:

Amstel Gallery Features established and emerging artists from The Netherlands, Belgium, UK and USA. We participate in international art fairs and in addition to our regular exhibition schedule, we host and organize special exhibitions in combination with the fashion world.

Amstel Gallery offers high-end contemporary art, that is accessible, affordable to all and defined by a great versatility.
– from the app description.
One app is called aandeamstel (Aan de Amstel), and is the Dutch language equivalent of the English language app Amstel Gallery – both apps can be found in the U.S. Apple App Store.
Both apps are identical other than their languages. Both require you to create or sign into an account – a mechanism that would work very well for B2B apps, as well.

If there is a problem with the apps it is simply with the content itself. The artwork is presented in such a low resolution that it is difficult to actually judge the work presented. It appears that the artwork was probably scanned or photographed for presentation on mobile phone displays, but this simply doesn't work on the iPad's display.

None of Collectrium's other apps takes the approach of separate apps for separate languages. It is rather strange that the first one would be for an Amsterdam-based gallery since the Dutch are known as excellent speakers of English (one of the joys of visiting The Netherlands).

AA Mag tries to tackle the issue of languages with separate apps for different App Stores with mixed results

Part one of two: dealing with multiple language requirements in tablet publishing. Here the developer created one app with two languages.

It's a difficult question for a developer to answer: how do you deal with reaching readers using different languages? with different content within the same app, or with separate apps?
AA Mag, the digital magazine for the animation business in France does it with one app with the option to have delivered the English or French content. Designed by Alter Ego Medias, and developed by Onde M, both from Annecy, France, the app is free to download, and the content is free, as well.

(Annecy is in the Rhône-Alpes region of south-eastern France, and is the home of the Annecy International Animated Film Festival and Market, which is the subject of the digital magazine app.)

The language choice is to be found on the opening page of the app, but is, unfortunately, hidden from view unless one taps the screen. This design flaw is somewhat mitigated by the screenshot shown in the app description. Nonetheless, this should be visible right up from, otherwise readers may find themselves at a loss. (English is the default setting, so it is the French who are at a disadvantage.)

Of course, while the content can change to deliver the right language experience, the app's internal navigation commands should, as well. This is where this particular app falls down a bit. Navigating the library, or kiosk as it is called here, can be a bit difficult if you encounter the wrong language.

The digital magazine itself is delivered in small doses, 36 pages an issue, and the first issue was around 50MB, if I recall.

The navigation between pages is interesting: one swipes between pages but rather than seeing the pages move across the screen the pages instead pop in and out. It a bit of a different approach which I found a bit disconcerting, but I guess one could get used to this way of doing it.

Morning Brief: US accused by Canadian court of being enforcer for tech giant; Apple's WWDC kicks off today

A British Columbia Supreme Court judge accused Cisco and U.S. prosecutors of deceiving Canadian authorities in actions that led to the arrest of a whistleblower.

Justice Ronald McKinnon ruled that Peter Adekeye, a British computer entrepreneur and former for Cisco Systems employee will not be extradited following his arrest in Vancouver. According to the Vancouver Sun, Adekeye was arrested while testifying on May 20, 2010 before an American court hearing at the Wedgewood Hotel. He was arrested for supposedly not testifying, leading the Canadian judge to equate Adekeye's ordeal as something out of Jeosph Heller's novel Catch 22.

Adekeye was arrested after Canadian officials received information from U.S. authorities. Almost nothing in the U.S. attorney's letter was true," Adekeye's lawyer Marilyn Sandford said last week. But Canadian Justice Department lawyers argued that U.S. actions in the case were irrelevant, but in the end the judge disagreed stating that Adekeye's arrest was "shocking" and that "it is simply not done in a civilized jurisdiction that is bound by the rule of law."

Adekeye is suing Cisco over the issue of forced software updates and maintenance contracts, according to the Sun article.

Apple CEO will be kicking off the Worldwide Developer Conference at 1pm EDT today by introducing the newest Mac OS, named Lion, as well a new version of its mobile and tablet operating system, iOS 5, and iCloud.

Meanwhile, Apple opened its seventh retail outlet in France, this one in Lyon located in the Lyon Part-Dieu shopping center. As usual large crowds gathered prior to the opening and press showed up to cover the event.
Videos uploaded to YouTube show long lines of customers in line waiting for the opening. In fact, lines extended from inside the shopping center clear out side into the rain that fell on the summer morning.

Apple employees were shown being applauded like rock stars as they showed up for work before the opening.

The new store follows the same design as all Apple Stores and uses iPads to provide information on products displayed in the store.