Monday, April 16, 2012

The Washington Post issues update to its iPad edition that adds push notifications; Apple issues iBooks 2 update

I guess you could call this one of those "it's about damn time" updates. The Washington Post has issued an update to its The Washington Post for iPad that finally ads push notifications to the app.

The iPad news app remains outside the Newsstand, which is probably appropriate as the app continues to be less a tablet edition than a tablet version of the website. The app and its contents remains free of charge, though the app description continues to say this is for "a limited time."

Hi-res iPad image here.
Push notifications have been an important feature of news apps for quite some time – the NYT's apps being good examples. Some use these notifications wisely, others spam their readers with just about any headline.

Editors seem to be experimenting with the tool and sometimes they are used a bit unwisely (did I really need to get that notification about the Giants winning the Super Bowl an hour after the game?)

Notifications, though, feels under developed. While Apple improved the look and feel of notifications with an iOS update last year, and created the Notifications Center feature, it still needs improvements that could make the feature a real communications tool. For instance, I may want national and political news notifications from The Washington Post, but I could care less about the Redskins or Nationals. Can I customize the notifications themselves?

It is rather indicative of the place The Post is that notifications has finally come to its iPad app. I've always felt the company believed that it was on top of things digital, while really being way behind the curve. (Maybe I am still mad about them sending to Cahners Marc Teren.)

As for its iPad app, I think it would be a mistake to simply move the existing app into Newsstand and begin charging for the content. The plan may be to eventually launch a paywall for the website and then begin charging for access to the iPad edition, but a better move would be to create a new separate tablet edition and charge for that within Newsstand. That new product would mirror – somewhat - the print edition, with all its sections and supplements. Print subscribers could access that app for free, which forcing others to pay for the daily editions. It would also allow the paper to continue to publishing fully open on the web (if that is their goal).

We'll see what approach they take when this "limited time" finally is over.

Apple has issued a couple of updates to its own branded apps.

The iBooks 2 app has been updated and the app description mentions fixing a sing-in problem as well as "minor stability and performance improvements."

But Apple is a bit sly about its updates and they often occur just before a new feature is introduced. I'm not saying this update is anything other than a bug fix; but, still, I wouldn't be surprised if there is something else going on here.

I checked the Mac App Store to see if there was a new update to iBooks Author, but the latest update for that authoring tool was in March and it added 'retina' support for eBooks to be read on the new iPad. (I should add that the template program from Jumsoft, Book Pallet, was also updated last month adding ten new templates to iBooks Author.

Apple also updated its Cards program, but still has not made the app universal (despite the iPad having a camera). The update ads Mother's Day and Get Well cards (I saddened to report that I need both for my elder mother).