Thursday, September 6, 2012

Morning Brief: Amazon event today wraps up week of product launches before next week's Apple iPhone 5 event; Zinio adds push notifications to its iOS digital newsstand; TPM updates PollTracker

Tablet and cell phone makers, trying to one-up Apple, scheduled a series of product introductions this week, hoping to upstage the Apple iPhone event next week Wednesday.

Nokia looked like they had a winner of an event for its new Windows phone driven Lumia 920yesterday until Nokia CEO Stephen Elop mentioned that there was no set launch date and no pricing to announce. This sent Nokia's stock diving as the company continued the string of phantom product launches, now all too common among tech companies. The event even included an appearance by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who himself held a launch event to show off its Surface tablet, again without being able to have a solid launch date or pricing.

But things got worse for Nokia when The Verge posted a story exposing the fact a new commercial for the Lumia, which was all about showing the video capabilities of the new smartphone, were actually faked – forcing the company to issue an apology and back tracking on the commercial. The move was not only embarrassing, but will prove costly (I assume ad agencies continue to charge for their work).

Today Amazon holds, what one hopes, will be a more significant product launch event today at 10:30 a.m. PT (1:30 p.m. ET) in Santa Monica. The press conference is expected to center around new Kindle Fire launches, but I suppose they could surprise us with something else.

The Kindle Fire was an instant hit last Christmas season because of its aggressive pricing and its tie to the online retain giant. But users (like myself) have found the tablet a bit of a disappointment once in use. Whether buyers will flock to a new Kindle Fire, or else simply wait for Apple's anticipated release of a smaller iPad, may be what determines the new product's level of success.

Zinio updated its universal iOS app this morning. The update will seem pretty small for many users initially, but may be important in the long term. The new version of the app, version 2.2.5, now sports push notifications (something I didn't even realize was missing).

With notifications, which are turned on by the user in settings, the Zinio app can not let readers know they have new magazines available for reading inside the app.

It's pretty interesting that the app was missing such a fundamental bit of coding, but the addition will be appreciated by many readers.

Apple, probably in preparation for the release of iOS 6, today issued an update for its own Apple Store app. The app not only allows you to buy Apple products directly through the app, but serves as a self check out for a customer once inside a physical Apple retail store.

My daughters are always fascinated by the way the app works and allows users to scan their own purchases and walk out of the store without ever be in contact with an Apple employee (it feels like stealing to them).

I find it interesting that so many reviewers inside the App Store complain about this app because the app lacks iPad support. I suppose this is a sign that some iPad owners walk around with their iPads as they would an iPhone.

Apple also updated its Podcasts app, an app I have not personally used. This is one of those rare Apple apps that users have trashed with their reviews inside the App Store. Reviewers are complaining about virtually everything about the app from design, bugs, crashes, etc.

Talking Points Memo issued an app update for its iPhone app PollTracker. I think the most significant thing about the app update is simply that it has occurred so soon after the launch – a good sign that TPM will take app seriously.

TPM, it seems to me, would a really good candidate to launch its own digital tablet magazine. The political website is in a good position to create a political weekly or monthly that can do longer form reporting and features. (Call me Josh, we'll talk about it.)