Friday, September 21, 2012

Now you can find a store to buy the new iPhone 5 PLUS have a great lunch, thanks to the new Apple Maps

The iPhone 5 has been released to the public today and the usual lines formed outside Apple retail stores, as well as outside the retail outlets of retailers such as Best Buy and carriers like AT&T.

So at lunch time today I decided to leave the office to buy some supplies and maybe pick up a bite to eat. I also decided that I wanted to visit a store where I could check out the new iPhone to see how older apps were being displayed on the new, slightly larger screen.
So I fired up the new Maps app on my old iPhone 4S and searched for a local AT&T store.

The new Apple Maps app immediately found me a store – located, it would appear, right in the middle of a Thai restaurant (see left, click for larger view).

Now I want to tell you that those folks at AT&T are geniuses. Imagine, locating a store inside a restaurant. Perfect.

Yes, those Apple maps are going to be a problem, because it turns out that the owner of the Thai restaurant didn't understand what I was talking about when I asked her about the iPhone 5. "Where are you hiding it?" I asked.

Oh well. The Pad Thai was outstanding, however,

The Weather Channel makes their apps iOS 6 compliant (and yes, their maps look just fine)

When I saw this morning that The Weather Channel had updated its two iOS apps I had to wonder whether cities in South Carolina were now in Central America, or whether your local bridge appeared to be melting.

I've got good news, all appears to be fine.

Both free apps, The Westher Channel (for the iPhone) and The Weather Channel for iPad have been updated to make them iOS 6 compliant.

Yesterday, The Weather Channel's paid app, the $3.99 The Weather Channel Max, got its iOS 6 update.

So while I can report that each of the apps is working just fine, I can't guarantee that you'll enjoy a sunny, warm day. Sorry about that.

TGIF: Murdoch, France and melting highways

I think today is going to be a little strange. Maybe it's because the iPhone is going on sale today, or that it's the election season, but logic and sanity seems to be askew this morning.

Something is terribly wrong when... an abject failure gets a promotion.

James Murdoch 'set for top Fox Networks job'. Let's face it, some people's idea of free enterprise looks a lot like feudalism where the rich and entitled, the blue bloods, can do no wrong. In a meritocracy, James Murdoch would be more worried about posting bail than getting a new job. But James Murdoch is the son of the most powerful media mogul in the world, so his biggest worry is "redistribution".

Meanwhile, Scotland Yard has arrested 14 U.K. journalists in connection with the phone hacking scandal, but none of the rich and powerful.

Something is terribly wrong when... in the name of free speech protests are banned.

Free speech is looked on a little differently in France. France bans protests over Prophet Mohammad cartoons. So while it is OK to print anything you want, as long as you're the media, standing up and protesting against what is printed is forbidden. In France, apparently, you can stand up and yell "fire" in a crowded theatre, but not "that's wrong!"

Something is terribly wrong when... the road ahead of you looks to have melted.

A lot of people will be heading straight to their local retailers to buy a new phone, but will be getting lost on the way home. CNET News Crave
iPhone 5 finally hits the streets

Yes, today is the day that the iPhone 5 can be bought and picked up from your local retailer. Owners of previous models will be able to use Google Maps to find their way to the store (assuming they haven't updated their OS), but will soon discover that their phones won't be as reliable on the way home.

Apple has kind of admitted that their new maps app sucks, saying that the app will improve over time, but strangely they failed to mention this during their product launch event.
No doubt the news that the Maps app is pretty bloody awful won't prevent iPhone fans from lining up to buy the new device. But the real question left about the iPhone 5 remains... will it blend?

Update: the picture at left just got posted from an unknown source to Twitter (via 9to5Mac). Pretty funny, if you ask me. I wonder if Apple is laughing today, too?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Facebook updates its universal app to add support for iPhone 5 and make it iOS 6 compliant

Here is one of those app updates that means nothing to me, but that puts me definitely in a minority. It's Facebook, of course, and today it updated its universal app for Apple devices.

The update makes the app iOS 6 compliant, but also mentions support for the iPhone 5, and presumably its slightly larger display.

Lots of apps have been updated over the past few days, but the pace has slowed considerably (thank goodness, it's hard to keep up). But for many Facebook members this is an essential app – I know my wife feels that way.

Hearst Magazines releases a strange and poorly conceived tablet edition for its title Marie Claire, native app is a replica edition with the occasionally reformatted page

It's hard to figure out what the digital publishing strategy Hearst Magazines is employing with the release of the new tablet edition for Marie Claire. The new app delivers a large file for its October issue, but upon opening delivers what looks like a replica edition, but really isn't.
Hearst has a bit of a problem in the App Store with this title anyways. Prior to the release of Marie Claire iPad Edition, there were already several apps with the brand name Marie Claire already in the App Store, as well as inside the Apple Newsstand.

The Marie Claire name alone is currently being taken by the India edition of the magazine, while another magazine app is named Marie Claire Magazine North America. That app is purely a replica edition, priced at $7.99 per issue and, as you'd expect, is not making readers very happy. Even stranger, the app, despite its name, comes from the UK publisher of the magazine (IPC Media).

This app probably won't make them happy either.

The app, like all Hearst Magazine apps, requires readers pay for a digital subscription even if they are existing print subscribers. It is the main reason Hearst magazine apps receive such poor reviews inside the App Store.

(Disclosure: I am a former Hearst employee, though with the newspaper division, not Hearst Magazines.)
Here, at least, the prices are more reasonable: $3.99 for single copies, $1.99 for a monthly subscription, $19.99 for an annual subscription.

What one gets for those prices is the odd part: a strangely designed and conceived digital magazine that is 90 percent replica edition with some random pages reformatted for the tablet.

Many of the digital pages continue to have their bottom page folios still on them showing that the pages were straight conversions from print, while others have them taken off and text boxes added to the page. But the surrounding copy generally remains sized for print – in other words, barely readable.

The advertising, too, is replica. Since the app edition must be read in portrait, page upon page of two-page ad spreads pass by. Only in these cases is there a compromise as the reader is given the option to turn to landscape to see the full two-page spread.

But because the ads are taken straight from print, one can assume that the new tablet edition is not generating any new ad revenue. Combined with its subscription policies, Hearst is one strike away from being out.

Hearst Magazines is in desperate need of a new direction with its digital media strategy. These tablet editions are not cutting it and make the old NYC media company look like... an old NYC media company.

Left: The October issue is a large and very slow download; Middle: some pages are somewhat reformatted for the iPad edition, but most are not; Right: photography look fantastic on the new iPad, though two-pages ad spreads make little sense unless the tablet is turned to landscape, then they are unreadable.

Apple asks developers to they submit new sizes of screenshots if their apps support the new Phone 5

Apple sent out a notice last week to developers telling them that they should submit app updates that made their apps iOS 6 compliant as soon as possible. Strangely, the focus was totally on iOS 6 rather than the new iPhone, which has a new sized display.

Today, though, Apple got around to informing developers that if their apps are designed for the iPhone 5 in mind they should be submitting different sized screenshots. While the iPhone 4 sports a screen size of 960 x 640 pixels, the new iPhone 5 has a display that is 1136 x 640 pixels.

Because of this change, Apple wants screenshots at variations of the new size. Here are the screenshot sizes Apple says it will accept:
640 x 1136 (portrait)
640 x 1096 (portrait)
1136 x 640 (landscape)
1136 x 600 (landscape)
Apple warns that if a developer submits an app that takes advantage of the new iPhone 5 screen size, but does not submit properly sized screenshots the the status of your app will change to Missing Screenshot.

Walmart sees Amazon as too much of a competitor to continue selling its Kindle tablets and eReaders

You won't find the Kindles sold at Apple stores, and when you see iPads sold on it is through third parties (such as HillCountryLiquidationServices). But Walmart, which sells the iPad and iPhone, and doesn't make its own branded tablets, announced that after it goes through its existing inventory of Kindles they will no longer sell the device.

"We have recently made the business decision to not carry Amazon tablets and eReaders beyond our existing inventory and purchase commitments," Reuters reports Wal-Mart said in a memo yesterday. "This includes all Amazon Kindle models current and recently announced."

Walmart isn't the only major retailer to make this move. Target, too, has stopped selling the devices from

The problem isn't the device, of course, but the fact that Amazon's Jeff Bezos has been very clear that the reason for the device and its low pricing, is to encourage retail sales – potential sales that would be taken from both Walmart and Target, not to mention any other brick and mortar retailer (and online, as well).

These big retailers also compete with Apple for book and music sales, but Apple's retail activities are not in as many categories as Amazon's, and besides, it is clera that the profit focus is on the device, not as a loss leader.

As much as Amazon must hate losing third party retailers, I doubt they are shaking in their boots. The loss of major retailers like Walmart doesn't help their marketing efforts, but it won't spell the doom of the Kindle line in the same way it would a ban on Motorola or Toshiba products would.

What is interesting is that this move is coming from these retailers, rather than Best Buy, which has seen is music and movie sales pretty much disappear thanks to online retailers such as

United Airlines and American Airlines become two of the first domestic carriers to update their mobile apps to add support for Apple's mobile ticketing app, Passbook

Two of the largest domestic airlines today issued updates to their iOS apps to now include support for Apple's new mobile ticketing solution, Passbook. Unlike luggage, it looks as though travelers will be able to use the new ticketing solution free of charge (but no bag of peanuts).
United Airlines updated their app of the same name, as did American Airlines.

One can expect the other airlines to follow suit as most have mobile apps in the Apple App Store. Among overseas carriers, Lufthansa was among the first to update their iOS mobile application to add in support for Passbook.

App updates continue to be released by Apple at a frantic pace as developers rush to make their apps iOS 6 compliant. While most apps have been found to be fully functional without major updates, some apps such as SportsTap, are all but dead – whether this is simply caused by major bugs, or issues related to iOS 6 probably varies from app to app.

Major League Baseball and Fandango were two of the first app updates issued that revealed support for Apple's Passbook, introduced yesterday with the public release of iOS 6. Other popular apps such as Starbucks have yet to be updated though have already committed to supporting Passbook.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

CNN updates its iPhone, adds live TV closed captioning, claims design 'inspired by iPhone 5'

Make of this what you will, but the newly updated iPhone app from CNN says it sports a design "inspired by the display of the iPhone 5." OK

Whatever the media company means by that is anybodies guess, but the real reason for the update was surely to make sure their new app is iOS 6 compliant (and it is, at least as tested on my own iPhone).
The updated app also adds in an important new feature: live TV closed captioning. As seen above-right, the closed captioning button is on the bottom-right of the video controls. Pressing the icon instantly pulls up closed captioning. The feature is pretty neat and will come in handy when you'd prefer to watch the news while stuck in a long meeting, but don't want to let your boss know what you're doing.

MLB updates its universal app to make it iOS 6 compliant; 16x9 video now supported for the iPhone 5

It is almost impossible to keep up will all the app updates Apple is pushing through its system. Developers have submitted app updates to make sure their apps will function correctly in the iOS 6 environment, and also to take advantage of some of the new features in Apple's new mobile operating system.
When you think of all the apps that could take advantage of Apple's new Passbook features, MLB At Bat isn't one of those that immediately comes to mind. But lo and behold the app now sports Passbook integration for ticket buying at select venues. Not surprisingly, San Francisco's AT&T Park is one of those places you will be able use Passbook (assuming you can get a ticket, of course), but Citi Field (NY), Fenway Park (Boston) and Kauffman Stadium (Kansas City) are others.

The new update is also one of the first (if not the first) update that mentions that it will now support 16x9 video for the iPhone 5 and fifth generation iPod touch.

Netflix updated its universal iOS app two days ago but while the app description mentions an updated user interface and other improvements, no mention of supporting 16x9 video was mentioned in the update.

Digital Publishing Suite, Single Edition apps now free for those Mac owners who are Creative Cloud members; Single Editions still priced at $395 for non-members

Adobe Systems announced today that those that have signed up for Creative Cloud can now create Digital Publishing Suite, Single Edition apps free of charge. There is no limited to the number of apps a developer can submit, though there are a number of important guidelines to the program.

To create and launch an app using Digital Publishing Suite, Single Edition free the customer will have to be a registered Apple Developer and use a Mac to create their apps as the program only applies to the Apple App Store, and the viewer app, DPS App Builder, is a Mac program.

The biggest requirement, of course, is that you must be signed up for one of the Creative Cloud plans. Currently Adobe is offering an Intro plan that costs $29.99 per month. This plan requires a 1-year contract and that the user have a CS3 or later serial number. The introductory rate applies for first year, after that the monthly rate goes up to the regular price of $49.99 per month.

Developers who want to submit apps for Android platforms, including the Kindle, are being directed to Adobe's Pro and Enterprise editions.

Single Editions are apps that will not be able to house a library for continuous publishing, so the program has always been of limited value to publishers of periodicals. With this change, however, there may be some publishers who will want to use this system to launch special sections, annuals, and other products that have either a long shelf life (like a Buyers Guide or Yearbook) or which are published infrequently.

Fandango issues update that adds Passbook support

Apple will be releasing iOS 6 to the public today and one of the new features contained in the newest version of the mobile operating system is a new app: Passbook.
The app works a bit like Newsstand in that app developers can add in Passbook support when developing their apps. But unlike Newsstand, Passbook doesn't require developers to forego stand-alone apps.

Instead, the way Passbook works is that when an iPhone user buys a ticket through an app such as Fandango, the ticket can be sent to Passbook for storage.

So when Fandango updated its universal iOS app this morning, Fandango Movies – Times & Tickets, the app will not disappear from their devices when updated, as they do with Newsstand.

Look for a lot more updates today and through the end of the week. Apps from Starbucks and other retailers will need to be updated if the companies want to add in support for Passbook. Of course, a developer could choose to keep their tickets and coupons residing solely in their stand-alone apps, but unlike Newsstand, the benefits of this approach are minimal.

Mag+ updates its reviewer app to add support for the iPhone; single issue pricing is raised to $999 per issue

With the release of iOS 6 today from Apple, due in a matter of hours, tons of app updates are flooding the App Store. Some updates, like that for the universal app for Bloomberg Businessweek+, are specifically to make sure their apps are iOS 6 compliant (and in this case, to also add in retina support).
But the update to the Mag+ Reviewer app coincides with the release of version 4.0 of the Mag+ platform.

Prior to the app update, Mag+ maintain two separate apps for the iPad and iPhone. But the update makes Mag+ Reviewer a universal app now. The update also adds a library to the app so a designer can store for review in the app.

As for version 4.0 of Mag+, Mike Haney writes on the Mag+ website that the underlying code has been completely rewritten.

"The old codebase was written before the iPad even existed—it was a herculean effort done in the 61 days between iPad announcement and launch," Haney writes. "But the Mag+ has evolved a lot since those early days, as has the iPad, and the code has just been continuously bolted onto for the past two years, making it ever harder for our devs to work with. So six months ago, we asked ourselves: 'If you were building a Mag+ reader today, how would you build it?'"

The code change improves the resolution of page previews and makes changes to the user interface.

The new version is, as you'd expect, iOS 6 compliant.

Prospect clients yesterday noticed a major change in the pricing of single issues created with Mag+. Previously the company offered a Per Issue option priced at $199. But the company has raised the price of this option substantially, now pricing the Per Issue option at $999.

The price level effectively ends the company's limited feature offering and creates a new single issue product. Mag+ admits it is reacting to a new pricing scheme at Adobe.

"We heard loud and clear from our clients that they don't want to choose between features and price. So we killed the limited feature app - everybody gets everything we offer - no upsells, no add-ons," Haney told TNM this morning. "And we also heard emphatically that publishers want the flexibility of paying only when they publish, rather than locking into a monthly fee while they're still testing and exploring the market. And, we still let clients host themselves or pay us only for the data they serve, so they don't get have to invest up front in expensive monthly downloads."

"We know that you now have the option of a single-issue app on Adobe for $395 for $600 less than our lowest-cost app. At the same time, for some of the things we offer at $999, you'd have to go to Adobe's Enterprise model, which costs tens of thousands of dollars per year," Haney said.

"But we're not in a price war on the app front. That would be suicidal for us - we're a lean startup focused entirely on digital publishing and we already give away the tools, so we gotta charge for something to stay in business; they're a behemoth who could give away apps if they wanted to. That's why we have to just keep focusing on making sure that while we offer similar capabilities, there are plenty of differences—in cost, capability, culture, support, workflow—and that clients checking out both solutions will often find us the one that makes most sense for them. And if not, we wish them luck!"

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fairfax Media (Australia) releases attractive news app for The Canberra Times; app resides in Apple's Newsstand but does not currently ask for a paid subscription

Fairfax Media, the Australian media giant, has released a new iPad app for The Canberra Times. The app, The Canberra Times for iPad, is similar in look and navigation design to the apps released for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald which were original released way back in May of last year (see original post here).
It's a bit of a head scratcher as to why it took so long to release a tab edition for its paper in Canberra (the capital city of Australia).

All three of the apps from Fairfax Media are identical, which is a good thing for readers since access to the content is free of charge.

The tablet editions take their content from the paper's websites and so duplicate the function of the web, but in a native tablet design. From a reader's perspective, these are nice apps that work wonderfully. Probably the best feature is the menu that allows readers to download lots of content from the paper's sections and magazines.

From a publisher's perspective, though, the apps make no sense due to the lack of a paid subscription model and the lack of advertising.

The reason for this model, though, is probably to be chalked up to the fact that Fairfax Media plans to construct paywalls on the websites of its newspapers. Once that happens one can assume that readers will be required to sign up for some sort of digital subscription in order to continue to access content on their iPads.

The app description clearly states "free for a limited time," but this warning has been on the apps for The Age and the SMH since they launched last year. It turns out that "a limited time" was from the perspective of the universe, not human beings.


The digital newsstand battle: Apple, Google & Amazon make it harder for new and independent publishers to get noticed in their digital newsstands

Any print publisher who sells single copies knows that their is both an art and a science to getting the attention of readers on physical newsstands. Covers are analysed for their ability to grab the reader and make them buy, while newsstand positioning will either encourage or kill single copy sales.

For many fledgling digital publishers, the lure of digital magazines is that they can avoid newsstand distributors, and the battle against established titles by going digital.

But the reality is not matching the promise, as Apple, Google and Amazon are each working hard to promote established magazine and newspaper brands at the expense of newer titles.

The playing field inside Apple's Newsstand once was fairly even. Yes, Apple promoted big brands at the top of page of their iTunes or iPhone/iPad Newsstands, but in the "All Newsstand Apps" area, magazines and newspapers the default sort option was by release date.

Publishers of brand new app editions knew that the time immediately after release was the most important time for reader downloads. If they could grab the attention of readers, and Apple, they might then appear in the top apps charts or get promoted in "What's Hot", or the "News and Noteworthy" areas.
But Apple now uses "Recent Bestsellers" as the default sorting algorithm and it will certainly effect future publishers.

Today, in the section where new apps were most frequently seen, The New York Times, People Magazine, Health & Fitness and The Daily are at the top of the page – all come from big name publishers.

Only be manually resorting the search results can one find a magazine such as Modern Entrepreneur, a start-up that has launched its digital magazine exclusively through the Apple Newsstand.
Modern Entrepreneur Magazine looks to be using AppifyWP2 as its app creation tool, a solution, as the name suggests, works with WordPress.

Apple isn't the only one hard on new publishers and easy on the big boys. Both Google Play and Amazon make it nearly impossible for new apps from small and independent publishers to be found inside their digital newsstands.

Google has a section called New Arrivals that does not actually display new digital publications at all. How they sort their "new arrivals" is anybody's guess. At least Apple gives the reader the option to sort by release date.

One can understand why the tech and retail giants are doing this: making it easier for the big name publishers to sell more copies of People or Cosmo means more sales overall for the newsstand owners. Apple, Google and Amazon have quickly learned something newsstand distributors have known for years, for every copy of Modern Entrepreneur that is sold, many more copies of Time or Vogue will find their ways onto iPads or Kindles.

Sadly, Apple may be inadvertently killing the very publishing revolution they helped spawn with the release of the iPad in 2010.

A flood of updates get submitted, released before launch of iOS 6; New York Times, Guardian release updates

Today owners of iPhones and iPads are getting notified that they have apps to update as developers rush to get their revised apps to consumers ahead of the public release of iOS 6 on Wednesday.
I have been on iOS 6 since last week and can tell you that a number of apps will not work properly without being updated. SportsTap, as an example, has stopped function since updating to iOS 6 – though reviews inside the App Store show that some customers have been complaining about the app for a while now, indicating that it might not be directly related to iOS 6.

The New York Times today updated its NYTimes for iPad app, but does not specifically mention iOS 6 compliance, though one assumes that was the reason for the update.

The Guardian, too, issued an update to one of its apps without mentioning iOS 6. The Guardian Eyewitness merely mentions bug fixes in its app description.

Other developers specifically mention making their apps compliant with iOS 6 in their updates. Amex for iPad and Harrods Magazine being two examples of apps updated this morning to make sure they will function properly after the release of the new OS.

The eBook reader app Kobo also issued an update today. It lists iOS 6 compliance, as well as new fonts that will be available to readers, including Avenir, which requires iOS 6.

Both Dropbox and Netflix issued updates this morning, and although neither mention iOS 6, one can't help but think that both apps all too essential or popular to fail to be thoroughly tested in the iOS 6 environment.

Finally, Twitter issued an update to its universal iOS app. Whenever Twitter issues an update controversy ensues – we'll see how this update is received, as the update is so new that there are no user reviews currently in the App Store. (This is the one app I always hold off on updating until I know what to expect.)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Hands on with the new Kindle Fire HD; the user experience remains less than optimal despite improvements; load times and browser remain issues

If a cigarette can be described as a nicotine delivery system, than the new Kindle Fire HD can be described as an delivery system.
Despite the sometimes brilliant product launch demonstration by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, which promised the very best tablet, the new Kindle Fire HD is less than impressive when demoed.

For owners of the first generation Kindle Fire the first question has to be whether the new Kindle Fire HD is a major upgrade. That is a tough question to answer because the 8.7" version has yet to be released.

The new Kindle Fire HD comes with a screen resolution of 800×1280. The first generation model's screen resolution was 600×1024, a difference just too small for me to notice immediately.

The units on display at retailers come stocked with magazines inside the Amazon Newsstand, but because each of the magazines is a replica edition, the Kindle Fire HD looks like a horrible device for reading your favorite periodicals. This is the fault of the Amazon team which is not showing off its devices in the best light, though one could continue to argue that a 7" tablet is still a bad device for reading anything but books.

The Kindle Fire HD's browser appears to continue to be slow to load web pages. And while one could argue that the WiFi to be found at a retail store is going to be less than optimal, the fact remains that even when on data the experience was not good.
My own demo, though, pointed out something that web designers need to keep in mind: the Kindle Fire will not act like your typical mobile device. While the tablet is driven off a customized version of Android, many websites will not recognize the device and display a mobile website. For me, this is fine – but other Android tablets will display the mobile website of TNM.

Best Buy promoted the Kindle Fire HD in its weekend circulars, and my own local store had plenty in stock and was promoting them with its own display. But in a nearly empty, I found it interesting that while I was demoing the new Kindle Fire HD two customers completed purchases of two new iPads.

Meanwhile, the other product being heavily promoted was the iPhone 5 as the retailer was pushing pre-orders.

The new Kindle Fire HD seems like it might be a good solution for those buyers who are attracted to the $199 price tag. If you are a Kindle owner who wants the combine the eReader features of their existing Kindle with tablet features, the Kindle Fire HD might be a good choice. Hard core eBook readers though would probably prefer a dedicated device like the Kindle Paperwhite.

Apple may have made its first big blunder with Maps; will Google release its own iOS maps app, or would they be smart to keep their service exclusive to Android?

I've been an iPhone user since the fall of 2007 and I've often laughed at Apple critics who yearly predict the eventual decline of the iPhone. This year, with the release of the iPhone 5, it looks like once again Apple will break sales records, not to mention profit records.
But this weekend I had my first "oh-oh" moment with the iPhone.

I had loaded the gold master of iOS 6 earlier in the week and played around with the new software. There is not much different with iOS 6, disappointedly. A new Panorama feature inside the camera app is fantastic, though – I tested it out quite a number of times and came up with great results. I truly feel sorry for those developers with their own pano apps, it's time for them to move on.

I also "looked at" the new Apple maps. The new maps are powered by TomTom and will replace the Google Maps app that previous was standard in the iOS system.

The old Google Maps app was designed by Apple, so the new app almost looks identical. A lot of effort, or maybe none at all, was expended to make sure users did not immediately see a difference.

Maps can not be easily tested. One can do a few searches, look at a few locations, but the real test of any navigation tool is in its day-to-day use.

So this weekend I did my first real world tests of the new Apple maps – and they failed miserably.

First, some important disclosures: I live in the Chicago area, not the backwoods. A major metropolitan area should be an easy test for any mapping software.

My test, too, was an easy one: locate a major, gigantic retail store, located right off the freeway and easily see from that same freeway. Also, make sure it is a national brand, not some obscure retailer.

OK, search.

TomTom could locate stores by the same name miles away, but the store I was near was not identified. I looked at the satellite view and there it was. So why couldn't my iPhone find this nearby store?

Later, just to confirm, I did the same search, but at home, further away from the locate of any of the retailers stores. This search produced no results at all.

Left: You can't miss it, the local Costco, located right off the freeway; Middle: Oops, the new Apple maps can not find or identify the store; Right: But the old Google Maps, seen on an iPhone using iOS 5, had no problem finding the store.

This is only one anecdote and so one shouldn't read too much into it. But many have wondered why Google has not released a new maps app for iOS – has the app been held up by Apple? After all, there is a clear rule that no apps can be approved that duplicate the basic function of the phone. But other browsers have been approved, so one would think Apple would be hard pressed to justify not approving a Google Maps app.

Maybe Apple is delaying the approval of a Google Maps app until after the iPhone ships, allowing users to try out the new app first.

Or maybe Google has not submitted their own app. If I were an executive at Google I would have commanded that the company develop the app but not submit it until they had a chance to test out Apple's new mapping solution.

If the new Apple maps prove to be as disappointing as they at first seem to be, why would Google release an app for iOS. Instead, by keeping their maps exclusive to Android, they may now have a features so important to users that many iPhone users may consider a switch.

If Apple Maps are the iPhone's Achilles' heel, Apple would have only themselves to blame for what could follow next.

Gannett unveils its beta website for USA TODAY, a mix of the worst of the old site with some good new ideas

Beta websites are, I suppose, of value in testing out new systems, for making sure that what looks good on the designers desktop still is fine on everyone else's screen, as well. But betas are also launched when the management team is divided in its opinion of the look, feel and functionality of the new website.

If Gannett's team isn't divided in its opinion of the new website for USA TODAY, I certainly am.

The beta site, launched this weekend, seems to combine some of the worst elements of the old site – still live at its URL – along with some interesting new ideas.

The new site keeps the row of RSS driven headlines right up on top and substitutes a somewhat larger photo story box for the existing one. It's a very conservative and disappointing start to the new site.

But the home page does add some elements on the left and right of the page which are both new and of interest.
The real changes are found once you click on a story or click on the arrows that take you to different sections. Rather than describe the changes, it's probably best that you either check out the site yourself, or watch the short video below:

The beta website is definitely just a beta. How can you tell? Where are the ads?

If Gannett really were to launch an adless website for USA TODAY that would truly be radical – and they just might. But I doubt it.

I think I'll let the designers chew on this beta site a while before letting myself come to any conclusions. But if I have one big impression of the new site it is this: the articles look like they were designed for a tablet, with the same action and layouts seen in a tablet edition.

Is this an improvement over traditional web navigation and design, or merely a result of the design-once for multiple devices approach that I dislike so much.

The new beta site looks as if it were designed to be read exclusively on a tablet, and it seems to actually work best in that environment.

If the digital team intends for the new site to replace USA TODAY's existing iPad app, that would free up the team to create a new tablet edition that has a completely new business model. The existing app is free of charge and is run of the RSS feeds of the website making it redundant.

The quarterly art and fashion magazine BULLETT issues a native designed tablet edition for Apple's Newsstand

It's hard to over estimate the advantage quarterly magazines have when it comes to being able to create tablet editions. The production cycle is such that building a tablet edition of a print magazine is almost leisurely (though I'm sure the art directors wouldn't admit to that).
Any quarterly that chooses to go the replica route, therefore, could easily be accused of just being lazy. BULLETT, the new tablet edition from the magazine of the same name, certainly wasn't lazy when it created its digital magazine.

Launched late last week, BULLETT is to be found only in the Apple App Store, where its app supports the Newsstand. Individual issues $2.99, and an annual subscription is $19.99.

Now if that pricing seems strange is is because the iPad magazine says it will be available monthly. I have to wonder if this was a mistake by the app team or whether the plan really is to try and produce the tablet edition monthly,

With all the video, slideshows and animation in this digital edition I would think that print would be far easier to produce monthly than this intense product.

Below are two videos (one after the jump) that give you a flavor for this tablet edition.

The first is a walk-through of the "teaser" edition which is available free of charge in the app.

The second is a promotional video the publishing team has produce to promote the next issue labeled the Romance issue.