Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ada Lovelace day

Today is Ada Lovelace day, in which we are celebrating women in science and computing.

Daryl Rayner is the Exact Editions Managing Director and one of the three founders of the company (with Tim Bruce and me, Adam Hodgkin). Daryl has a wonderful record of persistently and courteously creating business on the web, at Exact Editions and in her previous career. In fact she was in the 1990's the first web marketing manager for Nature, the leading scientific research magazine. Ada would have approved of that. Because of her name, Daryl is in email correspondence quite often mistaken for a man. That doesn't faze her, in fact Daryl is not easily fazed. Here she is looking at her iPhone in the British Library (where as it happens much of Ada Lovelace's correspondence is to be found).

Perhaps Daryl is checking out one of the Exact Editions apps. I think Ada Lovelace would have been delighted with apps......

Monday, March 22, 2010

Five Osprey Apps - Military History on the iPhone

Exact Editions and Osprey Publishing announced the launch of an initial group of apps for the iPhone/iPad market today. There is a full press release here.

Free samples of the books are available through iTunes from these icons

Philippi 42 BC:

The First Crusade:

Warsaw 1944:

Fredericksburg 1862:

Iwo Jima 1945:

These apps illustrate a couple of important points for publishers who are considering the iPhone/iPad market.

  1. The Osprey Campaign books are richly illustrated book and they show why an 'app' approach is much more natural and scaleable for highly illustrated works. The quality of the illustrations, the battle plans, and maps goes to the heart of the value that Osprey offer its readers. An eBook of the same resource would miss much of the value if it ignored the illustrations (cf yesterday's blog about books as apps)
  2. The iPhone gives the publisher an excellent forum in which to showcase richly illustrated books. So the 'freemium' offering which Exact Editions will now offer as the standard way of presenting books and magazines on the iPhone, should be thought of as a way of promoting and sampling the quality of the book to an audience which initially will not have to pay a cent. The Osprey titles have about 8% of their content available through the free sample.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Suppose all Books are Apps?

The idea that books might work as apps on the iPhone first struck home when I heard someone say that the idea did not scale well.... So for me this 'books as apps' meme started with the negative idea that books would not work too well as apps in the iPhone economy. But sales in the iPhone app store suggest that books as apps are working very well (customers are buying them) and in the last few months the notion has been tickling me that books really will be apps on the iPhone and this is a significant breakthrough.

But let us step a bit and ask (in non-technical terms): what is an app? FOLDOC has a reasonable definition: "A complete, self-contained program that performs a specific function directly for the user." But the term has come to mean a bit more than this and now seems to broadly correspond to this family of features:

  1. Apps are client side programs (relatively small packages of code that operate in the phone).
  2. Apps have a rather well-defined function; even if like Accuweather, or the Google Maps app this function is very wide-ranging and comprehensive over a significant domain; or like the Brushes app, or a camera-app, the function is highly generative and capable of incredibly rich output.
  3. Apps are elements of software which are not system software (which means that users can and will choose whether or not to have them. The world is not going to collapse if you do without the 'project management' app or the 'slimming' app)
  4. Apps are sourced from an app store (or something like that), which might well have a complex set of purchase options and advertisement-related rules.
  5. Apple's apps are not (yet) multi-tasking, but they are to a degree interdependent. It is a big achievement of the iPhone O/S that sets of apps can work rather well together (social network apps become much more powerful by leveraging the output of other web service apps; camera apps can provide input for augmented reality apps, etc)
  6. Furthermore, many apps are internet dependent even though, (see 1 and 3 above), they are client-side and optional. This means that many of the most useful apps, like the Google Maps app, are crucially dependent on an internet service, a cloud-based database system, or for a Twitter client such as Tweetie, on a pre-existing a web application (Twitter) to give them their scope and real-time functionality.
While these several features may not give us a necessary and sufficient set of conditions for the definition of 'app' and its precise meaning, I think they show that this notion is a really rich concept which is taking on a critical role in the way that we think about mobile computing and the web. And that is the key point to understanding apps: the web and the internet is the ground on which they operate. Apps are merely toys if they are not open to, and using web services. This is also a very reassuring point about the app concept.

Some critics of Apple, such as John Battelle and Jonathan Zittrain, believe that the company is trying to close off developers and tie down consumers to a purely Apple walled garden. Whether or not Apple are trying to do this, and they clearly are trying and succeeding in policing their own app store, it is obvious that Apple cannot hope to achieve an exclusive domain and an effective monopoly in the distribution of media content. The way apps work -- using internet services to get any breadth, currency or scale -- is far too open and web-dependent to allow anybody to make a real walled garden for apps. These web services are inherently too pervasive and leaky. Apple cannot do this because its software system is crucially dependent on leveraging the economies and technologies of the internet and the web. So long as the Apple system supports standard web browsers there will always be competition and effective competition in the iPhone eco-system from web services and web apps. Further it is pretty clear that Apple's success in building an app store and an e-commerce system for media properties on their platform will breed competitors. There are plenty of burgeoning competitors to the Apple app store and some of them will be successful (Android looks like the best bet for serious competition). No app developer or media publisher is going to rest easy with an Apple-only media landscape.

The funny thing is, it now looks as though Apple is beginning to fall back from the idea that books are apps. The big launch event that book publishers are anticipating with the release of the iPad is the arrival of the iBooks application in which books are treated as digital files (with an ePub file format), not as individual apps at all. This is a bit strange, because Apple is putting itself on all fours with its obvious competitor for books: Amazon which already has a well accepted and free app on the iPhone for its Kindle customers. We will see how that works out....Exact Editions at least is working on the assumption that some books are certainly best treated as apps, and that magazines also will work best on the iPhone and on similar platforms if they are launched and developed as internet-driven apps.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What if Tim Berners-Lee had Invented Twitter?

This is one of those nicely ambiguous counterfactuals. Contrast, as David Lewis does:

If Caesar had been in command [in Korea] he would have used catapults
If Caesar had been in command he would have used the atom bomb

In this case I am thinking about catapults. I mean Twitter is obviously a much simpler system than the web and in that respect it might have been easier for a researcher in 1992 to dream up a good way of sharing citations amongst internet-connected scientists. Also the grammar of Twitter is much thinner, less ambitious and more constrained than the grammar of HTML. Precisely because Twitter is a lot simpler than the web, it would seem at least possible that it could have evolved sooner than it did, just as catapults came before atom bombs (OK -- I know that we didnt have SMS in 1991 so it wasn't there to be canibalised, but please don't spoil the fun). Let us suppose that Twitter had come first, that Tim Berners Lee had come up with some consistent, open, distributed, asymmetrical protocols for sharing references and very short messages across the internet. Surely that was the kind of scientific communication tool and update system that the CERN bosses would have been looking for? They could have given him a straightforward promotion. Why did he have to give them so much more? What would be so different with the way the internet is now if he had given them less?

The web would be a lot smaller. There would not be so many big files. So many big web pages. The web would have been very different if TBL had limited a web page to 140K. The web as a Twitter-verse would presumably be a lot flatter, more horizontal. Fewer pools of database-driven depth. There would still have been spam (Twitter has about as much spam as the web). There would have still have been porn and nice graphics (Marc Andreessen could have saved himself several man months and invented Twitpic, which would have been much easier than writing Mosaic). There would also have been much more indirection (, tinyurl would have taken the place of Yahoo and Google) a lot more opacity (domains, countries, languages being harder to organise in the Twitter framework). TBL would have found it as hard as the Twitter founders to discover a business model for the invention (that is the penalty for inventing a new syntax). But it could still have spread like wildfire, as indeed Twitter has spread like wildfire these last three years....

However it is a good thing that Tim invented what he did, catapulted us into the 21st Century with his super-collider of an invention and left it for Dorsey, Stone and Williams to pick up the other simpler, similar, idea. Later. These counterfactual musings are prompted by yesterday's announcement that Twitter is now developing a new @anywhere service layer, which suggests to me that Twitter will become an even finer-grained and more diaphonous network, parasitic on the web, but aiming to interconnect as many web resources and web services as possible in a layer of commentary and shared perception. It is as though the Twitter founders are trying to fill the conversational interstices in the gaps left by the operation of web services. This proposition may have important implications for publishers and media.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Five Visions of the Magazine App

The Guardian on Friday had a convenient round up of some of the YouTube demos of magazine or newspaper concept apps. There were five demos, here they are (with a few comments):

  1. Adobe Wired demo. This is a concept, but it has substance. Adobe and Wired have done some real work to realise the concept. The problem is that it is predicated on Adobe Air technology which certainly will not be a reliable way to deploy apps on the iPad/iPhone. Of this demo John Battelle has the sour observation: "Except the truth is, the app was developed by Adobe and Wired engineers using InDesign and Air, which run on operating systems that are open and allow anyone to play as long as the code compiles correctly (this is true for Windows, Mac, Linux…but not the iPhone or iPad)." John is sour at Apple, not complaining about Adobe or Wired.
  2. BERG and Bonnier demo (a bit long, 8 mins) Another design concept working at a high level of abstraction. They have some strong ideas, but there would be a huge overhead needed to shift magazines into this form of distribution. Berg envisage apps which will support two different methods of reading (roughly 'immersive' and 'picture-driven'). The presenter also makes the very interesting claim that "successful digital reading experiences" (blogs, email, Instapaper which suggest that) "scrolling systems are more appropriate for what we are dealing with". So Berg advocate vertical rather than horizontal navigation for the article, but horizontal navigation for moving through the magazine's separate stories. In effect we have a matrix model where the story runs down the screen and the separate parts of the magazine are laid out along the horizontal dimension. I find it truly bizarre that designers are now suggesting that the iPad requires horizontal and vertical navigation. Just when we have a screen large enough that we dont actually need to scroll a single page in both axes!
  3. iPad Demo. This is the one that matters! But it is too short to be very informative. There is a very brief glimpse of the New York Times demo for an iPad app as showcased at the iPad launch. It will be interesting to see if there is a complete New York Times solution available in early April when the device reaches consumers. It will be very interesting to see what other newspaper or magazine apps are available on the intro system.
  4. Sports Illustrated Demo. This one I like, and much of it is realistically do-able. But I have the horrible feeling that the designers and programmers who worked on this project were assuming that they would be able to deliver Flash-based apps. That is not going to happen. They should also forget about their swimsuit edition. That can be second phase (other producers can do that stuff better, and probably raunchier, than sports journalists).
  5. De Telegraaf -- the Dutch newspaper. As the Guardian journalist (Mercedes Bunzl) notes this is "the most realistic approach for most publishers in terms of work flow." Because it is really a re-packaging of the web site. Precisely: there is the rub, if you are merely re-packaging your free web site for the iPad, it will not be possible to sell an app. The iPad will be very good for browsing the web.
What conclusions can we draw from these 'demo's'? The first conclusion is that Apple has succeeded in raising enormous expectations for the iPad for magazines and newspapers, and it seems unlikely that any of these 'demo's' except the official Apple ones will be running on the iPad in the early months. Apple has raised extraordinary expectations so there had better be some good examples of what can be achieved. The big magazine and newspaper companies will find it very difficult to leverage their work-flow and their tight creative deadlines to create timely offerings for a revolutionary platform. The second conclusion that I draw is that the designers and technologists who work for these media companies are thinking too much about how the revolution will change their 'product' (Scott Dadich, Creative Director of Wired focuses on the fact that the "technology will enable us to view and consume media in an entirely different way"). Maybe. But another way of looking at this revolution is this: the revolution will enable us to read and consume print media in much the same way, but to use books and magazines in a new way. It is really quite dangerous to tell designers that the iPad gives them a completely fresh opportunity to re-think what the magazine/the book is. The designers who want to take advantage of the revolution should not be trying to redesign the product, they should be thinking about how we can use the product in a completely fresh way. Think not about the book or the magazine in isolation, but about the network in which it will be digitally embedded. That is what will make it different and very useful.

One more point. We have an interest to declare. We think that digital editions can be delivered which do not in the slightest disrupt the publishers complex work-flow. Exact Editions already has several apps running on the iPhone and they will be running on the iPad (even better). They also all offer in-app purchasing for subscriptions. Any publisher who wants to sell magazines or newspapers in the iTunes eco-system has to offer in-app purchasing. It works and it is very easy. Try the Congleton Chronicle, The Spectator, Athletics Weekly or Standpoint if you want to get a sense of how a newspaper or magazine can work as a digital resource, in its exact entirety as an app. Since it is a freemium offering, Standpoint would be a good first choice

Vintage Life Magazine

Vintage Life is the first magazine, projected to appear in print, to be launched initially as a digital magazine available through the Exact Editions digital magazine store.

then it may be time to take out a subscription to Vintage Life magazine.

Is there a small element of irony in this situation? The most obviously 'retro' magazine in the Exact Editions e-commerce system has started its publishing life with a digital edition of its first issue. Print can follow at the pace of print, but for immediate access and instant reaction a digital edition is the ideal offering. We will know that the magazine business has turned the digital corner when the big magazine companies start launching new projects as digital-only, or digital-first, products.

That the mainstream consumer magazine industry is in a bit of a pickle is embarrassingly obvious from this bizarre promotional video from six industry leaders released last week (Ann Moore, Chuck Townsend, Jann Wenner et al) "Magazines, the Power of Print" (YouTube, two minutes of cringe-making, hilarious, viewing). Of course, these luminaries are right: magazines are wonderful resources with huge attractions for their readers, but CEO's must be careful not to look and sound like rabbits caught in the headlights of the on-rushing internet juggernaut. Magazines need to get the power of digital.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

In the eBooks Market, Fragmentation is Forever. Deal with it.

The headline has been stolen from Richard Wong's blog posting at TechCrunch: In Mobile, Fragmentation is Forever. Deal With It.

One of the worst myths floating around the blogosphere is the wait by some for a “unifying technology” that will make things “simpler and easier” to develop services and apps for the global mobile market....

........Anyone who is waiting for a single silver bullet to solve fragmentation issues in mobile will be waiting a very long time, especially if they want to go after the global mobile opportunity. As such, it is important for mobile entrepreneurs to wade in and sort it out for themselves. No one is going to flatten the industry such as Microsoft did in the PC-era to make it simple.
I could have stolen the whole piece. Much the same is true of the eBooks market. In fact, the variety and importance of languages, scripts, publishing traditions and cultures mean that it is even more true of digital publishing. There is not going to be a single solution for digital books, in the way that Microsoft for a time flattened the PC market, or that Google has 'mostly' flattened the web search market (but maybe not if you live in China or Russia). Two years ago, many assumed that Amazon would dominate the eBooks space, then it looked like Google Books Search might provide a universal solution. Now Apple, with its soon to be launched iPad, looks to be on a big upswing. But surely these rapidly shifting fortunes for the major players tell us that it is unlikely that there is going to be a single solution for digital books (I would certainly not dismiss Amazon or Google or Sony or Facebook from the race yet). And then there is the business of magazines and newspapers as well as books. Surely, there is going to be an incredible diversity of solutions for digital distribution of stuff that was formerly printed. Deal with that. Live with that.

Some of the strategies that Wong proposes for the mobile entrepreneur apply to the publisher.
  • Dont wait for the magic bullet
  • Get down the user experience learning curve (there are markets already)
But some aspects of the publishing dilemma are peculiarly acute
  • Publishers who operate across markets (selling to trade, educational, travel and academic, maybe books and magazines) need to be particularly flexible and experimental. It is not necessarily an advantage to be a very big publisher.
  • Rights complications, copyright, and language issues make published books an excruciatingly convoluted market. It is not going to get much better and customers dont want the pointless complications.
  • Quality and fashion are still keys to success in publishing
  • Because fragmentation of the digital space is a problem for consumers and users: intelligent solutions to the problems of fragmentation will be especially profitable for nimble publishers.
I recommend the whole of Wong's piece.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Standpoint App Released

A free app for the magazine Standpoint is now in the iTunes app store. The free app provides access to a portion of each new issue of the magazine as it is published. The rest of the magazine's current issue is searchable and viewable via thumbnail. With Apple's in-app purchasing, the user can, at any time, upgrade to a 30-day subscription (for £1.79). Paid subscribers also get access to the archived back-issues, whereas the free app only has a sliver of content from the current issue. When the next issue appears the previous sliver will drop out of the app. The app in its free and premium modes supports syncing (of the current issue within a wifi zone). We think this freemium deal is giving a very solid and generous service to the free app's users. How generous? This issue of Standpoint has 11 pages at the front and 7 at the back fully open, and these same pages are also open in the web service (open for a few weeks while the issue is current). The publisher decides how much of the content to make freely available, perhaps changing the parameters issue by issue. This is the first magazine to be using Exact Editions' recommended freemium model for apps. Potential readers can pick up the app for free and will then get a generous sample of the magazine on their iPhone whenever a new issue appears. We expect magazine publishers will like this, because it is a way of using the app store as a magazine kiosk that encourages potential customers to browse through free parts of the magazine. As Daryl Rayner (Exact Editions founder and MD) says "Apple's app store is the best thing to happen to magazines since the invention of the kiosk". Should the user inadvertently let her paid subscription lapse, the free app will continue to offer access to a few pages of each new issue as it is published, providing a gentle reminder of the availability of the magazine.

I recommend trying this free app if you have an iPhone or iPod Touch. When have downloaded it from iTunes make sure that you sync the content to the memory of the phone/touch. This will take a few minutes in the background whilst you are exploring the content, and syncing makes reading and browsing speedier. Also, explore the 3 different orientations of the phone when reading (three different behaviours, one in the portrait orientation, and two distinct views of the magazine in landscape). Here are some screenshots:

  • Front Cover of the March issue

  • Slider bar, white patches denote free open pages

  • Sliding through the issue ('these pages are only available with paid access')

  • Message from the app for pages requiring subscriber access

  • Live links in the Table of Contents. Note the app gives navigation clues from the bars at top and bottom of the frame (bottom: icons for 'ToC', 'Previous','Next', and 'Search'.

  • Zooming in to the detail of a cartooon

Why John Battelle really should Like the iPad

John Battelle wrote one of the best, first, books about Google and I usually read his stuff. But he is underestimating and mireading the iPad over at his Searchblog

....the iPad, just like the iPhone, is designed for vertical integration and distribution lock in. Apple is building its own distribution channel, just as it did with iTunes, and media companies are falling over themselves to make an app for that. Why? Well sure, for once, it's sexy and cool and hip. That's why everyone loved the Wired demo. But the real reason media companies love the iPad is the same reason I don't: It's an old school, locked in distribution channel that doesn't want to play by the new rules of search+social. Sure, you can watch a movie on it. Sure, you can read a book on it. And sure, you can read a publication on it. But if you want to use the web natively, with all the promise that the web brings to media? Not so much. I dont like the iPad because....

About some of this John is right. Apple is trying to build its own distribution channel for books, magazines and movies. As it has already succeeded with music. Of course they are. Furthermore the iPhone does work well for users by both facilitating the web, and standing back from it. The iPhone/iPad has convenient and clever way of cushioning or separating our media experience from the amazing, distracting, open-ness of the web. One of the key points of the app framework which a book or magazine has on the iPhone: it is easier to read the magazine as a seamless and integrated publication. The web may be only a click away, but a properly designed app feels more branded, more integrated, more immersive and more secure for the reader than a set of web pages (tables of contents, archives, page-navigation, credits, layouts, supplements, search etc are supplied within the app cocoon). And I suspect that Battelle is right in that Apple and the big media companies are hoping that the iPad is going to be a relatively tame, safe and biddable media platform: "A sexy version of a portable DVD player-cum-Kindle".

The idea that the app store is destined to be a vast media repository into which old media can simply pour their old wine (and from which Apple draw a fat 30% commission) whilst new consumers charge up flash memory on their iPads, is wrong in one important particular. Apps are different. Books and magazines, at least, are not like tunes. Apps will be much more dynamic and much more transformative of the media landscape than this reassuring picture of the tablet allows. The publishers who get this will make a new vintage for these new bottles.

To see why this is so, we need to focus on two points. Book (or magazine) apps will use the internet in essential ways, even if they are 'self-contained' apps. As we noted in the last post, a local newspaper, is full of valencies to local business and context. A new millenium newspaper should not merely tell you a phone number, the phone number should itself be click-to-call. That is why you need a touch interface on a newspaper now. You do, nobody wants to cut and paste a phone number. Most worthwhile publication apps will be cloud-served, for obvious reasons (currency, communication, search and reference). Book apps will not be like tunes that once synced one simply listens to, or not. They will reference and be referenced. They will engage and they will have to offer services which integrate them with the web. Even if Apple wants to isolate media from the web, no carrier can now do that. You cannot get away from search. No publisher will want to avoid Facebook or Twitter. The web is fundamental. Second, Battelle's picture of the iPad as merely a device for consuming media is fundamentally wrong in ways that he understands. Media on the iPad will be much more enactive, much more intentional (to use one of Battelle's key categories) than traditional media consumption. Media consumption on the iPad will be much more social, more shared and more communicative than traditional media devices. Do you remember the surprise that you had when you first saw youngsters sharing an iPod with two kids each having one bud from the same device? There will be a lot more of that with the iPad -- mostly virtual, mostly over social networks. The intra-device buzz amongst millions of rich media consumer tablets is going to be truly deafening. A book on the iPad will not be merely a book, when it is easy to find out where is the nearest person who is also reading your book, when it is easy to find out what your 'friends' and 'followers' are reading and when it is easy for the book to tell you where you are in relation to where the book is....

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Phoning with the Local Paper

Calling the Black Swan from the page of the Chronicle

The Congleton Chronicle which two days ago became the first (local) newspaper in the world to be published in its entirety and for sale as an app through Apple's iPhone platform, also marks an important break in the way local and regional newspapers will be used as mobile resources.

The 25 February issue of the The Congleton Chronicle contains over 500 phone numbers which are clickable to call from the page. In fact there are 525 clickable phone numbers in that issue of the Chronicle and that averages roughly 9 phone numbers a page. Local newspapers are full of phone numbers that are direct-response buttons for businesses and organisations that advertise in the paper. All live links in Exact Editions apps on the iPhone platform have a green highlight. There are also in this recent issue of the Chronicle, 147 web links, 72 email links and 63 postcode links. This represents potential interactivity in the digital newspaper, a great deal of navigational assistance to the reader.

The local newspaper which has all its links enabled, becomes much more useful to its reader (and for this reason also more valuable to the publisher and the advertiser). Of course the issue can also be searched.....

The local paper on a mobile platform thus becomes not merely a resource that can be carried in pocket or handbag to be read when convenient. The local paper becomes in its mobile embodiment the users' instant and easiest reference centre (via advertisers' phone numbers and weblinks).

Exact Editions is the only platform that consistently supports direct phone calls from the pages of digital magazines and newspapers. Surprisingly few web services enable this direct interactivity. They are missing a trick. This is a matter of considerable potential for advertisers, especially as more web access is from mobile platforms.....Craigslist phone numbers are generally not clickable to call. Even Google Maps listings do not usually turn the phone number, which is often given, into a live link. Newspapers and magazines should push for a tight integration with the phone, as a way of reclaiming some advertising reach and power. The iPhone has given them this opportunity and the Exact Editions database can power the connections.

PS Barry Mansfield is playing at the Black Swan tonight. I just checked, by phone. I recommend the beer also.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

An App for The Congleton Chronicle

There is a new Exact Editions app in the iTunes app store. The Congleton Chronicle is a free app which gives access to the current issue of the weekly newspaper as it is published. Anyone who downloads the app from iTunes has free access, in full resolution pages, to some of the newspaper (currently the first 7 pages). The rest of the content can be freely searched and browsed in 'thumbnail' resolution. This is sometimes called a 'freemium' model. The basic app is free and will be available to anybody with an iPhone (iPod Touch, or an iPad) and at any time the user can upgrade to a paid for subscription which will give access to the full paper, and to archived issues (a 30 day sub costs £2.39 or $3.99, in comparison to £25 for an annual subscription to the web edition or £58 for a print subscription ). Making some of the paper freely available to anyone with an iPhone is a strong way of promoting awareness of the publication. The advertisements in this part of the paper will also attract additional attention. As is usual with publications on the Exact Editions platform, phone numbers are clickable to call; urls, email addresses and post codes are live. Readers of the newspaper will now include users of an iPhone app which offers a significant amount of linkage and interactivity available to the audience.

Publishers of newspapers and magazines deployed on the Exact Editions app platform can decide how much of the paper should be available in full with the freemium distribution. The free app will only provide access to the current issue (the old issue will drop out as the new one arrives), whereas paid subscribers using the app will have access to back issues.

The Congleton Chronicle is the first newspaper to have its own branded app in the iTunes store giving subscribers access to the whole newspaper. By making some of the news content free as a taster to anyone with an iPhone, whilst offering a straightforward in-app purchase to modestly priced subscriptions for full access, the Chronicle is pioneering a freemium distribution model which could apply to any local newspaper; and to any daily newspaper. The Chronicle is also first newspaper to have a free app with in-app purchasing to a full sub, which can itself be renewed through iTunes payments (we think!).

All Exact Editions apps now support syncing. We recommend first running the app within a wi-fi area so it can sync the latest issue to your phone - after that you can use it anywhere. With the free app some pages are sync-ed in full, the rest is sync-ed in thumbnail, with a paid subscription the latest issue is sync-ed in full , so members of the far flung Congleton diaspora can now read the first few pages of their favourite local paper for free on the Tokyo, New York or Sidney subways..... and when they get into the sunlight they can upgrade to a subscription (web connection is required for e-commerce and for searching).

Monday, March 01, 2010

Is Apple Playing Device Leapfrog?

Apple introduced the iPod in 2001, a music player which became gradually a media player. Then in 2007 Apple introduced the iPhone which was a personal communication device as well as a media player. In 2010 we have the introduction of the iPad which is a really grown up iPod. A general purpose media player. Apple has completely wrong-footed all its potential competitors (Sony, Nokia, Microsoft, Vodafone etc) weaving between these two technology strands in building its magical consumer hold. All the mobile phone companies are massively at a disadvantage in not having a credible iPod Touch device. Notice that the jumps in the game of leapfrog are getting shorter {media-pad, five years, phone, two and half years, media-pad.....}; because development and market sophistication is following Moore's law, so we can expect the next jump to come before the end of 2011. On form the next jump will be to a next-level communications device. My money is on a super iPhone which does multi-person conference calls. At that stage Apple will be in a good position to unveil its plans for the Social dimension for all this personal, mobile, computing and media enjoyment.

The social graph was noticeably missing from the iPad introduction. So were cameras. Superimposing video on social networks is the next big step for Apple. That is the context in which book and magazine publishers should be thinking about apps...They do not yet connect, but that will be the next step.