Friday, June 25, 2010

Shared Access Codes

One of the requirements of the Apple iOS system is that an app should be shareable across devices. Speaking for myself, I now have three bits of Apple kit with the iPhone OS: an iPod Touch, an iPhone and an iPad. I also have a MacBook Pro -- and am wondering when Apple will enable apps to run across the desktop. Following the introduction of the iPad, the Exact Editions apps now have a system of 'shared access codes' through which the owner of an app can share his/her application across the various devices that he/she owns. This enhancement will be rolled out to all our apps and it ties into the iTunes account through which apps, content services and subscriptions are managed in the Apple ecosystem.

The shared access codes are short alphanumeric strings which the subscriber will input to any device that needs to run the app. The Exact Editions system from today provides subscribers with their shared access code through the Preferences page in the customer's web account, and this code can be entered on the panel which comes from the info button "?" on the app's toolbar.

The shared access code also provides an efficient mechanism through which users of Exact Editions web services can access their existing web subscription from within a 'branded app'. Customers who have an Exact Editions subscription and who notice the availability of an app from their Preferences page, will simply need to pick up the freemium app from iTunes and then run their subscription on the iOS device. So Exact Editions now provides a neat and free solution for those of our customers who have noticed that we are supporting branded apps to magazines which they have already subscribed to in their digital format. As it happens, we have also been receiving plenty of requests from print subscribers to magazines with corresponding Exact Editions apps available in the app store. Many such long-term loyal print subscribers evidently feel that they should have access to the iPad/iPhone edition as a part of their existing subscription to the publication. It is a fascinating fact that the development of the app store, and especially the successful launch of the iPad is giving the market for web-based content subscriptions a huge boost. Loyal subscribers to the print editions of Le Monde Diplomatique, the Spectator, and Music Week, email us in the expectation that they should, as of right, have access on the iPhone or iPad to a publication which they have paid for in print. We are also noticing that the publishers feel that it is appropriate to provide their print subscribers with complementary iPad subscriptions, whereas a year or two they were often somewhat indifferent about providing web-based digital editions. The iPhone, and even more the iPad is turning the magazine subscription into a digital proposition.

When I was explaining how this system of 'shared access codes' works to a publisher, she asked me whether Apple minded about this. I guess her thought was that publishers would be able to offer access, via free apps, to web-based subscriptions for which the publisher might be charging a very full price. And Apple would not be getting a 30% share of this subscription sold directly by the publisher. The answer to this is that of course Apple does not mind if users of highly valuable web services start using those services through iOS devices. This has been happening since day one of the app store. One might say that the whole point of the app store is that it should encourage suppliers and customers to cater for the unique Apple-manufactured range of devices that use iOS. If some of these services bring hundreds and thousands of existing subscribers to the Apple hardware, Apple is not complaining. Apple is primarily a hardware company and if iOS apps encourage consumers to use Apple hardware, Apple is winning.

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