Archive for the ‘apps’ Category
Aside from the raising of my three godlike children, I’ve never collaborated on anything that’s made me as proud as the work I’ve done on Time Magazine’s iPad app. So please forgive me when I take umbrage at Jeff Jarvis’s recent remarks, which struck me today like fighting words.
Jarvis, a former Time Inc.-er, can be forgiven for the disgruntled, I-hate-my-ex-wife tone that creeps into his rhetoric, whenever he discusses his former employer. But I don’t forgive him for continuing to kick the fetid corpse of Web 2.0, long after the crowd itself has wandered away. It’s tiresome, dude, and intellectually dishonest given that you’re still stumping for your Google book. You need to get out from behind your CRT a little more and try to connect with the current thinking in new media.
Google is a great business—for Google. We all know that it has made Google an enormous amount of money for itself and its shareholders. And I have no doubt that Google ads and the attendant freeconomy keep bloggers like you in cigs and the occasional bottle of Midnight Train. The notion, however, that ALL media must be free, and linkable, and remixable and open not only doesn’t work for large, news-gathering organizations, it’s turning out that it’s not even what all readers/consumers want. There is no single recipe for success in the media business, professor.
Yes, the Time Magazine app costs $4.99. The rationale: The app offers 100% of the print magazine, plus photo galleries, video and other iPad-only goodies. While the pricing was not my decision, and I opposed it, I was wrong: It turns out to have been a smart move. While I’m not allowed to say how many copies we’ve sold to date, I can tell you it’s sold about 10X what I had predicted to my peers. (Admittedly, I had predicted a small number. Still, I was shocked by how wrong I was.) Advertiser enthusiasm was even more surprising—clearly, they, too, see that the tablet gives them a bigger, richer canvas than the Web. And they need to understand how to use it as much as we do.
This thing is a hit, not only for us, but for every publisher who’s been charging for a decent iPad app.
The fact is, people are willing to pay for content when it’s delivered in the way they want. And when, in a month or so, we’re able to offer subscriptions, I have no doubt that our business will grow and grow and grow as the number of people with iPads and other tablets explodes.
Finally, on the question of how Time’s app is doing versus its peers. (PED’s piece was equally misleading.) Our app was indeed the bestselling and top-grossing magazine app during the week of the iPad’s launch, but we quickly fell off the list in the second week. Why? Because our app was (until today) produced anew weekly. That meant that the counter that measures unit sales reset to zero with the arrival of every new issue. By comparison, monthly mags have only produced one issue, so all four weeks of unit sales are included under one app.
If you took all of our issues and added them together so it would be an apples to apples comparison, I’m sure we’d still be the top selling and top grossing mag app.
Big deal. It’s hardly meaningful at this point.
But directionally, in terms of what readers are telling us and what we’re learning about this new platform, we’re fairly ecstatic. While I was hedging my bets going into this “appgazine” experiment a year ago, I’m not anymore: Tablets will indeed save the day for many publishers as they complete the transition to extremely profitable digital media.
Reading some of yesterdays coverage of news out of Adobe, you’d think the Cupertino Wall had come down.
In reality, all Adobe really announced was a new, simple way for Flash developers to make stand-alone, downloadable iPhone apps. This is not native Flash however. Flash continues to be a browser-based runtime—accent on the BROWSER—and you can’t experience Flash sites via your iPhone browser. I’d be shocked if Apple ever permitted Flash to work with the iPhone browser for a variety of reasons, the most compelling of which is, it would wreck the App Store model. (Who needs Apps if you can run games and other programs directly off Flash-based Web sites?) But it was a smart move for Adobe to help all those Flash developers make iPhone apps more easily. It ought to further increase the number of apps heading this way.
I’ve been thinking a lot about why Apple rejects apps on seemingly spurious grounds, then suddenly reverses itself. What could explain some of the odd, inconsistent behavior we’ve seen? Friends who know more about this than me say that fully half of the well-publicized apps that are rejected are reversed. Usually, the reason for the rejection was a bizarre interpretation of Apple’s regs, a silly technicality, or utterly inexplicable. Why does this happen?
Here is my theory, which is total speculation, but it’s a slow day. Buyer beware:
Apple must be outsourcing/offshoring a lot of its apps review work.
All the inconsistencies suddenly make sense when viewed this way.
Plus, do the math: well over 200,000 apps have been submitted since June 30, 2008—that means Apple must well review over 650 apps A DAY, assuming five working days a week. In its FCC filing, Apple claimed it had only 40 full-time reviewers examining apps. Think of how long it takes to review every app. You must download it, put it through its paces, review the paper work, etc. Can one person really do more than 10 a day?
My theory is that there’s an A Team in Cupertino and a B Team in some other English-speaking part of the world. The A Team handles hot stuff from Fortune 500 companies and the big, branded stuff that Apple wants to get onto the platform ASAP. And the B Team handles Other. But what do I know?
1. This is not a tablet computer. In fact, it is pretty much what it looks like—a digital picture frame on steroids. It’s meant to be propped up on a desk or night table, not held.
2. It is not a touchscreen device. You navigate via various apps with a remote. The remote is also used to input text, when called for, from an on-screen QWERTY keyboard.
3. That said, it is a computer. Once connected to your WiFi network, you can update its OS, which means it can evolve. HP plans to offer a range of apps to augment the core apps (music, video, weather, time, calendar, Pandora, Facebook and so on) that ship on the machine. Someone mentioned that the DreamScreen is like the Chumby in that regard, and the analogy is apt. UPDATE: A spokesman said that “Company executives are in the midst of considering whether it makes sense to create an app store/open the platform to third-party developers.” FWIW, I think it makes sense.
4. Facebook, and other Internet service apps, are stripped down. In the FB app, for instance, you can only do three things: Status Updates, Event invitations and photos. Of those, photo browsing is really the only thing you’d most want to do on the DreamScreen. In fact, this device, which was initially conceived of as a digital picture frame, that’s no surprise. Still, the app ought to allow me to initiate a Facebook “slide show mode” so I don’t have to manually click through images.
5. Navigation among apps is slow, but not unbearably so. Whenever you go to the Home screen, the DS needs some time to process that request. But it makes me think that the underlying processors are pretty wimpy and this is very much a version 1 type of gadget.
6. There’s probably a decent-sized pool of people who will use this device, especially as it evolves. The DS is small enough to fit on your night table, and it really seems like it wants to be there. In fact, if I were HP, I’d be pushing these devices to the big hotel chains, where they’d function splendidly as home-away-from-home personal entertainment centers.
Ben Gaddis, of The Think Tank, makes a compelling argument in Ad Age today that native apps—for example, the 75,000 you can download at Apple’s Apps Store to your iPhone—are doomed. In his opinion, which I disagree with, apps are headed for a big fall, as the Mobile Web matures and takes off:
Recently Andy Miller, CEO of Quattro Wireless, showed me mobile ad units that induced a double take. You’d swear, and I did, that they had to be running within an app. Turns out they’re just regular old mobile web banners that now expand and include video, slide shows and more. When you add in GPS and the ability to access native functionality on the phone—all coming soon—the need for a native app goes away.
This is the fundamental tension in the apps world today. If you’re a big company and you need an app, you’re faced with a bewildering and expensive array of choices: Do I just build it for the iPhone? Or do I go cross platform and have my developer build for Blackberry and Android as well? Or do I ignore it all and make my website’s mobile interface work better on the third screen?
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