Netly: The Third Screen

Archive for September 2009

500x_apple-tablet-natgeoA lot of people have been emailing me to ask about the story on Gizmodo this morning, which I feel obliged to shoot down.

Gizmodo is my favorite gadget blog and its editor, Brian Lam, is one of the best reporter/editors in Techland. But in regards to his story today, according to my sources, his sources are flat-out wrong. Apple has not been meeting with publishers to prepare them for, well, whatever it is they’re doing next.

Have people at Apple been talking to people from the NY Times? I’d be surprised if they haven’t. They always talk. Apple has excellent relationships with plenty of big media companies. But I’m told Brian incorrectly characterized the conversations that the NYT and other unnamed media have had with Apple.

In fact, I think Apple has not yet discussed the much-rumored iTablet, or whatever it is, with anyone yet—at least, not in a way that would cause a media company to act. Hell, just yesterday, in what looks like the most credible unsourced (meaning no one is speaking on the record) story yet, iLounge said Jobs hadn’t even signed off on the next device.

Of course, if indeed Apple launches something in late January, I’d be just as shocked if it didn’t have some cool app on it from the NYT or other Big Media Co. But those preparations haven’t been discussed yet.

911_call_center_2I’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?

iPhone PSD

For months, I’ve been hearing about CNN’s pending iPhone app. In fact, I think it’s fair to say it’s the most talked-about, not-yet-launched app in the news business. Well, now everyone can get a look because it launches today.

The reason it’s getting so much buzz: It costs $1.99.

Wait, this is the general news business? I thought everything was supposed to be free. From the press release:

“The CNN App has what we think is one of the best user experiences around, and will quickly become an essential daily news source for many iPhone and iPod touch users,” said Louis Gump, vice president of CNN Mobile. “We tailored the best of CNN specifically for them, whether they check in from the beach, the airport or the ballpark.”

The app has pretty much what you’d expect—photos, cover-flow view, written reports and of course CNN’s video feeds, as well as a raft of user-defined alerts. I bet it does well. How long before a million people download it?

Godspeed, CNN.

Daemon, by Daniel Suarez, was initially self published

Daemon, by Daniel Suarez, was initially self published

Of all the old media businesses jeopardized by the Net, publishing has been hit hardest. And of all the publishing businesses—newspapers, magazines and book publishing among them—the one I’d least like to be running right now is anything having to do with books. After all, the first real business to be launched on the Internet was Amazon, which fired a harpoon into the side of that very business. And now, Amazon is trying to finish off the job with the Kindle, which is making it even more apparent that the days of the old-line publishing houses are numbered.

This shouldn’t be surprising: Over the years, publishing houses stopped doing their jobs—acquiring, editing, marketing and promoting books. One by one, each of these functions was scaled back, and even abandoned. Soon, we will be left with authors, on the one hand, and the sites that sell their stuff on the other. Big, old publishing houses will be completely disintermediated. Doubtless, some companies might also make a business out of acquiring, editing and even marketing—see Tina Brown’s plan here.

Amazon has a platform for self-published authors, but the problem is, it’s a closed platform; if you publish here it’s only available to Kindle owners. So Sony has stepped into the breech and announced today that today it’s opening up its eBook Store, which uses the open ePub standard. That standard, needless to say, runs on all of the Sony e-readers, as well as a variety of other book-reading devices.

Chris Smythe, who directs Sony’s eBook Store in Los Angeles, told me that the site would collaborate with SmashWords and Author Solutions, which currently offer thousands of self-published books. While the author gets to set the price, Sony and the platform vendors take a cut—I’m guessing here, based on what some folks have told me—on the order of 50%. It’s still far better than the deal most authors strike at conventionally publishing houses. Then again, they tend to pay advances, and and self publishing, so far at least, has been a sucker’s bet.

But the tide is definitely starting to turn. Recent history is littered with examples of people who are doing quite well at self publishing, and one of my favorite thrillers of the past year, Daemon, was initially self published.

Sony’s Smythe said that initially, the e-book store would be publishing only new authors. By the end of the year, however, Sony hopes to offer the full, back catalogs of SmashWords and Author Solutions available, too.

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    • Mikel: Such a deep ansrew! GD&RVVF