Our weekly round up of the big news in media technology and digital media.
iOS5 and iPhone 4s launch
After the iPhone 4S announcement last Tuesday, we took a look at the reaction in terms of the different types of people who were disappointed with the lack of "iPhone 5", and those who were actually buying smartphones today. (It was interesting to see Apple announce a million pre-oprders within 24 hours (compared to the 600,000 in the same timeframe after the iPhone 4 announcement last year.)
Tomorrow will see the launch of the iPhone 4S itself, as well as the availability of iOS5 to download — which will bring a number of new features, not just to the iPhone 4S, but the iPad, iPhone 4 and 3GS as well. These include iCloud (and new iTunes features— with UK availability yet to be announced), message "notification centre", iMessage (similar to BlackBerry's BBM, but for the Apple platform), and a Reminders application (ie. to-do lists.)
Of particular note in terms of the impact on media behaviours;
- iPod application split into Music and Video — (perhaps hinting at broader plans for Apple in the Video area?)
- Newsstand — a similar application to iBooks, but with a focus on subscription-based media (ie. Newspapers and magazines.)
- Integration with Twitter (making it easier for app developers to integrate it with their apps)
- New web browser features; allowing users to bookmark pages to a "Reading List" to read later, with the bookmarks available in the Safari browser on the PC/Mac, and a "Reader" mode that strips 'clutter' from web pages for easy, undistracted reading.
The Reader mode should be of particular interest to advertisers; while the benefit to users is clear (particularly the ability to tie together articles that run across multiple pages into a single page), the benefit to publishers is less so (if their site design — and advertising — is swept aside.)
But the one group do stand to benefit from this are application developers. If iPhone and iPad users are less likely to see display advertising on websites, then in-app advertising (including Apple's iAds) will become more appealing.
However, the latest Apple innovations were overshadowed by the news of Steve Jobs' death last week. Much of the technology world is still reeling from the news, and there are still scores of tributes and stories being shared. From the two companies he led (Apple and Pixar), to tributes from some of his fiercest competitors
Even Samsung and Google reportedly cancelled the launch of the latest Android handset, saying in a statement that
"We believe this is not the right time to announce a new product as the world expresses tribute to Steve Jobs’s passing.
As a driving force in the development of the modern computer, from the earliest days of the graphical user interface, through the smartphone and touchscreen explosion and early steps into voice control, his influence on the industry will undoubtedly be missed by many.
New iPad apps
A new ComScore report from the US says that web traffic from smartphones and tablets are now driving nearly 7% of all digital traffic — with iPads driving even more than iPhones. So the importance of these platforms is growing — not just in terms of mobile devices, but as alternatives to PCs.
TechCrunch reports that the a will also bring application discovery to the mobile platform — seeing a friend post a Words with Friends, tapping the link could open up the Words with Friends iPad application (if you had installed it already), or open it in the App Store (if you hadn't.) The feature is also being added to the mobile version, with plans to do the same for Android applications (which TechCrunch says is in the works.)
Facebook and Apple are reported to have been caught up in negotiations for some time, following Apple's launch last year of its "Ping" social network for music, which was planned to be integrated with Facebook.
The app, it turns out, had become the hostage of a tense negotiation between Facebook and Apple executives for a deal to further integrate Facebook into the next version of Apple’s operating system, iOS 5.
The latest wave of negotiations have presumably been around how in-app transactions would be dealt with; Apple insist on a 30% cut of in-app purchases, while Facebook are standardising around Facebook Credits as their platform's currency — where Facebook take a 30% cut of every transaction. Obviously, it would be tricky for both to take their cut of any transactions taking place within the Facebook iPad/iPhone application.
BusinessInsider.com reports that Apple appear to have won; while Facebook are bringing Facebook Credits and Applications to the mobile web, within the iOS App Facebook Credits will not be accepted.
On the publisher side, The Guardian is launching an iPad application of their own, priced at £9.99 a month (following a 3 month free trial, sponsored by Channel 4), with NMA.com reporting that is is expected to launch this week, with free access budled into print editions
The Guardian have put together a promotional video about their iPad application and its place within a broader shift to digital media. As editor Alan Rusbridger explains;
"We are not going to be scrambling to update it every minute or every hour— we will do that on the browser […] This is going to be a different kind of read, a bit more reflective."
(A bit more like a newspaper then?)
The video goes on to talk about the column and grid-based design (again, a familiar concept…), and the way interactivity will add to the advertising opportunities. Worth a watch.
As expected, the Independent is to launch a paywall for non-UK readers, expected next week. Citing the pressure from the BBC, creating a need to make a distinction between UK and foreign visitors, the main target will be readers in the US and Canada.
Announcing a major step in their ambitions to turn the Xbox 360 into a true media centre for the living room, Microsoft have announced a wide range of "entertainment leaders" who, through the Xbox 360 games console, will "transform TV."
A key difference between Microsoft's console and competitors from Nintendo and Sony is the lack of a web browser on the Xbox 360 — meaning that Microsoft effectively act as gatekeepers to online content on the console. So while the BBC iPlayer has been available for some time on the PlayStation 3 and Wii, negotiations around bringing it to the Xbox 360 have been held up by conflicts between the companies' policies (Microsoft insisting that additional content be exclusive to Xbox Live! subscribers, while the BBC insists that access to BBC content be available to all.)
BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5, LoveFilm and Blinkbox have all been announced as UK partners (but no ITV), while Sky TV has been available to those who subscribe to both Sky and Xbox Live! for some time.