Authored by Kit Easton of FastCompany and can be found here: http://is.gd/kthZV. Kit can be followed on Twitter here: @kiteaston
A clutch of recent Apple patent actions can easily be combined to tease features we may see in this year's iPad 2 and iPhone 5. Better speakers, facial recognition and a way to stick your credit card chips into your iPhone are in the mix.
iPad Speaker, Camera Patents
One of Apple's recent patent applications tackles one of the iPad's existing criticisms--its speaker performance isn't exactly optimal. That's because while the iPad does have a pair of speakers, notionally good for stereo sound output, they each pour sound through one corner of the device's frame--destroying any stereo effect. It's a necessary sacrifice thanks to the fact the iPad's designed to be used horizontally, vertically or at a random angle. This is what the new patent tackles.
As the more technically minded out there may have guessed, Apple's solution to the problem involves a distributed array of speakers in each corner of the iPad, with on-the-spot re-assignment of left and right audio channels to particular speakers depending on which way up the iPad's held. In this arrangement, your left ear would hear left-channel sound and your right ear the right channel no matter which way round you held the iPad. The patent explains how an array of either three or four speakers would suffice, along with the relevant audio processing chips aboard a future model.
One neat part of the patent is that the device could use smart image recognition--as well as data from the built-in orientation sensor--to work out which way the iPad's being held. There could also be touch recognition input to help the iPad decide how it's being held, and the iPad could try to work out the location where it's being used. As well as suggesting that the device would be very proficient at quick channel-mapping onto speakers, this raises the intriguing possibility that the iPad 2, or 3, could recognize users automatically.
And there's one more neat fact here: The patent explains how tweeter and bass speakers could comprise the multi-speaker array, transforming the iPad into a more serious hi-fi media player. But from what we can see, Apple's suggesting the tweeter speakers could be concealed behind the screen. And since we think we know that the iPad 2 will have a large rear-facing speaker port in one corner (good for bass, which also needn't necessarily be in stereo) we wonder if this is actually how the iPad 2 will have better sound.
iDevice "SIM Tray" For Digital Credit Card Chips
One other hot tech we expect Apple to build into its iPhone (and possibly iPod Touch) for 2011 is near field communication wireless payment systems. We know how the radio part of this tech works, and we can make educated guesses about the apps Apple would construct for it along with how it might be secured in software, and to the ID of the phone owner. But what we weren't sure about was how Apple would persuade credit card companies to let it incorporate their security and card number protocols into an iPhone.
Now we have a hint: Another new Apple patent suggests an iPhone (or iPad, etc) could get a second SIM tray-like port on one side, into which you'd slip the little golden chip segment from a modern credit card. The neatness of this idea is impressive: All the credit card makers need do is slightly modify their existing cards so you could pop-out the chip in the same way you do when you get a new cell phone SIM card delivered (which does come in a credit card-shaped plastic carrier, if you remember). All the security and ID and--more importantly--control over card numbers and distribution to customers--would remain with the card issuer, disrupting their business model less than other solutions would.
It's good for Apple, too, as all the iPhone would have to do would be parse the chip every time the iPhone was waved over a wireless payment pad, and send the signal over a short-range encrypted radio channel, effectively acting as the middleman.
Since we suspect the iPhone 5 will have a similar glass (or possibly ceramic, or plastic) back to the iPhone 4--and this design is nicely radio-transparent for NFC needs--we're wondering if this is exactly how this year's iPhone's NFC credit card tech, or iWallet, may work.
Authored by MG Siegler of Techcrunch and can be found here: http://is.gd/khkNC
Breaking news: old school publishers seem hell-bent on insuring their content doesn’t catch on in the red-hot tablet space. A story in the Wall Street Journal this evening details how Google, Apple, Amazon and others are all racing to try to do deals with major publishers in order to set up their “digital newsstands”.
Of course, all of this has been going on for months now as publishers seem to be aware that tablets (okay, really just the iPad so far) are actually taking off this time, and they’d be wise to get on board. The problem, naturally, is that they want to be on board on their terms. And those, naturally, are old school terms. In other words, out-of-date and somewhat sleazy terms.
Here’s one main blurb of the WSJ piece:
Apple is planning to share more data about who downloads a publisher’s app, information publishers can use for marketing purposes. According to people familiar with the matter, Apple would ask consumers who subscribe to an iPad version of a magazine or newspaper for permission to share personal information about them, like their name and email address, with the publisher.
Some publishers remain unhappy with this arrangement because they think few customers would opt to share such data, according to these people.
So what the publishers seem to be demanding is that Apple opts users into sharing information without telling them. Or, to put it another way, “make it opt-out or we opt-out”. Classy.
Of course few customers would opt-in to sharing such data. Because who the hell wants to be marketed to relentlessly just because they signed up for a magazine subscription? No one. Except that’s the way the magazine subscription model currently works. Not because it’s a good model, but because in the days before technology started destroying print, people were naive enough not to realize what was going on. Obviously, the publishers would like to transition that happiness in slavery to the tablet space.
And while Apple doesn’t appear to be biting on that at this time, the publishers apparently are turing their sights towards chief rival Google. From the piece:
In recent weeks, these people say, Google has told publishers it would take a smaller slice on any sales they make of Android apps than the 30% cut Apple typically takes on iTunes sales. Google has also proposed giving publishers certain personal data about app buyers to help with marketing related products or services.
It’s not clear if in the Google scenario this would be opt-in (like Apple is proposing) or opt-out. But if Google wants to secure these deals ahead of Apple, it’s pretty clear what they’ll have to do. Hopefully they won’t do that.
Apple is also apparently on the verge of a new feature in iTunes that would allow for publishers to offer simple content subscription services. This too has been rumored for some time, and makes a lot of sense. After the initial interest wore off, it seems that most magazine apps are dwindling in sales numbers. The reason for this is obvious: they’re far too much money and too much of a pain to download. To get Time each week, you have to pay $4.99 each time. There is no subscription option. Others, like Newsweek, do have a subscription option, but it’s a bit convoluted. And others, like the Wall Street Journal, have an option (their own) that’s even more convoluted.
In order for the digital newsstand idea to work, it has to actually be a newsstand. As in, a centralized place where you can find and buy anything you’re looking for with a few easy clicks. You know, like iTunes. The stand-alone app model isn’t working for this content. But the publishers are wary of iTunes because they don’t want to give Apple the 30 percent cut, and, more importantly, they want that subscriber data.
And so we appear to be where we were a few months ago, at a stalemate. Talking to Google about a rival newsstand seems like a good bargaining tool, but the Android platform still doesn’t have a tablet that’s nearly as popular as the iPad. Amazon has the popular Kindle device, but it’s in black and white and doesn’t exactly seem like the future of magazine content consumption. You can be sure that Apple will want something like this digital newsstand in place by the launch of the iPad 2. And as they like to do, they’ll probably launch it even if they only have a few publishers on board.
And there will be some on board. Because they stand to lose a lot more than Apple does if they don’t get their content to hit on the iPad.
2010 has been interesting year in the life of e-books. The iPad has been unquestionably the most influential piece of hardware in this respect. Some may argue the case for the Kindle and of course the Nook. However, the iPad though not an eReader, has changed the playing field with what consumers expect. We wait with baited breath as to what 2011 brings.
One other major issue concerning eBooks is that of standards. One of the main criticisms of the Kindle has been the lack of support for electronic publication (ePUB). ePUB is a free and open eBook standard by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). Its (ePUB) files are recognized with the extension -. ePUB. EPUB is designed for “reflowable” content, meaning that the text display can be optimized for the particular display device used by the reader of ePUB-formatted book.
Without a doubt, the ePUB standard has gained widespread recognition and in many quarters the standard as to what electronic books should be made with. I must confess that I did believe that Adobe’s Portable Document Format (PDF) would reign supreme. The PDF format is an open standard for document exchange. This format is used for representing two-dimensional documents in a manner independent of the application software, hardware, and operating system. History though is littered with examples with formats living side – by – side with each other. Evidence of this is on the iPad where ePUB and PDF books sit side by side in the iBooks app.
I am sure that we can expect to see new forms of eBooks. One example that springs to mind is Vook. I actually bought the Vook book “Idea Virus ”by Seth Godin. This combined video, text, and of course iPad interactivity. While very interesting, I kept feeling the videos could be a bit more compelling. For those of who bought the Alice In Wonderland eBook for the iPad should give us some food for thought. It would be sacrilege to forget the HTML 5 Baker e-Book Framework by a group of Italian designers. Here is the link for the 5x15 Tokyo HTML 5 book: http://is.gd/jPwFj
Earlier in the year, it was a big shame that Plastic Logic killed the Que eReader, as well as the disappearance of the Skiff Reader after News Corp acquired them in July. We know that the iPad2 is coming and 2011 is bound to throw up some new surprises. Finally, let me leave you with a link that shows a nice slide show of different eReaders: http://is.gd/jPwXT
Enjoy, and have a happy and prosperous new year.
Piece by Olu Oyekanmi and can be followed on Twitter here: @oluoyekanmi
Without a doubt, the e-book is practically the biggest thing that’s hit the publishing industry since the invention of movable type. Publishers and e-book resellers are reporting astronomical growth.
At McGraw-Hill, we have been an active player in e-book technology dating back to devices like the RocketBook (one of the first e-book readers) that was launched more than 10 years ago. And today, e-books and e-book distribution is central to our publishing and growth strategy.
From the front lines of the e-book revolution, here are five trends I’m watching.
1. Enhanced E-Books Are Coming and Will Only Get Better
Consumers have already shown that they love e-books for their convenience and accessibility, but ultimately most e-books today are the same as print, just in digital form. The e-book of the not-too-distant future will be much more than text. Interactivity has arrived and will change the nature of the e-book.
Imagine video that shows how to fix a leaky faucet or solve complex math problems in statistics; audio that pronounces foreign language words as you read them, and assessment that lets you check what you remember and comprehend what you just read. These interactive features and more are being developed now and will be on the market in a matter of weeks, not months.
Publishers are already conjuring up designs for the enhanced e-book of the future. Imagine still: If you miss five questions on your geometry test, will your book adapt and change to help you learn the questions and concepts you missed? Will your new novel provide a platform for live exchange with reading groups where you can discuss the book with the author? Today’s enhanced e-books that feature talking heads or out-takes from movies are yesterday’s ideas. Consumers will expect a much greater experience.
2. The Device War Is Nearly Over
Devices are proliferating to the point of confusion. Does a consumer buy a Nook, Kindle, Sony e-reader, an iLex or any one of 20 other dedicated e-readers? Or do they buy an iPad, Galaxy Tab, or other Android tablet? Or do they buy an e-reader at all? Have you ever noticed on a crowded train or bus how many people are reading their phone? And for a growing number of readers, the mobile phone is fine for reading just about anything. But as far as devices go, consumer confusion is likely to drive quick consolidation around a few winners in the market — no one wants to own the next “Betamax for books.”
Because most developers are developing e-reader software that will work on multiple other devices (Kindle also works on the iPad, iPhone, and computers, for example), consumers will care less about the device and more about the user experience of the e-reader software, portability of titles from one device to another, and access to a full catalog of titles.
3. The $9.99 E-Book Won’t Last Forever
Amazon popularized the $9.99 price point for best-seller trade titles, driving the widespread consumer adoption of the Kindle and consumption of e-books. This has caused confusion among many consumers who simply think every e-book should be $9.99 or less. But the majority of titles offered on Amazon are priced above $9.99, especially those with unique interactive features. For professional and technical publishers like McGraw-Hill, our e-books cannot stand the low, mass market pricing some consumers think should be applied to every e-book. Our costs are invested in extensive product and editorial development of sophisticated and technical content; the cost of paper, printing, and binding are a fraction of the real expense. And for some very specific and technical subject areas, our markets are much smaller. We simply couldn’t afford to publish the work if it must be priced at the everyday low, low price of $9.99.
The real opportunity for publishers will be to develop e-books that offer the kind of interactive features mentioned above. Our customers will demand interactive books that provide a much better, more informed and enriching experience. For them, the experience (not the cost) is often the primary driver.
4. The Contextual Upsell Will be a Business Model to Watch
E-books allow publishers to interact with their customers in new ways. Imagine customers who are trying to learn statistics and get stuck on a particular formula. They ask friends but no one can explain it well. They’re stuck.
They click a help button, which points them to the publisher site where they can download relevant tutorials about specific formulas for $2.99. They choose the one they need and get a new learning tool, which helps them progress in their class. Multiply this by hundreds of thousands of students who share similar learning gaps who will purchase through the book (“in-book app purchase”) and it becomes an interesting new marketing opportunity.
5. Publishers Will Be More Important Than Ever
Despite the hype around self-publishing via the web, publishing houses will play an even greater role in an e-book world. Commodity content is everywhere (and largely free), so high-quality vetted, edited content — which takes a staff of experts — will be worth a premium.
At McGraw-Hill, the average technical and reference book engages teams of editors, copy editors, proofreaders and designers to produce a single book. In the digital world, the role of publishers will be larger as new technologies provide for an even greater user and learning experience. Furthermore, with the skyrocketing amount of content being served on the web, customers will seek and pay expert content providers that aggregate and contextualize information for them efficiently and provide highly accurate and specific search options. Publishers with expertise and resources in these and emerging areas will be the ones that write the new rules of e-book publishing.
In preparation towards the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Motorola has released this video. A beautifully conceived advert, they did not mince words in describing their rivals. For instance, they called the iPad a giant iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy Tablet running Android "for a phone". Anyway, see what you make of it. Enjoy!
Contribution by Olu Oyekanmi; you can follow him on Twitter here: @oluoyekanmi
Newly approved Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan is a Kindle user, while longtime conservative Justice Antonin Scalia wields an iPad.
This nugget of information appeared in a recent video clip on C-SPAN. Both justices use the devices (plus hard copy printouts) to read the vast quantities of written material they must wade through — up to 40 or 50 briefs for each case, Kagan says in the video above.
The news, however, made us wonder about something of far more pressing national importance: Is this a deep ideological divide on the Supreme Court?
Would Scalia see things differently if he read opinions on the monochrome Kindle? Does Kagan need a dose of iPad color, and maybe a round or two of Flight Control HD between court sessions?
Are Kindle-wielding Justices writing angry “Mactard” and “fanboi” comments on the opinions of their opponents, while the Mac-loving faction refuses to talk or even think about anything that wasn’t designed in Cupertino?
Nah, that doesn’t seem realistic.
Original post by Dylan F. Tweney and can be found here: http://is.gd/iT5TY
A buying guide to eReaders and Tablets.
If you want to enjoy a good digital book, newspaper or magazine (yes even a magazine) an e-book reader is a smart choice. Prices have plunged this year, and the E Ink screens on many of these devices have improved somewhat, which means the options are better than ever for digital bookworms.
E-book readers do not snatch as many headlines as other gadgets, but the market is flooded with options. Some of these models are superb, while many could be classified as atrocious. We will focus first on the industry’s four front-runners, and then have a look at the options that will colour your buying decision.
The Kindle is the best-selling reader, and is part of a whole ecosystem of Amazon-provided e-books and software, so you can read the same books on your PC, smartphone or Kindle. Though expensive in its earlier generations, the latest iteration sports a budget price, great connectivity options and a wide selection thanks to Amazon’s Kindle store.
Flagship model: Kindle 3 (3G)
Supported formats: TXT, AZW, PDF, HTML, Mobipocket
Hidden perk: Amazon has a free service that converts HTML pages and Word documents to a Kindle-friendly format.
Price: $190 (with 3G and Wi-Fi)
Barnes & Noble Nook
B&N entered the e-reading fray with its Nook. Despite mixed reviews of the Android-powered interface, the color touchscreen, large e-book selection and cross-promotions with the brick-and-mortar stores are clear high points.
Storefront: Nookbook Store
Flagship model: Nook Color
Supported file formats: eReader PDB, ePUB, PDF
Hidden perk: Connecting the Nook to B&N’s in-store WiFi grants you an hour’s worth of reading of any e-book title.
Price: $250 (Wi-Fi only)
Sony’s middling e-readers have not exactly been critical darlings, but they are still solid and dependable. Sturdy, compact chassis and daylight-viewable E-Ink displays are the norm across models.
Storefront: Sony Reader Store
Flagship model: Sony Reader: Daily Edition
Supported file formats: TXT, PDF, ePUB, BBeB Book, RTF, DOC
Hidden perk: Protected PDF and ePUB allows users to check out e-books from participating libraries.
Yes, we know the iPad is a tablet, not a dedicated eReader, but it is still a viable option for reading books. On top of launching an iTunes-esque bookstore, Apple has lent the iPad its UI razzle-dazzle, making for one of the most polished e-reading interfaces.
Flagship model: iPad 3G (32GB)
Supported file formats: ePUB, PDF
Hidden perk: iBooks comes with a free copy of Winnie-the-Pooh.
Like the rest of the gadget world, e-readers are in the midst of their own format war. Luckily, it is less contentious than most. While some devices support proprietary and DRM-locked file formats (like Amazon’s AZW for the Kindle), almost all readers also embrace standards like plain text (TXT), Adobe’s portable document format (PDF) and HTML.
Unfortunately, the most popular e-book reader, the Kindle, does not support the most ubiquitous e-book format, EPUB. Almost every other e-reader supports this open standard, but Amazon has balked, preferring to push its own format —, which, of course, no other e-book reader can utilize.
Before deciding on a reader, it is worth exploring its supported formats and the preferences of its associated storefront. After all, spending an arm and a leg on a virtual library you cannot read is pointless.
Connectivity of the 3G variety is the “power door lock” of e-readers. Adding the feature increases the price, but the no-frills day-to-day convenience makes up for it. Being able to browse and download titles sans computer and without a Wi-Fi hotspot grants you true mobility, and the pairing of high-speed throughput with relatively small file transfers means instant gratification. Even the monthly bill has been erased from the equation, as most 3G-ready readers on today’s market include lifetime connectivity in the purchase price.
However, it is worthwhile to consider the reliability of the wireless provider chained to your e-reader of choice. If you are an AT&T subscriber who is experiencing service problems, you are likely to see similar performance in your AT&T 3G-powered Kindle. Remember, wireless connectivity has its share of quirks.
MP3 capabilities usually feel extraneous in anything short of an iPod. However, the feature can add a great deal of value to an e-reader. On top of e-versions of your favourite books, an MP3-capable device can also download audiobooks, or offer old-fashioned music playback. Though this is the norm in high-end hybrid devices like the iPad and Nook Color (which do full-fledged video playback), even modest readers from Sony and Amazon sport some kind of support.
Bookmarks and Annotation
Annotation and reference chops are standard on e-readers, but they are worth exploring nevertheless. If your reader is likely to be used in an academic or professional setting, then being able to highlight, save and annotate passages is incredibly useful. The trend of baking in onboard reference materials like dictionaries has caught on, as well (though they are unlikely to make “Jabberwocky” more decipherable). Each reader handles these tasks and tools in a slightly different fashion, so if your goal is critical reading, be sure to do your homework.
E-Ink vs. LCD
It is not a battle of “peanut butter vs. chocolate” proportions, but the e-reader community is definitely opinionated about the superiority of one tech over another. Here is a quick rundown:
E Ink: This display tech relies on millions of positively and negatively charged microcapsules. Switching the polarity effectively shifts their positions, producing non-backlit, grayscale images and text (think: Etch-A-Sketch). The lack of backlighting is reported to be easier on the eyes, though problematic for night reading. It is extremely low on power consumption, since it draws power only when changing the screen.
LCD: This tech in e-readers is just like on your smartphone or monitor. It’s color, high-contrast, and typically sports much better resolution than E-Ink. It comes with its share of setbacks too. Powering all that sweetness is incredibly taxing in terms of battery life, and long periods of staring at the (constantly flickering) backlight has been known to cause eye strain.
Though we have our preferences (E Ink for novels, LCD for periodicals), we can’t speak for everyone. Our advice is to get your hands (and eyes!) on each type of display, and get a feel for what is most comfortable for you.
Original contribution by Terrence Russell and can be found here: http://is.gd/iEJC5
iPad owners have had less than a week with iOS 4, but a software update offering news and magazine subscriptions targeted at them could arrive in less than a month.
Daring Fireball’s John Gruber reports that Apple’s Steve Jobs will join News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch onstage at a December 9 event to announce Murdoch’s new forthcoming tablet newspaper, The Daily.
According to Gruber’s sources, The Daily will be an app in the App Store, but make use of new recurring subscription billing on users’ iTunes accounts, and “developers at News Corp. building the app already have preliminary documentation on the new subscription billing APIs from Apple.”
Macstories’ Federico Viticci reports further that recurring subscriptions are part of a new version of iOS — iOS 4.3 — with a scheduled release date of December 13.
According to Viticci’s sources, iOS 4.3 wasn’t intended to be released so quickly after 4.2.1, which was originally internally slated for an early November release. It’s possible that 4.2.1’s later official release might also push back the release of 4.3. But with Apple playing such a large role in The Daily, both companies may stick with mid-December announcement and releases, after all.
Subscription-based recurring billing would likely increase the number of paid magazine, newspaper, TV, video and other media applications on iTunes. Really, any application that depends on continuous content or service delivery could introduce a subscription model: online gaming, data backup, GPS, office applications and more. Many subscription-based services already have iOS apps, but have to establish accounts and recurring billing separately from iTunes.
Another technical challenge posed by subscriptions that could require an OS update is automatic background content delivery. If you’re being billed every week for a newspaper or magazine, you shouldn’t have to go through a long, complicated routine just to download a new issue.
A final open question: How much customer information will Apple and app/content makers share with each other about their subscribers? This data has value, too — as does customers’ privacy.
Image by Apple.
Post by Tim Carmody of Wired and can be found here:
I have mentioned, a lot is now happening in the eReader/Tablet space. 2011 seems to be the year that all hell will break loose in the realms of competition. The Apple iPad may not necessarily be leader by the end of next year according to some commentators. However, Apple lead by the mighty Steve Jobs cannot be counted out just yet. They might just surprise us again!
Reasearch In Motion (RIM) makers of the Blackberry phone has announced it will begin to sell its tablet computer – named PlayBook - in the first quarter of next year in North America. The tablet comes in at under $500 as RIM gears up to take on Apple.
RIM Co-CEO Jim Balsillie said recently in an interview, “The product will be very competitive“. He also said “the iPad’s dominance in the tablet-computer market will “change when we’re in the market”’. He was, however, less specific on other matters concerning the product.
It is obvious to all that RIM intends to bring the fight to all its competitors especially Apple. No one can blame RIM for this as the likes of Samsung, and Hanvon Technology have joined the party.
So, how does the PlayBook weigh in? The tablet comes with the following specs:
Do you think the PlayBook has the capabilities to take on and defeat the iPad? You be the judge; your comments please.
Post by Olu Oyekanmi and can be followed here on Twitter: @oluoyekanmi
Borders is trying a new experiment to combat Amazon and Barnes & Noble in the e-book wars: It is partnered with BookBrewer, which will bring self-publishing powers to its platform. In addition, the intriguing chance to turn blogs into e-books.
Self-publishing is something other players in the e-reader game are trying too, so Borders probably had to make a similar move in order to keep its e-publishing service relevant. Its clever choice, rather than building its own system, is to partner with BookBrewer --a relatively new company that is already offering some self-publishing.
The basic deal costs just $90 to authors, but this includes proper ISBN coverage for the publication (which usually costs more than $90, all by itself). The advanced deal is a serious-sounding $200, but this does include creation of a full ePub edition of the publication, with the authors themselves retaining ownership of this file so it can be distributed on other platforms (including the iPad). BookBrewer's other selling point is its speed and simplicity -- it is essentially a one-click "create book" affair, once you've uploaded the text and chosen a cover graphic.
BookBrewer's other offering is more intriguing: Its service allows a blog (via an RSS feed) to be quickly transformed into an e-book format, so it can also be sold through the same channels as more traditional texts. It is a kind of reversal of thinking about digital publishing, almost like printing out your Facebook friend pages as a paper-and-ink book. Yet it is also strangely powerful: Popular blogs can sell their back editions for off-line perusal on e-readers, with little overhead charge. This will appeal to folks off on long vacations who are looking for a different kind of reading experience to the usual glossy-covered airport novel.
Academics who use blogs as an integral part of their teaching experience can quickly turn their digital online works into reference texts that students may buy to read offline--handy for those moments when you can't (or don't want to) connect to a mobile Web source. We know e-readers and tablet PCs are going to redefine academic publishing, and this is just another tool to complete that transformation. The low price of e-text publishing may even be a welcome boon to students who are often used to handing over big piles of cash to cover expensive paper textbooks.
To keep up with this news, and more like it, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.
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