Apple tablet will revolutionise eBook publishing

We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again, Apple has big plans for eBooks and its future Apple tablet will help kickstart yet another change in publishing, just as the Mac helped launch the notion of desktop publishing.

Apple is reportedly engaged in extremely high level talks with senior executives from across the publishing industry with a view to making eBooks available to the tablet, and while these may start as the kind of text-based publications you’d find on a Kindle, these will advance to become true multimedia content delivery vehicles.

Perhaps a sign of what’s to come is visible in iTunes Extras/LP. These combine multiple assets and can be purchased from iTunes. They are designed to replicate the DVD or album experience, and while the jury’s out on their success in that, they clearly offer opportunities for the creation and distribution of engaging content.

Now Gizmodo tells us that Apple has been in talks with newspapers, magazines and book publishers, including the New York Times, McGraw Hill and Oberlin Press.

The entire vision relates to Apple’s future tablet, Gizmodo explains: “Several years ago, a modified version of OS X was presented to Steve Jobs, running on a multitouch tablet. When the question of "what would people do with this?" couldn’t be answered, they shelved it. Long having established music, movie and TV content, Apple is working hard to load up iTunes with print content from several major publishing houses across several media.”

The report continues to explain a meeting held on Apple’s Cupertino campus between Apple executives and senior figures from across the publishing industry. This followed an internal Apple competition the winning idea of which was textbook distribution through iTunes, a vision that’s already got strong foundations through iTunes U.

There’s even been a major example of what the vision could be, with Dan Brown’s recent new book also made available as an iPhone application. This title explores various potential advantages in digital reading, with support for notes, changing font styles, suggested reading, and tell a friend features, as well as the classic eBook experience.

Talks are understood to be gathering intensity at this stage, as Apple heads toward its purported January introduction of the Apple tablet. And hints that as both a creative tool and as a device for accessing Apple’s growing empire of digital content, Microsoft’s Courier has a lot of catching-up to do – after all, all we’ve seen of that so far shows Redmond’s vision is no more than as a glorified sketch/scrapbook. And scrapbooks are cheap.

Joel Rickett, editorial director of Penguin’s Viking Books, told The Observer newspaper: "The ebook is very quickly becoming a publishing reality and The Lost Symbol (iTunes link) will be one of the fastest-selling books of recent times.
"Once people can flip between books, look up references online and switch to an audio reading, everything will change very quickly."

Other recent activity came in the iTunes release of the Mayhem comic book in the iTunes LP format (iTunes Link). As John Fortt at Fortune noted, "Maybe the tools Apple created to digitize Gibson’s Mayhem comic will be part of an author’s kit with that oft-rumored Apple tablet?"

This followed Apple boss Steve Jobs statement to the New York Times that Apple doesn’t see eBooks as a big business – for the company.
Being a big business for Apple doesn’t necessarily mean eBooks aren’t a potentially big business for its platforms. eBooks are the second-biggest content category on iTunes after games, so there’s a proper eBook gold rush surging up. It’s just that Apple doesn’t publish the books…but it does create the platform – particularly its mobile platforms.

Also bear in mind and its recent move to partner with Google to launch the world’s biggest online ebookstore – 40 times bigger than Waterstones it aims to offer over two million titles by the end of 2009, with one million titles available right now.

Initially, however, Apple hopes to use its leading advantage in the education market to help popularise its tablet, as we surmised in an August report.

When it comes to the education markets, Apple already knows the score. “We teach teachers not just about Apple solutions, but also how to create content that’s suitable for digital learning,” Apple’s director of EMEA education markets, Herve Marchet, told Macworld UK. "If you want to play in the education market, you need to be a solutions provider. You aren’t just bringing in the machine, you must also offer appropriate software, content and models for best practise in content creation.”

And beyond Apple, Disney (a company which has, erm, Apple CEO Steve Jobs on its board) today launched Disney Digital Books, which it terms, "reading made magical".

The eBook gold rush is now on….

Akamai HD Network delivering live, on-demand HD shows for the iPhone

Akamai is preparing the ground for what could emerge to be an avalanche of HD video content streamed directly to an iPhone, as it beefs up its international content delivery infrastructure for provision of HD video services.

We’re also wondering if support for iPhone will lead to easier access to live and on-demand online video content for other Apple devices, such as the Apple TV, which some say may proffer a Web browser designed to enable easy access to video content found online. But that’s just speculation.

What isn’t speculative is Akamai’s news. Apple and Akamai have held a relationship for close to a decade now, with the Web infrastructure firm enabling Apple’s Web properties to be internationally available without lag. Particularly iTunes.

The Akamai HD Network is a system for streaming high-definition live and on-demand video to a variety of devices. It will enable content and service providers offer online video that matches the traditional TV and DVR (digital video recorder) experience through buffering, adapting to network and processing speeds along with all-new features for navigating the content, Akamai said.

Video lovers will be able to watch HD Network content on computers in the Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight formats, but also on the iPhone, said Akamai President and CEO Paul Sagan.

Attempting to deliver high bitrate HD files can create long buffering delays, slow start-up times, and frequent interruptions. Because the Akamai HD Network chooses the optimal bitrate for delivery – it is faster and more consistent than any other network. With fully integrated DVR capabilities for live video across Flash, Silverlight, and the iPhone, the Akamai HD Network enables a personalized and interactive experience that matches HDTV.

As proof of concept, Akamai has made a live broadcast of its press announcement of the new service available in multiple formats, including Flash, Silverlight – and iPhone. Go test the iPhone stream right now, if you like…

The Akamai HD Network is a streaming platform that leverages the following functionalities:

- Adaptive Bitrate Streaming
Unique network and player streaming process that is designed to enable uninterrupted playback at HD bitrates that seamlessly adjusts to fluctuations in available bandwidth to provide the best quality possible for each user

- Instant Response
Immediate response to viewer interactions with the video player, including sub-second time-shifting (such as pause, rewind, seek and play commands) video startup times, and seamless stream switching
- HD Video Player
Open, standards-based video player for faster time to market
- HD Player Authentication
Authenticates player for all three environments ensuring only authorized players access content.

"Seeing is believing," said Paul Sagan, President and CEO, Akamai. "With the Akamai HD Network, we are revolutionizing the way content traverses the Internet with a new approach to bringing an HDTV-like experience online. We’re entering a different online world, where many content owners and publishers need to deliver HD-quality video to a much wider online audience, with a higher level of interactivity for consumers. Delivering ‘web-quality’ content to ‘web-sized’ audiences is one thing, but delivering HD-quality content to broadcast-scale audiences is another."

We’re wondering if the recent iPhone streamed live Underworld performance may have been a test of concept of Akamai’s new service for iPhone users? We also wonder if we may see live performances at iTunes events streamed live to iPhones in future, such as the coming Glasgow performance by legendary act, Echo and the Bunnymen. Though that’s just deeply idle speculation. Though with Akamai’s service, it is now possible, subject to the caveat of the ‘net neutrality’ debate…

Adobe boss takes seat at Dell

Annoyed with Adobe? Feel the company’s customer commitment to be a little weak? Somewhat annoyed at the company’s opaque price tier structure when it comes to Creative Suite sales in the UK and Europe in comparison to the US? Wondering why it won’t stick strictly to Apple development guidelines to create CS in the first place? Perhaps there’s a reason behind it all. Perhaps that reason has just become pretty visible – Adobe’s got a Dell.

Here’s the deal: Dell announced today that Shantanu Narayen, president and CEO of Adobe, has been appointed to the company’s board of directors. Mr. Narayen, 46, joins the board immediately and will stand for election at Dell’s next shareholders meeting.

“As CEO of one of the world’s largest and most diversified software companies, Shantanu will provide us with valuable insight as we develop and deliver IT solutions to customers,” said Michael Dell, chairman and CEO. “In addition, he brings strong operational expertise and experience, leading a company known for its innovative culture and growth.”

Mr. Narayen has been CEO of Adobe since December 2007, after serving as Adobe’s president and COO, responsible for day-to-day global operations, product research and development, marketing, and corporate development. He held key product research and development positions at Adobe, including for worldwide products, product development and engineering technology.

Before joining Adobe in 1998, Mr. Narayen was co-founder of Pictra Inc., a pioneer in digital photo-sharing over the Internet; led desktop and collaboration products at Silicon Graphics; and held senior management positions at Apple, that last stint was a long time ago, it’s clear.

So there we have in interesting rift. Adobe and Apple helped revolutionise desktop publishing way back in the day, with close and friendly relations between the founders of both firms. Flash forward to today, and Adobe’s current CEO seems to want to send us all to Dell.

Doubletwist ad is bound to upset the 'boys

Techcrunch brings us DVD John’s latest forray into advertising.  His last advertising adventure was buying the space on the San Francisco Flagship Apple Store.  Then he was called into court to testify against Apple in an iTunes monopoly suit.  This time around, his company has switched up the characters in the classic 1984 Superbowl ad….below. 

The ad closes with the statement that "on October 6th, doubleTwist brings you Choice".  What will DoubleTwist free us from?  BluRay DRM is our hope.


Expected call drop rate in New York City is 30% says Apple

It turns out that New Yorker’s frequent complaints about AT&T’s iPhone service aren’t unfounded.  Some dude sent Gizmodo his Genius Bar adventure – he thought he had a faulty iPhone.

His iPhone was dropping calls left and right ("over 30%") so he brought it in to the Apple Store to have it evaluated.  The Apple technician ran some tests and found that his drop rate was "only" 22%.  That is apparantly a better than average result for iPhones in New York City.


"The problem is consistent with the service provided by AT&T."  Have fun…

Ballmer: Safari and Chrome market share are rounding errors, Apple is expensive

In part 3 of his interview with Techcrunch, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer laid some choice tidbits for us to dissect…like the following:

The most successful [IE competitor] by far is Firefox. Chrome is a rounding error to date. Safari is a rounding error to date. But Firefox is not. The fact that there’s a lot of competitors probably is to our advantage. Yeah, we’re right now about 74 percent overall with the browser market, roughly speaking. But we’re having to compete like heck with IE 8, with great new features. The other guys are getting more and more unanticipated competitive attack factors, the thing that Google announced yesterday where they replaced IE but they don’t tell you. I mean that’s how I would say it. For all intents and purposes of what they’re doing IE is not there. It’s their operating system. Instead of now masked as browser, it’s masked as a plug in basically to IE. So, you know, we’re going to have to compete like heck and you know, see where things go. The one thing that’s unclear is what’s the economic play for anybody else competing with us at the browser level. Is this all about kind of controlling the search box or is it about something else?

Marketshare from Aug 2009 NetApplications

Think the the IE Chrome Frame annoyed Ballmer at all? 

Other things that are around 7% of market share: Bing search engine and Mac Hardware in the US.  Two other things that Microsoft doesn’t focus on or care about. 

Would he call Bing a rounding error?  Why is he being so sensitive on browsers? Perhaps he’s a little worried that IE is heading toward the magic 50%.

Internet Explorer marketshare over the years

Speaking of Mac, Ballmer had some words for Apple’s desktop product.

Mr. BALLMER: Here’s Windows and Windows is a very successful product. How do you attack Windows? Well, you attack with the high end, and hardware. That’s an attack. That’s – I won’t call it the Snow Leopard attack. I’ll call it the Mac attack of which Snow Leopard is a piece. You could attack from the side. That’s the Chrome – Firefox attack. You can attack from cheap, from below. You’re not from the side. You’re one on one, but that’s kind of a Linux, Android, presumably Chrome OS, who knows, attack vector. You can attack through phones that grow up. You know, mama don’t let your phones grow up to be PCs or something. I don’t know. But that’s another attack vector. So, you could say how do I feel about all these attack vectors? Strong, I feel very strong here.

I mean, we’re gaining share. Apple is expensive. And in tough economic environment, people get it. Their model is, by definition, expensive. And we’ve actually held or maybe even gained just a tiny bit of share relative to the Mac in the last 12 months. And it’s not really Snow Leopard. It’s really Windows PCs versus Mac.

That’s the trade-off. We’ve done extremely well versus Linux-powered machines with the Androids or Linux and we’ve done that primarily by having a better solution and being willing to do the right thing from our pricing perspective. And Windows 7 will only make this, I think, more competitive here.

Not sure where he’s been getting his numbers.  Apple has been outperforming the overall PC market for the last 480 quarters in a row or something.  Could you call this a fib?

Adobe Flash to take advantage of GPU acceleration?

This one is geared toward the PC world at the moment but the implications to Macs (and iPhones) are pretty clear.  It appears that Adobe will be releasing a version of Flash in the coming weeks that makes use of a computer’s GPU to accelerate Flash.  In this case, they are NVIDIA ION chips that .  Any Apple user not living in a cave will think two things upon hearing this information:

1. "Hey, that sounds familiar.  Isn’t that what Snow Leopard’s OpenCL is doing? Why not just program Flash to use now Leopard’s GPU optimizations?"
2. "Flash really needs some optimizations so it stops killing my machine when I hit a complex Flash-based banner ad. "

There’s some obvious advantages to GPU optimizations

iMac, Mac mini supplies dwindle as new models loom?

Rumours that Apple plans an update for its iMac and Mac mini range continue to percolate as the company’s first Q10 quarter gets set to start.

Reports claim Apple’s already informing sales channels that several of its desktop Macs are heading into short supply as the company presumably preps its new SKUs. AppleInsider claims Apple Retail is warning outlets that further orders on many models will not be met, specifically for the Mac mini and iMac range.

Amazon also appears to be out of stock, directing orders to third party resellers (such as J&R Music and Computer World, DataVision Computer Video or Techno Intelligence), rather than honouring them itself. Interestingly, current models are available through the giant retailer at a variety of discounts, up to $30 less than book price in some casesbr />
Similar availability constraints are impacting supply of the Mac mini, with orders again directed toward third-party resellers.

Apple’s own retail store, however, continues to promise new order iMacs will ship within 24-hours.

Apple last update these two products on March 3, 2009, when it reduced prices, offering the 24-inch model at the same price as the previous 20-inch iMac.

Previous claims have suggested the redesigned all–in–one could come crammed with a SD card reader, quad-core processors and even Intel’s Xeon inside, said Mac4Ever. The site also predicted an aluminium remote control and a touch-enabled mouse would make their debut with the new desktop all-in-one.

Earlier this month, Wedge Partners predicted a redesigned iMac with a “thinner, organic design, likely with smoothed or rounded edges.

The firm also expects “new, lower price points to drive demand and create a meaningful competitive threat” to coming PCs based on Windows 7 as well as to the booming netbook segment. “We believe these new designs and price points will help Apple achieve a 3 million unit quarter for Macs in [calendar] Q4,” the analysts said.

Which would make a strong start for Apple’s new financial year, as it prepares next year’s purported tablet release.

Gizmodo publishes more Microsoft Courier information (Updated June 2010 ship/ Intel Chip)

We know it is MS, but we’re fans of this concept:

playMBX(‘video_uid=4c96d3b4191ce2c6c3&security_token=prod3.f6f48df43c519278&type=sd’);‘ <!–

via Gizmodo.

Update: It looks like it runs Windows 7 underneath – which means Intel Chips (not ARM) and is scheduled for release in mid 2010.  This is interesting because Microsoft is taking the ‘slim the desktop OS’ approach, while it seems Apple is taking the ‘beef up the iPod OS’ approach.



Tablet to be announced before January 19, selling in May or June?


iLounge has the latest Apple tablet rumors today.  Nothing too out of the ordinary except they’ve said it will be announced on or before January 19th, 2010 (why that date? – what’s so special about it?) and it should ship in the May-June timeframe.  This obviously correlates to the iPhone announcement/hype/launch timeframe in 2007.

The similarities don’t end there.  Apple’s tablet configs are said to be "two different variations: one with 3G networking capabilities, and one without 3G networking capabilities. Think of the 3G version as a bigscreen iPhone 3GS, and the non-3G version as a bigscreen iPod touch." 

They go on to speculate that the screen resolution will be 720P and its primary purpose will be media absorption (ebooks, music, movies, gaming, etc.)

"It is designed to expand the iPhone and iPod touch media concept to its next potential level: as a slate-like replacement for books and magazines, plus all of the media, gaming, app, and web functionality of the iPhone and iPod touch.

It is not meant to compete with netbooks. It’s an iPhone OS media player and light communication device."


Apple's FileMaker intros Bento 3

Apple subsidiary, FileMaker, this afternoon introduced the latest iteration of its personal databasing application, Bento, raising the software up to version 3.

Bento 3 offers new ways to view, use and share photos, contacts, calendars, files and more, the company says, including full integration with iPhoto, multi-user sharing and new security options.

That iPhoto integration means you can link images to contacts, projects, events and other information stored in Bento.
“Think of Bento 3 as a powerful, easy way to bring together all of your key Mac information and photos,” said Ryan Rosenberg, vice president, marketing and services, FileMaker. “With Bento 3, we’re providing new ways for you to view and interact with your information so you can organise contacts, projects, events and even more details of your life.”
You can now share your Bento libraries with up to five users over a wired or wireless local network. You can also encrypt any field and assign passwords to secure your information in Bento 3.

A new Grid view will display thumbnails of photos, text and numeric-based information, while improved File Lists show image thumbnails, instead of just text.

The software now ships with 35 pre-designed templates, including those for wine collecting, job hunting, home searching, vacation planning and more. The recently launched Bento Template Exchange shows off hundreds of downloadable templates designed by Bento users.
Bento 3 has a suggested UK list price of £29.95 but, for a limited time only, FileMaker is offering a £10 rebate to existing users of Bento 1 and Bento 2 via an instant rebate scheme to users who upgrade.

Bento 1.0.3 for iPhone and iPod touch resolves compatibility issues related to Bento 3 for Mac and will be available soon. Current users of Bento for iPhone and iPod touch will see a notification on their device when the free update is available for download.