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Tag: Apple (Page 1 of 2)

Apple Loses US Anti-trust Case

United States District Judge Denise Cote has ruled that Apple did indeed conspire with a group of book publishers in order to eliminate competition and set ebook prices higher, and force Amazon to do the same. This ruling came as no surprise to legal experts following the trial. And given that all of the publishers in the law suit had already settled, one cannot help but wonder why Apple insist upon going to trial anyway.

If Steve Jobs were still alive, it would be easy to imagine that his stubbornness even in the face of ridiculously long odds, would lead the company down this path. But Steve is dead and it’s time for Apple to forge a new path. Jobs did some great things, but stupid things like the ongoing legal war with Samsung and Android need to be dropped. And this misadventure will be bad for Apple both financially and in the hearts of consumers. I don’t know who Apple thought they were championing by going to trial in defense of higher ebook prices, but certainly not the average consumer.

Apple can still be a great company making cool things that empower the creative spirit in everyone. But letting Steve run the company from beyond the grave is probably not the best strategy.

Nexus 7 First Impressions

My Nexus 7 arrived yesterday and after a night setting up and playing with it, here are some first impressions of Google’s 7 inch tablet. First off, it feels pretty good in my hands. It’s solid, but doesn’t have the dense heavy feel that my wife’s Nook Color has. And its compact size is perfect for the use I have in mind for it. I decided to get a Nexus 7 as a replacement for my eInk Kindle and Nook readers. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my eReaders, but they aren’t that useful for me on the road where they often cannot take advantage of the nearly ubiquitous free Wi-Fi at shops and cafes. My new Nexus should have no problems with wireless connections anywhere I shop or eat lunch. Additionally, I’ll be able to read my eBooks, comics, and digital manga on it regardless of whether I bought it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. I could do this with my iPad too, but it is simply too big for my daily load out.

So how does the Nexus 7 compare to my iPad? In a word, it’s okay. A frequent iPad user will immediately notice the lack of finger tip real estate the 7 inch form factor brings and typing on the smaller screen is a bit of a pain. I didn’t realize just how much I depended on having the keys on the onscreen keyboard jump up at me as I typed. So it’s taken a bit of getting used to. An iPad user will also have to get used to the Android way of doing things. Apple’s lawsuits not withstanding, Android and iOS offer significantly different user experiences. Which you prefer is a matter of personal taste as either will get you where you want to go.

Another thing I noticed was that the Nexus seems a hair slower than my iPad. The interface responds fast enough, but I felt a little sluggishness using the apps. Now in fairness, this is just a first impression and I had a lot of stuff open as the night went on. That said, I like my Nexus. I spent a lot of time in the reader apps from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Viz. From text to manga, it was a pleasure using the Nexus 7 to read my books and comics. This is why I bought the Nexus, to have all of my books, manuals, and graphic novels in one convenient, network connected, and portable package. Plus, I now have my own Android reference hardware for my Android development projects. Amazon and Barnes & Noble make some nice 7 inch tablets too, but the one from Google is pure Android, which is what I want for development.

So on the whole, I’m liking my Nexus 7. It’s not an iPad, but I don’t need it to be.

And The eBook Prices Came A Tumbling Down

money going up in smokeWhen I started looking for some new iOS programming books for my Kindle last week, it wasn’t something I was looking forward to. The last time I had engaged in such a search, I was frustrated by the high cost of these books even in digital format. This time I was in for a surprise. Lower prices!

In the aftermath of the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) settlement between three of the major eBook publishers and retailers, I had expected that eventually eBook prices would come down. But I wasn’t expecting it to happen so fast. Nevertheless, Ars reports that eBook prices are already falling. As part of the DoJ settlement, publishers HarperCollins, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster, agreed to abandon the agency model in which eBook prices were set by the publisher, giving that power back to the retailer.

While Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Google Books have already started selling some eBooks below list price, no such luck at the Apple iBookstore yet. Apple is among the holdouts, publishers Macmillan and Penguin, determined to meet the DoJ charges in court next year. I can only hope that they will come to their senses and realize that lower eBook prices for the consumer can only grow the market for eBooks and other digital goods. While it means the inevitable decline of the hardcover printed book, major publishers still have back catalogs of thousands upon thousands of books waiting to find new readers and new life as eBooks.

A Perfect Storm For eBooks

X-Men_StormWith the U.S. Department of Justice putting the hit on Apple and a cabal of publishers for alleged collusion and price-fixing on  one side, Amazon brings a smackdown on the other announcing plans to lower prices for eBooks on the Kindle. While a number of the publishers have decided to settle with the DOJ, Apple and five others did not, leading the DOJ to formally file suit against them.

Apple has denied any wrong doing, but it seems clear that regardless of how things turn out, the prices that consumers pay for most eBooks are about to tumble. I’ve seen a lot of gloom and doom on the net about what this will do to publishers and small bookstores, but I think that in the end a perfect storm may be brewing for eBooks to take the center stage of reading, just as digital downloads on iTunes has done for music. Despite the high cost of eBooks relative to what many readers think they should be in relation to their printed siblings, the eReader market is booming. I think a critical mass of Kindles, Nooks, iPads, and other tablets has been reached. The only thing holding the eBook back now are the artificially high prices being propped up by the old guard of publishers, aided, unfortunately, by Apple.

When prices drop, the flood gates will open on sales of eBooks and reading devices. Obviously, Amazon stands to gain a great deal from this. Ironically, so will Apple which should see an increase in iPad sales as well, especially if they see greater adoption of their tablet by school districts. The fighting is going to be fierce and there’s a big question as to whether Barnes & Noble is likely to survive. The Nook Tablet is a great reader, but Barnes & Noble may not have the resources to fight toe to toe with Amazon. If they’re smart, they’ll be in talks with Google right now for a partnership or buyout.

Change happens. But I’m more excited about the world of digital literature to come, than fearful of the end of things I’ve known in the past. At the end of the day, a book is more about the thoughts the author shares with us, than the media that delivers them.

Do Not Pass Go! eBook Prices May Drop As EU And US Double-team Apple And Publishers

Do not pass go do not collect $200Ars reports that the European Commission is teaming up with the US Department of Justice investigating allegations of collusion and price-fixing in the eBook market by Apple and several large publishers. Apple and publishers Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Pearson’s Penguin, Hachette Livre, and Macmillan are accused of working together in order to keep eBook prices artificially high, in some cases higher than the printed edition.

This alleged collusion is behind the move to the agency model in the eBook market by Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble. In the agency model, publishers, rather than the retailer, set the prices of eBooks. Prior to that change, Amazon set its own prices for eBooks, often at a deep discount over the paperback cover price. Most Kindle eBooks costs $9.99 and less during that time, much to the chagrin of publishers who feared a rapid erosion of the printed book market. This changed after several of the large publishers threatened to withhold their books from the Kindle store unless Amazon agreed to the agency model they had worked out with Apple. Following this change, eBook prices rose dramatically, in some cases exceeding the cost of print.

If the EU and US actions against Apple and the publishers is successful, they will likely see large punitive fines and be forced to abandon the agency model. This could see a reduction in eBook prices which in addition to increased happiness for book readers, in this writer’s opinion, could also spark a boom in sales of eBooks and readers. Anything that grows the eBook market is quite welcome here!

New Nook Tablet Plays With Fire At High Price

Barnes & Noble unveiled their new Nook Tablet today, boasting higher specs than Amazon’s Kindle Fire in nearly every measure, including price. The new Nook weighs in at $249 versus $199 for Amazon’s tablet. Barnes & Noble also announced immediate price cuts of the current Nook Color to $199 and the Nook Simple Touch to $99.


Sometimes Less Is More

Clearly, these moves are in response to Amazon which makes the higher price of the new Nook rather puzzling. Even more puzzling given that anyone who’s been watching the iPad vs. everyone else tablet wars has already seen this movie played out before. Barnes & Noble calls the new Nook a better value than the Kindle Fire because it has a faster CPU, more system memory and data storage. And they’re right, in a rationale world, the higher spec’d, better performing tablet should command a higher price. Consumers should flock to it, right?

But isn’t that what a number of tablet makers claimed when they went into battle against Apple’s iPad? They offered tablets with more features, raw processor speed , and memory than the iPad. And some of them could play Flash videos and games too which the iPad still cannot do. This greater performance came at a greater price than the base iPad which was entirely reasonable being a better value. But in the end, most of these tablets were utter market disasters. Even the most successful of them have scarcely made a dent in the market share of Apple’s iPad.

Consumers are looking for value, but that doesn’t always correspond to the better hardware. Amazon has an enormous media and online retail data infrastructure to plug the Kindle Fire into. This is entirely analogous to the integrated ecosystem that Apple has built around iOS devices. When you buy an iPad, buying movies, music, and apps is drop dead easy. If Amazon produces a similar user experience with the Fire, the higher spec’d Nook won’t even get a chance to play. Sometimes less is more.

It is good that Barnes & Noble seems to have gained an ally in Netflix, but launching a new tablet at $50 more than the latest from the Amazon juggernaut could be a fatal mistake. Techies love the faster hardware, but they are not the market that is at stake here, nor are the people happily using iPads and other full function tablets. The real market consists of that larger, aging population of people who are increasingly annoyed that so many physical bookstores are disappearing.

These book lovers are being forced by necessity into buying their first eReaders. Little do they know just how quickly they’ll be hooked on eBooks. Once that happens, they’ll be well primed to buy other digital content. This crowd is not going to go for the tablet that costs $50 more than the one from the company that they’ve probably ordered books from in the past. I mean, really, who hasn’t bought something from Amazon in the last 10 years?

I think, B&N can build some advantages with their physical stores and the ability to not only showcase the Nook, but also popular and up and coming authors. But they’ve seriously got to lose the $50 premium. Price matching the Fire with the slower, older Nook Color is not going to cut it either. I think this fall is setting the stage for whether the last major U.S. bookstore chain survives or closes the book on the era of popular printed literature.

Goodbye Steve And Thanks For All The Cool Stuff!

Steve JobsAs most people know by now, Steve Jobs passed away yesterday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. If I had to name one person who’s had the most influence on what technology I use and how I use it, it would have to be Steve Jobs. This site and the Learncrest venture exist and are empowered largely by Macintosh, iPhone, and iPad. And my own ideas about technology and aesthetics have been heavily influenced by the vision he promoted at Apple.

So rest in peace Steve. Now it’s time for the rest of use to take your vision of beauty and technology and make it uniquely our own.

Amazon Lights Kindle Fire, Nook Color May Get Burned

Amazon Kindle FireIn probably one of the worst kept secrets in tech history, Amazon unveiled its much anticipated new color Kindle today, the Kindle Fire. In addition to the Fire, Amazon is releasing 3 new eInk Kindles, a $79 non-touch model and two touch screen Kindles. One with WiFi and the other 3G.

While this Bloomberg report describes the Kindle Fire as a tablet computer, and much has been made of it being an “iPad killer”, I think Barnes & Noble has more to be concerned about than Apple. At $199, it’s $50 less than the Nook Color and its lack of a camera and microphone is more evidence that the Kindle Fire is more of a response to competitor B & N in filling a hole in the the Kindle lineup from which the Nook Color had garnered some success.

Amazon has an extensive Kindle Fire page that reveals a powerful color eReader prepared to take back any ground lost to the Nook Color in children’s books, magazines, or games like Angry Birds. Like Kindles before it, the Kindle Fire is clearly designed to sell Amazon books and content, including movies and TV shows.

I suspect that Amazon has discovered that iPad folks and Kindle folks are two different markets. They overlap a bit, but not enough to make the Kindle Fire a more general purpose tablet like the iPad. And Amazon’s well developed information infrastructure, which will leveraged in the Fire’s Silk browser, will more than deliver on the promises they’re making content wise. The Kindle Fire is a nuclear powered reader’s tablet. The iPad will feel the heat, but the Nook Color will be the one getting burned in all likelihood.

Of course the game is not over yet. Barnes & Noble is expected to be announcing the next Nooks soon. And I would be surprised if the Nook Color doesn’t see a price drop ahead of the Kindle Fire’s November availability date. So stay tuned!

More info:

Amazon Fires Back With HTML5 Kindle Reader

A couple of weeks ago, Apple’s in-app purchase rules change resulted in a number of companies with iOS book reader applications to remove links to their online bookstores from within their apps. Along with this change, there was some speculation that this might encourage the introduction of HTML5 based web applications to sidestep Apple’s rules.

Last week Amazon fired back with its own web-based Kindle Cloud Reader. This iPad optimized web app in a hands-on review by Jacqui Cheng at Ars Technica on the whole got pretty good marks for a 1.0 release. And, of course, it integrates the Kindle Store into the app. By all means, read the review and check it out for yourself at While not a complete replacement for the native iOS and Android apps yet, in our increasingly networked world, it won’t be too long before we’ll no longer notice the difference. And the speed at which Amazon introduced the cloud reader suggests that this project has been underway for some time and will likely see future improvements.

Apple’s In-app Purchase Rules Encouraging HTML5 Web Apps

Audrey Watters at ReadWriteWeb writes that Apple’s new rules are encouraging eReader app makers to create HTML5 web applications rather than pay Apple 30% royalties on in-app purchases made on iOS devices, i.e. iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches.

HTML5 LogoI’d been watching this situation with a great deal of interest because it has affected the development of our own Learncrest iPhone app. Originally, the app was designed to follow the Amazon Kindle app model wherein if a reader clicked a purchase link in the app, it would start up mobile Safari and go to a web page to complete the purchase outside of the app. Unfortunately, Apple changed the rules to disallow this, forcing a rewrite of the app. Amazon, Kobo, Google, and other eReader app developers have been forced to remove buy buttons and any mention of their book purchasing web sites from their iOS apps.

Because the Learncrest app is being developed using PhoneGap, much of it is coded in HTML5, CSS, and Javascript. Rather than waste the affected bits, I decided to create a web version of the app suitable for iOS and Android mobile devices. This is still under development, but if you want to take a look, click here. Of course this looks best when viewed on a mobile device like the iPhone or any number of Android based smartphones.

Obviously, a web app is not the answer for every need right now, but as network connectivity becomes increasingly pervasive, soon the end user may not be able to tell the difference. If it is Apple’s grand strategy to encourage and promote HTML5 in this way, then kudos to them! If not, then WTF are they thinking?

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