Wednesday, September 15, 2010

TheAppleBlog (3 сообщения)
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  • Apple Working On Subscription Plans for Newspapers

    Apple doesn’t provide a means for distributing content via the App Store out of the goodness of its heart. It wants a cut of any profits other companies make there, which is why it takes a 30 percent slice of revenue from purchases made using its iTunes infrastructure. Now, Jobs and company hope to extend that model to newspaper subscriptions, too.

    The iPad is a great e-reading device, but it falters when compared with the Kindle in that there is no consistent means of subscribing to periodicals. Some apps feature in-app purchases to get around this (i.e., the Times), some, like Zinio, handle it outside of Apple’s iTunes store framework, and the iBooks app is missing such a system altogether. According to sources familiar with the matter, though, Apple is about to remedy that with a new subscription scheme tailored to digital newspapers.

    Industry watchers predict the revenue scheme will resemble existing models, with Apple grabbing 30 percent of all subscription fees, and possibly nearer 40 percent of advertising revenue from the digital newspapers. Cupertino has also apparently agreed to an opt-in function for subscribers to share their data with publishers, instead of just with Apple itself, which is normally the case for transactions made through iTunes.

    According to Roger Fidler of the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (via San Jose Mercury News), newspaper publishers aren’t thrilled at the deal. They wanted to pay Apple a straight fee rather than a percentage of profits derived from subscriptions and advertising. Advertising in newspapers generally subsidizes subscription costs, so handing over a significant portion of both will mean that news outlets have to look at restructuring how they make money, and from where.

    It’s not surprising that Apple wouldn’t want to change the revenue formula that’s worked for it in other areas. It enjoys a 70/30 split on all apps and in-app purchases currently, and a 60/40 split from its iAd in-app advertising platform. To extend the rules to newspapers is just common sense.

    But digital advertising isn’t as effective as print. And the fear is that even with large numbers of subscribers to digital editions, it won’t be able to support the bottom line since attracting advertisers will be difficult. Not to mention that people will still expect to pay the same low fees for subscriptions, if not less because they think digital publishing incurs less cost than traditional, paper-based production.

    Bottom line, newspapers have to start delivering content in a way that extends beyond presenting a scanned page or a glorified RSS reader to users if they want to attract new revenue. They should take a cue from Wired and other iPad magazine apps which have made full use of the platform, embedding interactive and rich media content into their designs.

    Better yet, start from scratch and build something from the ground up aimed specifically at tablet computers. It’s a risk, but is it any more of one than continuing to watch readership numbers fall?

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • The MacBook Air Doesn't Get Enough Credit

    I'm typing this article on a MacBook Air. It's the best notebook I've ever owned, and it's a notebook that is severely underappreciated by anyone that doesn't own one. Anyone reading this on an Air knows that it's truly the lightest, full-featured notebook available and an absolute pleasure to type on for hours due to the exceptionally thin front lip and bouncy keys coupled with a super wide trackpad in a body that's just over three pounds. Unfortunately, the MacBook Air has a bad reputation.

    Anyone who hasn't owned one simply doesn't understand. They see a speed that tops out at 2.13Ghz, and an SSD at only 128GB of storage, and that's before they nearly faint when finding out it has only 2GB of RAM and a single USB port. The next question is always, "How do I burn CDs?"

    Back in the 90s, Apple had a program where it would give you one of its computers risk fee for around 30 days as long as you provided your credit card number (in case you don't send it back). It was a genius program, because many people who’d heard Macs were terrible would try one and be hooked after only a few days. The same might have happened to the iPad if Apple hadn't marketed the heck out of it leading up to release day. People knew it would be amazing, but the general consensus was, "What do I do with it?" That's where the MacBook Air sits today. It's a machine that most people want but simply don't know where it fits into their workflow.

    I've been a Mac user since early 2000, and back then, when working from a café or library, everyone would stop by my tangerine iBook and ask, "Are Macs really worth it?" After the success of the iPod and the Intel switch, people stopped asking, because many people were already Mac users. They already had one in their bag. The sale was made.

    That didn't start happening to me again until late 2009, when I purchased a MacBook Air. I was skeptical, but I had a 17" MacBook Pro at my desk and thought if I didn't like the Air, I could send it back within two weeks. Two weeks later, I sold the 17" MacBook Pro and bought an iMac. Today, when I sit at a café, that same coolness of owning a Mac back in 2000 takes people over when they see the Air. Their first question, "Is it worth it?" Yes. Yes it is.

    People at Apple know this. I know employees that are designers, product managers and retail workers at Apple who all tell me that they love the Air and that it's the most underappreciated machine in the notebook lineup. If Apple knows it, why doesn’t it do something about it?

    There's a trend at Apple that I see repeatedly. The machine with the lowest sales remains stagnant until Apple gets around to fixing it up. The Mac mini was plagued with this problem, and sat dormant from a design perspective from 2005 to 2010. The Mac Pro has far worse sales than the mini, and it sees a minor speed bump once every 18 months, but if you own a PowerMac G5 manufactured in 2004 and sit it beside a Mac Pro that just arrived from Apple yesterday, they look strikingly similar. Just compare a PowerBook from 2003 to a MacBook Pro today and you'll see where Apple spends most of its time innovating.

    The MacBook Air's design has remained unchanged since it was introduced in January 2008, when the SSD model cost close to $3,000. Apple continued dropping the price and enhancing the features, to where today's high-end model can be had for just over $2,000 and can handle most everyday tasks. If a laptop is your only computer and you do any digital media creation, the Air isn't for you. If you have a desktop computer and occasionally fly across country only working on spreadsheets, PowerPoint documents or watching movies, the Air is going to be your new best friend. I'm not a designer, and I'm not a digital magician. I'm just a guy that writes, emails, reads news and watches YouTube videos, and for that, the MacBook Air is the best machine money can buy.

    I'm not going to speculate what the next Macbook Air should have. I'm only here to make a case that anyone that hasn't used one should give it a shot and that Apple needs to throw some marketing dollars behind it so everyone else knows what we MacBook air owners have known for a long time: It's the best notebook Apple makes and it also happens to be the smallest. It's a machine for 75 percent of the portable Mac users out there, and too many people are buying more than they need when the MacBook Air fits in just nicely.

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • Review: iBank 4 Makes Quicken Essential No More

    Still waiting for Intuit to do something with Quicken Essentials for Mac? Stop wasting your time and try the latest version of iBank from IGG Software. It’s like Quicken, except it has features.

    I abandoned moribund Quicken in 2009, and since then I’ve used iBank through several point releases and the latest major version update. Not surprisingly, upgrading from iBank 3 was quick and error free, but so was switching from Quicken 2007. An old QIF file with two dozen accounts and a decade of transactions imported without problem.

    Finances appear in a two-pane interface; accounts and information on the left, selected accounts like the register on the right. Instead of an editing pane, transactions are now done in the register itself. The developers opted for a two-line list view to better handle investment data and to support multiple currencies, features lacking in Quicken Essentials. Personally, I prefer single-line transactions, but it's not a deal breaker. Regarding editing, splits could be better. You can only see four splits without scrolling, annoying for paychecks and other many-split transactions.

    The register also has a Cover Flow view of dubious value, and the more relevant and functional reconciliation view, straightforward "checkbox" reconciliation.

    Transaction Templates encompass the concept of repeat transactions, scheduled, as seen above, as well as imported. If a downloaded transaction meets certain criteria, like payee name, then appropriate type, categories, splits, memo data are automatically added as expected.

    While Quicken Essentials claims support for thousands of institutions, you can find out if iBank supports direct downloading for yours here. If not, or more likely if your financial institution charges an egregious fee for direct downloads, the built-in WebKit browser allows logging in from within iBank for downloading. This is a nice feature, though it would be nicer if iBank supplied ID and password too.

    Reports are a big improvement over iBank 3, the biggest changes being combining report data and charts, WYSIWYG printing, and the ability to "drill down" to individual transactions in a report. The depth of accessible detail offered is well in advance of "spending cloud"  gimmicks and the simplistic reporting of Quicken Essentials.

    Speaking of gimmicks, iBank 4 adds "envelope" budgeting. Instead of categories, you get envelopes, but with the ability to "borrow" unused money from one envelope for another. The problem is that there are no envelopes. It's a metaphor too far, but iBank 4 retains category budgeting, so not a big deal.

    Besides tracking general securities information, as seen above, iBank 4 does your stocks, funds, and retirement accounts all the way down to individual transactions. Can you imagine personal finance software that doesn't? It's called Quicken Essentials.

    If you think I’m dismissive of Quicken Essentials for Mac, you’re wrong. There’s not enough there to be dismissive about. Assuming Intuit continues development, instead of ultimately pushing Mac users to, it will be a long time, if ever, before Quicken Essentials catches up to iBank. Why wait for Quicken Essentials? For the same price of $59.99, iBank 4 offers a robust, full-featured personal finance program right now.

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »

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