Tuesday, May 17, 2011

GigaOMTheAppleBlog · Apple and iOS News, Tips and Reviews (13 сообщений)

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  • Remote Access App HomePipe Gets Enterprise-Friendly

    HomePipe is a service that allows users to securely access and share files remotely on Windows, Mac, and Linux machines, through a web app and free mobile apps for iPhone/iPod touch, iPad, Android and Windows Phone 7.

    Since its launch just over a year ago, HomePipe has been primarily focused on the consumer market, but the service has announced several features that will make it more attractive for business collaboration:

    • Enhanced security. It’s now possible to specify who has access to shared files, and to require secure logins by users. All content access is authenticated and encrypted using TLS/SSL over what is essentially a VPN, thus making the system able to traverse firewalls.
    • In-app editing. Users may now edit shared files directly, using whatever tools are available on their remote or mobile devices. Saved files are automatically re-uploaded to the server. In-app editing will need to be used carefully, as it doesn’t appear HomePipe provides automatic backups or version control.
    • Audio streaming. HomePipe also supports audio streaming, and now includes systems for managing playlists and streaming audio in the background. HomePipe has included content acceleration for quick response. This feature may be of less utility in business environments, but could be helpful for presentations.

    The basic operation of HomePipe is similar to services like Pogoplug and Buffalo CloudStor, which we’ve written about before, in that you don’t copy your content to the cloud. Rather, you can specify which content from your own hard drives and networks is to be shared, and with whom, through an unobtrusive “agent” app that can run on any Windows, Mac, or (in beta) Linux machine. The agent can also be run through an add-on for Google Chrome.

    However, unlike Pogoplug, HomePipe requires no special hardware. In that regard, it’s more like such remote control solutions as Hamachi, LogMeIn, and TeamViewer, as well as cloud-based content-sharing services like Google Docs, Dropbox, and Docstoc.

    HomePipe CEO Chris Hopen said the company envisions HomePipe as a private collaboration tool for groups of up to 15-20 people, or as a way of sharing content with similar-sized groups of family and friends. He also told me the service is making available an API, and will shortly provide connectivity to other cloud vendors.

    If you’re looking for ways to share content without paying for cloud storage, HomePipe may be a useful option. It’s available in a free, ad-supported version that is limited to 10 remote access sessions per month, and in an ad-free “standard” version for $23.99/year. Group and enterprise plans are also available.

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  • LunaTik and TikTok Hit the Big Time With Apple Store Availability

    The iPod nano wristband accessories Scott Wilson designed shortly after Apple introduced a new model of its smallest-screened iPod have gone from community-funded success to Apple Store shelves. The LunaTik and TikTok watchband kits go on sale in Apple Stores across North America this week.

    Wilson, founder of Chicago-based design studio MINIMAL, and one of the driving forces behind the visual style of the redesigned Xbox and Microsoft Kinect, set out to create the LunaTik and TikTok as a project he would have complete control over. To avoid the influence of traditional investors, he turned to crowdsourced community fundraising site Kickstarter. We watched as the TikTok and LunaTik first broke Kickstarter funding records early on in its time on the site, and then later as it capped out at an unprecedented total of nearly $1 million raised through accumulated individual donations.

    The wristbands were so well-designed that many early investors in the project actually bought iPod nanos only after securing either wristband as a reward for backing their production. I reviewed the TikTok, and indeed, no other similar accessory I’ve since come across comes close in terms of quality and design.

    Wilson was distributing both the LunaTik and the TikTok via the official LunaTik.com website, where they will continue to be sold, but different retail channels have now come calling, including Apple itself. Apple initially wasn’t convinced buyers would be willing to pay for the more expensive $79.95 LunaTik. In fact, Wilson has sold twice as many of the more expensive model according to Co.Design. That’s 20,000 through his site, adding to the initial 21,120 orders made through Kickstarter. Those numbers have convinced Apple that buyers most definitely are interested.

    The success of both accessories has also spawned new models recently, including a white version of the TikTok and both a red and black version of the LunaTik. Apple will be selling the LunaTik in silver (the original color) and red for $79.95, and the TikTok in white and black for $39.95.

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  • Apple Wants Smaller SIM Cards — Precursor to Embedding?

    Apple has submitted a proposal to make SIM cards even smaller than the micro-SIM it currently uses in the iPhone 4 and iPad, according to Reuters. The new smaller SIM standard is also backed by French carrier Orange, and was submitted to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) last week. The proposal isn’t in the ETSI database yet, but it might take some time for it to appear.

    If the standard gains additional sponsorship through other carriers and hardware manufacturers, and if the ETSI proves amenable to the idea, devices using the tiny new SIM (nano-SIM?) could be in consumer hands as early as next year.

    Smaller SIM cards will allow for smaller SIM card enclosures, which should make it possible for Apple to save space within its iOS devices. That could allow for even thinner cases, or leave more room for larger batteries or other new components such as additional antennas and sensors.

    Another possibility is that Apple wants to make it easier for SIM cards to become unobtrusive embeddable parts of a mobile device’s internal structure. Apple is thought to be working on embeddable SIM cards, though it’s a controversial subject among carriers, some of which appear to support the idea, while others reportedly threatened to take punitive action if Apple went ahead with the plan.

    Even if it doesn’t pursue the embedded SIM route, nano-SIM cards will at least allow Apple to pack more into ever-smaller packages in future mobile device designs. But who else besides me thinks they’re inevitably going to lose a bunch of these things during the install process? As if micro-SIMs weren’t small enough already.

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  • Why the Apple-Nuance Deal Isn't Only for the Data Center

    Rumor has it Apple is in talks with Nuance to strike a deal allowing Apple to use Nuance’s speech recognition software. One of the uses mentioned was the possibility of using the software in the new NC data center, but I don’t think it’s likely that the data center is the intended target.

    The main reason relying on a voice recognition server in a data center is a bad idea is the fact that we’re talking about mobile devices. You can’t guarantee a persistent data connection on a smartphone, so whenever you don’t have a signal, you can’t use the voice recognition.

    The current implementation of speech recognition on the iPhone, Voice Control, doesn't have this problem. Since the processing is all done on-device, you can use Voice Control whenever and wherever you like; there’s no need to have any connection to anything. Of course, Voice Control doesn't integrate with third-party apps, but that is possibly part of what the rumored deal is about – expanding current on-device features.

    Even if you do have an internet connection, there are issues with housing the tech remotely. Firstly, there’s connection speed. A 3G or Wi-Fi connection would be likely fine, but sending your audio over a GPRS or EDGE connection will take some time. If you are using voice commands to do something such as launch an app, for example, it is likely to be faster to navigate to the app yourself and launch it, rather than waiting for the speech to be sent, processed and returned. Even if you are using a hands-free system to send an SMS in the car, it might be faster to find somewhere to pull over and type the message yourself.

    Another problem is data capping. If you are a frequent user of the speech recognition system, sending audio over a data connection too often will soon rack up overage charges. A possible solution to this could be compression of the audio before it gets sent to the server, but the more it gets compressed, the lower the quality, and the lower the success rate of the recognition software.

    Finally, there’s the strain on mobile carriers, since all the sound files have to sent over their data networks. This extra traffic would be on top of everything that’s being sent now, so the introduction of server-based speech recognition will likely impact data transfer speeds and/or bandwidth costs.

    It seems to me as if implementing the software in the data center isn’t the best way of tackling this. If Apple is indeed negotiating with Nuance, then I think it’s likely going to be for either improving the current Voice Control feature, or for adding support for app developers to integrate their app with system-wide Nuance tech; imagine being able to control the Twitter app using voice commands, for example.

    Some extremely advanced capabilities may not be possible on-device, but for the average user, basic control and dictation features would be enough. There would be no need for advanced features such as a vocabulary editor or word-by-word training, as offered in some of Nuance’s desktop voice recognition products.

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  • Apple Said to Be Investigating Lodsys Patent Claims

    Apple is “actively investigating” the claims of patent infringement made by Lodsys against App Store developers, according to The Guardian. Lodsys, a patent holding firm, has been sending notices to independent developers giving them 21 days to secure a license for technology used in in-app purchases.

    Apple has yet to provide any response at all to the aggressive actions made by Lodsys, which didn’t directly target Cupertino, since, according to Lodsys’s official blog, Apple is already a license holder for its tech. Lodsys has received significant negative feedback from the general public regarding its actions, including emailed death threats. Most observers seem to see the action against developers as patent trolling, a colloquial term used for when a non-practicing holder of general patents goes after active users of tech that could be seen as being in violation of said patents.

    Developers have been forwarding the complaints to Apple’s legal department, in the hopes that the iPhone-maker will intervene on their behalf. It’s a reasonable expectation, given that all developers are guilty of doing in this case is using the tools supplied them and endorsed by Apple as part of the iOS software development kit.

    Far from backing down in response to negative public reaction, Lodsys appears to be stepping up its efforts. Iconfactory developer Talos Tsui tweeted Tuesday morning that the popular Mac and iOS app development company “just got Lodsysed.” Lodsys appears to be targeting developers indiscriminately, based solely on whether or not they make use of in-app purchases. Though large iOS development companies like Gameloft and Zynga have yet to publicly release any information regarding whether or not Lodsys is targeting them, too, but it seems unlikely that the patent holder would avoid such potentially lucrative targets with its wide-net approach.

    The Guardian doesn’t cite a specific source for the information that Apple’s legal department is investigating the claims made by Lodys, but it does add that Apple is preparing a response for sometime later this week. As we’ve seen in the past, and as Apple executives themselves have pointed out, the company takes an engineering approach to all problem solving, which first and foremost means analyzing and understanding the problem before acting.

    If you’re wondering whether or not Apple will end up responding to the threats made by Lodsys, consider that these claims threaten to undermine the attractiveness of the App Store to developers. The quality and depth of the App Store is arguably Apple’s most valuable asset in the ongoing battle for smartphone supremacy. And now that Lodsys is broadening its efforts to include some of Apple’s higher profile software development partners, the stakes are even higher.

    This new report from The Guardian only serves to reinforce my belief that Apple will do everything in its power to make sure this doesn’t escalate. It’s possible that Cupertino thought a sit-back-and-watch approach was best early on, since it was still possible the whole thing might just go away. But it’s much more likely that Apple’s legal team has just been taking the time to make sure it covers all the bases before firing a return shot that will sideline Lodsys and make it possible for iOS developers to go back to business as usual.

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  • Report: Magazine App Users Are Loyal, Willing to Share Info

    Users of Apple magazine — and other reader — apps are likely to be repeat readers, seem willing to share their personal info with publishers, and appear to be more loyal than the average app downloader, according to a new report. The report is by YUDU media, which creates branded reading apps for the iPhone and iPad. Some of YUDU’s customers include Reader’s Digest UK, Newsmax Magaznine, and The College Journal. YUDU’s findings are good news for magazine publishers, for whom reader relationships are the backbone of a successful business.

    The broad category of “reader apps” includes catalogs, books and brochures in addition to magazines, but YUDU separates out these categories in its reports when differences between them are meaningful. The results are based on information gathered from 80 of YUDU’s branded client offerings, and reveal promising statistics regarding iOS publication uptake, use and engagement.

    YUDU found that more than 40 percent of iOS magazine app users were willing to supply their personal details when given the option. That nearly matches the 50-percent opt-in figure we heard earlier from Apple and publishers using the in-app subscription system Apple recently introduced to iOS. According to YUDU’s report, the percentage of users willing to share info with publishers of brochure and catalogs is only slightly less, with around 39 and 37 percent opting to provide info respectively. Note, too, that in the case of YUDU apps, this info must be manually entered in registration forms within the app, rather than shared via a simple dialog button press the way it happens through Apple’s built-in subscription system.

    That’s good news for publishers and marketers looking to use iPad publications as a means to gather valuable user data about its customers and subscribers. The reach of the App Store and the ease with which people can fill out these informational forms means that publishers can potentially reach a far broader audience with far less expense than with traditional print media.

    iOS magazine users are also becoming more and more engaged. YUDU found the time spent with iOS magazine apps has increased by 50 percent since YUDU started monitoring its app statistics. That period covers the release of 10 issues, a timeframe which varies slightly depending on which publication you’re looking at. YUDU maintains this is a factor of users becoming better acclimated to their iPad devices and the services available to them.

    Magazine apps also see a 64-percent user return rate, which means users of YUDU magazine titles are opening the apps more than once for the most part. On average, magazine app users come back 3.7 times. Update downloads also account for 33.2 percent of all magazine app downloads, which is a considerable percentage in an ecosystem where many apps are quickly deleted before an update even becomes available, according to YUDU.

    Finally, YUDU also identified two more promising trends for magazine app publishers. First, app downloads increase at a faster rate than device sales, which seems to show that the average user is buying more and more apps for their iOS devices over the course of the life of those devices, not less. Also, in-app purchasing is steadily increasing, too. While it doesn’t yet approach the revenue made from up-front sales, it’s trending upwards in 2011 so far.

    Apple is gaining a lot of support for its in-app purchasing system among publishers lately, despite early hesitation. The trends illuminated by YUDU might be a good indication why.

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  • BeeTV: Social TV Meets Recommendations On the iPad

    BeeTV has introduced a new iPad app designed to create more engaging, interactive experiences around TV. Like other social TV apps, BeeTV hopes to tap into the large group of potential users that connect with each other on the second screen while watching TV — whether that second screen be a mobile phone or a tablet device. Also like some other TV apps, BeeTV mixes a combination of checkins and social conversations online. But what sets BeeTV apart is its approach to recommendations.

    Once a user has logged in with Facebook and chosen his TV provider, BeeTV makes recommendations based on his or her favorites, also providing a list of live and upcoming shows that a user might be interested in. Users can set alerts and invite friends to watch shows with them, as well as strike up conversations with each other around episodes that they’re watching. Each program has its own individual show page with tons of information about the cast and crew. From that page, users can rate or comment, with updates being fed into the app itself, as well as to social networks that the user has chosen to share with.

    BeeTV was founded in 2007 and got its start as a social recommendation engine that was being pitched to service providers as a way to connect their subscribers to new content. The company raised $8 million to pursue that goal, but found that the operator sales cycle was much too long, and ultimately hampered innovation. As a result, co-founder and CTO Yaniv Solnik decided to spin out the technology and start a consumer-facing app business instead.

    Now Solnik is the CEO and has raised $1.5 million from Italian VC firm Innogest to fund the newest iteration of BeeTV’s business. The company currently has about 10 employees, with its R&D operations in Israel and an eye toward starting an office in the San Francisco Bay Area.

    Currently, the app relies on affiliate merchandising revenue from digital stores like iTunes and Amazon for revenue, but BeeTV plans to monetize the app through advertising and other sources. Solnick sees an opportunity for a link between ads that appear on the TV and calls to action on the second screen. Given BeeTV’s ability to recommend new shows, Solnick also believes that the app could offer up sponsored show recommendations to users.

    For now, though, the name of the game is just getting users. The BeeTV iPad app is available on the Apple App Store now, with plans to create apps for handsets like the iPhone and Android mobile devices soon.

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  • Protect Your iPhone 4 and Add Battery Life With A PowerSkin Case

    I’ve dropped enough phones over the years that I’m a big fan of “extreme cases” like the ones that Dave wrote about a few days ago. But if you don’t need quite as much protection, and want extra power, you might want to look into the PowerSkin case for the iPhone 4, which the manufacturer recently sent me to try out.

    PowerSkin offers a protective flexible case made of 100 percent recycled silicone rubber, but it trades the internal hard plastic shell of extreme cases for an external battery. The outer case is similar to that of the Otterbox and Ballistic cases, but the PowerSkin case doesn’t include any covering for the screen; I recommend that you get a separate screen protector. The PowerSkin’s case also doesn’t overlaps the edge of the screen very much.

    The added power is definitely nice, though. The manufacturer says that the 1500mAh battery can provide up to 480 hours of talk time and 350 hours on standby beyond the phone’s built-in capacity. The case allows for both charging and syncing with the provided cable. There are LEDs on the bottom of the case that show the battery’s status. Not surprisingly, charging time is increased because it’s necessary to charge both the phone itself and the external battery. The case charges the internal phone battery first, then the external battery, which makes sense if you don’t have time to give both batteries a full charge. But once both are charged, of course, you’ll have access to a lot more phone time.

    Not surprisingly, the whole assemblage is thicker (0.77 inches) and heavier (around 3 oz.) than most cases, although it’s still pretty comfortable to hold and use.

    If you need the extra battery capacity, and are willing to live with slightly less protection for your iPhone 4, the PowerSkin is worth looking into. Models for HTC, Samsung and Motorola phones are also available. At present, the manufacturer’s web store is offline, but it is selling its products through a number online retailers; prices vary.

    How do you protect and power your iPhone?

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  • Will a Lack of NFC Hurt the Next iPhone's Chances?

    An Apple NFC iPhone patent from 2010.

    Apple’s next iPhone won’t have near field communication (NFC) capabilities, according to Wall Street research firm Bernstein (via Business Insider). Rumors have been going back and forth about whether Apple would include the tech in its next-gen smartphone, which recent reports suggest we won’t see until at least fall (if not later).

    Google moved early with NFC, including it in its Nexus S smartphone and showing off multiple uses of the tech at its I/O developer’s conference just last week. But NFC has probably gotten the most attention because of its potential for mobile payments. The tech’s inclusion in smartphones could allow users to pay for goods and services in the real world simply by swiping their mobile devices in front of NFC equipped payment terminals.

    That and other applications (like mobile advertising and home automation) make NFC an exciting future prospect, but will Apple suffer from not having an NFC-equipped smartphone out in 2011? Not likely. NFC may have a lot of interesting potential, but don’t expect to see it become a significant part of anyone’s daily life for some time yet.

    According to ViVOtech CEO Mick Mullagh, who spoke to our own Ryan Kim, NFC won’t take off in a big way until next year. Even then, we’re only likely to see the tech starting to catch on. Isis, the NFC joint venture between Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, said it will only launch its first pilot program in Salt Lake City next year. Really widespread adoption and the reach of supporting infrastructure are still probably a few years out. And since NFC’s biggest trick is payments, which is a complex field with lots of established players, upstarts and regulatory concerns that need to work in harmony in order to appeal to consumers, you can safely bet that the word “NFC” won’t be printed in big glossy letters on consumer electronic product packaging any time soon.

    Apple is no stranger to sticking to the sidelines while a technology works out its adolescent issues and gains a little more maturity. It waited until 3G networks were fairly built-up and available nationwide before deciding to include that wireless broadband standard in its iPhone. Apple also has yet to suggest that it will be providing an LTE offering in any of its upcoming mobile devices, even though 4G-equipped Android handsets are already making their way to market.

    While Apple may miss out on some early learning experiences regarding NFC by keeping itself out of the game, it can probably catch up on any tricks it might miss with strategic acquisitions down the road. And until NFC proves it has something to offer that consumers want to buy, it’s not doing much good for Google besides providing interesting tech demos for developer conferences, anyway.

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  • One Year Later, iOS Is Still the Best Development Platform

    Last year, I wrote about how the iPhone was still the best development platform. But a lot can change in a year, especially when it comes to technology, and that technology includes players like Google and Apple. There’s no denying an army of device manufacturers using a very capable, open-source operating system with an attractive licensing model will collectively overtake a single device manufacturer. But who is benefiting from this model, and is it good for third-party developers?

    Last year, the distinction between the two platforms was easier to evaluate; Google has caught up to and surpassed Apple in the important area of new activations. But there’s plenty more for developers to consider before making a choice about which platform to support.

    Just Follow the Money

    With iOS and Apple, there’s clearly one primary source of income: the direct sale of the final product into the hands of consumers. The relationship isn’t quite so clear with Google and Android. Google can’t make money directly from the licensing of Android. Manufacturers and carriers are in the driver’s seat, and all they want to do is sell parts and service contracts. At best, Android was created as a strategy to gain access to consumer information.

    Google is more interested in user behavior, social networks, and even location information than in traditional direct revenue. Apple certainly wasn’t going to share or otherwise surrender such information to anyone. Apple worked too hard to change all that.  So what was a marketing and search company like Google to do? Google likely had no choice but to create Android. The relationship Apple has with their customers is the core of Apple’s existence. And it’s that bond Google is looking to break. If Google loses control over specific flavors of Android modified by hardware makers, Google’s revenue opportunity on Android will be exactly the same as it is on iOS since it loses the customer relationship.

    Android’s Fragmentation Evolved

    A year ago, Google didn’t think it had a real fragmentation problem when the installed devices were scattered across three major divisions of the Android SDK. A year later, Google is starting to see a fragmentation issue, but not where you might think. Google is worried it’s losing control of Android, but it’s control it may never have had in the first place. The low profit margins Android smartphone manufacturers are forced to contend with are creating a situation where device manufacturers will need to compete on more than just the sum of their manufactured parts.

    Android’s open environment is one where malware, pirated apps and downright malicious software can thrive. As manufacturers try to increase their margins, they are starting to enter into bundling deals with third-party app developers, including what has been referred to as bloatware on devices. Google may be powerless to regain control of Android due to its open nature, making the platform even more of a development challenge.

    More Than Just a Smartphone OS

    Just like iPods drove Mac sales with college students, iPhones and iPads are continuing to drive sales of Macs, largely due to how seriously Apple takes its relationship with the customer. Apple hardware sells more Apple hardware, and that’s good for developers.

    There are an increasing number of software titles that have distinctly different interfaces across iPhone, iPad and Mac, but all contribute to a common goal, as both iOS and OS X share the same development environment and language through Xcode. While the install base of Android is now larger than iOS, Apple’s sales aren’t suffering. More than ever before in Apple’s history, families are choosing Apple.


    Controlling the customer experience and a unified platform that received regular updates in a timely fashion were the key factors in being the best last year. Android fragmentation made things challenging, but not impossible, for developers. And when it came to activations, Android was still lagging behind iOS.

    Now fragmentation has device manufacturers realizing they need to distinguish themselves if they want to increase profits and lure prospective buyers away from other Android handset makers. While the number of total activations across all of Android is on the rise, the Android platform is about to erupt with fierce competition, pulling it in directions we can’t possibly foresee today.

    Choosing Apple from both a developer as well as a consumer perspective is not just a smartphone decision. Apple has been expanding the platform to include iPads and even the living room via content streamed to the Apple TV, and sharing code with Macs. You can’t accomplish the same synergy across multiple consumer devices with Android, and that’s why iOS should remain a winner with developers for at another year.

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  • Seagate Unveils Wireless Mobile Storage and iOS App

    Even with a 64 GB iPad, I find myself wishing I had more storage at my disposal for my iOS mobile devices. My home media collection is probably in the terabyte range thanks to extensive digital backups of disc-based media, and though remote streaming is sometimes an option, it isn’t an ideal solution. Hence the idea behind Seagate’s new GoFlex Satellite mobile wireless storage.

    The 500 GB portable hard drive wirelessly connects to any Wi-Fi enabled mobile device, and can be used to store music, movies, pictures and documents of various types. iOS users can then access that media using a free companion app from the App Store designed specifically for use with the GoFlex hardware. If you’re using an Android or other device, you can access your media using a web browser. The GoFlex Satellite can stream media to up to three devices at a time (great for family road trips), has a battery life of 5 hours of continuous streaming (or 25 hours in standby mode) and retails for $199.99.

    This is a smart device for a mobile world where continuous cloud-based streaming of multimedia content simply isn’t a realistic possibility yet. Connection quality can degrade remote streaming experiences, and bandwidth caps mean that any significant streaming could result in costly overages. The GoFlex provides local Wi-Fi streaming, so no connection to a remote server is necessary, and changes in signal quality shouldn’t be an issue. Plus, you’re not using your phone’s data plan, either.

    Prospective buyers should be wary of two things: media has to be in a format that your iOS device can read natively, and if you’re using the browser-based media player on an Android or other device not made by Apple, streaming doesn’t seem to work so smoothly as of yet based on early reviews. Still, if you’re an iOS device owner who finds themselves running up against either storage or bandwidth limits fairly often, and who also consumes a lot of media, this is probably a pretty good investment.

    Anyone have better/more sophisticated suggestions for those looking for a portable media server device?

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  • Condé Nast Continues Rollout of iPad Subscriptions Amid Positive Response

    Condé Nast began offering in-app subscriptions for iPad versions of Allure, Glamour, Golf Digest and Vanity Fair on Monday. The publisher began offering The New Yorker iPad subscriptions just last week, marking the first time it has used Apple’s new in-app subscription system.

    The New Yorker has been doing very well in the week it has been available. The app’s rating went from around two stars to nearly four stars since the update, which also brought free access for existing print subscribers. The New Yorker iPad app also was the top grossing iPad app for most of last week.

    According to an internal memo from Condé Nast President Bob Sauerberg, the company feels it’s “clearly tapping into the enormous appetite consumers have for [its] award-winning content.” Response has definitely been very positive in the short-term, and it makes sense, as most negative reviews to date have been based on the fact that no subscription option was available.

    Allure, Glamour, Golf Digest and Vanity Fair will all offer yearly subscriptions for $19.99, and monthly subscriptions for $1.99. Individual issues can be purchased for $3.99 for Allure and Glamour, or $4.99 for Golf Digest and Vanity Fair. Existing print subscribers can enter their account information to get free access to iPad issues, too.

    Apple is making significant headway among publishers with its in-app subscription system, but whether or not that will translate to increased, sustained engagement from readers remains to be seen. Have you signed up for any iPad subscriptions since their introduction?

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  • Lodsys Speaks Out About iOS In-App Purchase Threats

    Lodsys, the company behind the in-app purchase legal threats that went out late last week, has created a blog in response to the apparently large volume of feedback it received regarding the action. Lodsys was widely accused of patent trolling when it issued the threats, which asked app developers to pay licensing fees directly to Lodsys for use of Apple’s in-app purchasing system.

    Lodsys is a patent holding firm, which means it does nothing with the patents it owns the rights to besides sit on them and charge licensing fees to companies looking to use its tech. The company, run by Mark Small, purchased its patents from inventor Dan Abelow in 2004. It owns U.S. patent No. 7222078, the broad definition of which is as follows:

    In an exemplary system, information is received at a central location from different units of a commodity. The information is generated from two-way local interactions between users of the different units of the commodity and a user interface in the different units of the commodity. The interactions elicit from respective users their perceptions of the commodity.

    The definition of this patent has to be fairly broadly applied to arrive at the conclusion that it covers in-app purchasing, but according to Lodsys, Apple, Google and Microsoft have all taken licenses from Lodsys for use of the patent. If Apple is already licensed, then why is Lodys going after iOS developers? Because, according to the holding company, Apple’s use rights don’t cover those of individual devs:

    The economic gains provided by the Lodsys inventions (increase in revenue through additional sales, or decrease in costs to service the customer) are being enjoyed by the business that provides the product or service that interacts with the user.  Since Lodsys patent rights are of value to that overall solution, it is only fair to get paid by the party that is accountable for the entire solution and which captures the value (rather than a technology supplier or a retailer).

    In other words, for every app maker our there that gets a payday on in-app purchases, Lodsys wants a payday too, because the software developer is profiting from Lodsys’ patented technology.

    Lodsys also expanded on the details of the licenses its seeking from developers. The company wants 0.575 percent of revenue from U.S. sales, due from receipt of the notice letter until the expiration of the patent. That means that on $1 million dollars worth of sales, a developer would have to pay out $5,750.

    Throughout the course of reading the Q&A blog posts, it becomes clear that Lodsys is a well-versed and well-practiced legal negotiator which knows the U.S. patent system inside and out. It no doubt managed to secure licenses from Apple, Google and Microsoft by being persistent, but also by knowing not to ask for so much that the companies in question would bother risking becoming involved in expensive legal action. But this is a different matter, and for all its well-reasoned arguments, Lodsys will still have a very hard time convincing anyone in the general public that it is anything but a patent troll. Of course, the legal system doesn’t care what the general public thinks, and Lodsys is pretty confident it is in the right, so short of a lawsuit, developers may not have much choice.

    Apple provides developers with access to the in-app purchasing API as a part of its iOS software development kit, and ostensibly, developers pay for that access by virtue of the 30 percent they hand over for all revenue gathered through App Store-based sales. Apple has yet to make any official statement regarding this move by Lodsys, but even if Apple itself has been willing to agree to the patent holder’s terms and play nice until now, there’s no way it will allow Lodsys to set a precedent by going after iOS developers. It would open the door for other patent holders that have existing licenses with Apple to do the same, and it would ultimately undermine Apple’s ability to sell iOS as an attractive development platform.

    Apple hasn’t said anything because it wants this to go away quietly, and it’s no doubt working behind the scenes to make that happen. But this is a matter ultimately worth its legal attention, and Apple will most likely be more than willing to bring that to bear if pressed.

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