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Apple's big news from the WWDC makes waves in the digital community

Apple's big news from the WWDC makes waves in the digital community

On Monday 6th at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco Steve Jobs himself presented the company's latest innovations.
Amongst these are iOS 5, the new Apple mobile operating system which brings over 200 new features, iCloud, the new online storage and syncing service for music, photos, files and software, and Newsstand, a virtual bookshelf which organizes magazine and newspapers' app subscription in just one folder.

Probably the most interesting feature from a publisher's point of view is Newsstand. Through this service, iOS 5 organizes users' magazine and newspaper app subscriptions in just one location that lets readers access their favourite publications quickly and easily.

The App Store will have a new place just for newspaper and magazine subscriptions, to which users can go directly from Newsstand. In the same way, new purchases will go directly to the newsstand folder. Then, as new issues become available, Newsstand automatically updates them in the background -- complete with the latest covers.

As Nieman Lab reported, "with the new feature readers can browse a virtual bookshelf -- literally, "wooden" and all -- and subscribe to a periodical in one tap. New issues will be downloaded in the background, solving one of the biggest problems for magazine publishers who push out issues that are hundreds of megabytes in size".

The article noted that while on the one hand, "to play in Apple's garden, [publishers] have to play by Apple's rules", meaning - as again and again underlined - giving up 30 percent of their subscription and not being able have all users and consumption data, on the other hand the system appears to be very simple and effective to use, being to both users and publishers' benefit. "It's hard to imagine a publisher not wanting to see its glossy magazine sitting there, right next to other glossy magazines, on 25 million virtual bookshelves", it noted.

Another important feature within iOS 5 is Reading List, a read later functionality, which allows a time-shift content consumption for users. As MSNBC's Gadgetbox reported, "it appears to even sync across devices, so if you prefer to finish reading something on your iPad or your Mac instead of your iPhone, you can".

The function is reminiscent of Instapaper, Readability or Longreads, which let users read easily offline long-form articles across devices in a clearer and more readable layout.

"No graphics, no buttons -- and, very importantly, no ads. Users will be able save articles for later, generating a "reading list" that syncs across all of the user's iOS devices", Nieman commented.

Marco Arment, creator of Instapaper, gave his succinct comment on Safari's Reading List here.

iCloud, coming this fall, is a cloud-storage service which stores music, photos, apps, calendar, documents, contacts and wirelessly pushes them to all users devices, automatically, without any manual syncing.
It offers 5 GB of free storage.
When updating iPhone, iPad or iPod touch to iOS 5, Apple apps become "seamlessly" integrated with iCloud, the Apple site says.

At the center of iCloud is a new version of iTunes that will allow users to download on any device any song they have ever bought. Songs on a person's iTunes library that were not bought from Apple can be added for $25 a year, Mr. Jobs said, according to the New York Times. While other iCloud services will available this fall, when Apple will release iOS 5, the iTunes in the Cloud service is available now.

Photos taken with an iPhone or an iPad will automatically be uploaded in iCloud through the Photo Stream Service. The iCloud service will replace Mobile Me.

Apple's service is by no means the only one to let users to store files and content, but, as Mike McCue, a veteran Silicon Valley executive, now head of Flipboard, said in the New York Times article, "the fact that you no longer have to think in terms of files and folders is a big deal". According to him, compared to other services, Apple's solution is simpler and "it doesn't feel like a techie thing at all".

Amongst the innovative features of iOS 5 there is the Notification Center, which put all alerts (new emails, texts, friend requests) together in one place. A new messaging service for all iOS 5 users will also allow unlimited text messages via WI-FI or 3G from iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. Twitter will be fully integrated into iOS 5 making easier to tweet from different devices.

In addition, Apple's site announces that with iOS 5, users no longer need a computer to own an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch as they'll be able to activate and set up their device wirelessly, right out of the box, downloading free iOS software updates directly on their device.

Newsstand and Safari's Reading List are of course the two innovations, which could have an impact on the news business and on publishers.

Apple's supremacy has been questioned by someone. On the one hand some publishers started to champ at the bit towards the strict rules Apple imposes regarding subscriptions and detailed users' identities and consuming data and, on the other hand, new technological improvements have been done in the apps field giving the possibility to newspapers and magazine that want to go digital to create non native apps, through HTML5 for example keeping away from Apple.

HTML5 is a platform that allows publishers to create web-based apps compatible with Apple products and selling it itself, without being forced to pass through the Apple Store.

Amongst others, Fortune, Playboy and Aside and OnSwipe launched are moving forward in this field.

The Financial Times, which, generating a tenth of its new digital subscriptions from its iPad app last year, had previously expressed concerns regarding Apple's terms and condition, has also introduced a new browser-based app for tablets - according to the Guardian - which bypasses Apple's iTunes store and Google's Android market.

As the article reported, the automatically updating HTML5 app will enable readers to access its editorial content across a broad range of tablet and smartphones devices.

As TechCrunch reported, Financial Times CEO John Ridding commented: "The FT Web App offers our customers flexibility and freedom of choice with access to our global journalism anytime, anywhere, with a single login or subscription. In a world of increasingly digital complexity we want to keep our service simple, easy to use and efficient to offer our customers the best possible experience of FT journalism."

Will Apple continue to lead the way?

Sources: MSNBC Gadgetbox, Nieman, New York Times, Marco, Guardian, TechCrunch
Photo from the conference: AllThingsD



Federica Cherubini


2011-06-07 16:54

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