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Tech Stuff and random observations on life as I see it….
At the end of July Apple was set to enforce their rules on selling books and magazines from in-app purchases. The new policy stated that all in-application purchases must go through iTunes, because Apple gets a 30% cut of the sales there. As if wasn’t bad enough, Apple took it further to state that it would not allow the app to link to a website store and then totally overstepped the mark to state that there was not even allowed the mention that there was a store within the app.
One of the book stores, Kobo tried several times to update their app and it was continuously rejected until they fully complied with the requirements. Jim Dovey the IOS app developer lead for Kobo said:
The store was removed because Apple rejected any updates which included it, period. They also rejected any updates which stated that Apple required its removal, or indeed any mention of ‘compliance with App Store guidelines’. It was further rejected for the cardinal sin of allowing users to create a Kobo account within the app. Then it was rejected for providing a link to let users create an account outside the app. Then it was rejected for simply mentioning that it was possible to sign up, with no direction on where or how one could do that. Then it was rejected for making any mention of the Kobo website. Then for any mention of ‘our website’ at all, in any language. We additionally cannot make any assertions that Kobo provides content for sale, however obliquely.
What’s interesting is that it wasn’t the App Store review team that rejected Kobo’s attempts at getting their application update into the App Store – they actually approved each of these changes, only to have the approvals rescinded “from above”. What’s interesting about this is that Apple is specifically doing this to block competing content stores, further forcing people to use iTunes, and locking them into it even more. This is especially annoying for me in The Netherlands, since the iTunes Store is completely useless here – no movies, no television series (local or otherwise), barely any books, nothing. It’s a digital wasteland.
Despite the news that this was going to happen from tech journalists, those that were not in-the-know were very upset when the latest update to their app, as far as they were concerned, was broken as they could not get access to new books. Although the stores could have made more of an effort to notify their users that it was going to happen, the blame lies firmly in one companies court and thats you Apple.
Now Kobo has stated that they will be concentrating on developing on HTML5 from now on and will be leasing future releases of it’s e-reader there. They are hoping that by providing the user content this way they will be free to add more features without limitation.
Other books stores such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble have been quiet about their response to all this until yesterday when with very little fanfare Amazon beat everyone to the punch and released its HTML5 Kindle Cloudreader, a web-based version of their Kindle eBook reader app. It allows you to read your books from the cloud or to download your books for offline reading thanks to the magic of HTML 5 (or a Chrome browser extension). I haven’t tried it myself yet but the feedback from others has been massively positive so far.
The app is officially supported under Chrome and Safari and this includes the iPad… In fact Amazon highlights that it is optimised for try iPad on their site. IPhones are not currently supported so those users still have to negotiate the strangled app process but I think that it will come along sooner rather than later.
One thing I have read and is worth noting is that the cloud versions (and obviously the downloaded version) of the Kindle books are still limited to a set number of devices. So if you have your books downloaded to your Kindle, iPad, iPhone, etc, you may be over the limit and will not be able to read them in the cloud.
It seems to me that one of two things is happening here:
1) Apple is only concerned about profit. If this is so the only people they are hurting with this are iOS users. If they are prepared to go to such lengths for it then wait and see if they cripple HTML5 support on mobile Safari just to further frustrate Kobo’s, Amazon’s and others’ experiences.
2) In the beginning of the iPhones existence there were no apps and none were encouraged. Then, Apples direction was to get people to develop web apps for accessing through Safari instead. It may well be that Apple now considers HTML5 mature enough to develop on and push people away from App development.
Support already exists to allow developers to build apps for Android in Adobe Flash Builder version 4.5 back in April but now 4.5.1 has been released which allows the development for iOS devices, such as the iPad and iPhone, as well as the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. The result, app writers can quickly build and distribute apps through each of the relevant App Stores using “one tool, one framework, one code base”—a first for developers!
Developers can build applications for the desktop, web and mobile platforms and deploy them using Adobe AIR software. Adobe predicts that over 200 million mobile devices will support AIR applications by the end of 2011.
Adobe Flash Builder 4.5.1 can be downloaded as a stand-alone product or as part of the Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Web Premium or Master Collections.
View a video of using Flash Builder from Adobe’s very own Serge Jespers where he shows what “one tool, one framework, one codebase” means, and demonstrates an app developed for different devices using Flash Builder and Flex from his own website here
The official Adobe blog post can be viewed here.
Expected by some and totally wrong-footing others, Lodsys replied to Apples legal letter last week by moving its litigation timing forward to the 31st May 2011. Previously the company had announced that it was granting 21 days to developers to negotiate a license before filing suit.
On the companies blog the following appeared on their FAQ
Last week I wrote about the patent company Lodsys who were issuing letters of intent to small developers. They were claiming that they held the patents on the use of in-app upgrades and payments. By the end of the week, developers were becoming frustrated by Apples silence. Read that article here
This week Apple responded to back the developers. In a letter direct from the Senior Vice president and General Council of Apple legal, Bruce Sewell to the CEO of Lodsys, Mark Small, Apple opened with the following paragraph:
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Well so much for a quiet week…
Lets start off with a couple of articles I forgot in my last Tech News posting; Blogger went down for 48 hours and Facebook launching a smear campaign against Google. That links us nicely into this week when just after Facebook goes on about their information appearing in search results, they cuddle up to Microsoft to link their info within Bing.
RIM had a bad start to the week as they announced the recall of 900 PlayBooks.
After all the kerfuffle around Apples LocationGate, it was Androids turn for a kicking as an exploit was revealed in Google connection to Web services. A day later it was reported that the problem was resolved and no-one needed to update anything to get it working.
There has been rising tensions this week between IOS developers and Apple when a company has been issuing letters to individuals and small companies that have been using the Apple provided API for in-app upgrades or purchases.
Finally, a TED talk that has been causing a lot of discussion this week is worth a watch. It is about people becoming trapped in what has been termed as “filter bubbles”. Eli Parisier warns us that personalised search results might be restricting the breadth of the results we get back. Watch it here
Are you looking to make your fortune with your first ever iPhone app? Better hold off for the moment if you intend using the upgrade option to move from a free to a paid app. Lodsys, a Patent holding firm are claiming that they own the rights to that in a very broad sweeping patent.
Several individual developers and some small companies have already received letters demanding that they license the use of the “upgrade” feature within 21 days of face a lawsuit. Many apps are using upgrade or in-app purchasing in their apps and the Apple API provides the framework to allow developers to do just that. However, Lodsys has opted not to go directly to Apple but aimed themselves directly at the programmers instead. It appears that Lodsys claim that Apple has licensed from them the right to use in-app purchases but that it doesn’t extend to third party developers.
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