Tag: Apple

Platforms vs Products

by on Oct.13, 2011, under Computers, Design & Development, Information Technology, Internet, Opinions, Technology

So I’ve verified the writer as Steve Yegge. He posted this on Google+ publicly by accident and of course it got copied. I feel the article makes a lot of interesting points about large-scale IT services and products in general which is why I want to share it. Therefor I’ll post Steve’s disclaimer from his follow-up blog post ahead of the article so you understand the context that it is written in.

Part of the reason is that for internal posts, it’s obvious to everyone that you’re posting your own opinion and not representing the company in any way, whereas external posts need lots of disclaimers so people don’t misunderstand. And I can assure you, in case it was not obvious, that the whole post was my own opinions and not Google’s. I mean, I was kind of taking them to task for not sharing my opinions.

So without further adieu: Steve Yegge’s internal rant on Google Platforms

(Warning: Long rant!)

 

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eBooks: And the rest follow – Apple strong arms the eBook readers

by on Jul.26, 2011, under Articles, Books, Computers, Information Technology, Technology

Remember back in February I talked about some of the shenanigans Apple was pulling with eBooks? Namely that they lobbied to get the industry to sell eBooks on an agency model and then setup their app store to take a percentage cut of sales. This combined with the agency model made it so that all non-apple e-book distributors selling their books directly via an app, rather than via a website, paid all their profits to Apple? Also do you remember iFlowReader? A small time eBook reader that had to removing itself from the app store (and effectively dying) because of these policies?

At the time it was not clear if perhaps Apple was even going to enforce these policies, since they hadn’t before and yet, suddenly, the Kindle, Nook, and Kobo apps no longer sell eBooks, and the Google Books app is mysteriously missing from the App Store. This came only after Apple “relented” by saying that all Apps didn’t have to sell everything that they sold outside of the store, as long as the app didn’t provide an easy way to get to the alternative purchase area. Basically Apple told everybody: “If you sell eBooks, you have to sell them in the App, and let us take all your profits. Otherwise you have to remove your apps.”, then Apple came back and said, “Okay we won’t remove your apps as long as you make it so you can’t sell anything in your eBook reader. It’ll be a viewer only. Not even a link to your websites.”

This is what I am scared of when we see App Stores becoming the future. Their convenience does not outweigh the market control we’re giving Apple and really any other “App Store” gate keep out there such as Google and Backberry. The fact that Apple is pushing Apps for their desktops is a disturbing trend. A desktop that can only run Apple approved software? Apple approved websites?

I’m using exaggerated rhetoric to help you see how these maneuvers by Apple are amazingly anti-competitive. They’ve maneuvered in two completely different arenas (publishers and the app store) to create an amazing combo where in nobody can sell eBooks in the App Store for a profit but Apple itself, and have managed to mostly look like a responsible and sensible corporate citizen protecting their investment while doing so.

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eBooks: And the first one drops

by on May.22, 2011, under Articles, Books, Computers, Design & Development, Information Technology, Technology

iFlowReader for the iOS market closes down and leaves a rather stinging article regarding Apple’s marketing policies.

While it doesn’t seem to be official that Apple is enforcing the policy iFlowReader is talking about, it is most certainly on the books and the creators of iFlowReader have succinctly connected all the pieces of this amazingly anti-competitive move by Apple. I talked about this in detail back in February and honestly it is making me nervous about owning an iPad or the eBook industry in general. The iFlowReader is a great example of ingenuity in the eBook area and that has now been squashed.

This isn’t a perfect blow against eBooks. There are other mediums out there for reading, such as the Kindle and your cell phone and Android based tablets. However the iPad is one of the best tables out there, making it a prime example for others to follow, and I do enjoy using it for reading. This restriction of my ability to read eBooks on it to basically just Apple sold eBooks and stuff I can get off the web is as disturbing to me as DRM.

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Kickstarter: Machination: A Game of Evil Genius

by on Feb.09, 2011, under Articles, Video Games, Videos, Visual Media

Linked by Girl Genius, I decided to go ahead and fund this project after seeing the above video and it’s game play. The game described sounds pretty fun, especially for a iPad game. The donations for this Kickstarter are not as generous as some projects I’ve funded in the past. But the target amount is also rather low and the game is being initially distributed on a fascist operating system like iOS which means it would be hard for them to promise copies of the game, or even discounts, without Apple’s approval. So I won’t hold that against them necessarily.

The big gamble here will be the price point. Since I don’t like to pay more than two or three dollars for apps, and I’ve already backed them five dollars, this will likely be the most expensive app I’ve ever purchased.

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App Store suddenly not so friendly to eBook apps

by on Feb.03, 2011, under Articles, Books, Comics, Computers, Information Technology, Technology

The other day Apple rejected Sony’s eReader app for the App Store/iOS platform. This wouldn’t have made much news, since Apple has a history of rejecting it’s competitors in certain markets regularly. What made it news was the new policy behind the rejection: All “storefront” Apps must use Apple’s in app purchasing (IAP) system when purchasing content for the app.

And from a standard perspective, this makes sense, if perhaps a little greedy. You use Apple’s device, apple wants a cut of everything you sell to the user via their device. Not a standard computing concept but we’ve all come to love the mostly fascist control of software/Apps on the iOS and the marketplace that distributes it, so perhaps it is the standard these days. I digress.

If you dig a little deeper, you find that this appears to be a maneuver by Apple to push out competing eBook distributors while appearing to be simply capitalistic rather than monopolistic. Let me explain.

Apple, way back in January of 2011, pushed for eBooks to be sold via the Agency Model like most standard books are sold. In the Agency Model, rather than the distributor purchasing books and then re-selling them at whatever price they prefer, the publishers set the price and there is an agreed percentage that the distributor gets from the cut. Most big publishers, back in the spring, adopted at 70%/30% agency model with distributors like Sony, Amazon, Apple, and others. So when you’re purchasing a book off your Kindle there is a very good chance Amazon is only getting 30% of the price you’re paying.

Now the Agency Model isn’t bad. It has it’s upsides and downsides but the publishing industry is used to it. Where the problem lies is in Apple’s rules regarding IAP. Apple gets a 30% cut of anything sold via IAP. Starting to see where this is going? So if you have an eBook, and you’re say, Nook, Barne & Noble’s eBooker Reader, and you’re now forced to sell your books via the IAP, here is how your profits for selling eBooks is going to look: 100% – 70% Publisher – 30% Apple = %0 profit for B&N.

You can replace B&N with any non-Apple eReader device that does deals with major publishers. Take into account the fact that running a storefront app does require manpower, and therefore has an upkeep cost, and not only are getting no profit, you’re losing profit. Apple has basically just said: eBook readers, get out of our App Store, without having to say that specifically and looking like the bad guy.

Now there are some defenses Apple has. For example they are now disallowing purchasing via non IAP routes. Storefront apps can still send you to the App owner’s website to purchase. They are only requiring the capability of IAP. Even so, it’s easy to see that from a user-friendly perspective, the majority of users are going to choose an IAP route unless App designers make using IAP within their app more difficult than using a webpage that the app switches to. Additionally Apple has stressed that it is not cutting off content purchased outside of the App Store from Apps but in my opinion, these are flimsy defenses compared to the obviously anti-competitive strategy. Combine this with the fact that Apple obviously knows that 30% is the agreed upon Agency Model and Apple really starts to look like it’s maneuvering and trying to throw its weight around.

This doesn’t sit well with me and something tells me there won’t be enough Apple user outcry to have Apple back peddle on this like it has on some other usability features. After all money is on this line this time.

This decision doesn’t just affect eBooks, of course. The rules apply to all storefront apps. Dark Horse comics has announced “unforeseen setbacks” in regards to their digital comics distribution system they were developing very quickly after Sony’s eReader App was rejected.

I gathered the above information from several sources, some of which explain the effects of Apple’s decisions with more in-depth. If you want to know more, follow these links:

SillyBean: Apple and the ebook apps

Comics Beat: Apple goes from savior to Overlord with new app purchase enforcement

Alan Quartermain: iBooks & the App Store vs. The Rest

New York Times: Apple Moves to Tighten Control of App Store

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Giftcards & Apple eBooks follow up

by on Nov.15, 2010, under Articles, Books

Is Apple Using Gift Cards to Prop Up a Sagging iBookstore by Sarah Weinman (DailyFinance)

So coming fast on the heels of my article about gift cards and eBooks, now there is talk about an iBooks specific giftcard.

Let me stress to those who read my article and think that is a good idea for me, no, it isn’t. A normal iTunes card is far more versatile and I would definitely prefer that.

Some of the numbers that come up in the article are interesting however. the iBookstore isn’t even in the race for book sales with the other mobile eBook platforms. I wish I could say I was surprised. Given the limitations I found regarding the iBook app in terms of gift giving, plus that there no accessing books on the primary buying platform for the iPad: The iTune Store, plus no web purchasing or browsing for the iTunes store. I think all of these are major hindrances to purchasing.

Somehow though I don’t see Apple fixing any of these problems. =

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Gifting: Part 4, eBooks, iTunes, Wishlists and Gift Cards, oh my?

by on Nov.11, 2010, under Articles, Computers, Novels, Opinions, Roleplaying Games

So in Part 1, I started this way too long article about eBooks and gifts.

In Part 2, I rambled about Amazon and iTune’s ebooks and asked a question that I didn’t really answer.

Around Part 3 I stated that this article would finally finish next post.

The end!

Okay not really. But I’ll restate the issue I am puzzling out.

How do I communicate to the people wanting to purchase books for me what particular eBook vendor or file format to use and are there methods for them to actually gifting these books?

My problem seems to be that I have conflicting interests, based upon what I’ve written so far. I wish to have people gift me eBooks for my iPad. However Apple hasn’t seen fit to support this model of economics for it’s eBooks in it’s service. Amazon’s wishlist is useful but its interface means that directing people to purchase something in a way that is more than ‘click here and buy’ is difficult and risky.

So my proposed solution is gift cards.

Solution: Giftcards

Gasp! You say. I would never stoop so low as to give my near and dearest Nojh a gift card. That is for estranged family and no so close friends. To which I say in a fake european accent, poopy weenier!

Heh. Poopy weenier.

I actually heard/read/watched an article last year regarding the economics of gift giving and that the actual ratio of happiness to money spent ratio is significantly hire when giving gift cards than actual gifts over the long haul. IE that people who receive gift cards very specifically go out and buy what they want and like, as it isn’t rent money or savings money, its extra money they can spend on themselves. I think this kind of assumes that you get them the right gift card, of course. For example giving me gift cards to clothing stores? Not so much.

Additionally gift cards are supposed to be better, economically, for stores. Meaning that if everybody gave gift cards, and the occasional gift they were sure someone else wanted, then economically it would be better for all, including stores, as the massive return lines associated with the day after new years is actually economically detrimental. Supposedly. I might be remembering wrong. It seems counter intutitive.

That being said, I’m still going to guess gifts for my friends because I like gifts but I think, for my e-Book solution, I’m actually going to put gift cards up on my Amazon wish list, with the note that I plan to purchase books with the cards. And maybe the occasional iPad game.

Final Thoughts

Obviously this isn’t optimal. My friends want to purchase something specific for me. And this also doesn’t cover independent distributors or gaming PDFs, although gaming PDF webstores have built in wishlists so I could go fill that out and then perhaps put a link to it in my Amazon wish list.

I guess ultimately this basically required me to have some faith that the people who are interested in purchasing things for me are willing to look at the details of the items I’m asking for.

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Gifting: Part 3, More about eBooks vendors

by on Nov.11, 2010, under Articles, Computers, Novels, Opinions, Roleplaying Games

So in Part 1 I talked about what started this endless series of articles.

In Part 2, stated some questions about eBooks and never really answered them.

In this part I’ll continue analyzing the four different avenues of eBooks that I’ve selected from the perspective of others giving me eBooks as gifts for the coming holidays.

Gaming PDFs

So unlike the rest of the publishing industry, the gaming industry has a history of not really getting the money. It is a niche hobby with only a small set of actual commercially viable games, and a plethora of independent games. For a really cool indie game, click here! Because gaming books are largely text and art affairs, the only format that really supports them well is the PDF, which has poor DRM controls. Because of this, it is possible that the more commercially viable game publishers have taken hits in sales due to pirating. On the other hand the indie community has embraced PDFs as a way to get their games actually seen. Gaming PDFs are largely available through two distributors: RPGNow and DriveThruRPG.

Both sites sport their own versions of the WishList system and therefor also have a gift giving system. Setup your wish list, point it at your friends, and they can purchase the PDFs or other downloads for you. Plus since they are web based, they can interface with Amazon’s wishlist. The biggest issue with doing that is getting your friends or family to understand the idea of eBooks/PDFs and that they need to especially gift the product, rather than just purchase it, although the files are sharable so that isn’t as horrible as it sounds. But linking a download to your account allows you to download updated PDFs at no cost.

And that brings us to:

Independents

Independents are probably the easiest since they’re almost assuredly going to be selling directly from their website. So they interface with with the Amazon Wishlist. But there is no guarantee that the independent will support a download for someone else, or a gift version, rather than you just purchasing it.  There are also independent game companies that like to sell bundles of both PDFs of their game, and the physical product.

And now that I’ve all but finished rambling, in Part 4, I’ll discuss the solutions I’ve come up with and ask you all for opinions.

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Gifting: Part 2, Wishlists and eBooks

by on Nov.10, 2010, under Articles, Computers, Novels, Opinions, Roleplaying Games

In Part 1, I discussed what led me to the following questions:

How do I communicate to the people wanting to purchase books for me what particular eBook vendor or file format to use and are there methods for them to actually gifting these books?

The question is a bit of an issue because I really have access to three different type of eBooks. Well four. Amazon, iTunes, Gaming PDFs, and independents. Yes I know there is more but for various reasons I’ve decided to ignore them. I’m going to analyze each of these four avenues to eBooks, then sum it up with direct answers to these questions. Since I am currently using Amazon wishlist, so I might as well start with Amazon.

Amazon

Amazon only sells Kindle eBooks. No other versions or retailers. I don’t own a Kindle, and while I know I can download the Kindle app for my iPad and my computers, I’ve already starts a small collection of novels using iTunes book store. Do I really want to split my digital library?

This new question is actually a little off topic but I want to discuss it. With the exception of my gaming books, which we will talk about later, I think I’ll be treating my eBooks as a kind of rental. Meaning if I like the book, I’ll probably pick up a physical copy or multiple so I can loan them out like I do with Dresden Files. But I’ll be using eBooks as a way to purchase and read books while not having to store them on my shelf constantly. This is because it is very hard for me to determine if any of these digital copies will actually stay around for an reasonable length of ownership. I’ve lost a lot of data over the years, and each type of DRM available is just another way to make sure I don’t get to keep what I bought forever.

So with that in mind I suppose splitting my digital library is not that big of a deal but my personal sense of aesthetics say that I’d prefer to keep my books in one place as much as possible.

iTunes

iTune’s iBooks app and store is nice in that it uses the public file format .epub. This format can support DRM and I imagine most books sold through the iTunes store do have DRM. But the app will display non-DRM .epub files as well. The app will also display PDFs, which are the other most common type of eBook file type out there. These were the primary reasons why I bought my first eBooks from the iTunes store.

iTunes, however, has a flaw in that it has no web interface. Meaning that I can’t point an Amazon wish list entry at a webpage and say ‘buy that for me!’ The entire store is encased with the iTunes application. Actually it worse than I thought, a casual look through shows that the iBooks portion of iTunes is completely encapsulated within the iBook app and the app doesn’t even appear to have a gift giving capability, like the normal iTunes store, which you can send an app to a friend.

Bummer.

More coming in Part 3!

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Gifting: Part 1, Wish Lists and eBooks

by on Nov.10, 2010, under Articles, Computers, Novels, Opinions, Roleplaying Games

So it is the time of year where I start to think about gifts. I like gift giving, especially if I can think of a good gift for someone. The end of the year is about the only time I can give a gift without people giving me a weird expression. Plus I have this awesome scheme where I get one of my best friends to wrap them all for me. It’s sweet.

And since it is that gifting time of year, This means that I usually need to make a gift list since my friends and family also want to give me gifts. I know, it’s strange.

Wish lists

A few years back I tried an independent website called Wishlist that worked alright, except half my friends couldn’t figure out how to mark something bought. But what is the holiday without a few returns, right?

Lately I’ve been using Amazon’s built in wish list. Since it can support non-amazon things. I’m not sure I like using amazon, but it’s interface is streamlined enough that I don’t have to worry about people getting confused.  Although the amazon wishlist puts a lot of emphasis on the product, and a lot of screen time on the notes the user adds to the product.

eBooks

Which leads me to the topic of e-books in a very round about manner. I’ve recently started collecting  eBooks, or iBooks, or whatever. Electronic files which contain the written word, and sometimes images, usually to present a story or information. You see I have an iPad, and I am a gamer, in the more traditional pen and paper type as well as lots of board games. The iPad has actually proven a decent way for me to carry my gaming library around and read the games whenever I like although I’ll admit I still prefer to have the physical books for reference. For board games, it is awesome to have more than one copy of the rule book at the table.

I’ve also tentatively tip toed into actual eBook novels, with Jim Butcher’s Side Jobs, which was amazingly priced in hard back when it released, that I was able to afford the iTunes eBook version so I could read it immediately while I waited for the physical version to arrive int he mail. The eBook version proved to have somewhat more poorly formatting than I was hoping from a commercial eBook file but I digress.

The reason why I bring up eBooks is because I think I would like to continue receiving eBooks. With the holidays approaching, I have two questions; How do I communicate this to the people wanting to purchase books for me and are there methods for them to actually do so in an electronic form?

How do I communicate to the people wanting to purchase books for me what particular eBook vendor or file format to use and are there methods for them to actually gifting these books?

Continued in Part 2. Stay tuned!

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