Magazine publishers already seeing uptake in sales from Apple’s Newsstand

Paidcontent reports that some magazine publishers are seeing substainally higher sales with Apple’s new newsstand service that puts magazines and newspapers in one place, instead of as disparate apps:

Sales across the board have shot up, more than doubled the normal daily sales rate,” according to Adam Hodgkin, co-founder of Exact Editions, which digitises print titles including The Spectator and Press Gazette for purchase over the web and as iOS apps. “Some magazines have experienced a 150 percent increase in sales. This appears to be continuing beyond the launch weekend.

“Exact Editions noticed exceptionally high levels of activity over the weekend. Freemium sample apps were downloaded much more over the weekend than normal. Sales through iTunes are rapidly getting stronger and stronger.”

I’m not surprised. Newsstand is a much more elegant way to consume news content on the iPad. By putting magazines in one place, it’s much easier to consume magazine content on the iPad. In addition, newsstand downloads magazines and newspapers in the background. After a new issue is released it automatically downloads to your iPad.

Most news apps still have a long way to go, but newsstand should help make the experience better for users. A better user experience should mean more sales.


On Steve Jobs pursuing greatness

This nugget from an Esquire piece on Steve Jobs stood out to me:

For another, he pursues his unitary vision through binary means, like all great despots. He says yes. He says no. He has established a personal dichotomy by which a thing is either great or it’s shit, and he holds to it. He starts there. Jobs’s “first go-round at Apple, the company used to pride itself on being the first,” says another former employee. “Like Newton. Remember Newton? It was the first PDA. It might not have worked, but it was the first. That’s not what they do now. Now they start with what makes an existing experience crappy. And that’s where Jobs is a genius. That’s where his ruthlessness comes in. He’s ruthless with himself, ruthless with other people — he’s also ruthless with technology. He knows exactly what makes it work, and what makes it suck. There were MP3 players before the iPod, but they sucked. So he’s like, Okay, what do we have to do so that they don’t suck? Same with the iPhone. A lot of phones had Web browsers before the iPhone, but nobody used them. Why? Because they sucked. Now even people without iPhones are using the Web browsers on their cell phones. But that’s because of the iPhone. And that’s what he does. He makes the experience of technology better.”

The heart of what made Apple so great under Jobs 2.0 is that it focused on making really great products and not being the first at something to say they were the first. The iPhone was not the first smartphone — although many would say that pre-iPhone smartphones weren’t very smart — but it changed the game completely.

The Icon Ambulance and Steve Job’s attention to detail

Vic Gundotra relays a memorable moment working with Steve Jobs:

“So Vic, we have an urgent issue, one that I need addressed right away. I’ve already assigned someone from my team to help you, and I hope you can fix this tomorrow” said Steve.

“I’ve been looking at the Google logo on the iPhone and I’m not happy with the icon. The second O in Google doesn’t have the right yellow gradient. It’s just wrong and I’m going to have Greg fix it tomorrow. Is that okay with you?”

Of course this was okay with me. A few minutes later on that Sunday I received an email from Steve with the subject “Icon Ambulance”. The email directed me to work with Greg Christie to fix the icon.

Now that’s attention to detail.

Episode 09: Babies like usability

Baby Sees The iPad Magic

This week we focus on usability, usability, usability. And babies. And walking.

What good is technology if it doesn’t make our lives easier? What good is technology if it’s not easy to use? What good is technology if it doesn’t help us do things we couldn’t do otherwise and help us do other things even better?

We start the show by focusing on iPhone and iPad applications that help with pregnancy,  birth and after the baby is born. Jeremy discusses which apps helped him and his wife out with their new baby.

The conversation then turns to walking, but don’t run away. I review the Fitbit, which is the geekest pedometer you’ll ever find. It’s not the cheapest, and some do more things, but it is the most usable and it really gives you great data.

Things are a little slow around the Interchange Project with Jeremy’s new baby and I have a few things that I need to wrap up this week. But next week and the rest of the year, we should be back with more great stuff.

Thanks for your support.

Listen to this week’s show:


Show notes:

Apple doesn’t make big acquisitions, but they do make small, important purchases

Every time you hear that Apple is rumored to make a big acquisition of a company like Barnes & Noble or AMD or Sony or Adobe or whatever other huge company, just read this story about all the companies that Apple was rumored to purchase but never did:

For years, Apple has confounded the rest of us by not buying things that it should clearly be buying. Not purchasing other well-known companies is so core to Apple’s strategy that it must have a whole department devoted to non-mergers and un-acquisitions.

Apple does purchases companies and many of them have been key acquisitions for Apple. These acquisitions, however, are rarely big name, and they aren’t the kinds of acquisitions that Wall Street analysts or glib tech columnists predict. These are purchases or smaller companies that have specific skills and talents that can help Apple improve products or create new ones.

But let’s get back to the ridiculousness of many of these takeover rumors: Why would Apple want to buy Sony, a company that wants to be like Apple, but consistently can’t execute or get any of the details right? Sony has become a third-rate Apple wannabee with no direction. Apple buying Sony would be like one of those movies where the attractive, popular jock goes out with an artsy, homely girl as some sort of penance or charity thing or something (not one of those hot artsy, geek ladies).

Apple was once rumored to buy Adobe, markers of Steve Jobs’s most hated product, Flash. That tells you how silly these rumors are. I can only assume that these rumors have two origins:

  • Uninformed tech columnists trolling for pageviews and discussion. These people care more about stirring up trouble than sound analysis, and they seem to have very little understanding of Apple’s historical purchases.
  • Trouble makers on Wall Street looking to drum up the value of the company that Apple is rumored to be purchasing, so that a few wealthy clients can make a bunch of money off of false rumors and hope.

Apple makes small, targeted purchases that help them bring new products on line or bolster existing products. Take a look at a few key acquisitions by Apple:

  • Apple purchased NeXT in 1996. NeXT was Steve Jobs’s old company, and while the software and hardware of NeXT was advanced beyond Mac OS or Windows, NeXT was not a successful company. NeXT’s OS became the foundation of OS X. It took five years for OS X to hit the market, and it wasn’t until late 2001 that OS X was ready for primetime (and this version was still very early and not near the caliber of OS X today).
  • In early 2008 Apple acquired fabless chipmaker PA Semi, which had been working on creating powerful, low power computer chips. PA Semi helped give Apple engineering talent that would help Apple create its own line of powerful and low power chips.
  • Apple purchased streaming music service Lala in late 2009. At the time this purchase was largely assumed to be for engineering talent to help Apple setup its own streaming music service. That may or may not still be in the works, but it seems safe to say that Lala’s engineering expertise and cloud experience will be a big help for Apple with its upcoming iCloud efforts. I believe what we are seeing with iCloud this Fall is just the beginning of what will become of iCloud.
  • Apple purchased fabless chip maker Intrinsit early in 2010, a company that developed technology to accelerate ARM chips. Apple has used ARM chips in the iPhone since the beginning, but Intrinsity’s engineering helped them create the A4 and A5, which have helped Apple distinguish their products from other ARM licensees (ARM chips power all smartphones and modern tablets, but there are different variants of these chips based on ARM’s reference designs). PA Semi and Intrinsity were both smaller fabless firms that have helped give Apple the ability to create ARM-based chips that are unique from what other phone and tablet makers use. Almost all other phone and tablet makers use Nvidia’s Tegra lines, Samsungs Snapdragon lines or Texas Instrument’s OMAP lines of ARM-based processors. Apple’s chips have stripped out everything that Apple has deemed not necessary (and helped save power and space) and have also focused heavily on 3D performance for video games and other applications. While Nvidia is a 3D graphics manufcatuer by trade, Apple’s A5 is about twice as powerful as the Tegra 2 when it comes it 3D performance.
  • Apple purchased personal assistant app Siri in early 2010. Siri is a voice-controlled app that finds stuff on the Internet for users. Users can use natural commands such as, “send a taxi to my house” and Siri will help complete that task. It’s really cool technology that could help take iOS, particularly on the iPhone, to the next level. Siri’s technology is most likely being rolled into iOS and will help Apple create better voice command features (perhaps the biggest weakness of iOS) and help Apple compete better with some of the strengths of Android.

The biggest purchase Apple ever made was NeXT for under $500 million. I severely doubt Apple will be looking to make a huge blockbuster purchase of a strong established brand anytime soon. How do I know? Apple has never done it before, and they have been wildly successful by making small, targeted acquisitions.

Look for Apple to make more purchases of companies like Intrinsity and PA Semi. As Apple goes deeper into producing its own unique processors that fit Apple’s specific needs, they’ll need more engineering talent and R&D. Apple has gained a clear advantage in the mobile processor space by creating chips that do exactly what Apple wants it products to do, rather than building products around what other company’s processors can or cannot do.

Also look for Apple to make more targeted acquisitions of companies and products that will help them build out iCloud and iOS features. These small acquisitions add up and helped Apple deliver better products.

The next company Apple purchases most people will probably never have heard of.

App developers withdrawing from US app stores because of patent troll fears

Our messed up patent system is reaching a tipping point, where we are seeing developers avoid the US market and its patent trolls:

The growth of patent lawsuits over apps raises serious issues for all the emerging smartphone platforms, because none of the principal companies involved – Apple, Google or Microsoft – can guarantee to protect developers from them. Even when the mobile OS developer has signed a patent licence – as Apple has with at least one company currently pursuing patent lawsuits – it is not clear that it has any legal standing to defend developers.

Craig Hockenberry of Iconfactory, developer of Twitterrific, remarked that “Just when you think things couldn’t get any worse, they do and tweeted that “I became an independent developer to control my own destiny. I no longer do”. Iconfactory is among those being targeted by Lodsys, but earlier this week was granted a 30-day extension to reply to Lodsys’s claim.

What do patents protect? They protect us from excess innovation it seems.

35% of US adults own a smartphone, more than half of new sales are smartphones

More than half of new cell phone sales are smartphones, with 35% of all US adults having a smartphone now. The trend toward everyone carrying around pocket computers continues. Pew just released new data today with some fascinating tidbits:

  • 35% of US adults own a smartphone of some kind. The financially well-off, college graduates, those under the age of 45, and non-whites are especially likely to be smartphone owners.
  • 25% of smartphone owners say that they do most of their online browsing on their smartphone, and around one third of this group lacks traditional broadband access at home.
  • 35% of smartphone owners have an Android phone, while iPhones and Blackberry devices are each owned by 24% of smartphone adopters. Android phones are especially prevalent among young adults and African-Americans, while iPhone and Blackberry adopters skew towards those with relatively high levels of income and education.

Mobile computing is the next big frontier of computing. And I mean BIG.