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Apple’s Advocate Explains the Grab for 30%

Like many, I reacted very negatively to Apple’s new policy: any paid content inside iOS apps be available through Apple’s subscription system, must be available at the lowest price, and must give Apple a 30% cut of that price.

John Gruber has written a very thorough analysis of the popular arguments against this new policy, and attempts to divine Apple’s reasoning for implementing it:

Apple doesn’t give a damn about companies with business models that can’t afford a 70/30 split. Apple’s running a competitive business; competition is cold and hard. And who exactly can’t afford a 70/30 split? Middlemen. It’s not that Apple is opposed to middlemen — it’s that Apple wants to be the middleman. It’s difficult to expect them to be sympathetic to the plights of other middlemen…

This is what galls some: Apple is doing this because they can, and no other company is in a position to do it. This is not a fear that in-app subscriptions will fail because Apple’s 30 percent slice is too high, but rather that in-app subscriptions will succeed despite Apple’s (in their minds) egregious profiteering. I.e. that charging what the market will bear is somehow unscrupulous. To the charge that Apple Inc. is a for-profit corporation run by staunch capitalists, I say, “Duh”.

Gruber has scored a direct hit on Apple’s strategy, and his explanation makes it seem very solid for Apple, its customers, and content creators. The biggest losers are Apple’s competitor middle-men. I think Apple’s main interest is being the best damned middle man in the business. The only problem is that some of those middle-men make products I really like, and Apple will only play ball with them if Apple gets to make the rules.

Daring Fireball: Dirty Percent

The State of the Slate: Today’s iPad and Tomorrow’s Tablets

The iPad created a new class of computing devices and a new way of interacting with technology. It seems like this ambitious device means something different to just about every segment of the technology world: Old Media publishers herald the device as their salvation from death at the hands of the Web. Open software advocates balk at its controlled app platform as a regression for things like rich web applications and open standards. Tech pundits label it a device which prioritizes passive consumption of content over production and collaboration. Customers complain about the $500 starting price — and then buy over 15 million of them in under a year. (This quarter, Apple is on track to sell more iPads than Macs.)

I took the plunge and bought an iPad last September to see what all the fuss was about. I have to say that I don’t think any of the popular perspectives effectively mirror my experience. Things are about to change very quickly in this new space, and I think this is the appropriate time at which to reflect on its current state and potential in the future.

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How eBooks and e-Readers Fall Far Short of Dead Trees

eBooks have been a great thing for me- I rarely think to carry a book along with me or have a bag for carrying one, but I always have a smartphone on me, plus an iPad at times. When I was in Spain in 2009, I read a novel on my iPhone that’s over 1000 pages long in paperback form. No, a 3.5″ backlit LCD screen isn’t the nicest reading experience, but I’d like to borrow a saying from the photography world that I believe applies here:

The best way to read a book is the one you have with you.

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New York Times for iPad: Legitimate heir to the Newspaper?

NYTimes 2.0 for iPad

From paper to pixels: The Times and other media have yet to find an economically sustainable replacement for their paper-based products.

The Internet has shaken up the status quo for many incumbent economic leaders – and newspapers have seen this effect more so than any other industry. Since the Web hit the American household in the 1990s, print media has been experimenting with strategies for digital distribution and revenue streams, with few conclusive results after well over a decade. The Web has moved the audience’s attention from monolithic news outlets controlled by publishers in favor of social links (Facebook and Twitter) and aggregators (The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast and Drudge Report.)

This year’s announcement of the iPad seemed to change the publishing industry’s outlook on doing business over the Web. Instead of the hyperlinked, non-linear, short-attention-span, copy/paste-friendly nature of a desktop Web browser, the iPad offers a publishing platform similar to their paper product – with an iPad app, the publisher has verticalized control of available content, its layout, navigation experience, and – most importantly – revenue generation methods.

On October 15, the Times released “NYTimes for iPad,” (iTunes Link) labeling it “free until early 2011.” In testing it, I’ve decided it’s an excellent application in its own right, and could potentially be a great sign for the future of print journalism, but it could be yet another business fumble if the company doesn’t execute the proper balance between advertising, consumer pricing and usability.

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If you’re a personal branding/social web nerd like me, you will greatly enjoy “The Myth of the Personal Brand,” a guest post on Redhead Writing by Aaron Templer. It raises some interesting questions about the very idea of branding real people instead of companies, and a lot of the commenters bring up really good points as well. (I only recently discovered Redhead Writing and have since encountered quite a few excellent online strategy articles. Highly recommended.)