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June 01 2012

Publishing News: HMTL5 may be winning the war against apps

Here are a few stories that caught my attention in the publishing space this week:

The shortest link between content and revenue may be HTML5

HTML5 LogoA couple weeks ago, MIT Technology Review's editor in chief and publisher Jason Pontin wrote a piece about killing their app and optimizing their website for all devices with HTML5. That same week, Lonely Planet's Jani Patokallio predicted that HTML5 would nudge out the various ebook formats. This week, Wired publisher Howard Mittman shot back in an interview with Jeff John Roberts at PaidContent, insisting that apps are the future, not HTML5.

Roberts reports that "[Mittman] believes that HTML5 will just be part of a 'larger app experience' in which an app is a storefront or gateway for readers to have deeper interactions with publishing brands." I'm not sure, however, that readers need yet another gateway (read: obstacle) to their content, and recent movements in the publishing industry suggest HTML5 may be the more likely way forward.

This week, Inkling founder and CEO Matt MacInnis announced the launch of Inkling for Web, an HTML5-based web client that brings Inkling's iPad app features to any device with a browser. The app and HTML5 technology in this case are intertwined — all content previously owned in the app can now also be accessed via the web, and activity will sync between the app and the web, so notes made on the web will appear in the iPad app and vice versa. MacInnis says in the announcement that the launch is a big part of the company's overall vision to provide service to anyone on any device they choose, one of the major benefits of choosing HTML5 technology.

Also this week, OverDrive announced plans to launch OverDrive Read, an open standard HTML5/EPUB browser-based ebook platform that will allow users to read ebooks online or offline, without having to install software or download an app. Dianna Dilworth at GalleyCat reports on additional benefits for publishers: "Using the platform, publishers can create a URL for each title. This link can include book previews and review copies, as well as browsing capabilities and sample chapters."

In the end, it will all come down to what it always comes down to: money. Roger McNamee's latest piece, "HTML 5: The Next Big Thing for Content," takes a very thorough look at HTML5 in general and specifically in relation to content publishing (this week's must-read). As to money, this excerpt stood out:

"The beauty of these new [HTML5] 'app' models is that each can [be] monetized, in most cases at rates better than the current web standard. Imagine you are reading David Pogue's technology product review column in the New York Times. Today, the advertising on that page is pretty random. In HTML 5, it will be possible for ads to search the page they are on for relevant content. This would allow the Times to auction the ad space to companies that sell consumer electronics, whose ads could then look at the page, identify the products and then offer them in the ad."

As it becomes more and more likely that ads will be incorporated as a revenue stream in ebooks, publishers will embrace whatever technology draws the shortest line and the most avenues between content and revenue, which at this point is looking more and more like HTML5.

The future of publishing has a busy schedule.
Stay up to date with Tools of Change for Publishing events, publications, research and resources. Visit us at oreilly.com/toc.

MIT students present news reporting solutions

MIT Media Lab students were busy this week presenting final projects for their "News in the Age of Participatory Media" class. Andrew Phelps at Nieman Journalism Lab highlighted a few of the interesting projects, which were required to address a new tool, technique, or technology for reporting the news. One student proposed modernizing the hyperlink by attaching semantic meaning to it; another suggested a Wiki-like idea for correlations to put impossibly big numbers — the $15 trillion U.S. national debt, for instance — into context for readers.

The growing importance of data journalism makes another student's suite of tools called DBTruck particularly interesting. As Phelps explains, users can "[e]nter the URL of a CSV file, JSON data, or an HTML table and DBTruck will clean up the data and import it to a local database." The tools also let you compare arbitrary data to provoke deeper insights — in testing, the student discovered a correlation between low birth weights and New York state communities with high teen pregnancy rates, a connection that might not have been otherwise discovered.

Penguin and Macmillan deny participation in an illegal conspiracy

Publishers Penguin and Macmillan responded this week to the Department of Justice's (DOJ) antitrust lawsuit filed earlier this year against the two publishers and Apple (Apple responded to the lawsuit last week).

The New York Times reports that in Penguin's 74-page response (PDF), it "called Amazon 'predatory' and a 'monopolist' that treats books as 'widgets.' It asserted that Amazon, not Penguin, was the company engaging in anticompetitive behavior, to the detriment of the industry."

Laura Hazard Owen called Macmillan's 26-page response (PDF) "shorter and more fiery" than Penguin's. She reports:

"'Macmillan did not participate in any illegal conspiracy,' Macmillan's filing says, and 'the lack of direct evidence of conspiracy cited in the Government's Complaint is telling…[it is] necessarily based entirely on the little circumstantial evidence it was able to locate during its extensive investigation, on which it piles innuendo on top of innuendo, stretches facts and implies actions that did not occur and which Macmillan denies unequivocally.'"

Related:

May 25 2012

Publishing News: Kindle Fire and "your ad here"

Here's what caught my attention this week in the publishing space:

Kindle Fire home screen may be for sale

Kindle FireRumors flew this week saying Amazon plans to launch an ad campaign in which it will sell ads on its Kindle Fire home screen. Jason Del Rey at AdAge reports:

"Amazon is pitching ads on the device's welcome screen, according to an executive at an agency that Amazon has pitched. The company has been telling ad agency execs that they must spend about $600,000 for any package that includes such an ad.

"The ad campaigns would run for two months and also include inventory from Amazon's 'Special Offers' product. For $1 million, advertisers would get more ad inventory and be included in Amazon's public-relations push, according to this executive and an exec at another ad agency.'"

Del Rey says that "[b]oth agency executives have so far declined to participate, citing several concerns. For one, Amazon isn't guaranteeing the number of devices that the welcome-screen ads will reach, telling agencies that it hasn't decided whether the ads will start popping up on devices that have already been purchased or just on new devices."

O'Reilly GM and publisher Joe Wikert assessed the situation on his Publishing 2020 blog. He says this is just the beginning and that other ebook retailers are going to suffer:

"Given that Amazon's goal is to offer customers the lowest prices on everything, what's the next logical step? How about even lower prices on ebooks where Amazon starts making money on in-book ads? Think Google AdWords, built right into the book ... At some point in the not too distant future I believe we'll see ebooks on Amazon at fire sale prices. I'm not just talking about self-published titles or books nobody wants. I'll bet this happens with some bestsellers and midlist titles too. Amazon will make a big deal out of it and note how these cheaper prices are only available thru Amazon's in-book advertising program. ... Imagine B&N trying to compete if a large portion of Amazon's ebook list drops from $9.99 to $4.99 or less. Even with Microsoft's cash injection, B&N simply doesn't have deep enough pockets to compete on losses like this, at least not for very long."

Wikert concludes by asking: "Why wouldn't Amazon follow this strategy, especially since it helps eliminate competitors, leads to market dominance and fixes the loss leader problem they currently have with many ebook sales?"

The future of publishing has a busy schedule.
Stay up to date with Tools of Change for Publishing events, publications, research and resources. Visit us at oreilly.com/toc.

Apple calls foul on the DOJ

Apple this week filed a reply to the Department of Justice's antitrust lawsuit that was filed in April against Apple and five major publishers. PCWorld reports:

"Apple's reply to the court is in line with a statement issued by Apple in April after the DOJ filed its case, in which it said that 'the launch of the iBookstore in 2010 fostered innovation and competition, breaking Amazon's monopolistic grip on the publishing industry.' The company added: 'Just as we've allowed developers to set prices on the App Store, publishers set prices on the iBookstore.'"

The filing, entitled "APPLE INC.'S ANSWER," opens:

The Government's Complaint against Apple is fundamentally flawed as a matter of fact and law. Apple has not 'conspired' with anyone, was not aware of any alleged 'conspiracy' by others, and never 'fixed prices.' ... The Government sides with monopoly, rather than competition, in bringing this case. The Government starts from the false premise that an eBooks 'market' was characterized by 'robust price competition' prior to Apple's entry. This ignores a simple and incontrovertible fact: Before 2010, there was no real competition, there was only Amazon.

Reuters reports that in the filing, "Apple also denied that the government 'accurately characterized' the comment attributed to [Steve] Jobs." The DOJ's complaint (PDF) states:

"77. Apple understood that the final Apple Agency Agreements ensured that the Publisher Defendants would raise their retail e-book prices to the ostensible limits set by the Apple price tiers not only in Apple's forthcoming iBookstore, but on Amazon.com and all other consumer sites as well. When asked by a Wall Street Journal reporter at the January 27, 2010 iPad unveiling event, 'Why should she buy a book for ... $14.99 from your device when she could buy one for $9.99 from Amazon on the Kindle or from Barnes & Noble on the Nook?' Apple CEO Steve Jobs responded, 'that won't be the case .... the prices will be the same.'"

Apple's filing responds:

Apple denies the allegations of paragraph 77. The Government mischaracterizes on its face the alleged statement of Steve Jobs to the press on January 27, 2010, which simply conveyed that a publisher would not have a particular eBook title priced at $9.99 through one distributor and $14.99 through another. Apple's MFN provision would allow it to require the publisher to lower the price to $9.99 on the iBookstore. Apple had no contractual rights to require a publisher to require that it, or any distributor of its products, charge more for eBooks than it chose in a competitive market." [Reference link added.]

You can read Apple's reply in its entirety at Scribd.

It's time to hack digital covers

Hack the CoverCraig Mod (@craigmod) mused on book covers recently in a piece on his website called "Hack the Cover," which also is available as a Kindle Single. He says the way we search for and discover books has changed:

"The covers ... on Amazon.com are tiny on the search results page. Minuscule on new books page. And they're all but lost in the datum slush of the individual item pages. Great covers like Mendelsund's design for The Information disappear entirely.

"Why? Because — What do we now hunt when buying books? Data.

"The cover image may help quickly ground us, but our eyes are drawn by habit to number and quality of reviews. We’re looking for metrics other than images — real metrics — not artificial marketing signifiers. Blurbs from humans. Perhaps even humans we know! And within the jumble of the Amazon.com interface, the cover feels all but an afterthought."

Mod argues that since readers can approach a book from any number of entry points, the entire book should be viewed and treated like a "cover":

"The covers for our digital editions need not yell. Need not sell. Heck, they may very well never been seen. The reality is, entire books need to be treated as covers. Entry points into digital editions aren't strictly defined and they're only getting fuzzier. Internet readers don't casually stumble upon books set atop tables. They're exposed through digital chance: a friend tweeting about a particular passage — and linking, directly, into that chapter ... To treat an entire book as a cover means to fold the typographic and design love usually reserved for covers into everything. Type choices. Illustration styles. Margins and page balance."

Mod's piece is a must read this week.

Related:

May 18 2012

Publishing News: No dismissal for Apple, Macmillan and Penguin

gavel.pngThis week brought a couple of important updates in the lawsuits against Apple, Macmillan and Penguin. First, the antitrust lawsuit filed by 16 States' Attorneys General saw 17 more states jump in, and several new details came to light as previously redacted content was made public in the amended complaint. Laura Hazard Owen takes a look at the highlights over at PaidContent, including how the Big Five got holdout publisher Six to get on board:

"E-mails to Barnes & Noble: Once five publishers and Apple had enacted agency pricing, the complaint says the five publishers 'worked together to force' Random House to adopt it as well. On March 4, 2010, in an exchange also identified in the DOJ's filing, Penguin CEO David Shanks sent Barnes & Noble's then-CEO Steve Riggio an e-mail reading in part, 'Random House has chosen to stay on their current model and will allow retailers to sell at whatever price they wish ... I would hope that [Barnes & Noble] would be equally brutal to Publishers who have thrown in with your competition with obvious disdain for your welfare ... I hope you make Random House hurt like Amazon is doing to people who are looking out for the overall welfare of the publishing industry.'"

Jane Litte over at Dear Author has a thorough analysis of the amended complaint as well, and also covers the second important lawsuit update of the week: U.S. District Judge Denise Cote denied Apple, Penguin, and Macmillan's motion to dismiss the civil class action lawsuit. Litte offers highlights and analysis of both the amended complaint in the states' lawsuit and from Judge Cote's opinion. She says the emphasis on "windowing" — holding back ebook versions of hardcover books in order to sell more of the higher priced editions — is "genius of the DOJ/States' Attorneys General to argue because it sets a pattern of concerted behavior regarding price controls." Litte concludes:

"I think that the defendants (Apple, Penguin and Macmillan) have two options here. Settle now or take their slim chances to jury where I am convinced they will lose and hope that the 2nd Circuit slaps down Judge Cote's per se finding on appeal."

Litte's post is a must-read this week. She also will talk more about the DOJ/States' Attorneys General lawsuits with Kat Meyer on today's Follow the Reader discussion at 4 p.m. eastern on Twitter. You can join in at #followreader.

The future of publishing has a busy schedule.
Stay up to date with Tools of Change for Publishing events, publications, research and resources. Visit us at oreilly.com/toc.

The anti-piracy holy grail?

What if piracy on the Internet could be shut down? That's what Russian-based startup Pirate Pay is aiming to accomplish. The company, which was partially funded by a $100,000 investment from the Microsoft Seed Financing Fund, is targeting its technology at file sharing on BitTorrent. TorrentFreak reports:

"[Pirate Pay] has developed a technology [that] allows them to attack existing BitTorrent swarms, making it impossible for people to share files ... The company doesn't reveal how it works, but they appear to be flooding clients with fake information, masquerading as legitimate peers."

Company CEO Andrei Klimenko talked a bit more in-depth in an interview at Russia Beyond the Headlines:

"It was not so hard to do from inside an I.S.P.'s network. But to turn the technology into global service, we had to convince all I.S.P.s to acquire our solution. This is, what someone could call, mission impossible. So to create a global service, we had to find the way to do it from the cloud. So we needed money for development."

That's where Microsoft came in. In the interview, Klimenko describes the success of the group's first project, protecting the film "Vysotsky. Thanks to God I'm Alive" after its release in December:

"We used a number of servers to make a connection to each and every p2p client that distributed this film. Then Pirate Pay sent specific traffic to confuse these clients about the real I.P. addresses of other clients and to make them disconnect from each other. Not all the goals were reached. But nearly 50,000 users did not complete their downloads."

Whether or not the technology will continue to work in the long term is questionable. The BBC reports: "[University of Cambridge security researcher Richard Clayton], who blogs about such issues, said peer-to-peer networks would eventually adapt, sharing information about 'bogus' peers such as those reportedly utilised by companies like Pirate Pay."

"News you read is different than news you say you read"

In a post at at AdAge Digital, Steve Rubel mused this week on digital media, social sharing and news consumption. Inspired after an executive briefing at Fairfax Media's headquarters in Sydney, he writes:

"'News you read is different than news you say you read,' said Darren Burden, general manager-news and digital publishing for Fairfax, one of Australia's largest companies. The former is driven by what you want or need to know, and the latter by what you want your friends to think.

"Just like that, Burden nailed the psychology that drives subconscious and routine behaviors in the digital age. The media get it. They know that as social networks become a primary pathway to content, news that's crafted to find you must indeed be different from news that's intended for you to find.

"Few companies can execute both styles equally well, however, and the result is a stylistic continental divide as newsrooms tilt toward one or the other."

Rubel's analysis of how various brands are wrestling with the issue is an interesting read. He concludes that content producers are going to need to be "adept in both styles to create the resonance required to stand out in an age with too much content and not enough time."

Related:

July 18 2011

Intellectual property gone mad

Friday night, I tweeted a link to a Guardian article stating that app developers were withdrawing apps from Apple's app store and Google's Android market (and presumably also Amazon's app store), because they feared becoming victims of a patent trolling lawsuit. That tweet elicited some interesting responses that I'd like to discuss.

The insurance solution?

One option might be to rely on the insurance industry to solve the problem. "Isn't this what insurance is supposed to be for? Couldn't all these developers set up a fund for their common defense?" wrote @qckbrnfx. An interesting idea, and one I've considered. But that's a cure that seems worse than the disease. First, it's not likely to be a cure. How many insurance companies actually defend their clients against an unreasonable lawsuit? They typically don't. They settle out of court and your insurance premium goes up.

@mikeloukides Isn't this what insurance is supposed to be for? Couldn't all these developers set up a fund for their common defense?less than a minute ago via Tweetbot for iPhone Favorite Retweet Reply

If you look at medical malpractice insurance, where unfounded malpractice claims are the equivalent to trolling, I would bet that the willingness of insurance companies to settle out of court increases trolling. An insurance solution to the problem of trolling would be, effectively, a tax on the software developers. And we would soon be in a situation where insurance companies were specifying who could develop software (after a couple of malpractice cases, a doctor becomes uninsurable, and he's effectively out of the business, regardless of the merits of those cases), what software they could develop, and so on. Percy Shelley once said that "poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world." But my more cynical variation is that the insurance companies are the world's unacknowledged legislators. I don't want to see the software industry dancing to the insurance industry's tune. Some fear big government. I fear big insurance much more.

Fighting back?

There's a variant of the insurance solution that I like: @patentbuzz said: "Developers need to unite and crowdfund re-exam of obnoxious troll patents. Teach them a lesson." This isn't "insurance" in the classic risk-spreading sense: this is going on the offensive, and pooling funds to defend against trolling. I do not think it would take a lot of effort to make trolling (at least, the sort of low-level trolling that we're looking at here) unprofitable, and as soon as it becomes unprofitable, it will stop. Small-time app developers can't afford lawyers, which is precisely why trolling is so dangerous. But here's the secret: most patent trolls can't afford lawyers, either. They can afford enough lawyering to write a few cease and desist letters, and to settle out of court, but their funds would be exhausted fairly quickly if even a small percentage of their victims tried to fight back.

@mikeloukides Developers need to unite and crowdfund reexam of obnoxious troll patents. Teach them a lesson http://t.co/8wFkyFQless than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

This is precisely where the big players need to get into the game. Apple has tried to give their app developers some legal cover, but as far as I know, they have not stepped in to pay for anyone's defense. Neither has Google. It's time for Apple and Google to step up to the plate. I am willing to bet that, if Apple or Google set up a defense fund, trolling would stop really quickly.

Blocking sale of patents?

A large part of the patent problem is that patents are transferable. @_philjohn asks "Do you think changing law to prevent transfer of patents could reduce the patent troll problem?" On one level, this is an attractive solution. But I'm wary: not about patent reform in itself (which is absolutely necessary), but because I've worked for a startup that went out of business. They had a small intellectual property portfolio, and the sale of that portfolio paid for my (substantial) unused vacation time. That's not how things are supposed to happen, but when startups go out of business, they don't always shut down nicely. It's worth asking what the cost would be if patents and other kinds of intellectual property were non-transferable. Would venture capitalists be less likely to invest, would startups fail sooner, if it were impossible to sell intellectual property assets? I suspect not, but it isn't a simple question.


A call to action

Patent and copyright law in the U.S. derives from the Constitution, and it's for a specific purpose: "To promote the progress of science and useful arts" (Article I, section 8). If app developers are being driven out of the U.S. market by patent controlling, patent law is failing in its constitutional goal; indeed, it's forcing "science and the useful arts" to take place elsewhere. That's a problem that needs to be addressed, particularly at a time when the software industry is one of the few thriving areas of the U.S. economy, and when startups (and in my book, that includes independent developers) drive most of the potential for job growth in the economy.

I don't see any relief coming from the patent system as it currently exists. The bigger question is whether software should be patentable at all. As Nat Torkington (@gnat) has reported, New Zealand's Parliament has a bill before it that will ban software patents, despite the lobbying of software giants in the U.S. and elsewhere. Still, at this point, significant changes to U.S. patent law belong in the realm of pleasant fantasy. Much as I would like to see it happen, I can't imagine Congress standing up to an onslaught of lobbyists paid by some of the largest corporations in the U.S.

One dimension of the problem is relatively simple: too many patent applications, too few patent office staff reviewing those applications, and not enough technical expertise on that staff to evaluate the applications properly. It doesn't help that patents are typically written to be as vague and broad as possible, without being completely meaningless. (As the staff tech writer at that startup, I had a hand in reviewing some of my former employer's patent applications). So you frequently can't tell what was actually patented, and an alleged "infringement" can take place that had little to do with the original invention. Tim O'Reilly (@timoreilly) suggested a return to the days when a patent application had to include the actual invention (for software, that could mean source code) being patented. This would reduce much of the ambiguity in what was actually patented, and might prevent some kinds of abuse. Whatever form it takes, better scrutiny on the part of the patent office would be a big help. But is that conceivable in these days of government spending cuts and debt ceilings? Larger filing fees, to support the cost of more rigorous examination, is probably a non-starter, given the current allergy to anything that looks like a "tax." However, inadequate review of patent applications effectively imposes a much larger (and unproductive) tax on the small developers who can least afford it.

If we can't rely on the patent office to do a better job of reviewing patents, the task falls to the Apples and Googles of the world — the deep-pocketed players who rely on small developers — to get into the game and defend their ecosystems. But though that's a nice idea, there are many reasons to believe it will never happen, not the least of which is that the big players are too busy suing each other.

Apple and Google, are you listening? Your communities are at stake. Now's the time to show whether you really care about your developers.

Crowdfunding the defense of small developers may be the best solution for the immediate problem. Is this a viable Kickstarter project? It probably would be the largest project Kickstarter has ever attempted. Would a coalition of patent attorneys be willing to be underpaid while they contribute to the public good? I'd be excited to see such a project start. This could also be a project for the EFF. The EFF has the expertise, they list "innovation" and "fair use" among their causes, and they talk explicitly about trolling on their intellectual property page. But they've typically involved themselves in a smaller number of relatively high-profile cases. Are they willing to step in on a larger (or smaller, as the case may be) scale?

None of these solutions addresses the larger problems with patents and other forms of intellectual property, but perhaps we're better off with baby steps. Even the baby steps aren't simple, but it's time to start taking them.

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    June 30 2011

    Developer Week in Review: Would your passcode pass muster?

    A riddle for all of you Week in Review fans out there. How come I can buy an iPhone, the pinnacle of technological achievement (hush, you Android folks ...), with billions of transistors and marvels of engineering like solid state gyroscopes and accelerometers for under $500, but a freaking mattress made out of bent steel and fabric is going to cost me nearly two grand? Someone get Steve Jobs on the line, we need the iSleep.

    Dark Helmet would be pleased

    Really bad passcodeIt turns out that President Skroob and King Roland aren't the only people who like to pick predictable passcodes. A recent analysis of anonymized iPhone passcodes shows that if you started by entering 1 and 2 for the first two digits of a four-digit passcode, you'd be right a good percentage of the time. Worse, 10 distinct four-digit passcodes represented 15% of all passcodes entered, including such favorites as 1234 and 0000.

    How are we going to have any hope of educating the public about strong passwords, digital certificates and phishing, if we can't even get them to choose a non-trivially guessable passcode?



    This week's legal news, now in Madlib format!


    This week, (name of big company) (legal action) (name of other big company), claiming that they had (intellectual property violation) their (intellectual property).

    Into this template, you can place the following values: Oracle, had many of their claims dismissed by the USPTO against, Google, violated, Java Patents.

    Samsung, asked the International Trade Commission to ban imports into the US from, Apple, violated, patents.

    Apple, lost ground in their bid to prevent, Amazon, from using the term, App Store.

    Ok, now you give it a try. Maybe next week, we'll do an emerging language Madlib!


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    In MySpace, no one can hear you take a capital loss

    MySpaceOnce upon a time, there were two sisters. Both were popular and all the young boys and girls loved to play with them. One of them went on to fame, fortune, and have a movie made about her. The other found herself left at home cleaning up the fireplace, with not a fairy godmother to be seen.

    Poor MySpace. While sister Facebook has claimed the glory and prestige, MySpace has faded from social networking giant to bargain basement status. News Corp may have spent upwards of half a billion dollars to acquire the company, but this week they let MySpace pass out of their hands for a paltry$ 35 million. For those keeping score, that's a 90% loss on the original investment.

    Google PlusMySpace was purchased by a company called Specific Media. Raise your hand if you've ever heard of them? Yeah, that's what I thought. Evidently, they are some big power in online advertising and digital media. What they plan to do with the shell that was once MySpace is anyone's guess.

    Meanwhile, Google has finally sent a shot across Facebook's bow with the launch of Google+, which integrates social networking into the Google experience. There's an Android client for it out already, and an iOS version is promised any time now.

    Got news?

    Please send tips and leads here.



    Related:


    December 15 2010

    Developer Year in Review: Mobile

    With just eight more shopping days until Festivus, it's time to look back on the year that was. Here at the Week in Review, I'll be breaking it down into three segments, starting this week with the year in mobile. Upcoming posts will look at programming languages and operating systems.

    All your smartphones are belong to Google and Apple

    Microsoft and RIM pushed out new releases of their mobile operating systems and new handsets to run them. But in terms of market impact, their efforts were like filling the Grand Canyon with a garden hose. This year belonged jointly to Apple and Google, or iOS and Android if you want.

    Apple succeeded in doing what companies have been failing to do for years: put a popular and usable tablet computer into the hands of consumers. The iPad, which garnered quizzical looks when first launched, is now on course to take a major slice out of the netbook and laptop market. It's also spawned a gaggle of me-too tablet offerings running Android (and now, reportedly, Windows). Apple also finally made iOS devices truly usable with iOS 4.2, which brought multitasking to the masses (where "the masses" are defined as people with an iPhone 3GS or better ...)

    Meanwhile, Google's Android ate up the market, although the lack of a single identifiable branding strategy tends to make all those Android handsets hard to spot in the wild. I can name all the iOS devices, but I sure as heck can't name all the devices running Android. If you believe that many vendors make for better diversity, this is a good thing. If you believe that many vendors make for a porting nightmare, your perspective on Android is a little different.

    I sue you, you sue me, we all pay a legal fee

    The computer industry in general suffered from a spate of intellectual property litigation this year, but boy oh boy, did the mobile space get it in spades. At this point, the only effective way you could keep track of mobile lawsuits is with a heat map (and Randall Munroe over at xkcd is probably working on one ...)

    The Supreme Court's clear-as-mud decision in the Bilski patent case left everyone confused about what you can and can't sue over. For the moment, the only people benefiting from this orgy of lawsuits are the lawyers on retainer.

    The year of the app store

    Apple's App Store has been hugely successful at attracting independent (and large) mobile developers. Not surprisingly, everyone and their sister has copied Apple's model. Android put up an app store without Apple's restrictive gatekeeping, and Blackberry put up a store that is (reportedly) harder to get into than Apple's.

    Apple also (finally) clarified the criteria for getting into their store. And in a sign that pigs will soon become airborne, Apple approved apps for Google Voice and Google Latitude.

    In a way, the App Store model has finally legitimized the freeware/shareware model. It's also offered small and independent developers a way to get visibility and a sales channel for their products. With the App Store model moving to desktop software next year (as Apple introduces the Mac App Store), it will be interesting to see if Microsoft follows suit.

    That's it for this week. I'll take a look at the year in programming languages in the next edition. Suggestions are always welcome, so please send tips or news here.


    October 13 2010

    Developer Week in Review

    Here's what recently caught my attention on the developer front:

    The continuing adventures of Java

    Sometimes you can see the train-wreck coming a mile away, can't you? When Oracle bought Sun, a lot of insiders thought that it couldn't be good news for Java, since Oracle wasn't all that big into the whole open source community development lovefest. Well, shock of shocks, this week Big Blue joined forces with the House of Ellison, dumping the Apache Harmony project, which is intending to create a soup-to-nuts open source implementation of Java, in favor of Oracle's OpenJDK.

    On a pragmatic level, more resources (especially from a powerhouse like IBM) will help improve the quality and breadth of OpenJDK. On the other hand, IBM jumped ship because Oracle refused to certify Harmony or open source the technology compatibility kit (TCK), which would have allowed Apache to become certified. And yes, the Google vs. Oracle lawsuit is tangled up in this ...

    Meanwhile, OpenOffice has filed for divorce from Oracle, citing irreconcilable differences and lack of affection.

    Speaking of lawsuits ...

    For those keeping score, this week Motorola sued Apple. But rather than claiming that Apple violated Motorola patents, Motorola is asking the court to invalidate 12 Apple patents. It's a defensive move, evidently anticipating that Apple will use the patents against the big M. In a refreshing change of pace, the suit was filed in Delaware. A lonely law clerk can be heard crying somewhere in east Texas.

    iOS, uOS, we all OS for iOS

    The iOS 4.2 release approaches quickly (currently scheduled for the fairly vague target of "November"), and as usual, the betas are flying hot and heavy. The 4.2beta3 release hit the streets -- albeit the highly secured gated community of developer.apple.com -- on Tuesday. The main feature of 4.2 will be iOS 4 support for the iPad. Printer support will also be included in the mix, if only to printers hooked up to Snow Leopard boxes and a series of new printers that haven't even hit the streets yet. I guess CUPS support was more than we could have hoped for.

    Pentest habitat: Do not taunt or tap on the glass

    Is there anything with as much hubris involved as daring the worldwide security community to hack your system? First, we had the president of LifeLock spreading his social security number across the Interwebs, and daring folks to steal his identity. They did. Then, last week, the District of Columbia (or as the folks at News of the Weird like to call it, the District of Calamity) invited the good citizenry of the Net to subvert their shiny new electronic voting system. They did. And nastiest of all, they used shell injection to do it, one of the oldest tricks in the books. I wonder if Little Bobby Tables is getting ready to vote?

    That's it for this week. Suggestions are always welcome, so please send tips or newshere.

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