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Will Apple’s New App Store Subscriptions Force Mobile Development Towards HTML5?

We knew it would be coming when News Corp’s The Daily debuted with it’s in-app subscription model, but this week Apple officially detailed their new subscription service for all iOS app publishers. The new policies allow users to sign up for weekly, monthly, or yearly subscriptions and they can easily pay via the same App Store billing system they used to grab Angry Birds. Apple will handle all the payments and management of the subscriptions and users can go to a single place to cancel any subscriptions they have purchased.

Wow. This is great news… isn’t it?

Turns out it may not be that simple.

Yes, Apple is making it easy to get your subscription content into the App Store and in front of those millions of potential customers, but they’re going to take the same 30% cut they do from any other App Store transaction. And there are also some huge caveats that are making many developers very upset. Check out these two excerpts from Apple’s announcement:

All we require is that, if a publisher is making a subscription offer outside of the app, the same (or better) offer be made inside the app, so that customers can easily subscribe with one-click right in the app.

And also…

…publishers may no longer provide links in their apps (to a web site, for example) which allow the customer to purchase content or subscriptions outside of the app.

Essentially, that means you can no longer link to your subscription options online and if you offer a subscription service elsewhere you must also offer it from within the app. And give 30% to Apple every time a payment is processed.

30% on the initial sale of an app is fair. Apple has built the store, provided the marketplace, and given developers access to millions of consumers. With subscriptions, they are acting as little more than a payment gateway. It is up to the developer of the app to create the subscription features, develop the extra content, communicate to the user that they exist, and then finally convince them to sign up. Apple has no role in converting an app user into a premium subscriber. Even PayPal’s high transaction fees are less than 3% on most transactions. Apple wants 27% more than that just to process your payments.

They’re also not going to let you tell users subscriptions are available elsewhere. The press release stated that if you do offer subscriptions on your website you are required to also offer them from within the app so Apple can get their share. For many SaaS companies, it may not be a sustainable business model if you’re having to give away that much of each sale. Especially when your service is primarily web-based and the iOS app is just a tool for existing customers.

Think about companies such as 37signals who have been thriving for years selling subscription services online. Is there anyone out there looking at the App Store first when evaluating large, full featured project management tools? An iPhone app doesn’t help them sell more subscriptions. It’s just a viewer and a way to do simple tasks in a service you already pay for.

Even more confusing, 37signals and many other companies offer APIs which allow third party companies to develop sites and programs that access their data. There are at least 11 iPhone apps currently available for 37signals’ Basecamp, none of which are actually from 37signals and therefore have no right or ability to sell subscriptions to the service. But Apple’s new rules say that these apps must include a way for Apple to sell an in-app subscription in order to be approved. The new rules are just too broad to be fairly applied in every single case.

Will these changes force some developers to decide against offering iOS versions of their apps? If a service already has a large customer base and doesn’t need Apple’s marketing help, does it make more sense for them to develop their mobile apps in HTML5? Developing with HTML5 would save money on cross-platform development while they also maintain complete control over their subscription revenue. That’s exactly the direction 37signals went earlier this month when they launched a non-native, brand new mobile web app for Basecamp even before these new rules were public.

Overall, the whole thing is clear as mud. And according to the Wall Street Journal, the new rules may raise possible antitrust issues. Apple needs to quickly clarify and possibly amend the new policies and explain when they apply, or they will soon be facing a backlash from the very developers whose work has made the iPhone and iPad a monumental success.

Internet Explorer 9 Release Candidate Now Available

Internet Explorer 9 is another step closer to full public release as Microsoft made available the first release candidate (RC) of the browser for download. Release candidates are past alpha or beta versions of software and indicate that this should be code that is close enough to bug free that it is almost ready for the general public. If no fatal bugs are discovered, the software will be released.

In addition to the obvious user interface changes and some performance boosts, IE9 will bring with it much improved CSS3 and HTML5 support. It’s nowhere near perfect, but IE9’s adoption of modern and cutting edge web standards is leaps and bounds better than Internet Explorer 8. As users ditch IE8 and adopt IE9 they’ll finally be able to enjoy many great touches and flourishes that web designers and developers can easily add thanks to CSS3.

Go download it and then take it for a test drive on some of these speed and capabilities demos.

Companies React Proactively to Gawker Security Breach to Protect Customer Accounts

I’ve had to change a lot of passwords in the last two weeks.

I had a Macbook stolen one weekend and then this weekend my login data was among the 1.3 million usernames and passwords compromised when hackers broke into Gawker Media’s servers and stole everything they could get their hands on. The hackers were able to access and download user data, CMS source code, and more from the servers and then posted it to torrent sites for anyone to download. If you’ve ever commented on any of Gawker’s hugely popular sites such as Gizmodo, Lifehacker, or Deadspin your credentials are most likely in there. (Find out for sure using Slate’s checker.) This is a huge security breach and could impact Gawker Media’s industry dominance as they must work to regain the trust of their readers and commenters.

Meanwhile, a few other companies are taking this opportunity to not only protect their customers’ accounts, but also demonstrate that they’re concerned about data security and grab some positive PR as well. Companies such as LinkedIn and Amazon have mined the stolen Gawker data for email addresses matching their customer accounts and automatically reset their passwords. This proactive step not only protected customers but will also reduce a lot of upcoming customer service hours needed to handle and fix hacked accounts or return fake orders. It also prevents customers unaware of the incident with Gawker from misplacing blame if their accounts were compromised.

Continue reading → Companies React Proactively to Gawker Security Breach to Protect Customer Accounts

Should Your Business Be Using Facebook Deals?

Last week Facebook held a big mobile event at their headquarters in California where they made several announcements that could potentially change the way consumers, businesses, and web developers interact with the the site while on the go. The announcement of the location based Facebook Deals platform may be the one that makes the biggest immediate impact. So, should your business be using Facebook Deals?

Yes. And start today.

Facebook Deals allows local businesses to offer discounts, freebies, and more to customers when they check in to their business with their mobile phone. Offers can be given for repeat visits, visiting with friends, or you can donate money to a worthy cause in lieu of a discount for the customer. There are many options but set up is easy and accepting coupons in store is as simple as looking at the customer’s phone.

All that sounds great, but how is that any different from any other sale or coupon you could offer? Like everything else with Facebook the deals are social. Every time a customer redeems a deal, all of their friends are notified that not only are they at your business but they’ll also find out that you’re running a special promotion right within their news feed. They can then click to learn more about the deal and about your business.

Continue reading → Should Your Business Be Using Facebook Deals?

Trending: The Luxury Treatment, Expanding Your Brand Through Social Media, Advanced Search, and More

Some scattershooting this week covering online marketing, social media branding, and the usability of advanced search. Read on to learn a little more about what I’ve been paying attention to recently.

The Luxury Treatment

eMarketer: Giving Affluents the Luxury Treatment Online
Luxury Daily: Why luxury automakers increasingly rely on iPad’s large canvas for engagement

A pair of articles on marketing to and serving affluent customers online covering web experience expectations, iPad apps, and luxury brands using (or not using) Twitter. Luxury brick and mortar stores offer intimacy and elegant product presentations and customers expect a comparable experience online. It is important that if you sell high end products or cater to a high end audience that your online presence creates an engaging experience as well.

Continue reading → Trending: The Luxury Treatment, Expanding Your Brand Through Social Media, Advanced Search, and More

Cisco Show and Share: YouTube for the Enterprise?

Last week at an event in Las Vegas, Cisco surprised the tech blogs when they announced their new Android-based tablet dubbed the Cius. Without a cool new gadget to go with it, their new social video system didn’t cause as much of a stir but may end up having the bigger impact on the way companies communicate, collaborate, and educate their employees. Cisco Show and Share could be YouTube for the enterprise.

Show and Share looks to make it easy for employees to upload, share, and edit videos within the security of the corporate network. Videos can be synced with presentation slides making them great instructional tools or a way to archive meetings for those who could not attend. Uploaded videos can be made available only for certain users and extensive viewing statistics are available, great for making sure everyone has seen the important video from HR or the marketing team has watched the new training video.

Perhaps most importantly, speech to text technology can automatically create searchable transcripts of uploaded videos. Once videos are transcribed, categorized, and labeled in Show and Share, employees will have easy access to the knowledge of coworkers both down the hall from them and across the country.

Knowledge sharing is one of the most important components of the modern corporate intranet and that doesn’t just mean making files available in a central repository. Increasingly, multimedia and connecting employees to each other to encourage communication are becoming the preferred way to promote knowledge transfer and to stay on the leading edge. Video tools such as Cisco Show and Share could go a long way in not only making the information available, but also making employees actually want to use it.

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