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WordPress 3.1 Released

The newest version of WordPress, version 3.1 codenamed “Reinhardt”, has been released and is available to download or via an autoupdate from the dashboard.

In addition to over 800 bug fixes, this update includes a new admin bar, a cleaner writing interface, and more flexibility for theme developers. WordPress 3.1 also focuses heavily on continuing to turn WordPress into a low end CMS option by adding functionality around their custom post formatting and content type features that were introduced in the 3.0 update.

Continue reading → WordPress 3.1 Released

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.

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.

Related Links

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Apple shares hit record high on iPad shipping announcement

From Engadget:

Note to Microsoft, HP, Dell, and whoever else wants to get in the next-gen tablet game: your concepts are nice — even spectacular, in the case of Courier — but Apple’s about to actually ship a product, and investors are taking note. AAPL shares hit a record high of $219.36 this afternoon after the news that iPad pre-orders would begin on March 12 with an April 3rd delivery day, and they closed at $218.95, which is up around four percent. That’s got us curious: given the choice between actually purchasing the iPad and twiddling your thumbs waiting for an unannounced, unpriced, and even possibly un-real devices like the Dell Mini 5, the HP Slate, or the Courier, are you taking the sure thing or holding out for your vaporous dream device? Hit us up in comments — and be nice to each other, it’s the weekend.

I really, really want a Microsoft Courier tablet/portfolio

Please, please buy this new tablet/portfolio thingy for me for Christmas…

Microsoft Courier tablet/portfolio

Wow. It’s been a long time since a piece of electronics has excited me this much. And I’m pretty damn nerdy and pretty damn excitable. But the Microsoft Courier, or whatever it’s really called, is beautiful and everything I’ve ever wanted. This thing is perfect for the creative professional or for a student. I really hope they don’t cut corners in order to put this at a more palatable price. I want what is exactly in this video regardless of price. Watch this concept video and be amazed…

How absolutely incredible is this thing? Tons more photos and a little more info on Gizmodo.

Take Back the Beep

The New York Times’ David Pogue has launched the “Take Back the Beep” campaign aimed at making phone carriers end the anti-consumer practice of adding 15 seconds of babble to every voicemail message you leave or retrieve. Read on…

Over the past week, in The New York Times and on my blog, I’ve been ranting about one particularly blatant money-grab by American cellphone carriers: the mandatory 15-second voicemail instructions.

Suppose you call my cell to leave me a message. First you hear my own voice: “Hi, it’s David Pogue. Leave a message, and I’ll get back to you”–and THEN you hear a 15-second canned carrier message.

Do we really need to be told to hang up when we’re finished!? Would anyone, ever, want to “send a numeric page?” Who still carries a pager, for heaven’s sake? Or what about “leave a callback number?” We can SEE the callback number right on our phones!

Second, we’re PAYING for these messages. These little 15-second waits add up–bigtime. If Verizon’s 70 million customers leave or check messages twice a weekday, Verizon rakes in about $620 million a year. That’s your money. And your time: three hours of your time a year, just sitting there listening to the same message over and over again every year.

Phantom cell phone vibrations?

Ever reach into your pocket because you think your phone is ringing only to discover you’re losing your mind? Check out this article from the USA Today on “phantom cell phone vibrations” to learn more about this 21st century phenomena. I constantly think I “feel” my phone and check to find out it’s only in my mind. It’s probably a sign of insanity, but might also be due to my many drives back & forth between Austin & Dallas to see my future wife with the jams up loud.