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ATPM 16.12
December 2010


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by Wes Meltzer,

VideoLAN and Apple Are Having a License Dispute Over VLC

VideoLAN allowed its signature video player, VLC, be ported to the iPhone by a third party. Apparently there’s a dispute involving the GPL, under which VLC is licensed, and Apple’s App Store Terms of Service. I’m actually kind of surprised this sort of thing hasn’t come up sooner.

Study: Developers Will Split Attention Between More Platforms in 2011

Millennial Media, in conjunction with the Wall Street Journal, is forecasting that in 2011, developers will invest more effort on Android and significantly more on Windows Mobile. Interestingly, they’re forecasting a decrease in developer attention to WebOS, now owned by HP; they’re also forecasting a 1% decrease for iOS. For what it’s worth, I’m not surprised to see Windows Phone 7 taking up a lot more attention than WinMo 6.5; it’s a completely new platform with new UI conventions, and a lot of applications are going to have to be rewritten. (On the other hand, it’s possible it will be a flop. Look at WebOS’s market share numbers…and I’m much more impressed by WebOS than by Windows Phone 7.)

HP’s Slate Isn’t an iPad, It’s Just a Touchscreen PC

Computerworld’s Mike Elgan opines that the HP Slate 500 isn’t anything like the iPad. He makes a solid point: the Slate is a laptop running a standard OS with touchscreen enhancements, with all of the upside (standard applications) and downside (typical installer pains, battery life, OS mismatches) that entails. He uses the analogy—ah, transportation analogies—that the iPad is a bicycle and the Slate is a motorcycle. It’s no accident that there are an order of magnitude more bicycles than motorcycles in the world. Elgan says, “When a new motorcycle comes out, the motorcycle magazines don’t ask, ‘Will this kill the mountain bike?’ It would be absurd.”

Where Does the MacBook Air Fit in Apple’s Product Lineup?

John Gruber ponders where the MacBook Air fits in the product lineup. In the final analysis, he settles on an interesting hypothesis: the MacBook Air is the pro iPad, not the lightest MacBook. I come in at the other end of the spectrum, that eventually the 11″ and 13″ MacBook Airs will take over the niche occupied by the lowest-end MacBooks now, in the same way that the iPod nano was once a niche product but eventually took over the hard drive-based iPod classic’s spot in the lineup. But we agree to disagree. The iPod analogy is a really instructive one, as Apple’s notebook lineup is now up to four models from three.

Google’s Android Problem: Go for Control or for Market Share

Ben Hookway notes that Google has a problem: unlike other mobile OS vendors, Google allows a high degree of carrier and handset-maker customization of Android. This is one reason they’ve achieved their market share: some device makers and carriers put a lot of work into customizing Android. On the other hand, unlike when you pick up a BlackBerry or Windows Phone 7 handset, the Android experience varies dramatically from phone to phone or carrier to carrier, and I think that weakens the Android brand. Microsoft is incredibly particular about Windows Phone 7! And Apple, well, what can you say? They make the phone and OS and sell it on only one carrier. Anyway, it’s an interesting question to ponder. Hookway says, “The economic model of handset OEMs necessitates UI differentiation and Google is taking that away. For Google to expect Apple-like control on a fundamentally different business model is just unrealistic.” All Google’s mobile money is in search and ads, not the OS.

Could the Mac App Store Kill Off Software Bundles?

On the list of things that hadn’t occurred to me about the Mac App Store: the possible impact of how Apple wants to handle sales on software bundles. I’ve written about these before; the company selling the bundle gets developers to discount their software, in exchange for better exposure. Some work out better than others for the developers. But this wouldn’t be possible at all in the Mac App Store, and if that becomes the dominant way of buying software, as Ars points out, this might be going the way of the dodo.

The iPad-ification of the Mac OS

Ross Rubin, writing for Engadget, speculates about what the long-run changes to Mac OS X might be, in light of the big Back to the Mac event. Sure, there’s a certain amount of hardware convergence: Macs are getting more like iOS devices, and iOS devices are getting more like Macs. But Rubin points out that the changes to the Mac OS may actually be more radical, as an interface that is more gesture- than keyboard-and-mouse-driven might someday become the norm for the Mac, or the single-window screen (a paradigm that appeared in the original Mac OS X public beta, believe it or not). It’s a fascinating question to ponder.

Why Netflix Isn’t Ready for Android Yet

John Gruber’s been on a tear lately pointing out how the lack of centralization and standardization for Android devices leads to some real fragmentation problems. This is a textbook example: Netflix says that they can’t roll out Android software, because of the differences between all the devices, all the possible versions of the OS still floating around out there, and the modifications that the OEMs and carriers can make. They have to use DRM—by contract, and probably also because of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act—and there’s no platform-level DRM support in Android. They plan to roll out support for specific devices, working on a carrier-by-carrier basis. In Eric S. Raymond’s famous “The Cathedral and the Bazaar,” he extols the virtues of letting a thousand flowers bloom, so to speak. But CLI hacker-ware or server-side projects are totally different from core user experiences like Android…and Google allowing this fragmentation really doesn’t benefit anyone.

Anatomy of How an iPhone App Takes Off

Robert Scoble takes a survey of the landscape of iOS apps and the tech press, and he wonders if the entire ecosystem of iOS and its third-party applications is liberating itself from the tech press. (Maybe that’s behind the hostility toward iOS among the technorati?) It’s also worth note that, whether it’s true or not, developers perceive iOS device users as buying software, and, for lack of a better word, Android device users as cheapskates. A colleague of mine is always extolling how great his Android phone is because all the apps are free; that doesn’t sound like it’s fostering a good developer ecosystem to me. So what if Apache is free? Photoshop isn’t; and neither are OmniOutliner or CrossWords, to cite some of my favorite applications for OS X and iOS.

News Corp Creating iPad-Only Newspaper With Recurring Subscriptions

I’ve been wondering when this would happen, and who would be the one to create it: News Corp is going to start an iPad-only newspaper (expanding to other devices later), which would be based on a recurring billing system just like regular newspapers. I assume it will also carry ads, because they will only charge 99 cents a week.

I know the economics of the business well enough to tell you that even if News Corp gets to keep 69 cents after Apple’s share, and they get a million subscribers, that’s still only $35 million in revenue, or about the line of a 250,000-circulation daily. Murdoch’s not in this to create a digital version of the Columbus Dispatch…he wants to be the Al Neuharth of the 20th century, to create a tablet analogue to USA Today. To do that, he needs ads.

Having said that. If this works, it could completely change the media picture in the post-industrial Western world.

iOS Is the Future of the Mac OS

John Siracusa discusses the future of the Mac OS in light of the iOS developments. Will Lion really have a single-window focus mode, like the much-maligned OS X Developer Preview a decade ago, and an improved window-switching system that goes along with it? What’s the likelihood? Hard to say! But it’s a really interesting question.

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