The BBC is developing an app that will allow its reporters in the field to file video, stills and audio directly into the BBC system from an iPhone or iPad. The software is being adapted for the Apple phones from an existing app used by the BBC and is due to be in use within around a month. As part of a new strategy which will see the broadcaster focus on getting the most out of smartphone technology, it is also aiming to obtain iPhone licenses for existing app Luci Live, allowing reporters to broadcast live from the phone using 3G signal. Martin Turner, head of operations for newsgathering, said developing the software for iPhone was “a logical extension of what the BBC can do already” but added that it was a “significant development”. “Reporters have been using smart phones for a while now but it was never good quality. Now it is beginning to be a realistic possibility to use iPhones and other devices for live reporting, and in the end if you’ve got someone on the scene then you want to be able to use them.” He added that the development was part of a wider strategy at the broadcaster to make better use of smartphones in its field reporting.
Ping – Apple’s new social media network, will allow users to follow friends’ music interests working in a stream of updates similar way to Facebook or Twitter Having cornered the MP3 player, mobile phone and computer tablet markets with the iPod, iPhone and iPad devices respectively, last night Apple announced its latest expansion – into social media – with Ping. Ping will be integrated into Apple’s latest iTunes software update and will enable users, or “Pingers”, to follow musicians, friends and others to see details including what music they’re buying and what concerts they’re attending. Steve Jobs, Apple’s chairman and chief executive, said the information will arrive in a long stream of updates, similar to the way Facebook and Twitter work. “Be as private or as public as you want. The privacy is super-easy to set up,” he said adding that users can choose to automatically accept followers or decide on a follower-by-follower basis – similar sounding controls to those on Twitter. The service is available immediately to more than 160 million iTunes users, Jobs said, and will also be available across the iPhone and iPod Touch ranges.
Jake Lee knew he would have a long, cold night ahead – but wasn’t troubled: the 17-year-old from Theydon Bois, Essex had his father’s thick coat – plus the assurance of being the first to buy an Apple iPad at the company’s Regent Street store in London when it opens its doors at 8am tomorrow.
“I didn’t order online because I wanted to get the experience of buying it, of being in the queue,” said Lee, who has been saving from his part-time job after school “for months” to be able to afford the £429 low-end version.
Yet judging by the length – or brevity – of the queue outside the store, which by mid-afternoon comprised just five people, Apple’s latest offering – a 9-inch touchscreen tablet computer operated like its hit iPhone – is not drawing the crowds in the same way as previous product launches, which attracted scores of patient buyers.
However, online demand has apparently been strong: Apple was this week warning people who ordered iPads through its website that delivery may be put back to 7 June. It has already delayed the international launch of the iPad, which Steve Jobs showed off in January, by a month after strong sales in the US used up production capacity. So far it has sold more than 1m of the machines, which means it is already the single largest maker of tablet computers this year – capturing a market that Bill Gates, of Microsoft, tried and failed to create and corner in 2001.
Sales in the US have outstripped expectations , where the 1m mark was reached only 28 days after the 2 April launch, compared with 74 days for the iPhone.
Peter Buckley, the British author of the Rough Guide to the iPad, who has been using a US-bought model for the past five weeks, says that while it cannot replace a laptop machine for producing content, it is an ideal machine for a new era of “sofa computing”.
Critics have focused on the price, which ranges from £429 to £699, and point out that “netbook” computers with full keyboards are available for about £350.
There has also been criticism of Apple’s use of the Chinese electronics manufacturer Foxconn, where 10 people have apparently committed suicide this year due to work pressure. Simon Middleton, a brand expert, said: “I think we need to call on Apple to take the leadership role in its sector and to form a coalition of companies who would specify, monitor and maintain the highest standards of worker conditions: and to insist that the suppliers they deal with comply.” Foxconn workers claim that they have to work up to 15-hour shifts, and that the company has put up a huge safety net around the factory to prevent roof suicides.
Rival companies are also looking to build on Apple’s lead by launching their own tablet machines: the Joojoo, made by the Thailand-based Fusion Garage, launched in April, while HP is expected to launch models later this year using Palm’s WebOS software, having acquired the company last month. Other companies including Archos are also expected to launch tablets built on Google’s Android or Chrome software.
Buckley says that the success of the rivals “will depend on how quickly software developers feel compelled to develop apps for it. The draw of the iPad is partly to do with Apple’s design – but also that developers are working to write software for the platform.”
The success of the iPhone has accelerated as its App Store, opened in July 2008, has grown to offer more than 180,000 third-party applications, which have had more than 4bn downloads.
For the iPad, many have been rewritten to take advantage of its larger screen – including magazines such as Condé Nast’s Wired and GQ magazines, which have special £2.99 iPad electronic editions. The US version of the iPad Wired sold 24,000 copies in its first day, generating $120,000.
While those figures were being announced, Chris Thompson, a motor racing memorabilia dealer from Epsom, was taking his place at the end of the iPad queue. Why wait? “Well, patience is a virtue,” he replied. “I’ve come for the atmosphere. It’s more fun being outside here than sitting at home looking out the window waiting for a van to come.”
A new publishing company is betting that readers will bypass electronic readers such as Amazon’s Kindle and Sony’s Reader in favour of reading bite-sized stories on mobile devices they already own. Ether Books will launch at the London Book Fair on Monday, and will offer a catalogue of short stories, essays and poetry initially via Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch, by authors including Alexander McCall-Smith and Louis de Bernieres. Well over 1 billion mobile phones are expected to be sold worldwide this year, compared with just a few million e-readers. Apple alone has already sold more than 85 million iPhone and iPod touch devices, and has just launched its iPad tablet PCs. “At Ether Books we’ve made the decision to go straight to distributing short works via our iPhone app to devices people already own, are familiar with and are happy to use when they have 10-15 minutes to spare,” Ether Books Digital Director Maureen Scott said
Newspaper outcry prompts BBC Trust to examine initiative
The BBC has postponed plans to release free iPhone news applications after concerns about an unfair market advantage.
A report on BBC News said that the BBC Trust had decided to halt the planned April release of news and sports applications for the Apple handsets, after newspaper publishers claimed that the BBC would unfairly influence the market for news apps.
The BBC Trust will review the plans, and decide whether the apps would violate its public service agreement.The row comes as newspaper publishers seek to capitalise on Apple’s iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad platforms amid slowing sales of print editions.
Major papers such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have announced agreements with Apple to offer special subscription offers formatted for the iPad tablet
Recent media reports claim that the BBC intends to reduce its web operations by as much as a half.
Conflict sparks debate about online censorship and highlights Apple’s control over software platform
The International Federation of the Periodical Press (FIPP) is considering making a complaint to Apple over the computer firm’s request that German publisher Springer censor the naked girls on one of its iPhone apps. Springer-owned tabloid Bild’s “Shake the Bild Girl” app allows iPhone users to undress a model. Each time the user shakes the phone, the girl strips an item of her clothing. While Bild features naked women daily in its pages, Apple ruled that the girls in its iPhone app should wear bikinis. The Association of German Magazine Publishers (VDZ) asked FIPP last week to approach Apple over the issue. FIPP is debating the issue, but has no further comment at the moment. The VDZ chief executive, Wolfgang Fuerstner, has warned that Apple’s move might represent a move towards censorship. Apple asks publishers of general interest apps to respect its US “no nipples” policy. In November, German weekly Stern’s app was dropped from the App Store due to an erotic photo gallery. Apple’s intervention has made it clear to publishers that they find themselves in a new role in a digital world. When Apple announced at the end of February that it would “remove any overtly sexual content from the App Store”, publishers had to follow that request. It is Apple that has final control over its platform, not the publishers.
Microsoft has made an application that works with Google’s Android phone.
Called Tag, the free software uses a handset’s camera to turn it into a mobile barcode reader. It is the first application Microsoft has made for the Android operating system – one of the key rivals to Windows Mobile. Android is among the last to get the Tag application which is available on Windows phones, the iPhone, Blackberry and Symbian handsets.
Using Tag and similar programs, barcodes can become coupons that link people to websites, pass on information or give visitors a discount in an online store. Releasing the application for Android continues Microsoft’s program of making software for rival phone firm. In December 2008 it produced its first iPhone app, called Seadragon, and followed it up in early 2009 by releasing Tag for the Apple handset.
Apple has the most mature mobile apps store. In early January, Apple said more than three billion applications had been downloaded from its store. Microsoft’s launch is made against a background of greater co-operation among operators on phone software. In February, 24 of the worlds largest mobile network phone operators banded together to create the Wholesale Applications Community. This will try to make it easy for application developers to make and sell phone applications.
It is widely seen as a move by operators to wrest control of the lucrative apps market away from software firms and phone makers. Microsoft recently unveiled a revamp of its mobile operating system called Windows Phone 7 Series, which will be publicly launched later in 2010.