I spent a good bit of time this week thinking about Apple’s announcements this past Monday. Much of what will be coming in version 5.0 of iOS is impressive. There are a number of areas where Apple clearly took plays from Android’s playbook (Notifications anyone?) as well as from numerous independent developers. I’m not surprised and, as an end-user, I’m quite pleased.
I’m running iOS 5.0 Beta on a few devices, but am going to respect the beta-user agreement and NOT go into any detail.
I will say, however, that the new notification system is fantastic and does a great deal to bring iOS devices up to the level of what is currently available with Android. Moreover the new offerings through iCloud are great, and I can’t wait for Apple to flip the switch on more of them.
Among the features I’m personally most excited about is the new Reminders functionality. While it is rather rudimentary at this stage of the game, it brings some task management to the core of the IOS device and the fact that reminders created on one device will automatically be shared with other iOS devices is a huge benefit.
What I like most about it is the geographical triggers that can be set. In other words, when I came home last night, a reminder I created on my iPhone popped up because it had been set to remind me to do something as soon as I walked in the door. This isn’t new functionality, but it is new to the iOS operating system and it works perfectly. As it matures it will get better and better I suspect. (And as a friend reminded me, Pocket Informant 2 has offered this feature for some time. As the product page notes, “iOS 4 3GS/4: Context Location Notifications – assign locations to a Context and get notified when you are near it”)
Yes, as others have noted, when it comes to many of the features that Apple has been bringing to their devices, they aren’t interested in being first they simply want to be best. I think they’ve done that in many ways with iOS 5.0.
One of the comments I saw on Twitter numerous times during the keynote Monday was the statement that some of the new functionality is going to kill specific apps or entire companies. For example, I saw a number of times when it was tweeted that Zinio is going to be killed by Apple’s new Newstand functionality. One read “Apple just killed… Zinio…”
The argument goes that Apple now allowing subscriptions to magazines and bringing them all together in one application will make something like Zinio unnecessary and redundant. I don’t think that is the case, and here’s why:
Through iBooks Apple offers its own book application and e-book store. It is graphically slick and has some excellent content available. As soon as the functionality became available, I downloaded two books and began reading them. It was a nice experience. They were, however, the last books I bought through Apple’s store. Instead, I purchase my books through Amazon and use their Kindle application, and I do so for specific reasons. It isn’t that Amazon’s Kindle application is that much better than Apple’s iBooks. It really isn’t.
What Amazon has that Apple does not, however, is operating system agnosticism. Amazon doesn’t lock me into its hardware. Sure, I have and I use an Amazon Kindle. But I also have the Kindle application on my iPad, on my Android handset, and on my computer. I have it on my Windows phone as well, and as soon as BlackBerry makes it available on the Playbook (if that ever happens) I will load the Kindle application on there, too.
Amazon’s bookstore is available regardless of what device I am using and that gives me the freedom to read my books wherever and whenever I want. I get a CHOICE! It means that I’m not locked into their hardware, and if my taste in devices changes or something new becomes available that blows away the devices I am using, it is likely that I will be able to read the books I already own on those devices as well.
That’s not the way it works with Apple. No, if I buy books through Apple’s bookstore I am locked into Apple’s devices. Right now that’s not a problem for me since those are the devices I use 95% of the time. What I don’t know is where I will be in one year or three years or in five years. Why would I invest hundreds of dollars in books today that I may not be able to read tomorrow? It’s for that reason that I have opted to purchase all of my e-books through Amazon’s portal and am happy to do so.
This same logic applies to the world of magazines. Apple is now offering subscriptions to magazines. In iOS 5.0 they’ll bring all of those magazines together under one application. It will make it easy to access all of your previous purchases and make new ones. It is a great addition to the operating system, and with today’s news that Apple is revamping their subscription policy I suspect we’ll see more magazines than ever turning up in Apple’s system.
But let there be no doubt about it. If you buy a magazine through Apple’s App Store, then you’re going to need to access that magazine on one of Apple’s devices. They aren’t licensing their magazine and book software to other companies, and I suspect they never will. The magazines are, as Apple notes, “in one place” but they are also on “just one kind of device”.
If you know that you will only use Apple’s devices forever, then this is a great option for you. If, however, like me, you don’t exclusively use Apple’s devices or you don’t want to be locked into Apple’s ecosystem for ever, then this is the stupidest place I can imagine purchasing magazines; it’s locked and will likely never be unlocked.
Zinio, on the other hand, has as one of its core principles a commitment to allowing you to purchase the magazine once and read it on just about any device you currently or will own. They call this ZINIO UNITY. I call it “platform agnostic and awesome”.
With Zinio I am able to take my entire library with me on my iPad, but I also have access to my magazines on other platforms as well. And while they have been slow to release an application for Android, it is now available for Honeycomb and will hopefully be available on all Android smartphones soon. That means there is a greater likelihood that I will be able to access all of my magazines on all of my devices down the road. I’m locked into Zinio as the Distribution system, but I’m not locked into any electronics manufacturer’s platform.
I can understand the argument that books and magazines are different. Yes, it is more likely that I will return to a book that I read previously somewhere down the line, while magazines tend to be more disposable. But that doesn’t hold for all magazines, and if I’m going to purchase a subscription, for example to National Geographic, I want to know that I can come back to an article in a magazine I read this year down the line when I need to reference something. Apple doesn’t make that very easy.
So in the end, while I do believe that Apple’s new Newstand application is going to bring some real competition to the electronic magazine market, I don’t see Zinio disappearing. In fact, having had the opportunity to meet with a number of their top people, I have no doubt that they have already come up with a new strategy in order to be even more competitive than ever.