Networked Apps

There was a great deal of functionality promised in the Apple announcement of iPhone 3.0 O/S last week. Apple mentioned 100 end-user features and 1000 programmer API’s. The SDK is now in the hands of developers and they are right now figuring out how it will all hang together.

One of the discussed technologies that intrigued me is Bonjour which is a type of easy, informal, local networking facility. A network for the nonce. With WiFi or Bluetooth and Bonjour a group of Macs, iPhones, or other devices will be able to share network functions or resources. So you will be able to say “Bonjour!” to your printer and print a page or more of copy.

Funnily enought there is at the moment no easy way of printing stuff off an iPhone. You can read pages of a book or magazine in an Exact Editions account on an iPhone, but there is no practical way of printing stuff off. It is possible to do a screen dump from an iPhone, but you then have to email the image to some account where you can use it, or edit it, or print it. In June with the release of the 3.0 operating system, and probably some new Apple kit, that will all change. There will also be some intriguing opportunities to share content between iPhones and other devices. This will encourage peer-to-peer promotion and viral marketing campaigns. How will authors and publishers react? Many publishers hate the idea of users copying content from one device to another, but it is something users will do and it can work in the authors favour if such viral copying encourages sales. It will be easier for publishers to get behind this concept when they are using a streaming service (such as Exact Editions) rather than a file-based download approach as with most eBook platforms. Using Bonjour to share a page or two of browser-dependent, evanescent and temporarily resident, content in a common reading experience will be one thing. Swapping whole content files between neighbouring iPhones and iTouches will be another nightmare scenario for music, film and book publishers. I guess that Apple will find some ways to limit that. But that could become a can of worms if it involves technical DRM.

By creating a rather supervised and enclosed media environment for publishers, Apple is attracting some scorn — as a ‘nanny’ and a possible ‘censor’. But Apple is also aligning itself with the owners of intellectual property and the providers of subscription services by claiming its 30% commission. Publishers may find this tariff a bit too rich and high, in the long run. But they will be reassured by the thought that Apple will be very motivated by its recurring media revenue streams.

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