When I started the New Town Crier back in January 2008, I wanted to hash out new territory in the world of the online zine–incorporating the humorous, insightful and purely entertaining substance of a magazine with the intimacy of our writers’ personal journaling. Two years later I’m excited to see that people are not only spending more time online consuming information through the written word of blogs, videos, and online magazines, but how people are accessing the information has also changed.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the new tablet technology, be it the maxiPad variety care of Apple, or the upcoming Windows and Android versions soon to hit the market. In my mind, the iTouch has changed everything. People who may never have considered disregarding their keyboards for 3 inch screens are now taking them everywhere—and while that's great for online content publishers who want their content to be seen—with the new technology has also surfaced a change in ideology. Apple's touch technology has not only changed the way people interact with the web, its altered the very essence of a free and open online experience. To be honest, it kind of freaks me out.
You see the internet has always been an open-source environment for anyone with a computer and an internet connection to interact with. Due to the openness of the platform, businesses have struggled to find ways to monetize social networking sites, that offer free services. Sure, there are plenty of ads on Facebook, but it's well known that people are more interested in reading their friend's Wall than clicking on an ad that has nothing to do with their social status. Knowing this, Apple did something very smart, they offered people a cool product called the iPhone that restricts the use of rich, interactive content via Flash online, thus forcing people out of the web browser and into their App Store. A store that interestingly sells "web applications" that you can't find on the web.
Don't get me wrong, I love how slick Apple's products are, I guess I just don’t agree with their brand philosophy. I know businesses are trying to make money by selling apps in Apple's store, but Apple is making a bigger killing getting people to buy into their brand identity. Here's what I mean.
In order for a business to sell or even offer a free app in the Apple App Store, they have to to perform the following steps:
Step 1) Higher a developer
Step 2) Have or buy a Mac computer with the latest OS installed. Without a Mac and the Snow Leaopard OS, a person cannot build an app for an Apple touch product.
Step 3) Become an Apple developer by paying Apple between $100-300 to download the specs to build the app.
Step 4) Pay the developer for hours of labour to build the Apple specific app (no other software can be used to build an App Store app-it's not open source).
Step 5) Submit the app to Apple for approval.
Step 6) If Apple does not accept the app (Apple censors the apps based on content), the developer cannot use the app anywhere else.
Step 6b) If they accept the app, Apple attains rights to the app.
Step 7 ) Lastly, for every app sold, Apple takes 30% of the profits from the business or developer who created it, and customers wind up paying for content that they may have otherwise found for free online from a simple Google search had Flash been available.
Having said all this, disallowing Flash looks to have been a brilliant move by Apple (and its stock-holders), but a bad move for people who want to offer their audience free content without having to consider creating an app so their content can be viewed on an iPad, just because it uses Flash technology (like the New Town Crier).
Think about it, musicians like Bob Dylan have been using Flash on their websites for years because it gives viewers a chance to listen to their music and watch their videos for free (not in 30 second blips from the iTunes store). Restricting technology that people have come to expect in their browsers, forces anyone who offers interactive content online to rethink what it looks like without that interactivity available. Have you ever checked out the website We Choose the Moon about the Apollo 11 space mission? It's one of the best Flash websites I've seen—a great use of technology for educational purposes. Good luck watching it on an iPad.
So what's the alternative you ask? There has been considerable reaction to Apple's closed philosophy as of late, namely by another giant: Google, whose open-source Android marketplace and operating system (most recently used on smart phones) promotes a majority of free apps and open-source development. Google will be putting out some tablets later this year using Android as their OS, along with—you guessed it—Flash.
So, while I'm excited about the technology being afforded by touch, and more importantly the mobility of information through the creation of tablet products like the upcoming Dell tablets, HP Slate (check out the HP Slate commercial) and Android models, I will be by-passing Apple's products because I don't agree with their politics. Sure, “there’s an app for that,” but I won't be buying any.
Are any of these other companies any better? I don't know. I hope that we never move away from the freedom that comes with an open platform, here's hoping that the other brands don't follow Apple's lead.
So this month, we are offering you another edition of the New Town Crier–as always for free. We hope you like the redesign and enjoy reading our magazine.