Random House, the world’s largest book publisher by sales, has yet to sign a deal with Apple to sell its books in the upcoming iBookstore over fears of the effect Apple’s pricing strategy could have on the pricing of electronic books. The Financial Times reports that Random House CEO Markus Dohle is not ruling out the possibility of reaching a deal with Apple before the iPad goes on sale April 3, but is moving carefully because of pricing concerns. Dohle said the new model poses “changes, in particular for our stakeholders,” that require the publisher to consult with its authors and agents before moving ahead with the deal. Hartmut Ostrowski, CEO of Random House’s parent company Bertelsmann, acknowledged the importance of the iPad and other electronic book readers in a recent press conference, stating that they are influencing the media sector “like nothing else.”
Marco Arment has released details on the upcoming iPad version of his popular Instapaper offline reading app. In a blog post on his site, Arment confirms that Instapaper is coming to the iPad “possibly even on day one.” The new design is described as very similar to Instapaper Pro with “slight interface tweaks and redesigns where appropriate.” The most significant visual changes have been made to the landscape view with the folders now appearing in a sidebar to the left of the main content listing. Arment mentions that he had originally planned to wait to release a native version of Instapaper until he actually had an iPad available to work with, however after seeing the pixel-doubled iPhone version in the iPad simulator he found it “completely unusable.” As a result he decided that a native iPad version was necessary sooner rather than later. Arment also plans to make Instapaper Pro a universal iPhone and iPad application as he doesn’t “want anyone subjecting themselves to the iPhone edition in pixel-doubled mode.” The universal version will be a free upgrade for existing Instapaper Pro users and will allow new users to use a single app on either the iPhone or iPad without having to purchase separate versions. Arment indicates that he plans to “experiment with more radical interface changes in the future” once he’s actually used an iPad, but he felt that having an iPad-native Instapaper app available at launch was more important than waiting to perfect the app. Additional details and screenshots can be found at the Instapaper Blog.
CNET reports that Opera has now submitted its Opera Mini web browser for the iPhone to Apple for App Store approval. First previewed at the Mobile World Congress, Opera Mini is designed to be used as an alternative to the iPhone’s built in Safari browser and promises faster page loading due to server-side optimization and a tabbed browser interface. CNET indicates that Opera Mini 5 running on the iPhone looks and behaves “almost identically” to the version of Opera Mini 5 on other mobile devices but also includes the ability to reload the previous session to maintain a persistent state when relaunched. Unlike other alternative browsers currently available on the App Store, Opera Mini is not based on WebKit, and there has been much speculation as to whether Apple will approve it. Third-party browsers have previously fallen afoul of Apple’s restriction on third-party applications executing code, however in discussing the matter with CNET, Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner indicated that he doesn’t feel that Opera Mini directly violates anything in Apple’s SDK license as it merely displays web pages rendered on Opera’s own proxy servers.
The iPhone OS has overtaken Sony’s Playstation Portable in terms of U.S. portable game software revenue, according to a new report from Flurry Analytics. Using publicly available market data from NPD, estimated Nintendo DS and Sony PSP game software sales, and iPhone games sales estimated using a combination of data from both Apple and the company’s own app-tracking analytics service, the iPhone OS as a platform increased its share of U.S. portable game software revenue from 5% in 2008 to 19% in 2009. In the same time period, the Nintendo DS’ revenue share fell from 75% to 70%, and the PSP’s share fell from 20% to 11%, leaving it behind the iPhone OS. Apple’s overall share of U.S video game software revenue, which includes revenue from console software sales, increased from 1% in 2008 to 5% in 2009; Flurry speculates that the launch of the iPad could lead to more increases for the iPhone OS platform. “With the iPad featuring a larger screen and more processing power, games on the tablet take a step closer to PC and console gaming,” the report states. “Unless the other major video game platform providers (i.e., Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft) respond accordingly, Apple could continue to roll up video game market share.”
Following its launch of the “Gift This App” feature on the App Store, Apple has updated its iTunes Store Terms & Conditions to add a section to the document covering gifts. Specifically, the new section explains “the conditions under which Apps can be gifted, including an explanation that Gifts may not be used for in-app purchases, in-app subscriptions, upgrades, or the iPod touch OS,” and “that some gifts require compatible hardware and parental control settings so they can be redeemed.” Notably, the Gift this App feature is also available on the Canadian App Store, despite the continuing restrictions on purchasing applications with gift cards, which leave users lacking personal credit cards, or family members willing to offer theirs, without any reasonable way of purchasing apps from the App Store.
Perseus Books Group, the largest distributor of independent publishers, has signed a deal with Apple to offer its books on Apple’s upcoming iBookstore. The New York Times reports that Perseus is a large independent publisher itself, but also distributes works from 330 smaller companies including Grove Atlantic, Harvard Business School Press, Zagat and City Lights Books. “We’re working with Apple to make books from The Perseus Books Group and the independent publishers we represent available on the iBookstore starting on April 3,” David Steinberger, CEO of Perseus, told the NYT. “As the leading provider of distribution services for independent publishers, including digital distribution through our Constellation digital service, Perseus is thrilled to be making our books available on the iPad.”
Update: Apple has also signed a deal with independent publisher Workman Publishing Company, responsible for the “What to Expect” series, novels like “Water for Elephants” and the Silver Palate cookbooks, to offer its books on the iBookstore.
Apple has launched a new App Store feature called “Gift This App.” Appearing in the “Buy App” drop-down menu on individual apps pages, the new service allows users to buy applications for download by friends or family. Once the feature is selected, a separate page appears letting the user choose between sending the gift via email or printing it themselves, along with boxes for entering the recipient’s name, email address, and a personal message. Users are also be able to gift an app to multiple recipients at once by adding multiple recipient email addresses. The page also instructs users to check the app’s requirements carefully, as “your recipient(s) may not be able to redeem or use your gift if their hardware or iPhone OS is incompatible.” [via TUAW]
This weekend, ngmoco globally released its anticipated empire-building game, We Rule. Initially issued as a limited release for testing on the Canadian App Store, We Rule starts the player with a small estate, letting him or her develop the infrastructure to transform a humble castle into a sprawling kingdom. Users can invite their friends through the Plus+ network to build realms together and visit each other’s kingdoms.
Unfortunately, We Rule turned out to be unplayable for some users this weekend because of a Ngmoco requirement that users must connect to the Plus+ network to track in-game progress and interact with other players. Within hours of its general availability, Ngmoco began reporting connection problems with its Plus+ servers, and was forced to bring new servers online; despite this, several other outages occurred resulting in limited availability of the game until early Monday morning. The outage left many users frustrated at having downloaded an iPhone game that couldn’t be enjoyed.
Ngmoco has another upcoming game, Godfinger, which uses the same network-required play model, but is still in testing on the Canadian App Store. No release date for Godfinger has yet been announced and it is unclear whether the recent Plus+ network problems will have any impact on its global availability.
Marketcircle has released an update to Billings Touch, its iPhone time tracking and billing application. Version 1.1 adds support for multiple currencies and integration with Inner Fence Credit Card Terminal for accepting invoice payments directly on the iPhone or iPod touch. Other enhancements include improved performance when using large logos for invoices and fixes for slip date formats and invoices sent via Yahoo accounts. Billings Touch is available from the App Store as a free download for time and expense tracking and reporting; sending invoices from within the app and syncing with Billings for Mac requires an upgrade to the full version via a $15 in-app purchase.
Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble are working on iPad-formatted versions of their iPhone book-reading applications, according to a New York Times report. “We have actually developed a tablet-based interface that redesigns the core screen and the reading experience,” said Ian Freed, vice president for Kindle at Amazon. “Our team had some fun with it.” Amazon’s Kindle app for iPhone will give users a new interface for browsing their book collection, and allow them to “slowly turn pages with their fingers,” while Barnes & Noble’s app will offers customizable font colors and sizes and quick finger-swipe page turning; the company has also been in talks with publishers about adding multimedia content to their digital books. Amazon has launched a new website highlighting its new Kindle apps for tablet computers, including the iPad.
The report also reiterates some of Apple’s secrecy guidelines for early iPad testers, which include Major League Baseball, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times, while noting that some developers who haven’t yet had a chance to use an iPad are holding off until they can test their programs on the device itself. “As much as we’d love to be there on Day 1, a misstep could kill the train before it even gets out of the station,“ said Wade Slitkin, CEO of Panelfly, which makes a digital comic-book reader. Neither Amazon or Barnes & Noble plan on having their iPad apps ready for launch day, as neither was given a pre-release iPad for early testing, and both want to test their apps on an actual iPad before submitting their applications to Apple.
Meebo has just released an update to its native iPhone instant messaging application adding support for sending and receive photos via any IM network. Meebo 1.2 allows users to send photos from the device’s photo library or take new pictures with the iPhone camera directly within the app. Received photos can be saved to the iPhone Camera Roll or iPod touch Saved Photos album. The new version also allows users to IM people outside of their buddy lists, adds support for non-US keyboards and a new preference setting to hide online buddies. Numerous bug fixes are also addressed in this update. Meebo 1.2 is available from the App Store as a free download.
Apple has sent out an email to registered iPhone developers, informing them that the company is now accepting iPad application submissions. According to the email provided to iLounge, iPad apps submitted between now and March 27 will receive an “initial review” by the App Review Team, and developers will receive feedback on the app’s readiness for what the Apple is referring to as the “grand opening.” All submitted apps must be built and tested using iPhone SDK 3.2 beta 5, the latest version of the beta SDK; following submission, developers will receive an email with details about the readiness of their apps. Finally, developers will receive additional information about submitting their app for final review before the iPad ships, and only applications submitted for the initial review process will be considered for the grand opening of the “iPad App Store.” Apple will launch the iPad on April 3.
Laminar Research has released an update to its series of X-Plane flight simulator apps for the iPhone and iPod touch. The update adds a replay mode that is activated when the app is paused to allow users to view the last few minutes of their flight and provides higher-resolution maps, complete with buildings and airport runways. Other new features include new paint and increased detail for many of the aircraft, a more detailed lighting and fog model and an improvement frame rate, all contributing to a more realistic flight experience. X-Plane 9 is available from the App Store for $10 and is a free update for existing users. The other apps in the X-Plane series have also been updated with the same new features.
A number of iPhone app review sites are unscrupulously charging developers to have their applications reviewed, according to a Wired report. The practice of soliciting money in exchange for a review is not illegal, but is frowned upon by the Federal Trade Commission, which revised its guidelines covering blogger endorsements in October 2009 to require a disclosure whenever a review is written in exchange for money or gifts. “They prey on people who need exposure,” said Oliver Cameron, developer of the iPhone app Postman, who has actively avoided sites charging for reviews. “It strikes me as a paid ad, really. They never seem to actually ‘review’ it.” The report states that the two sites mentioned most by developers as engaging in the practice were theiphoneappreview.com and appcraver.com.
In addition to charging for reviews, some sites, including The iPhone App Review, openly charge developers for what they call “expedited” reviews, in which the paying developer’s app is given priority over other, standard reviews. The site’s editor-in-chief Shaun Campbell defended the practice, citing the large number of apps available on the store and saying it would be an “impossible task to review all the apps we receive, paid or unpaid.” “The iPhone App Review is not a PR charity,” he continued. “We’re a business, and like in any business, there are costs that need to be recovered.”
iLounge does not charge for reviews, and actively rejects attempts from developers to pay for coverage. Our long-standing product coverage policies include additional details for those who may be interested.
Fisher-Price has released three new iPhone applications based on its classic toys. Targeted at children ages 2-5, Fisher-Price Chatter Telephone, See ‘n Say and Little People Farm provide interactive digital versions of the iconic toys of the same name. Chatter Telephone ($1) includes three screens: Numbers, Music and People in Your Neighborhood where children can touch or swipe to hear sounds and narrations. See ‘n Say ($2) presents the child with a spinner that they can touch or move to point at various pictures of animals and hear the name of the animal and the sound that it makes. Little People Farm ($2) displays a farm yard where the child can tap on various objects to discover animals and their sounds and play other interactive games and activities. The three applications were developed for Fisher-Price by IDEO LLC and are available on the App Store.
Twitter has enabled geolocation support on its mobile site for at least some users, iLounge editors have discovered. First released for the main Twitter.com site last week, the new geolocation feature allows users to add their current location to tweets posted from the website, but the initial rollout conspicuously left out support for GPS-enabled mobile devices. Twitter has supported geolocation capability for some time through the Twitter APIs used by third-party Twitter clients, however location information could not previously be viewed or updated directly from the actual Twitter.com site. No official announcement has yet been made by Twitter regarding the mobile site geolocation feature and it is unclear whether it is being rolled out to all users simultaneously or being phased in as Twitter has done with new features in the past. Users who have the feature available should see a standard iPhone location warning when first logging in to m.twitter.com followed by a drop-down menu beneath the posting box to specify a location.
Electronic Arts has released new screenshots and details on two upcoming iPhone releases in its popular Sims and SimCity franchises. The Sims 3 World Adventures is a sequel to The Sims 3 where players take their Sims on journeys to explore exotic destinations around the world. Destinations include “Al Simhara” Egypt, “Champs Les Sims” France or “Shang SimLa” China, with each location offering opportunities for danger, adventure and romance. The Sims 3 World Adventures will include additional custom content suited to foreign locations as well as 52 new goals and 4 new mini-games. Players can also transfer their existing Sims between the original iPhone version of The Sims 3 and The Sims 3 World Adventures. A specific release date for The Sims 3 World Adventures has not yet been announced.
Gameloft has released a new application combining three of their popular sports games. Gameloft Sports Pack bundles Gameloft’s highly acclaimed Let’s Golf, Real Tennis and Pro Baseball into a single $5 app. Let’s Golf is a top-rated golf game that allows users to play through 63 holes in four distinct 3D-rendered locations and provides easily adaptable controls and local Wi-Fi multiplayer support. Real Tennis takes the player on a world championship tour across 7 stadiums and 3 different surfaces with touchscreen and accelerometer based controls, a wide array of strokes and local Wi-Fi multiplayer support. Pro Baseball provides a 3D-rendered baseball simulation with audio commentary, sound effects and spectator reactions and game modes ranging from a full 162-game season to a quick play home-run mode. Gameloft Sports Pack is available from the App Store for $5.
Apple has released the fifth beta version of its iPhone SDK 3.2 for iPad. First released in January following the introduction of the iPad, the SDK is tailored specifically to the device, including support for its 1024x768 resolution, other iPad-specific interface functions, and includes an iPad simulator application so developers can pre-test their apps in an environment similar to that of the final device. It is unknown what, if any, changes were made in this latest version. The iPhone OS 3.2 SDK beta 5 for iPad is available now to registered iPhone developers through the iPhone Dev Center.
Electric Pocket has released the iPhone version of its popular BugMe digital ink note and reminder app. BugMe allows users to jot free-form notes using their finger or a stylus, share their notes and set scheduled reminders for them. Users can choose from one of four background colors or specify their own photo for each note. Notes can be shared via Twitter or e-mail, saved directly to the device’s photo album or even saved as tiny sticky-note icons on the main Home Screen. Users can set an alarm on each note and be alerted via Push Notifications when the note comes due. BugMe! is available from the App Store for $1.