Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Big iPhone App Moves - And Kindle App

In the last week, we saw some major moves by big companies getting into the iPhone app business. Obviously, I'm talking about CBS's app and the just released Kindle for iPhone app.

Slow but surely, folks in the upper echelon of the corporate realm are beginning to realize that mobility, fortunately for us the iPhone, is how people will get their information, video, and other forms of entertainment.

So, what does the future hold? A month down the line? Six months? A year from now?

Frankly, both of these apps surprise me. Not the apps themselves but the fact that Apple allowed them to be released into the wild just blew me away.

First, the app. CBS, by offering albeit limited quantities of full episodes of videos to be stream free to iPhone and iPod Touch users, therefore, potentially bypassing the iTunes stores for some of its offerings was "okayed" by Apple's store sentries. Recall not long ago, the biggest news was that Apple was rejecting apps left and right that it deemed to be a competitor to the iTunes store or a duplication of iPhone functionalities.

With the release of the app, much has changed. Honestly, I don't think anyone knows just what has changed and to what extend. And that's the interesting part as far as observers, bloggers, and Apple critics are concerned.

Now, the Kindle app. When we learned that Kindle books would be offered on other mobile platforms other than the Kindle, admit it, you probably thought we'll see it on Android or anther mobile platform before you see it on the iPhone. In fact, some folks went as far as to say that Apple will soon offer their own digital book library for its millions of users.

I'm happy to say I wasn't one of them but it didn't keep me from thinking that Apple would ban Amazon because of Kindle and the perception that Amazon may be a competitor in the digital entertainment market. After all, you don't see an app for Amazon to sell its music on the iPhone. And if you used the Kindle app, you'll also note a page that advertises the Kindle. In this case, Apple obviously doesn't see the Kindle as a competitor. Yet.

So, what's next? Well, we've got Youtube. I've been able to find television shows if I look hard enough (or before they're taken down). There's TVU which streams live television. Lots of radio apps. Now, we have offering another source of television videos (limited). Right off the top of my head, I can count four ebook apps and that's not counting the hundreds of individual book apps.

Given's move, we'll have to see if they increase their offerings and what others like NBC, ABC, Fox, and, more specifically, Hulu may or may not duplicate CBS's app. Do keep in mind that CBS has always been more liberal about embracing digital entertainment than all of the other networks.

The app I'm waiting for most is Hulu. I don't whether we'll ever see it but after the launch of and Kindle apps, I'm much more hopeful now. In fact, I am venturing, putting my neck out if you will, and say that Apple may eventually offer a streaming service not unlike what Netflix is doing on the desktop and Xbox 360. Subscription based and all you can eat.

It would not go against two of Apple's core business directives: selling hardware at a premium and retaining control via iTunes.
Note: I think any video that streams to iPhone, iPod, or the Mac will need to be encoded without using Adobe's Flash and Microsoft's Silverlight. Given that there are videos available from Youtube, TVU, and, any entity out there that wishes to offer video on the iPhone will need to encode them according. We should know in the coming months if that'll happen and whether Apple is lending a hand.

Another note: Offering streaming video subscription isn't going to be easy. I'm sure Apple TV is figured heavily in the equation. If it ever happens, we'll see it for the Mac and Apple TV before we see it on the iPhone or iPod Touch.

Third note: We deal with mobile stuff on Apple but I just want to say that Apple TV is no hobby. But that's alright. I'll wait until it's Jobs-ready.

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