Apple iPad: Open market for content rivals?

Apple iPad: Open market for content rivals?

Summary: Apple's new iPad will contain it's own iBooks store for e-book and subscription content. How many hurdles will third parties face to sell their content?

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Special Report: Apple iPad

Apple's new iPad will contain its own iBooks store for e-book and subscription content. How many hurdles will third parties face to sell their content?

On Friday, I anxiously await to be able to place my order for my new iPad. For my own personal use, this is a device that is going to kill a lot of birds with one stone, particularly as it relates to electronic content consolidation.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

As of today, there are over 150,000 iPhone/iPod Touch applications in Apple's App Store that will run on the iPad unmodified at launch date. The iPad will also be able to download all the videos and music that is available on iTunes.

At launch, the iPad will have its own eBook and subscription content store, iBooks. It's unkown how much content is going to be available on iBooks from day one, but it is estimated to be thousands of best selling books and a significant line-up of newspapers and magazines.

Today, Apple permits the leading eBook reseller, Amazon, which has over 450,000 titles available, to distribute Kindle for iPhone on the App Store, as well as Lexcycle's Stanza, a popular eBook reader and store also owned by Amazon with about 100,000 titles to choose from. Stanza can also download books from other independent electronic bookstores.

Apple also allows other companies such as Zinio to provide magazine and ebook content with their own viewer/store apps. Adobe Digital Editions, the format used on Barnes and Noble's Nook and the Sony Reader has not yet been natively ported to the iPhone, but it would not be technically impossible for the company to do so given the market opportunity, as long as it wasn't based on Flash.

The big question that remains is, will Apple allow these competing content stores to run on the iPad and the iPhone now that Apple has its own book store?

While it would seem that the answer SHOULD be "Yes", there is some reason to have pause and expect the worst.

In the past, Apple has had a long and often arbitrary acceptance process of what it has allowed in its App store. Applications from major developers, such as the first version of Google Voice, have been rejected presumably because the app duplicated some form of the iPhone's functionality or for contractual reasons and/or pressure from AT&T. One of the more notable ones other than Google Voice was Podcaster, now known as RSS Player, which Apple claimed duplicated iTunes' functionality.

Apple reserves the right to reject the publication of any app, for any reason.  It has also removed "Wi-Fi discovery" applications because they used undocumented iPhone APIs. There is now a cottage industry of web sites and blogs that tell you how to avoid rejection, and there's a lot of criteria there where you can run afoul.

Recently, Apple has pulled over 5000 "Adult Themed" applications from the app store -- applications which allowed iPhone and iPod Touch users to get access to or download adult content even if it was not immediately viewable.

If we can infer the same about Amazon's Kindle library, there is certainly a wealth of material that could be considered "Adult Themed" (such as from Sex columnist/author Violet Blue) that might fall under this umbrella, but if the company is consistent with the way it works in its App Store ecosystem, Apple could make any excuse to kick Amazon Kindle, Lexcycle Stanza and Zinio off iPad island.

Personally, it would make me and a lot of other folks feel a lot better as a prospective iPad buyer if Apple were to make some sort of statement that it will NOT exile competing eBook reader apps or bookstores from the App Store. This would open up the market for folks like Adobe and others who would want to target the iPad as the premier eBook development and content consumption platform.

Should Apple make a commitment to allow competing eBook stores to remain on the App Store and run in native iPad mode? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Apple, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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41 comments
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  • I wouldn't hold my breath, Jason!

    Reportedly, the iPhone ended up on the AT&T network and not the VerizonWireless network because Apple wanted too much control over access to content (as did VZW).

    We don't yet know what kind if "side deals" Apple may have already cut with other content providers but they certainly sand-bagged Amazon's $9.99 price ceiling through it's dealings wiht McMillan. This not only hurt Amazon, it also hurt consumers.

    Whatever kind of deals Apple cooks up with competing content providers, you can be sure that Apple will want "a cut of the take" and there is simply no reason to assume that those content providers will want to share their profits with Apple.

    Apple's eco-system is the key to its profitability and I suspect thet iPad exists in large part because Amazon was already making in-roads agaisnt that Apple eco-system with it's own content.

    It's funny how consumers who "hate" people like Amazon for their 'closed' standards have no qualms at all in embracing Apple in spite of their 'closed' standards.
    M Wagner
    • Amazon "hatred"

      Not that I am responding to any accusation, but obviously I've been one of the most vocal critics of the Kindle hardware and their proprietary book format, since I've written a lot of stuff about it.

      For the record I do not "hate" Amazon. In fact I am an Amazon Prime customer and I do a considerable amount of personal shopping with them every year. I also believe that them moving towards a more hardware agnostic model, such as they appear to be doing with Dell's Mini 5 Android Tablet and with Kindle for iPod/iPad is the right approach. I'd like them to go EPUB as well, but certainly decoupling the store and the books from the hardware is a big step in the right direction.
      jperlow
    • Verizon doesn't support GSM

      Of course Apple didn't end up with the AT&T network because they were
      rejected by Verizon.
      Realize that 95% of the planet's population live outside the US. And realize
      that the standard on the planet as such is GSM.
      To select a US-only standard had been the same as rejecting the rest of
      the world.

      This said, I would prefer a free book market on the iPad. The European
      Union might even demand it ... and if no free book market exists I would
      certainly become less inclined to buy an iPad.
      perronne
      • 2 versions is not a problem

        so Apple would have a version for Vz, one for AT&T.

        Other companies do it all the time, not much of a cost factor there.
        John Zern
    • iBook

      it seems that apple will not preinstall their e-reader app "iBook". you
      have to download it from the app store, like all the other e-reader
      programs.

      and although apple has banned sex apps from the app store, all kinds of
      adult or r-rated material is available through itunes (movies, tv-shows,
      podcast). so it is rather likely books will be treated as the other media
      categories.
      bannedfromzdnetagain
  • RE: Apple iPad: Open market for content rivals?

    I hope Apple recognizes that the best way they can compete with other hardware vendors such as Amazon and Sony (as well as vendors 'waiting in the wings' like HP, Microsoft, Dell, Notion Ink and others) is through openness. Why provide prospective customers with a reason to consider alternatives that support content you don't? Still, rumors that Apple's revenue plans for the iPad are heavily reliant on content sales cause one to wonder.
    trnunes
    • Actually, Apple KNOWS the opposite!

      If you look at the iPod and iPhone it's obvious that Apple excels in the
      consumer marketplace [b]not[/b] "through openess" but the exact
      [b]converse[/b], well-engineered closedness. Consumers don't buy
      something because it's "open." They buy it because it works, and being
      closed is a good way to achieve that. The consumer wants easy, effective,
      and pretty, and if they can get it they don't mind paying more. Apple
      figured this out several years ago, and it's a model that's served them
      very well.
      matthew_maurice
  • As much as I want an iPad

    Blocking the Kindle app is a definite deal-breaker for me. Yes, I think Apple should make a statement one way or another.
    oncall
  • Core Services

    I doubt that Apple will block other vendors as there will be
    no duplication of service because iBooks is a voluntary
    download and not a core service like Safari or Mail. I feel that
    Apple has made iBooks a separate download for that reason.
    Also the iBook store will not be available in all countries, so
    blocking other content may leave some countries with no
    content at all. A move by Apple to break other content would
    surprise me greatly.
    A Grain of Salt
  • RE: Apple iPad: Open market for content rivals?

    Not to be too critical, Jason, but the main points of your Blog post could have been stated in one short paragraph or one long sentence. (But what would be the fun with that)

    There are only two possibilities regarding the iBook Store content: Any and All ebook material published worldwide will be offered and available from the iBook Store ... or ... Apple will choose a ebook material subset for distribution purposes.

    Guess what is going to happen?! Yup, that's right, Apple will choose a material subset. (Insert your favorite reason here.)

    Should you or I be outraged by this? Well, as for myself, I won't. For the same reasons that I remain somewhat calm when I discover that some books and magazines are not available at Border's Bookstore while Waldens has them in stock.

    Should one expect the Harvard University Bookstore to stock all the Yale University Bookstore material? (You see where I'm going with this.)

    Of course, you might add, a person might only wish to purchase one universal ebook reader (call it the iPad, for the sake of discussion) and expect that all ebook material be available for it.

    Well, as history has taught mankind, universal solutions don't exist or work. (This was also a key point in the Biblical story regarding the Tower of Babel where "One" Tower, "One" language and/or "One" Philosophy can not hope to obtain a union with God ... but I digress)

    One ebook reader/software service will never offer a universal ebook reading experience. That's just a fact of life.

    Besides, I think it would be cool to own an iPad and a HP Slate or a Kindle at the same time. (Let's forget the Elonex for now.)

    Enjoy your iPad experience, Jason, as I have enjoyed my Apple, IBM, Microsoft, Amiga and numerous other tech experiences in my life.

    Remember, knowledge or information might be free but it is never, Ever cheap.

    Mike
    kenosha77a
    • One, One, One

      One iPad to rule them all, One iPad to find them, One iPad to
      bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
      asad.quraishi9
      • Wrong

        It's:

        "One OS to rule them all, One OS to find them.

        One OS to bring them all, and in the Darkness bind them.

        In the Land of Redmond, where Shadows lie."
        Jkirk3279
  • RE: Apple iPad: Open market for content rivals?

    I am more nervous that you think that a private company should open it product to any Tom, Dick and Harry. If Apple wants to offer a close system, it thier right to. Nobody is forcing you to buy one.

    Just like the PC it could open apple to a cheaper more open competitor.
    Richardbz
  • I'd guess

    The bookreader Apps will remain, just as iPods and iPhones can play
    music TV and movies from ANY source once imported into iTunes.

    Apple is not afraid to be competitive and innovative.

    The classification system for books is different to other media as can be
    seen by some of the titles available in public libraries where I presume a
    shelf of porn magazines and DVDs wouldn't go down too well.

    iPhone OS also has native support for reading PDF files, I can't see that
    changing for the iPad.
    hill60
    • hill60 down down down (NT)

      NT
      The Danger is Microsoft
  • There is one e-book reader that will continue working

    Safari books on-line has a web interface to their e-books -
    an excellent selection of computer/tech books by the way. It
    should work quite well with either the wi-fi or broadband
    connections - as it currently does on my iPhone.

    Web apps cannot be rejected by the App store...and with
    HTML 5 bringing some of the functionality of Flash, this may
    be a very reasonable approach to getting 'competing' apps
    working on the iPad.
    asad.quraishi9
  • Open Market? Chairman Steve and his President...

    ...Mr. Hu, say NO FREEDOM for YOU!
    Feldwebel Wolfenstool
  • RE: Apple iPad: Open market for content rivals?

    Thanks for the article.

    I hadn't been thinking of being able to buy books through
    Amazon and reading them on an Ipad. I had thought all
    along that you would have to use a Kindle to read an
    ebook bought at Amazon.

    I think it would be good thing. It brings ups issues such as
    pricing. If you could buy a book for less at Amazon that at
    the Ibook store, you would certainly buy it there. That
    would be one of the main reasons Apple would not want
    to do it. It might lead to something along the lines of
    price fixing so that the prices would be the same at both
    stores.

    It would be good for Amazon because when the Kindle
    sales go down the tube, it wouldn't be the serious problem
    that would affect their book sales. I don't think Apple
    cares about Amazon's future, so they might be more
    inclined to not allow books bought at Amazon to be read
    on an Ipad. In the long term, I think what Apple decides to
    do will have a big impact on Amazon's survival.

    The whole idea of having a whole variety of online stores
    on the Ipad will probably be a big deal. Having dedicated
    online store apps rather than a web site could be really
    big. Say you are a contractor that makes regular purchases
    of construction material, or a restaurant that makes regular
    purchases of cooking equipment - having the store at your
    fingertips would be a pretty convenient thing.

    It might be hard for Apple to allow other on-line stores to
    use the Ipad but not Amazon. If Apple does allow Amazon
    to sell books, it would either have to let the ebooks work
    with the Ipad reader or allow Amazon to install it's own
    reading application. I'm guessing Amazon will be able to
    sell books and have their own reading application on the
    Ipad.
    Prime Detailer
  • Why would Apple give away the keys to their locked in customers?

    When you own someone, you don't give them their freedom for nothing. In fact you don't give them their freedom unless forced to do so.
    No_Ax_to_Grind