Cloud Four Blog

Technical notes, War stories and anecdotes

NY Post iPad Policy: A Real Threat to the Web

Another big story yesterday was the fact that the NY Post is no longer letting iPad users access their web site and is instead forcing them to pay for an iPad app to read content. This has been one of my biggest fears for the future of the web.

The contributions that the web has made to the our collective knowledge are so large that they can’t be measured. It is this collective knowledge that I fear losing.

I am not a subscriber of the New York Times. On occasion, I am told that there is a good article in the New York Times that I should read.

Before the web, it is unlikely that I would have known about the article. If I did hear about it, then I would have to find a store that carried the New York Times and go buy it. Good luck finding the back issue of the newspaper if I heard about it the following day or week.

Today, I can simply follow the link and read the article for free. Removing the friction of physical distrubtion and having this information freely available is a tremendous boon to people everywhere.

John Gruber writes that the NY Post’s iPad policy “is a bad idea, and likely doomed to failure, but it shows just how problematic the web is, financially, for traditional newspapers.” There’s the rub.

All of this online knowledge that helps humans across the globe, but we’ve still not found a way to make it financially viable on the web. That is worrisome.

The promise for years was that there would be some sort of micropayment system that would help ensure a frictionless way to consume content on the web while ensuring authors and publishers got paid, but that promise hasn’t been realized.

I doubt that iPad apps are the savior for the publishing industry. But we do know that they have some things going for them that the web doesn’t including more reader engagement and easier payments.

Why shouldn’t more publishers follow the NY Post’s lead and drive people to their apps? In fact, if the web is losing money, at some point why wouldn’t they just stop publishing to the web at all and instead keep all the content inside the app.

I’m not opposed to paying for content. In fact, I want to do so, but subscribing to a newspaper that I only read one or two articles a month from doesn’t make sense. And that problem is amplified when articles are only available via an app that must be downloaded, installed and a subscription purchased.

The first time I read about the Financial Times success on the iPad and their pay wall, I wondered if our days of serendipitously finding useful articles will soon end. I don’t know how realistic these fears are, but I find it difficult to dismiss them.

Can Android Tablets Match iPad Pricing? Too early to tell.

The success of the iPad has caused an onslaught of new tablets to be announced. There were over 100 tablets announced at CES in January. The big question is whether or not these tablets can compete with the iPad.

Aside from questions about whether or not these tablets can provide an experience comparable to the iPad, there remain questions about whether or not they can compete on price.

Wired is the latest to take up this question with an article called Why Nobody Can Match the iPad’s Price. The article uses the recently announced pricing of the Motorola Xoom tablet to make its point:

Motorola’s Xoom tablet is debuting in the United States with an $800 price tag. (To be fair, the most comparable iPad is $730 — but there’s no $500 Xoom planned, and the lack of a low-end entry point will hurt Motorola.)

There are two Xoom models. Here is how they currently compare to the iPad based simply on high-level specs:

  • 3G, 32GB unsubsidized Xoom for $799
  • 3G, 32GB unsubsidized iPad for $729
  • WiFi, 32GB unsubsidized Xoom for $600
  • WiFi, 32GB unsubsidized iPad for $599

The Xoom does not offer a $500 16GB alternative like the iPad does, but the pricing for their 32GB version is essentially the same as the iPad. It is not yet known when the WiFi only version will be available.

Reminder about Average Selling Price

In my previous post on average selling price, I pointed out how the prices that most companies launch their products at are not usually the long term price. Only Apple continues to sell its product at the same price until a new model replaces it.

This is what makes evaluating products like the Xoom so difficult at this point in time. What we know right now is the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. We don’t know what the real price of the product will end up being the market.

The Droid X went from $200 at launch to a penny four months later. It is very likely that the price of the Xoom will go down in the coming months.

The launch price will prevent the product from being a huge success on day one, but no one other than Apple has huge launch days anyways.

The question will be whether or not the decreases in the price over time and the other features of the Xoom will be able to compete with the iPad and the upcoming iPad 2.

Can Android Tablets Match the iPad’s Price?

I don’t know. Digitimes reported that Apple had secured 60% of global touch screen capacity. If true, it will be hard for competitors to get displays at reasonable prices.

There are other factors as well that may make it challenging. If the tablet market remains unsubsidized, not only will the tablet makers be unable to take advantage of subsidies to lower price, but they will lose the marketing push and distribution arm of the carriers.

But whether or not Android tablets will be able to compete on price can’t be told by their announced launch prices—especially launch prices as close as the Xoom is to iPad prices—because these prices will eventually be discounted off the MSRP in the coming months.

Apple certainly has the lead and may be able to fend off the numerous competitors, but it is too early to tell.

Voices that Matter: iPhone and iPad Developers Conference

Join Me at Voices that Matter: iPhone Developers ConferenceUnbeknownst to me until now, Spring is conference season. For the next two and half months, I’m attending a conference every two weeks. I’m already looking forward to June when the conference gauntlet ends.

One of the conferences I’m looking forward to the most is the Voices that Matter: iPhone Developers conference on April 24-25 in Seattle.

Why am I looking forward to it? A few reasons:

  • There are some great speakers like Erica Sadun (who I had the pleasure of meeting at Foo Camp and is an absolutely brilliant iPhone developer), Aaron Hillegass, August Trometer, Suzanne Ginsburg, Erik Buck, Michael Daley, Joe Conway, Jonathan Rentzsch, Kevin Avila, and the list goes on.
  • The schedule looks very focused and intensive. It is focused on getting people up to speed on building apps.
  • It is only three hours away in Seattle so I get to see my Seattle friends and attend the conference.
  • It is the only conference on my schedule that I’m NOT speaking at. I’ll actually get to relax and enjoy this one!

If you’re interested in attending the conference, I recommend signing up soon. The early bird rates end on March 12th and the conference organizers gave us a discount code that they said I could share with Mobile Portland and readers of our blog. The priority code PHBLOGS saves you $100 off the registration.

If you sign up before the early bird rate ends and use the discount code, the conference only costs $395 which is a great price for a two day conference. If you end up attending, please say hello.

In the interest of full disclosure, the conference organizers have given me a complimentary pass. As a general rule, when people offer discounts or good deals to Portland’s mobile community, I like to pass it on. I’ve done so in the past for other conferences and webinars that seem relevant.

While the complimentary pass is unrelated to passing on this information to you (I would would have shared it regardless), I thought it was important to disclose.