Technology

The business and culture of our digital lives,
from the L.A. Times

Category: iCloud

Apple's iBooks 2, iBooks Author: Bids to own publishing's future

Apple's new iBooks 2, iBooks Author and iTunes U apps are moves to capture the future of education and self-publishing

NEWS ANALYSIS: Alongside Apple stating that iBooks 2 and textbooks on the iPad would reinvent the textbook as we know it, the iPad-maker announced Thursday that it would also attempt to reinvent book-making by way of an app called iBooks Author.

The Apple-developed app, available as a free download from the Mac App Store, (ideally) makes it easy to make books for the iPad. But together, iBooks 2 and iBooks Author are moves to capture the future of education and self-publishing, and to continue to build on the success Apple had under the late Steve Jobs.

If you've ever used Apple's Keynote or Pages (or Microsoft's PowerPoint or Word) apps, then you should be able to hit the ground running in iBooks Author. There are templates for different types of book layouts, and adding the interactive 3-D models, photos, videos and diagrams that Apple demoed iBooks 2 textbooks on Thursday is as easy as clicking and dragging a built-in widget -- provided you've already produced the video, photos, diagrams and models you want to use.

Apple has even built into iBook Author HTML5 and Javascript support for programmers looking to take their books beyond what the app can do itself; multi-touch interactions for pinch and zoom views of photos and swiping gestures are also included.

Want to see what your book looks like before you publish it to iBooks? Just connect your Mac to an iPad by way of a USB cable and you can preview the book on the tablet.

The aim of the iBooks Author app is to make it easy to get these impressive multimedia elements, as well as questionnaires and other educational materials, into a page of text and published as a book on the iPad as easy as possible -- whether you're a self-publisher looking to write your first book, a teacher whipping up something quick for a special class, or a publishing powerhouse like the textbook trifecta of McGraw-Hill, Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Before his death, Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson that he believed Apple could disrupt the $8-billion-a-year textbook industry. Jobs said in Isaacson's book, titled simply "Steve Jobs," that the iPad was the tool to make transformation in the textbook business a reality.

According to the book, Jobs' idea "was to hire great textbook writers to create digital versions, and make them a feature of the iPad. In addition, he held meetings with the major publishers, such as Pearson Education, about partnering with Apple."

Jobs told Isaacson "the process by which states certify textbooks is corrupt ... but if we can make the textbooks free, and they come with the iPad, then they don't have to be certified. The crappy economy at the state level will last for a decade, and we can give them an opportunity to circumvent that whole process and save money."

In announcing the iBooks 2 and iBooks Author products, Apple is beginning to bring a piece of Jobs' long-term vision to fruition. The company also noted Thursday that there are currently about 1.5 million iPads being used in schools and more than 20,000 education apps sitting in its iOS App Store.

But make no mistake, iBooks 2 and iBooks Author aren't just about textbooks. The two new apps are working together to entice students, teachers, educational institutions to embrace and buy the iPad in bigger numbers than they already have.

On Thursday, in announcing the new products, Apple made no mention of new discounts on iPads for students or schools -- though Apple has offered such discounts in the past on Macs and even created special versions of the iMac for schools. Apple even built the now-defunct eMac line specifically to sell to schools.

Apple wants us to ditch the paperback and hardcover textbooks in favor of an iPad and digital downloads, that much is obvious. But the company also wants the iPad and Macs to become to go-to devices for educational institutions and publishing houses.

Although Apple's iTunes is the world's most popular online music storefront, Amazon is the world's largest seller of e-books. By adding a level of interactivity to books that Amazon and others simply can't match, and by making it easier to publish a book and sell it in the iBooks app directly from iBooks Author, Apple has made a move to challenge Amazon and its Kindle e-reader and Kindle Touch tablet as the preferred platform for self-publishers and digital textbooks.

In a statement announcing iBooks 2 and iBooks Author, Apple said as much (without naming Amazon and other e-book rivals such as Google and Barnes & Noble).

"iBooks Author is also available today as a free download from the Mac App Store and lets anyone with a Mac create stunning iBooks textbooks, cookbooks, history books, picture books and more, and publish them to Apple's iBookstore," Apple said.

The apps are also a challenge to Adobe, a company Apple has been known to partner with and feud with from time to time. Adobe's Creative Suite, Digital Publishing Suite and Touch Apps, available on both Windows PCs and Macs, are some of the most popular tools used by publishing houses and self-publishers looking to create a book, whether an e-book or a book before it heads to print.

Though capable of producing many different types of content for a broader range of devices, Adobe's software can cost thousands of dollars, while Apple's iBooks Author app is free.

Apple on Thursday also released an iTunes U app, which allows teachers from kindergarten to the university level to stream video of their lectures and post class notes, handouts, reading lists, etc., all within the app.

Previously, iTunes U was a podcasting service for college professors who wanted to put up video or audio of their lectures. Now it is one more reason for a teacher to consider an iPad and a Mac as tools to reach students at any grade level. And like iBooks Author, the app is free.

In my opinion, Apple is one of the best companies out there at providing lower-cost products that pull consumers into an ecosystem of apps and gadgets. It's one of the reason the company has so many cult-like followers.

For many Apple fans, their first purchase was an iPod or iPhone. With those purchases comes buying apps, music, movies and TV shows from iTunes. And for many, later comes a MacBook or an iMac computer. This strategy is repeating itself with iBooks 2 and iBooks Author.

First, get students and teachers to use more iPads in school by offering affordable and engaging digital textbooks. With iBook textbooks capped at a price of $14.99, I have to wonder whether or not textbooks will become shorter and more narrow, and thus students and teachers we'll have to buy more of them. Second, make it easy for anybody to produce their own iBooks (textbooks or otherwise) and then sell those books in the iBooks app, luring in aspiring authors. When those students, teachers and authors go to download music or a movie, set up a cloud storage service or buy a laptop, a phone, a new tablet -- maybe someday a TV -- what brand will be at the top of minds? Apple.

iBooks, iBooks Author and iTunes U, together are a move to fend off Google, Amazon, Adobe and other competitors in determining the future of education, publishing and book reading. Together, the launch of these apps is an attempt to not only maintain but also expand Apple's current success into the company's post-Jobs future.

RELATED:

Apple says iBooks 2 app reinvents textbooks

Apple iPad 3: Launching in February, March, or later?

Apple looms large over the Consumer Electronics Show, despite not showing up

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Apple's iBook Author app on an iMac, and an iBook and an iPad. Credit: Apple

CES 2012: TV makers offer simple ways to share content

At the Consumer Electronics Show 2012, several major brands unveiled cloud-based services that push content sharing beyond the boundaries of the home

Consumer electronics manufacturers have talked up the idea of sharing photos, videos and music across devices for the better part of a decade. At this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, though, several of the major brands took the concept a step further, unveiling cloud-based services that pushed content-sharing beyond the boundaries of the home.

LG, for example, showed off "my CloudShare" with a feature called Familycast, which enables remote access from a connected TV set in one home to the digital content stored in another. Samsung displayed "allshare," which enables people to remotely access music, movies and pictures either from their home network or from copies stored online, and a "Family Story" app that shares pictures and messages across multiple homes through connected TVs, tablets and smartphones.

These capabilities reflect the work of the Digital Living Network Alliance, an inter-industry coalition formed in 2003 to promote interoperability among devices in the home. Before the alliance started working on its specifications, manufacturers used a hodgepodge of different and potentially incompatible technologies -- some of them proprietary -- to store information and send it from device to device. DLNA cleared the confusion by picking a common set of standards for file types and communications protocols for devices to support.

The DLNA specs enable TVs, camcorders, smartphones, tablets and other devices connected to a home network to be automatically discovered by and share content with one another. More than half a billion products that meet the DLNA specifications are now in use, by ABI Research's estimates, laying the groundwork for the services that the likes of LG and Samsung demonstrated at CES. (Notably absent from DLNA is Apple, which follows its own muse on home networking.)

The new wrinkle this year is the addition of cloud-based sharing, which manufacturers pitched as a way to share pictures and home movies with friends and distant family members, or to enjoy one's personal music and video collections when away from home. Consumers have been able to do such things for years through their computers; now, the big consumer electronics brands want to make sharing simpler and bring it to more devices.

For example, Samsung's "Family Story" enables people to store photos -- including those snapped by the camera built into selected Samsung TVs -- in the cloud, where they can be viewed by others who are authorized to see them. The Family Story app essentially creates a private social media group through the Internet, with new photo uploads automatically made available to each member.

The cloud-based services on display at CES have the potential to promote copyright infringement, but that's true of any online-sharing application. The manufacturers' main selling point also seems to be sharing family memories, not record collections or Hollywood movies.

For Samsung and LG, at least, there's no revenue attached to the services -- they're free to users. So for now, cloud-based sharing is a feature aimed at selling more hardware, not a route to generating recurring revenue. But with Apple testing consumers' willingness to pay an annual fee for enhanced online storage, will their rivals in the consumer-electronics industry be far behind?

RELATED:

CES: 4K TVs make their debut, minus the hoopla

CES is a big draw even without eye-popping gadgets

TVs go big, wide and ape at the Consumer Electronics Show

-- Jon Healey in Las Vegas

Healey writes editorials for The Times' Opinion Manufacturing Division. Follow him at @jcahealey.

Photo: Samsung President Boo-Keun Yoon discussing the company's connected TV strategy at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show. Credit: Samsung

CES 2012: Rovi lets movie fans convert DVDs to digital files for a fee

Rovi Digital Copy schematic
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Monday, Rovi Corp. announced what appears to be the first legal tool to convert consumers' DVD collections into digital files that can be played from on online library. It's not exactly iTunes Match for movies, but it's a step in the right direction, with caveats -- lots of them.

One of the main benefits of the digital revolution has been to release music, photos, books and video from their physical bindings, enabling consumers to access their media collections any time, anywhere, on a variety of devices. Those benefits haven't extended to DVDs, however; the discs' anti-piracy software deters people from making functional digital copies of the movies on the discs.

That's "deters," not "stops." It's technically possible to circumvent a DVD's safeguards and copy it, and the software exists to do so. But under federal law, it's illegal to make, sell or distribute such circumvention tools, even if the copy is being made for a legal use. And the Hollywood studios have mounted legal assaults against a series of companies (e.g., 321 Studios and RealNetworks) that have put DVD copying software on the market.

Unlike their ill-fated predecessors, Rovi isn't actually creating copies of DVD movies. Instead, it has created an app for Internet-connected Blu-ray disc players that can read the unique identifier on each DVD or Blu-ray disc, then offer the disc owner the chance to store a copy of that movie online. It won't be free, however; Richard Bullwinkle, Rovi’s chief evangelist, said the studios participating in the service plan to charge a small fee for the stored copy. The fee will be higher for high-definition copies than for standard-definition ones.

The fee is just the first of the caveats. The second is that Rovi's disc identification will work only on Blu-ray players capable of downloading and running a new Rovi application. Bullwinkle wouldn't name the manufacturers that will support Rovi's app, but the possibilities include disc players from Samsung and LG and Microsoft's XBox 360.

The third is that the stored movies will be protected by some form of digital rights management software that limits which devices can stream or download the files. Users won't be able to use the online locker of their choice; instead, they'll have to rely on a service blessed by the studios. Again, Rovi isn't identifying any specific partners yet, but a good bet would be Best Buy's CinemaNow and others that use Rovi's e-commerce technology.

Continue reading »

iPhone 4S goes to China; Siri to start speaking Chinese in 2012

A Beijing couple check out an iPhone.

Siri, how do you say profit in Chinese?

One answer Apple's digital assistant might consider giving is: start selling the iPhone 4S in China. And starting on Jan. 13th, Apple will do just that.

The company said Wednesday that China will be among 22 countries that soon will get the newest iPhone, one of Apple's hottest-selling yet.  The iPhone now accounts for nearly half of Apple's annual revenue, and some analysts believe it earns the company more than 60% of its profits.

China is one of the world's largest mobile device markets, with close to a billion cellphone users by some estimates. Apple currently partners with China Unicom, one of the larger carriers with close to 200 million cellular subscribers.

Apple said Wednesday it had no current plans to announce a partnership with China Mobile, the country's largest carrier with more than 630 million subscribers (a user base that, somewhat amazingly, is more than twice the size of the U.S. population).  But for months now Apple has been rumored to be nailing down a deal with China Mobile, and millions of the carriers' customers are already using the iPhone by modifying the device to work on their network.

Will Siri actually be able to speak and understand Mandarin?  Eventually, yes.  An Apple spokesman said the company plans to add official language support in 2012 — and that will include Chinese.  But Siri won't yet be multilingual when the phone hits Chinese stores this month.

RELATED:

Orangutans go ape for iPads, gorillas not so much

Apple design master awarded British knighthood

Apple fined in Italy, accused of misleading warranties

— David Sarno

Photo: A couple look at an iPhone in Beijing in November.  Credit: Diego Azubel / EPA

Fear of Apple iTV has manufacturers "scrambling," analyst says

TVs

TV makers, tune in. The industry your boxes have dominated for decades may be about to get shaken, stirred, and twisted around by Apple Inc., the market disruptor extraordinaire. 

Apple is already building production facilities for an "iTV," according to Peter Misek, an Apple analyst at Jefferies who has been issuing bold projections lately about Apple's secret television plans.

Observers expect that an Apple television would combine Apple's knack for making easy-to-use, visually appealing software with its electronics engineering muscle, resulting in a new kind of device that would push forward the TV industry the way Apple has done with music, phones and tablets.

Misek says he has indications that Apple may be working on the TVs with Osaka-based electronics manufacturer Sharp Corp., even now setting up factory space at a site in Japan to mass produce customized Apple televisions.

"We believe retooling of the [production] line has begun or is about to begin at the facility with February as a preliminary time frame for commercial production," Misek writes. "This would put an iTV launch as early as the middle of 2012."

He believes that the prospect of an Apple television set is now sending leading TV manufacturers on "a scrambling search to identify what iTV will be and do" so that they don't get "caught flat footed by Apple."

"Having said that, it appears that mainstream TV manufacturers are likely to be at least 6 to 12 months behind in best-case scenario. Many of them lack the software and cloud capabilities as well as the innovative cultural elements to effectively compete."

Could any company other than Apple could be leaving its competitors in the dust in an industry it hasn't even entered yet?

RELATED:

Apple may be getting ready to build a TV

Kinect is coming to Windows, but are TVs next?

Samsung says it's close to deal to make Google-ready TV set

-- David Sarno

Photo: Workers set up a display of televisions at the Panasonic booth in preparation for the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where a big topic was Internet-connected TVs.  None of those devices took off. Credit: Steve Marcus / Reuters

Apple's iTunes Match now available; feature costs $24.99 a year

Apple

After delays, Apple's iTunes Match is now live.

For $24.99 a year, users can add music not purchased from iTunes -- such as songs imported from a CD or downloaded from other sources -- to his or her iCloud music collection. Music can then be played on any iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac or PC "whenever you want and wherever you are, without syncing," Apple said.

Here's the company's description of how it works:

"ITunes determines which songs in your collection are available in the iTunes Store. Any music with a match is automatically added to iCloud for you to listen to anytime, on any device. Since there are more than 20 million songs in the iTunes Store, chances are, your music is already in iCloud. And for the few songs that aren't, iTunes has to upload only what it can't match. Which is much faster than starting from scratch. Once your music is in iCloud, you can stream and store it to any of your devices. Even better, all the music iTunes matches plays back from iCloud at 256-Kbps AAC DRM-free quality -- even if your original copy was of lower quality."

As we reported previously, matching a user's iTunes library in the cloud takes just minutes, Apple says. By contrast, Google's Music Beta and Amazon's Cloud Player services require users to upload song files to "cloud lockers" themselves and offer no matching options.

In order to pull all this off, Apple reached large contracts with major record labels, agreeing to give them a share of the revenue from iTunes Match subscriptions. If iTunes Match users let their subscriptions run out and don't pay to re-up, their iCloud libraries would revert to just the songs they've bought from iTunes.

RELATED:

ICloud website now live for software developers

Apple WWDC: iCloud is free, iTunes Match is $25 a year

Apple WWDC: Steve Jobs announced iCloud in San Francisco

-- Andrea Chang

Image: ITunes Match will enable subscribers to access their music on multiple devices through iCloud. Credit: Apple

Apple iPhone 4S: More than 4 million sold on launch weekend

Apple's iPhone 4S topped 4 million units sold worldwide over its launch weekend
Apple's iPhone 4S topped 4 million units sold worldwide over its launch weekend.

That staggering sales figure is the highest of any iPhone to date after that initial three-day period, said Apple Inc., which announced the numbers Monday morning in a statement on its website.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant also said more than 25 million people have downloaded iOS 5 to their iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches in the five days since its release.

In addition, the company said, more than 20 million people have signed up for iCloud, Apple's free service that syncs data such as calendars, contacts and photos wirelessly across a user's computer and portable Apple gadgets. It also launched just five days ago.

The iPhone 4S' sales figure is "the most ever for a phone and more than double the iPhone 4 launch during its first three days," Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, said in the company announcement. "iPhone 4S is a hit with customers around the world, and together with iOS 5 and iCloud, is the best iPhone ever."

The previous-generation iPhone 4, launched in June 2010, is Apple's best-selling product; more of the devices have been sold than all earlier versions of the iPhone combined.

On the first day of in-store iPhone 4S sales, Sprint said the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S resulted in its best sales day for any product line it has ever carried. A few analysts weighed in on Friday, projecting that by Sunday night 2 million to 4 million of the new iPhones would have be sold.

More than 1 million iPhone 4S handsets were pre-ordered in the first 24 hours the early orders began, about a week before the device's in-store launch.

The iPhone 4S failed to wow many analysts and pundits when it was revealed on Oct. 4, a day before Apple co-founder and tech icon Steve Jobs died, but it seems that consumers are flocking to the device.

From the outside, the iPhone 4S, which sells for about $200 to as much as $600, looks nearly identical to the iPhone 4, but it features upgraded hardware with a dual-core A5 chip (similar to that found in the iPad 2), a new 8-megapixel camera that can shoot up to 1080p high-definition video.

The software with iOS 5 is also new, adding more than 200 features, most notably (and only available on the iPhone 4S so far) Siri, Apple's voice-activated "intelligent assistant" app that can help dictate text, schedule appointments, check the weather and find locations, all done by a user talking into the phone and telling the app what he or she is looking for.

So far, the iPhone 4S is on sale in the U.S., Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Japan and Britain. Apple said it will be available in 22 more countries on Oct. 28, and more than 70 countries by the end of the year. In the U.S., the iPhone 4 and 4S are being sold by AT&T, Sprint and Verizon.

RELATED:

Sprint: Apple iPhone 4S brings "best ever day of sales"

Apple reports more than 1 million iPhone 4S orders in 24 hours

Apple's iOS 5 is the best iOS so far, once you get it installed [Video]

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Twitter.com/nateog

Image: Apple's iPhone 4S displaying iOS 5's new notification center, iMessage and Twitter integration. Credit: Apple Inc.

Apple iPhone 5: Live coverage of debut from Cupertino

IphoneHere in Cupertino, Calif., today is all about Apple's iPhone 5.

It's been more than a year since the last iPhone came out, and Apple has been working on the iPhone 4's successor. Reporting in real-time from the unveiling at Apple's headquarters, we'll find out what the fifth-generation device looks like, and if it can hold on to some of the "wow" factor that earlier iPhones have had.

Our article in the print edition Tuesday previews some of the challenges Apple is facing now that Steve Jobs, its co-founder and long-time leader, has resigned as chief executive.

Times staff writer David Sarno live-tweeted the event. See an archive of his Twitter coverage after the jump:

Continue reading »

Arizona's iCloud Communications drops Apple suit, changes name

Apple iCloud

Arizona's iCloud Communications has pulled out of a legal fight with Apple Inc. over the name iCloud.

The Phoenix-based company, which offers Internet phone services and cloud services, has withdrawn a lawsuit filed in June against the Cupertino tech giant in which iCloud alleged that Apple using the name iCloud for its remote server file storage services was infringing on a trademark, according to a report from the Phoenix New Times.

Not only has iCloud bailed on its legal action against Apple, but it's also changed its name to either Clear Digital Communications, according to a Facebook page for the company, or PhoenixSoft (or maybe both?), the New Times report said.

"On September 1, the company filed a motion for voluntary dismissal with prejudice, meaning the claim can't be refiled once approved by the judge," the New Times said. "It's not even seeking reimbursement for legal fees. Sometime in the past few weeks, the company appears to have quietly changed its name."

An employee who answered the phone at the company confirmed that PhoenixSoft is the firm's new name, but declined to comment further. 

RELATED:

iCloud website now live for software developers

Apple WWDC: iCloud is free, iTunes Match is $25 a year

Apple sued over its use of iCloud name by iCloud Communications

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Photo: A screen shot of iCloud's landing page on Apple.com. Credit: Apple Inc.

Apple promotes iTunes head Eddy Cue to senior executive role

Eddy Cue of Apple

Apple's new CEO, Tim Cook, has made his first change to the company's top executive board, adding Eddy Cue as a senior vice president of Internet software and services.

Cue previously was vice president of iTunes at Apple, overseeing not only the most popular music selling destination online, but also iBooks and the iOS App Store. In his new role, Cue will still handle all of that, but will now be the man to guide Apple's next big (non-hardware) product -- iCloud.

Apple updated its website on Thursday, adding Cue's bio page to the executive team, which was first reported in the blog 9to5Mac.

Cue's new job will also give him responsibility for iAD, Apple's iOS advertising unit, which has so far failed to become much of a success. In mid-August, Andy Miller, Apple's then vice president of mobile advertising, resigned and headed to a venture firm called Highland Capital Partners.

The new executive has worked at Apple for the last 22 years and is credited with being a main negotiator of the deals with entertainment companies that led to iTunes having anything to sell.

"Eddy played a major role in creating the Apple online store in 1998, the iTunes Music Store in 2003 and the App Store in 2008," Apple said in Cue's bio. "He also played a key role in developing Apple's award-winning iLife suite of applications. In his early years at Apple, he was a successful manager of software engineering and customer support teams."

Cue is a graduate of Duke University, where he got a bachelor's degree in computer science and economics, Apple said.

RELATED:

Apple to give new CEO Tim Cook 1 million stock shares

Tim Cook to Apple employees: 'Apple is not going to change'

Steve Jobs 'one of the greatest leaders,' says Google's Vic Gundotra

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Eddy Cue, then Apple's vice president of iTunes, speaks during the launch of News Corp.'s The Daily news magazine for the Apple iPad in New York in February. Credit: Jonathan Fickies/Bloomberg

Connect

Recommended on Facebook


Advertisement

In Case You Missed It...

Videos

How to Reach Us

To pass on technology-related story tips, ideas and press releases, contact our reporters listed below.

To reach us by phone, call (213) 237-7163

Email: business@latimes.com

Andrea Chang
Armand Emamdjomeh
Jessica Guynn
Jon Healey
W.J. Hennigan
Tiffany Hsu
Deborah Netburn
Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Alex Pham
David Sarno


Categories


Archives