iTunes 7.7 and the App Store Now Open for Business

If you fire up Software Update, you will see that iTunes 7.7 is available. You can find applications in the iTunes Store, but you can’t purchase them unless you have 7.7 installed. The new update is “exclusively for iPhone and iPod Touch” so if you don’t have either one, you don’t need to update.

You may need to go to preferences and check the “Applications” box to make it show up in your sidebar. On one computer it didn’t show up automatically, but did on the other.

The App Store has been a bit finnicky. In the Applications section in iTunes, you can choose “Get More Applications” and go straight to the App Store, but it hasn’t worked all the time. If you search for an app in the iTunes Store, you can get to it, if the App Store link is not working.

As of this writing, software for the iPhone and iPod Touch has not been released, so while you can purchase all the apps you want, you still won’t be able to get them to work on your iPhone. Soon, hopefully, it will be available.

Surprises on July 11th

With the launch of the iPhone 3G, the App store, and hopefully MobileMe, coming this Friday, many people are getting excited. We would be remiss if we didn’t at least speculate about the surprises that might come when you open that 3G iPhone box.

One of the biggest surprises could come to developers who are not invited to have their apps debut on the app store. Forbes claims that only 16% of the 25,000 submissions have been accepted, and even those who have are still nervous about making Apple mad and getting the boot. They are not really allowed to advertise their applications yet, and must wait until the app store is launched before they can say anything. It would be devastating to have your submission denied with no reason given. Apple made it clear from the beginning that “inappropriate” apps would not be sold in the iPhone’s App Store. Four thousand programs is still a lot to have for the launch of a new product. It is phenomenal that Apple has had such a huge response from developers.

A good surprise would be to find that the iPhone 3G does in fact have haptic technology as has been rumored. Other touchscreen phones already have this technological gem, like the LG Vu. Over at Google code, the University of Glasgow Computing Science Department is working on a haptic interface for the iPhone. Apple has destroyed the homebrew crew before by integrating many features into its products that were the babies of indie developers.

Some sites have rumored a $100 price drop on the iPod Touch. I doubt this will happen, since the iPhone’s huge price drop can be attributed to the normal subsidizing of cell phones. iPod Touch will likely stay at the same price point for a while.

What is more appealing and even likely is that Apple might decide to squeeze the GPS chip into the iPod Touch, and deliver a turn-by-turn navigation system to accompany it. That would put them decidedly down a new market, which would be nice for us consumers. The Touch has a nicer screen and better functionality than any GPS unit I have ever seen, even the super expensive brands. I understand the need for location-based or location-aware apps on the iPhone, especially with regard to search, but turn-by-turn navigation is the most useful application for GPS hardware.

The surprise I most want to see is the GPS iPod Touch, and the one I most don’t want to see is a stingy Apple keeping a lot of devs out of the app store.

What are you hoping for?

Response to Unanswered App Store Questions

I read an article this morning highlighting some very peculiar questions regarding how developers interact with customers via the iPhone/iPod Touch App store. I read all of them and the answers seemed so clear that I don’t know why Apple hasn’t answered them officially. Perhaps they will in the next two weeks, or there are some people at EA who might know already. Most likely, Apple hasn’t even thought of this stuff yet and they’ll answer it with the launch of the store. It’s all liquid folks, that’s the beauty of software and its policies. Apple wants to make the store an overnight success, and a long standing platform for the future (more on this next).

What exactly does Fairplay for apps mean?

It means the end of this concept where end users put in license keys, publishers track users in a ridiculous database where customers come back and upgrade but can’t log in, so they create a new account, and now the publishers think they have more customers than they really do. It means that Apple is trying to make it easy for developers to reduce their code and let Apple handle piracy. For better or worse, Fairplay does a good job at what its designed to do. It makes sense for Apple to DRM apps just like any other content from iTMS. Now perhaps an app doesn’t need DRM because its free, or a publisher just doesn’t like Fairplay. Well either case is invalid becasue 1) users would just redownload if needed and 2) Apple isn’t the platform an anti-Fairplay publisher really wants to develop. No one is saying apps are tied to one device, and Fairplay is designed with that in mind. I truly doubt based on my knowledge that a device, a computer, or some other ‘thing’ is any different that the other ‘thing’ in Fairplay’s code.

How will developers get customer information?

Through a developer publishing portal. Think about it. Then again, is it really the developer’s information or is it Apple’s?

How will support be handled?

Sure no one knows an app better than the guy who wrote it and the support team in India. See above.

What about trials?

See above the above. For most, I expect there will be a trial download and a licensed download, perhaps one with Fairplay applied and one without.

How will refunds be handled?

I get my refunds and purchases all through a merchant payment gateway, and most of them seem to work with the internets. Let Apple deal with most cases, that would explain a 30% cut in what is sold. I think for special cases, developers could issue credits to customers through their account. Maybe the customer won’t come back and they use their credit elsewhere. Do a better job then and don’t get too upset if all customers aren’t pleased.

How do we give out review copies?

These are sort of like refunds right? Just a refund before the sale actually happens. So why couldn’t a developer issue iTMS credits via their publisher portal? I don’t think Apple will generate the full infrastructure/interfaces right away that do this. Frankly the trend I’ve seen with their efforts have been more rapid releases than in the past. So sit tight, because Apple wants to hear people complain so they can get what the majority want and what Apple can feasibly provide.

What about other pricing concerns?

I believe publishers can price apps at whatever they choose. If a new release is out, would it be feasible to promote it via offering a discount to everyone?

Here are some things I would like to know. The iTunes store currently has featured content on all parent and subpages (i.e. the home page and sublinks not pointing to direct media). How do Apps get categorized and who decides what gets this lucrative real estate? Can developers rely on a review system or is it going to be who gives Apple the biggest checks? What if I want to buy multiple copies because the publisher has developed a specific reason that this case would apply, perhaps most likely in an enterprise situation?

I do think that Apple will have a publisher portal where anyone wanting their app in the store can manage the information they need to for interacting with customers, promoting a product, or deliver new features. It’s very easy to think that the iPhone has version awareness and could check in with the app publisher just as most software update mechanisms work. Again, that’s the genius in the whole platform…its software, as liquid as the water that we drink.

Google Maps Gets YouTube Video

Google Maps now offers embeddable videos from YouTube, giving local businesses a new way to show off their goods. Companies listed in Google’s Local Business Center can upload a video to YouTube and have it associated with their expanded listing in Google Maps.

Now, local businesses can offer virtual tours of their facilities, post product demos, or as TechCrunch’s Erick Schonfeld put it, any small company can essentially put up its own TV commercial.

Google Earth added YouTube video last year, so this expansion to maps is no surprise.

But the big winner from this announcement is TurnHere, a company that creates custom videos for its clients. Not only is this another reason for local businesses to make enticing, professional-looking video, but the example used by the Google Maps blog is a listing for I Dream of Cake, featuring a video created by TurnHere.

Maemo Wordpy shows versatility of Nokia’s Internet Tablets

MaemowordpyI realize not everyone here is a blogger, but I wanted to share this tidbit to further illustrate the versatility of the Nokia 770 and N800 Internet Tablets. The devices themselves are functional enough, but it’s the third-party open source development that truly extends these devices. As I’ve said before, I see this as the biggest "make it or break it factor" for Palm’s Foleo; by itself it’s functional, but it would truly shine with the right application support.

Back to the tidbit: Maemo Wordpy was recently updated for the Nokias. What is it? It’s a front-end interface to WordPress blogs. James has frequently commented to me that the Nokia N800 is a fantastic tool for blogging and I’d agree. I’d actually agree even more if we used WordPress because Maemo WordyPy looks great!

Flickr-hoo!

So who’s laughing now? The news of Yahoo and Flickr hooking up is finally official. Applause… and those of you who were laughing and ridiculing my exclusive.well happy millions. This right from the Flickr blog.:

Holy smokes, SOMEBODY out there is bad at keeping secrets!! Yes! We can finally confirm that Yahoo has made a definitive agreement to acquire Flickr and us, Ludicorp. Smack the tattlers and pop the champagne corks! Woohoo! What does this mean? It means that we’ll no longer have to draw straws to see who gets paid, schedule conjugal visits between trips to the colo….wait!

Jeff calls is safety strategy. I call it “New Road to Riches” which if you buy Business 2.0, you might have read last year. The new road is – build it, flip it, or in this case scream Yahoo! My sources tell me the price tag is close to $35 million, and not rumored $30 million.