Sketching interfaces on the iPad with iMockups

Sketching interfaces on the iPad with iMockups
An application called iMockups came recently to my attention as I was going over the drawing and diagramming tools available for the iPad.  This is an interesting application that is designed to let you quickly create sketches of interfaces for Web, iPhone and iPad applications. While I hadn’t really considered it before, the iPad does seem like a good option for conducting a one on one session for doing an early application sketch along with an application user.  In fact Endloop Systems, the creators of iMockups position it exactly as a tool for quickly creating the first rough sketches of an application’s interface.  From my initial experiences with the application I would say that it does meet that goal. My first experiments with iMockups were in creating a pair of sketches for web interfaces.  One based on the layout of a website and the other putting more emphasis on a web-application like interface.  I was able to put both together fairly quickly even though I had never used the application before.  While I wasn’t able to get the sketch to look “exactly” like I imagined it, I didn’t really expect to.  The sketch I got is sufficiently close to how I would draw it on paper, that any differences were irrelevant. Doing it on the iPad instead of paper gave me the freedom to move things around a bit and try other layouts, without having to start all over again.  I know that this is a pretty obvious advantage of drawing something on a computer, but sometimes people forget to consider the obvious. It is quite easy to create mockups of iPhone and iPad apps with iMockups.  Doing so for iPhone applications is particularly interesting as you can have several different mockups on the same “page” in the application.   In my testes I created a two page project with one dedicated to an iPad mockup and the other with an iPhone sketch. Above you can see my first iPad application mockup and below my first iPhone application sketch.  While I wasn’t really trying to define how a new application works, I was trying to create something that roughly matched most of the applications I use on these devices. Once you get the interface elements into the drawing, by either dragging or taping them, you can adjust their appearance by selecting them and taping the “info” button.  This button brings up popup with configuration options of that specific interface elements.  This can help you to change important properties such as the orientation of a scroll area.  Through this popup you can set the objects size and position as well it z-order. Setting the z-order of an element lets you specify if it should shown behind or in front of other elements. The general concept of iMockups is quite easy to understand and you get used to how it works fairly quickly.  Most of the time that you using iMockups for iPad you will be holding your iPad in landscape mode as the application has two side panels which takes up some screen space to both sides of the drawing canvas. Holding the device in landscape mode adds just enough space for you to see your canvas and the side panel with elements you can choose to add to the diagram. This application has seen a steady stream of updated since it was released, with a score of new features added and a good deal of bug fixes too.  To me this is a very good sign that the developers are continuing to work on improving it.  From going over their release notes I was able to tell that several new interface elements have been...
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iPad Wallpaper #3 – Water on the rocks

iPad Wallpaper #3 – Water on the rocks
In this third iPad wallpaper post I am including two totally different images which were both created from pictures taken at the same place.   The incredibly clear water you see in these images are from a cove by the old prison ruins at Porth Arthur in Tasmania. The island of Tasmania is an Australian state which I had the pleasure of visiting several times in 2006 and 2007.  These particular pictures were taken in January of 2007 when I was visiting the Port Arthur ruins with my family and some good friends. #1 #2 If you like these wallpapers feel free to save the full sized images and to use them.  You may also pass along the images directly to your friends.  If you choose to share these images through a personal website a link back to iPadWatcher would be appreciated, but is not required. If you liked this post, please take a moment to follow iPadWatcher on...
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How Flipboard is changing what I read and how I interact with people

How Flipboard is changing what I read and how I interact with people
Recently I published a post commenting on the fact that Flipboard was an interesting App to check out, if you were able to.  As the application was released there was such an influx of people downloading it and wanting to use it that their servers were overwhelmed.  At that point I had watched their demo video, but had not yet been able to try out the App. Now, they seem to have gotten things under control, even though you need to go through a registration process that lets them have better control on the number of people putting demand on their  back-end services. A couple of days ago I finally managed to test Flipboard, as I was able to put in my request and got their response email telling me that I was now allowed to configure the application to access my Facebook and Twitter accounts.  That is a simple process and once you’re done with it Flipboard will start to pull in content from your accounts and to present it as you’ve never seen it before. When you have configured your social network accounts and chosen a couple of other information sources (or infosource for short) you’d like to access through the application you can move will be presented with a checkerboard of small items, showing an item from each infosource you have selected.  The way this is presented reminds me a lot of how printed magazines organize their content index, showing you a picture and some call out text about the main articles in their different sections.  Well, that is hardly unexpected as Flipboard defines itself as a Social Magazine. That is in fact a very good definition as Flipboard does a great job at presenting information that is gathered from your social networks in a manner that strongly resembles my conception of what a good magazine for the iPad should look like. I’ll freely admit that I hate Facebook’s interface.  Although I do go into Facebook every couple of days to post something and read up on what my friends and colleagues are doing it is only very sporadically that I spend more than few minutes at a time on the website. Well, Flipboard changed my entire appreciation of Facebook.  I still don’t like Facebook’s interface, in fact I think that I like it even less now, but Flipboard grabs links to blog posts, news articles photos and comments from my Facebook friends and presents them to me in a way that is enticing and engaging.  I believe that I’ve placed more comments on Facebook items in the past 2 days that in the previous 2 months.  Why?  Because the interface draws me in to actually take a closer look at content I would not have clicked through to see in Facebook and then offers me the chance to comment on it. The picture shown above is a perfect example of a very interesting bit of information that would probably have escaped me entirely, were it not for how Flipboard displays the information.  The photo that is shown in this screenshot is from a post where Collis Ta’eed comments on the fact that he and his company had made the cover  of Australia’s NETT# magazine.  Collis, CEO of Envato, is great guy with some very interesting activities which I follow with great interest since he started his company.  As another text line in Facebook, I would probably have missed it, had I bothered to access the site at all on the afternoon when this was posted.  As a large picture showing the magazine’s  cover it was very hard to miss on Flipboard. Thought I use Twitter a lot...
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iPad Wallpaper #1 – Peaceful pond

iPad Wallpaper #1 – Peaceful pond
Recently I decided to take some pictures I’ve taken of different places over the years and turn them into iPad wallpapers.   I will be making available some of these through iPad Watcher so that those that like to change their backgrounds every now and again can try them out. This first wallpaper was created from a picture I took during a visit to San Francisco in 2008.  It was part of a very nice looking  Japanese style garden I went to.  I’ve actually created two variations from the same picture and they both look nice in the background though I personally prefer the first. Variation #1 Variation #2 Both images have been properly sized to work well as an iPad wallpaper, regardless of the orientation of the device. If you like the pictures, feel free to use and distribute them.  A link back to this page would be appreciated, so that I can have some notion of how many people have downloaded each image, but it is not a requirement. If you liked this post, please take a moment to follow iPadWatcher on...
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The iPad as a great PDF book reader

The iPad as a great PDF book reader
Approximately at the same time that the iPhone 4 was being released, Apple released a new version of iBooks for the iPad with PDF support.  This was not the first application for reading PDFs on the iPad, but it brought PDF support to what is almost a built-in application for the iPad, despite the fact that you need to download it. I don’t imagine that many iPad owners skip on downloading Apple’s free ebook reader application. While  PDF support in iBooks doesn’t still have all the features that you can use on EPUB books, it is certainly a welcome addition and makes the iPad still more useful for consuming reading material. PDFs look great on the iPad, making them a much more attractive alternative to ebook formats for many situations.  As an example I have included below a picture of  a page of Collis Ta’eed’s recently released “How to build a successful blog business”. You can see that the text is very clear and that the formatting comes across  great as you would expect from a PDF document.  Being able to get the full formatting you would have with Acrobat Reader on a desktop or notebook or even in a printed book makes PDF a good choice for business books such as this. Like everybody I have a ton of PDF documents I have download from many sources, but I’ve also acquired some ebooks PDF format in recent months.  While these do provide a good visual experience when read on a computer, they weren’t an immediate fit for the iPad.  I tried a couple of the PDF readers available on the App Store but didn’t really think that any of them really provided me with the experience I wanted. I’ll admit that I didn’t exhaust all the possibilities available on the App Store, just my patience for trying them out, regardless of how inexpensive they are. When I found out that an update to iBooks would be coming out with PDF support in a couple of weeks I decided I would wait to see what mileage I could get out of Apples ebook reader app in this area. I was not disappointed with iBooks as a PDF reader on the iPad, while I found it to be totally useless as such on the iPod Touch or iPhone, which have too small a screen for this. The iPad with its 9.7 inch screen can render a fully formatted PDF beautifully.  iBooks provides good support navigating the document, keeping tabs of where you left off the last time you were reading.  This means you don’t have to use it just o read short documents, but can use it to fully enjoy longer titles such as the one show above which is over 330 pages long. iBooks also has a nice implementation of bookmarks which can be seen as small red ribbons placed on the top right edges of the bookmarked pages.  A small button on the control bar that is shown on the top portion of the screen when you tap a page lets you select a sort of a pages overview mode in which you get a high level view of all pages as thumbnails and in which the bookmarked pages are shown as such with red ribbons showing on their right upper corners.  The red arrows indicate two such bookmarks in picture aligned on the right side of the article. You can easily use iBooks to read PDFs which have been formatted with a different page size or orientation.  The following screenshot shows a picture of a novel I purchased over 10 years ago in PDF format through a company called Mighty Words and which...
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Should I wait for iPad 2.0?

Recently I’ve had several people ask me whether they should buy an iPad now or wait for the second generation that is sure to come next year.  That is certainly a question that anyone that is considering buying electronic devices faces and there are already some consistent indications of areas in which the next generation of the iPad should improve on the current one. The current generation of the iPad is a great device for doing many things.  In fact, I’ve noticed that it made me a lot more productive at several tasks I do regularly and after a couple of weeks using it I discovered that going back to the way I did them before was quite a bit of a pain. I use the iPad for going through emails and tweets much faster than what I was able to do on a notebook or desktop computer.  The interface is just a lot more productive and the low cost of the of the applications have let me experiment and find the ones that are better suited to my own way of working.  I certainly like to read on the iPad.  In fact, the iPad is a great solution for reading all those PDFs you want to read, but don’t feel like sitting in front of a computer to read. Through the months I have been following the iPad and how people use it,  I came to the conclusion that the iPad is a personal device.  It is not something you would want to share with other people.  That being the case, once you have one in your household, it will be just a matter of time before you start thinking about getting another, for someone else in the family.  With this in mind I feel comfortable in saying that if you see the possibility of using an iPad to become more productive now, to reduce the weight you carry around daily, you should definitely get one now.  If you can find a store that has the model you want, as supply is still having trouble with keeping up with the demand. The second generation of the iPad, or iPad 2.0 as I have began calling it will most probably have a lot more memory and at least a front facing camera for FaceTime calls.  It will probably have one or two features you and I can’t even begin to think about, as Apple is always looking for new ways to cause an impact. Just think that when it comes out, if you feel the irresistible urge to get a new model there will always be someone that will be happy to get your iPad 1.0. If you liked this article, please take a moment to follow iPadWatcher on...
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The iPad’s not too secret weapon: a virtuous cycle

The iPad’s not too secret weapon: a virtuous cycle
In April, just as the iPad had hit the streets I wrote a post about how accessories set the iPad a world away from the competition.  That was based on the number of accessories that had been announced in the two months that had gone by since the device had been first introduced by Steve Jobs. There was already a large number of companies making myriad models of cases, stands, bags, etc.  All of this was happening even before the device was available for purchasing. All this came back to mind today as I read a post on GottaBeMobile which described how the author had spent some time in an Apple Store checking out iPad accessories and presented his thoughts on how the accessory landscape for iPads differs from other tablet devices. His impressions are now based on three months of iPad availability and on the selection of accessories he could actually purchase in the Apple Store, instead of on press-releases and it only substantiates my original hypothesis.  The number and variety of accessories available for the iPad will set it apart from any other competitors which may be released in the near future. This is one consideration that should be foremost in the minds of the people working on creating tablets to challenge the iPad.  It is very important for these companies to provide some accessories of their own, as Apple does with the dock, keyboard, etc.  Having a base set of accessories available from the manufacturer should help them attract more attention to their offerings. I remember how, back in 2003 when I was considering which Pocket PC handheld to get I ended up choosing Dell’s Axim over HP’s many models exactly because Dell offered a full set of accessories I could get along with the device.  I ended up getting a foldable keyboard and a leather case as well as screen protectors all in the same order. One important aspect of the iPad for accessory manufacturers however, is clearly lost on many of Apple’s potential competitors: a single design.   Apple offers six iPad models but they all look the same and all have essentially the same dimensions.  This means that when you create a case or a stand for the iPad, you are essentially creating a product which will be usable by all of the millions of iPad users. Now compare that to what it would be for manufacturers considering the creation of similar accessories for the products of companies that will be introducing tablets with two or three different screen sizes. These companies would be looking at creating add-on products for a variety of models and form factors, each one with a potential market that is much smaller than that which is already available with the iPad. The large number of accessories already available for the iPad, along with the large number of applications specifically designed for it, help to make it more attractive to potential users.  At the same time the rapidly growing number of users help make the iPad more and more attractive to accessory manufacturers as well as software developers. At this point, just a few months after its initial public release it seems clear that Apple has already managed to start a virtuous cycle for the iPad which will be very hard for competitors to...
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Apple’s party line on iPhone 4 reception problems leaked

It was reported earlier today by Boy Genius Report that they had received a leaked document providing guidance on how Apple Store staff should treat complains about bad reception on the new iPhone 4.   This documents makes it clear that Apple is well aware of the reception issues and that it is sticking by the “it’s-normal with mobiles” position that was first championed by the Steve Jobs in one of the short emails he has been sending users of late. The following is the full set of instructions contained in the document as published by Boy Genius Report: Keep all of the positioning statements in the BN handy – your tone when delivering this information is important. The iPhone 4’s wireless performance is the best we have ever shipped. Our testing shows that iPhone 4’s overall antenna performance is better than iPhone 3GS. Gripping almost any mobile phone in certain places will reduce its reception. This is true of the iPhone 4, the iPhone 3GS, and many other phones we have tested. It is a fact of life in the wireless world. If you are experiencing this on your iPhone 3GS, avoid covering the bottom-right side with your hand. If you are experiencing this on your iPhone 4, avoid covering the black strip in the lower-left corner of the metal band. The use of a case or Bumper that is made out of rubber or plastic may improve wireless performance by keeping your hand from directly covering these areas. Do not perform warranty service. Use the positioning above for any customer questions or concerns. Don’t forget YOU STILL NEED to probe and troubleshoot. If a customer calls about their reception while the phone is sitting on a table (not being held) it is not the metal band. ONLY escalate if the issue exists when the phone is not held AND you cannot resolve it. We ARE NOT appeasing customers with free bumpers – DON’T promise a free bumper to customers. Boy Genius Report questions if people don’t find it troubling that there is no mention of an impending software fix.  I’m not expecting one any time soon.  Let’s face it, if this is really a serious hardware design issue, finding a “software” solution for it at any time would be pretty incredible, finding it in a couple of weeks is probably too much to expect.  After all, if they already knew what the solution for the problem was they quite probably could have fixed it before complains where popping up all...
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Rumor: Apple gathering information about FaceTime calls? What for?

The Apple Core blog on ZDNet has just published a post with information from a supposed Apple leak stating that the company is gathering information about all FaceTime calls being placed on the new iPhone 4.   According to the person providing the information and that seems to claim to be an Apple employee the company would be gathering information on who is calling who and from where. I see no purpose for Apple to gather this information, but then I can see no reason for Google to be collecting information from WiFi networks when their Street View cars where filming streets, so… Who knows?  Maybe it is the next step in Steve Jobs’ final world domination...
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iPad sales are growing fast

iPad sales are growing fast
Just yesterday Apple announced the sale of its 3 millionth iPad, after 80 days of sales.  Now that Apple has taken the iPad international it seems that sales are picking up the pace.  While impressive, considering that initial sales were already high, this shouldn’t really come as a surprise as it continues to be hard to just walk into an Apple Store or Best Buy and find the exact model of iPad that you want. Let’s have a quick look at how sales progressed.  It took Apple just 28 days to sell the first million iPads, which was quite impressive.  It then took them 31 days to sell the 2 millionth iPad as they announced that they had reached that mark in less than 60 days.  This seemed exactly like what we should have expected, as it took them slightly longer to sell the second million as initial sales had all the talk, discussion, speculation and hype to draw attention to the product. Yesterday Apple announced that it had reached the 3rd million in iPad unit sales, however, showing that sales are not only strong, but actually growing fast as it took them just 21 days to sell this last million units.  As Apple enters nine new markets with the iPad next month it is possible that sales will be even higher in August, provided that demand continues as strong in the US and in the initial European markets targeted  by Apple and that they can actually manufacture enough iPads to go around. Next in Apple’s international rollout are the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Hong Kong, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand and Singapore.  All of these countries should see an iPad release in July, though no specific date has yet been...
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iPad brings the dead (magazine) back to life

In a press release Condé Nast, publisher of several magazines including Wired and several Web properties announced that it would be launching a Gourmet application for the iPad, bringing back the brand of the Gourmet magazine that was discontinued last year. The brand has a lot of recognition and some comments made by people with past relation to the magazine suggests that a good deal of content for the iPad application may come from the archives of the original printed magazine, instead of being newly created. With the huge sales success of the first issue of Wired for iPad I imagine that Condé Nast may be interested in doing a lot more experimenting with content for this...
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iBooks on iPhone/iPod Touch – a bit disappointing

iBooks on iPhone/iPod Touch – a bit disappointing
Apple released yesterday iOS 4, the new version of its iPhone operating system and in its wake iBooks, its eBook reading application.  Being a compulsive reader I set out to try the application just as soon as I could and was a bit disappointed. I did my testing on an iPod Touch upgraded to iOS 4, which is a requirement of the iBooks application.  Upgrading to iOS 4 will take a while, so if you are interested in trying out iBooks for your self, set a side at least an hour and a half for the upgrade, up setup and customization. It took me pretty much that time to go through the process with roughly 12 GB of content on my iPod. iBooks is a nice addition to the iPhone/iPod Touch family of devices, but its adaptation to the form factor could have been much better.  How so?  Well, for starters the application retains the book-like interface it has on the iPad, which might really good but isn’t very practical on the much smaller screen of the iPhone or iPod. To illustrate what I mean I’ve added the picture below which shows the same book being viewed on the new iBooks and on the latest version of Stanza, a much more mature eReader for the iOS platform, that has been around for a couple of years. Both applications are in reading mode in the screenshots above.  You should have no trouble noticing that you can see a lot more text on screen in the application on the right.  While iBooks might look good at a first glance, it wastes a lot of display area with things such as the title of the book your are reading and the page number, not to mention the strip at the top showing you that you are using an iPod connected to a Wi-Fi network and what time of day it is.  These are things I can really do without as I am pretty sure that I while I’m reading the book I know what I’m reading and that I’m holding an iPod.  The battery indicator is potentially much more useful as is the clock.  These, however, should only be displayed if I tap to bring in the navigation and configuration controls. Wasting space on a screen which is already very small is criminal.  When I’m reading an eBook on my iPod I’d like to be able to do so as comfortably as possible, which among other things means that I want to see as much text as I can on screen at one time, without having to make the font too small. iBooks did not recognize the cover for any of the commercial eBooks I had available in the system I used to synch content to the iPod, which might be the fault of the books themselves, but they all show covers perfectly on eReader from Barnes & Noble and on Stanza, so I would say that a little more effort could have been made there to make sure that the end user didn’t end up with a book case filled with books that all look the same. Getting the books into the application requires adding them through iTunes.  While doing so can be nice when you have a large library of books on a single computer, it can be very annoying when you have the books spread out over several computers as I do.  As I mostly use Stanza to read eBooks I’ve grown accustomed to just sharing the books from the Windows or OS X application over the wireless network.  This works very well and you don’t need a cable...
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Apple sells over 600.000 iPhones in the first day

Apple issued in a press release a statement about iPhone 4 sales in the first day of pre-orders.  In the statement Apple states that more than 600.000 phones were sold in the first day, which far surpassed their expectations leading to problems with the ordering systems of some partners. (One of which seems to have been AT&T in the US.) The following is  the entire statement: Yesterday Apple and its carrier partners took pre-orders for more than 600,000 of Apple’s new iPhone 4. It was the largest number of pre-orders Apple has ever taken in a single day and was far higher than we anticipated, resulting in many order and approval system malfunctions. Many customers were turned away or abandoned the process in frustration. We apologize to everyone who encountered difficulties, and hope that they will try again or visit an Apple or carrier store once the iPhone 4 is in stock. Reports from both AT&T and Deutsche Telekom indicate that traffic to their sites for placing the pre-orders for the iPhone 4 was ten times what they had last year in the first day of pre-orders for the iPhone 3Gs.   It would seem that the iPhone 4 left all those impressive iPad sales eating dust. There were some comments a few weeks back that the iPad was probably going to be the fastest product to reach the 1 Billion dollars in sales mark.  Well, It seems clear that if Apple has enough phones to sell, it will sell 1 Billion worth of phones much faster than is claimed that it sold of...
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App Review: Osfoora HD – A great Twitter client

App Review: Osfoora HD  – A great Twitter client
Over the past week I’ve been trying out Osfoora HD, a Twitter client of which I had never heard of until I pretty much stumbled on it in the App Store. If you are in a similar situation read on as it turned out that this app is really interesting. In the past I have used several different Twitter clients and I tried a couple of them out in the iPad but none gave me as good an experience as Osfoora HD.  At first look it seems a bit like a cross between Twitterrific and TweetDeck, but it feels like an improved version of what this cross would look like. Let’s start from the beginning, with the Twitter user accounts.  In Osfoora HD, as in all major Twitter clients you can have multiple accounts and you can switch between them easily.  The whole time you are using Osfoora you are working within the context an individual account.  While this might not be the best option when you post similar tweets to different accounts, it is very good when your focus is more on reading and soaking in what everyone else is saying. You can see in the following picture the screen where you choose which account you will use.  At any time you can return to this screen to switch between accounts . Once you have selected an account you are taken to a general view of that account’s timeline.   In that screen you can scroll through your tweets quickly and access other views through the buttons in the bottom of the display. Using those buttons you can choose to see mentions and direct messages, instead of the timeline.  You can even choose to show the location of the people whose tweets have chosen to show such location information to the public. In the picture above you can see an example of a timeline being shown through Twitter.  Once you have found a tweet that is of interest to you and which has a link, you can tap it and it will be shown in greater detail in the “upper” most portion of the screen (in portrait mode)  as shown in the picture below. Osfoora HD has a great feature for integrating it with new services such as Instapaper and Read It Later.  Once you have activated one of these services within the application a popup menu will be displayed whenever you touch a link, asking if you would like to view that item immediately or store it for later reading.  This is one powerful feature for me as I go through hundreds of tweets daily and with this option I can save most stuff that interests me for reading after I have reviewed all tweets instead of always interrupting this task to go off read a page that I’ve been led to by a link in a tweet. This feature alone has helped me become much more productive when reviewing a couple of hours worth of tweets as I have a much more direct and well structured workflow.  First review all tweets flagging appropriate links for further investigation through Instapaper.  Once I’ve gone through all the tweets, I skim through each of those saved documents to see which ones I should devote some time to really reading. The application’s settings are easily accessible through the button in the upper toolbar that shows a gear icon.  While there are a good deal of options they are generally easy to use. It didn’t take me more than fifteen minutes to have the application configured the way I wanted, with four Twitter accounts registered and all the preferences set, including the integration to...
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Wired iPad edition close to outselling printed magazine, digital is coming…

Wired iPad edition close to outselling printed magazine, digital is coming…
In the first nine days of sales Wired Magazine’s iPad edition has sold over 73,000 units, while its printed monthly sales are of about 80,000 units.  If Wired is capable of maintaining such incredible sales numbers after the novelty wares off, it might signal other publications that they should put more effort into their digital editions. Gone through Wired’s first iPad issue I have to say that despite the underlying technology not being that great, it looks pretty good.  They better do something about the half gigabyte size issues before people start to run out of storage in the iPads, but other than that the experience was quite good and didn’t have all the unnecessary videos that we were seeing all around in proof-of-concept work before the iPad was actually released. It would be interesting to know how many of those sales come from overseas readers that are able to get the magazine much cheaper and much quicker through a digital download, instead of getting it off of the newsstands. It seems pretty clear that this month Wired is going to sell more digital issues than printed ones.  Everyone that has been hanging on to the belief that the transition to digital publications and books would be slow might want to reconsider that.   After all, so far there are between 2 and 3 million iPad users in the world.  Imagine how many issues Wired might sell in one year’s time, when more than 10 million users should have...
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