Monday, April 19, 2010

iPadDevCamp NYC 2010 - An App Developer's Paradise
(Plus Alice & Cathy)

I spent most of last week on a business trip visiting my work colleagues in Berkeley, CA where I gave a presentation about all the current and upcoming e-Readers, tablets, and smartphones that have recently released or are expected to come out later this year. It was a long five days of meetings, including one at the Apple headquarters in Cupertino to meet with the new iBookstore team. Though it was a very productive meeting, I was tormented as the Apple employees surrounded me with their shiny new iPads while I still await my 3G model to arrive. I tell you it was pure torture. However, I'm happy to report today I received an email from the Apple store assuring me that my iPad would be shipping as planned sometime at the end of this month. Woohoo! Needless to say, I'm very psyched. :-)

Perhaps this is why I was a logical choice to be a guest panelist at the iPadDevCamp 2010 conference over the weekend at the AOL headquarters in NYC.

This was a very interesting gathering of App developers, designers, strategists, and more arranged by CodeFab, a mobile development firm that describes itself on their website as a company that "provides a wide range of consulting solutions from iPhone, Palm Pre and Android development and training to systems integration and high performance web applications." Whoa, that's a mouthful and sounds very technical.

The event consisted of attendees sitting around with their laptops programming Apps while exchanging ideas, discussing challenges, and helping one another with creative suggestions and expert advice.

So what the heck was I doing there!?

Well, I joined Nina LaFrance, VP of Consumer Marketing for Forbes Digital, Tarik Sedkey, Chief Digital Officer, Young & Rubicam, and Douglas Gottlieb, VP of Digital, Barnes & Noble, to provide perspectives on the state of the book and magazine publishing industry in the digital age, especially in a universe that now co-exists with the iPad. And from what I can tell it was a pretty interesting discussion overall. The panel was videotaped and I was told it would be posted online. If that does in fact happen then I will add it to this post at a later date. But in the meantime, I want to share one aspect of this get together that really stood out for me.

Which brings us to Alice. During one of my explanations regarding what impact the iPad will have on the experience of reading I described an App that presents Alice in Wonderland in a lush and esthetically pleasing way by a company called, of all things, Atomic Antelope. I feel this new visual interpretation of the classic novel serves as a terrific example of how App developers, like those who attended this conference, will likely be the ones who introduce creative content that excites consumers and leads to significant sales. That's one of the most powerful things about Apple's SDK (Software Developer's Kit). It creates a level playing field where any one person or small group of people can go head to head with traditional publishers and compete in the App Store for readers' attention and hard earned dollars. This is pretty amazing when you stop to think about it.

Hats off to the team who created the Alice App, for I feel it demonstrates what's possible and will inspire others, including myself, to re-consider what it means to read on a device like the iPad. To see this App in action, here's a video.

Now I'd like to think we at Perseus also created a unique reading experience with Cathy's Book, an interactive App for teens I'm very proud of and that I believe also does a great job of telling a story with this new technology. Here's a video demo.

But that said, I have to admit this Alice in Wonderland App makes me want to produce more great interactive experiences and I feel everyone in the book and magazine business better start paying attention, for while publishers like the one I work for or popular magazines like Vanity Fair plan their next digital move, small creative upstarts with dreams of big success are unexpectedly swooping in to the various App environments to lure fans and gain devoted followers of their own.

I say more power to them.

What say you?


  1. The Alice in Wonderland idea that you mention reminds me of discussions we used to have in the early days of CD ROM and multimedia. I had exactly these same types of chat with Apple back in 1995. Here's a link to the Bob Dylan CD ROM that came out, from way back in February 1995:

    Of course, in those days, there were many compatibility problems with CD ROM products, you needed a high end machine and a lot of consumers just couldn't get it to work, so these products were avoided like the plague and died. Essentially, the Alice idea you describe would be the same thing, but it would work reliably - maybe it's finally time for the dream of multimedia to be fulfilled, fifteen years later.

  2. Yes Jim - There's plenty of reason to compare what's happening now to the days of the CD-ROMs, but I do think the technology has finally caught up. That said, there will be plenty of bad products developed with little or no thought behind them, but hopefully there will be some terrific, innovative things ahead that will really demonstrate what's possible using the new medium. There needs to be a Pixar like company in the enhanced reading space that consistently bears in mind that a great story needs to be at the core of any multimedia concept and that the enhancements have to feel organic to the storyline and not be a distraction. I believe we'll get there.