Adobe, Condé Nast scrambled to get Wired app on Apple's iPad

Posted:
in iPad edited January 2014
Magazine publisher Condé Nast was so sold on Adobe's Flash platform that the company didn't even anticipate Apple's iPad wouldn't support Flash. As a result, it had to resort to a clumsy workaround from Adobe to make it into the iTunes App Store.



Condé Nast designs its paper magazines using Adobe's InDesign, so it seemed like a natural progression to output its InDesign page layout into Adobe's companion Flash Professional app to generate Flash content that could be viewed on mobile devices.



That was the company's digital strategy before Apple launched iPad, and was reiterated at the going plan right up to and even after Apple outlined that the iPhone App Store wouldn't support code-generated apps exported by Flash Professional.



A failed Flash strategy



The other problem: there really aren't any popular mobile devices that display Flash. Adobe is just now getting around to releasing its beta version of a Flash Player for smartphones, but it currently only works on Android, a platform that doesn't sell lots of paid content, and only on a small subset of the newest Android devices that are fast enough to run it.



Most tablets, like HP's Slate PC that was discontinued in the wake of iPad, are designed to use Windows 7, but while that operating system supports Flash as a web browser plugin just like desktop PCs, it hasn't found any interest among users when installed on tablet devices.



The only successful tablet is currently the iPad, which like the iPhone and iPod touch has never supported Flash because Adobe has never released a suitable Flash Player for the iPhone OS in its last three years of its existence.



Too late



At this point, Apple has hitched its wagons to HTML5 for dynamic content, and won't be supporting Flash until Adobe's platform develops into something that works really well on mobiles and customers start demanding Flash playback as a feature.



Unfortunately for Adobe, that's unlikely to ever happen because the iPhone OS now makes up such a large and conspicuous chunk of the smartphone, media player, and tablet markets that content developers are now rethinking how to publish their content in a format that can be viewed by Apple's influential users.



Web developers sensitive to Apple's affluent demographic have already begun removing Flash from their websites, from Carnival cruise lines to the Virgin America airline. But rather than anticipating this trend, Condé Nast forged ahead with Adobe on a Flash-centric publishing partnership, only to find out, too late, that Adobe's backup plan for automatically generating native iPhone apps from Flash Professional wouldn't meet with Apple's App Store approval.



In order for Condé Nast to ship an iPhone OS app for iPad, it would need to build the app using Apple's development tools, not Adobe's middleware solution.



Adobe's Plan C: Objective-C



Rather than design original content for iPad or simply create a custom, standards-based website in HTML, Adobe sold Condé Nast on distributing its existing InDesign pages as large graphic files presented using a standard iPhone OS viewer app built according to Apple's rules.



The result was that Adobe could claim relevance as an essential link in the publisher chain, and Condé Nast could sell its magazine published as an iPad app without too much extra work. The downside is that there's nothing really interesting or novel about the iPad version of Wired, apart from the fact that Adobe's workaround results in a huge "app" that weighs in at around 500MB.



Adobe's solution to publishing digital content on iPad is a lot like its strategy for delivering Creative Suite content on the web: cut up Photoshop and InDesign designer's print pages into large image files fit into an HTML table. That creates a website that looks exactly like the existing print work, but which doesn't really look (or act) like a website.



"Something wrong and something very lazy and/or desperate"



A designer who examined the Wired app reports "each Wired issue is actually a bunch of XML files that lay out a bunch of images. And by 'a bunch of images' I mean 4,109 images weighing in at 397MB."



His investigation, published on the InterfaceLab blog, notes that "each full page is a giant image ? there are actually two images for each page: one for landscape and one for portrait mode. Yes, I?m laughing on the inside too. There is no text or HTML, just one gigantic image. The 'interactive' pieces where you can slide your finger to animate it are just a series of JPG files. When you press play on the audio file and see the progress meter animate? A series of PNG files.



"Something is wrong with this picture. Something wrong and something very lazy and/or desperate," he added.



The Adobe viewer app, hailed in the company's press release as "a new digital viewer technology that enables print publishers to bring stunning digital versions of their magazines to life," is actually not too far removed from a CD-ROM from the 90's says the author of the report.



Adobe still pleased with its work



David Burkett, Adobe's vice president and general manager for Creative Solutions, wrote in the company's press release that "Adobe?s work with Wired has resulted in a digital magazine format that creates an immersive experience, allowing a publication?s unique content, look and feel and advertising to stand out in the digital realm.



"We aim to make our digital viewer software available to all publishers soon and plan to deliver versions that work across multiple hardware platforms. It?s safe to say that if you are already working in InDesign CS5, you?ll be well on your way to producing a beautiful digital version of your publication."



Adobe touts its app as "new digital viewer technology" which enables "readers to experience video content, slide-shows, 360 degree images and rotate content in vertical and horizontal modes," and notes that the Wired Reader "goes several steps further, taking advantage of the tablet form factor and enabling readers to explore magazine content using touch gestures, including a zoomed-out browse mode, to see the content of the issue at a glance. Readers are able to experience the design fidelity of a print magazine, with the dynamic interactivity of digital media."



What the Wired Reader does not do is present content that isn't already available on the Wired website. Or allow users to change font sizes or typefaces, the way Apple's iBooks app does for digital books (or as standard web browsers do). There's also no really interesting interactivity features, nor even the ability to download newer or archived issues of the magazine as they become available via Apple's in-app purchasing feature.



It's solely a digital version of the print artwork, which is precisely what Flash was intended to deliver for print publishers on the web: a way to generate content to sell digitally without doing much work or taking on any risk in creating something new.



Condé Nast's other publications, GQ and Vanity Fair, are similarly expected to use the same model for bringing their magazines to iPad. One former employee of Condé Nast noted that this may be the case, not just out of laziness, but also because the publisher wants to be able to count digital editions as part of its distribution numbers mixed in with physical magazine sales for advertising purposes. Making them essentially the same thing helps in that regard.



Magazines in HTML5



Not all publishers are sold on cranking out the most elementary electronic versions of their paper magazines. At Google's I/O conference, Sports Illustrated demonstrated an HTML5 version of its work that marks up sections and articles using new structure elements and adds drag and drop navigation features (for creating bookmarks of embedded media such as video clips), while also taking advantage of Web Workers and other features of HTML5 that makes the content significant faster than rendering objects in plain JavaScript or Flash.



The digital publication, "in beta," also presented embedded animated visualizations based on a live survey, integration with Google Maps, and even rich, immersive advertising similar to the iAd program Apple demonstrated for iPhone OS 4 (as shown in the video below).



Despite a variety of interesting features in the demo, it did not appear to include any special ability to increase font sizes or change font face outside of the browser itself. That makes it somewhat questionable why magazine publishers don't simply sell their periodicals as iBooks on Apple's platform, which already supports rich content in an open format that publishers can also sell in competing digital venues.





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Comments

  • splash-reversesplash-reverse Posts: 648member
    The CD-Rom analogy is a correct one. Remember how things used to be delivered on CDs? Although there's element of interactivity with the magazine, the size pretty much gives it away and there people thought it is so readers could read it offline... Never thought it is just a big image file (two incidentally, one for each orientation)



    I only read Wired for it's odd content and wouldn't think I would buy another (Wired app) if I could help it. Especially since I could just read the paper version at my local newsagent/bookstore (read WH Smith).
  • asciiascii Posts: 5,363member
    Great big images? Surely if they're going to take such a brute force approach, great big PDFs would be almost as easy but save a lot of data.
  • monstrositymonstrosity Posts: 2,042member
    Who the hell reads that god awful sensationalist tech tabloid anyway?



    It got relegated to my 'full of shit' news pile years ago.
  • diamondgeezadiamondgeeza Posts: 151member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by monstrosity View Post


    Who the hell reads that god awful sensationalist tech tabloid anyway?



    It got relegated to my 'full of shit' news pile years ago.



    conde nasty
  • emulatoremulator Posts: 251member
    Forget html5, who cares (just because Jobs say so?!?)



    Still NO 64 bit support for creative suite (only PS) still no 64 bit flash plugin and so on... x64 is more important than some html standard that won't even be around long (if it catches on at all).
  • markymark7markymark7 Posts: 38member
    Trust me, the Vanity Fair issue is even more hideous than the Wired issue. These guys are COMPLETELY out of their frickin minds. Some people will purchase the first issues just to see what they're like, but they won't be back again at the current price-points.
  • blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,179member
    Seems like Apple needs to release some pro-level html5 authoring tools.
  • dlcmhdlcmh Posts: 43member
    Thanks for highlighting the difference in the technical approach taken by Adobe / WIRED vs Sports Illustrated.



    This is an interesting comment by The Wonder Factory, the folks who did the HTML5 prototype for SI:

    Quote:

    Every article uses the new HTML5 elements for structure: section, article, aside, et al. We're also using drag and drop (both built-in and custom), geolocation, web workers, video, app cache, and a lot of neat tricks to speed everything up. The app performs significantly faster in HTML5 because we don't have to rely on Javascript to animate objects or Flash to embed beautiful typography.



    Also, by using HTML5, content is searchable, re-purposable, and can integrate live data in addition to static content.
  • esummersesummers Posts: 871member
    Sounds like adobe wasn't prepared and this was the best they could do in a week. I can't image this content wouldn't be vector based in the future. I would have assumed they used pdf to get it out the door quick... but whatever.
  • digitalclipsdigitalclips Posts: 15,152member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Blastdoor View Post


    Seems like Apple needs to release some pro-level html5 authoring tools.



    Agreed!
  • jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    At least they finally got an article right. Adobe never released a version of Flash for mobile devices, so mobile Flash wasn't even an option. It's nice to see someone finally placing the blame where it belongs instead of simply blaming Apple.



    Of course, you have to wonder about Conde Nast:

    "Condé Nast designs its paper magazines using Adobe's InDesign, so it seemed like a natural progression to output its InDesign page layout into Adobe's companion Flash Professional app to generate Flash content that could be viewed on mobile devices. "



    it has been 3 years since Apple released the iPhone. It has been widely known for most of that time that NO mobile devices support Flash and even Adobe's promises suggest that only a tiny portion would ever support Flash.



    Why did it take Conde Nast so long to realize that Flash wasn't an option? They apparently woke up last week and said "oops, no Flash" rather than taking the time to plan properly.
  • imemineimemine Posts: 12member
    The 'experts' at Wired didn't anticipate that iPad wouldn't use flash?!? Really?? Three years of flash-free iPhone and still no clue? I don't buy it. Is it possible that CNaste thought they could 'muscle' it onto the iPad? That they thought iPad would be more dependent on their content than they would depend on iPad? Ironic, funny, sad... I'm not sure what the proper reaction should be.

    Adobe is done. I hope Wired improves. Whether you like the magazine or not, it was one of the more anticipated periodicals promised for iPad. Years down the road, we may be looking back at this as 'the' example of what went right and what went wrong.
  • kerrybkerryb Posts: 270member
    I was excited to finally see a Conde Nast magazine available for the iPad so I purchased it. Thought something must be wrong with my wifi connection when I noticed there was little download progress. A while later..... The Wired icon appeared on my screen. This is it? I thought. Really felt and looked like big digital image files. I was shock to learn that my wifi connection was working perfectly but the Wired issue was half a gig big. Something is wrong with this, where is the advantage over buying a print copy? Once again Adobe and it's 90's technology is cock blocking the future. Thanks Adobe, (sarcasm)
  • kerrybkerryb Posts: 270member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Blastdoor View Post


    Seems like Apple needs to release some pro-level html5 authoring tools.



    Please someone if not Apple
  • myapplelovemyapplelove Posts: 1,515member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by monstrosity View Post


    Who the hell reads that god awful sensationalist tech tabloid anyway?



    It got relegated to my 'full of shit' news pile years ago.



    Me too one of the most bs tech rags. And worst than most o them because like you said it's sensationalist and vapid while professing it's self importance. Always a bad combination...



    Btw for a rag that is supposed to be about foresight (.com foresight for example. ) they've been caught with their pants down once more. And we mean about really rudimentary things here...
  • osinlosinl Posts: 5member
    What I have discovered with many sites and publication that are wrapped in an app, is that they dont support many multitouch gestures, specifically pinch and/or tap zoom, or if they do its an unreadable enlargement of an image. I hope that this quick and dirty solution does not become the trend as it will destroy the experience of using an ipad.
  • ajmasajmas Posts: 521member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by esummers View Post


    Sounds like adobe wasn't prepared and this was the best they could do in a week. I can't image this content wouldn't be vector based in the future. I would have assumed they used pdf to get it out the door quick... but whatever.



    I would have assumed PDF would have been a more suitable platform, as well. Heck its even Adobe technology. Maybe Adobe needs to work with Apple to expand the functionality of the PDF reader on the iPad and make it a more viable platform for publishers, if they seriously want to hold on to part of the pie.
  • dick applebaumdick applebaum Posts: 11,220member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by osinl View Post


    What I have discovered with many sites and publication that are wrapped in an app, is that they dont support many multitouch gestures, specifically pinch and/or tap zoom, or if they do its an unreadable enlargement of an image. I hope that this quick and dirty solution does not become the trend as it will destroy the experience of using an ipad.



    This Flash in sheep's clothing approach has got to be a one-off attempt.



    Condé Nast would be crazy to release another issue, or another Magazine using this tool-- yielding this result.



    I suspect that the Wired app's popularity was caused by people looking to see the future of Print for the iPad era.



    They, didn't deliver!



    I would like to see the next iPad magazine* offered as a Lite (free version) with full function/navigation, a few articles pages, a few ads... and the option to in-app purchase the full version. And, especially a "customer feedback" channel to encourage the Consumer to tell the Publisher, what he expects, likes and dislikes about the magazine!



    *regardless of publisher, Title, or tools used.



    IMO, it will take more than a pretty cover, a famous reputation, and even good articles to consistently sell magazines in the iPad era!





    There's an opportunity here! No one expects you (the publisher) to get it 100% right out of the gate.



    But, this, Wired app, is going in the wrong direction!





    It is all about the experience, stupid!



    .
  • lxglxg Posts: 19member
    Downloaded and paid 4.99 for a large 500MB image file. I can safely say I'm a sucker.

    With the AT&T data cap @ 2GB...a 500MB + file size for a e-mag will add up quickly if you are heavy mag/book reader. I understand deadlines are important, but I hope this is not going to be a trend. Otherwise, e-mags don't have much of a future for me.
  • cmf2cmf2 Posts: 1,427member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by lxg View Post


    Downloaded and paid 4.99 for a large 500MB image file. I can safely say I'm a sucker.

    With the AT&T data cap @ 2GB...a 500MB + file size for a e-mag will add up quickly if you are heavy mag/book reader. I understand deadlines are important, but I hope this is not going to be a trend. Otherwise, e-mags don't have much of a future for me.



    I don't like that argument given the fact that you aren't even allowed to download apps of that size over 3G... A magazine shouldn't be that large, but you will be downloading it over WiFi, not 3G.
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