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Jan 2011

Will the Mac App Store benefit small businesses?

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Yesterday, the Mac App Store finally arrived, and millions of people rejoiced as Angry Birds finally became available for people who didn’t want to drop hundreds on the latest Smart Phone, or for those who didn’t fancy using an archaic download system or waiting for physical copies of classic Apple software, such as iLife.

However, a small few – namely small businesses who develop software for the Mac – were celebrating the fact that Apple have just given them their biggest window into their target market in the operating system’s entire history. Now, you can hit front page on a program that comes with every version of Snow Leopard from 10.6.1 onwards. Astonishing news, and ignoring the fact that hackers have already started pirating the downloadable software, I was content to fling small cartoon birds at buildings housing nasty green pigs well into the evening.

It’s a big step forward for the company, as they’re finally throwing their arms wide to admit that yes, their operating system doesn’t run the vast majority of popular software and yes, that means they do need a means of allowing people to download their niche Mac-friendly programs instead of having to traipse down to the closest Apple Store and fork out a higher price for a physical copy. Digital distribution through Apple also means the same thing for developers of business software that Vale’s Steam for Mac platform meant for games programmers – they needed nothing more than a good bit of code and graphics, a cover image, and some copy for the Store blurb.

But if you’re looking for a time to get into developing for the best brand-name in small applications, then do it now. The issue with new sales platforms is that dominance comes quickly and is never released by the few programs that nail the market’s interest within the first few hours. If Angry Birds comes off the top ten at any point this year, I’ll be surprised, unless it’s been usurped by a sequel. In fact, Angry Birds 1-10 would still be a feasible top-of-the-market list.

So jump onto Twitter, Facebook, start sending emails – this week is the time to be a small developer for OSX. Think of this as a friendly nudge from your small business cheerleader – I want to see you guys on that App Store by Sunday evening! The best of luck – price low, and aim high!

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Sep 2010

Will the US Government make brand promotion harder?

Posted in Online PR, Social Media | 0 Comments

Say "no" to the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act.This morning, I read about the bill that Senator Patrick Leahy is attempting to push through the US legislative system that attempts to clamp down on all piracy and websites considered by some to be a threat to their copyrighted material. This could kill everything from innocent filesharing sites to YouTube, and it might not even stop there. The same feeling of outrage and disappointment with US politicians had sifted its way through my mind last year when rumours flew about that the UK government were after the same thing.

YouTube is a godsend. Every indie film-maker who has ever lacked an outlet or a website-streaming system must’ve seen God the day they discovered it. Around a decade down the line, it’s the biggest media streaming site on the planet. Unfortunately, countless uploads mean the odd TV show that’s still in copyright will slip through the net, but the corporations responsible will usually take it down pronto.

But when promoting products, films, music or brands through social media (YouTube can make a claim to all this is occurring through its channels and vlogging/video responses systems), word-of-mouth is crucial. Fan pages, status messages, Tweets… what happens when people start quoting songs? Or using clips from copyrighted films for a top ten video? Are they banned then? Where does the line get drawn?

Mashable made an interesting point today, that one of the biggest brand trends on Facebook was getting the community to join in on product promotion. “30,000 fans,” says Ford, “and we’ll give away a new car.” But what happens when someone starts copying their idea or their text? Is it infringement? Is there no longer a tolerable grey area? Free speech, to the Americans, is arguably one of the most important aspects of the US Constitution, and a beacon of light across the world. But how free is our expression when the government are knocking on our doors rather than Sony BMI?

What’s worse is that company lobbyists are now trying to push a bill through that wouldn’t need to exist if consumers weren’t constantly pushed towards piracy. Last week, I bought a series pass for series seven of Grey’s Anatomy. I plugged my Macbook into the HDTV and it tells me the program isn’t allowed to play in HD on a non-compatible (non-Apple, let’s not go around the houses here, Steve Jobs) display.

Now, I’ve paid my money, so I’m not about to go grab it off a torrent site. But honestly, will other people? Yes, and you can’t blame them for it. If someone consumes, and by consumes I mean buys a television that should be able to play a programme they paid for, why stop them? Apple are a particularly bad example of this, and notorious for their aversion to third-party compatibility. But if you’re going to ban people from choosing their own clothes, the Marxist “any shirt, so long as it’s red” technique isn’t going to do you any favours.

It calls into question the future of social media. How much can we reasonably discuss? Will libel now come into play when someone moans about their job on a forum, or on Twitter? What if someone manages to upload a film to Facebook? Does Facebook then appear on the US government’s hit-list? Are Google really going to let their own government destroy a significant chunk of YouTube’s traffic?

Do me a favour, American citizens. Find a petition, and sign it, now. If you work in social media, or at any company where free speech or the odd dodgy upload might appear, fight for your right to exist. Or prepare for the internet to resemble Victorian England.

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