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Impact - A Blog by INM

Archive for '2010'

    Are We Ready for a Cloud Based OS?

    Chromo Logo

    I have the feeling that people have said a lot about it already – maybe because over the past few weeks, Google has been taking up a lot of space in my (customized) news feed. The Google Chrome OS is now being used by real users and it delivers, as promised, a free, cloud based OS that is simple to use and that boots very quickly. It is a very interesting OS, and at the same time, I'm wondering how I would use it.

    I must admit that my web browser has become the software that I use the most, especially in my personal life. This has happened mostly because in the past few years I have actively used more and more online services to fill the needs that were previously completed by software installed on my computer. All of this is also possible due to the advancements in rich internet applications (RIAs). There are obviously a lot of advantages in moving things online: setting things up is faster, things are available everywhere and are always in sync, things are often sharable with others, and it limits the need for backups (or at least, the part under my control) – and this is only to name a few.

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    Preparing for the ASAE Technology Conference

    ASAE Technology Conference 2010

    As we prepare to pack-up for Washington and set-up our booth for this year’s American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Technology Conference next week, my mind is focused on the challenges this market is facing. Just like for-profit companies, Associations are struggling with staying relevant to their members in this tough market and are looking for new ways to increase non-dues revenue. One such channel is though their publications. Association publishing is big business and will continue to grow in the years to come. According to the recent Folio Magazine Survey, 29 percent of associations publish five or more magazines, and 12 percent publish 20 or more titles. But today, revenue from these publications is still low, with 24 percent of associations saying that magazines account for between one and nine percent of their entire revenue stream.

    Looking to the future, associations need to embrace a dual channel publishing model, keeping their print titles and offering an online alternative. While print is still king in terms of revenue for these association publications, creating both a print and online model is key to their success. According to the Folio survey, online media today accounts for about 8.9 of association publication revenue, up from 5.9 percent last year, so association publishers are going there, but many are not moving fast enough to offer their members an engaging digital alternative to print.  

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    TED Phenomenon Hits Montreal

    tedxmcgill

    Last weekend, the TED phenomenon came to Montreal in the form of Relentless Curiosity, a TEDxMcGill event. The TEDx  program offers communities, individuals and organizations the opportunity to deliver TED-like experiences at the local level. TEDxMcGill attracted nearly 600 attendees, making it the largest TEDx event in North America to-date.

    The event was very much in the spirit of TED, a non-profit organization devoted to “Ideas worth Spreading”. It featured a combination of local speakers from the academic community as well as some interesting community speakers. The organizers also aired some select TED talks that fit nicely with the local programming. Ideas discussed throughout the day ranged from stimulating curiosity among managers, through to saving a million lives by spending time online.

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    The Economist Tackles the Internet of Things

    Connected W keyboard letters

    Earlier this month, the Economist ran a special report on Smart Systems, otherwise known as the Internet of Things. The piece, entitled “It’s a Small World”, looked at the convergence of the real and digital worlds and the potential impact this has on us as a society.

    If we think back, two decades ago the world was revolutionized by a similar type of network that provided people with a way to interact with each other – the Internet.  In the last decade the evolution of the Internet, defined as Web 2.0 by Tim O’Reilly in 2005, added user-generated content and created the concept of software applications engaging with each other directly.

    Today, many analysts agree that this decade will witness another revolution with the proliferation of Smart Objects, defined as objects that interact with each other over the Internet. These objects may be truly smart and advanced, such as iPhones or set-top boxes, or may be simple and dumb, such as sensors, cameras, or RFID readers. These objects will further mesh into our social fabric in the coming years and become a part of our societal norms.

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    Celebrating World Usability Day

    World Usability Day Logo

    Today is World Usability Day, an international celebration marked by 144 different events in more than 43 countries. This year’s theme, “Making life easy!”, is focused on creating awareness for designs, products, and services that improve and facilitate communications.

    In celebrating this event, it’s a good time to sit back and reflect on how our experience with software applications has changed over the years. Years ago, software was focused on features and capabilities -the more an application did, the better it was. The role of the user was to learn now to work within the constraints of an application. There were guides, training sessions and thick manuals for each application a user needed to master. If a user needed help, he could always hit F1 and filter through reams of text-based content to figure it out.

    Today many applications have evolved to better address the needs of users. Developers consider usability throughout the design process and the well-designed applications out there are built from the perspective of the users, fueled by real-life user stories. Advances in user interface design enable us to better guide the user and to provide more contextual and relevant help.

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    Death of Silverlight Greatly Exaggerated

    Microsoft Silverlight Logo

    Late last week a number of posts popped up online talking about the “death of Silverlight”. These posts were roughly based on a piece by Mary Jo Foley from ZDNet, who had reported on Microsoft’s change in strategy around Silverlight. Based on what Mary Jo saw at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) last week, Silverlight was more in the shadows than at previous conferences, so she spoke with Bob Muglia, Microsoft’s President in charge of the company’s server and tools business and got the scoop on Microsoft’s change in strategy with Silverlight. Bob stated that “Silverlight is our development platform for Windows Phone”, and he went on to state that it also has some “sweet spots” for media and business applications. However, he stated, for cross-platform development Microsoft was putting its weight behind the only real alternative at the moment, HTML5.

    Sites like Tech Crunch jumped on these comments, took them out of context, and reported that Silverlight was dead. This sparked outrage by a group of Silverlight developers who countered with their own list of reasons why HTML5 is not ready for prime-time. Finally Bob Muglia came out himself and posted a reply clarifying his position and reaffirming Microsoft’s commitment to Silverlight as a media and business application technology. He restated that Silverlight is an important and strategic technology for Microsoft, that it is the development platform for Windows Phone, and that the company is working hard on the next release.

    So what’s the final outcome of this back and forth? Silverlight is not dead. Microsoft is simply stating that if you are looking to do true cross-platform application development, then HTML5 will be your best option. However, for certain media application and for enterprise applications with rich interactions and complex data visualization, Silverlight remains a strong and viable alternative.

    State of the Tablet Market – 11 Months Later

    iPad Tablet with New York Times App

    Back in January we posted about the coming slew of tablets that were slated to hit the market. Now, heading into the holiday season, nearly 11 months later, it’s interesting to see where things stand. Just looking at my favorite source of tablet news, Goodreader.com, there are pages of announcements and reviews of new devices in the last week alone.

    When I wrote the original article back in January, the iPad was still just a rumor, lumped in with a bunch of other “in development” products. Now, in just the first two quarters of the year, the iPad has generated nearly $5 billion in new revenue for Apple.  This number is continuing to grow as Apple rolls out the device to a broader global market this week and US-based AT&T and Verizon start selling it in the US.

    Another project we mentioned back in January was the joint Microsoft/HP tablet, theCourier. It looked promising, but was killed off in April by HP due to power hungry Intel hardware and dissatisfaction with Windows 7 performance as a tablet OS. The new HP tablet, the Slate 500, was announced last week. It still features Windows 7 but opted for a more powerful Intel Atom processor and a slew of new features.

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    Testing Out the Adobe Packager for iPhone

    Flash logo in an iPhone

    With the changes to the iPhone developer agreement a few weeks back, the Adobe Packager for iPhone gained new life. The packager, which is a feature of Adobe Flash Professional CS5 software and the Adobe AIR SDK, offers a way to use existing Flash code to create native applications for the iPhone and iPad. We’ve been working on native iPhone and iPad development for some time now, so we were curious as to how this application could be used to port over some of our existing Flex-developed client applications. We took a sampling of applications we’ve built over the past few months, some simple and some more complex, and used the Adobe Packager for iPhone to convert them. What we discovered is that there are some significant limitations with this tool.

    If you have a relatively simple application, the Adobe Packager for iPhone may be a viable alternative. It can work well as a stop gap solution for firms that don’t have in-house expertise in Objective C, but only for simple applications.

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    Two Upcoming Webinars – Register Now

    Laptop and notebook

    We’ve just scheduled two new webinars for the month of November. The first session, “20 Tips for an Effective Website Revamp” provides organizations embarking on a site redesign with an end-to-end guide through the common trouble points. It brings forth 20 key tips that every organization must keep in mind, including details such as how to plan your project, analyze key requirements and user needs, and choose the best technology. We'll also look at how to optimize your site so it can be easily found by search engines, which performance indicators are important to monitor, and how to promote your new site to your stakeholders.

    The second of our two webinars “Building Your Magazine Archive: What You Need to Consider” looks at the process of taking back-issues of magazines, journals and other publications and building a searchable archive. This session will walk content publishers through the motivation for creating an archive, look at some strategies for getting started and present the details to consider around digitizing your content. We’ll look at the technology options available and view a live demo.

    Sign up today for these sessions on our website, or visit our past recordings to hear webinars that we’ve offered.

    Do you have a suggestion for a webinar topic you’d like us to present? We’re always open to ideas. Post your suggestions below in the comments.

    The Challenges Facing Associations Today

    CSAE National Conference & Showcase

    A  few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the Canadian Society of Association Executives National Conference and Tradeshow in Quebec City. At INM, we’ve worked with associations now for a number of years, providing a variety of services, including online and CD-based membership directories, Interactive publishing solutions, abstract management solutions for large meetings, and recently, design and development for website revamps. However, we haven’t really spent time with this audience disucssing broadly the challenges that this market is facing. Associations are unique organizations, funded primarily through membership revenue and sponsorships. In this recession economy, both of these sources are frequently cut from budgets.

    Associations are reaching out and looking for new ways to generate non-dues revenue while simultaneously reaching out to enhance the value of membership and increase retention. Associations are trying new engagement techniques and are building up social media channels to increase their presence. They’re turning to mobile as a way to reach members when and how they want to engage, and they’re creating and distributing interactive content to deepen the engagement level.

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    Innovation Stories at BIF-6

    BIF-6 Logo

    Earlier this month I attended an interesting conference called BIF-6, hosted by the Business Innovation Factory.  This was the sixth installment of this event, held in beautiful Providence, Rhode Island. The organizer, Saul Kaplan, and his team did an excellent job pulling this event together in a very appropriate matter - comfortable enough, but not overly extravagant.

    Each speaker had 15 minutes to tell a story related to innovation. Some speakers used support images, but PowerPoint slides were strictly forbidden. In general, the speakers were excellent. Some of them took certain liberties in extending personal experiences into doubtful generalizations, but most stayed within the limits of recounting their stories or connecting them with established knowledge.

    There were so many great stories, that I won’t even attempt to list them all. However, I will say that John Maeda (RISD), Peter Menzel & Faith D’Alusio (Material World, Hungry Planet), Don Tapscott (Wikinomics), Dale Dougherty (Make Magazine),Richard Satava (DARPA), Gerard Van Grinsven (Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital) and Carmen Medina (ex-deputy director of CIA) all gave outstanding talks on topics ranging from Media to Ethics to Management.

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    UX Masterclass Presents Future View of User Experience

    UX Masterclass

    Earlier this week our friends at Yu Centrik and the UXalliance hosted UX Masterclass, a one-day international conference on user experience design, here in Montreal. The two groups did a great job of presenting a more advanced take on usability topics than you typically see in a one-day event. They recruited over 25 expert speakers from across the globe and provided local UX teams with the opportunity to meet with some of the leading minds in the UX space.

    What was interesting about the conference was that it looked beyond the traditional content around user experience and provided an opportunity to dig into the processes and approaches for resigning the interactions of the future. Presentations went beyond the “expert instinct” and looked more at focusing on the client’s end-to-end user experience. This involves mapping all of the relevant touch points with a client from the first engagement to the last, not just looking at the experience within a specific application. This moves the UX effort out to the entire company, including marketing, customer support, administration, management, designers and developers. It also involves looking at user experience design that’s multiplatform, supports multiple entry points and accommodates a global audience.

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    A Step Closer to Universal RIAs

    Apple Logo

    A move by Apple this week to ease up on its restrictions for the creation of mobile applications for the Apple App Store is a step forward toward universal rich internet applications (RIAs). Back in April 2010, Apple tried to restrict how companies could code and build their applications. The company’s justification was that the restrictions were in place to protect quality and ensure security. However, it really just closed the door for many companies who were unable or unwilling to build technology using native development.

    With Apple loosening up their restrictions, businesses can now create applications with a variety of technologies and tools and port them over to an Apple-friendly format. Abode is a step ahead in this race, as they had already rolled out the Packager for iPhone with CS5 to applications to an Apple format. As of today, Flash content in a browser is still restricted.

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    The Web is Not Dead, but it is Changing

    Web Browser

    Two weeks ago I posted about the battle of the web browsers and what this meant for businesses. Even with the evolution of the browsers and the added functionalities they deliver, they are becoming irrelevant in the grand scope of the web. Years ago your experience on the web was dictated by the browser you choose. They all had different features and supported different options. Now, the web browser is virtually invisible. Users want access to the information they are seeking and they want the tool they are using to do so to just make this happen, without getting in the way.

    The cover of the September issue of Wired boldly states “The Web is Dead”. This is a strong statement and one I don’t necessarily agree with. Yes, the face of the web is different and the ways that people are seeking information are different, but the fundamental concept of the web is still alive and kicking. People are still using the web to access information, but what’s changed is how the information is delivered. The days of funneling users through a web browser to your homepage are numbered, but users are still accessing information online. They’re just coming in through different doors, like web applications (iPad applications, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, RSS feeds and more).

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    The Psychology of User Experience: Usability Week 2010

    Toronto Skyline

    Earlier this month I attended Usability Week 2010 in Toronto. This week-long event was put on by the Nielsen Norman Group and it featured a series of full-day tutorials led by usability experts on a variety of subjects, ranging from information architecture through to user testing.

    The tutorial I attended focused on the role the human mind plays in defining the principles of usability. It did a great job of presenting details about how humans process information and the impact that this has in predicting peoples’ reactions and making effective design decisions leading to intuitive interfaces.

    What was really interesting to me about this event was the diversity of the attendees. Although many attendees held user experience or usability roles, there were also a significant number of lead developers there too. This reflects a fundamental shift in the industry. Traditionally there was little common ground between UI engineering and UI design. However, recently these two groups have come together more often to deliver applications with complex user experience requirements.

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    Battle of the Web Browsers Heats Up

    IE, Firefox and Chrome logos

    It’s been an active couple of weeks in terms of web browser news with a plethora of sneak peeks and leaked screenshots. Everyone’s trying to one-up each other in the battle of the browsers.

    It started with the beta release of Mozilla’s Firefox 4 browser, which adds support touch events within the browser on Windows 7 machines. They’ve also added a few other changes like moving the tabs option to the top of the browser and enhancing the JavaScript support to beef up performance of all those slick HTML5 web app demos that are making the rounds.

    Next was the Chrome 6 Beta. Many of the changes on this version can be considered cosmetic – mainly streamlined tabs and buttons. The major feature is the addition of a new auto-fill feature with integrated synch. This allows all instances of Chrome to share form data and use it to auto-fill forms.

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    Does Location-Based Social Media Make Sense for Businesses?

    Pin on a map

    With the launch of Facebook Places this week, it got me thinking about how businesses can really take advantage of this growing trend of users “checking in” at various locations. In the early days of this technology with Foursquare and Gowalla most of the emphasis was placed on the personal social use of the application for meeting up with friends and finding friends nearby. But the value in the application has always been centered on the business angle. For retailers, restaurants, and other consumer-driven businesses it’s always been about collecting customer info and offering rewards to frequent visitors. Businesses looking to attract and award clients to drive loyalty should consider these tools as part of their marketing mix.

    In looking deeper into this technology there are some other creative business uses for it. For example, it’s also being used at conferences to encourage attendees to visit exhibitor booths. I’ve stumbled across a few examples of associations using this technique to drive traffic to sponsor and exhibitor booths. I’ve also seen a number of service-based businesses in the B2B sector using Foursquare to drive walk-ins to their offices, promising anything from free beer, to cool t-shirts, to discounts on services.

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    Why Businesses Shouldn’t Overlook Android

    Android Robot Logo

    It’s been a dismal time for Google with the discontinuation of Google Wave, but some interesting news has surfaced about the market share figures for the Google Android operating system. In the second quarter of 2010, Android Smartphone shipments have surged by a whopping 886%. During the same period, RIM saw a 41% jump in Blackberry sales, allowing it to maintain almost a 50% market share lead over the iPhone. These are some interesting numbers, but why is the Android seeing such an incredible increase? One possible issue inflating these figures is the definition of what constitutes a “Smartphone”. While one would expect a Smartphone to be a robust, app-running device, for the purposes of market share data, pretty much any device that has the power to surf the web and is running Android to do so is counted as an “Android powered Smartphone”.

    What does this higher than expected Android market share data mean for businesses contemplating getting into the mobile market? Well, the good news is that the market is narrowing down to just three major players in terms of OS (until Windows finally comes out with its Windows Phone7 OS). The even better news is that companies now have a viable delivery alternative to the iPhone for rich mobile content. The Android operating system supports Flash and has its own App Store. With its skyrocketing adoption level, Android is quickly becoming another channel for reaching consumers and it’s one that companies in the mobile space should have on their radars.

    Will the New Bing Maps Apps Help Stir-Up Some Competition?

    Bing Maps

    Going head-to-head with Google Maps and Mapquest is tough, but Microsoft has made strides recently with Bing Maps by delivering a new API and some interesting Silverlight 4 features that stir up the wow factor. The Bing Maps API has led to the development of some interesting, and even useful, applications that are available directly on the Bing Maps website.

    The latest application rolled out is the winner of the “King of Bing Maps” Competition - a Taxi Fare Calculator. This app enables users to pick a metropolitan region and type in two addresses. The app then calculates the shortest fare and gives and an estimated price based on the pick-up charge, the by-the-mile fee and the time fee. Additional examples of applications available include a Random Location Generator, a GeoSalesTax viewer, and a World of Football app that shows scores and crowd shots from stadiums around the globe.

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    Five Usability Challenges of the iPad

    New York Times App on the iPad

    After spending some quality time with the family iPad over the past two weeks, I’ve discovered some key usability challenges that are hard to ignore.  A major issue with the device is the lack of consistency between applications. Although Apple claims to have a stringent review process, the experience and the behaviours vary considerably between apps. At one extreme you have the infinite page scrolling of the Gap 1969 Stream application, which is nothing more than a massive page that you can navigate through and click on items to view. At the opposite extreme, you have the Flipboard application that transforms a simple RSS reader into a new type of interactive magazine.

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    YouTube and Hulu Say HTML5 Video Not Ready for Prime Time

    HTML5 logo

    When companies like Apple and Scribd start using HTML5 for their offerings, organizations start to question whether they should be using it for their own applications. However, it’s important to remember that while HTML5 has made strong strides lately, it is still in the draft development phase and it is early for organizations to rely solely on it for their core business applications.

    This point was clear when YouTube posted a rather lengthy blog post about its experience with the HTML5 <video> tag and how it does not yet meet the company's rather intense requirements. Features like full-screen video, access to cameras and microphones, embedding content on other sites, and live video streaming are not yet fully supported by HTML5 <video>.

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    Are You Ready for “The Internet of Things”

    Connected Devices

    In the past few weeks alone, the concept of “The Internet of Things” has been named as a top five trend of 2010 by ReadWriteWeb and has taken home the Cisco I-Prize, an award given to the global community in recognition of “the next major business opportunity”.

    What is the “Internet of Things”?  It’s when real-world objects are connected to the internet, often using sensors, barcodes and RFID tags. Implementations range from something mainstream like running web applications in a car, such as the new AppLink service slated to debut in Ford Fiestas next year, to complex web-connected sensors attached to physical devices that trigger feedback and actions.

    Hewlett Packard Labs is working on a massive implementation of sensors that are similar to RFID tags with accelerometer and detectors for motion and vibration. They plan to use these sensors to monitor everything from structural strains to weather conditions. They will collect data in real-time and help businesses make better decisions.

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    What does the Death of the Kin Mean for the Mobile Market?

    Microsoft Kin

    For a trend named one of the top five of the year by Read Write Web, the mobile market certainly has Microsoft scrambling. Just six weeks into its launch, Microsoft has killed the Kin, its answer mobile effort geared toward the youth market. Maybe it was due to low sales, or expensive data plans, or the fact that Microsoft just isn’t hip enough to capture the teen market, but the Kin just never took off.

    The Kin rose from Microsoft’s $500M acquisition of Danger back in 2008. This move was supposed to firm up the company’s floundering mobile strategy and provide a channel into the young, internet savvy and social customer market. Did Microsoft’s stogy corporate culture take over and stamp out the innovation the Danger team was known for?  For now the Kin team has been rolled into the Windows Phone7 team and will work toward bringing this device to market.

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    Why does it have to be HTML5 vs Flash?

    Boxing gloves

    Why is it that when people talk about technology they reduce the concepts down to a black and white comparison? It’s always one technology against another or one product that’s good and one that’s bad.

    This is case in point with the recent battle that’s emerged between HTML5 and Flash. HTML5 is being touted by developers, bloggers and press alike as the new “Flash Killer”. This angle seems to be based on the one-dimensional view that Flash is only used for video (rather than the full spectrum of game, 3D and application development it’s really suited for), and that the fast and reliable video support that’s offered with HTML5 will make it the new choice for developers. But don’t count Flash as dead yet, it still offers a number of unique features that are not yet supported in HTML5, such as live streaming, DRM, and rich video controls. Plus it has a much greater span of support than HTML5 does today.

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    Internet Users Reading Newspapers Online – Why Aren’t More Publishers There?

    Online Newspaper

    There was an interesting story today on Marketing Charts about the number of internet users that read newspapers online. Not surprisingly, ComScore Media Matrix states that three out of five internet users claim to read newspapers online each month. This means that nearly 123.9 million unique visitors accessed and read a newspaper online in May. By comparison, about 61% of the total online population in America relies on the web for their main source of news. This means that many of these contacts are reading online newspapers as part of their total news consumption.

    These numbers really are compelling. In the past, online publishing was not deemed to have the audience or the credibility that it does today. I believe that the December 2009 rules passed by the BPA contributed greatly to legitimizing this industry. These rules allow publishers to count digital editions as part of their readership numbers.

    However, for an industry that is growing so quickly and is showing strong revenue potential for advertising, it is one many publishers are still holding back on entering. With the new ePublishing technologies on the market and the lower cost and barriers to entry why aren’t more publishers openly embracing this channel?

    Getting Started with ePublishing: A Free Webinar – June 29, 2010

    Pages turning out of a laptop

    Publishers are facing a very difficult market. Ad revenues are down, subscriptions are down and competition is heating up for the titles that are left to battle it out. While this leads to some funny parodies, it's no laughing matter for publishers struggling to stay afloat. Combine this with the fact that technology is quickly changing and it's easy to see how challenging it is for magazine and journal publishers to move quickly enough to keep up. Up until now, many small to mid-sized publishers have avoided publishing online, thinking that the barrier to entry was high, as it meant changing processes, and investing in technology. But getting started with online publishing is now quick, easy and cost-effective to do.

    INM is offering a free webinar on Tuesday, June 29, 2010 to show publishers how they can easily start publishing their titles online. We’ll explore the market conditions, the key benefits, the different approaches to ePublishing and will show how to get up and running with an online magazine or journal in a matter of minutes, for less than $20 per month.

    Registration is free, but space is limited. Register now!

    Building Our New Website

    INM.com Homepage

    If you’ve been to our website recently, you’ll notice a big change. We’ve recently completed a full site revamp, including new visuals, new content and a whole new back-end content management system (CMS).

    It’s been over three years since our last site and the world of website design has changed vastly since then. Years ago building a site meant investing heavily in the bits and bytes, focusing a lot of time, money and energy on the technology behind the site. However, today, the opposite is the case. The real value in a web project lies in the site architecture, the content and the branding. This is where the largest bulk of the efforts behind a site should be invested.

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    INM President Part of Canadian Delegation at World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT)

    As we get ready to celebrate the Victoria Day long weekend here in Canada, our president Vahe Kassardjian is packing up to join the delegation representing Canada at the 2010 World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT) in Amsterdam. This event gathers business leaders, public officials, and opinion leaders from across the globe to discuss and build a vision of a connected planet with access for all. Vahe is one of 30 selected leaders chosen to join the Canadian delegation, led by the Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry.

    The next WCIT event in 2012 will be hosted in by Canada and will take place in Montreal, May 21-24, 2012.

    I’m sure we will have some interesting insights from Vahe after he returns from this event.

    Lessons Learned from Windows 1.0

    Back in the 1980’s IBM believed that the real technology value was in strategic hardware manufacturing. They stepped back and let Microsoft build the operating system, a mere component of the hardware that IBM viewed as insignificant. However, as we all know, the software wound up being the differentiating product that made Microsoft one of the largest companies in the world, while the hardware became a commodity. This lesson comes to mind again recently with Apple’s new Gianduia technology announcement, a client-side, standards based framework for Rich Internet Applications (RIAs).

    With Gianduia, Apple is once again moving toward the user and the valuable interaction that breeds loyalty and connection with a technology. Gianduia also helps to explain why Apple has been so adamant with freezing Adobe out, first technically and now legally. With Adobe’s Open Screen Project, Adobe was on its way toward becoming the bridge that enabled a unified rich experience across all hardware. This would put Adobe in the value position and relegate Apple into the role IBM played all those decades ago. Instead with Guiaduia, Apple provides developers with an alternative to native Objective C development and delivers a viable alternative for RIAs on its hardware, increasing its value and further entrenching its value with consumers.

    Gianduia and the Open Screen Project ultimately both reinforce the importance of rich engagements that RIAs deliver. The fact that two 800lb gorillas are fighting over who gets to provide the platform for delivering a rich experience just further proves that this is where the real value lies.

    An Interactive Patient Kiosk for a Montreal Hospital

    MUHC Patient Kiosk

    It’s been a busy few weeks for project releases here at INM. On April 16, 2010 we unveiled a new touch screen kiosk that we built for the McGill University Health Center (MUHC). The kiosks are deployed in the emergency rooms of two of their centers to provide patients with an easy way to find clinics and pharmacies in their area. Patients simply enter their postal code and are shown an interactive map with marked locations for nearby resources. The map displays the local transit routes and provides details about the locations, including contact info and hours of operation.

    While this was a pretty simple project for us technically, it was an interesting one for us from a user experience design perspective. Creating a kiosk that will be used by people of all ages and skill levels, particularly when they are not feeling their best, is a challenge. We focused on creating a simple, clean interface with targeted functionality. The user’s interactions with the screen are clearly identified and the application uses movement and transitions to help orient the user. The kiosks are powered by a custom-built rich internet application that uses Adobe AIR. The application also leverages Adobe Flex and Adobe Flash for animation and effects. The kiosks are designed to be completely self-contained to adhere to the hospital’s security policy that prohibits the use of an internet connection or network access. To see a French demo video of the kiosk in action, visit the Cyberpresse.ca website.

    Why We Adopted Agile Development Methodologies

    When you’re part of a company with over twenty years of experience in developing products and projects, making a change the very core of your company can be a big step, especially when you have a good track record and things are working pretty well. When we started toying with the idea of changing how we developed software a few years ago, we asked ourselves many questions about whether we really needed to make this change and how it would impact us. Now, a few years into it, we’re quite happy with the results. As with any change, there are a few bumps along the way, but would we go back? Definitely not.

    For those that aren’t familiar with agile development, in particular the Scrum model of agile development, it’s a fundamental shift from the way the industry used to build projects as the way a project is approached is different. As the agile manifesto states, the focus is around people and their interactions, and not around the tools, technology or processes. The way that the projects are managed is also different. The team works closely, with daily interaction between the business contacts and the developers to ensure that the software stays in-line with potentially changing business requirements. Work is done in short, tightly managed sprints, making it easier to track progress and solicit regular feedback. These sprints produce fully tested and robust deliverables of the highest-value features that can be evaluated by all parties and provide a solid basis to keep building on.

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    iPhone OS 4 SDK and the Developer Agreement Changes

    As you may have already seen last week, Apple announced the iPhone OS 4 SDK, which brings forward a few new, interesting and useful features. New to the iPhone, that is.

    From my own light reading of the announcements, most features are actually far from innovative, it’s more about catching up to what was considered the “bare minimum expectations” of a phone, before the iPhone first appeared on the market. Features like background music, alerts from inside applications, some form of multitasking, etc. are exciting only because they were absent from the iPhone so far.

    I hope someone will write the book on how Apple and Steve Jobs came to do such a daring thing with the iPhone. He was able to successfully release the innovation element first, without expectations and only deliver a technology that met base expectations after the innovation was adopted by the mass market. This is quite a feat.

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    The iPad is Promising to Save the Magazine Industry, But Can Anyone Afford to Build Content for It?

    Late last week VIV Mag released its video demo of a new style magazine built with the iPad in mind. While the demo is impressive and visually stunning, I really question how feasible it will be for already struggling magazine publishers to invest the kind of time and money necessary to create this level of interactive content. Estimates on the cost of producing this issue are in the $100,000 range. This is for a single issue of a niche publication. How many publishers can really afford to bring out 12 issues per year at this cost, regardless of the extra readership that the iPad is promising to deliver?

    With the iPad, there are many new opportunities for publishers to reach users with their digital editions. That is after some re-tooling as many of today’s digital edition technologies leverage Adobe Flash or Microsoft Silverlight for delivery of their content, neither of which the iPad supports. However, it doesn’t wipe the slate clean. The same challenges in the market still exist. Publishers have an oversupply of information, abundant ad space to sell, and intense competition for eyeballs. Plus Apple introduces some new revenue model issues with publishers too. If they add periodical sales to iTunes, then publishers will lose some of their most valuable data – subscriber information.

    How Flash Builder 4 Changes the Designer-Developer Workflow and More

    As you may have seen Adobe released Flash Builder 4 today, the successor of Flex Builder 3. Why the name switch? The change was designed to create a clear distinction between the free open-source Flex framework and commercial solution. Flash Builder 4 comes in two flavours, a Standard version and a Premium Version. This release is great for companies like us that develop rich internet applications with a strong user experience component, as it introduces significant enhancements in the way developers work.

    The most obvious change in Flash Builder 4 is in the designer-developer workflow. In previous versions, the workflow was one-way – the designer would create a layout and hand it off to the developer for implementation. Now, this process has been opened up and there’s a two-way exchange. Designers can still work with the tools they know and love but now they can work in parallel with the developers. Designers can directly make modifications to the design of an application and implement them easily in the mxml files without breaking the logic a developer is working on, as the components are now separate. This makes it easier for designers and developers to deliver well-integrated applications that are driven more by the user experience than by technical requirements.

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    New RIA Application for the Retail Photo Industry

    Well, the secret is finally out! Last week at the Photo Marketing Association (PMA) conference in Anaheim, our partner Tripod Ventures finally unveiled a really cool project that we’ve been working on over the past three years. The application, called Pixtorio One, is a completely new type of photo platform for retailers that leverages rich internet application (RIA) technology and a rich user interface to fundamentally change how customers order prints and other photo products both at in-store kiosks and over the web.

    Pixtorio One Interface

    Pixtorio One provides photo retailers with a single customer experience for both web and kiosk environments, a unified order process for all photo products, and a robust back-end photo management solution. We worked on the concept, development, design of the multi-platform web application as well as the creation of the back-end infrastructure that is architected to handle massive volumes of simultaneous users and process huge numbers of transactions daily. You can learn more about the project by visiting the Pixtorio One website. Congrats to our partner Tripod Ventures on a successful launch!

    Introducing…. Our New Product Owners

    For the past couple of years, our blog has mainly been focused on outside issues and the impact they have on our clients’ businesses. While this information is interesting, it hasn’t allowed our readers to get to know the team here at INM and to better understand who we are. Moving forward, we’re going to be injecting a bit more of ourselves and our personalities into Impact. We’ll be sharing more about what we’re working on, and what makes us tick.

    We’re going to kick this off by introducing you to our new client-facing team, our Product Owners. This is a role that grew out of our adoption of Scrum development methodologies about a year and a half ago. For years, we followed the industry’s traditional model of sales. This meant that we had a few employees who were solely focused on outbound business development. However, as we all know, this model really doesn’t work for anyone anymore. We decided to change this and offer our clients better service, right from their first interaction with us. This meant putting clients immediately in touch with someone knowledgeable that could guide them down the right path, right away. So instead, the first person a potential client now speaks to is also the person who will work on their project and knows the issues, challenges and best practices for their project inside and out. This led to the creation of our Product Owners role.

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    Improved Printing for ePublishing with Adobe AIR 2

    Since the original beta launch of Adobe AIR almost two years ago, one of the key features missing for making it a really useful tool for companies looking to leverage it for ePublishing applications was the limited functionality offered for local printing. We had looked into using Adobe AIR as a way to create a truly online and offline ePublishing solution for delivering PDFs through the browser, like we do today with our INM Reach product online. However, the lack of control in the initial beta version of Adobe AIR meant a lot of workarounds and customizations.

    The new AIR beta 2 release now makes this much more feasible. This release provides developers with tighter integration with the desktop, including much more control over local printers and improved support for cross-platform printing. In addition, it also offers support for detection of mass storage devices, added support for secure socket layer communication and even the ability to open a file with its default application.

    Pepsi Skips Super Bowl XLIV?

    The talk of the town today is most definitely the buzz around the Saint’s victory in yesterday’s XLIV Super Bowl. But of almost equal discussion amongst those in the marketing community is Pepsi’s absence as an event sponsor.

    In the past 20 years, Pepsi has been the single most important advertiser at the Super Bowl, spending over $135M on sponsorship. Last December, Pepsi surprised everyone by announcing that it was pulling its sponsorship and instead will give away $20M to "worthy causes", including health, arts and culture, food and shelter, the planet, neighborhoods and education.

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    iPad – A Neat Gadget, but Who's it For?

    I feel it would be wrong to let this week go by without at least commenting on the launch of the iPad. There is no question that Apple has become the master of hype. Everyone wanted Apple’s new gadget, even before we knew what it was.

    But now that we’ve seen the iPad and heard more about it, the question I ask is “who is this for”? I see what Apple’s trying to do by finding a sweet spot in the market between their current offerings. The iPad does fit a niche today that’s populated by cumbersome, workhorse netbooks that aren’t pretty, but they get the job done, for a reasonable price.

    To me, the iPad is missing a few things to really make it work. Is it an eBook reader? A web browser? A digital lifestyle device? It’s really a jack-of-all-trades, master of none in my opinion. It’s pretty and it offers more real estate than an iPod Touch or an iPhone, but how much more functionality does it really bring to the table?

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    Tablets Becoming a Reality

    Over the past couple of years there’s been a lot of hype about Apple releasing a tablet computer product. In recent weeks more details have been leaked to the press that Apple will be holding a press conference on January 26th. It’s speculated that Apple will announce a new product called "iSlate", that would likely ship in March with a price in the range of $800 to $1,000. Gizmodo has put together a very good a article entitled The Exhaustive Guide to Apple Tablet Rumors, that tries to illustrate what the product will be based on patents and other details that have been leaked over the last couple of years.

    While most conversations revolved around Apple when discussing Tablets, a large number of companies have released tablets in the past few days at CES 2010.

    Dell has released a tablet called "Slate", that is essentially an oversized iPod Touch running Android with a slot for a SIM card.

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