The New York Times’ Nick Bilton and Evelyn Rusli are tonight reporting that Apple is considering an investment in Twitter to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Whilst the companies are not currently in negotiations and there is no guarantee that the two would come to an agreement, earlier talks do suggest “they may form a stronger partnership”.
As the New York Times report explains, the deal would be one of Tim Cook’s “most important strategic decisions as chief executive” because of intensifying competition from Google and Facebook and the fact that Apple has struggled in the past with social. It would be a unique move for Apple, which typically buys a small start-up and absorbs it into the company rather than investing in a company.
The turf wars have fortified alliances and pushed companies to choose sides. Apple’s dealings with Twitter, for instance, began after its relationship with Facebook soured. In 2010, the company was eager to integrate its Ping service with Facebook, but discussions broke down. Mr. Jobs, the Apple chief executive who died last year, told the technology news site AllThingsD that Facebook had demanded “onerous terms that we could not agree to.”
Apple, which had spent months preparing to hook Facebook into iOS, its mobile operating system, swiftly reworked it for Twitter. One former Twitter employee, who described Twitter as the “lucky mistress” in this chain of events, said the partnership was essentially “handed to Twitter on a silver platter.” Ping, in the end, never caught on with users.
One big question to be resolved is whether Twitter would want a large investment from Apple. Earlier this year, chief executive Dick Costolo said Twitter had “truckloads of money in the bank”. At the same time though, Costolo also recently said in an interview that “[Apple] is a great partner, we think of them as a company that our company looks up to”.
The relationship with Apple is so prized at Twitter that the company assigned a vice president, Kevin Thau, to work with Apple full time, according to an Apple employee who asked not to be named.
Apple may have fixed the iPhone’s location tracking issues with the recent iOS 4.3.3 update, but The New York Times’ Research and Development Lab thinks this location data is still valuable in the way it provides users and researchers an historical archive of devices’ cellular triangulation points and WiFi hotspot databases. The NYT Labs, the same folks behind innovative iPad news reader News.me, have developed and released a web application called OpenPaths that allows iPhone users to register and anonymously share their location database. The web tool, available here, is touted as a way to ”securely store, explore, and donate your iOS location data”, Nick Bilton at The New York Times Bits blog reports. While it’s unclear how the web app works with the latest iOS software update (which stops iOS devices from backing up the location database to a computer, but still keeps an unencrypted copy stored on device), OpenPaths apparently finds a way to obtain this location data and reorganize it in a beautiful interface that also enables you to navigate maps, set specific times of a day, and browse by date.
People who participate in the project are asked to upload location information from their phone, which is then made anonymous and added to a database with the data from every other upload. People can then browse their own location data on an interactive map. At a later date researchers will be able request access to the collection of location uploads.
As for privacy concerns in regards to OpenPaths, the website’s homepage explains how the system works:
Our upload system is completely anonymous. We store your location data separately from your user profile. It is only with your express permission, combined with a unique passcode that only you know and that openpaths does not store, that we release your data to whom you approve. You will always have control over how much of your information is shared.
The main focus of OpenPaths is that of enabling you to donate your data to researchers around the world working on problems like “disaster preparedness, traffic flow, urban planning, and disease transmission.” You can choose to grant researchers access to portions of your data, or skip the process entirely and keep everything for yourself for personal purposes. It’ll be interesting to see whether this NYT Labs project will gain traction in the next weeks, and if future iOS updates will break its functionality with further location database encryption. In the meantime, you can sign up for OpenPaths here.
The official New York Times app for the iPad was updated a few minutes ago to include the new subscription system the publication first announced in March. The latest 2.0.5 version, bug fixes and performance enhancements aside, introduces the so-called paywall that restricts access to several sections of the app and only enables you to check out the Top News and Video section. You can find the updated version in the App Store here.
What’s interesting is that The New York Times still isn’t using Apple’s iOS subscription system to sell digital access to the newspaper. The app still relies on an embedded browser login to unlock all the features or sign up for a new subscription plan, and we guess it’s because developers of existing App Store apps can wait until June before being forced to update their software to include the iTunes subscriptions. From the app’s Settings, in fact, there’s no way to easily purchase a subscription like in The Daily with your iTunes account — you’ll have to manually log in The New York Times’ website from a popup window. We assume an upcoming update to the iPhone app (recently updated to version 3.0) will also activate the NYT’s paywall for sections.
Long-time Subscriber? The NYT Gives Out 1 Year of Free Web, iPhone and iPad Access
Jim Dalrymple at The Loop reports the New York Times is refining its paywall introduction by gifting one year of full free digital access (web, iPhone and iPad) to “long-time subscribers”. Apparently the NYT started sending out emails to some subscribers earlier today inviting them to join the promotion, and the one who got in touch with by The Loop has been a subscriber for 12 years.
The customer I spoke with has been a subscriber for 12 years and received the email this afternoon. He said he took The Times up on the offer and accepted the one-year free.
In the email The Times says “as a frequent reader of NYTimes.com, you’ve demonstrated an uncommon interest in a wide variety of today’s most important topics.” The email and subscription is being sponsored by Lincoln.
The New York Times’ paywall is set to go live for everyone on March 28th.
It’s no secret that the camera of the iPhone 4 has dramatically increased the quality of photos and videos shot with the device. The New York Times noticed this as well, and has decided to provide iPhone 4s to reporters for news video gathering. The reporters will be able to record videos and upload them to the NYT’s servers using Aspera’s file transfer tools.
Speaking to Beet.TV, Editorial Director for Video and Television Ann Derry called the Apple iPhone 4 a “game changer” for mobile video shooting and uploading, confirming that reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin used the device during Davos. Videos have become prominent in the paper’s website homepage, and the adoption of the iPhone as a portable camera will extend the staffers’ capabilities of recording videos in almost real-time, as events happen.
New York Times Uses Hipstamatic Photos For Front Page Story
When NYT photog Damon Winter went to northern Afghanistan to catalog the efforts of the First Battalion, 87th Infantry of the 10th Mountain Division, he took all the fancy camera equipment you would expect. He’d shoot video of firefights with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, sure. But he also grabbed still photos using Hipstamatic, an app that lets you choose among a huge selection of filters.