The pace of announcements from the media and technology industries will certainly be fast throughout the rest of the year. A couple of important developments this week were things that I had expected, and was very happy to see. First, was Boxee’s announcement (Boxee Blog » Boxee for iPad and more goodies) of their new app for the iPad. I have been following Boxee for years — see story from June 2010. I don’t know for sure they will be successful in the long run, but I really like what they are doing. Boxee is trying to become the TV Guide for video from the Internet. The free iPad app gives you a good view of this — just flip through many video choices and enjoy. As you would expect, a lot of their content is from YouTube, but not all of it. You can also watch video from Vimeo, Netflix’s Watch Instantly library, VUDU’s new Hollywood blockbusters, or critically acclaimed and foreign films from MUBI. There’s something for everyone. Boxee’s philosophy is to offer whatever content you want on a Boxee device connected to your TV, or with the Boxee app on your iPad, and I am sure other apps to come. Boxee provides a single interface to all the video on the Internet, regardless of who it is from. What they are doing is an important step to breaking free from the TV-Cable model of the past.
The other exciting development of the last few days is the announcement by Amazon of the Kindle Cloud Reader (see Amazon, Skirting Apple, Announces Cloud for Books – WSJ.com). The philosophy is similar — more choice for the customer, not trying to lock you in to a proprietary model from the past. Amazon believes you should be able to buy a book once, and then read it everywhere. Up until now, “everywhere” meant on your Kindle, the Kindle app on the iPhone or iPad. You could read a book on the PC or Mac with the Kindle app but that is not quite the same as the handheld devices. The breakthrough with the Kindle Cloud Reader is that it enables your Chrome or Safari browser (on any device) to look and act like a Kindle. That means that on any piece of hardware that supports one of those browsers (and no doubt more browsers to come), you can have instant access to your Kindle library and continue reading even when you are offline.
The breakthrough was achieved by Amazon developing a software version of the Kindle using HTML5, the new and evloving standard for how Web applications are developed. People like “apps” on the iPad and other devices because they are responsive and have a nice look and feel to them. They don’t feel like you are browsing a Web site; they feel like they are doing something locally on your device very specific to the “app”. If you are using Kayak to find flights or OpenTable to make a reservation, or eBay to check your auctions, these apps seem very natural. With HTML5, anyone will be able to build a Web app that is just as natural as an “app app”. The subtle and profound aspect of this is that now you can go to Amazon.com, buy a book, and read it on your Kindle Cloud Reader on your iPad. That means you don’t have to go through anyone’s app store — you just go to the Web. Apple will surely not like this since they take a 30% commission when you go through their store. Amazon will like it a lot! So will the rest of the world. HTML5 is the biggest change in the Web since the 1990’s and it will reeult in better apps and more choice for all of us.