Notable things: The WatchESPN app and the multi-screen buffet; you built the app, but will people use it? (probably not); the retirement of Fireman Ed

This was a big weekend for college football. It seemed like every channel — including all the flavors of ESPN — had a game, and many of them were worth watching. It’s the kind of weekend that destroys the “last” button on remotes.

Someone in ESPN’s marketing department came up with a clever solution to this abundance problem. Rather that catch a few plays on one game and flip over to another, you could watch a game on your television and monitor another game through the WatchESPN app on your tablet or phone. It’s picture-in-picture, only you’re holding the small screen in your hands.

ESPN pushed this set-up hard during the prime time Notre Dame vs USC game on Saturday (that game was on ABC, but ESPN and ABC are both owned by Disney so they do a weird “ESPN on ABC” co-branding thing for big games).

I’m not much of a college football fan — I think it’s a lightweight version of real football — but I was tempted to fire up the WatchESPN app on my iPad.

What’s more important is that ESPN planted the seed. I have a Slingbox, so I rely on that for most of my TV streaming. There are times, however, when the Slingbox-connected television is being used for other things (“Curious George” is in heavy rotation). The WatchESPN app never crossed my mind, but now it will.

The marketing worked, dammit.

Moreover, it’s only a matter of time before I take multi-screen viewing to its logical conclusion: one game on the TV, one on the iPad, and a laptop fired up to browse the web. My router better limber up.

(Somewhat related sidenote: I’d love to ditch cable as much as everyone else, but there’s no way that’s going to happen if I can’t watch live sports in high definition on my preferred devices. Until the sports blockade is disrupted, all this cable-cutting hoopla is just gobble, gobble turkey.)


Fred Wilson on why it’s no longer enough to build an app that people download:

you need to master the “download app, use app, keep using app, put it on your home screen” flow and that is a hard one to master. [Emphasis added.]

The home screen is a popular neighborhood and the dock is the best street in town.


Fireman Ed will no longer attend Jets games as Fireman Ed.

What does that transition entail, exactly? Ditch the helmet? Go jersey-free? Sit quietly during J-E-T-S chants?

Related: Deadspin has the final word on the Fireman Ed “retirement”

Today’s nugget of awesome: the iPad syncs EPUB files

I did something amazing today. I held out for nearly four hours before pre-ordering an iPad. Seriously. That’s a huge deal for me. I mean, I own the Apple Airport Extreme, okay? I’ve got an Apple TV and a…

iPad

I did something amazing today.

I held out for nearly four hours before pre-ordering an iPad. Seriously. That’s a huge deal for me. I mean, I own the Apple Airport Extreme, okay? I’ve got an Apple TV and a Mac Mini. My Apple fanboyism teeters on psychosis.

To reward me for my loyalty (and my recent herculean effort and inevitable cave-in), Apple continues to release details on the iPad that have nipped any lingering buyer’s remorse in the bud. For example, there’s this info delight that comes courtesy Wired’s Gadget Lab:

And for EPUB titles that are not offered through the iBooks store, you can manually add them to iTunes and then sync them to the iPad … That’s good news for iPad customers, because that means bookworms won’t be limited to the offerings in the iBooks store, which are based on partnerships that Apple inked with publishers.

This is a genius move on two fronts:

1. It makes the iPad semi-open. If you’ve already got EPUB files hanging around, you can port them to the iPad. And if you buy future EPUB-based books from smart publishers that support the format (ahem), you should be able to sync those titles with the device as well. The original iPod took off because it automatically worked with the pre-existing MP3 collections people had built up. Now, there aren’t that many people out there with EPUB stockpiles. I realize that. But if you do have those files, or you want to buy material outside the iBookstore down the road, you can read all that stuff on the iPad. Well played, Apple.

2. It puts Amazon in a bind because the Kindle doesn’t support EPUB by default. Now that the iPad does support the format natively, that makes the Kindle even more restrictive. Think about that. Apple — the poster child for a totalitarian product ecosystem — is making Amazon look like the bad guy.

I’m sure I’ll have plenty more to say about the iPad in coming days. Lord knows I can’t stop tweeting about it. But for now, I’ll revel in the anticipated joy the weekend of April 3-4 will bring: iPad on 4/3 and Red Sox opening night on 4/4.

Ebook pricing gets even more interesting: Apple’s model vs. Amazon’s subsidy

Tablets and devices will get all the coverage, but I believe ebook pricing is going to be 2010’s biggest issue for publishers. To illustrate … this New York Times piece explains how Apple’s $12.99-$14.99 range represents the outer limit…

iPad and Kindle

Tablets and devices will get all the coverage, but I believe ebook pricing is going to be 2010’s biggest issue for publishers.

To illustrate … this New York Times piece explains how Apple’s $12.99-$14.99 range represents the outer limit for iBooks pricing. Those price points aren’t set in stone. From the Times:

<blockquote

… Apple inserted provisions requiring publishers to discount e-book prices on best sellers — so that $12.99-to-$14.99 range was merely a ceiling; prices for some titles could be lower, even as low as Amazon’s $9.99. Essentially, Apple wants the flexibility to offer lower prices for the hottest books, those on one of the New York Times best-seller lists, which are heavily discounted in bookstores and on rival retail sites. So, for example, a book that started at $14.99 would drop to $12.99 or less once it hit the best-seller lists.

Sounds like Apple and Amazon are closer than we initially thought, right?

Nope. Not at all.

The single most important sentence in that Times article is buried at the very end:

Under the agreements with Apple, both the publishers and Apple should make money on each book sale. [Emphasis added.]

Ahh, there we go! Whether the price is $14.99, $12.99, $9.99 or $1.99, Apple will take its 30 percent. Set the price lower and sell more books? You betcha! Jack the price up and sell fewer? Absolutely!

What Apple won’t do is subsidize a price point.