Wired app for iPad avoids Apple's Flash blockade, ePub format

Software from Adobe is being used to create the digital pub

At the TED conference last week, Wired magazine showed off a new digital version of its publication that's targeted at tablets like Apple Inc.'s iPad that relies on software built by Adobe Systems Inc. (see the video here ).

Rather than a static version of the print magazine or a fully-recoded HTML Web page, the app combines the best of both worlds: the meticulousness of a carefully-designed page along with Web-like interactive elements such as Flash videos and audio.

These are all created using Adobe's Creative Suite 4 software, Jeremy Clark, senior experience design manager at Adobe, said this week. That saves time and effort for Wired , which, like many magazine publishers, uses Creative Suite -- especially its InDesign app -- to produce its magazine.

Based on the Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR), the Wired prototype will be released this summer for the iPhone and iPad, said Clark.

It also takes advantage of an upcoming software from Adobe called Packager for iPhone that will be a part of Adobe Flash Professional CS5 (Creative Suite 5).

Adobe's Packager recompiles the Wired content into the native file format of the iPhone and iPad, said Clark. That enables the digital magazine to be submitted to Apple and sold via its App Store "just like any other app," Clark said.

That should satisfy Apple's desire to get a cut of anything sold for the iPad, even while it sidesteps Apple's crusade against Flash on the iPhone and iPad.

The Safari Web browser used on those devices supports only two plug-ins: Apple's QuickTime media player and a Preview app that displays PDF files. Safari mobile blocks all other plug-ins, including Flash, RealMedia, Acrobat Reader and Windows Media Player.

The Packager is "a tricky but fascinating way to get around Apple's restrictions," said Tim Bajarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies.

Adobe hasn't settled yet on a file format for the digital edition of Wired, though it won't be the format it favors for e-books, .ePub , said Clark.

"ePub is mainly a format to enable reflowable text on e-readers ," Clark said. For the Wired reader, "one of our main focuses is to maintain the integrity of the [page] design. We don't want it [the text flow] to be too flexible."

He declined to comment on whether the format chosen is likely to be an open standard such as ePub, or on what kind of digital rights management (DRM), if any, will be used.

Adobe's software for publishing e-books , Adobe Content Server 4 , lets book publishers copy-protect their ePub-based e-books with Adobe's particular flavor of DRM. Apple will reportedly give book publishers the option to protect the e-books sold through its coming iBook store with the same Fairplay DRM it uses to protect movies sold through its iTunes store.

The Wired app is similar to another custom app Adobe built for The New York Times . Both will eventually be offered to other newspaper and magazine publishers, though Clark gave no timetable.

He said the digital magazine player will be brought to Mac OS X, Windows, Linux and other platforms. That would be broader, Clark said, than Adobe Digital Editions , the free e-book reader that runs only on Mac OS X and Windows.

Eric Lai covers Windows and Linux, desktop applications, databases and business intelligence for Computerworld . Follow Eric on Twitter at @ericylai or subscribe to Eric's RSS feed . His e-mail address is elai@computerworld.com .

Read more about mobile and wireless in Computerworld's Mobile and Wireless Knowledge Center.

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Eric Lai

Computerworld (US)
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