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Financial Times

FT Bypasses Apple's iTunes, Launches HTML5 Web App (Free Access First Week)

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The Financial Times would rather not have Apple take a 30 percent cut of in-app subscriptions for its iOS publications, and has launched a HTML5 Web app that enables readers to access content across tablets and smartphones.

As part of the Web app’s debut, FT will provide free access during launch week.

In a thinly veiled jab at Apple, Financial Times CEO John Ridding comments:

“The FT Web App offers our customers flexibility and freedom of choice with access to our global journalism anytime, anywhere, with a single login or subscription. In a world of increasingly digital complexity we want to keep our service simple, easy to use and efficient to offer our customers the best possible experience of FT journalism.”

The browser app enables readers to access content when offline by saving a shortcut to articles, receive automatic updates without the need to download new versions of the app and access content exclusively made for tablets.

An upcoming feature is ‘Clippings’, a service that will allow users to read articles later, either on their tablet or on their desktop PC. Sound familiar? (look for ‘reading list’)

FT acknowledges that the Web app has been initially optimized for the iPhone and the iPad, but says it will also be adapted for Android-based devices and the BlackBerry PlayBook.

Accessing FT content is free for up to ten articles per month, if you register.

In a few weeks, Apple will start charging publishers 30 percent of revenues while trying to enforce a rule that their content subscribers must sign up through the iTunes App Store rather than directly with them.

FT in a Q&A about the new app says there are benefits to a Web app, for one because developing multiple native apps for various products is “logistically and financially unmanageable” and because it allows users too see new changes and features immediately.

FT also points out that with a Web app, there is no extended release process through an app store and also offers technical advantages such as access to hardware APIs.

The publisher also notes the challenges with creating the HTML5 app:

The breadth of tools and documentation available for native apps and even desktop HTML5 development is just not there for mobile-based web app development. In addition the usual testing tools for both functional and performance testing do not exist, so we had to invent our own systems and processes to make sure the app worked effectively.

Be sure to read analyst Benedict Evans’ take on the news.