Android tablet gains in market share does not seem to be translating into dollars for publishers, at least not yet

The common wisdom among publishers and digital publishing solution providers has been that when developing new tablet editions one should develop for iOS first, then Android and other platforms. The reason at first was simply that Apple was first with a popular tablet, and their sales dwarfed the competition. But as more Android, and then Kindle Fire, tablets appeared in the market the reason shifted somewhat: publishers were still seeing far more sales, more paid subscriptions from iPad owners than from owners of other tablets.

january2010-AppleThe theory for why this was true was that Apple had the top end of the market, first adopters, and those with more disposable income. Apple also had a system that allowed for easy purchases – and they also had all those credit cards on file.

But things have changed in the past year or so. Amazon.com launched the Kindle Fire for the holiday season and along with the tablet came a whole infrastructure that resembled Apple’s. Just as iPad owners were used to buying music and movies from iTunes, Kindle Fire owners were used to buying books and other goods from Amazon.com.

Nonetheless, there remains big differences in the way the various platforms are used and the kinds of publications seen inside the app stores. Replica editions are everywhere, but interactive magazines are more often found in Apple’s ecosystem. Many new tablet magazine vendors continue to choose to launch their solutions first for iOS and only later for Android and Windows. TNM’s own survey of digital publishing platform companies shows that close to 25 percent still do not provide solutions that will result in an app for the Google Play store – and close to 75 percent don’t service the Windows environment.

But surely we are starting to see this change, right? With so many new Kindle tablets being sold, with the soon to be released Kindle Fire HDX around the corner, are we seeing, or at least anticipating a change to the market?

YutakaTsutano-iPadCase

Photo by Yutaka Tsutano (used under Creative Commons license)

“What we see is that there is still very much a stickiness to the iOS platform,” Alex Gruntsev, Chief Innovation Officer, NewspaperDirect, said.

Gruntsev said that the iPad reached people who were early adopters. He sees Android tablets, though, as being in the same category as the iPad, but that users remain more price sensitive.

“Amazon is moving the needle now,” said Graham Farrar of zuuka Group, the maker of the iStoryTime apps and bookstore app. “Which is not a surprise to me, if there is one Amazon know how to do is run a store.”

“As the Kindle Fire, and I think the Kindle Fire HDX, will accelerate this (growth),” Farrar said, though “it’s not iOS money yet.”

“When the Kindle Fire was released about 18 months ago I think that spurred additional uses of devices,” said Lynly Schambers, Group Product Marketing Manager, Digital Publishing Suite, Adobe, “because they were that much more affordable and accessible to people.”

“What we’ve seen, when we look at the growth of the Digital Publishing Suite business, we’ve seen the number of downloads really accelerate, especially over the past six to 12 months,” Schambers said.

Mike Haney of Mag+ said he thinks there may be regional differences, as well.

“I have read that there are real regional differences here—where Android is much more common in Europe and other parts of the world, users tend to spend more,” Haney said. “I hear that many of our customers are having good success on the Kindle, where people are more accustomed to buying content, particularly content to read.”

“I don’t know how soon, but the trend seems to be that like app spending everywhere, spending on Android is picking up, not slowing down. Google has done some nice work in improving the layout and features of its app store, and as more of those Android users—who may not have consciously purchased an Android phone, but rather took the least expensive smartphone their carrier offered—”discover” apps on their device, I think we’ll see spending steadily increasing, even if the price per app or per in-app purchase is driven down,” Haney said.

“We are seeing an increase in the number of people that are willing to pay for content, especially when we look at that year over year,” Adobe’s Schambers said. “Just in the past 12 months we’ve seen the number of digital subscriptions, paid for digital subscription increase almost three times over the past 12 months.”

For Gruntsev from NewspaperDirect, he sees a big difference between what readers are willing to pay for on tablets, and online.

“People are not willing to pay for repurposed web content,” Gruntsev said. “The moment they see replica for some reason it triggers comparison to the print.” (And hence a willingness to pay.)

KindleFire-apps-lg

For Haney from Mag+ he still puts the emphasis on the need to think of the new digital publications fresh.

“Our advice is unequivocally that you need to think of your presence on a tablet or smartphone app as a new product, not just a version of an existing product,” Haney said. “It is a unique ecosystem, with unique usage patterns and unique user needs.”

“If you run a monthly magazine and your publisher asks you to make a book, you wouldn’t just slap a hard cover on the July issue and call it done, would you?”

Haney also says that publishers need to understand that on tablet devices, as elsewhere, they are competing for the attention of the user. “Your replica that you clearly put no effort into is not going to lure me away from Zite or Facebook. ut if you give me a compelling bundle of content that is engaging and easy to consume and fits what I do with that device — Atlantic Weekly being a great example — then you will become part of my app habit.”

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App Studio Package for Education Now Available

App Studio is introducing a new package that enables higher education institutions to incorporate digital publishing into curriculum and equip students to create apps for tablets and smartphones. Customers can also use the new education plan to create digital marketing and campus communications. App Studio is the software that uses HTML5 to transform InDesign and QuarkXPress projects into native apps for iOS, Kindle Fire, and Android devices. Because it works in conjunction with the leading design tools, App Studio is easy to learn and affordable to implement on campus.

The new App Studio Education Plan includes:

— 250 user subscriptions to App Studio
— Up to 100 unique course projects
— 4 x Multi-Issue Pro plans (four different digital publications for the iPad and iPhone)
— 1 x Multi-Issue Premium plan (one digital publication for iPad, iPhone, Kindle Fire, Android tablet, and Android smartphone)
— Optional 250 QuarkXPress licenses
— Bronze App Studio support

The ongoing price of this package is $4,995 per year. However, for a limited time App Studio is offering the package for a special launch price of $2,497.50 – a 50 percent discount. For more details about the plan, please visit: http://www.AppStudio.net/edu.

Why Adopt Digital Publishing Now?

Design, marketing, and communication students everywhere are looking for schools that will help them learn cutting-edge skills. Digital publishing – the ability to create content for digital devices like the iPad – is a skill already in high-demand by corporations, agencies, and media. With App Studio, educators can easily teach students to create content for digital devices.

The benefit is two-fold. With App Studio students can learn digital publishing and enter the workforce with advanced skills while campus marketing departments can use App Studio to create digital collateral that extends the school’s reach. Using the desktop design tools already in use at most universities, marketing departments can create interactive apps without the expense tied to custom development efforts and alternative solutions.

To learn more about App Studio, please visit: http://www.AppStudio.net.

About App Studio

App Studio (http://www.AppStudio.net) is the next generation digital publishing solution that uses HTML5 to push the bounds of user experience without the high cost and effort associated with custom app development. App Studio is the only digital publishing solution that allows users to create branded content apps using QuarkXPress, InDesign, HTML5, and XML. Through a managed cloud environment, designers, authors, and extended teams are able to collaborate to create rich, interactive content that can be delivered across multiple platforms and devices.


As Android tablets grow, publishers struggle to match the iPad experience

When the IDC forecast past month that Google’s Android operating system would soon surpass Apple’s iOS in tablet market share, publishers of digital magazines could be excused for some handwringing.

Since 2010, Apple’s dominance of the market allowed publishers to reach the majority of the tablet audience by targeting just one device: the iPad. But times have changed.

Thirty-one percent of American adults now own tablets, according to Pew. Much of the growth in the market is being driven by device proliferation, and many of these devices run Android.

The Nexus 10 Android tablet
A Google employee browses magazine issues on The Nexus 10 tablet at a Google announcement in San Francisco last fall. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The relative affordability and portability of new down-sized tablets like the Nexus 7 offer more entry points for tablet consumers, but they present headaches for digital magazine publishers: How do they best reach readers on dozens of different devices with wildly varying screen sizes and processing power?

Why most of you start with iPads

So far, Symbolia, a comics journalism anthology launched late last year by Erin Polgreen and Joyce Rice, has avoided those questions by publishing its first two interactive issues for iPad only.

With just three tablet devices to worry about — standard display iPad, retina display iPad and iPad Mini, all with the same aspect ratio — iOS presented the quickest, cleanest way to reach a large chunk of the tablet audience at launch.

Another point in Apple’s favor: iOS devices are some of the more powerful tablets on the market, ensuring that Symbolia, loaded with pop-ups and HTML animations, would perform cleanly. But as Polgreen and Rice explore expanding to Android, performance and screen size are primary concerns.

“Some of the Androids are very powerful, but some of them aren’t, and I don’t think you get to make a lot of choices in the Android marketplace about who can see your content and who can’t,” said Rice, the creative director. “So it’s definitely a balancing act. I want it to look awesome for everyone, but it’s really determined by the window you’re looking at it through.

That’s a balancing act that Polgreen, the editor and publisher, said Symbolia has no choice but to face. The top request from readers of Symbolia, which also publishes a non-interactive PDF version for those without iPads, is for an Android edition.

“Androids are the primary global operating system,” Polgreen said. “iPads are great. They have a very strong market share, but we’re a global publication. We leave Android out at our own peril.”

Having an Android presence can mean many different things, some of which could be perilous themselves.

Adobe DPS saves production time

The New Republic, which introduced a cross-platform redesign in January, publishes an elegant interactive iPad version of the magazine, with a tappable table of contents, animated section headers and interactive features.

But the version in Google Play’s magazine store is merely a PDF replica of the print magazine. (It also costs a dollar more per issue, but that’s another story.) On a 7-inch Nexus 7, I found it tough to read unless I switched to Google’s magazine text mode. Doing so, however, removes the pleasures of experiencing a magazine layout.

Why the inferior Android product? “It comes down to the simple basic principle of manpower,” TNR’s creative director Dirk Barnett said, adding that his staff of three designers are working on an iPhone version next. “I think we’re just going to sort of pick it off one device at a time once we have it integrated into our workflow process.”

Barnett’s design team uses Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite to develop and publish the TNR app for iPad. InDesign CS6 introduced liquid layout and alternate layout, tools that drastically reduce the manpower it takes to design for various screen resolutions and orientations.

But until that additional time investment is eliminated altogether, newsrooms will face tough choices about which platforms are worth the sweat and tears required of making tedious adjustments.

PDF replicas predominant on Android

TNR is far from alone in its decision to forgo interactivity on Android devices. Even Popular Science, which has seen 1.6 million unique downloads in Apple’s App Store and was hailed as “king of the hill” on stage by Steve Jobs, still only publishes a PDF replica in the Google Play store.

The Mag+ ecosystem, developed for Popular Science in 2010 and spun out as a separate company in early 2011, initially only supported iPad. It added Android compatibility in June 2011, with two options for publishers wanting to expand:

1) Manually rejigger each page’s iPad layout to fit various Android screen sizes (similar to Adobe’s alternate layout solution, but without the benefit of working within a single document); or

2) Allow Mag+ to scale and letterbox existing layouts automatically for Android devices.

(Full disclosure: I work as a tablet app designer at the Chicago Sun-Times, where we use Mag+ to publish a free Sunday sports magazine for iPad and iPhone. Our other sports apps are designed primarily for iPad with letterboxed Android versions available in the Google Play store.)

Mag+ recently reached a 1,000-app milestone, but just 20 percent of those apps are offered in the Google Play marketplace, Mike Haney, chief product officer, told Poynter. Most of Adobe’s North American clients are primarily focused on iOS, too, said Lynly Schambers-Lenox, group product marketing manager of digital publishing for Adobe.

One reason: workflow restraints like those at TNR. “If the platforms like ours are doing our job well, we make that easy for you to do,” Haney said. And for the most part, manually adjusting a page with either system is easy: Adobe has liquid layout, and Mag+ allows for exporting pages to other InDesign templates that then require mostly minimal adjustments. But these minor adjustments multiplied over dozens of page layouts can become majorly prohibitive.

Another potential reason for publishers’ hesitation to switch from PDFs to native apps on Android: the Google Play magazine store operates differently from Apple’s Newsstand. Whereas Newsstand serves as a hub for apps with the full, optimized functionality of any other app on iPads, Google’s magazine store acts as more of an app itself, facilitating the reading of PDFs.

That can be confusing, as magazine apps exist in the Play store outside the PDF-filled magazine store. At the same time, Haney said, differing expectations of what magazines can do in the Apple App Store versus the Google Play store can provide publishers some leeway when it comes to getting their feet wet with Android by going with PDF replicas. In other words, the competition isn’t as fierce on Android.

Plus, Haney said, the fact that the Google Play and Amazon Kindle stores haven’t developed a way to migrate readers of the PDF magazines to newly developed interactive apps could dissuade publishers who don’t want to lose the audience they’ve built.

Kindle Fire apps still lag far behind Google and Apple in sales, and some reports indicate Android users are less willing to pay for apps than iOS users. If Android users are indeed less likely to buy magazines, that could also be behind publishers’ unwillingness to invest much in them. And that’s a cycle that might not be broken until publishing tools reach a “design once, publish everywhere” solution—something Adobe’s pressing for, Schambers-Lenox said.

Game Informer and The Next Web: two extremes

Haney cited Game Informer as a magazine finding success in both major marketplaces, but even Game Informer’s tablet strategy has some wrinkles.

It publishes a massive iPad edition with Mag+, chock-full of screenshots and embedded video (the October 2012 issue I downloaded had 180 pages and more than 700 megabytes worth of content). The design team, led by creative director Jeff Akervik, also produces an edition for 10-inch Android devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Note.

For the 7- and 12-inch tablets, though, Game Informer sends its native InDesign files used for print to a team at Google to produce an interactive version with far fewer bells and whistles. “I’m not a real big fan of how vastly different they are from a creative standpoint, but it gets us in the space,” Akervic said of these editions in an email.

It’s definitely a step up from PDF replicas, and workflow restraints mean the Google outsourcing is the only way an interactive version on smaller tablets can exist. “Otherwise, there’d be no way we could physically do that many different designs,” Akervic said. “It’s a tough haul as it is.”

Others publishers, meanwhile, have determined the haul is too tough to include Android at all. The Next Web announced in December that it would stop publishing TNW Magazine for Android. The nature of its content meant it was too cumbersome to adjust layouts and links, founder Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten wrote in a blog post:

“In theory you simply adjust for a different format and platform and do a new export. But then trouble starts. As one developer put it to us: ‘You make a beautiful magazine for the iPad, and then you dumb it down for Android.’” And once they did so, he wrote, iPad downloads outpaced Android 80-to-1.

Still, if your publication is small and without an overwhelming amount of interactive content, designing for Android should be a relatively small investment. Every reader counts, particularly those on a platform that seems poised to continue growing. Haney recommends building for iOS first, particularly if you’re a small publisher, because of the strong infrastructure already in place.

After that, publishing a standard 1280×800 Android layout will get the magazine on most Android tablets. Buy a Nexus 7—it’s only $199—and see how your content looks on a smaller device. If you don’t build it, they won’t come—and maybe Android users willing to pay for well-designed interactive apps are actually out there, ready to play ball.

Happy designing! (And redesigning… and redesigning… and redesigning… )

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Mobile shopping: retail app usage on the rise

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PRSS aims to be a low-cost iPad magazine factory in the cloud

By launching their own iPad-only travel magazine, TRVL, in September 2010, entrepreneur Michel Elings and photographer and writer Jochem Wijnands garnered glowing reviews and a shout-out from Apple SVP Eddy Cue.

 

 

Now the Amsterdam pair want to help other would-be publishers feel the same glow — by giving away dedicated new web-based software they recently wrote themselves to redesign their own publication.

Called PRSS and launched on Thursday, the template-driven production suite lets people drag and drop web objects to design pages, is free for anyone to use and saves on distribution costs by storing magazines on Amazon’s cloud hosts.

TRVL claims to have clocked 700,000 installs, around 450,000 regular readers and has impressed by introducing a model in which individual destination articles, rather than an entire magazine, can be downloaded in its app.

But, still, Elings and Wijnands had an itch. And its name was Woodwing, the 12-year-old company that makes one of the most popular packages for producing iPad magazines.

“I had to learn Adobe InDesign to use Woodwing and it wasn’t really intuitive,” Elings said. “We were happy using it for a while but, in our app, it took seven steps just to tweet an article link — 30 percent of users go away when you build in an extra step.

“Distribution costs for Woodwing, InDesign and all the others are so expensive. People were downloading terabytes of data from our magazines, this wasn’t cheap to us. We also had to pay Apple a 30 percent cut and Adobe takes a 30 percent – you have only 40 percent left!” Elings says he didn’t mind paying Apple 30 percent but had to pay Adobe 30 percent on top of Apple’s commission.

The pair had enough when Woodwing last year agreed to a closer Adobe tie-up in which it became an InDesign reseller. “It was a blessing in disguise,” Elings says. “We thought, ‘Let’s do it ourselves.’ I wanted to make the magazine design software that Apple forgot, where everything just works.”

So, just like Wijnands, who has photographed for the likes of National Geographic for 15 years, and Elings, whose former consulting firm advised Apple among others, had done with their earlier tablet-only magazine incursion itself, they set about trying to reinvent the very software used to make such magazines.

The result is PRSS, the web-based suite the TRVL team now uses to make its own magazine. The benefits are smaller file sizes and cheaper distribution costs, Elings says.

“InDesign made a picture of every page, even when it was just text. Our photos became four times larger. A magazine was nearly 200Mb. In our software, the magazine is now 35Mb. We just cut 80 percent of the file size and the photos are even better.” The reduction means magazines can be downloaded and read quicker.

And, rather than rely on Woodwing and Adobe to host those hefty uploaded titles for distributing to iPad Newsstand customers, PRSS keeps them in low-cost Amazon storage. ”Today, I uninstalled InDesign. We can do everything in the cloud,” Elings says.

Give it away now

TRVL is not the only publisher to write its own tablet magazine production software. U.K. magazine house Future has also created its own suite, Folio, on which it is now building several selected titles — weening itself off the large industrial packages and offering Folio to other publishers as a service.

Although Elings and Wijnands conceived PRSS for themselves, making it widely available is also a strategy they want to follow. The service is now live to interested enquirers, and TRVL hopes to profit from a commission.

“PRSS will be totally free to use,” Elings tells me. “But, if you start distributing a magazine, you will have to pay a small fee to us.

“You don’t have to pay us a license fee, commission or share revenue with us — but you have to pay for distribution costs from Amazon. We want to take a little percentage of the download costs, we are going to make that fair and transparent. We will make a very small amount of money.”

Do it yourself

The proceeds may support TRVL’s independent travel photojournalism efforts, but Elings also appears to hope such actions can help kickstart an independent tablet magazine market.

The prospect is tantalizing. In the 1980s and 90s, desktop publishing (DTP) software and cheap printers helped amateur bedroom designers make their own newsletters, fanzines and posters. The web has unleashed that creativity still further. But, in tablet-specific publishing, production remains the preserve of a few established publishing houses with the resources to rent the kind of software packages Elings has come to detest.

“iPad magazines aren’t taking off yet because the apps are badly designed,” he told me. “They are all going for multiplatform instead of doing individual platforms right.

“We want to help the market. If this works, a lot of new publishers will start up — you can start your own magazine. We want to make an iPad editing app as well, where you can make an iPad magazine on your iPad — that would be cool.”

Such a thing could amplify the democratization of publishing from which TRVL’s Wijnands and Elings have themselves benefitted.

“We met each other by coincidence,” Elings said. “A day after, we started our own magazine. I was one of the few in the Netherlands with an iPad. I said, ‘Why don’t we start a magazine? We can charge less than National Geographic and become very rich. Well, that didn’t quite work out — it was early days.”

TRVL has scored points if not yet riches, gaining 100,000 downloads in its first year — and doubling that figure when Apple introduced in-app download and, later, Newsstand. All articles are free to download — only “coffee-table”-style photo “books” cost $2 — and the title is trying to sell interactive ads like those it runs currently for Canon.

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vjoon K4™integrates with Adobe® Digital Publishing Suite’s New API

Vjoon, a leading maker of cross-media publishing platforms and a global Adobe Digital Publishing Suite (DPS) reseller, announced on July 26th that vjoon K4 now supports the new interface to Adobe DPS Folio Producer services. This constitutes an unprecedented level of integration that boosts efficiency by enabling tablet publishers to upload their Folio files after planning, managing and organizing digital content in vjoon K4. This allows publishers to fully exploit the Adobe Folio Producer’s extensive feature set and eliminates the need for using Adobe Content Bundler, along with all its limitations.

“The new interface to the Folio Producer is a tremendous asset for customers because it integrates publishing systems such as vjoon K4 with the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite far more efficiently than anything that came before,” said Zeke Koch, Senior Director of Product Management for Digital Publishing at Adobe. “With recently released groundbreaking new features and automated functions, publishers now have access to one of the most innovative and efficient tablet publishing workflows on the market today.”

“vjoon customers such as Condé Nast, Credit Suisse, National Geographic and Red Bull are among the first and most successful users of the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite worldwide,” says Andreas Schrader, CEO of vjoon. “In a joint effort with Adobe, we have now developed the tools our customers need to continue optimizing their publishing workflows, thereby freeing up time and resources that they can devote to creating premium-quality print and digital publications.”

From day one, vjoon played a big part in developing this interface, so it benefited from the valuable experience gained with vjoon K4 customers’ many successful tablet publications. As a result, customers can now make full use of Adobe Folio Producer’s functionality. For example, push notifications, which let users determine when subscribers are alerted to a new edition, can now be used for integrated publications. Publishers can also pinpoint through vjoon K4 precisely which content of the published edition readers can share with friends and business partners via Web Viewer.

vjoon K4’s extended set of automated functions are a boon to the tablet publishing workflow. vjoon K4 uploads all content to Adobe Folio Producer, directly and automatically at the touch of a button. Automated functions also enable agencies to deliver individual ads in the required format, allowing the publisher to integrate them with their content and then upload them along with the layout for the entire magazine.

As the company recently announced, the new version of vjoon K4 also supports Adobe Creative Suite® 6. This release is available now and being tested by many integration partners.

For further information please see www.vjoon.com.

About vjoon®

A fixture on the publishing market since 1990, vjoon is a leading developer of workflow solutions based on Adobe® Creative Suite®. vjoon rapidly integrates all Adobe innovations into its solutions and consistently develops its products to meet market needs. vjoon’s flagship product vjoon K4™ is one of the most innovative cross-media publishing platforms available in the market and lets you deliver your valuable content to any output channel – print, online, mobile, tablet. Based on the time- and cost-saving Unified Publishing Process vjoon K4 provides the tools that allow your team to publish anywhere, smoothly and efficiently – whether you produce magazines, newspapers, sales materials, annual reports or books. Renowned customers worldwide and in configurations from 10 to more than 1,200 concurrent users benefit from this sophisticated solution. Headquartered in greater Hamburg, Germany, vjoon partners with a global network of more than 30 qualified integrators to deliver premium system integration and support services to its customers.

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Tablet Shipments to Surpass Notebooks by 2016

In four years, your laptop could be as outdated as that bulky 8-track player gathering dust in your basement.

Well, notebook computers may not become extinct by 2016, but they are expected to fall short – very short – of tablet PC sales before the end of the decade, according to a forecast report from NPD DisplaySearch.

Laptop shipments are expected to hit 393 million units by 2017, while NPD expects exponential tablet progress, 121 million shipments this year to 416 million by 2017.

Tablet growth will get a push from growing popularity in what NPD called mature markets – North America, Japan, and Western Europe, which will account for 66 percent of shipments this year, and remain in the 60 percent range through 2017.

NPD DisplaySearch senior analyst Richard Shim said that while the lines between tablet and notebook PCs are blurring, consumer preference for mobile computing devices is shifting in the direction of slimmer, sleeker tablets.

“Tablet PCs are expected to evolve in form factor and performance,” the report said, “making them a compelling alternative to notebook PCs.”

As tablet technology advances, so will the machines’ features, bringing instant-on capabilities, long battery life, and extreme portability, along with multi-core processors, stable operating systems, growing app libraries, and high-resolution displays, DisplaySearch said.

Still, laptops are expected to remain a large segment of the mobile PC market, accounting for almost 50 percent of the market by 2017.

Overall mobile PC shipments, including notebooks, mini notebooks and tablets, are expected to grow from 347 million units this year, to more than 809 million by 2017, NPD reported.

The data is in line with a similar DisplaySearch report from May.

In February, Apple chief Tim Cook reiterated that tablets will one day outsell PCs. That same month, IDC reported that the smartphone market eclipsed the PC market in terms of sales during the previous quarter for the first time.

 

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