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ExtraBITS for 13 January 2014

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This week in ExtraBITS, Josh Centers and Kirk McElhearn discussed the Consumer Electronics Show on The Tech Night Owl Live, we learned why some iOS apps cost $999.99, T-Mobile announced that it would start paying early termination fees for switchers, and AT&T launched sponsored data. We also got inside looks at the real business of CES and Mac game development, along with a detailed profile of Apple’s new retail chief, Angela Ahrendts. Lastly, Glenn Fleishman makes the case for why print books shouldn’t be replaced by ebooks in libraries.

Josh Centers and Kirk McElhearn Discuss CES on The Tech Night Owl -- TidBITS managing editor Josh Centers and Take Control author Kirk McElhearn took turns discussing this year’s Consumer Electronics Show with host Gene Steinberg on the latest installment of The Tech Night Owl Live.

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The Story Behind $999.99 iPhone Apps -- The maximum price of an App Store app is $999.99, and yes, some cost that much. Mike Wehner, writing for TUAW, reveals that some of those expensive apps are an elaborate scam to rig App Store rankings. The scam works by bumping up an app’s price to $999.99, having a second party buy multiple copies — which moves the app near the head of the Top Grossing list — and then, with the increased attention, lowering the app’s price to a reasonable figure and raking in the sales. But other developers, like Sergiy Grachov, who sells his Fleas game for $999.99, do it simply because users keep buying.

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T-Mobile Will Pay Your Early Termination Fee -- Want to switch to T-Mobile, but are stuck in an existing cellphone contract? The magenta-tinted carrier will pay up to $350 in early termination fees when you sign up, as well as up to $300 in credit for your existing devices. With T-Mobile now carrying the iPhone 5s, as well as offering innovative service plans, this might be a good time to make the switch — if there’s decent coverage in your area.

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The Real Business of CES -- Most people think of the Consumer Electronics Show as a showcase for the sort of gadgets and gizmos that Jeff Porten has been profiling here on TidBITS, but for many of its annual attendees, CES is actually a marketplace where much of the action happens behind closed doors. The Verge’s Russell Brandom tagged along with Lukas Thoms, a buyer for quirky electronics retailer Grand St., for this fascinating look at the real business of CES.

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Mac Gaming through the Eyes of a Porting House -- Richard Moss of Eurogamer.net profiled Aspyr Media (a TidBITS sponsor), looking at the history of gaming on the Mac and the challenges that Mac game publishers face, like having to create separate versions of each game for the App Store and Steam. It has been a long and winding road for Aspyr, and to this day, no one is sure if Apple cares about Mac gaming.

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Making the Case for Print Books in Libraries -- Bexar County, Texas has built a $2.3 million library — with no physical books. Every book available in the BiblioTech is digital, and self-described “grumpy old man” Glenn Fleishman, author of numerous Take Control ebooks himself and publisher of The Magazine, doesn’t like it. Fleishman outlines several problems that library ebooks have when compared with print editions, including accessibility to the poor, destructive DRM, restrictive licensing agreements, and the lack of older or obscure titles in digital formats.

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AT&T Announces Sponsored Data -- At CES, AT&T announced a new Sponsored Data program that would push some of the cost of mobile data onto content providers. The program works like this: a company like Netflix would pay AT&T, and in turn, mobile usage of Netflix would not count against AT&T customers’ data caps. Many are concerned that the plan, which would effectively give deep-pocketed companies priority, could be bad for Internet neutrality in the long run.

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A Profile of New Apple Retail Head Angela Ahrendts -- Jeff Chu, writing for Fast Company, has profiled incoming Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts. While the pressure facing her is immense, the outgoing Burberry CEO seems to have what it takes to lead the Apple Store into the future. At Burberry, she tripled revenue, restored Burberry’s reputation for innovation with store technology upgrades, and turned her employees into ecstatic brand ambassadors. Chu’s profile paints her as having much in common with late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, including a knack for snappy answers to stupid questions.

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