Financial Times unveils iPad app

LONDON - The Financial Times has released details and a video demo of its iPad app, which subject to Apple approval will go live in the very near future.

The app, currently in beta, takes its navigational lead from the FT's website rather than the print edition, but in a nod to the feel of the newspaper it uses the same font.

Instead of presenting users with a turning page replica of the paper, the app resembles a cleaner, stripped-down version of FT.com, with content being refreshed throughout the day.

As well as news, analysis and comment laid out in sections that mimic the website, live market data and personal portfolio details are also available via the app. A physical, scrolling browsing method is used to access the different sections.

The FT has had a development team based in Colorado working on the app for five weeks, with the project beginning before the team had seen an actual iPad.

"Publishers were all in the same boat - no one had even seen one," said Steve Pinches, the lead product manager for FT.com.

The app includes a channel of video editorial presented in 16:9 HD quality, following the launch of FT.com's new video hub last week, which uses the Brightcove serving platform.

According to Pinches the plan its to offer video advertising in later versions.

"We wanted to get it out into the market early", he said, adding that the development team would make changes as the need became apparent.

The app and its content will initially be open to anyone to access for an initial period until 31 July with luxury watch manufacturer Hublot being the exclusive launch sponsor.

Subsequently the app will still be free to install but access to content will be governed by the same subscription rules which apply across FT.com and the FT iPhone app.

Up to 10 articles can be read for free each month as long as a user registers. A two-tier subscription offering includes a premium package for £260 per year and a standard package for £171 per year.

The FT's database of registered users records the platform they are using to view content and the times at which they visit.

In theory, the FT could use this knowledge to target ads at specific groups of users at specific times, but Pinches said in practice it has not yet happened.

The iPad app is likely to have limited advertising inventory available and advertisers will need to pay extra for a presence on it. The Hublot deal is expected to be succeeded by other sponsorships in the first few months.

The team is perhaps cautious about users getting overloaded with ads, with Pinches remarking "we have seen a lot of negative feedback in the iPhone world from ads".

In addition to the FT, the Daily Express has created an app which is expected to be priced at £1.79 with free online content and paid-for access to a turning page copy of the newspaper.

The iPad is due to go on sale in the UK and 27 other countries on 28 May, later than Apple orignally planned due to heavy US demand.

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