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BABY STEP: The standoff between Apple Inc. and magazine publishers over iTunes subscriptions showed the slightest hint of easing on Thursday with the launch of the People magazine iPad app. In a first for the digital storefront, subscribers to the paper version of People are now able to download a free, tablet-ready copy of the magazine every week as opposed to re-buying the issue for something close to the newsstand price, as has been the case for magazines in the iTunes store since the device’s April debut. Apple has thus far disabled the sale of digital subscriptions through iTunes in what many see as a battle with publishers over rights to customer data and revenue shares. People’s existing-subscribers model could be the first step toward a resolution.
Still, those expecting perestroika in Cupertino may want to tone down their hopes. While Fortune tech blogger Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Thursday cited an off-the-record source who said Time Inc.’s other flagship brands are expected to follow People’s lead some time in the next month, a spokeswoman for the publisher contested that account (which, yes, was published on a Time Inc.-owned Web site). She said the company has no timeline to apply the complementary-copy model to its other titles and is exploring other subscription possibilities. Whatever the case, Time Inc. parent Time Warner seems to be onto something with Apple. Earlier this week, the co-president of the company’s HBO cable unit told Bloomberg that its iPad app would launch within six months and be free to HBO subscribers.
— Matthew Lynch