AMITIAE - Wednesday 7 March 2012

A Quick Look at Apple's Catalogues Section on the iTunes Store

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers

iTunes Catalog

One of the changes that has been brought to the iTunes app store is the creation of a new category: Catalogues. At the moment, when I hit the section in my version of iTunes, all I have is a blank page. That may change in the next few hours or days


In what appears to be a rare slip by Apple, the catalogue is shown in a web page (courtesy of MacNN) although the listings appear somewhat random: I would normally expect a vast list like this to be sorted alphabetically. There may be a reason for this apparent lack of order but it has yet to be revealed. I am also a little surprised (at least in the local store) to see this spelt with the "ue" in the British English fashion.

Clicking on a couple of the entries on the Catalogue page opened a web page such as we might see when finding information and a link to an app that is on the App Store. Clicking on the blue, "View in iTunes" button below the app icon, will open the linked page in iTunes.

I selected one to try: Tea. It was tea time and I am a Brit so it sort of struck a chord, although when it was opened in the iTunes app store page, it was not what I expected: it was a catalogue for children's clothes. I later found a local catalog, so also tried that.


Lamtitude The main page of the Tea Catalogue has an image of a chile with two links. To the left is Shop Category, which reveals sortable and searchable sections, which can be organised by the user using a filter (e.g. Small, medium, large; ages; Color) or sorting for Price or Date.

Some of the data was downloaded as I accessed a specific section. Selecting an item needs the size to be entered using a pull down menu.

Instead of the usual "Add to Cart" that we might see when making online purchases, here the app used "Add to Bag".


A bag icon was displayed top right and clicking on that brought up the contents. I could then proceed to checkout. To complete the process, I needed to set up an account. As I was only trying this for test purposes, I stopped there.


To the right on that main page is Shop Experience. In this view, the user is able to scroll through a series of pages (there are 46 in all) some of which enhance the normal page turning experience of running through a catalog with moving scenes, making better use of the delivery medium.


In the Shop Experience view, there are more icons at the top of the screen for navigation, search and help, plus a Share icon. Tapping on an image of a model, or on the occasional label (like "Shop the Look") brings up pages with garment specifications as were seen in the Shop Catalog access.



Lamtitude As I looked through the list on the catalogue web page, I saw the familiar name of Lamptitude, which had a showroom near where I used to live, at Phutthamonthon Sai 3.

The app when downloaded initially had a few pages from The Lamp Book, but these were samples. When accessing the library, I was offered the full catalog as a download. When this appeared on the iPad it was 348 pages of lights, equipment and sample installations.

The full download of pages took rather a long time and stalled once or twice. I had never been in the store -- the flooding last year put paid to that finally. Although it is now open again I am less likely to pay a visit, but I do now have the catalogue.


Unlike the Tea catalogue, the items were not interactive and the pages seem to be simply facsimiles of a paper catalogue. The organisation of the app needs some improvement as navigation is not easy.


The instructions suggested there were multimedia sections, but I was unable to find these. Pressing the Shop icon revealed only catalogues and there is only the one available. Some development, particularly with regard to interaction between customer and company is sorely needed.


The catalogues listed give a range of features from search engines, to basic pages to interactive works. While Tea required an account to be set up for making purchases, another I tried apparently needed a login before I started, so the search engine I had hoped to try, was not available to me and it reported that wifi was not available.

[That may have been as the app was using port numbers 5050 and 5014. Despite requests for assistance from my internet provider, I am unable to access all services that use such ports. That is my problem and nothing to do with the app itself although I suggest others may also have port access restrictions (at companies for example) and alternatives would be useful.]

I was a little surprised that the catalogues I downloaded appeared with no problem with the way I had accessed them, but did notice that some had been in the app store for a while so the new classification is probably a way to bring them all under one roof. I would speculate (admitting to the dangers of this with Apple) that the update to iOS (5.1) that is expected within the next few days, will create not just a section in the iTunes store, but there will be a section -- much like iBooks, or Newsstand -- in which any such content may be stored separately.

This is an economical way to deliver content and give access to the shopper. It has the advantages of light weight (those massive catalogues that came to our house used to weigh pounds), no mailing costs, direct ordering online, no paper use, and swifter updates. There are clear benefits for users and for the companies that create these catalogs. Some, like Tea, are more fully formed for online working and these will lead the way in what may well be a change in the way users shop from the armchair, with an iPad instead of a monster catalogue (or catalog).


Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



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