In case you hadn’t guessed, Apple doesn’t often show this room to outsiders. The only reason I’m here today is because Apple’s latest iPhone, the iPhone 6, bends.
Remember when Steve Jobs revealed Apple’s super secret antenna testing room to a select group of journalists during the infamous iPhone 4 Antennagate? Same thing here. Apple is taking Bendgate very seriously.
In a couple days, Apple is poised to release its first new product category since the iPad. Like the iPad, Apple’s new wearable device (“the wearable”) will sit between two existing product categories. The iPad sat between the iPhone and the Mac. The wearable will sit between wristwatches and the iPhone. At the original iPad announcement, Steve Jobs asked, “Do we have what it takes to establish a third category of products?” He followed, “The bar is pretty high. It has to be far better at doing some key things. We think we have the goods.” The question now is, can Apple create yet another product category between wristwatches and the iPhone? Do they have the goods?
My wife surprised me with a beautiful Swiss watch as a wedding gift. A carefully crafted system of springs and gears keeps accurate time within a margin of seconds per year. It’s a mechanical watch, recharging on my wrist as I wear it. It only requires minor maintenance every five years to keep it tuned and accurate. It is waterproof to a depth beyond my diving ability. It will surely outlast me. The perfect timepiece. Tough competition for a new product category of wearable devices. The wearable will undoubtedly be a worse wristwatch. While keeping only slightly more accurate time, it may not always display the time at a glance. It won’t be as waterproof or durable. It won’t stand the test of time. More importantly, it will require a battery that needs to be recharged every day or so. Traveling? Bring an extra charger. Forget to charge last night? Head to work without a watch.
The iPhone was a revolution in computing. A pocket-sized, touchscreen, internet-connected computer with an interface so intuitive that anyone could use it. The world in your pocket. And tough competition for a new product category. The iPad succeeded by improving upon the iPhone in two ways: screen size and battery life. A larger display gave app developers a larger canvas to work with and users more to look at while consuming content. Over ten hours of battery life allowed users to enjoy the larger display for longer. The wearable, however, will have neither of these. Instead, it will have a smaller display and less battery life. Thus, the wearable will have to differentiate itself from the iPhone in some other ways. Importantly, Apple must convince consumers that they should purchase, carry, and charge another electronic device in addition to their existing iPhone. A tall order indeed.
Steve Jobs’s aforementioned statement with respect to the iPad holds true to the wearable. It has to be far better at doing some key things. While the iPad was “better” due to a larger display and great battery life, the wearable has to be “better” through convenience. To succeed as a new product category in the long-term, the wearable must present users with conveniences that outweigh the inconveniences of paying for yet another device, wearing it every day, charging it often, and interacting with a tiny display. Below are some areas where the wearable might prove to be a compelling new product category by adding convenience to the user.
The ability to glance at one’s wrist and obtain important information without retrieving an iPhone from a purse or pocket is compelling. Walking down the street, riding in a cab, attending a meeting, or enjoying a dinner are all situations where retrieving a phone is inconvenient or even downright rude. The ability to easily glance at your wrist to get relevant information quickly and discreetly provides clear value. The quality and quantity of information is key. Merely slinging every notification from your phone to your wrist is a common complaint from those reviewing the latest Android Wear devices. Apple isn’t likely to make the same mistake.
Health and Fitness
While many phones, including the iPhone 5S, provide fitness tracking capabilities, the wearable may provide some distinct advantages. If the wearable can be used for health and fitness tracking without a paired iPhone, it will be more convenient to use while working out or running (especially if it can play music locally). In addition, the wearable device may passively collect information, such as heart rate, while current heart rate monitoring on phones like the Galaxy S5 require a user to manually open an app and perform the operation.
It is likely that Apple’s wearable will be integral to its new payment initiative. Others, such as Google and mobile operators, have tried to gain widespread adoption of mobile phone payment systems for years, without success. Despite having the infrastructure available, users still don’t pay with their phones. It’s simply not more convenient to pull out a phone than to pull out a wallet. A wearable device on your wrist might be just what the doctor ordered.
At Tuesday’s event, Apple is likely to expand on its HomeKit initiative, and the wearable will be at the forefront. Further, Apple’s iBeacon technology pairs perfectly with the wearable. By associating a user with locations, such as home, work, or a store, the wearable may provide location-aware features with real-world places. While it makes for an intriguing demo, all of these location-aware functions can be performed with the iPhone. It is difficult to see an advantage that the wearable has over an iPhone when it comes to location-awareness, but such functionality lends itself well to marketing.
Fashion is a wild card. Fashion is not rational. Those who seek to be fashionable often incur inconvenience for the sake of appearance. Whether it’s paying significantly more for lower-quality products or wearing uncomfortable shoes from the best designer, fashion doesn’t always make sense. Apple has recently recruited several influential members of the fashion industry to join its ranks and has invited many influential journalists from the fashion industry to the wearable announcement this week. Apple very clearly understands that what it can not make up for in convenience, it can with fashion.
What has been discussed as a cause for the moderation of market contraction is the expiration of Windows XP support. Certainly that seems plausible and is supported anecdotally. If it’s true then the PC respite may be transient.
PCs (including Macs) are likely making a comeback because tablets are declining. Both Samsung and Apple, the world’s largest tablet producers, have had disappointing tablet sales so far this year.
When the iPad launched, it was great. Not because it was a new category of device, but because it was a larger version of the iPhone that was already great. Bigger was better. This shiny new giant iPhone was so great, in fact, that people rapidly tried to use it for school, work, and other productivity tasks that were previously done on a PC.
During this time, PC sales slumped as many made do with older machines while they played with their shiny new iPads. It took a few years, but it has finally sunk in that the iPad actually inhibits productivity. While Tim Cook might be able to use an iPad for 80% of his work, most people simply can’t do real work on a tablet as efficiently as on a PC. Now, rather than using new iPads with aging PCs collecting dust, it has reversed. iPads are aging and new PCs that are thinner, lighter, and faster are making a comeback.
As someone who develops for Android and iOS I get asked the same question over and over again by people: “Is developing for Android screens a huge pain? How on earth do you cope with the thousands of screen sizes available?”
The answer tends to surprise pretty much everyone: It’s not that hard, and honestly causes us less headaches than most people imagine.
For developers targeting Android 4.0+, display size fragmentation is a thing of the past.
On the eve of WWDC, John Gruber’s latestseriesof posts got me thinking about the very different product announcement strategies taken by Apple and Google.
Tomorrow, Apple will likely announce several innovations, either as new products or improvements to existing products. These innovations have largely been kept behind a shroud of secrecy and will likely be available to developers and customers in short order.
Last week, Google announced its latest innovation in self-driving cars. We’ve long known about Google’s efforts in this area, however, the latest announcement brought it even closer to reality. With respect to Google’s announcement, Gruber writes:
This is why I’m so skeptical about Google today. Their biggest, splashiest product announcements are for things like Glass and these new self-driving cars. They’re closer to being real products than Apple’s 1987 Knowledge Navigator, but they’re not real products.
First, let’s get Glass out of the way. Google Glass is a real product, and an extremely innovative product to say the least. While it is expensive and in an open beta, anyone can buy and use Glass. Second, it is clear that Google’s self-driving cars are not real products yet, but that does not mean they are not innovative or raise concerns about Google. Google just has a different strategy than Apple. Google innovates in the open and Apple innovates behind the scenes.
Apple’s strategy has advantages. Apple’s competitors don’t know what it is working on and can often be left playing catch-up after a product is announced. Apple’s customers are rarely left disappointed that a previously-announced product is delayed or canceled. Apple’s strategy also has disadvantages. Apple does not have the input of the public during product development, which leads to a gamble on how the final product will be received. More importantly, Apple is considered by many to be a slow-moving company struggling to innovate, despite announcing several very innovative products each year.
Google’s strategy of innovating in the open has the opposite effect. Google’s competitors know what it is working on and customers can be disappointed by delays or canceled projects. However, Google’s final products can be fine-tuned during development based upon real customer data. Further, and most importantly, Google is widely viewed as a fast-moving and innovative company, irregardless of whether its pre-announced innovations become real products, or real successes.
It comes down to size. The vast majority of the hundreds of millions of people who use tech every day are just fine with having two primary computing devices: One for your pocket and one for your desk. Tablets are trying (and failing) to be portable enough to go everywhere, yet large enough to be multipurpose. Despite all the keyboard origami and elaborate ways to make your tablet into a laptop, it isn’t one.
Fantastic piece on the current state of tablets. The iPad was quite exciting when it launched, mainly because it was a big, beautiful, version of the measly 3.5” iPhone screen many people already loved. But as the resolution and size of phone displays has improved, little room is left for a tablet in most people’s workflow. On the go, or sitting around the house, a phone with a 4-5” display works great. And in the office, you need a laptop or desktop PC to do your work. Tablets aren’t going anywhere, but they also aren’t going where everyone thought they would in 2010.
Apple’s executives recently dismissed the possibility of iOS and OS X merging into a single operating system:
“We don’t waste time thinking, ‘But it should be one [interface]!’ How do you make these [operating systems] merge together?’ What a waste of energy that would be,” Schiller said.
“To say [OS X and iOS] should be the same, independent of their purpose? Let’s just converge, for the sake of convergence? [It’s] absolutely a nongoal,” Federighi said.
Dr. Drang has a nice piece on the subject where he correctly notes that touch targets on OS X would be too difficult to use on a touchscreen:
This is exactly what Federighi was talking about. Targets in Windows—which is what he was using, of course—and OS X aren’t designed to be hit with a finger. They’re designed to be hit with the much more precise tip of a mouse pointer.
But I don’t think people actually want to use a touchscreen on a laptop. Keyboards and trackpads work just fine. For example, many Windows PCs have touchscreens these days and relatively expensive MacBooks without touchscreens are consistently outperforming the PC market. If laptops with touchscreens were so desirable, people would buy them.
Instead, those who ask for iOS and OS X to merge really just want iOS to do more, especially on the iPad. The iPad is undoubtedly a beloved device and people want to use the iPad for as much as possible. While the iPad does many things better than a laptop, it is lacking in some key areas:
Keyboard and touchpad: I rarely see an iPad without a third-party keyboard. It’s absolutely necessary for serious typing. And constantly reaching up to tap the screen when using a third-party keyboard gets old pretty fast. A keyboard cover with trackpad similar to Microsoft’s Touch Cover would do the trick quite nicely. It’s shocking that Apple hasn’t released one of these yet.
Multitasking: And by multitasking, I’m referring to the pain you feel any time multiple apps or windows are required to complete a task on the iPad. The ability to view just two windows, or two apps, at the same time would be a huge improvement.
File management: One of the biggest features missing from iOS and OS X is cloud storage and syncing for files. I know, iCloud can store and sync files for each app, but most people don’t work that way. It’s why Dropbox is so popular. Several great third-party solutions are available and generally work well, however, they aren’t baked into iOS, which can be frustrating at times.
It doesn’t appear that the recent comments from Apple’s executives preclude any of these improvements, which can all be done solely in iOS without integrating anything from OS X. It should be encouraging to Apple that people want to use the iPad for more tasks. Hopefully Apple is listening and it makes iOS a little bit more powerful so we can use our beloved iPads even more.
But, according to Google’s press release, it is keeping most of the Motorola patent portfolio:
Google will maintain ownership of the vast majority of the Motorola Mobility patent portfolio, including current patent applications and invention disclosures. As part of its ongoing relationship with Google, Lenovo will receive a license to this rich portfolio of patents and other intellectual property. Additionally Lenovo will receive over 2,000 patent assets, as well as the Motorola Mobility brand and trademark portfolio.
Google valued the patent portfolio at $5.5B when it acquired Motorola. There is some speculation that the Motorola patent portfolio isn’t as valuable as Google originally thought, but it is surely worth something, which brings Google’s net loss even lower and likely close to zero.
Two years ago, I decided it was time to cut the cord. My Comcast cable box had broken down again, the interface was terrible, and it was expensive. I hastily canceled my subscription and returned the ugly cable box in the same day. There was no plan to replace it. I had an Apple TV, but didn’t use it much. I had heard of HD antennas, but never tried one. New Year’s Eve 2011 was spent on the couch, not watching the ball drop on network TV, but streaming a low budget local New York telecast from my iPad to the Apple TV. My wife was not thrilled. Fast forward two years later and we’re in TV bliss: paying less money for a better TV experience. Cutting the cord isn’t just for geeks anymore. Anyone can have a better TV experience and save money in the process. Here’s how I did it.
There’s a small investment required to cut the cord and still watch your favorite shows. For around $150 total, buy a Mohu Leaf HD antenna ($40) and either an Apple TV or Roku (your preference, both $99).
The Leaf antenna looks like a laminated piece of paper with an attached coaxial cable. The coaxial cable connects to the antenna input of your TV. Most TVs will automatically scan through all channels and save each available channel. I get around 20 free channels using the Leaf, including ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC in crystal clear HD. You’ll be amazed at how much TV you can watch for free with just the Leaf antenna. Local news, sporting events, and network prime-time TV are all available for free.
For all other content, the Apple TV has worked great for me. While many have speculated when TV is going to move to an a la carte model, few realize that it’s already here. iTunes offers almost every show from most major networks on an a la carte basis. Is Mad Men the only show you want on AMC? Great, just buy the season. New episodes will be available the day after they air. Some shows, like Mad Men, even include special behind-the-scenes features that aren’t available to cable subscribers.
The Apple TV interface is vastly superior to any cable box. It includes a “Favorites” page where you can pin your favorite TV shows, which is much better than trudging through a massive list of channels. Instead of remembering when to DVR a show, the Apple TV simply adds a badge to each icon when a new episode is available. If you buy a season, you’ll get an email when new episodes are available.
After 6 months or so, I realized that buying network shows like Modern Family, Parks and Recreation, Shark Tank, and Master Chef added up quickly. These are available for free using the Leaf, but only if you want to watch them live. Enter Hulu. For $7/month, Hulu provides a wide range of TV and movies, including the latest episodes of almost every network show. For me, Hulu acts as a DVR for the network shows you don’t watch for free using the Leaf.
Netflix provides even more TV shows and movies, and includes original series, such as House of Cards. I watch Netflix the least and its library seems to be getting worse, but I still keep it around for House of Cards and an occasional movie.
The combination of the Leaf, iTunes, Hulu, and Netflix provides more than enough TV to watch on-demand, and I’m able to watch everything I want, usually without commercials, and for less money than a cable subscription.
My Comcast bill was $175/month for internet and cable. Over a two-year period this costs $4,200.
I typically spend $30/month on TV shows from iTunes. This includes individual episodes, which cost $3/episode and entire seasons, which range from $15-45/season. Hulu and Netflix each cost $7/month. The combination of iTunes, Hulu, and Netflix, plus the up front cost of $150 and my monthly internet bill, costs $3,054 over the same two-year period, a savings of nearly $1,200.
What about HBO and ESPN?
These are the two outliers. They both have apps on the Apple TV, but they won’t work without a cable subscription. HBO does provide series for purchase on iTunes, but not until long after they originally air. Personally, I’ve decided not to watch these channels, however, I can appreciate that this is a deal breaker for some. At least HBO’s CEO doesn’t care if you use a shared HBO Go password.
There is much speculation about Apple’s plans to release a TV. In my opinion, Apple won’t be releasing radical new hardware, but instead will improve the current Apple TV hardware incrementally, improve the user interface, and, most importantly, deliver new content deals with media companies. Until now, Apple TV has been a “hobby” for Apple, but it has sold millions of units and spent years fine-tuning the experience and adding content. Don’t expect it to throw that all away. Instead, expect it to put the Apple TV front and center and run with it. It’s been a great experience for me and I could see it going truly mainstream with some small improvements and marketing dollars.
Lots has been written about Apple’s product design decisions and its response, or lackthereof, to competing products. Generally, Apple has a track record of making the right call. It famously rejected netbooks, for example. However, waiting this long to release a larger iPhone may go down in history as a misstep that allowed competitors, such as Samsung, to gain traction in the smartphone market.
While manyhave argued that Apple should skip a larger screen device, the popularity of phones with screens 5” or larger is now too much to ignore. So why has Apple waited to release a larger iPhone? My theory: the iPad.
When the iPad was released, many called it “just a large iPhone.” Despite its success and versatility, the iPad really is just a large iPhone. Since the iPad was released, iOS has remained largely the same between the two devices. Sure, the iPad displays more information and has more screen real estate for developers to utilize, but so will a larger iPhone. Suppose we have a 5-6” iPhone. Would it be fair to call the 8” iPad mini “just a large iPhone.” I think so. And if people already own a 5-6” iPhone, will they still want an iPad? I guarantee this question has been on the mind of Apple executives. Apple has never been scared to cannibalize its own products, but the this might be an exception to the rule.
This piece is quite interesting. Not only does it speculate on two larger screen iPhones (4.5” and over 5”), it gives some insight into the development of these phones and the future, or lack thereof, of the iPhone 5C.
First, it looks like the iPhone 5C was a dud and the strategy of wrapping the old phone in new plastic colors (what looks new is new) didn’t work:
Both new models are expected to feature metal casings similar to what is used on the current iPhone 5S, with Apple expected to scrap the plastic exterior used in the iPhone 5C, these people said.
Second, the article claims that Apple’s over 5” iPhone is only in preliminary development. If true, this is quite surprising. Large phones have been popular for a few years and I’d be surprised if Apple hasn’t been development iPhones of many sizes for that long or longer:
The smaller of the two models is further along in development, and is being prepared for mass production, the people said. The larger-screen version is still in preliminary development, they said.
Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind people that you exist.
Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the content you produce that’s as interesting in two months (or two years) as it is today. It’s what people discover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time.
There’s way too much flow and not enough stock. My goal for Virtual Pants in 2014 is to add some stock to the world and stop adding flow. The goal is one article each month that will be relevant for at least a year. In-depth reviews of big products, technology tutorials that help people, exhaustive analysis of important issues, and maybe an interview or two. Things that will stand the test of time and add real value. I’m looking forward to it and I hope you enjoy.
Great piece by Der Spiegel on new NSA documents. Not only can the NSA intercept mail-order laptops to implant spying hardware and software, but they like to poke fun at Microsoft while spying using Windows error reports:
Although the method appears to have little importance in practical terms, the NSA’s agents still seem to enjoy it because it allows them to have a bit of a laugh at the expense of the Seattle-based software giant. In one internal graphic, they replaced the text of Microsoft’s original error message with one of their own reading, “This information may be intercepted by a foreign sigint system to gather detailed information and better exploit your machine.” (“Sigint” stands for “signals intelligence.”)
But there is no catastrophe here. In fact, Facebook bankers like Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs might have priced the company just about perfectly.
Facebook paid its IPO underwriters to do one job, and one job only: Generate the most money possible through the initial public offering of Facebook stock. It did not pay them to offer 10-15% discounts so that Morgan Stanley or Goldman Sachs could ingratiate themselves to high-net-worth clients. That may be how it usually works in practice, but that doesn’t make it right. Imagine if you found out your real estate broker had priced your home for $50,000 below market value because she thought it would generate more interactions with buyers for her other properties?
The only people who should be thrilled about this are Twitter’s bankers, who climbed over the Chinese wall to get a sweet deal for their high-net-worth clients.
Twitter itself obviously wanted a bit of price pop for PR and employee morale purposes, but here’s something else employees could be thinking about today: Had Twitter priced at $45.10 per share and used the extra proceeds to give out holiday bonuses, it would have worked out to more than $580,000 per employee. How’s your morale feel now?
The Nexus 5 is an excellent phone in many ways. It’s solidly built and feels great to use. It’s got serious processing power which means it can handle pretty much anything you throw at it. The phone has an absolutely gorgeous display. The KitKat update is polished and refined, and cements my belief that not only is Android leading the charge in mobile OSs from a functionality and user interface standpoint, but from a design standpoint as well. The battery life, while not perfect, appears to be good enough to get you through a day of work — which is certainly on par with its competition.
Sounds good! But it seems that there is always one deal-breaker with Nexus phones. This one is a doozy:
The 8-megapixel camera on the back of the Nexus 5 is certainly capable of taking rather beautiful photos in the perfect setting. Unfortunately for us, life is not filled with perfect settings — and when you’re faced with real-world picture taking, the camera underperforms constantly and consistently.
More than anything else, the sign-up process helped me construct a bare-bones timeline that felt extraordinarily impersonal. Granted, nobody can be expected to craft a meaningful feed in minutes — much of what makes Twitter great and so useful is the care that is put into carefully pruning and re-pruning one’s network — but Twitter’s “onboarding” process seems currently geared toward creating a very superficial, celebrity-focused experience. To get anything more requires a fair amount of effort, which is a lot to ask of users.
Building a large and active base of mainstream users is Twitter’s biggest post-IPO challenge.
Word on the trading floor is that the stock will open above $45 a share. That means Twitter potentially left about $1.25 billion on the table when they set the strike price of $26 a share last night. But this is a delicate dance, meant to reward the bankers and their clients who agreed to buy up the stock ahead of time. Twitter is most concerned about having a clean opening that will give the stock positive momentum, the opposite of what occurred with Facebook.
To me, it doesn’t make sense to leave $1.25B on the table, especially to reward bankers. Facebook’s IPO, contrary to popular belief, was a huge success because they arguably left nothing on the table. Facebook, the company, obtained maximum value in the IPO. A huge jump between the IPO price and the trading floor isn’t a win for the company or the trading public, it’s a win for financial industry insiders - a group that I always hate to see winning.
Twitter stock will soon be available to the public. Whether it’s a good investment remains to be seen.
When Facebook went public, I had an overwhelming feeling that it was a good buy, even at the $38 IPO price. When it later dropped to $20, it was a no-brainer. Facebook is the largest social network ever, and with that comes a certain stickiness to the platform. With a billion users socially connected, it is human nature to stay connected and continue using Facebook. That stickiness gives Facebook plenty of time to figure out the best way to make money. For example, a misstep in monetization strategy won’t send users fleeing to another service. And Facebook was already profitable at the time of its IPO.
Many things the Facebook IPO offered (profit, users, and stickiness) are lacking with Twitter today. I’m not a finance guy, so I haven’t analyzed the fundamentals, but my gut feels a lot different about Twitter than it did about Facebook.
Joe Kissell wrote a heavily-cited article on how Gmail is broken in Mavericks. I first saw this linked by John Gruber:
As Joe Kissel documents in this piece for TidBITS, the relationship between Apple Mail and Gmail has gotten more complicated than ever in Mavericks. I’m surprised this didn’t boil to the surface during Mavericks’s beta period.
And tonight, I see Marco Arment has jumped on the bandwagon:
It’s pretty bad that Apple didn’t catch this in beta testing — it is, after all, a pretty big set of new bugs with the system’s email client when configured for one of the world’s most popular email services. That’s on Apple, fair and square. But if you’re a Gmail user and expecting to wedge it into an IMAP client without ever hitting problems, that’s increasingly your problem.
The problem with all of this is that Gmail actually works better in Mail with Mavericks than ever before. Joe admits as much in his article:
I eventually found a combination of Mail settings and Gmail settings that, prior to Mavericks, resulted in a stable — and indeed largely pleasant — experience. As I documented in “Achieving Email Bliss with IMAP, Gmail, and Apple Mail,” 2 May 2009, you just do x, y, and z (well, 21 steps’ worth of x, y, and z), and it will all work smoothly.
Mail in Mavericks tries to meet Gmail on its own terms, more or less. As part of this approach, it now treats archiving Gmail messages essentially the way Gmail itself does — moving a message from the Inbox to Archive removes the Inbox label, which means it shows up only in Gmail’s All Mail list (unless you apply another label in Gmail or move it to another mailbox in Mail). Note that deleting a message in Mavericks Mail won’t archive it in All Mail; it (logically enough) moves it to the Trash.
It sounds like Joe previously configured Mail to work with Gmail in a convoluted 21-step process (because Mail didn’t work well with Gmail in the past). In Mavericks, Apple finally made the archive button archive in Gmail, the delete button delete in Gmail, and the All Mail folder, wait for it, displays all of your mail. That’s how it’s supposed to work! I don’t care if it broke Joe’s 21-step hack. It works great for me and anyone else who simply adds their Gmail account to Mail.
In my opinion, the most thoughtful review was by John Gruber at Daring Fireball, where he looked at the iPad Air from the perspective of two types of people:
Those who still need or merely want to carry a MacBook with them when they travel, but who also want to carry an iPad.
Those whose portable computing needs can — all, or even just most, of the time — be met by an iPad.
I really think he nailed it. The second group of people is the iPad’s core audience. These people literally can get by, now more than ever, with an iPad as their primary PC. The only thing that I might change would be to add a third category: Those who still need to carry a MacBook with them when they travel, but who wish the iPad could replace their MacBook.
This third category is not insignificant, and it’s the target audience for the Surface. As soon as I heard the name iPad Air, I immediately started thinking about whether Apple was carving out a spot for an iPad Pro. I sure hope so, because I’m in the third category.
My all-time favorite calendar app for iPhone, Fantastical, received a huge update today. Fantastical 2 is a new app, not a free upgrade, but it’s well worth it. It adds a plethora of new features, including a new iOS 7 refreshed design, reminders integration, a new light theme option, updated day ticker, and the ability to open appointment locations in Google Maps. It’s on sale for $2.99 in the App Store for a limited time.
With the upcoming launch of the iPad Air and new Retina iPad mini, some folks might be looking for Retina quality wallpaper for their new device. Look no further. I’ve been using Simon’s wallpaper for years and it’s simply stunning.
Oppenheimer’s statements during the call indicate that future versions of OS X will also be free. This, along with iWork updates and free copies for each purchaser of Mac and iOS hardware, would contribute to a $900M sequential increase in net revenue deferred for software upgrade rights and non-software services.
The world’s most successful hardware company is doing so well that it can give away $900M of “free” software subsidized by hardware sales. Wouldn’t it be great if Microsoft, the world’s largest software company, could give away $900M of “free” hardware subsidized by software sales? Or Google, the world’s largest advertising company, could give away $900M of “free” hardware subsidized by advertising revenue? It doesn’t look like the latter two are going to happen anytime soon, which illustrates the power in Apple’s business model.
Dan Frommer (and his awesome charts) on TechCrunch:
You’ll note a modest uptick in Apple’s revenue and profit growth rate — though profits are still down year-over-year. The iPhone is still the heart of Apple’s business, representing 52% of sales and likely more of its profits.
Ben Thompson on the philosophical differences between the Surface and the iPad:
If your worldview of productivity is limited to what can be done on a PC – documents, spreadsheets, presentations, coding – then of course you will produce a product that is like a PC, but worse for having tablet features. Of course you’ll produce a Surface.
If, though, your worldview of productivity is defined not by the PC, but rather by people – by the liberal arts – then you will produce a product that is nothing like a PC, but rather an intimate, responsive object that invites people in, and transforms itself into whatever you need it to be.
You’ll produce an iPad.
It’s true that Microsoft’s focus for the Surface is retaining the PC experience on a tablet form factor. This focus has created a less-than-perfect tablet experience. By way of contrast, Apple’s focus for the iPad has been creating the most responsive and delightful user experience. This focus has created the best tablet experience in the world, but with little emphasize on traditional PC productivity.
For many people (musicians, artists, grandmothers, and children are examples given by Thompson) the iPad is a perfect device. But for another large segment of the population, it offers little more than a smartphone. As Marco Arment mentioned on last week’s Talk Show, he barely uses the iPad, and when Apple releases an iPhone with a larger display, he probably won’t use an iPad at all. He’s not alone.
People in school, finance, law, business, journalism, engineering, and many other fields still need a PC, and will need a PC for the foreseeable future. There are a lot of these people. And that’s who the Surface is for. Is the Surface perfect? Not yet, but Microsoft making the Surface a better tablet faster than Apple is making the iPad a better PC.
This brings me to an answer to Thompson’s question:
If you are human, the iPad is your magic wand. And, honestly, who does not want a magic wand? And why isn’t Apple selling it as such?
The problem with the iPad, and the reason Apple may be emphasizing things like iWork, is that, eventually, some company will make a device that satisfies the liberal arts people and the PC people (and the people who fall into both categories). That’s the goal of the Surface. One device that does it all - a magic wand and a PC. In the five examples that Thompson gives in his piece, not a single one describes something that can’t also be done with a Surface. The difference between the Surface and the iPad is that when little Richard, the student, actually has a research paper to write, or a resume to produce, or a college application essay to draft, he can easily accomplish those things on a Surface. Good luck on an iPad.
According to users in a support thread spanning over 14 pages, the trackpad and the keyboard on the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro are reportedly locking up at random during use, with a hard reset through the machine’s power button appearing to be the only present solution to the problem. Users are also reporting that a reset of the MacBook’s System Management Controller (SMC) appears to be ineffective, and a small survey of users within the thread show that the problem is affecting all three configurations of the 13-inch model. Currently, it is unknown as to whether the freezes are a hardware or software problem, as Apple has not officially commented on the errors.
Macworld ran some benchmarks on the new 13” rMBP with Intel Iris graphics. The results are pretty good:
The most impressive improvements in the new laptops came courtesy of the new Iris graphics. Compared to the HD 4000 graphics in the early 2013 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro, the Iris graphics posted between 45 and 50 percent higher frame rates in Cinebench r15’s OpenGL tests and the Unigine Valley Benchmark. Unigen’s Heaven benchmark showed the new systems with about 65 percent improvement in frame rates over the earlier model.
Last week, Apple updated the Retina MacBook Pro (rMBP) line with Intel’s latest chips. I’ve been patiently waiting for this update and got the first one sold at my local Apple Store (13” with 2.4/8/256). All of the early reviews are largely positive, but they focus on the 15” model:
The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is probably the best all-around laptop on the market. It checks every box, from “portable enough” to “insanely powerful” to “beautiful trackpad” to “reasonably priced for its market.” At $1,999 it’s a mile from cheap, but compared to other laptops with its capability that price tag isn’t so bad. This is the most versatile laptop I’ve used, one of only a couple that’s at home in any situation, simple or complex, personal or professional.
A Retina Mac is just more pleasant to use now than it was a year ago. The importance of Retina-optimized third-party applications can’t be overstated here, because without them you end up with an operating system that actually looks worse than it would if you were just running it on any old non-Retina display. This was just as true of the 2012 Retina MacBook Pro as it is of the 2013 version, but the 2013 refresh includes battery life improvements, slight CPU performance increases, Thunderbolt 2, and a new Wi-Fi standard that all reward those who refrained from buying one of the first-generation laptops.
Apple’s 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pros with Retina Displays are simply the best available notebooks, and which you choose depends totally on budget and priorities over anything else. If power is what you’re looking for, look no further than the 15-inch reviewed here.
Since nobody has focused on the 13” model, here’s a short review after a few days of use. I’ve included some size and price comparisons to the 13” MacBook Air (MBA), since that was another machine I considered.
Build quality is solid as always, with no flex in the machine at all. The keyboard has a bit less travel than my old 2011 15” MBP. The reduction in size is noticeable. Interestingly, the 13” rMBP (12.35” x 8.62”) has a smaller footprint than the 13” MBA (12.8” x 8.94”). And when compared to the 13” MBA, it’s only .03” thicker at the thickest points and weighs in at only .5 pounds heavier. The price to pay for a Retina display in size and weight is falling rapidly.
Apple decreased the price of the base model by $200 to $1,299. This puts the rMBP in MBA price territory. For example, a 13” MBA with 1.3/8/256 will run you $1,399. A 13” rMBP with 2.4/8/256 is only $100 more at $1,499. The price to pay for a Retina display is also rapidly decreasing in dollars.
Improvement to battery life is one of the biggest benefits of the new Intel Haswell chipset. The battery life appears to be better than Apple’s claim of 9 hours. I don’t have a standardized battery test, just real life experience. On a recent flight to San Francisco, it estimated 19 hours of battery life after the brightness was reduced to 40%, radios turned off, running Mail, Word, and Preview (a typical usage scenario for me on flights). After 6 hours on the plane, it estimated 12 hours remaining, so the initial estimate (while ridiculous) actually seemed fairly accurate. In a more typical working scenario, it is getting around 12 hours of battery life with the display at 60%, radios on, running Mail, Word, Safari, Calendar, and Messages. Not too shabby.
I haven’t run an extensive set of benchmarks. I just use the thing. It’s fast. My machine is set to 1440 x 900 scaled, hooked up to a 24” HD display, and running the applications listed above. No hiccups at all. The Retina display is gorgeous. I have mine set to 1440 x 900 scaled, which gives me the same screen real estate as I had on my 15” MBP. Although Apple claims this may decrease performance, I haven’t noticed any impact. My only issue so far is that the mouse pointer and keyboard randomly freeze. It could be an issue with Mavericks, or the rMBP, or both. Shutting the lid and waiting a few seconds before reopening fixes it.
The new 13” rMBP is easily the best machine I’ve ever used. It’s the perfect combination of size, a beautiful display, and performance. The 15” model, especially the high-end configuration, clearly offers better performance, but few people actually need it. For those who prefer compact size, a Retina display, and a performance increase over the MBA, the 13” rMBP offers a compelling option at a competitive price.
It happened, cord cutters… it really happened. Following a report from DSLReports, it appears as though Comcast has made a new Internet service plan available in some markets that really is a cord cutter’s dream come true. The new offering, dubbed “Internet Plus,” bundles 25Mbps Internet service with HBO GO, local TV channels and Comcast’s Streampix streaming movie and TV show service for $40 per month to for a year.
For me, this represents a good start, but it’s hardly a dream come true. I’ve completely eliminated cable TV for the past two years, successfully replacing it with a combination of iTunes, Hulu, and Netflix via an AppleTV and a Leaf HDTV antenna. It costs me less per month than cable and I still watch almost everything I want with fewer commercials. The only thing I’m missing is HBO, so a dream come true for me would be the ability to subscribe to HBO GO without a Comcast subscription, either directly through Apple TV or HBO.
LG has announced official details of its curved-screen smartphone, the G Flex. The phone, which uses flexible OLED screen technology to allow for a dramatic curve on the horizontal axis, is between 7.9 and 8.7mm thick at various points
This looks like the gimmick to rule all gimmicks. What happens if you forget it’s in your back pocket and sit down?
I’ve written about Apple’s upgrade dilemma before, however, the decision to continue selling the iPad 2 is a significant development. By selling the iPad 2 into a third year, Apple is admitting how little the iPad has evolved since it was released in 2011. In addition, as noted by Marco Arment, it means people aren’t using iPads for anything that requires an upgrade:
Or maybe Apple should be concerned that most people are using their iPads for such mundane tasks that years-old hardware is still adequate.
The rate at which people purchase iPads is also declining faster than many expected. Ben Thompson, referring to the graph below, had an interesting theory:
That line is flattening much too soon for a product as truly revolutionary as the iPad. It is not obvious to customers what the iPad is and why it matters.
I don’t think the iPad has a problem resonating with customers, as Ben stated above. People love iPads and use them quite often. The big problem for Apple, and the real reason that the line is flattening so early, is that many of the iPads represented earlier in the line are still going strong, and as noted by Marco in the aforementioned piece, will likely be used for some time into the future.
But why is Apple still selling such an old device, three generations behind the most current model? Why not force iPad buyers to choose the latest technology? According to John Paczkowski at AllThingsD, it’s because they can:
According to CIRP, the iPad 2 accounted for 22 percent of the iPads sold in the U.S. during the quarter ended Sept. 30, 2013. Now, that’s down from the 35 percent it accounted for in the quarter prior, but it’s still a significant percentage.
Despite the fact that people are buying them, there’s a couple problems with selling such an old device. First, as iOS and apps mature, the iPad 2 hardware degrades the user experience. iOS 7 significantly slowed down my iPad mini (which uses the same hardware as the iPad 2, and will also be sold by Apple this year alongside the new iPad mini). In addition, iOS 7 looks fairly terrible on a non-retina display. With the iPad 2 and iPad mini on sale this year, they will likely need to support iOS 8 as well, which may be more resource-intensive than iOS 7. A responsive UI is the hallmark of iOS devices, and selling such old hardware taints the brand.
Second, for every iPad 2 purchased for $399, there is a missed opportunity to sell an iPad Air for $499. This likely provides more profit and a definitely provides a better user experience. I’d guess that a majority of iPad 2 buyers would buy an iPad Air if no iPad 2 was available. If they were going to buy a cheaper Android tablet, they already would have since most are cheaper than $399 (i.e. Nexus 7) or the same price for superior hardware (i.e. Nexus 10).
To me, continuing to sell the iPad 2 (and iPad mini) is a mistake. Not only is Apple losing potential sales of more expensive iPads, but customers purchasing iPad 2’s will not have the same delightful experience iPad Air owners.
Apple may have stranded itself between two worlds: it produced a cheaper-looking phone that didn’t appeal to premium customers but was too pricey for more cost-conscious ones.
In the U.S., the iPhone 5c is $100 cheaper than the iPhone 5s, and $100 isn’t what it used to be. It looks like iPhone customers are willing to fork over an extra $100 for the latest technology rather than last year’s model wrapped in plastic.
In the rest of the world, the $550 unsubsidized price of the iPhone 5c is no bargain, and I think people who are already willing to spend $550 on an iPhone are very likely to spend an extra $100 for the iPhone 5s.
Apple’s event yesterday was largely successful, but also entirely predictable. The one huge surprise was the announcement that Apple’s latest version of OS X, Mavericks, would be offered for free. In addition, Apple’s other software suites would be free to those purchasing new Mac hardware. This is big news for consumers, but potentially huge news for corporate IT departments, as noted by Austin Carr, writing for Fast Company:
Though it’s unclear whether this represents a long-term change in policy for Apple, with all its future Mac OS upgrades remaining free, it’s easy to see how this pricing model would be appealing to the public. Imagine a corporate IT buyer choosing between purchasing Macs and Windows-based PCs for employees. Certainly, PCs are likely to remain cheaper up front, but now they might seem significantly more costly to maintain over the years. Rather than have to upgrade from XP to Vista to Windows 7—with all the associated headaches and expenses—a new Mac can stay as fresh as possible without putting a hole in your wallet.
Walk into any corporation today, and you’ll likely see a bunch of black boxes running Windows XP, Vista, or 7 (if they’re lucky). Upgrading Windows has always been expensive and time-consuming. A simple, free, one-click OS upgrade like Mavericks is a great selling point. Upgrade costs will be significantly lower long-term, offsetting the higher price of Apple hardware. People will have better hardware and updated software for a lower overall IT cost.
As I’ve noted before, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. It’s not that Apple is giving away software for free, but that they are subsidizing software through favorable margins in hardware sales. Likewise, Google subsidizes software through advertising. In response, Microsoft needs to accelerate its shift from licensing software to selling hardware. That makes the Surface one of Microsoft’s most important projects in a very long time.
Microsoft’s goal with the Surface is to deliver a single device that works well as a tablet and a laptop. Microsoft believes, as do I, that such devices are the future. That’s why Windows 8 is designed the way it is. However, even the new Surface devices fail to meet such a goal, with the largest criticism being that the device doesn’t work well as a laptop.
Adjusting the two angles requires no switches or buttons — you simply push on the kickstand until it clicks into place. It’s certainly a big improvement from the original Surface Pro, but if you’re looking to use it mainly as a laptop in your lap you’ll probably want to opt for a traditional laptop. Improved as the Pro 2 is, it’s still no match for a laptop display that’s fully adjustable, or a sturdy, attached keyboard.
I used a Surface Pro for quite some time. It worked quite well as a laptop on a desk, however, on your lap, not so much. The new wider angle kickstand might help, but apparently doesn’t solve the problem.
The lack of stability is a two-fold problem. First, the Surface itself is too heavy as the top portion of a laptop. A traditional laptop display is just that - a display. The guts of the laptop, along with the keyboard and trackpad, comprise the bottom portion. This provides balance between the top and bottom and, thus, better stability. The Surface doesn’t have this option, so the top portion is way heavier than the bottom keyboard portion, making it unstable to use on your lap.
The second problem is the hinge, or lack thereof. The Surface keyboard covers attach with a strong magnet, but they have no rigid hinge. Since there is a lack of a sturdy hinge that can support the top portion, the kickstand is the only means of support.
To fix the problem, the Surface itself needs to get thinner and lighter, and the keyboard covers need to include a sturdy hinge that works in conjunction with the kickstand. Instead of making the keyboard cover out of flimsy material, use a thin sheet of VaporMG. Use the current magnet connector, but add a sturdy hinge mechanism that cradles the back of the Surface. Something similar to my mockup below would provide a much sturdier experience when using the Surface as a laptop.
The Verge has reviewed Microsoft’s second generation of Surface tablets and, while both seem to be greatly improved from the first generation, they still aren’t the perfect all-in-one tablet/laptop hybrid Microsoft is hoping for.
The Surface Pro 2 was reviewed very favorably, however, the bulky tablet form factor was the biggest gripe. Also, it still isn’t as solid for lap use as a traditional laptop. From Tom Warren’s review of the Surface Pro 2:
The Surface Pro had far too many compromises to be used fully in each tablet or laptop mode, and Microsoft is clearly trying to address those with the Surface Pro 2. A new two-stage kickstand improves the lap use and the accessories have been tweaked and refined. Even the battery life is much better to the point where you could realistically use this as a tablet. However, it’s still bulky for its primary tablet purpose and nothing has changed to address that. It’s the same weight and size as the original, so Microsoft still wants you to make compromises on the tablet side. A Surface with the specifications of the Pro and the slim form factor of the Surface 2 is the dream.
The form factor of the Surface 2 is much more tablet-friendly. The biggest problem with the Surface 2 is the application library, which still lags far behind iOS or Android. From David Pierce’s review of the Surface 2:
It’s lonely using a Surface 2. I can’t play all the games my friends are playing, or test out all the apps they’re downloading. Trying to use apps in IE tabs is a clunky, messy process, and no one should have to do it. Microsoft needs to convince developers to make things for the Windows Store, but for most Windows 8.1 devices, companies can just build desktop apps — that’s what people are used to, that’s what will work on virtually every PC out there. Windows RT devices are a rare and endangered breed with a brutal track record; I don’t blame Rdio or Simplenote for not making apps. But until they do, I can’t tell anyone to buy a Surface 2.
Great hardware for a tablet, runs Office for productivity, thin, light, great battery life. But a weak app library really is a deal-breaker for most.
Overall, I think this is good news for Microsoft. In a very short time frame they have refined the original Surface line and addressed many of the initial shortcomings. The keyboard covers have been improved, performance has improved in both models, and the new two-step kickstand makes it more comfortable to use on your lap. I’m hoping next year they consolidate the two models into a single Surface Pro that’s the same size, or thinner, than the current Surface 2, and with 10 hours of battery life. And LTE. If they can make this happen, the application library will be less of an issue and the device will be more comfortable to use as a tablet.
I really hope Microsoft sticks with it, because the combination of Windows 8 and the Surface is getting very close to the ideal post-PC device. And with Windows 8 and the Surface, Microsoft is light years ahead of Apple in this regard.
The people who have actually attempted to live without being tracked—most often due to a safety threat—will tell you that security cameras are just about everywhere, RFID tags seem to be in everything, and almost any movement results in becoming part of a database. “It’s basically impossible for you and I to decide, as of tomorrow, I’m going to remain off the radar and to survive for a month or 12 months,” says Gunter Ollmann, the CTO of security firm IOActive, who in his former work with law enforcement had several coworkers who dedicated themselves to remaining anonymous for the safety of their families. “The amount of prep work you have to do in order to stay off the radar involves years of investment leading up to that.”
It’s amazingly difficult to maintain any sense of privacy these days.
Apple Inc. has notified its two assemblers for the low-cost iPhone 5C that it is reducing orders of the smartphone for the fourth quarter, people familiar with the situation said, raising concerns about weaker-than-expected demand and its pricing strategy for the device.
According to CIRP’s survey of consumers who purchased Apple’s latest iPhones during the last days of September, the 5s accounted for 64 percent of total iPhone sales following its launch that month. Meanwhile, the the 5c accounted for 27 percent, with the legacy iPhone 4S making up the remaining 9 percent.
So not only is the 5s outselling the 5c, it’s outselling it more than two to one.
The popular refrain after the announcement of the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s was that the 5c was the new mainstream iPhone, with the 5s holding the top spot for those who need the latest technology. Further, as noted by John Gruber, the iPhone 5c was the focus of Apple’s marketing at and after the announcement. But despite popular opinion and marketing focus, the 5s is selling twice as well.
As I argued before, there is a collective misperception that, with respect to the 5c, what looks new is new. The problem is that colored iPhones aren’t new, and the 5c doesn’t even look new. People commonly use colored cases on their iPhones, so a slightly thicker iPhone with a colored back is simply more of the same.
I suspect people will argue that, as noted by AllThingsD, the 5s appeals most to early adopters, and thus, this early sales report may be skewed towards the 5s. However, as also noted in the article, and most worrisome for the 5c:
What’s more surprising is the iPhone 5c’s sales performance relative to that of the iPhone 4S’s following the debut of the iPhone 5. Despite the 5c’s newness and its colorful design, it’s not selling that much better than the 4S did when it was demoted to legacy iPhone by the flagship iPhone 5.
If the 5c is truly viewed by customers as new, and not just a repackaged iPhone 5, shouldn’t it at least be selling better out of the gate than the 4S last year?
Instapaper 5 is finally live in the App Store. It sports a new iOS 7-friendly design and crisp layout. It’s the same Instapaper we all know and love, but prettier. And most importantly, we no longer need to archive in the trash!
In so many places in iOS 7, it feels like Apple sketched out the right blueprints for an interconnected, clever, advanced operating system — and then didn’t have time to finish connecting all the pieces.
The past few iPhone launches have been a bit rough on Apple. First the infamous antennagate, and then last year’s horrendous release of Apple Maps. Most people I’ve spoken to about iOS 7 share the sentiment quoted above - iOS 7 is confusing and largely unfinished. Only time will tell how people will react when the mobile operating system most often praised for ease-of-use becomes much less intuitive and unpolished overnight. Will this year be iOS 7-gate?
The iPhone 5s reviews are in, and it looks pretty good. Plus, the fingerprint sensor actually works. But I noticed one glaring criticism of the iPhone 5s. The screen is too damn small compared to the competition. Instead of spending time redesigning a color plastic shell for the iPhone 5c, maybe Apple should have developed and released the iPhone 5b (big). Here’s a summary of what the reviewers had to say about the screen size of the iPhone 5s.
Personally, I would’ve appreciated something a bit larger that made better use of the front facing real estate. The 5s’ width is almost perfect for my hands. I could deal with the device being a little larger, with the ideal size for me landing somewhere between the iPhone 5 and the Moto X.
It remains to be seen the impact display size has on iPhone sales. Anecdotally I know a number of die hard iPhone users who simply want a larger display and are willing to consider Android as a result. I still believe that users don’t really cross shop between Android and iOS, but if Apple doesn’t offer a larger display option soon then I believe it will lose some users not because of cross shopping, but out of frustration.
The 4-inch 16:9 LCD display features a 1136 x 640 resolution, putting it at the low end for most flagship smartphones these days.
Apple is quick to point out that iOS 7 does attempt to make better use of display real estate, but I can’t shake the feeling of being too cramped on the 5s. I’m not advocating that Apple go the route of some of the insanely large displays, but after using the Moto X for the past month I believe there’s a good optimization point somewhere around 4.6 - 4.7”.
The 5s builds upon the same chassis as the iPhone 5 and with that comes a number of tradeoffs. I still love the chassis, design and build quality - I just wish it had a larger display.
I’m a little more disappointed that Apple stubbornly stuck to a 4-inch Retina display when many Android competitors offer 5-inch displays or larger. Sure, there are trade-offs with larger screens, but since Apple has already bolstered consumer choice with two new iPhones, would a third model have been that much of a stretch?
For anyone who needs copious amounts of screen space, a 4-inch display likely won’t cut it, but to be fair, the 5s is the best small phone you can get — we can’t think of any other device with a display smaller than 4.5 inches that even comes close.
But, it also has a smaller screen (4 inches) than most of its Android cousins. I love using a more compact phone, but competitors have found a way to make larger-screened 4.7-inch phones with excellent feel, like the Moto X, which has nearly edge-to-edge screen across its face. The iPhone 5S has a lot more bezel framing the display, and I couldn’t help wondering if that screen couldn’t be just a bit bigger.
A larger screen would have really helped this year: not because the competition has it, but because Apple’s newest features and apps would put it to good use. I found editing and appreciating the improved photos and video recording, and even playing games, to be challenging; the better that graphics and camera quality get, the more you need a larger screen to appreciate them.
Swanking the same 4-inch, 1136x640 at 326ppi screen as its predecessor, and matching that of the 5c, the iPhone 5s display feels small in comparison to the Samsung Galaxy S4 (5-inch), the HTC One (4.7-inch) and the Sony Xperia Z (5-inch).
Screen quality is pin-sharp but, after watching films on bigger handsets, you really notice the drop in size. However, the Retina screen really shows off iOS 7’s brighter, more vivid UI.
So that means the same 4-inch, 1136 x 640 pixel (326ppi) Retina display. Not taller, wider or more resolute this time around. We suspect Apple will increase the screen size in the iPhone 6 - and the lack of movement here might disappoint a whole lot of fans hoping for Apple to stand up against the competition out there.
Galaxy Gear reminds me more of a Casio Calculator Watch than anything we would expect a high-tech company to build today. Samsung got caught up in trying to be first to market with a product instead of trying to solve a problem for its users. That is what technology is supposed to do for us—this doesn’t.
Totally agree with Jim here. While the Galaxy Gear is an impressive piece of hardware, it doesn’t solve any real problems. Looking at my wrist for a notification before I get my phone from my pocket doesn’t seem worth $299 and the hassle of charging another device every day. Expensive smartphone accessories that simply mirror information are not the future. With the iWatch, I think (and hope) Apple has something truly new up its sleeve, and it must be very frustrating for Samsung.
Apple is likely to introduce two new iPhones tomorrow: the 5S and the 5C. The iPhone 5S, by all accounts, will look the same as the iPhone 5 with the addition of a fingerprint sensor in the home button and maybe a new gold color option. The iPhone 5C will be a new plastic design in a number of different colors, but will offer little innovation over the iPhone 5. Thus, a common criticism of Apple will certainly be that the only thing they announced is colors. Whoop-dee-doo.
Getting ahead of the curve, several people have argued that new colors alone are enough to create a hit product. The most popular reference points have been the iMac and the iPod mini:
Yes, colors aren’t new to smart phones. But they’re new to iPhones. Better starting point - the original iMac was still a crappy computer.
However, the iMac and iPod mini aren’t great comparisons. In both cases, third-party cases were not popular at the time. People didn’t wrap their computers in colored cases, so a new color computer was a neat thing. And while iPod cases did exist when the iPod mini was released, the third-party accessory market was in its infancy. Most people did not use a case for their iPod.
Just look around. There are iPhones in color cases everywhere. A majority of people already choose any color they want for their iPhone. A color iPhone isn’t going to be a new thing. It’s an old thing.
Tuesday, the e-commerce giant announced a coming MatchBook program that will offer customers a corresponding Kindle version of certain print books purchased at any point since Amazon came into existence.
The ability to obtain Kindle versions of previously purchased books is a fantastic deal for all involved. Consumers get the convenience of an e-book for little or no cost, while Amazon and publishers get new revenue from past purchases.
When I first saw the headline, I thought they were only allowing Kindle books to be purchased along with physical books for future purchases. This didn’t sound interesting at all because I personally have no desire to accumulate more physical books. But the ability to download Kindle versions of previously purchased books means that you can actually get rid of many physical books in favor of their Kindle counterparts. Now that’s interesting.
What if today was the largest mobile event in history?
The recent acquisition of Nokia’s mobile business by Microsoft has set loose a firestorm of negativity regarding the deal and the chance of Microsoft/Nokia’s success in mobile. Many people are acting as if the mobile game is over, with Apple and Google winning the crown. But it’s far from over, and Microsoft/Nokia may have what it takes to win a significant piece of the pie.
I’ve been thinking of an idea over the past few months, and this seems like a nice time to explain it. Imagine if there were no smartphones yesterday, only feature phones without touch screens. Today is the largest mobile event ever. Apple, Google, and Microsoft are all announcing their new mobile phones and operating systems. How would they fair? Let’s look at hardware, operating systems, and services. As for devices, we’ll consider the current flagships: iPhone 5, Moto X, and Nokia Lumia 1020. I’ll make the case, that if they all launched today, Microsoft/Nokia might be the leader.
Not surprisingly, the iPhone is the clear winner when it comes to build-quality and overall hardware design. But, importantly, Apple handily loses when you consider the single most important factor for smartphone consumers today: screen size. Had these three phones launched side-by-side today, Apple could lose based on this factor alone. Nokia, on the other hand, has best-in-class hardware, and arguably has the best overall hardware when you consider the screen size as an important factor for consumers.
I’ve used all three extensively, and Windows Phone (WP) is the superior operating system, followed by Android, and then iOS. WP provides the stability and polish of iOS, with the flexibility of Android. iOS loses because it provides little to no glanceable information, no multi-window support, no default third-party apps, and no true multi-tasking. On a feature-by-feature basis, iOS would be eaten alive by WP or Android. Android is getting better, and fast, but still does not provide the polish of iOS or WP.
Google handily wins this category. Its services are best-in-class and integrate seamlessly into Android with a single login. Microsoft takes a close second, and it’s rapidly improving. Microsoft’s online suite, including Office, Outlook, and SkyDrive, is a powerful combination. And you can’t forget about Xbox. Apple’s services have always suffered, and the current combination of iCloud and iWork is no different.
I’m certain people will disagree with points I’ve made above, but I doubt anyone can argue it’s ridiculous. Looking at Apple, Google, and MS/Nokia on a level playing field, right now, MS/Nokia doesn’t look that far behind. And it’s an important analysis because the mobile game is only just beginning, and there’s plenty of time for Apple or Google to stumble, or Microsoft/Nokia to breakthrough on its own.
But, you argue, this exercise is nonsense because Apple and Google have already had a huge headstart with consumers and developers. There’s no turning back time for Microsoft/Nokia. I have some points to make on this:
To remain successful, a company needs to constantly compare itself to its competitors. Having the first great mobile operating system doesn’t guarantee unlimited success. Apple, while launching a breakthrough product in 2007, has slowly allowed its competitors to produce better products. Its early lead may not last forever. Just look at Blackberry.
The mobile space moves quicky. Consumers purchase new phones every 1-2 years, creating the possibility for relatively rapid shifts.
There’s little lock-in to mobile operating systems. This isn’t iPod/iTunes all over again. Most mobile services are cross-platform. The cost of switching is cheap.
Microsoft does have a problem with third-party developers, but it’s not insurmountable, and Microsoft has the resources to make it happen. And you don’t need 100,000 apps to satisfy 95% of consumers needs. A few hundred of the most popular apps is all you need.
Horace is an easy guy to agree with because he’s usually right. However, he didn’t think this one through enough. As I learned in Economics 101, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. You see, Microsoft’s problem isn’t that companies are giving software away for free, it’s that other companies have found alternative non-consumer sources of revenue to subsidize software.
Take Apple as an example. Much of Apple’s software is provided to consumers for free or very cheaply. New versions of OS X aren’t likely to cost consumers more than $20 going forward. This isn’t because the cost of software development has drastically decreased over the years, but because Apple is subsidizing software development with the sale of hardware. In Apple’s case, hardware is paying for software.
Google is another good example. Virtually all Google services and software are free to the consumer. That doesn’t mean Google isn’t getting paid for the software. Advertisers are paying for it so Google can give it away for free.
Microsoft used a similar strategy for many years. By bundling Windows with new PCs, consumers weren’t directly paying for Microsoft’s software, but instead paying for a new machine from a manufacturer. PC manufacturers were subsidizing Microsoft’s software. However, this strategy is failing with the rapid decline in PC sales.
Microsoft’s problem is that it needs to find someone else to pay for its software. Subsidizing Windows or Office with advertising is not a viable option. Microsoft has only just begun building its own hardware, so it is difficult to immediately follow Apple’s path. However, I suspect the new company reorganization is directed at following Apple’s model, but it’s going to take quite some time, effort, and a little luck to successfully make the transition.
There simply isn’t a scenario in which paying for Next is better than just buying an unlocked phone at retail — AT&T is fundamentally taking advantage of consumers trained to think new phones are a magical gift bestowed on them by greedy, controlling wireless carriers.
It’s great that The Verge called AT&T out on this ridiculous plan immediately. Hopefully people don’t fall for such a scam. Something needs to be done about the wireless industry. Consumer abuse like this doesn’t happen in truly competitive industries.