Yesterday Apple CEO Tim Cook photobombed me while I was doing a Vanna White with the new retina Macbook Pro.
Dean Takahashi, also from VentureBeat, was videoing me showing the new laptop. We were at the Apple event in San Jose for the iPad Mini unveiling (and a lot else). Unbeknownst to me, while I’m showing the 13″ MacBook Pro’s new HDMI port, supermodel thinnosity, and super-sharp 4-million-pixel screen, Tim Cook showed up.
Of course, Dean never said a word.
If I had known, of course, I would have stopped interviewing me and started interviewing Cook. Ah well, I’m probably sucking – Tim doesn’t look super-happy.
If truth in advertising is too much to ask, how about just advertising the product?
I saw on VentureBeat this morning that Sony has signed J.K. Rowling to write the first game/book for PlayStation’s augmented reality peripheral, Wonderbook.
Intrigued (although I am, alas, no Harry Potter fan) I checked out the story, and watched the promotion videos that Sony created to promote the new product launch, eager to see how the Wonderbook works and what it does. Only to be vastly unimpressed … not with the videos themselves, but with the fact that they show virtually nothing of the actual product.
What does this product actually look like? What does it really do? I mean, there’s wonderful soft mystical music, magical flourishes, and impressive CG effects. But no actual footage of the real product. The funniest part in the narration? About 50 seconds in:
Melodramatic english narrator: ” … must be seen to be believed.”
Caveat immediately follows: “Images simulated. Actual game images appear on your television …”
If they must be seen to be believed, I don’t currently believe … mostly because I haven’t seen. So show me, Sony! Show the actual product in actual use with actual images.
The second promo vid is just as bad, if not worse. There are not going to be cool little cartoon characters popping out of the product, hovering in mid-air, talking to kids.
This is a set-up for disappointment. Sony has learned nothing from Apple, which focuses on making incredible products, and then simply demonstrates them in its ads in a low-key, nonchalant manner. (Which, by the way, makes them much more credible, much more believable.) Sony’s ads are nothing but hype.
Based solely on the ads, I think Wonderbook is going to be a major flop.
I’ve been getting strange messages from iCal for the past several months. Friends, colleagues, or partners have been sending me meeting invites from Google Calendar, and iCal has been completely barfing on them.
“The server responded with an error” … followed by an iCloud location, and the happy note that said location “is not a location that supports this request.” And then I have the happy choice of either Going Offline (which means my calendars won’t sync) or Reverting to Server (which means my new calendar event will disappear).
This has been a problem since Lion, and it’s time for Apple to fix it. For now, there seems to be one “solution.” Ignore the email with the calendar invite on your Mac, and accept the invite on your iPhone. It’s cheesy at best, and hardly indicative of the elegance that is supposed to accompany a truly Mac experience … but it does have the virtue of working.
We keep hearing rumours about an Apple HDTV that is not just yet another set-top box. That is more than the “hobby” that is AppleTV. And that embodies the awesomeness that a dying Steve Jobs promised biographer Walter Isaacson when saying “I’ve finally cracked it!”
In other words, a full-on flatscreen TV with Apple technology built-in. Theoretically, an Apple HDTV will be available later this year in time for the Christmas shopping season, or early next. This will be the biggest new hardware product for Apple since the iPad – and probably the most expensive.
Where there’s smoke, there’s probably fire. And there’s been a LOT of smoke about an Apple-branded HDTV. The 64-bit question is: would you buy it?
If this future product follows the pattern of the past, an Apple TV will be an interesting animal, with innovations others have introduced but Apple will have refined. And … a few features that other TV manufacturers don’t – and maybe can’t – have.
In the spirit of informed guessing, here’s what I think an Apple TV would include …
The hardware will be spectacular in appearance but not in specifications. Apple will have what is widely recognized as close to best-in class performance and hardware, but you will be able to find HDTVs with better specs.
In other words, don’t expect a retina display for your new 50″ Apple flatscreen.
That said, it will be simple, beautiful, and functional. Think glass and aluminum, not tacky black plastic. Yes, there will be a iSight-style camera, a very simple remote (maybe your iPhone, iPod Touch, or similar), and not too many ports (more on that later).
Here’s where it will get interesting. This is what will separate Apple TV from the pack, for good or bad.
Stunning, elegant, simple. Like the current AppleTV set-top box user interface, but further refined.
Siri, Siri, Siri
Say it, and Apple TV will find it, schedule it, record it, play it, buy it, tweet it, share it, send it. And that’s just the shows. Siri will also help you connect and configure and use all the other features and functionality. And manage your life, while taking dictation. Siri probably won’t make dinner, but it will order your pizza.
This is almost too simple and obvious to mention – nowhere near the level of Siri – but yes, Apple TV will be able to record, pause, rewind, and replay visual content. However, the PVR/DVR functionality will be not simply be based on the local recording of shows … it will integrate seamlessly and invisibly with iCloud (see below) so you never again run out of space on your TiVo.
iOS … and apps
The new Apple TV will almost certainly run iOS … ensuring that the 600,000 apps in the app store (one of Apple’s huge competitive advantages) can also run here. Think digital kids books on the big screen, Twitter running side-by-side with Jersey Shore, Facebook open while you co-watch the big game with your buddy deployed in Iran (oops, loose lips sink ships). And 550,000 other things that smart app designers dream up.
The content will be near enough complete to not make choosing Apple TV a hardship.
Won't need this ...
The major networks will be players, plus many of the movie studios. Giving away ad-supported TV will be like the loss leader for networks: people who like a show can immediately purchase complete and anytime access, including perhaps priority availability of new episodes.
Eventually this will enable new models. Imagine watching a movie for free … for the first 30 minutes. Access to the final 60 is available for a small fee of $4.99.
Via the apps mentioned above you’ll also have access to content networks such as Netflix, but they’ll be less easy to access and less integrated than Apple’s own TV and movie service.
TV content in the Apple TV world starts to undergo a revolutionary shift: it becomes more internet-like. While there still is a place for live shows, most content is stored and accessible on-demand. We see this happening already in places, but Apple TV will accelerate the trend and force the major entertainment companies to buy in or become irrelevant.
Apple TV will connect some dots. But it won’t connect everything, especially not dozens of legacy devices.
Hardware Apple has never shied away from bold hardware decisions. No floppy in the first iMac, no Ethernet in the MacBook Air, no million options for component connectivity in the Apple TV. Forget component, forget 5 HDMI ports, forget a USB stick or card reader. Think a couple of HDMI ports to connect your home theatre system, if you insist on being so gauche as to connect such an unwieldy mass of componentry. But expect a preference to wireless connections and fewer ports.
Speaking of wireless connections, AirPlay and other innovations to tie your small screens and your big screens together will be extended. You’ll send your videos to the big screen from your phone without having to make sure your set-top box is on, configured, the active source in your TV setup.
Your content on your Mac will be accessible here, but not so much because you’re connection your Mac to your TV as both are connected to the cloud (yeah, see below). That doesn’t just mean your photos and videos, as the current AppleTV set-top box does somewhat clunkily today … that means all your content. Your documents, your mail, your web bookmarks, if you still use those. In short: everything.
Want to phone? Why not use FaceTime on your Apple TV? Want to email? Why not shoot a quick email while you’re watching Seinfeld reruns? Want to chat on Facebook? Pull up the app next to your content.
And finally, the biggest innovation, perhaps, besides Siri … which of course is empowered to do all it does via the capabilities of the cloud. Your Apple TV will be connected to iCloud. The cloud is the centre, and the attendant devices are simply peripherals, including your TV
And that, of course, is what will enable and undergird all the software and content and connectivity mentioned above.
I’ve been getting odd errors in iPhoto lately – MobileMe alerts saying they didn’t recognize my password. Something like: “MobileMe didn’t recognize the stored password for …”
That’s fairly odd, since I’ve been using Apple’s new iCloud service for months, and haven’t knowingly used any part of the old MobileMe service for months, if not years. Finally I got annoyed enough to check it out (it usually takes more than a few alerts to stir me up enough to do something about it) and fix the situation. If you’re getting similar warnings, here’s what to do …
Complete your move to iCloud
You probably are already using iCloud, but you may not have completed the move. That’s because there’s still a MobileMe preference pan in your System Preferences (who knew) that may still be active. Or, at least be trying to be active:
MobileMe is deprecated (fancy for cancelled) so that’s the cause of your errors. But that handy little Move to iCloud button at the bottom of the screen is your savior. Click that, and you’re solving your problem.
Now you’re cooking with gas
When you click that button, you’re going to be taken to an online interface to move all your MobileMe data over to iCloud. If you’re like me and barely used MobileMe for anything at all, it’s a fast and simple process.
When finished, you’ll see something like this:
Sign in (and check “keep me signed in” if you wish) and you’re all set. Cloudy goodishness is yours for free (well at least 5 gigabytes of it).
Simple, easy, and no more Mobile Me error messages!
So I’m in the Metrotown Apple store in Burnaby, BC. Yeah, Canada.
And I’m looking at the MacBook Airs … which I have been coveting for some time now. The core question is the cause of this post’s odd title. Should I get the 11″ or the 13″?
More screen is better, when you’re tied to a desk. More portable is better, when you want to be mobile. It’s a challenging question, since I’m not sure there’s a huge spec difference other than the screen size. And I’m not certain what the exact mix of my use will be.
The weight is almost immaterial … 2.38 pounds versus 2.96. If you get the slightly upgraded 11″ model, you can get a processor within 100 MHz of the 13″, plus the 4GB of RAM, which I think is important. One thing I do like about the 13″ is the SD slot … making it simply to transfer your photos, and potentially other data, without having to worry about cables. Other than that, they’re almost identical.
Screen size is the biggest differentiator. Of course 🙂
I’m writing this on the 11″ model right now, in an attempt to convince myself that this is all the screen I need. I’m not certain if I’m being successful …
Which would you pick?
[ update ]
So, I chatted to an Apple sales guy here. He asked what I was going to use it for, and found out I already have an iPad2, which I can pair with my ZAGGfolio for typing. Turns out the iPad screen and the 11″ are almost identical in size. That’s pushing me over the edge a bit, towards the 13″ …
Well yeah, but not always. And one example is right in your pocket: the well-known iPhone lock screen.
Do we really need it?
Seriously, how often does the home button get pushed in your pocket? I know the lock screen is intended to stop spurious input and the infamous pocket dialing, but has that every happened to you? Not me.
To me, the unlock screen is just a time-waster that puts 2-3 extra seconds between me and whatever tasks I’m trying to accomplish. I don’t like it, I don’t need it, and I don’t want it. I’d at least like an option to remove it.
Extra-bad with password
The lock screen is one thing, but when you pair that with a password-protected phone, it’s even worse.
I hate password-protecting my phone, and I would not do it personally, but there are corporate email accounts on it that require safety settings.
So, now I have to:
Unlock my screen
Enter my password
It’s pretty obvious that your password is a pretty effective unlock screen protector in and of itself. So, at a minimum, Apple should automatically disable the lock screen functionality if you have a password-protected phone. The password protection, when in place, is the lock screen.
Any functionality on the lock screen – alerts, etc. – can still be implemented on the password screen.
Simpler, faster, better
Anything that gets me faster to my apps, phone, email, or whatever, is better.
The Kindle is absolutely killing it. Amazon doesn’t release sales numbers, but the whisper number in Taiwan is 4 million Kindles over the last three months of 2011.
That pales beside Apple’s almost 19 million units of iPad, but it’s the biggest number for Android tablets. And that’s a huge problem for Google.
Android, for Google, is about freedom
Android is the trojan horse that Google gives away to device manufacturers and carriers which was designed to ensure that their customers and users would be more tightly (even if virtually) connected to Google … glued tighter via digital services that generate income flow long term than the atoms & molecules that hoover cash up front.
So Android was supposed to guarantee Google’s freedom of access to users. Freedom from those device manufacturers and operating system vendors who might step between Google and users and try to sever the connection … such as making Bing the default search engine in IE. Or Siri replacing 95% of users’ need to search Google on their iPhones. Without users, there are no advertisers. Without advertisers, Google has no cash. And, as the old saying goes: no margin, no mission.
(Google’s freedom, of course, is distinct from users’ freedom. But by and large, Google has not been very evil about its efforts.)
New boss, same as the old boss
But now the Google trojan horse has a virus. A virus that infiltrated the Android dummy and took it over.
That virus is Amazon, who is using the structure and foundation of Android, but has divorced it entirely from it’s Google services roots. Unplug from Google (music, search, mail, apps, ads); plug in to Amazon (music, books, TV, products, movies, etc. etc. etc.).
Open source is … well … open
The reason Amazon is able to do this is the same reason Android grew so quickly in the first place: open source. Android never would have grown the way it did without three factors:
It’s open source, so anyone can get the code, change the code, and re-release the code
It improved rapidly after Google saw Apple reveal what a modern mobile OS should be
It got big just as Apple was unleashing massive change in the mobile landscape, Microsoft/Nokia/BlackBerry all abysmally failed to respond with any even marginally capable riposte, and the carriers were desperate to compete with iPhone
But the biggest reason was number 1: free, baby, free.
It’s hard to compete with free. Free X beats marginally better X+1 … and Windows Mobile, Symbian, and BB OS were all very definitively unfree. Even better, Android quickly got better than tired old WinMo, complicated Symbian, and limited BB OS. Then it was free and good, even free and better. Irresistable!
(Of course, Android is no longer free. Due to patent encumbrances, Microsoft probably makes more money off Android right now than Google does, at least in the short term. Apple probably will start making money by licensing patents to Android device manufacturers as well. But still: it’s better, and it remains cheap.)
Hewers of wood & drawers of water
Now that Google has so kindly provided a great almost-free platform for small mobile devices, including tablets, Amazon is capitalizing on it by hijacking the result for its own use. Google won’t make a penny on any Kindle shipped, because:
Amazon glue has replaced the Google glue
Amazon even replaced the Google app store with an Amazon app store
Rock & roll, baby! This is how you win: turn your opponent’s strength into your strength. It’s very Sun Tzu of Jeff Bezos and company. And it’s turned Google’s hard work at creating a competitive moat of protection and offence into Amazon’s best weapon.
Nice to know you’re working for Amazon if you’re on Google’s Android development team, isn’t it? And due to the nature of open source software, that genie don’t go back into that box. Ever.
Thinking, thinking, thinking
If Kindle continues to be the default Android tablet by virtue of market choice, Google will be cut out of the market it created. And I don’t see how they can get that trojan horse turned around and properly supporting the company that built it.
The only option is continuing to innovate on Android – making it so awesome, and making the connection to Google services so essential – that users will demand the “real Android” experience they can only get from Google glue.
Almost every step on that path also sharpens Amazon’s sword.
Some things about Steve were really astonishing – like his penchant for crying when things got heated or he wasn’t getting his way. Other things were like reading a story about an old friend. I have, after all, been using Macs since 1990. Earlier, if you count some experiences in elementary and high school. And I’ve been a lover of the Mac way, the Mac aesthetic, the Mac ethos for easily two decades. So I’m pretty familiar with Steve Jobs.
But after three evenings of reading the biography feverishly, I almost feel like I’ve been living with Steve. He was such a vibrant character, such an exception and odd person, such a flawed but gifted genius …
I feel like I know him better and Apple better, and maybe myself better after reading the bio.
I’m ticked off that Steve didn’t get surgery right away when he was diagnosed. His amazing ability to focus when he wanted and ignore when wanted probably ended up killing him.
His crazy diets didn’t help either. Probably Steve would have been a much happier person if he would have just had a frigging cheeseburger occasionally. But he wouldn’t have been Steve, then, would he?
He was one of the crazy ones who believed he could actually change the world. And by sheer force of personality, desire, belief in the impossible, insane chutzpah, and certain knowledge that the rules that most people live by were not for him, he did.
I’d like a little Steve in me.
Just as much, I’d like Steve to pop out and say, “One more thing …” just one more time.
The app store approval process has been an issue for a long time. Early on, a couple of years ago, some apps took weeks for approval. And if you were treading on Apple’s toes … sometimes months or longer, as backroom negotiations took place. I talked about the first issue in 09, and the second issue – forcing app makers who are in some way competitive with Apple – just recently.
Siri is Apple’s new personal assistant on the iPhone 4S. It’s artificial intelligence: fairly good understanding of natural human speech, plus context awareness.
And it’s pretty cool: I’ve used it to send texts, set reminders that activate when I leave or arrive from locations like home or work, and get data like how far away the moon is, or how much the US dollar is worth, or what the atomic weight of uranium is.
But I also want to use Siri for local search: finding a great place to eat, or a nice hotel, or traffic conditions, directions to Rogers Arena, or how far it is to Whistler, BC.
Unfortunately, Siri doesn’t know anything about Canada yet.
That means that Siri is much less useful in Canada than it could otherwise be.
I’m sure the situation is temporary … it will go away as soon as Apple signs up partners in Canada for local data. The more data available, the smarter Siri will get:
In short, all businesses and events. Eventually, perhaps, even local product data: availability, pricing, sales, etc.
Eventually, with partners, you should be able to order tickets to a game, book reservations at a restaurant, and set up a flight to Montreal … all via Siri. More on that in an earlier blog post. And it’s not all dreaming either: this is all part of the early vision behind Siri.
I just want it all, and I want it now. In Canada, too.
In fact, it was not until today, July 19, that the Google+ iPhone app finally hit the Apple app store. That’s closing in on a month later … and it’s not because the app was unavailable, either. It had been submitted prior to July 5 as multiple accounts attest. But it only became available today.
While Apple will never come out and say so … some apps are rejected because they threaten Apple’s strategic interests.
My point here is to say that iOS and the Apple app store’s position as the primary and first choice of mobile platforms for developers is a very, very significant strategic interest of Apple. And playing god with the platform … choosing who you’ll let in and when and why … is not good for PR, not good for partner relations, and not good for developer relations. In fact, it’s so bad that it outweighs any possible advantage gained by rejecting apps that might in some ways vary from Apple’s wishes.
A better and longer-term strategic mindset would be: we will do whatever we can to ensure the app store is the best place and first place for developers to publish. Even if it sometimes hurts us.
What other apps have been rejected or delayed by Apple?
It has become increasingly clear to me over the past few weeks that Microsoft has made an astonishingly bad decision in buying Skype. But that’s that the worst part.
The worst part is that it is now completely obvious that the top people at Microsoft, Steve Balmer among them, have no clue about the future of technology.
Here’s the deal: all value is moving to the cloud.
Look at the top valued companies today. Google. Facebook. All the hot new startups that are building value. Zynga. LinkedIn.
They are cloud companies.
They live in the cloud. They take us into the cloud. They work on the cloud. They make the cloud meaningful.
And what about Apple? Apple, which is now trending toward a more than 2X valuation over Microsoft?
Don’t they make a lot of stuff? Things? Devices.
The answer is yes, of course. But first of all, those devices are on-ramps to the cloud. No-one has made the cloud relevant to average people (who don’t have a clue what the cloud is) than Apple. Mobile apps virtually didn’t exist before iPhone. Mobile data is dominated by iOS (and now Android). iPad is a perfect vehicle for cruising the virtual road.
Value started in hardware (IBM etc)
Value moved to software (Microsoft etc)
Value is now moving to the cloud (web 2.0 and 3.0 companies)
The cloud is not magical. It includes hardware. And it includes software. Of course. But it is the opposite of installable software.
One guess what Skype is …
Buying Skype is a great business decision … in terms of technology, in terms of clients, in terms of integration into core products.
But all of these tactical reasons that say YES are vastly outweighed by the massive strategic reason that says that Skype, even though it’s P2P, even though it has added a small cloud-ish component via Facebook … is fundamentally old-fashioned software.
Which makes Microsoft’s $8.5 billion dollars an investment in yesterday. Which follows so many of their other recent investment decisions. Which signals yet another death-knell (did you need one more) for Microsoft’s domination in the world of technology.
Microsoft, quite simply, is v2.0.
The world is moving forward 3.0 is upon us. Google+ is showing the way. 4.0 will come. And a company that is optimized for surviving and thriving in a 2.0 world is de-optimized for surviving in a 3.0 world.
iOS 5, Apple’s newest operating system for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch is coming in late summer or fall. And I’m predicting it will completely reinvent local and mobile search.
First, some groundwork
Local search is just search for stuff that’s around you.
Mobile search is search on a phone or small device.
And most searches that are mobile, are local.
Done is the new search
Search is an outmoded concept. Most of us just don’t know it, and even for those that do, we can’t really live it yet. I’m betting that’s all going to change in just few months time.
Very simply, search is a process. The goal or object of the search is the product. And since flint knives and sparking rocks, humans reinvent processes continuously to achieve products quicker.
So why search when you can just do?
Laying it all out
Most local/mobile (let’s just say LOMO) searches are action-oriented.
Where’s the nearest bar?
What’s the best restaurant near here?
Is there a movie theatre near here playing XYZ latest & greatest movie?
Can I get a cab here?
The search intent, or goal here, is pretty obvious. Shoot me the latest twofer deal at the nearest bar, get me reservations at the restaurant, buy me tickets at the theatre, send a cab to pick me up.
Today, to do that, most people have to:
open a search app (or several)
enter search terms
sort through data
select an option
phone the option
make the reservation/booking/buy
To do this, you might have to open 3-4 apps (a phone is an app), switch context at least that many times, actively personally speak (or wait on hold). Basically, you have to do it yourself.
But wouldn’t it be nice if you had a personal assistant do it all for you?
Enter iOS 5 … your personal assistant from heaven
Apple has a huge problem. That problem is a green little robot dude named Android. And while iPhone is still the best smart mobile platform in the world, Android’s hybrid vigor and essential free-ness to telcos and amazing plasticity is driving huge growth: faster growth than iPhone.
Apple doesn’t need to be bigger than Android, but it absolutely needs to be better.
So Apple is making iOS your new best friend … that does all the annoying little detail work for you. And it’s via an acquisition they made over a year ago, Siri, and a massive data center in the clouds of North Carolina.
Imagine this: pull out your iPhone and say: “I need a flight to Toronto on June 9, arriving in early afternoon, a downtown hotel that doesn’t cost more than $200/night, and tickets to a Blue Jays game that weekend. Oh, and by the way, make me dinner reservations at a good French restaurant for Friday night.”
Rocket science? Star Trek? Prerogative of wealthy execs with personal assistants and fat expense accounts? Rich man’s reality, poor man’s dream?
Think again. This is what Siri does … and this is the future of iOS.
Done is the new search. If you’re in the LOMO industry, get ready.
The one potential flaw in Apple’s ointment? Apple doesn’t do social real well … sort of like another tech giant we all know well.
As LOMO becomes SOLOMO (social/local/mobile) this opens doors for others who play nicely together.
Perhaps there’s an opportunity here …
. . .
. . .
Some background resources:
My 3-part series on the future of local search from earlier this year:
Not enough that market cap has pushed past old rival Microsoft? Not enough that profit is more than Portugal’s GNP? Not enough that the world eats off iPads?
At least one fairly savvy analyst thinks Apple is a trillion-dollar company:
Perhaps yes. But I think there are other reasons not mentioned by the interviews that APPLE is not pushing the boundaries of space yet.
One is Android, which many believe is the new PC to Apple’s iPhone. Another is sheer disbelief that any one company can go on such a sustained run. And finally … the world of finance is probably changing, like other industries. But it is not one of the trendy industries that has immediately jumped on the Apple bandwagon. So analysts will see fewer Macs and iPhones and iPads in meetings and daily work that your average web worker, professional, or manager.
I recently upgraded from my iPhone 3GS to an iPhone 4.
Usually, I’m the first of all my friends and relatives to get the new tech, but this was a work phone … and it took some time. However, the wait only sharpened the anticipation – and one of the things I was looking forward to was better battery life.
With my 3GS, I got maybe a day and a half of battery life – less if I used my phone a lot. I was hoping for much better from the iPhone 4. It was a huge disappointment, therefore, when my new iPhone 4 seemed to lose all battery charge daily.
The loss of charge was so bad I suspected getting a lemon. Even overnight, when I put my phone in airplane mode, I’d lose about 10% or more. The 3GS had never lost more than 1 or 2% of battery charge overnight. I seriously had to recharge my iPhone4 daily. So I did some investigation.
It turns out that if you set up your new iPhone 4 from a backup of your old iPhone, some old settings which relate to battery life get installed on your new iPhone … and your battery use is totally de-optimized.
The solution: set up your iPhone 4 as an entirely new phone.
Connect your iPhone to your computer
When iTunes opens and your iPhone is active in the source list, select the Summary tab at the top
Click the Restore button
(this will delete everything off of your phone, so be sure you’ve done a recent sync and no important information is only on your phone
After your phone is restored, set it up as a new phone in iTunes
Re-sync all your data, email, songs, apps, etc. over to your new phone
Enjoy your new much longer lasting battery life!
After doing this, my iPhone 4 battery life is MUCH longer. Currently, I’m at about 2 days with reasonable usage … and my battery is still at 34%.
I’ve had a chance to play with Windows Phone 7 at South by Southwest for the past couple of days, and it’s confirmed an opinion I’ve had for a while:
Windows Phone 7 doesn’t suck.
That may sound heretical to those who know me as an iPhone-carrying, Mac-using, iPad (and iPad 2) owning Apple fan. I love the Mac OS. I love my iPhone. In fact, I’ve used Macs for over 20 years.
But still, it’s true.
While Windows users such an infrequent sighting at SXSW (I think I’ve seen 11 so far) that I almost feel sorry for them, Microsoft has a decent-sized booth on the trade show floor and a couple of other demo areas around the conference session areas. And there’s plenty of demo units to play with.
The core idea of Windows Phone 7 is unification.
The panes (yes, window panes …) on the front of Windows Phone 7 integrate information from a variety of sources and attempt in aggregate to present a holistic version of your digital phonish self: what you’re doing, who you know, news you follow, games you play, people you’re connected to, and so on.
That core idea is smart.
It’s directly opposed to the iPhone/Apple current app-centric model. The opposition is visual, branding, marketing, and some reality: there is a lot of sharing built into the Apple iPhone model of common data such as calendar and contacts … but not as much.
I’m sure Apple will address this to a degree: siloing our lives into apps is problematic. Not because we don’t want great apps that are entirely internally consistent and solve a specific problem in a comprehensive, elegant manner … but because we want our apps to be smart not only about what we’re doing in them, but in other apps, sites, and places as well.
I still MUCH prefer my iPhone. But props to Microsoft for smart positioning.
In 1984 Apple released the most famous and least-broadcasted television ad of all time: 1984, celebrating individuality and creativity. Man against the machine, one again the collective, a woman against Big Brother.
Motorola’s 2011 Xoom ad brilliantly references 1984 and juxtaposes Apple then – challenger, upstart, weak, facing established titans against insurmountable odds – with Apple now – the giant of the mobile device industry.
Where 1984 shows grey assembly-line men in grey lines in a grey room (reminiscent in post-iMac times as the omnipresent beige of pre-second-coming-of-Steve PCs), Xoom shows white-clothed clones with white wires leading to their ears. Where 1984’s hero(ine) is a woman; Xoom’s hero is a man. 1984 is colorless in blacks and greys; Xoom is colorless in whites, stainless steel, and glass.
The symbolism could not be clearer.
It’s brilliant and evocative, as well as dangerous. By explicitly referencing Apple as leader, Motorola is casting itself as underdog. True, but not necessarily the positioning of a winner.
The penultimate point of the ad comes when the hero uses his Xoom to take a picture (which an iPad can’t yet do) of flowers and send it to a white girl in a white hood. She gets it … and then in a movement exploding with symbolism pulls her white iPod-like earbuds out.
The ad cuts to a Xoom tablet with the words: “the tablet to create a better world.” Which of course also explicitly references Apple’s desire – embodied in the 1984 ad – to improve people’s lives.
Brilliant. Exquisitely shot and edited. And it even works well on a product placement level.
I can understand not loving Apple, who dethroned RIM as the smartphone leader. And I can understand not promoting BlackBerries to Mac users, who are much more likely to use iPhone.
But actively discouraging Mac users from even exploring App World? It’s passive aggressive nonsense that does nothing to evangelize their platform or their product. And … did RIM not notice that Microsoft now has their own phone platform out? Will App World block Windows next?
There is only one reason why Google is investing in Android. And it’s the same reason that Google invests in just about anything else:
To gain access to (and if possible to control access to) information … so that it can sell ads and otherwise monetize data flows and resultant behavior.
Android is of course a mobile play, and mobile/social is where there is tremendous growth. So if Google is going to parlay its amazing success in traditional search, Google needs to be on the phone. In Apple’s new mobile garden, data access and behavior flows are app-centric … not web-centric. They use the internet, but not the WWW.
That’s deadly for Google, because it conceals activity and favors silos of data over the all-knowing oracular Googleplex. This is precisely the reason why Android development kicked into extreme high gear well after the release of the Apple iPhone … when it became clear that apps and not the web was the focus. So Android is a power play to ensure that the mobile internet/web is open to Google (and perhaps favors Google).
But Google has a problem.
And the problem is this: Android is open source and anyone can do anything to it that they wish. More precisely, Android uses an Apache-style license, not a GPL-style license (see a good explanation here). Most precisely of all: organizations that want to modify open source software released with an Apache-style license can integrate it with closed-source code and do NOT have re-release their modifications.
Mix that together with a carrier-centric distribution model where the telcoms all want to do exactly what is in their own best interests … and you have a recipe for fragmentation, for forking, for slowing development (or at least release), and many (slightly) different proprietary forms of Android – if not significantly at the code level, at least at the user interface level.
And that means that Google’s attempt to remain the arbiter of all information in the mobile world is at the tender mercies of the telecoms’ desires to make money. Hmm … smell any problems yet?
MG Siegler laid out some of these problems in a TechCruch article recently: Android Is As Open As The Clenched Fist I’d Like To Punch The Carriers With. Imagine multiple apps stores, where developers have to add and validate their apps in 5-10 stores instead of one. Imagine crapware pre-loaded onto phones, just like cheap PCs at Circuit City, because the carrier will be paid for placement or use. Imagine limits on what software you can or can’t install. Imagine funky UIs dreamed up by HCI neophytes who thinks it “looks cool,” even though it’s completely unusable. All this adds up to a bad user experience and an annoying client/provider relationship … none of which will help in a fight against the iEmpire.
But the worst possible news from Google’s perspective is getting kicked off their own phone platform. And that’s precisely what might happen, if Microsoft’s marketing and financial muscle is put in play. There’s already rumors that Bing will replace Google on Verizon phones. Just imagine the consequences for Google.
And yet, it might serve them right.
Google has gotten to where it is by destroying a lot of business models. Gmail commoditizes email; Android and Chrome commoditize operating systems, Google Docs commoditizes productivity apps … the list goes on, and on, and on.
Wouldn’t it be poetic justice if Android ended up commoditizing Google?
Everyone’s favorite kicking-boy lately is Microsoft, and it’s easy to see why.
Mobile is a disaster, Bing is having issues catching Google, the slate/tablet revolution started by Bill Gates has bypassed Windows … in so many ways Microsoft just feels so yesterday.
Last week Microsoft execs clarified how they view their business, and how they’ve structured around future growth and relevance. They’re focusing on 8 core businesses, they said:
Xbox and TV
Let’s leave alone for now the question of whether a company can focus on 8 things simultaneously. It’s pretty clear Apple doesn’t … but Microsoft is a big company with a lot of people. Perhaps they can make it work.
Which of the 8 look like good opportunities and growth areas?
Xbox and TV
Xbox is a runaway success for Microsoft. It hasn’t totally crushed Sony, but it has done very well. And the online revenues seem incredibly strong … a billion-dollar yearly take in online revenue alone. TV? Hmmm … not so much. I imagine there will be some convergence here, however, and with expanding online connectivity, Xbox is a growing franchise.
I think the whole tech world is a little surprised by Bing. No, it’s not grabbing huge share with both hands … but it does seem to be growing share slowly. The key question to me is: will Bing ever shake off the dust and start growing 2-3% of market share per month? That is what would seriously threaten Google … but it doesn’t seem likely. That said … Bing is a qualified success so far with decent prospects.
Office is the office today … almost every professional in North America and Europe, and plenty beyond those places, uses it. In my mind this is one of the most threatened Microsoft business pillars: OpenOffice, Google Docs, and numerous other wannabes threaten the huge Office revenues. This is a decreasing business, even with Office live, IMHO.
Somehow, Windows Server has been taking share from Linux over some of the past few quarters. That said, I’d put Server in the same category as Office: not going to be a significant growth engine of the future for Windows.
In an increasingly heterogenous desktop and mobile environment, and with much cheaper alternatives … good luck.
You cannot count out a contender with the resources and partners that Microsoft still has … but seriously. iPhone on the high end, Android on the middle and high ends, BlackBerry, Symbian, WebOS … this is an increasingly crowded marketplace. And Windows Phone is WAY behind. Ditto the previous comment … good luck!
Windows is still a massive enterprise, but most of the installed base is XP. That’s in one sense an opportunity for Win7, but in another sense a testament to the growing irrelevance of desktop applications. The browser-based operating system is a growing reality.
Google will merge Android and Chrome. Apple will continue its hold on the high-end and aesthetically-conscious consumer. Linux is fighting at the low-end and the ideological fringe.
And meanwhile … the web keeps absorbing more and more of what used to be desktop functionality. Windows is a great cash cow, and will remain as such for a long time, but it’s not the growth engine of the future.
Selling to business is hard, but Microsoft has it down pat. And, with business intelligence tools and other enterprise pick-ups acquired over the past 5 years, Microsoft has the potential to really grow this space.
There are still many competitors, but not everyone is going to outsource their business apps to Marc Benioff, or run everything on SAP or Oracle … and even if cloud computing starts to dominate, Windows has a pretty capable answer in Azure. I’d put this as a growth engine for Microsoft. The downside is that I think it will be harder to achieve lock-in here than on the desktop, so this may not be as secure a business as Office and Windows have been for the past 20 years.
I’m a little biased here, being most web-based, but I don’t know anyone who’s doing anything cool who is using SQL Server. There are just so many cheap/good options available right now, and expensive/good as well.
I’d have a hard time rating this as a growth opportunity for Microsoft … especially as they are losing the developer-lockin that they once had, since the mobile revolution is sucking them all into Apple’s and Google’s universes. Good luck here too.
. . .
. . .
Tallying it up …
5 of the 8 are not obviously going to be growth engines for the future … at least not at the scale that Office and Windows have been for Microsoft … and significant threats face their other 3.
In other words, don’t expect Microsoft to stop being the favored kicking-boy of technology pundits anytime soon.
The iPhone 4 fiasco continues unabated today, given that numerous independent testing agencies have found its reception lacking. The highly-respected Consumer Reports review might be the final straw:
Apple will be forced to recall the iPhone 4 following Consumer Reports tests proving the “Death Grip” antenna issue is not software related, but a hardware flaw, PR experts say.
“Apple will be forced to do a recall of this product,” said Professor Matthew Seeger, an expert in crisis communication. “It’s critically important. The brand image is the most important thing Apple has. This is potentially devastating.”
So much for the thin excuse that it’s a software issue …
It’s official. Consumer Reports engineers have just completed testing the iPhone 4, and have confirmed that there is a problem with its reception. When your finger or hand touches a spot on the phones lower left side—an easy thing, especially for lefties—the signal can significantly degrade enough to cause you to lose your connection altogether if youre in an area with a weak signal. Due to this problem, we cant recommend the iPhone 4.