A faulty argument against Lightning

I have heard a few people say that the lightning port on the iPhone 5 was a bad strategic decision. The argument can be summarized by quoting David Pouge’s review.

Third, compatibility. The iPhone’s ubiquity has led to a universe of accessories that fit it. Walk into a hotel room, and there’s probably an iPhone connector built into the alarm clock.

If you had to write a term paper for this course, you might open with this argument: that in creating the new iPhone 5 ($200 with contract), Apple strengthened its first two advantages [design and superior components] — but handed its rivals the third one on a silver platter.

The problem with this argument is that if people were really so upset and went to the competition, they would still not be able to dock their phones in hotel rooms. They would still have to get adapters for their cars and sound systems.

Don’t get me wrong, not being able to plug my phone into my current car audio system is going to be a pain in my butt. I am not happy about that. It just isn’t a reason to choose a different phone.

Hesitantly Predicting

With the iPhone announcement tomorrow, I feel I have to make some predictions. Trouble is, there have been so many leaks that it is almost certain what we are going to see from the iPhone.

Zach Epstein at BGR gives a great rundown of what to expect from the iPhone, and iMore’s Rene Ritchie’s description of the event is spot on. This leaves me precious little to predict. Nevertheless, I like to take a stab at these things, so I will venture a few:

  1. NFC will be a no-show. This goes against my earlier prediction, but the best sources are saying no.
  2. Unlike last year, this will not be the only fall event. There is too much coming for them to do it all in one shot. So I predict there will be no iPad mini at this event. Because we will see is a taller screen and a smaller dock connector on the iPhone, I predict they will announce a matching iPod touch. They will also send an old model iPod touch to a sub $200 price.
  3. I predict a line from Tim Cook at the end of the event that is something like “we are so excited about what is in the pipeline, and we can’t to talk to you more about it.” This is the signal that there will be another event, probably in October to announce the iPad mini.
  4. I don’t know what the specs will be, but I predict something like 10 MP rear camera. Just a nominal spec bump. I am going to guess a front facing camera with 720p video capture potential (just because I hope for it).
  5.  There is some software feature that will work with some new hardware piece that will surprise people. With the 3GS it was voice control. With the 4 it was FaceTime. With the 4S it was Siri. I don’t know what it will be, but it will make a great demo.

Bonus Prediction: The Telegraph ran an interesting story a while back about a feature potentially named “AirPlay Direct.” The speculated feature would allow an iOS device to send an AirPlay signal to a Wi-Fi enabled device without the need of a shared Wi-Fi network. This is the sort of feature that Apple would make hardware specific, even though the cynical would say it needn’t be. It sounds right to me, but I don’t know if it is coming yet.

Companies worth $1 trillion are suing others over Android’s alleged patent infringement

Foss Patents:

Android continues to be an IP infringement lawsuit magnet not just with respect to troll lawsuits (the trolls sue everyone including Apple) but, more importantly, lawsuits from large publicly-traded industry players.

Google’s usual experimental, bold, and haphazard approach to development usually does them a great deal of good. In the case of Android, their care free attitude may be its undoing. They don’t make a ton of money off of Android, and the legal costs are stacking up and could get even worse if/when they start losing.

(via Phillip Elmer-Dewitt)

Patents and Protection

With all the fuss about patents right now, many have spoken out about the broken system that is in dire need of reform. Some are even saying that software patents should be abolished. I can’t define my exact stance on the matter, but in general, I want to tell Americans that they have it better than they think when it comes to patents.

My wife and I lived in Thailand a few years back and got to be there for long enough to learn some of the cultural patterns, buying behaviors and business practices of Thais in Bangkok. In a city with 10 million people, they have really figured out urban life. Few people have cars, most don’t have any sort of kitchen and buy all of their food from street vendors and shops, and there are markets everywhere. The strange thing about the markets is that there are plenty of no-name, homemade clothes and products, and there is an equal portion of knock offs, rip offs, copies, generics, imitations, and downright forgeries. You can buy Gucci, Rolex, Louis Vitton, Chanel, Nike, and almost any other premium brand but somehow not pay the premium price.

One night, on our way to the sky train, my wife and I were perusing the wares of street vendors who laid out their blankets of merchandise directly under signs that read in English and Thai, “No selling in this area.” As we walked through the maze of Hello Kitty socks, we spotted a police officer. He was also casually looking over the products to see if there was anything that he liked. I didn’t get it, and I still kind of don’t. Shouldn’t he have told them to break it up? Shouldn’t he have fined them for selling knock offs in an area that was clearly marked as a no-sell territory?

Sometimes we felt more comfortable in the atmosphere of the many malls that Bangkok has to offer. At the Fortune Town Mall on Rama 9, there are two floors devoted entirely to tech. As we passed shop after no-name, owner operated shop, we noticed a software section that had all the big names for sale like Microsoft and Adobe. Up close, you could tell that the software was pirated and that the product cases didn’t have DVDs in them.

Likewise, down the hall, we found shops that we thought were selling DVD movies, but didn’t actually have DVDs in the cases. We asked them if we could buy the movies, so they rang up the transaction in the register and then sent one of the employees running down the hall. They told us to wait. When the runner returned, he held the daily newspaper awkwardly in his hand. They then looked around and spilled the two discs we had purchased from between the pages of the paper and gave them to us. They told us to move along because they didn’t want the cops to see.

Are you kidding me? You have an entire store that is obviously in the business of selling pirated DVDs, but you can’t hold them in the shop because the cops will see you? How is this possible?

The fact is, the country has no regard for intellectual property. I have heard that it is like this in several other Asian countries. The authorities may make token statements about protecting copyright and such, and I am sure that some DVD sellers get hit with fines now and again, but it was clear, over and over, that everyone knew that everyone else didn’t really care about intellectual property.

I can’t begin to imagine how this has stifled the Thai economy. Whenever we would talk about the possibility of selling our cloud based software to local schools, the first question every Thai person would ask is “how are you going to keep people from copying you?” Even after describing the technical difference between a physical software disc and a browser accessible application in the cloud where strait code copying is impossible, they were still certain that if we had a good idea and tried to sell it that some one else would come along and steal it.

And this is what our current system gets us: a market where people make great stuff, but aren’t primarily concerned with being copied in a fraudulent way. Say what you will about the specifics of the law, but I am quite happy with the benefits that we have reaped as a country because of our cultural respect for intellectual property, and the enforcement of IP laws.

For much more amazing thoughts on the subject, see Nilay Patel’s excellent editorial at TIMN.

iPad 2 vs. Xoom

Strangely, now that the spec sheet is out, people don’t have as much to grouse about when it comes to the iPad. However, there are still some writers who can’t help but take pot shots at it. I will take as my subject Preston Gralla’s piece titled “Motorola Xoom versus the iPad 2 — the Xoom is a clear winner.” I will include his complete article, but add my own editorial: Continue reading “iPad 2 vs. Xoom”

The Daily Differentiator

“The Daily” has a big obstacle to overcome. Right now the perception is that information is free and people would be crazy to pay even a dollar a week for it.

The only way for them to even break-even is to compete, not on content, but on experience. It has to be smoother, faster, more attractive, easier to read, more entertaining (not the content, the experience) or more customizable or something. If they an do that, they might just win.

Apple’s best marketing decision – ever.

David sent me an article that I almost completely disagreed with. It was about 10 marketing mistakes that Apple has made over the years. Maybe in some other post, I will describe why I disagree with his specific claims.  This post, however, is not about the worst marketing decisions, but the best. I think there is one decision that can be credited more than any other for the rise of Apple in the last few years.

In an earlier post, I showed a graph of Mac OS X’s growth speeding up. I think that one of the main factors that contributed to the growing popularity of the Mac is the iPod. I will illustrate this supposition with two badly superimposed graphs. The bar chart represents Mac unit sales, and the line represents iPod unit sales.

iPhone has been an undeniable success, with it’s speed of growth being even faster than iPod’s.

Credit: PED

And it looks like iPad is moving even faster (so far) than iPhone.

The point: Apple has a crazy amount of momentum, each product using its predecessor as an accelerant. The mystery: what put them on this path? The answer…

The learning curve for operating system switching is a significant barrier to entry for most users. Enough so that my wife doesn’t even want to learn, despite my obsession interest in Apple products. That barrier kept Mac in a niche for years and years. iPod gave people a taste of what Apple products are like, without the learning curve. The iPod embodied what Apple has always tried to create with their products: an experience that is pleasant with a product that doesn’t get in the way of the task at hand.

Many decisions about the iPod were made to help it be successful, such as good product design, easy music uploads, the introduction of the store etc. While these are all important features and benefits, there was one marketing decision that was more important than all of these factors.

In 2000, when I would listen to my Sony Discman, it would sit in my bag or my pocket. For that matter, when anybody listens to portable music, the device sits hidden in their pocket. How is anyone suppose to hear about this amazing device if it hangs out in your pants?

The single best marketing decision that Apple ever made was to make their iPod earbuds white. Unlike other mobile music players, you knew when someone was listening to an iPod. The iPod was a fabulous product, and very worth talking about, but the white headphone helped people to know how many people were using it. This product momentum is what started it all off. iPod led to iPhone which led to iPad, all of which are leading to more converts to the world of Apple. And once they have you, you can’t get away.

Windows Success = iPhone Success

When I was growing up, Brian and I used to play computer games at his house because he had two computers networked together so we could play each other. We’d play Wolfenstien, Duke Nukem and Descent on his super fast 100 Mhz machines until way past when I should have been home. Amidst the violence and explosions, we talked about computers. Brian was a PCs, I was a Mac.We argued just like a billion other people have all around the world – Mac is better, PC is better. My arguments were good, but Brian’s was simple.

“PC just has more games.”

He was right. While the Mac did have some incredible games, there were way more for PC, and I would never convince Brian that Mac was better because it just had more games.

It’s true of applications too. As soon as Windows became the OS leader, it was forever after the leader in applications. People used Windows because of the applications. It became a point of differentiation that Microsoft didn’t actually create; the market created it around them. It caused a cycle: people develop software for the platform that gets used, and the more software there is for that platform, the more attractive it is to users. Windows thrived on this cycle for years.

Then the internet changed what is important about a computer.
Internet Penetration
As the web has matured, so have web applications. As computer users spend more time online in cloudware and less time on their computer’s software, the less important the operating system. It could be for this reason alone that Apple’s market share has been growing (however slightly) over the last few years. People (like myself) started saying “as long as I can use Microsoft Office, I don’t have any other compatibility issues, and the Mac is so cool. I want one.”

I now use my Mac at work and amazingly face basically no capability problems. Sure, now and again one of my Word docs or PowerPoints gets munged, but most of the work that I do takes place on the internet, the company intranet, Gmail, Google calendar, and Google docs. With all these web apps, the question is “Who needs windows?”

Not me.

Now for the riddle: “How is windows like the iPhone?” You guessed it, the answer is the same as Brian’s: “It just has more games.” Well, ok, not just games, but apps.
Tons of apps. Like, more than Window’s Mobile. Today, developers have the choice of developing software for the iPhone or other similar gadgets. While iPhone does not (yet) have the largest market share for smartphones, it has the highest usage rates among its competitors. And developers don’t care if people are buying the phones; they care if people are buying their apps, and it is more than clear that if you want apps, you want an iPhone. The market has already given iPhone Eventually, the same cycle of more users – more apps – more users that has fed Microsoft for so many years might actually lead to Apple taking over this market. Time will tell.
Speaking of time going by – after Brian and I graduated from high school, he went to college and studied computer science. He bought a Mac and loves it. He does, however, still have Vista machine so he can play Unreal Tournament when his wife goes to bed.