What does it mean?

Dane asked me:

What does it mean for Apple? I mean, really, how big an impact will this have on Apple?

I will speculate thusly:

  • Tomorrow, the stock will take a hit. Plenty of people will have been holding for just such a day and will sell. If they bought stock any time before June of this year, they will make money. $500 invested in 2001 would yield about $25,000 today. Good for them. Some people (maybe I) will buy the stock.
  • Two weeks from now, Apple will have invited the press to an event where they talk about this year’s line up of iPhone(s) and iPods. They will be totally awesome and the stock will climb for the rest of the year.
  • A month from now, hundreds of people will either be in line to buy iPhone 5, or millions will have already purchased it. I am betting 3 million during opening weekend.
  • 6 months from now, Apple will have had its best holiday quarter ever, with record breaking iPhone, iPad, iPod and Mac sales. The stock will continue to do well. Apple will announce the new iPad. It will make all competing tablets look pretty stupid.
  • A year from now, people will be speculating about what the new iPhone is going to look like, the iPad will have dominated the tablet market for another year, and freed from the fears that Apple won’t survive with Jobs, the stock will have steamed up to about $550 per share. Apple will be the most valuable company in the world. Literally.
  • 3 Years from now, most of the products that were in the product pipeline when Steve Jobs was the CEO will have made their way to market, and it will be Tim Cook (or Phill Schiller) that announces some great new product that I will buy with a great big smile.
All I am trying to say is this: if you like your iPhone, it is because it is a really great product. But do you know what is an even better product? To quote John Gruber:
Jobs’s greatest creation isn’t any Apple product. It is Apple itself.
Just ponder a moment how well crafted your iPhone is and remember that Jobs has been crafting Apple for about 15 years (the second time) and think about the care and thoughtfulness that has gone into it. Apple will be just fine. For a long time. Tim Cook has been running the company for quite some time. He will continue to run it. And Jobs will continue his oversight. And the company will thrive.

Thinking about buying an iPhone?

DON’T BUY AN IPHONE!!!

Yet.

Apple is almost sure to release a new iPhone (or two) within the next 60 days. There are some excellent rumors floating around right now that could mean some great choices for consumers:

  1. It is widely expected that the iPhone 5 is coming to town. We don’t know what it will looks like, or what new features it will have, but there are two theories. One is that it will be a marginal update similar to the update from 3G to 3GS (call it 4S) where all they do is up the processor and improve the camera. The other theory calls for a redesigned body shape and other goodies.
  2. The Wall Street Journal – who tends to have solid sources – reported today that the iPhone 5 is coming to Sprint. This is cool because not only does it give consumers another choice, but Sprint has had a tendency to be more generous with their data plans than what AT&T and Verizon are currently offering.
  3. Reuters – who can be hit or miss – is saying that Apple may offer a cheaper iPhone 4 model, with only 8 GBs of storage. To me, this is a fascinating move, and could be evidence of Apple living up to Tim Cooks promise that the iPhone would not be “just for the rich“. This could be a fabulous phone at a very reasonable price.
The moral of the story is, now is a terrible time to buy a new iPhone. Even if it’s free.

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.

Copying Features

John Gruber, quoting Paul Thurrott

On iOS 5:

Best features were literally copied from other mobile platforms.

True!…

One could argue that these are purposefully antagonistic ways of saying these things. Or, perhaps better said, purposefully belittling.

I can see why, from a tech pundit’s point of view, that “literally copied” is meant to have a punitive sting. However, these “copied” features are a big win for Apple. The iPhone has been in the lead in so many competitive areas (app store, ease of use, ecosystem integration, best “under finger” experience etc). However, some consumers have been hesitant to choose iPhone because of a specific advantage of a competitor.

For example, some people consider BBM the key feature of a BlackBerry. As of iOS 5, the “iOS doesn’t have it” argument is gone. The only thing left is what iPhone does better. Same with notifications and Android, which Jonathan Geller thinks Apple did better than Android.

Buyers now have all the reasons to choose the iPhone that they had before – AND they have no reason to buy any competitor.

About the only gripe left is Flash, but mostly from Mossberg.

If only iCould love iCloud

From Josh Topolsky’s editorial today regarding Apple’s cloud strategy

While competitors like Google and Microsoft continue to pursue a strategy of “you everywhere” with front-facing web products that allow you to create and collaborate with nothing more than a connection and relatively modern browser, Apple seems to be moving almost backwards. Sure, syncing our devices is clearly an important and yet-to-be-solved problem, but Cupertino isn’t just improving sync across devices. It also seems to be concluding that it can’t — or won’t — compete on the web, and I think that’s a mistake.

I appreciate Topolsky’s desire for more and better from Apple, but I am concerned about the realization of what he is really asking for. If he is taking Google and Microsoft to be Apple’s competitors, I think it is worth noting that

  • Google’s business model, and by extension goals, are different that Apple’s. Remember, if you don’t pay for it, you are the product.
  • Microsoft’s business model (or lack thereof) shows that they may not understand how to make money from the web.
When Steve Jobs talked about a “go-to-market strategy” for TV, it helped to remind me that aside from being a perfectionist, he is also a brilliant strategist. Apple’s cloud strategy supports their revenue stream, and so does Google’s. I think that for Topolsky to say that it is a mistake for Apple to follow the same strategic vector is hard to justify from a business perspective, because Apple is killing it.
One commenter may have hit it when they wrote:
The issue I have with this [article], is it’s clouded by what [Josh] wants out of Cloud services, and not what can be done with it…I would rip Apple for doing what they entend to do poorly, and not for not doing what you wanted them to do

Partnerships and Innovation

Microsoft won the PC wars partly because they developed partnerships with everyone who was making PC hardware. This spread them through the market and created a compatibility fueled monopoly. It did not, however, fuel innovation. The PC of 2010 is essentially a faster 2005 PC with more storage and features. The innovations have mostly fallen in the sustaining/evolutionary category. The same partnerships that gave Microsoft a monopoly also limited their ability to make big change. They could only run as fast as their partners would let them. And they were unable to do things that would kill a partner.

I get the feeling this is the case with non-tech industries that are innovation starved. Consider car tires. In case you haven’t noticed, basically nothing has changed about tires since the ’60sContinue reading “Partnerships and Innovation”

Things I love about the Salt Lake City Airport

People hate airports. Too many negative associations I guess. But let me tell you, I like the Salt Lake Airport. I have been flying a lot lately, and sometimes small things can make a big difference. Here are some examples.

You get to the parking lot entrance and there is an automated ticket system that allows you to put in your credit card. Then it let’s you in and you don’t have to take a ticket. When you leave, you put in the same credit card and it remembers you and charges the correct amount. Then it just prints a receipt for you. It is so nice to not have that little ticket that you are so worried about losing, and not have to interact with a booth worker.

Then there is the parking lot. Very neatly organized, and with a shuttle that comes frequently to clearly marked stops. They even provide little cards for you to remember where you parked. I don’t use this myself, but it is nice to know that someone thought through it.

There are two terminals. If you fly Delta, you are in terminal 2, if not, you are terminal 1. Maybe I am just an idiot, but have a hard time riding the shuttles or trains at airports and trying to know where to get off among the many stops with the many different, but similar sounding, names.

The craziest, and perhaps most delightful part of the airport is security. No joke. Its not that security itself is fun. It sucks everywhere. But they do a great job in Salt Lake. When the line is busy, they add staff. Amazing. They have staff members that come down the line and tell you if the lines are shorter in a different line, and how long the line will take. It’s the little things.

Free Wi-Fi. Can you believe that in 2011, there are major airports without Wi-Fi or that make you pay for it? Really? Atlanta, I’m looking at you. Thank you Salt Lake for realizing what a time killer airports are and how much free Wi-F helps.

Also, it’s not really the airport itself that I can thank for this, but all of the travelers that come to Salt Lake for the skiing. When you come with your giant duffles full of ski gear, and have to check your bags, it make my trip past the counter with my preprinted boarding pass very satisfying.

The airport also has this great waiting lot for people that cone to pick up passengers on arriving flights. There are big electronic boards that give the flight statuses so you know when to drive up to the terminal area. Love it!

I know there are other airports that do great thing. I am just glad that ol’ SLC is one of them.

 

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.