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”

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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.

Prophets and Pioneers, Preachers and Parishioner

People love causes. They love to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Seth Godin calls them tribes. I believe that every tribe is made up of 4 types of folks. I will use religious terms, but the same type of people exist in every tribe, regardless of their spirituality.

  • Prophets
  • Pioneers
  • Preachers
  • Parishioners

Prophets come first. They see the future – what it can be, what it should be, and at least a general idea of how to get there, and then lead the change. They set down the basic tenants of the cause and have a story and charisma that captures people’s hearts. Most causes have some figure at the creation that stands as a symbol of the movement itself.

Moses – a literal and figurative example – led the major cause of his day. He was led by a vision of freedom, gave his followers laws to live by, had a story that was worthy of Charlton Heston, and led the march through the desert to attain the Promised Land. Beethoven, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, and Adolf Hitler led a change and have become icons of their respective causes.

Pioneers follow prophets. Once a prophet has declared their manifesto, a few early converts will join them. These followers may only be known within the tribe, but are crucial in the building up of a critical mass that makes the idea take on a life bigger than the prophet. The New Testament pioneers – Peter, Paul etc – spent their lives, literally, to spread the Gospel of Christ. They weren’t trying to come up with their own ideas, just spread the ones that Jesus had already taught. Without devoted pioneers, an idea can live and die with its founder.

Preachers come later in the story. After a cause has been established, and people have pledged their allegiance, they like to be reminded of who they are and why they are different. The preacher helps to fill this need. The term “preaching to the choir” should probably be extended to the entire congregation. Having someone eloquently reinforce beliefs you already hold is a validating, satisfying experience. It is also very satisfying to the preacher, even financially rewarding. Bloggers like John Gruber of daringfireball.net make a living off of preaching to a congregation of Apple fans.

Usually preachers orate with an understanding that no one but fans will listen. Preachers don’t usually change the group; they reinforce it. It’s hard to get paid when criticize or anger the people you are supposed to be validating.

Parishioners are the boring followers who don’t do much of anything for the group except just belong. They feel good about hanging out at the church, but they do it for the feel good, not for the movement.

So:

Which are you? Probably not a Prophet, maybe a Pioneer, hopefully a Preacher. Or are you just a Parishioner watching someone else be passionate.

The No-Video Nano

My Brother wrote to me on Facebook:

I really don’t get the new Nano. Do you? [My daughter] has the old Nano and she can watch movies on it, with the new one you can’t. Why do you need multitouch to press play and next? I seriously don’t get what Apple was thinking.

A fair question. Not only could you watch video, you could take video. The new nano: not even close.

My answer is that the iPod ain’t what it used to be. Not in a nostalgic way, but in terms of what Apple thinks of it. The notorious Andy Zaky wrote an interesting piece about how the traditional iPod is becoming less and less important to Apple’s revenue growth. He also argues, like me, that the iPod is an entry to the world of Apple.

The big change has been the iPhone. Back in 2007, the “normal” iPod was about the size of an iPhone, had a click wheel, and played video at a starting price of $249. The iPod Nano that came out that year also had a click wheel and video, but a smaller screen and only 4 or 8 GBs for $149 and $199 respectively. Apple is pretty careful about maintaining their price points for their target customers, and even the most recent Nano refresh keeps those same price points. However, at the same event where they announced this Nano, they introduced the iPod touch starting at $299. So back then, $149 got you into an iPod with a screen and video, and for double that amount, you could get into an iPod with multitouch, video, and some lame basic, pre-installed apps.

The iPod touches now are WAY better: Apps, games, Hi-Def video recording, Face Time, gyro, amazing display, AND starting at only $229. That is twenty bucks LESS than the iPod Classic. So now a marginal $80 gets you an upgrade from a Nano to an iPod touch. A jump to be sure, but from an 8 GB iPod Nano, the $20 jump is basically trivial.

What I am saying is that iPod Nano is an entry level product, and one that is primarily still for music, and targeted at a younger (maybe as young as my brother’s daughter) audience. That means that nowadays, the Nano more about appearances that features. Multi touch doesn’t get you anything on the nano really. There is no reason, other than being able to get it small and get rid of the buttons, to have multitouch. But being small and getting rid of the buttons means visibility. That’s why they put a clip on it, and why it is the ONLY Apple product to come in colors.

When my boss saw the new Nano, he said “Imagine the subways in Asia. You are going to see those Nanos everywhere. They are going to sell a lot of those things.” And I think he is right. The old iPod ads used to be about the music – you could barely even see the iPod itself. More recently, the image is all about the image. And multitouch is cool. Kids will love just flicking around and feeling like their parents who have real multitouch devices.

So what was Apple thinking? I think it is all about introducing people, especially younger people, to their super cool products so as they grow up, they buy-up. The Nano is no longer the best selling iPod. If you want video, buy-up, or throw up.

By the way, Have you seen the stats about college freshmen laptop purchases? I mean, when the iPod debuted, these kids were about 8 years old. I’m just sayin….