Tag: iPhone

Apple is losing more than the name game

Tuesday, 22 March, 2016 1 Comment

With the announcement of a new phone, called the iPhone SE, and a new iPad Pro, “we now have a dizzying number of choices to make when considering which Apple smartphone or tablet to buy, and all have almost identical sounding names,” wrote Nick Statt yesterday in a Verge article titled Apple is losing the name game. But it’s not just the name game that’s being lost. The thrill is gone, as the late, great B.B King put it.

A smaller iPhone, a cheaper watch, a new iPad Pro… It was as everyone had expected. On the social media channels, one could feel the lack of excitement and the eagerness for the event to end. Truly, the Steve Jobs era is over. Yesterday’s highlight, if one could call it that, was Tim Cook’s criticism of the FBI.
Apple Watch The Apple CEO hit the US intelligence and security service hard right from the start of his keynote, challenging the agency on unlocking the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino terrorists. This was the wealthy, powerful Cook playing the underdog, the good guy in a fight with the bad guys. But following this morning’s terror attacks in Brussels, we can expect more demands for even more power for the intelligence and security services as the fanatics seek to turn our cities into war zones. And it won’t stop at unlocking their phones, either.

Apple has built its devoted following on people who delight in cool new things. Encryption is very important, no doubt, but Tim Cook’s job is to develop and deliver products that will actually enthuse Apple’s customers. He’s not doing that. Tellingly, Jony Ive, the company’s Chief Design Officer, did not attend yesterday’s event. Maybe he was at his desk, designing something that will bring back the thrill that’s gone.


The iPhone: On this day in 2007

Saturday, 9 January, 2016 0 Comments

Apple reinvented the telephone on 9 January 2007. “iPhone is a revolutionary new mobile phone that allows users to make calls by simply pointing at a name or number,” claimed the company press release. Steve Jobs was at his entertainingly visionary best during the Macworld convention in San Francisco when he made that legendary presentation. From that day on, for better or worse, a person became known by the company of the phone they kept. (Grammar note for 2015: singular “they”).

“We’re gonna use the best pointing device in the world. We’re gonna use a pointing device that we’re all born with — we’re born with ten of them. We’re gonna use our fingers.
We’re gonna touch this with our fingers. And we have invented a new technology called multi-touch, which is phenomenal.
It works like magic.
You don’t need a stylus. It’s far more accurate than any touch display that’s ever been shipped.
It ignores unintended touches, it’s super-smart.
You can do multi-finger gestures on it.
And boy, have we patented it.”

Steve Jobs (24 February 1955 – 5 October 2011)


BlackBerry vs. iPhone: beauty matters

Monday, 25 May, 2015 0 Comments

When the iPhone first appeared in 2007, senior management at RIM were convinced that their customers valued the iconic BlackBerry keyboard far more than the innovative Apple touchscreen. The mobile business was about security and efficiency instead of novelty and entertainment, they believed. In the Wall Street Journal, Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff examine this fatal shortsightedness in The Inside Story of How the iPhone Crippled BlackBerry. Snippet:

‘By all rights the product should have failed, but it did not,’ said David Yach, RIM’s chief technology officer. To Mr. Yach and other senior RIM executives, Apple changed the competitive landscape by shifting the raison d’être of smartphones from something that was functional to a product that was beautiful.

‘I learned that beauty matters… RIM was caught incredulous that people wanted to buy this thing,’ Mr. Yach says.”

Did video really kill the radio star? Tech historians still debate that question, but they are less divided by this fact: The inability of RIM to combine seamless internet access with an aesthetically pleasing experience mortally wounded the BlackBerry.

BlackBerry


Adobe hoisted with his own petard

Thursday, 29 January, 2015 0 Comments

Background: “Matt Asay is vice president of mobile for the Digital Marketing business at Adobe, responsible for charting the Adobe’s mobile strategy and extending its lead as the mobile marketing leader.” So goes the company profile, which adds that “Asay writes regular columns for ReadWrite, TechRepublic and InfoWorld.” And it was for ReadWrite that Asay opined thus two years ago: “Apple is reportedly developing a smart watch made from curved glass. Does it really have a choice? With iPhone sales stalling, the Cupertino innovator is in desperate need of another hit product…”

John Gruber gleefully seized upon this in light of Tuesday’s Apple announcement of record-breaking results and sales of 34,000 iPhones an hour in the first fiscal quarter of 2015. In simple terms, Apple is making $8.3 million an hour in profit 24/7, which is, as Gruber put it, “Absolutely. Insane.”

Along with exposing the folly of Asay, Gruber had another go at Adobe by drawing attention to a piece from 2011 by Christopher Dawson in ZDNet about the lack of Flash Player support in iOS: “So when will Apple finally jump on the train?” asked Dawson. “If Flash isn’t a universal standard, it’s about as close as you can get for web multimedia… I give Apple a year until they cave. Android tablets will just be too cool and too useful for both entertainment and enterprise applications if they don’t.”

Exercising great restraint, Gruber linked to the sound of the final nail being hammered into the Flash coffin: “YouTube announcing today that they’re now defaulting to HTML5 video.”

“For tis the sport to have the enginer Hoist with his owne petar”. Shakespeare gave that line to Hamlet 400 years ago. It holds true today, especially in the Apple/Adobe drama.

Hamlet


Does capitalism work? Ask Jan Koum.

Thursday, 20 February, 2014 2 Comments

Jan Koum was born in 1977 and raised in a small village outside of Kiev. The family home had no electricity or hot water and his parents rarely talked on the phone in case it was tapped by the state. At 16, Koum and his mother immigrated to the US, where she took up babysitting and he swept the floor of a grocery store to help make ends meet. When his mother was diagnosed with cancer, they lived off her disability allowance. When she died in 2000, the young Ukrainian was alone in America; his father had died in 1997. He taught himself computer networking by buying manuals from a used book store and returning them when he was done. He got a job a Yahoo but in his LinkedIn profile, he unenthusiastically describes his time there with the words, “Did some work.”

He left in September 2007 and spent a year traveling around South America. On his return, he applied, and failed, to find work at Facebook. In January 2009, he bought an iPhone and realized that the seven-month old App Store was about to generate a whole new industry of apps. His thinking was it would be cool to have a free messaging app where the login was your own phone number. Koum chose the name WhatsApp because it sounded like “What’s up,” and a week later on his birthday, 24 February 2009, he incorporated WhatsApp Inc. in California. Yesterday, Jan Koum signed the $19 billion Facebook deal paperwork on the door of his old welfare office in Mountain View, California. (Photo courtesy of Jan Koum)

Jan Koum


Walt Mossberg and the art of meeting people

Thursday, 19 December, 2013 0 Comments

“This is my last column for The Wall Street Journal, after 22 years of reviewing consumer technology products here.” So writes Walt Mossberg in a piece titled “Top Products in Two Decades of Tech Reviews.” The boots that he wore were so large that the Journal has picked four journalists to fill them. They are all fine writers and good people, no doubt, but it will be a while before they’ll be to bring to the table the ineffable thing that made Walt Mossberg so respected and, even, loved.

He was at the Macworld convention at the Moscone Center in San Francisco on 9 January 2007 when Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone, and after the presentation the Apple CEO handed the magical object of desire to the Wall Street Journal reviewer to get his impressions. Two weeks later, Walt Mossberg was in Munich at the annual DLD Conference and there I had the pleasure of shaking the hand that had used the first the iPhone. The most memorable thing about our short conversation was that right in the middle of it two Israeli entrepreneurs audaciously intervened with an elevator pitch about their web-based product. Mossberg took their chutzpah in his stride, and in between talking to me about the iPhone he asked the entrepreneurial pair a series of short, pertinent questions about their innovation. It was a bravura performance and everybody went away from the gathering with the feeling that they had benefitted from meeting the incredibly patient, polite and informed Walt Mossberg.

The iPhone is at number 9 in Mossberg’s list of the dozen influential personal-technology products he reviewed over the past two decades: “Apple electrified the tech world with this device — the first truly smart smartphone. It is an iPod, an Internet device and a phone combined in one small gadget. Its revolutionary multi-touch user interface is gradually replacing the PC’s graphical user interface on many devices.”

Walt Mossberg is not retiring. He’s said to be working on a new online venture and rumour has it that he’s been in talks with NBCUniversal, Bloomberg, Condé Nast, Cox and The Washington Post Company. Mossberg and Bezos? That would be a potent force. The patience of Walt would be needed, though, to make it work.

This just in: Business Insider is reporting that Mossberg and his business partner Kara Swisher have hired Kenneth Li, recently of Reuters, to be the managing editor of their new venture. “They reportedly have investment from NBCUniversal for the new site which launches next year.”

Walt Mossberg and Steve Jobs


The selfie society

Monday, 25 November, 2013 0 Comments

“Selfies, Selfies and more selfies: so much so it is the word of the year and in order to celebrate and understand the concept of selfie, I decided to curate seven of the best pieces I have read around selfies.” So said Om Malik in his regular “7 stories to read this weekend” feature.” Included is what he terms the “definitive” article on selfie culture by Jenna Wortham.
The major selfie artist of our time is, of course, Kim Kardashian. Her sister Khloe recently gave an interview in which she revealed Kim’s top secret: shoot from above to avoid double chins. The front-facing camera of the iPhone 4 spurred the rise of the craze, but there’s more to the story than hardware as Kate Losse pointed out in The Return of the Selfie in the New Yorker in June:

“For teen-age social-media users, who generally prefer on-the-go mobile applications, like Instagram and Snapchat, the self is the message and the selfie is the medium. The Instagram selfie, with its soft, artfully faded tones, has replaced the stern, harshly lit mug-shot style of years past. The small, square photo, displayed on one’s phone, invites the photographer and the viewer to form a personal connection. There is little space on Instagram for delivering context or depicting a large group of people; the confines of the app make single subjects more legible than complex scenes. A face in an Instagram photograph, filtered to eliminate any glare or unflattering light, appears star-like, as if captured by a deft paparazzo.”

In his list, Om Malik adds a link to the marvellous selfie taken by astronaut Aki Hoshide while working outside the International Space. Next stop for the selfie? Mars. But wait. Been there. Done that.

Selfie in space


Farewell, then, Nokia

Tuesday, 3 September, 2013 0 Comments

At the height of the NSA hysteria, the usual suspects reheated their arguments for a “European Google”, which would, somehow, save us from the big, bad Americans. Nobody fell for it, though, as everyone knows that the “European Google” idea/scam is predicated on sucking billions of euros into “research” in France and Germany, which will never produce a search engine, never mind a European Google. Now that Microsoft has acquired Nokia’s devices and services business, we can expect demands for a European phone maker. But that train has finally left the Finland station and it’s not coming back.

The year Apple launched the iPhone, 2007, was Nokia’s best-ever year: it sold 436 million handsets — nearly 40 percent of the total purchased worldwide. (Its nearest competitor, Motorola, sold 164 million.) That was then. In the first quarter of this year, Nokia shipped 61.9 million handsets, but Samsung shipped 112.8 million and is on track to reach the 500-million milestone. Poor old Motorola shifted a mere 3.9 million units in Q1 2013.

In April last year, Nokia introduced the Lumia 900, which prompted Nicholas Thompson, writing in the New Yorker, to speculate on “The Resurrection Of Nokia?” He declared: “The cell-phone market could use another competitor. It probably won’t be Research in Motion, which appears set on hara-kiri. But Nokia and Microsoft are genuinely trying to recapture the magic of that old N95.” Strike Nokia there. It’s all Microsoft now.

In early 2001, Rainy Day became the proud owner of a vivid red Nokia 3330 and it fended off all competitors until Steve Jobs reimagined the phone business. No one today can say that Nokia didn’t have fair warning of its fate.

Nokia to Apple


Apple ate the BlackBerry

Wednesday, 14 August, 2013 0 Comments

In the New Yorker, Vauhini Vara muses upon “How BlackBerry Fell“. She mentions the real reason early in the piece. (Hint: It’s a five-letter word beginning with “A”):

“Shares in the Canadian maker of BlackBerry smartphones peaked in August of 2007, at two hundred and thirty-six dollars. In retrospect, the company was facing an inflection point and was completely unaware. Seven months earlier, in January, Apple had introduced the iPhone at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. Executives at BlackBerry, then called Research in Motion, decided to let Apple focus on the general-use smartphone market, while it would continue selling BlackBerry products to business and government customers that bought the devices for employees. ‘In terms of a sort of a sea change for BlackBerry,’ the company’s co-C.E.O Jim Balsillie said at the time, referring to the iPhone’s impact on the industry, ‘I would think that’s overstating it.'”

Yummy! Blackberries Vara adds: “BlackBerry, of course, wasn’t the only company that made the mistake of ignoring the iPhone and the revolution it portended: engineers at Nokia, which, years earlier, had introduced a one-pound smartphone, dismissed the iPhone because, among other reasons, it failed to pass a test in which phones were dropped five feet onto concrete over and over again, the Wall Street Journal reported last year. Microsoft C.E.O. Steve Ballmer actually laughed at the iPhone. ‘It doesn’t appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard,’ he said. Nokia and Microsoft, which are now building smartphones in partnership with each other, have, like BlackBerry, seen their share of the market shrink.”

Long before Vauhini Vara came to this conclusion, John Gruber identified the rot at the heart of RIM. On 9 May 2008, he wrote “BlackBerry vs. iPhone” and nailed it beautifully here: “RIM doesn’t really have any lock-in other than user habits. The BlackBerry gimmick is that it works with the email system your company bought from Microsoft. Replace a BlackBerry with an iPhone (2.0) and the messages, contacts, and calendar events that sync over the network will be the same as the ones on the BlackBerry you just tossed into a desk drawer.”

RIP RIM.


RIM has gone south and will go East

Monday, 28 January, 2013 0 Comments

On Wednesday, in New York City, Research in Motion (RIM) will present the first phones based on its all-new BlackBerry 10 operating system (OS). Given the company’s near-death experience in recent years, these devices will be RIM’s most important products since the first BlackBerry was released in 1999. Since then, 200 million of the devices have been shipped. So Wednesday is a now-or-never moment for “Canada’s signature technology company“, as The Globe and Mail calls it.

Those who know the mobile business say that RIM has left it too late. Its tragedy was the complete denial of the need for a new OS following the introduction of the iPhone in 2007. Six years on, all is changed, “changed utterly“, as the poet said, and the real story now is about who’ll get which cut when the cooked Canadian goose is carved up.

“We are looking at all opportunities — RIM and many others,” Lenovo chief financial officer Wong Wai Ming told Bloomberg. “We’ll have no hesitation if the right opportunity comes along that could benefit us and shareholders.”

But maybe Samsung will pounce. The Koreans have shiploads of money and by buying RIM they’d acquire useful patents and, critically, a foot in the door of the enterprise market. However, if BlackBerry 10 turns out to be good, Sony, which makes excellent hardware, might be keen to get the kind of software that would allow it to become a serious player in the mobile business. RIM has gone south and the prediction here is that it will go East.


Getting responsive

Monday, 19 November, 2012 1 Comment

As a motto, ABO: Always Be Optimizing doesn’t sound half as compelling as ABC: Always Be Closing, which was immortalized by Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross, but it’s useful and less menacing. If your business involves getting people to read your digital content, ABO is far better than ABC. In this era of devices, […]

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