iTunes Radio: Apple’s Dark Horse for Streaming Music

After Apple’s keynote at WWDC 2013, all anyone could talk about was iOS 7. “It’s so different,” they gasped and everyone carried on about it for weeks. Unfortunately, they disregarded another important announcement from the event: iTunes Radio, the company’s foray into online music streaming.

Ask Pandora CEO Joe Kennedy about it and he’ll tell you he isn’t worried one bit:

“We’ve now been around for eight years. We’ve seen competitors large and small enter the market and, in some cases, exit the market […] I’ve never seen an analysis that identifies an effect from any competitor … we don’t see the picture changing.”

We’ve heard this before. BlackBerry neé RIM, Nokia, and Microsoft all shrugged off Apple’s iPhone when it was first announced and look how well that went.

Competitors are quick to write off Apple as a mild nuisance until it proves itself as not only a worthy adversary, but an industry-changing one. It happened with the iPod, the iPhone, the MacBook Air, and the iPad. On the services side, iTunes influenced Best Buy, Wal Mart, Microsoft, Nokia, Google, and many others to open their own music stores. Why should iTunes Radio be any different?

Pandora has three things to worry about with iTunes Radio coming up the walkway:

  • Innovation
  • Expansion
  • Revenue


Apple didn’t just decide to clone Pandora and offer another streaming service to confuse users. iTunes Radio offers numerous new features, aside from a recommendation engine powered by a user base of millions.

Like Pandora, iTunes Radio tracks what a person listens to over the air. However, it can also see what he or she downloads from iTunes. If the team behind iTunes Radio thinks the way other online radio listeners do, they’ll know what to stream based on that listener’s downloads. Online radio is a discovery and testing ground, but our libraries are for keeps. The more music we hear that’s like the music we own, the more we’ll use the service, leading to more purchases on iTunes. And because it will have access to years of previous iTunes purchases, it means fine tuning a station won’t have to be done from scratch the way it is with Pandora. iTunes Radio will know a listener’s tastes from day one.

Pandora still offers a very powerful recommendation service and is available on countless devices, like the Roku set-top box, Apple TV, certain car audio systems, and through its mobile apps, but has there been growth? Aside from its ubiquity, Pandora hasn’t changed much since 2007. iTunes Radio allows for finer tuning of personal stations, while Pandora only gives users the “thumb” buttons to determine “good” and “bad” for current tracks. iTunes Radio suggests full stations and genres, like “Dance Party” or “Summer Country” or “Trending on Twitter”, while Pandora languishes, waiting for you to tell it what to play. The addition of Siri to iTunes Radio lets users simply tell it to play a particular station or genre without having to type it in. That’s good news for car listeners. Even in beta, iTunes Radio shows more potential than Pandora.

From a service standpoint, Pandora has remained stagnant, resting on its laurels without a true competitor to challenge it. Spotify and Rdio are popular services for people who know what they want to listen to (and they do have their own discovery capabilities, as well), but Pandora has remained king for those times when we don’t know what we want to hear. When we think “discovery”, we tend to think “Pandora”.

For now.


As stated before, Pandora is widely available on a variety of devices and vehicles, but presence isn’t what’s key here. There needs to be a compelling reason to keep people coming back. Due to competitors like Spotify, iHeartRadio, and Rdio, Pandora recently lost some of its radio market share and with the introduction of iTunes Radio in the coming weeks, we should expect to see that share drop even more.

iTunes Radio will be built into every device running iOS 7 and the next iTunes update beginning this fall. Millions of Apple TV, iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone, and Mac users will be able to stream to their devices automatically without any additional accounts or software needed. Pandora is ubiquitous. iTunes Radio is seamless.

Apple’s push into motor vehicles with its iOS in the Car initiative will also give iTunes Radio an even bigger boost by incorporating it directly into the car’s computer system. Imagine heading out for your daily commute and accessing your own personalized radio station with the controls only a few inches (or a voice command) away, then carrying that station with you out of the car without having to reload it or lose your spot in a song.

At launch, iTunes Radio will be available in only the United States with thousands of songs from the iTunes Store behind it. This might sound like a problem, but Pandora hasn’t fared much better. It’s only available in the U.S., New Zealand, and Australia.

Considering Apple’s weight and influence in the music industry, I doubt iTunes Radio will remain exclusive for long. The U.S. is a large enough audience to gain traction and small enough for Apple to work out any kinks before going international. If you remember back in December 2003, the iTunes Store debuted only in the U.S. originally. One year later, it arrived in three new countries. Four months after that, nine more countries were added and it’s been growing exponentially ever since. iTunes Radio may spread even faster and I anticipate it will.

Apple’s radio service won’t find its way to Blu Ray players or TiVos, but it doesn’t have to in order to be successful. With over 300 million iOS devices in circulation all over the world, it’ll have plenty of reach, which means even more money in its coffers.


A few months ago, musician David Lowery revealed the woes of doing business with Pandora, claiming “My Song Got Played On Pandora 1 Million Times and All I Got Was $16.89, Less Than What I Make From a Single T-Shirt Sale!“. His story was debunked rather quickly by Michael DeGusta, armed only with a blog and basic math. DeGusta calculated that Lowery actually made $1,370 for his million plays on Pandora. Still not a great amount, but it’s not $17 either.

Unfortunately, according to Mark Rogowsky at Forbes that number isn’t going to get any better:

Pandora doesn’t make much money because it pays out a huge portion of revenues to record companies. That number at last is headed strongly in the right directly. It was roughly 52% of total revenues on the quarter against nearly 60% last year. This is huge progress, but the company didn’t have much to say about it, suggesting future improvement is likely to be minimal.

Apple, on the other hand, has bigger plans for its artists:

During iTunes Radio’s first year, Apple will pay a label 0.13 cents each time a song is played, as well as 15% of net advertising revenue, proportionate to a given label’s share of the music played on iTunes. In the second year, that bumps up to 0.14 cents per listen, plus 19% of ad revenue.

That compares to the 0.12 cents Pandora pays labels per listen on its free service. Apple is also offering music publishers more than twice as much in royalties than Pandora does.

Pandora’s struggles both in innovation and international expansion are most likely affected by its lack of profitability. When nearly 60% of a company’s quarterly revenue is being paid to record companies and the remaining 40% has to be split over employees and other overhead costs, what else is left to spend on R&D and licensing?

This isn’t helped by the recent decision to lift the 40-hour playing limit for free members. If Pandora One users don’t have to pay for unlimited use, why not just drop down to the free tier and sit through an ad every few songs?

Apple is making iTunes Radio free ad-supported for all users with an ad-free option for iTunes Match subscribers. For $25 a year, listeners will get iTunes Radio without any ads, as well as access to their iTunes libraries stored in the cloud from any device. Not a bad deal when compared with Pandora’s annual $36 fee for better streaming quality, no ads, and “custom skins”.

And let’s not forget the additional revenue generated by iTunes Radio’s direct integration with the iTunes Store. Like what you’re hearing? Buy it immediately without interrupting the current song or leaving the app. Quick access like that means a more pleasant (and widely used) checkout process for consumers and more money in Apple’s pocket, regardless of whether they paid for iTunes Match or not.

To clarify:

  • Bought a song while listening to iTunes Radio? Apple and the artist make money.
  • Paid for iTunes Match and listen to iTunes Radio? Apple and the artist make money.
  • Clicked on an ad in iTunes Radio? Apple, the advertiser, and the artist make money.

Noticing a pattern?

The Future

It’s not enough to just have a presence on numerous devices if a business like Pandora wants to be successful, especially when there are other competitors breathing down its neck. Spotify, Rdio, iHeartRadio are gaining steam and with iTunes Radio entering the fray, the threat’s as great as it’s ever been.

Apple has the money and the clout to do what it wants to do and go where it wants to go. It has 575 million iTunes users across the globe and hundreds of millions of devices in the hands of waiting listeners. It can afford to pay labels and artists better than Pandora currently does and there’s a plan in place to increase earnings further along down the road. How long before it branches out with an on-demand subscription service like Spotify?

When iTunes Radio was announced at WWDC 2013, it was talked about like just another feature among a long list of more important, flashier ones, and perhaps that was deliberate–look at the new shiny iOS and pay no attention to the streaming service jammed in the middle of the presentation. Apple’s known for releasing some major dogs of online services, like Ping and MobileMe, and it’s possible it didn’t want iTunes Radio to be seen in the same light.

Or, much like the Apple TV began as a “hobby” and a small part of Apple’s entrance into television, so too will iTunes Radio begin as a tiny step towards a new era of music commerce. Apple has the luxury of not expecting much from iTunes Radio for a long time. It makes the majority of its money on hardware sales, not from what’s sold on iTunes, so it can pump as much or as little as it wants into iTunes Radio over the next few years without worrying about which direction the needle is moving.

So, what does this all come down to? The people want music. No, they want their music, the songs they love and the ones they don’t know about yet. Most importantly, they want their music their way and as conveniently as possible and iTunes Radio is going to give it to them in a way Pandora currently cannot.

There’s still time before iTunes Radio hits the market and I’d wager there’s a little more time before it really gains some ground, but if Pandora wants to keep up, it needs to figure out its next step because Apple’s already three ahead.

On the Impact of Paul Otellini’s CEO Years at Intel

Intel’s CEO Paul Otellini is retiring in May 2013. His 40-year career at Intel now ending, it’s a timely opportunity to look at his impact on Intel.

Intel As Otellini Took Over

In September 2004 when it was announced that Paul Otellini would take over as CEO, Intel was #46 on the Fortune 100 list, and had ramped production to 1 million Pentium 4’s a week (today over a million processors a day). The year ended with revenues of $34.2 billion. Otellini, who joined Intel with a new MBA in 1974, had 30 years of experience at Intel.

The immediate challenges the company faced fell into four areas: technology, growth, competition, and finance:

Technology: Intel processor architecture had pushed more transistors clocking faster, generating more heat. The solution was to use the benefits of Moore’s Law to put more cores on each chip and run them at controllable — and eventually much reduced — voltages.

Growth: The PC market was 80% desktops and 20% notebooks in 2004 with the North America and Europe markets already mature. Intel had chip-making plants (aka fabs) coming online that were scaled to a continuing 20%-plus volume growth rate. Intel needed new markets.

Competition: AMD was ascendant, and a growing menace.  As Otellini was taking over, a market research firm reported AMD had over 52% market share at U.S. retail, and Intel had fallen to #2. Clearly, Intel needed to win with better products.

Finance: Revenue in 2004 recovered to beat 2000, the Internet bubble peak. Margins were in the low 50% range — good but inadequate to fund both robust growth and high returns to shareholders.

Where Intel Evolved Under Paul Otellini

Addressing these challenges, Otellini changed the Intel culture, setting higher expectations, and moving in many new directions to take the company and the industry forward. Let’s look at major changes at Intel in the past eight years in the four areas: technology, growth, competition, and finance:


Design for Manufacturing: Intel’s process technology in 2004 was at 90nm. To reliably achieve a new process node and architecture every two years, Intel introduced the Tick-Tock model, where odd years deliver a new architecture and even years deliver a new, smaller process node. The engineering and manufacturing fab teams work together to design microprocessors that can be manufactured in high volume with few defects. Other key accomplishments include High-K Metal Gate transistors at 45nm, 32nm products, 3D tri-gate transistors at 22nm, and a 50% reduction in wafer production time.

Multi-core technology: The multi-core Intel PC was born in 2006 in the Core 2 Duo. Now, Intel uses Intel Architecture (IA) as a technology lever for computing across small and tiny (Atom), average (Core and Xeon), and massive (Phi) workloads. There is a deliberate continuum across computing needs, all supported by a common IA and an industry of IA-compatible software tools and applications.

Performance per Watt: Otellini led Intel’s transformational technology initiative to deliver 10X more power-efficient processors. Lower processor power requirements allow innovative form factors in tablets and notebooks and are a home run in the data center. The power-efficiency initiative comes to maturity with the launch of the fourth generation of Core processors, codename Haswell, later this quarter. Power efficiency is critical to growth in mobile, discussed below.


When Otellini took over, the company focused on the chips it made, leaving the rest of the PC business to its ecosystem partners. Recent unit growth in these mature markets comes from greater focus on a broader range of customer’s computing needs, and in bringing leading technology to market rapidly and consistently. In so doing, the company gained market share in all the PC and data center product categories.

The company shifted marketing emphasis from the mature North America and Europe to emerging geographies, notably the BRIC countries — Brazil, Russia, India, and China. That formula accounted for a significant fraction of revenue growth over the past five years.

Intel’s future growth requires developing new opportunities for microprocessors:

Mobile: The early Atom processors introduced in late 2008 were designed for low-cost netbooks and nettops, not phones and tablets. Mobile was a market where the company had to reorganize, dig in, and catch up. The energy-efficiency that benefits Haswell, the communications silicon from the 2010 Infineon acquisition, and the forthcoming 14nm process in 2014 will finally allow the company to stand toe-to-toe with competitors Qualcomm, nVidia, and Samsung using the Atom brand. Mobile is a huge growth opportunity.

Software: The company acquired Wind River Systems, a specialist in real-time software in 2009, and McAfee in 2010. These added to Intel’s own developer tools business. Software services business accelerates customer time to market with new, Intel-based products. The company stepped up efforts in consumer device software, optimizing the operating systems for Google (Android), Microsoft (Windows), and Samsung (Tizen). Why? Consumer devices sell best when an integrated hardware/software/ecosystem like Apple’s iPhone exists.

Intelligent Systems: Specialized Atom systems on a chip (SoCs) with Wind River software and Infineon mobile communications radios are increasingly being designed into medical devices, factory machines, automobiles, and new product categories such as digital signage. While the global “embedded systems” market lacks the pizzazz of mobile, it is well north of $20 billion in size.


AMD today is a considerably reduced competitive threat, and Intel has gained back #1 market share in PCs, notebooks, and data center.

Growth into the mobile markets is opening a new set of competitors which all use the ARM chip architecture. Intel’s first hero products for mobile arrive later this year, and the battle will be on.


Intel has delivered solid, improved financial results to stakeholders under Otellini. With ever more efficient fabs, the company has improved gross margins. Free cash flow supports a dividend above 4%, a $5B stock buyback program, and a multi-year capital expense program targeted at building industry-leading fabs.

The changes in financial results are summarized in the table below, showing the year before Otellini took over as CEO through the end of 2012.

GAAP 2004 2012 Change
Revenue 34.2B 53.3B 55.8%
Operating Income 10.1B 14.6B 44.6%
Net Income 7.5B 11B 46.7%
EPS $1.16 $2.13 83.6%


The Paul Otellini Legacy

There will be books written about Paul Otellini and his eight years at the helm of Intel. A leader should be measured by the institution he or she leaves behind. I conclude those books will describe Intel in 2013 as excelling in managed innovation, systematic growth, and shrewd risk-taking:

Managed Innovation: Intel and other tech companies always are innovative. But Intel manages innovation among the best, on a repeatable schedule and with very high quality. That’s uncommon and exceedingly difficult to do with consistency. For example, the Tick-Tock model is a business school case study: churning out ground-breaking transistor technology, processors, and high-quality leading-edge manufacturing at a predictable, steady pace of engineering to volume manufacturing. This repeatable process is Intel’s crown jewel, and is a national asset.

Systematic Growth: Under Otellini, Intel made multi-billion dollar investments in each of the mobile, software, and intelligent systems markets. Most of the payback growth will come in the future, and will be worth tens of billions in ROI.

The company looks at the Total Addressable Market (TAM) for digital processors, decides what segments are most profitable now and in the near future, and develops capacity and go-to-market plans to capture top-three market share. TAM models are very common in the tech industry. But Intel is the only company constantly looking at the entire global TAM for processors and related silicon. With an IA computing continuum of products in place, plans to achieve more growth in all segments are realistic.

Shrewd Risk-Taking: The company is investing $35 billion in capital expenses for new chip-making plants and equipment, creating manufacturing flexibility, foundry opportunities, and demonstrating a commitment to keep at the forefront of chip-making technology. By winning the battle for cheaper and faster transistors, Intel ensures itself a large share of a growing pie while keeping competitors playing catch-up.

History and not analysts will grade the legacy of Paul Otellini as CEO at Intel. I am comfortable in predicting he will be well regarded.

You’ll want to read this: Alice through the Looking Glass (Corning Glass, that is)

In the near distant future, all of the surfaces in your house are made of high-tech glass. Instead of following a recipe on your tablet, your glass countertops now become the display. Does this make your spine tingle? Does it feel uber-tech, light years away? Like something only Steve Jobs or Captain Kirk would have access to? Nope, it’s coming to your doorstep.

Let’s paint a picture of an average Joe (or Joanne)’s day… It’s dinnertime. While trying to make the meal, the recipe on your tablet is too small to see and the stand you have propped it up on keeps falling over. Your hands are caked in food and the phone rings. Your son sits across the counter from you, nagging you about needing help with homework. Everyone and everything around you demands your attention. Imagine an innovation that could help you manage all of those tasks.

When the phone rings, your counter lights up and with one touch of your food-caked knuckle you’re talking to your great aunt Gladys (or the CEO of a major tech firm). Meanwhile, your kid is interacting through the countertop display with his tutor.

This near distant future could be possible with Corning’s technology. Corning’s is now researching ways to improve the glass, and apply it to all types of environments. Each glass display is powered by tablets encased in lightweight, durable glass, which –in this future time- are almost as commonplace as smartphones are today. Each tablet is tailored to its owner, organizing, managing and displaying everything in his or her life.

If we take this vision even further, now imagine the same technology that helped make dinnertime prep simpler, and apply it in hospitals, classrooms, cars and offices. The possibilities are limitless. If we step into a future hospital we will see wall-to-wall, touch-sensitive displays, capturing critical information for the current procedure taking place. The hospital rooms are covered with non-porous, easy to clean glass, making it an ideal product for sterile environments. Patient charts can be easily accessed from sleek, well-organized tablets.

Cars will also be equipped with glass displays. Now, music and essential driving information can be transported from a person’s individual tablet or smart phone, to the dashboard display. In addition to the dashboard, windows and a car’s sunroof will be made of automotive electrochromic glass, offering many possibilities.

Not only will classrooms have wall-to-wall displays, they will also be equipped with desk displays, and activity tables, making learning tangible and interactive. Imagine an office equipped with this same glass. Office meetings can now be interactive and plans can be changed right in front of you on large-scale displays.

Our future with glass is going to change the way we think, create, and organize our lives, and Corning’s is stepping up to the plate to make it happen. What do you think is possible with this futuristic technology? To see the glass in action, watch these three videos made by Corning. In A Day Made Of Glass 2: Unpacked, the narrator describes the technology used and explains what is possible today.

A Day Made of Glass

A Day Made of Glass 2

A Day made of Glass 2: Unpacked

Until next time,

Kelli Richards, CEO of The All Access Group, LLC

Apple: Time To Come Out Swinging

Portrait of Steve Jobs (Matt Yohe/Wikimedia Commons)

The dominant picture of Apple in the media today is of a company on the ropes: out of ideas, falling behind the competition, stock price battered, doomed. It’s reached the point where the CEO of BlackBerry, of all people, is criticizing the iPhone as stale.

The reality is a company enjoying record sales and earnings, dominant in its most important markets, with products continuing to be the envy of customers and competitors alike.

How did a company that spent so many years successfully managing and polishing its image reach this point? And how does it change a growing perceptions of failure in the face of actual success? These questions matter because over time, perceptions have a way of infiltrating reality, making the negativity surrounding Apple a long-term threat to the company.

Apple has succeeded by figuring out what consumers want before they knew they wanted it and by making superior products. But a little bit of magic has surrounded Apple products for the past 15 years or so and that helped make iPods and MacBooks and iPhones objects of desire. Today, every major Apple product is the top seller in its category, often by a wide margin. But without the perception of magic, that becomes harder to sustain.

This is where Apple misses Steve Jobs. Today’s Apple is run by a highly competent crew of executives. But Jobs was the magician and no one can replace him. A Tim Cook keynote can be interesting and informative, but it will never be the sort of cosmic event that Jobs presided over two or three times a year. This loss is irreplaceable.

But something else has changed. For the first time in many years, and certainly for the first time since the incredible iPhone run began in 2007, Apple has a competitor that truly matters. When Apple entered the phone market in 2007, it gained about 100% of the mindshare before shipping a product. Once the iPhone was a reality, and especially after the iPhone 3G and the App Store debuted a year later, Apple brushed away the incumbent smartphone makers without them putting up much of a fight.

Samsung is different. The company is nowhere close to Apple’s seamless integration from components to software and the dog’s breakfast that was the Galaxy S 4 launch shows it still has a ways to go in its presentation skills. But it is making first-rate products that are more and more Samsung and less and less Android, and backing them with a lot of money behind an effective marketing campaign. If Samsung ever learns how to overcome Google’s tablet cluelessness, it could be a formidable competitor to the iPad too.[pullquote]If Samsung ever learns how to overcome Google’s tablet cluelessness, it could be a formidable competitor to the iPad too.[/pullquote]

With Samsung on the prowl and Apple, fairly or unfairly, getting beaten up daily by both the tech and financial media, the company can no longer afford its long-time strategy of floating serenely about the noise of the tech and financial worlds. Apple never responded to rumors or much of anything else. Routine inquires to PR staff received polite no comments or, often as not, no response at all. Apple was the honey badger of tech companies. That strategy has served it well for more than a decade, but it clearly is not working very well anymore.

One thing Apple should strongly consider is giving the world some sense of its direction. Rampant speculation about Apple products while Cupertino sat in stony silence used to work in Apple’s favor, but now its being interpreted as having a lack of anything to say. Critics will say Jobs would never have considered even giving hints about products in development, but Jobs was against many things–including Apple making a phone–until he found a good reason to be for them. “What would Steve do?” is not a good guide for Apple today. The company should let the world know that it is still on top of its game.

Apple also needs to throw a bone the the financial markets. With a cash hoard is more than $150 billion and growing, Apple is beginning to look a bit like a bond fund with a consumer electronics company attached. It successfully fought off an effort by investor David Einhorn to give a good chunk of the money back to shareholders, but it has given no indication of what it plans to do, but there’s a good argument to be made that all that cash sitting around is doing investors no good whatever. It could, as Brian S. Hall suggested here the other day, set up an endowment for future product development. More realistically, it could pay a much larger dividend or use the cash to buy back its own stock. It could find something worth acquiring (maybe it’s saving up to buy Samsung, but it needs about another $100 billion.) But one way or another, it owes investors some explanation of its intentions if it hopes to win their confidence back.

There are some signs that Apple understands it is in a new environment. It has come up with a new section of its web site, going after the competition saying: “There’s iPhone. And then there’s everything else.” Marking chief Phil Schiller took on Samsung in an interview on the eve of the Galaxy S 4 launch (though he diluted its impact with an incorrect claim that the phone used a year-old version of Android.) Such steps are a good start, but Apple will have to do more. It’s a difference, and much more competitive world out there.

An Overview of How Google Glass Works… A Curse or a Blessing?

Screen Shot 2013-03-18 at 7.49.40 AM I loved Tim Bajaran’s piece on G-Glass – Mine simply expands on some basic facts, adding value for all of us who aren’t following the very Iron-Man creation of this latest Google Project.  We’re losing Google Reader, but gaining hardware. Does anyone else see Apple’s “product” model being adopted here? 

Yes, Alice, we’ve definitely fallen into the looking glass. Google’s most recent project, Google Glass, will delve far into the realm of science fiction, bringing Tony Stark, Iron Man-esque technology to the masses. The Google Glass project delivers a wearable computer system in the form of glasses, offering hands free messaging, photography, and video recording.  Straight out of 007, this offers the ability to share everything you see, live, in real time: directions, reminders, the web – all seen through the lens, right in front of your face.

The glasses have a display in the top right corner of the frame, making endless information available at all times, and will reportedly connect with either your Android or iPhone implementing WiFi, 3g, and 4g coverage. These revolutionary specs won’t just be a piece of spectacular hardware; Google is negotiating with Warby Parker, a company which specializes in the sales of trendy glasses, in an attempt to bring infinite data while still looking fashionable.

The best part of Google’s Project Glass is that Google is currently allowing civilians, not developers, the opportunity to influence product development. Google declared, “We’re looking for bold, creative individuals who want to join us and be a part of shaping the future of Glass.” Applications are being accepted through the use of Google+ and Twitter, through the hashtag #ifihadglass.

While this idea of unlimited data being available even more easily than at your fingertips is revolutionary, it raises more than a few questions regarding privacy. The ability to record everything right in front of you, in real time, is a daunting thought, covering everything from being photographed at a cafe, to making videos in airports. Beyond the questionable “Glass etiquette” that will certainly develop over time, the prospect that Google and the government will be able to access users’ data is shattering.

If the Glass Project brings information right in front of your face, allowing you to communicate, to access the internet, contacts, etc., and share what you are seeing live, what will stop others from accessing your private information? Although a few decades late, Orwell’s 1984 has definitely caught up with us.

The issues that may arise from the mass production of Google Glass are met with equally impressive, revolutionary concepts around social networking and sharing. Glass would be the apex of social sharing, allowing people to be in constant contact, literally letting individuals step into other’s shoes, to view the world from a different point of view. You could be standing in New York’s Time Square and share and trade that experience with someone around the world, exploring the streets of Venice or Sydney, Australia. Such universal sharing would truly redefine the human experience.

At its best, this would also effect topics as broad as human rights and poverty – but the cost remains to be seen. Only time will tell if the Google Glass Project will be the vessel connecting mankind, Pandora’s box, or something in the middle.

Sony’s decline: Have they eaten the poison Apple?

Sony-and-Apple“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana, 1905

For today’s history lesson, we’re going to look at two of the biggest names in the tech industry that have risen and fallen in complimentary distribution with one another since the 1980’s. As one company climbed to the top, the other plummeted but now the tides have changed.

I’m talking of course about Sony and Apple, two companies with storied histories that bear some key similarities to each other. In the successes and failures of each company, the brilliance and blunders seem to be passed back and forth. In order to move forward towards the future, we must look back at the past; so let’s take it from the top.

The 1980’s were a strange time in America; MTV, big hair, and the Brat Pack are some of the first things that come to mind when I think of that decade. Of course, the 1980’s also ushered in a new era of technology, and Apple and Sony were at the forefront. In the beginning of the 1980’s, Apple came out strong with a record breaking IPO and the Macintosh computer. Things quickly went south for the computer giant, as infighting and a decline in sales ultimately saw Steve Jobs leave the company in 1985; beginning what many would refer to as “the dark years” at Apple. During that same time, Sony had started the 1980’s with dismal profits during a global recession that saw a drop in electronics sales.

One of the things that saved Sony was its creativity and drive to pioneer new technologies. While it lost the “format wars” between VHS and Betamax, it was able to move past and eventually develop technologies such as the Compact Disc and Walkman. Similarly, it branched out beyond consumer electronics and got into the music and movie publishing industries; creating a revenue stream that would allow it to profit several times over from single products. Its latest demise, however, came from the company aggressively expanding into new businesses and technologies with little communication or collaboration between the departments. The question now is “Will they bounce back?”

Apple was able to bounce back from those “dark years” when Steve Jobs came back. Under his leadership, the company was able to re-focus and re-establish its brand. They were able to focus on creating great products from top to bottom, coupled with a user experience that was second to none. If Sony wishes to recover in the same way Apple did, then perhaps they’ll do the same. Sony’s reach is a bit broader than Apple’s so in order to do that, they’ll need to increase the communication and support between departments. They have all the parts they need to return to the top, they just have to deliver what the customers want. Apple delivered things that consumers wanted before they even knew that they wanted them. Sony’s approach as of late has been more stagnant, where they wait for something to come out and find a way to replicate it.

The sting of a few hard blows to a company can send it reeling and certainly bruise some egos. Sony needs to take a whiff of the smelling salts and come out of the corner swinging. Once they return to their roots of innovation, creativity, and quality they’ll be sure to see success once again.


Something Special About Apple and iOS

The special needs community is rarely the target demographic for the tech industry. Many of the wonderful new gizmos and gadgets that come out simply aren’t designed for them. There are an increasing number of companies that are developing products and technology to make computers and mobile devices more accessible for the special needs community, however – and one of those companies happens to be Apple, Inc.

Apple’s VoiceOver technology was introduced with OSX 10.5 – better known as “Tiger.” It’s an accessibility feature that allows blind or visually impaired Apple users to interact with a computer through sound. A user can use the trackpad or keyboard to scroll through the applications on the docked menu at the bottom of the screen. It can literally read the user any text that’s displayed on the screen and allows users to edit text where applicable.

VoiceOver is also available on iOS devices such as the iPad. Visually impaired users have been incredibly receptive and appreciative of this, especially considering the fact that it’s a feature many other tablets and readers lack. As more and more publishing companies, universities, and corporations look to switch to readers and tablets in the future, accessibility features for the visually impaired certainly help Apple market its products as the superior choice amongst the competition.

Another feature that benefits the members of the special needs community is a new feature in iOS 6 called Guided Access. Guided Access allows parents and educators to “lock” onto an app so that children can’t accidentally exit out of it by pressing the home button. While this may seem like a very basic feature, it’s incredibly useful for children with Autism or learning disabilities who may become distracted or lose focus on tasks. There are a number of educational apps available in the App Store but it’s often hard for learning disabled students to stay focused on them long enough to actually benefit. With Guided Access, the task of keeping a child focused has gotten a little easier for teachers and parents.

While full accessibility is an on-going battle as technology continues to evolve, Apple is certainly taking steps in the right direction. Many other companies in Silicon Valley are taking their lead and continuing to improve accessibility features for different technologies and we hope to see this trend continue.

My own time at Apple saw many of these technologies discussed and drawn out on desks and white boards under the tireless leadership and direction of my colleague Dr. Alan Brightman, who was Director of Apple’s WW Disability Solutions for 12 years; and is now a VP at Yahoo focusing on Global Accessibilty. To see these things come to life and create impact all around the world is simply astounding (then and now).

Kelli Richards,
CEO of the All Access Group, LLC


The New Myspace: All or Nothing

Ah MySpace, the website that brought social networking and social media into the homes of the masses. Once the king of the internet, valued at $12 billion and becoming the most visited website in the world, it has since been dethroned and fallen from grace. Or has it? It was recently purchased by Specific Media and Justin Timberlake in June 2011 for $35 million with hopes of breathing new life into the company. But will they be able to reclaim the throne in a much more crowded kingdom? The answer to that remains to be seen but based on the preview it looks like something worth getting excited about.

The obvious issue is that there are already enough, if not too many, social networks for the average user. Between Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Youtube, Google+ and the many others, the internet has become inundated with social media. Billed as a way to connect artists and fans, the MySpace team at Specific media has taken a smart approach by letting users integrate their Facebook and Twitter accounts rather than having to create a new one. With celebrities and artists already connecting with fans via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram perhaps integration and consolidating is something we need more of.

Seamless integration and creative design are two big things the new MySpace has going for it. Based on the preview video posted by Justin Timberlake, the website does look gorgeous and functional; 2 issues which plagued it in the past. Perhaps the biggest thing it has going for it is the music feature, which is something it actually always did exceptionally well.

Once a great way for big names and local bands alike to post songs, event info, pictures, etc, it will now let users create and share playlists, listen to whole albums, discover new music based on recommendations, and more. A cool feature for the artists is an analytics page which provides demographic breakdowns of their audiences by age, gender, region, etc. MySpace currently boasts one of the largest music catalogues on the internet, albeit from mostly unknown artists, at 42 million songs. If they can get some big artists and labels on board or even integrate with other services like Spotify, Pandora, Rdio, or Rhapsody then it could very well come back to life.

There’s still a lot that is up in the air for the new MySpace but if it can find a way to get over the hump, play nicely with the other social networks, and deliver great content then I think it will be a success. If it can’t create a pleasant, clutter-free, and unique experience for the user then it may be time to just let it die out.

Kelli Richards, President and CEO
The All Access Group, LLC

Microsoft’s Retail Gamble

Over the weekend, I went to Microsoft’s large store that is in the Westfield Shopping Center in San Jose. Like a few similar Microsoft stores, it is across from an Apple store and I suspect that Microsoft is hoping to lure some potential Apple product buyers away from Apple with this strategy.

Luckily, there are seats right outside Microsoft’s store, so as I waited for my wife, who was off shopping, I planted myself in these cushy chairs the mall has and just watched people come and go through Microsoft’s doors. The first time I did this was mid week, three days after the store opened to much fanfare. I watched the store for 45 minutes that day and in that time frame, Apple hosted about 130 customers while the Microsoft store had only about 12 visitors. Even more troubling at the time, the 12 that did go in, came out empty handed, while well over 20 people left Apple’s stores with iPads, Macbooks, and even two iMacs were sold.

This was before the launch of Windows 8 and Microsoft’s Surface tablet. So this time I assumed that the Microsoft store would have a lot more customers, and they did. I counted about 40 in the store this time. However, during the 45 minutes I sat out front of the store, I saw nobody leaving the store with any Microsoft product at all. But across the way at Apple’s store they had about 120 people inside and a line of 30 outside waiting to pick up preordered iPad Mini’s and the new iPad 4. And I counted at least 35 people carrying Apple products out the door while sitting there.

The good news for Microsoft is that people who were in the store were checking out the Surface, Windows 8 and many of the laptops and touch based ultrabooks that were on display. But the bad news is that most of them were Looky-Lou’s, drawn in mostly to see the new Windows 8 touch OS and the much advertised Surface. Also, while every salesperson in Apple’s store was engaged with a customer, I counted 6 Microsoft store employees standing around trying to look busy.

The Changing Retail Frontier

Now, I realize that Microsoft is new to the retail game, while Apple has been perfecting their store concepts for over 10 years. And my “research” was not scientific in any way and was just observations by me, a pretty seasoned market researcher trained to observe consumer buying patterns and usage models. I am sure that Microsoft sold many products of various sorts during the day, but by comparison with the Apple store across the way, I doubt it was even close to the daily sales Apple had in that store or any other store Apple has around the world.

Regardless of what Microsoft made that day in products sold, having their own retail stores is critical to them given the competitive landscape. I understand they will open at least a dozen new stores world wide in 2013 and more in the future. Of course, the competitive reason for doing so is because of Apple’s extreme success with their stores and how it has affected Microsoft’s fortunes. More importantly, Apple’s stores have reprogrammed how consumers think about buying tech products and getting personal service once they buy an Apple product.

In fact, I don’t think we can underestimate how the Apple stores have impacted retail in general. The idea of having a sales person standing there with an iPhone payment device and instantly checking a person out is revolutionary. And if you have the new Apple Store software app on your IOS device, you can even check yourself out now.
The man behind Apple’s stores, Ron Johnson, is now CEO at JC Penny’s and is trying to apply this same kind of store experience to a very old retail model. While he is having trouble getting this company to move quickly to be more user friendly, I have no doubt that he will eventually be successful in changing JC Penny’s retail model with new store designs as well as how people are eventually serviced.

Microsoft’s retail stores are important for them and the industry for another reason. All of their partners, except Sony, don’t have the money and the wherewithal to do their own stores and need to rely on Microsoft to become not only a dedicated retail outlet for their products, but to also serve as trained sales people who know the products and can intelligently sell them.

This will always be a problem for Microsoft retail since they carry dozens of different laptops, tablets and smartphones making it more difficult for their salespeople to know the products they sell intimately. This in fact has proven difficult in many big box retailing organizations as well with a highly diversified and fragmented product offering. In Apple’s case, they have key products with iOS and key products with the OS X and while they have many products in their mix, that mix is 10 times smaller than what Microsoft can sell through their stores. Consequently, Apple’s staff knows their products in and out and I am often surprised that even the non-genius staff can answer tough questions when I have gone into their stores and needed an answer about a problem I might be having at any given time.

When it comes to retail, Microsoft has no choice but to keep these stores going and expand their potential reach. And for most of their partners, they need Microsoft to serve as the only Windows focused retail outlet that can represent them properly. I have no clue when these stores will break even and be profitable, but Microsoft’s retail gamble is in full swing and they can not turn back if they plan to gain any ground on Apple and Google.

Truel: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly; The iPad, the Surface and the Nexus 7

The Plot

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a 1966 Italian epic Spaghetti western film directed by Sergio Leone, starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach in the title roles. ~ paraphrased from Wikipedia

Apple, Microsoft and Google are engaged in an epic tablet war starring the iPad, the Surface and the Nexus 7 in the title roles.

In the Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the plot revolves around three gunslingers competing to find a fortune in hidden Confederate gold.

In the tablet wars, the plot revolves around three tablet gunslingers competing to find a fortune in hidden tablet profits.

Clint Eastwood as “Blondie”: The Good. A subdued, cocksure, bounty hunter who both works with and works against Angel Eyes, and Tuco in shifting alliances to find the hidden gold.

Apple as “iPad”: The Goliath. An implacable, cocksure, bounty hunter who both works with and works against Microsoft and Google in shifting alliances to find the hidden profits.

Lee Van Cleef as “Angel Eyes”: The Bad. A ruthless, unfeeling and sociopathic mercenary who always finishes the job.

Microsoft as “Surface”: The Bad (ass). A ruthlessly efficient, relentlessly effective, money making machine who knows how to close.

Eli Wallach as “Tuco”: The Ugly. A comical, oafish fast talking bandit who proves to be a crafty and surprisingly dangerous opponent.

Google as “Nexus 7”: The Geeky. A nerdy, engineering and advertising company whose “don’t be evil” exterior masks a surprisingly powerful and unexpectedly ominous corporate bandit.

The Truel

In the movie’s climatic final scene, Blondie, Angel Eyes and Tuco face off against one another in a Truel.

In the climatic autumn of 2012, Apple, Microsoft and Google face off against one another in a truel.

A truel is: “a neologism for a duel among three opponents, in which players can fire at one another in an attempt to eliminate them while surviving themselves. ~ via Wikipedia

Each party jockeys for position, each itching to fire first, each wary of what the other two fighters will choose to do.

In tech, Apple, Microsoft and Google are involved in a great tablet truel. Each party jockeys for position, each itching to eliminate the other, each wary of what the other two competitors will choose to do.

The three stare each other down in the circular center of the cemetery, calculating alliances and dangers in a Mexican standoff.

The Apple iPad stands alone at the center of the tablet world. Then the Google Nexus 7 joins in the fray. And finally, on October 26, 2012, the Microsoft Surface steps into the ring. The three stare each other down, calculating alliances and dangers in a Mexican standoff.

The parties position themselves, the tension grows, the Ennio Morricone film score swells until suddenly, they draw and…

The Treasure

Remember the pundits who laughed off the tablet form factor and called them toys? No? Neither does anyone else. They were as wrong as wrong could be.

Tablets are the second coming of the personal computer. Apple knows it. Microsoft knew it long ago but they were unable to successfully seize the moment and capture the treasure for themselves. Google is only just now realizing the importance of tablets. The company or companies that win the tablet wars win the future of computing. The fight is only just begun but like a gunfight, the battle may soon – and very suddenly – be over.

The Gunfighters

Apple iPad

Apple is like Blondie. Confident. Cock-sure. Perhaps a bit too cock-sure. Apple insists on doing things their own way. Google is counting on Apple’s insistance on having a closed shop to be their undoing. Microsoft is counting on Apple’s unwavering insistance on seperating their touch and desktop devices to be their undoing.

However, Apple has an advantage. Like Blondie, they know where the gold (profits) is hidden. The key to unlocking the tablet treasure is tablet optimized Apps. And using our gunfight analogy, when it comes to tablet apps, if Google and Microsoft have six shooters, Apple has an Uzi. Or a bazooka. Or a tank…

Microsoft Surface

If Apple is the cocky newcomer – the up and coming gunslinger – Microsoft, like Angel Eyes, is the consummate professional – the grizzled vertern who has the experience, knows all the tricks in the book and is extremely confident in their ability to win in a shootout.

If Apple is cocky because they think they’re good, Microsoft is confident because they know they’re good. Microsoft has not only been through the wars, they’ve won the wars and they’ve won them convincingly.

However, Microsoft’s secret weapon in the PC wars was compatibility and familiarity. In gunfighter terms, it would be like shooting with the sun at your back. And getting in five shots before your opponent even drew their weapon. And shooting from behind a wall. It was that devastating an advantage.

When it comes to a gunfight – or a platform war – Microsoft is the best there ever was. But this isn’t yesterday and this is a whole new fight. In mobile, Microsoft’s monopoly advantage is no where to be found. If Microsoft is going to win this gunfight, they’re going to have to do it on merit.

And Microsoft is very, very late to the fight…

…and it’s never good for a gunfighter to be late.

Why is Microsoft’s Surface obsessed with Keyboards?

The Apple iPad Tablet vs. the Microsoft Surface Anti-Tablet

Battle Of The Tablet Business Models: Windows 8 And The Microsoft Surface

Google Nexus 7

Google, like Tuco, is in good position. Microsoft and Apple know that each is the greatest danger to the other. They will almost certainly fire all their weapons at one another leaving Google (Tuco) free to gain from the exchange.

Only Google, like Tuco, has a problem.

It was just last week that Google initiated a program to encourage the creation of tablet optimized apps for Android.

Last week.

Tuco doesn’t know it, but he doesn’t have any bullets. Google didn’t know it was important, so they don’t have many tablet optimized apps. And in a truel, being unarmed is a big, big problem to have.

Google Android Tablet Optimized Apps — Two Years Too Late

Battle Of The Tablet Business Models: Google Nexus 7

The Denouement

The gunfighters move into place. The eyes narrow, the hands twitch, the music swells, the tension mounts, the guns are drawn and then…

…a single shot is fired…

…Blondie shoots Angel Eyes. Tuco also tries to shoot, but discovers that his gun is unloaded.

The mobile wars are a fascinating watch. Apple dominates tablets. Microsoft dominates desktops. Google dominates smartphones. Each knows that the future – the elusive treasure – is in mobile. They can’t all win this truel. One, perhaps two, will be left for dead. Which will it be? Which will it be?

“You see, in this world there’s two kinds of people, my friend: Those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig.” ~ Blondie (Clint Eastwood)

Unlike The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, no one has seen how this movie ends. Microsoft hopes that this will be a sequel: How Microsoft Won The PC Wars, Part II. Google thinks that this is an entirely new genre of film, the kind where open always outguns closed. Apple thinks that there are two kinds of personal computing companies: Those with platforms loaded with apps.. and those who don’t much matter.

Me? I think it’s advantage Apple. You don’t grow from nothing in tablets to a world shaker in two and a half years unless you got it right. The essence of tablets is touch. Not keyboards. Touch.

Microsoft is desperately hoping that Apple got it wrong. Microsoft NEEDS tablets to simultaneously run both touch and desktop operating systems and Microsoft needs both to run well together.

Google? When it comes to tablets, they’re still digging.

It’s clear to me that Apple’s iPad is going to remain on top. The rumored iPad mini only makes this more likely.

Normally, I’d say that – as in phones – Microsoft would have little chance of having their tablets jump past Google and into second place. But circumstances are far from normal. Despite Google’s overwhelming success in phones, they’ve done next to nothing in tablets. And I have little respect for their newly minted subsidized tablet business model and their ever shifting business strategies. And Microsoft has powerful advantages in their ability to leverage a large desktop customer base and utilize their extensive business connections. Microsoft could quite quickly vault Google in tablets and land in second place…

…and wouldn’t that be interesting. In phones it would be Google-Apple-Microsoft. In desktops it would be Microsoft-Apple-Google. In tablets it would be Apple-Microsoft-Google.

That can’t possibly last. This is about to get very real, very fast.

The world of personal computing is in flux. It’s a “truel” world and for some tablet maker – and possibly for several tablet makers – it’s about to go bad and get ugly.

Will Apple Survive without Steve Jobs? Apple’s Laughing Straight to the Bank…

Just a few days ago, we quietly watched as the first anniversary of the death of Steve Jobs passed by.  As an Apple insider and alum, I always have an ear to the ground for what’s going on in their world.  The big question of whether Apple would continue its meteoric rise (the greatest turn around in history) seems to be answered.

The past few months, for Apple, have been almost as eventful as the company’s first big success back in the late 70’s – early 80’s. With a landmark legal victory over Samsung for copyright infringement, the company not only gets awarded $1.05 billion in damages (which Samsung is appealing, of course), but they will also exclusive rights over certain design and software ideas on which they own patents.

While some have slammed Apple’s case as being too broad or overzealous, the decision will surely shape the mobile software and hardware markets from this point on. For the consumer it means two things: First, Apple’s patented designs and features will most likely be cross-licensed for quite a pretty penny to competing developers and manufacturers. Second, this means that in order to competitively price their technology, companies will have to become innovative once again, rather than copy an already successful formula. So you’ll either see iPhone and iOS-esque features on high-end electronics, or innovative new designs may become the way of the future. That chapter has yet to be written.

With so much focus and attention on these two battling giants, what better time for Amazon to announce its new reader / tablet offering, the Kindle Fire. Strategically placed in the same realm as the competing iPad, Nexus, and Galaxy tablets, the Kindle Fire looks to open the floodgates of revenue for its content delivery platform. The three-way race between Apple, Amazon, and Google’s media stores appears well separated for now, but the competition is certainly heating up as the markets and technology change so rapidly. And the solid winner in ALL of this is the pro-sumer.

One would think that the competitive innovation to come from the lawsuit against Samsung, along with the introduction of the rival Kindle Fire would be cause for concern at the Apple HQ here in Cupertino, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

On September 12th, Apple announced the iPhone 5 in grandiose Apple fashion, after the project had been shrouded in secrecy for almost a year. (An issue I cover at length in my recent bestseller, “The Magic and Moxie of Apple – An Insider’s View”.)  Thinner, lighter, faster, and overall cooler than its predecessor, the iPhone 4s; the iPhone 5 also boasts a number of new features, such as a new charging interface and new operating system (iOS 6).

Consumers are certainly on board for the new and improved iPhone, as evidenced by the 2 million+ pre-orders within the first 24 hours of its announcement. As a result, the cost of Apple’s stock has risen to over $700 for the first time in company history.

So while rival tech giants are out there trying to copy Apple products or create competitive alternatives in hopes of dethroning them, Apple is simply laughing it’s way straight to the bank.

Kelli Richards, President and CEO
The All Access Group

With Apps, Size Matters

Ben Bajarin has written an important article entitled: “Windows 8 Tablet Fragmentation and the App Dilemma“. I highly encourage you to follow the link and read. it.

His main thesis is so important that I’m re-stating it here in the hope that it will draw even more attention to his article and even more attention to this vital issue.

“(Apps) are specifically designed for the current … screen size. (E)verything is placed where it is for a reason.” ~ Ben Bajarin

There is a FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCE between an app designed for a smaller (3.5 to 7 inch) screen and an app designed for a 9.7 inch or larger tablet. The pundits don’t get this. Google doesn’t get this. Amazon may not get this. And Microsoft may be ignoring this fundamental truth because they simply have to. Let me explain.

The Pundits Don’t Get It

“And this size (7 inches) is useless unless you include sandpaper so users can sand their fingers down to a quarter of their size.” ~ Steve Jobs

This Steve Jobs quote baffles many tech observers. There are literally hundreds of thousands of useful apps availabe for our phones and our phones are much smaller than a 7 inch tablet. Why then would Steve Jobs say that apps on a 7 inch tablet are useless when apps on the much smaller phone are perfectly usable?

Steve Jobs wasn’t talking about EXPANDING 3.5 inch phone applications up to fit on a 7 inch screen. He was talking about SHRINKING 9.7 inch tablet applications down to fit on a 7 inch screen.

You can blow up a phone app and make it run adequately on a 7 inch screen but if you take an iPad app running on a 9.7 inch screen and shrink it down to run on a 7 inch screen (which is only 45% the area of a 9.7 inch screen) it will be virtually unusable. As Steve Jobs said, you would need to sandpaper your fingers down in order to make them thin enough to interact with the app’s interface.

Google Doesn’t Get It

“Nonsense,” the critics cry. “Phone apps work perfectly well on tablets. Even Google’s Andy Rubin says so.”

It’s true that he does say that. When the Nexus 7 was introduced, Andy Rubin made a point of saying that he was sticking with Google’s strategy of encouraging developers to write a single app for both phones and tablets. This same philosophy was reflected in one of his earlier quotes on the subject:

“I don’t think there should be apps specific to a tablet…if someone makes an ICS app it’s going to run on phones and it’s going to run on tablets.” ~ Andy Rubin

And there, ladies and gentlemen, is the exact reason why Android’s 10 inch tablet strategy lies in tatters and its partners tablet sales lie moribund. Google doesn’t get it.

Optimized apps matter.

iPad Developers Get It

There are 700,000 apps in the iOS App Store. 250,000 of them – one quarter of a million – are specifically tailored to run on the iPad.

Developers don’t develop tablet apps for their health and consumers don’t buy tablet apps for no reason. Some phone apps run adequately when blown up to fit on the iPad’s increased screen real estate. However, most phone apps are less than optimal. Some are virtually unusable.

If you want an optimal phone or tablet experience, you have to tailor the app to the device’s specific screen size.

Where Does This Leave Android?

Until Google changes its philosophy on tablet apps, its tablets will merely run oversized phone apps and they will never have any success with the larger screen sizes and they will never seriously compete with any platform that has tablet optimized apps.

Where Does This Leave Amazon?

Amazon just introduced larger sized tablets. As smart as Jeff Bezos is, I think that he’s about to find out that there is a huge difference between a 7 inch tablet that can run stretched out phone apps and a larger tablet that demands apps optimized for the increased screen size(s). Without knowing a thing about the new, larger, Kindle Fire devices, I will predict that the larger form sizes will fall flat because they don’t add much in the way of content viewing over that of a 7 inch tablet and their lack of apps devoted to their form factor means that apps won’t add much to their value either.

Where Does This Leave Microsoft?

“In essence (developers) are not simply shrinking or expanding their apps to work on smaller or larger screens, they are in essence creating new app experiences for those screen sizes.


Windows 8 touch based hardware will be so fragmented in screen size that we will see touch based Windows 8 hardware ranging from 10” all the way up to 27. If developers feel the need to optimize their software for a screen that is anywhere from a half-inch and even a 2” difference, what will they do when they have 4, 5, or 6 different screen sizes to target in the Windows 8 touch hardware ecosystem?” ~ Ben Bajarin

Do you want to know the future of Microsoft’s tablet efforts? Then ask yourself: “How many apps are optimized for each of the various Windows RT and Windows 8 tablet form factors? If the answer is “a few” or “not many”, then that form factor is going to struggle.

And while Windows 8 tablets run both Metro and desktop apps, what is the point of owning a tablet if the tablet apps are missing in action and it only ends up only serving as a lessor substitute for a notebook? You’d be better off buying a notebook instead.


Apple’s iOS has 250,000 9.7 inch optimized apps.

— How many apps are optimized for the various Android large screen tablets?
— How many apps are optimized for the large screen Amazon Kindle Fire tablets?
— How many apps are optimized for the various Windows RT and 8 large screen tablets?

Do you want to know the future of tablets? One of the keys is optimized apps. If you don’t got ’em, you don’t got no future.

Read Ben’s article and enjoy. Understanding his article is essential if you want to fathom the future of tablets.

Kindle Fire Free Time and the Future of Family Computing

Tablets are one of the more uniquely positioned personal computer products I have ever seen. Largely because they have aspects of personal computing traits the same way a notebook does. However, they also have a more shared screen or communal set of traits which notebooks do not have. Desktops have evolved in a way where they have become more of a communal or family PC. But they are big, stationary, and most households only have one. Tablets however are more mobile and for that reason get passed around to other members of the family more easily. Just look at how many parents pass their iPads to kids to use in a variety of ways and you can see how a tablet can also be a shared personal mobile computer.

Tablets start to get very interesting when you think about them in the context of a family or a larger community. This is exactly the kind of thinking Amazon has begun and the beginnings of this trend can be found in a new experience they launched with the newest Kindle Fire’s called Free Time.

Kindle Free Time is a customized experience on both new Kindle Fire’s for kids. It comes with parental controls built in that allow parents to monitor and set limits with the child’s screen media time. For example, a parent can set no time limit for reading (because who doesn’t want their kids to read more) but set a limit for how many minutes a day the child can play games or watch videos. Non children’s content is locked out of Free Time mode and the browser is as well. The color theme on the screen is blue, where the main Kindle Fire mode is black. This way the parent can quickly glance at the tablet and make sure the child is still in Free Time mode and hasn’t hacked the password.

This kind of thinking around software customizations for a shared computing mode is encouraging for me as I look at ways personal computing solutions evolve to support family computing models.

I still debate in my head heavily the degree that tablets are personal computers vs. shared computers. I think the answer is that they are both and software that allows this multi-modal experience will be well received by the market and in particular families. Interestingly it is Amazon’s creation of the Whispersync network that will enable this. I can envision a scenario as this strategy evolves where it doesn’t matter whose Kindle Fire HD I pick up, I can just log in and pick up any game, movie, book, etc., right where I left off. This is not how it works today but thinking in terms of communal and family computing, I think it will evolve this way.

I hope many tablet manufacturers and platform providers are taking note of Kindle Free Time and begin to think more about family computing modes with their solutions.

Android v. iOS Part 6: The Future


Last week, we took a deep dive into the Android and iOS operating systems, looking at market share, profits, developers and platforms. Today we wrap up the series and attempt to peer into the probable futures of these two great mobile operating systems.

The truth is, seeing the futures of Android and iOS isn’t so much about following the signs – there’s plenty of them and they’re almost all pointing in the same direction – it’s much more about unlearning some of the lessons that we’d thought we’d learned. When it comes to Android and iOS, it’s not what we don’t know that hurts us so, it’s what we “know” that just ain’t so. Once we free our minds from past preconceptions, the scales will fall will from our eyes and the broad outlines of what is and what is about to happen will become clearer.

1) It is a mistake to assume that the “best” operating system will “win”

“Best” is a subjective opinion, one of the weakest forms of evidence.

“Best” is contextual. What’s right for one may not be what’s right for another. A school bus is a poor form of transporatation- unless one is a school bus driver. What’s “best” needs to be what’s best for the user, not what’s best for you or me.

“Best” is often irrelevant. Betamax may have been the best video recording device on the market, but it didn’t win out over the VCR. Things such as distribution, production, costs, marketing, first to market, and a slew of other factors often trumps “best”.

Let’s take our focus off of our subjective opinions as to what is “best” and rest our gaze, instead, on objective, measurable, factual information.

2) It is a mistake to assume that any operating system will “win”

Android v. iOS is undoubtably a platform war, however, not every platform war ends with a single standard.

— Musical records split into two standards with the 33 1/3 being used for albums and 45’s being used for singles.
— Gaming consoles are currently split into three different standards.
— Petroleum is split into two standards, with gasoline (the American term) being used for most cars and diesel being used for most trucks and other heavy commercial vehicles.

All of these standards exist side-by-side and serve different markets. And that is what is happening with Android and iOS too. We need to stop focusing on the idea that one mobile operating system is going to serve every market and, instead, start focusing on which markets are being best served by each operating system.

3) It is a mistake to let the exception swallow the rule

An exception to a rule does not invalidate the rule. So long as something is true most of time, it’s worth noting. Too often we focus on the exceptions and let those exceptions blind us to the overall patterns.

It’s important to recognize the exceptions to a rule. But it’s even more important to recognize which is the rule and which is the exception.

4) It is a mistake to assume that market share equals profits for Google

Whenever it’s pointed out that iOS is making a lot more money for Apple than Android is making for Google, or when it is pointed out that that iOS is making a lot more money for iOS developers than Android is making for Android developers, we’re told that Google has a different business model than Apple – that Google is selling eyeballs (advertisements) and that market share matters because every Android device is another pair of eyeballs consuming Google services and Android advertisements.

That’s a fine theory and all except for one thing: It’s simply not happening.

Google’s business model is no where near as profitable as Apple’s. Google gives away Android in order to make money from Google services and Google ads on a per device basis. It is estimated that Google makes $6.50 per device. Apple, on the other hand, makes an estimated $300 per iPhone and Apple sells apps and ads on top of that. For Google’s Android to come close to matching Apple’s, Android devices would have to outsell the Apple’s iOS devices by a factor of 30 to 1. (Source)

Further, Google’s mobile ad model is not working all that well. There is little correlation between Android’s market share and Android’s ad revenue. According to e-Marketer, Google earned $125 million in mobile display ad revenues in the US last year, compared to $92 million by Apple. While that’s 30% more ad revenue than Apple, Google has acknowledged that two-thirds of their mobile revenues come from iOS, not Android, devices.

All in all, Mobile ads are simply not shaping up to be the same kind of money maker for Google that desktop ads are. According to research by Internet Retailer, Invodo, and Comscore, mobile video appears to be a more effective than display ads in converting potential customers into paying customers. And 70% of the retail videos accessed by mobile devices are accessed by an iOS devices, not Android devices. (Source)

An even more disturbing trend for Google is the migration from search to apps. Users are increasingly using apps rather than search, and Apple leads in the app market by the number of apps, the amount of money made in apps, the number of developers developing apps and the “buzz factor” surrounding new apps too. (Source)

Flurry Analytics reports that on mobile devices, 94 minutes per day are spent on apps compared to 72 minutes on the web. Mobile users are spending more and more of their time going directly to an app that gives them exactly the information they want and they are spending less and less of their time searching the mobile web. (Source) That’s good for apps. That’s bad for Google search revenue model.

Android may have market share, but that market share is not translating into dollars – not for Google and not for Android’s developers either. With mobile users trending toward the use of apps and away from the use of search, despite Android’s greater market share, it’s going to become more and more difficult for Google to keep up with Apple’s revenues and for Android’s developers to keep up with the revenues being made by iOS developers.

One final point on profits. I can anticipate the argument that it is unfair to compare Google to Apple – that Google’s business model and Apple’s business models are nothing alike – that Google gives away the Android operating system; that Apple sells both the operating system and the hardware; that, of course Apple makes more money than Google. This argument complete rubbish.

There’s nothing fairer than comparing profits to profits. Profits are the great equalizer. The top lines of companies can often be quite different, but the bottom line is how every company is ultimately measured. It’s not unfair to compare profits – it’s exactly what we SHOULD be comparing.

It is true that Google and Apple have very different business models. So what? Business models are a strategic decision made by the companies themselves. Google chose it’s business model. Now that have to live with the results.

5) It is a mistake to assume that market share equals retention

One argument for the value of Android’s greater market share is the contention that Android gets to new smartphone owners first, builds unshakable loyalty in the Android brand and locks iOS mobile devices out of the market thus insuring iOS’s demise and Android’s future market domination. Only thing is, all of the existing evidence points in to the exact opposite conclusion.

— iOS has a 75% satisfaction rating with Android coming in a distant second at 47%. (Source)

— iPhone has topped J.D. Power’s semi-annual satisfaction list 7 straight times. (Source)

— iPad has an astonishing 98% satisfaction rating. (Source)

— iPhone owners are the least likely to switch from their carriers – even when that carrier’s service is deemed to be just awful. (Source)

Goldman Sachs recently conducted an extensive consumer survey of over 1,000 Apple iOS users and reported that:

— 71% of respondents are “highly likely” to choose an Apple device for their next tablet or smartphone purchase, while 23% are “likely” to stick with the platform. In other words, 94% of respondents are “highly likely” or “likely” to purchase their next tablet or smartphone from Apple. Only 1% of respondents said that their next device purchase was “unlikely” or “highly unlikely” to be from Apple. Further, a surprising 21% of respondents to the survey said: “there isn’t a discount that would make it worthwhile” to leave the Apple platform. Now that’s brand loyalty.

— A study by Gene Munster at Piper Jaffray indicates that only 47% of Android users expect to buy another Android device and 42% expect to buy an iPhone. (Source)

— Another study by Gfk in the UK indicated that 84% of iPhone users will repurchase an iPhone compared to just 60% who would repurchase an Android phone. (Source)

— A survey of more than 2,000 smartphone users by Robert W. Baird analyst William Power shows that 48% of Android smartphone users plan on buying another Android device for their next smartphone while 17% say they plan to buy an iPhone and 34% say they’re undecided. The story is much different for fans of Apple’s smartphone, however, as 77% say they plan to buy an iPhone for their next smartphone, with just 5% planning to switch to Android device and 18% still undecided. (Source)

Android may be winning the race to the new smartphone consumer, but Android is not retaining those users. Switching is primarily a one way street, with Android users going from Android to iOS, but iOS user seldom leaving the iOS platform.

6) It is a mistake to assume that market share domination equals app ecosystem domination

When it comes to platform, developer share – not end user market share – is what matters. And iOS dominates Android in developer share.

iOS developers are paid better, develop for iOS first and iOS customers buy more apps and pay more for them.

It has been argued that Android’s platform is every bit as good as the iOS platform. That is demonstrably untrue.

— iOS overall developer revenue is six times greater than Android developer revenue. You don’t generate that much more revenue without having first generated much more value to your customers.

— There are over 43 thousand Apple iOS developers and 10 thousand Android developers. 33 thousand additional developers add a lot of value to the iOS platform.

— There are seven iOS apps for every three Android apps. Arguing that more apps has no more value than less apps is not an argument, it’s an assertion that reality doesn’t exist.

Argue as loudly as you like that the Android platform is as good as the iOS platform. The iOS developers, the iOS apps and the iOS buyers will shout you down.

For additional details and sources, see: Android v. iOS Part 4: Developers

Some day, all this may change, but if it does change, it will be because of a change in developer share, not a change in market share.


Android and iOS have different inherent strengths and weaknesses and instead of fruitlessly trying to decide which operating system is going to win everywhere, we should be focusing our efforts on determining which markets each OS is destined to dominate. Neither Android nor iOS is going away. Instead, each OS is going to go their separate ways.

Android’s value is in the device. iOS’s value is in the platform. Android will take the low end of the market. iOS will take the high end.

Android will appeal to third-world nations, emerging markets, tech aficionado’s who admire the virtues of “open”, those who require more freedom, those who require more options, those who require more diversity, those who use a single device, the cost conscious, and those who admire the value of free.

iOS will appeal to more established nations, maturing markets, non-technical users who admire the virtues of easy and intuitive, those who require more security, those who require more consistency, those who require more integration, those who need multi-device management across multiple device form factors, the quality conscious, and those who fear Google’s ad-supported business model.

iOS will appeal to Enterprise, businesses, governments, institutions, organizations, and other entities that require more structure and control. (As one who lived through the Windows v. Mac wars, the irony of this statement is not lost on me.)


“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future” – attributed to Yogi Berra

The truth is, we’re already living in the future of the Android and iOS operating systems. Both are well along on their respective paths. The future is going to be much the same as the present – only more so.

Android will continue to grow like a weed. iOS will continue to grow like a well tended farm.

Android will continue to rapidly iterate their hardware and their operating system. iOS will continue to relentlessly integrate their hardware with their software and their platform ecosystem – methodically moving both their iOS and their OS X software platforms forward together in lock-step.

Android will continue selling a mind-numbing array of diverse products. iOS will continue selling products like the three year old iPhone 3GS because iOS’ value is found primarily in the platform, not in the the device itself.

These two great operating systems actually complement one another. The Yin to the others Yang. And one unintended consequence of that symbiosis is that they will continue to hold the dogs of anti-trust at bay. No one is going to sue Apple for anti-trust so long as Android has most of the market share. And it’s going to be awfully hard to say that Android has a monopoly on mobile phones when Apple’s iOS has most of the profits.

Android and iOS is less about which one is superior and more about their relative strengths and weaknesses. It’s less about how they compete with one another and more about how they complement one another. It’s less about their radically different futures and more about how the future is going to be an extension of the present.

The future is uncertain and there are sure to be lots of twists and turns along the way. But don’t expect this war to come to a head any time too soon. The two sides are too evenly matched and yet too divergent in form. Like Britain and France during the Napoleonic wars, Britain ruled the sea and France ruled the land and seldom did the twain meet. But unlike the Napoleonic wars, don’t expect there to be a decisive battle of Waterloo. A lingering, uneasy state of detente is far more likely.

Musings on Apple v. Samsung

As you may well know, the tech industry is currently enthralled with the Apple v. Samsung, Samsung v. Apple patent and trade dress trial. I’ve been reluctant to talk about the trial. As a wise man recently told me, the trial is bringing out a whole new level of stupid in people. No matter what I say, no matter how carefully I craft my words, I’m sure to offend somebody – and perhaps a whole lot of somebodys – and subject myself to emotion laden attacks and irrational rants springing from that newly tapped fount of stupid.

Still, I’m going to risk it. Because it’s not just Apple and Samsung who have to live with the results of this case. We all will. And there’s a few things that we should try to get straight in our minds before the trial comes to an end.

Question: If Apple or Samsung wins, will it forever alter the tech industry?

In a word,”No”.

If Apple loses this case…life goes on. Apple will have lost virtually nothing. There will be a legal precedent making it even harder for Apple or anyone else to protect their patents and trade dress. But Apple’s been living with the real or imagined consequences of that reality for years and years already. Losing the case will not change how the parties act, it will simply reinforce the status quo. A Samsung victory might even increase innovation as Apple, and everyone else, realizes that patent law is a poor form of protection and that the only real way to compete is to outrace your competitors in the marketplace. And that’s not such a bad thing.

If Apple wins the case…life goes on. Samsung pays the damages or appeals the case or whatever. Samsung is not a broken company – not nearly, not by a long shot. Samsung makes a few tweaks to their existing phones and tablets, makes them look a little different, act a little different, and their devices continue to sell and sell very well. An Apple victory might even increase innovation as Samsung, and everyone else, realizes that they have to create unique new varieties of products in order to compete. And that’s not such a bad thing.

Question: Then why is Apple Suing Samsung?

Well, it’s not for the money. Apple is asking for $2.5 billion in damages. Apple makes more than $2.5 billion in profit every 30 days. And they have $118 billion in the bank. It would be senseless for them to have devoted as many resources to this case as they have simply to pick up the monthly rent check.

And it’s not for the injunctions. Most of the disputed phones are already off the market. Some of the rest soon will be. And for those that remain, most can be “cured” of patent infringement merely by making some minor tweaks in their existing software.

And it’s not to drive Samsung out of the mobile computing business. $2.5 billion is a lot of money and Samsung doesn’t sport the hundred billion dollar checking account that Apple does. But Samsung could literally write a check for that amount and then go their merry way. The potential damages – which will be delayed for years and possibly be mitigated by an appeals court – may be substantial but they’re not going to significantly alter Samsung’s prospects or change the balance of power in the tech world.

Question: So why? Why is Apple doing this? What is this all about?

This is a warning shot fired across the bow of the entire computing industry. “Violate our patents,” Apple is saying, “and there is no amount of time, effort and expense that we will not expend to take you to court in order to rectify the matter. “Mess with us,” Apple is saying, “and we will come after you with everything we’ve got. And we are relentless.”

Apple’s purpose, in other words, is to put a stop to FUTURE infringements of their intellectual property.

Question: Will Apple’s strategy work?

Maybe so.

Even if Apple loses this case, they’ve made the point that if your product drifts too close to theirs, they can tie you up in court for years and years. And if Apple wins the case, well, they’ve turned that warning shot I mentioned, above, into a 2.5 billion dollar fusillade.

Question: Is Apple’s strategy wise?

Maybe not.

I see what Apple is trying to accomplish here but, – and this is going to sound strange coming form an attorney – personally, I wish they hadn’t tried to use the courts to solve their patent problems. Seems like an awful lot of trouble for very little return. Feel free to disagree. I’m quite sure that Apple does.

If, in some fantasy world, Apple CEO, Tim Cook, came to me for advice on this matter, I’d tell him this:

“Patents and trade dress don’t much matter. You may have a legal right to enforce your patents, but as a practical matter, they are virtually unenforceable.”

“Apple is a leader. Act like one. Other companies are always going to copy you. Get over it. Out innovate them. That’s what you’re good at. Do what you do best and do it faster than the rest. As a company, Apple will always be a lot more successful in the open market than they’ll ever be in open court.”

The One Feature I Still Want From My Smart Phone

I love smart devices and more to the point I love the potential for smart devices. At the core of my work as an analyst I try to the best of my ability to look at what smart devices do today but to also look at what they may become in the future. I like to look at technologies, products, solutions, etc., and analyze their future potential in light of their present value. It is with this mindset that I have been taking on an experiment I have not done in quite some time.

Since attending Google I/O I have been using as my primary smart phone the Google Nexus running the latest Android OS Jelly Bean. When I get new Android devices, and I get many, I can generally only stand using them as my main smart phone for about a week. My patience runs thin with Android due to the role my smart phone plays in my professional life. The focus of this column is not entirely on my Android experience as I intend to write one just on that subject. But I have been using the Google Nexus with Jelly Bean for almost two months now and it is the first time in a very long while that I have not felt the need to rush back to my iPhone. The last time that happened was with the very first Google Nexus.

I still have my gripes, but the fact I have been able to integrate Android into my life for this long is saying something in my opinion. However, there is one new feature Google has developed with Jelly Bean that has thoroughly piqued my interest.

Google Now and the Anticipation Engine

The feature that Google has developed that has not only piqued my interest but given me quite a bit of food for thought around the potential of smart devices in the future is Google Now. Google positions Google Now as a feature that gives you just the right information at just the right time. The emphasis of this feature is contextually relevant information but it runs much deeper than that.

At the core Google Now learns about key habits on top of attempting to present contextually relevant information. The goal being to present at a glance timely and contextually relevant information. We have written before about this concept of glance-able information and we believe its future is bright.

At a much higher level, Google Now has made me think about something I had trouble articulating before. Namely the one feature I have been wanting as a part of my smart devices overall potential. The feature I speak of is anticipation.

Amazingly somewhere in the core of Jelly Bean and Google Now lies the framework to begin building an anticipation engine. With Jelly Bean we are experiencing the ground level of this foundation and I have found some very interesting examples of its value and potential.

One example is how Google Now looks at my calendar and as long as a location is included in my appointment details, I can launch Google Now at any time and see real time traffic to my next meeting location. I can also simply click from the appointment Google Now card to get navigation to that appointment from my current location. More interestingly, Google Now will alert me via a notification when the is appropriate time to leave for my next appointment based on real time and timely traffic analysis. I found this to be extremely useful.

Another interesting example is related to search. Regardless of what browser I am using, if I am logged into my Google account, when I search for things on Google interesting things start to happen in Google Now. For example my wife and I were recently in the market for a new family car. She started searching for local car dealerships on my notebook using Google. A few minutes later I happened to pull up Google Now on my phone and the top Google Now cards presented to me were map cards including traffic information to all three local car dealerships she had just looked up. I had no idea she was searching for this information so when I asked her why I was seeing directions to Gilroy Toyota on my phone she replied “that’s weird I just looked up Gilroy Toyota on your computer.”

As I further experimented with this I found it quite interesting to search for things like restaurants or other locations either on my notebook using Google or the Nexus itself and know that I could easily jump from that search to Google Now and get exact directions or other information related to that location quickly and easily without having to enter in any more information. Once I started integrating this into my search flow it became habit to utilize the information at a glance Google Now presents and I again found it extremely useful.

As I stated, we are observing the beginning of this anticipation engine concept. There are many ways I would love to see this advance. For example, related to the traffic information, I would love it if my smart device knew not only where I was headed but who I was meeting with. This way if I happened to be hitting traffic on the way to a meeting my smart device could anticipate my time frame and if I happen to be running late present me with the option to email or text those I am meeting with and alert them that I may be running a few minutes late.

There are more examples than I have time to get into of how this anticipation engine has been changing how I think about the usefulness of smart devices going forward. But I am convinced that Google is onto something with this and I am excited to see where it goes.

The iPad Put A Fork In Personal Computing

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPad in January 2010, he wondered aloud whether there was room between the smartphone and the notebook for a third category of tablet device like the iPad.

Everybody uses a laptop and a smartphone. And a question has arisen lately: is there room for a third category of device in the middle? Something that’s between a laptop and a smartphone. And of course we’ve pondered this question for years as well. The bar’s pretty high. In order to really create a new category of devices, those devices are going to have to be far better at doing some key tasks. Better than a laptop. Better than a smartphone.

Hard though it may be to believe, Western Civilization once had to collectively ask itself a similar question regarding a then radical new form of technology…a fork.

Before the fork was introduced, Westerners were reliant on the spoon and knife as the only eating utensils. Thus, people would largely eat food with their hands, calling for a common spoon when required. Members of the aristocracy would sometimes be accustomed to manners considered more proper and hold two knives at meals and use them both to cut and transfer food to the mouth, using the spoon for soups and broth.-Wikipedia


A spoon, a fork and a knife are three different categories of cutlery. A smartphone, a tablet and a notebook are three different categories of computer.

A fork is its own category because it is far better at doing some key tasks. Better than a spoon. Better than a knife.

A tablet is its own category because it is far better at doing some key tasks. Better than a smartphone. Better than a notebook.


When I eat, I have a choice between using a spoon, a fork and a knife. A fork does not replace a knife. But its presence means that I use a knife less often.

When I compute, I have a choice between using a smartphone, a tablet and a notebook. A tablet does not replace a notebook. But its presence means that I use a notebook less often.


Sometimes a fork complements a knife. Sometimes a fork is used on its own. But always a fork is used when it is most useful.

Sometimes a tablet complements a notebook. Sometimes a tablet is used on its own. But always a tablet is used when it is most useful.


When I eat, I use the utensil that best serves my needs.

I do not ask silly questions, like whether a spoon is a liquid consumption device and a fork is a solids consumption device. I do not ask whether a knife does “real” work just because it does not, ordinarily, convey food to my mouth. I do not obsess on the exceptionally rare times when I may use my spoon as a fork, my fork as a knife or my knife as a fork. Instead, I simply use the right tool at the right time.

When I compute, I use the device that best serves my needs.

I do not ask silly questions, like whether a tablet is a consumption device. I do not ask whether a phone or a tablet does “real” work. I do not obsess on the exceptionally rare times when I may use my phone as a tablet, my tablet as a notebook or my notebook as a tablet. Instead, I simply use the right tool at the right time.


Each utensil should be employed to do what it does best.

A fork does not aspire to be a knife. A knife does not aspire to be a fork. And most especially, a fork and a knife do not aspire to be one and the same thing.

Each device should be employed to do what it does best.

A tablet should not aspire to be a notebook. A notebook should not aspire to be a tablet. And most especially, a tablet and a notebook should not aspire to be one and the same thing.


A spork is a hybrid form of cutlery taking the form of a spoon-like shallow scoop with three or four fork tines.

A spife is a tool where the blade of a knife is used as the handle of the spoon.

A knork is a hybrid form of cutlery which combines the cutting capability of a knife and the spearing capability of a fork into a single utensil.

A sporf is a single eating utensil combining the properties of a spoon, fork, and knife. One popular brand is the Splayd.


What does a spork, a spife, a knork and a sporf have in common?

Few have ever heard of them. Even fewer have any use for them.

What does a Surface Tablet, a Windows 8 Tablet and a Windows 8 desktop have in common with a spork, a spife, a knork and a sporf?


They compromise on everything and excel at nothing. They provide far more features but far fewer benefits. They do many things but they don’t do any things better or even as well.

They’re not category defining because they’re not far better at doing any key tasks than are the already existing categories.


Who are those most interested in using combination cutlery like the spork, spife, knork and sporf?

Specialists, with special needs, like campers, backpackers, fast food restaurants, schools, prisons, the military, plus special tasks like cutting kiwi fruit (spife) and special circumstances like those with only one hand (knork).

Who are those most interested in using combination devices like the Surface running Windows 8?

Specialists, like reporters, road warriors, gadget freaks, technological gunslingers, plus those with specialized tasks and special needs. In other words, the kinds of people who regularly read and even comment on tech blogs like this one. But not ordinary folk.

Just as the spork, spife, knork and sporf are extremely useful to the extremely few, so will the Surface and Windows 8 on tablets be extremely useful. But if you dare dream that any of these will go mainstream and earn a regular place at the table…you can stick a fork in it.

Is There No One At Google Who Knows How To Say “No”?

Google, in an email to those that pre-ordered a Nexus Q:

We also heard initial feedback from users that they want Nexus Q to do even more than it does today. In response, we have decided to postpone the consumer launch of Nexus Q while we work on making it even better.

Google amazes me and not in a good way. They are one of the largest, most powerful, most important companies on the planet, yet:

– They spend the time and money to prepare a device that has glaring deficiencies.

– They take a lot of time from Google I/O to demo the device.

– They allow customers to pre-order the device.

– They then pull the device because they discover what everyone has known from the get-go: That the Nexus Q was a flawed concept that was Dead On Arrival (DOA).

Is there no one at Google who knows how to say “no”?

The New Mac Ads: If Tech Companies Were Cruise Lines

There has been a real kerfuffle caused by the new Mac Ads.

Some people dislike them. Others hate, hate, hate them.

On the other hand, some people like them…or, at least, they tolerate them.


I agree with those, those and those who point out that these ads are not addressed to current Mac owners. They’re addressed to POTENTIAL Mac owners.

And the message being sent is so simple that it’s simply being misunderstood.


Here is Ron Johnson, former head of Apple’s Retail Stores, On Lessons Learned From Apple About Gaining An Edge As A Retail Brand:

“For example,” Johnson explained, “Apple has always offered the most easy out-of-the-box user experience, but we noticed there was a gap between buying and using. People were intimidated by even the easiest product set-up. So we said, if we can set up a product for them in the ten minutes before they left the store and they started using it and falling in love with it, it would be transformational. It was an insight that made the Apple store relevant.”

“(T)here was a gap between buying and using. People were intimidated…if we can set up a product for them…it would be transformational.”

Words for every business to live by. Words that Apple DOES live by.


If tech companies ran Cruise Lines, most would invite you to ride on their world class cruise liners, help you pack your bags, give you a free limo ride to the docks, provide you with a lovely and delightful cruise…

…and then make you row ashore when you arrived at your destination.

Apple seems to get it. Instead of giving you a dinghy, a paddle and a hale and hearty farewell, they build a bridge between their products and their customer’s destinations. And as you’re crossing that bridge, Apple has their “geniuses” at the ready – there to encourage you, lend a helping hand, and cheer you on.

And that’s a good thing. A very good thing indeed.

Why Apple Won’t Merge OS X and iOS in the Near Future

One of the interesting rumors floating around the Valley these days is that Apple is on track to merge OS X and iOS and move Mac users over to their ARM based processors and leave Intel. If you follow Apple and know their history, you understand that they are more then capable of doing this. Over the Mac’s existence, Apple has actually moved the Mac OS to three different chips sets and has migrated their core OS from one processor core to the other quite seamlessly.

The reasoning goes that Apple could bring the two operating systems together to run on their own chip sets and save them having to pay Intel for their chips and instead use their own ARM processors to run a single merged OS and UI environment. Although this is a plausible idea and could possibly happen some day, the soon-to-be released updated OS X Mountain Lion suggests that this will not happen any time soon. This new OS, which brings a lot of the greatest features of iOS and many of its apps to Mac OS X actually makes the two operating systems even more alike then they have been. But each OS still serves a purpose and these enhanced cross OS functions makes it possible for both operating systems to co-exist and compliment each other for some time.

In fact, I think we are seeing more of a pattern in which OS X will continue to harness the robust power of Intel’s Core architecture for some time yet. And Intel’s 3D chip architecture that is in the works could continue to advance Moore’s law in ways that it would still make sense for the Mac OS to mine the Intel X86 based chipset for many more years. I have a good handle on Intel’s roadmap and I don’t see anything coming from ARM that could match what Intel will have two or three years from now. It is much more likely that Apple will continue to use Intel for many years to come and thus will need two distinct operating systems to meet the needs of both sets of customers.

Keep in mind that the Mac is still optimized for what I call heavy lifting computing. While simple word processing, email and even a bit more advanced applications can be done with iOS apps, the more power hungry apps still require the advanced power of OS X and advanced processors. This is especially true for those using it for graphics design, electronic publishing, video editing, advanced photo editing and many engineering applications where the Mac is used for managing IT functions, especially in education environments.

Yet, many who use the Mac for these apps also use an iPad and iPhone and have enjoyed many of the features in iOS and want the same ones on Mac OS X. This is where Mountain Lion really shines. Although it adds more then just iOS features, a lot of its value is in bringing over these features to the Mac. And there are a couple of really good examples of this.

One thing many iOS apps excel at is the ability to share info from an App or Safari via a drop down menu that lets you post directly to twitter, an email account, iMessage, and more. Now, that little arrow that signifies info sharing in iOS is in the tool bar in Safari on OS X. But more importantly, Apple is publishing the API for this feature so that developers can also include this sharing feature into apps for Mac OS X. If you use this feature on an iOS device you know who handy it is in iOS apps. Now the Mac gets the same functionality.

iMessages: Now any iMessage that comes up on your iOS devices is also displayed on the Mac in the Messages app. Again, cross OS functionality at its best.

Reminders: Many times I jot a reminder on the reminder app on my iPad, but to access it while working on the Mac, I have to literally pick up the iPad to see it. Now the reminders that I enter on an iOS device will also show up in my reminder app on the Mac.

Notes: I use this constantly to make lists, record meeting notes etc but they are isolated to iOS devices. But with Mountain Lion, all of the notes I have created on my iPad or iPhone will now be readily available for me on my Mac as well via iCloud sync.

Notification Center: This is one of the great features of iOS. Users can set alerts and notifications, which can then be accessed by a drop down scroll page that can be seen when the iPhone or iPad is still locked. This is a handy feature and with Mountain Lion it too comes to the Mac when this OS update ships this summer.

Airplay Mirroring: Here is another feature that is used a lot with iOS devices. Consumers use this to “push” their pictures and video to their Apple TV and now this type of mirroring comes to the Mac. This is really cool if a conference room uses a TV for presentations and has an Apple TV connected to it. That means that your Mac can use Airplay Mirroring over Apple TV and there is no need for messy wired connections at all.

These are just a few of the iOS features that come over to the Mac and make the Mac even more functional and in ways, an extension of your other iOS devices. But at the same time the Mac keeps its own powerful OS structure and supports the thousands of apps built for use on this platform as-is.

This is important to understand if you look at the future of the Mac. As I stated above, Apple could migrate Mac OS X so that it can use their ARM processors and it could happen. But given the ARM roadmap, it probably will never compete with Intel’s continued exploitation of Moore’s law.

But Mountain Lion really does bridge the gap and gives people who love these features in iOS many of the same functions now on a Mac. And it makes sure that at the same time all apps written for the Mac continues to work out of the box.

Also, if you look at the advanced tools Apple has for creating apps for the Mac and the new Mac App store that in many ways mirrors the app store for iOS devices, you see that both operating systems could co-exist together for some time and keep users of both quite happy. But the Mac OS, with its greater horsepower will continue to be valuable to power users and those who need the Mac for heavy lifting tasks. I see Mountain Lion giving Apple more time to focus on other innovations in the short term. This would take the pressure out of trying to even do an OS X port to their own ARM chips, especially if ARM can’t keep up with Intel’s offerings.

As Tim Cook has pointed out, the real growth and profit center for Apple has shifted from Macs to iOS devices and it is here that I think they will put most of their resources. Although the Mac is still important to them and continues to grow, innovation with iOS software and iOS driven devices seems the priority for them now. I see Mt Lion filling a big gap and allowing Apple to continue to have cross device functions but still give their power users and their consumer audience everything they want and need from Apple.

The Next Big Thing: Apple WWDC

It’s no surprise to see Apple race on, barely missing a beat since Steve’s passing – leading global innovation as it has this new millennium.

In just a few hours the next Apple WWDC (WorldWide Developers Conference) will take place. A stage that has announced true global game changers, like the iPhone and the iPad.

In the end, right now it’s still about the App store.  With 600,000 downloadable games, magazines and productivity tools, Apple is the application leader.  But the others are not far behind. As quoted in Bloomberg earlier today, “The success of Apple’s App Store has helped create an economy for downloading mobile applications that will reach $58 billion in sales in 2014.”

Surely, Apple will continue App dominance – and its track record of suspense and big announcements at WWDC. Will we see the next iPhone? News on OS X Mountain Lion? A new social platform? The next “Big Thing” that none of us have even contemplated yet?  It’s hard not to wonder where Apple goes from here, without Steve Jobs at the helm… but we’ll find out in just a few short hours.

This is a question I ask over and over in my upcoming eBook on Apple, The Magic and Moxie of Apple – An Insider’s View.

“… So where does Apple – a company that started out as two guys making and selling circuit boards out of their garage, which transformed into one of the biggest international technology companies in the world – go from here? Following the loss of Steve Jobs, that question seems challenging to answer. As we know all too well, Apple has seen itself rise and fall from grace before and reinvent itself more than once, and the company is counting on the fact that it’s cemented its place at the top so profoundly that nothing will stop it from continuing to grow. Continually releasing new products (and upgrading the old) may do this, but fundamentally, what direction does it take next? The iPhone, iPad, and iPod have already seen several generations of upgrades. What groundbreaking innovations will propel Apple in the same way that the iPod, iPhone, MacBook Air and iPad did? The answer to that question isn’t what new product will they come out with, but rather who will be dream it up without Steve? … ”


Like many of you, I’m eagerly awaiting iOS 6 and Mountain Lion – which brings some of the most popular features found on other Apple products to the Mac, such as GameCenter, notes, etc. A personal favorite is that Mountain Lion will send messages to anyone on an Apple product – so you’ll be able to begin a message on your Mac and pick it back up on your iPhone or iPad later on. We’ll see today what else Apple has in store for us – the world of believers, creators and brand advocates.

And although the race continues without Steve Jobs to lead the pack – only his company to carry on the dream – it will not be easy to watch WWDC without him taking the stage.

Kelli Richards, President and CEO
The All Access Group, LLC
PS: If you’d like to pre-order a copy of my book, The Magic and Moxie of Apple – An Insider’s View,” please go to


Staying in Contact with this Generation of College Students

Lindsay Pund is a junior studying English and Business at Whitworth University. She is completing several writing assignments for a class and was given the topic by the Tech.pinions columnists of how college students stay in touch with friends and family while away at school.

For the majority of college students, college is the first time they are away from home for an extended period of time. Regardless of how far a student goes for school, be it in the next city, state, or country, the question of communication is a common subject. Once it is established how often communication is to be expected, either with family or friends from home, the discussion of which mode of communication will best serve the purpose begins. When students went off to college a few decades ago, they had significantly fewer choices than those at hand for the current generation of college students.

In the lives of college students today, the varieties of communication are virtually limitless. While snail mail is still an option and care packages are always welcomed, there are many other ways to keep in touch in this evolving digital age.

Cell phones are a staple form of communication because they serve the dual purpose of actually making phone calls as well as offering an outlet for silent interaction through texting. While talking to a variety of students, many said that their phone is their main mode of communication with family. Junior Cameron Williams said, “I mostly use my phone to talk to my parents and I use texting to quickly communicate with friends on campus.”

Many students I talked to agreed that they use talking on their cell phones primarily for communicating with their parents. When asked what is used to keep in touch with friends from back home, everyone answered, “Facebook.” Facebook is an efficient tool to stay in contact with friends because it allows for easy access to current information. In receiving feedback regarding Facebook habits, I found it interesting that most people used Facebook to share information and see updates from their friends, rather than actually communicating in way of a conversation.

Another online venue to address a wide audience is the option of blogging. Some students choose to have blogs where they write about what they are learning in classes, doing while hanging out with friends, and particular interests. Blogs are uniquely effective for communication in that they allow students the freedom of staying in touch when it works with their schedule as well as providing an opportunity for those who want to know more about their life away from home to access the information without having hour long phone conversations. While blogging is an option for communication, it is not yet common among students.

An additional mode of communication available to this generation of college students is video chatting. While Skype is currently the most well known, there are other video chat software options available, such as ooVoo. In talking with students about their use of video chatting, many replied that it is not their preferred mode of communication, and when they do use it, it is most often with high school friends at different colleges, as opposed to their family. I believe the main reason for this being the case is that video chatting requires both parties to be in front of a computer and is a larger commitment compared to a quick phone call while walking across campus.

As a college student, I find myself able to identify with the majority of these answers. While I participate in the occasional blog post and Skype conversation, the majority of my communication happens through my cell phone. For me, this is true because my cell phone is always with me and creates an avenue for quick and easy access to anyone I may need to reach.

While looking into possible improvements for communication choices for college students, I found most people to be happy with the options already at hand. The exceptions to this opinion took form in the desire for improvements within already existing technology. For freshman Phil Moore, he said he is “looking forward to the day when there is higher definition for video chatting,” while also acknowledging that it is only a matter of time before this becomes a reality. Sophomore Graeme Lauer added that he would like to see HeyTell (a smartphone app that uses voice recording to text) become more common, as he believes this would be the best of both worlds between phone calls and texting. Lauer said he could see himself using this application to communicate with his family and friends from home as well as his friends at school. And finally, Anna Simpkins commented, “it would be nice if all of my friends had an iPhone, that way I could make better use of FactTime when I am on the go.”

For busy college students, quick and efficient communication is essential. With the evolution of technology, it is challenging to predict what will replace the current modes of communication. But one thing is for certain: nothing will ever be able to replace care packages from home.

Why My Next Tablet Will Run Windows 8

I’ve been using Windows-based tablet computers for almost a decade. I was hooked the moment Bill Gates trotted out Microsoft’s first prototype tablets at a developer event in mid-2001. I got my first tablet, a Fujitsu Stylistic, in 2003 and I’ve carried it or its successors to meetings ever since, migrating along the way from Windows XP Tablet Edition to Vista to Windows 7. Nothing beats a Tablet PC for capturing notes during meetings and presentations, especially if the material contains diagrams, graphs or mathematical equations. When I’m not using my tablet to take notes, I use it to get my mail via Outlook, or to work on documents and spreadsheets with Word and Excel. It’s usually the only mobile system, other than my phone, that accompanies me when I travel.

Some suggest that the structure of the tablet market has already been settled. Apple rules, Android-based suppliers challenge; no other platforms need apply. The failures of HP’s Touchpad and RIM’s Playbook prove there’s no room for another software platform. I beg to differ. Android and iOS tablets do a yeoman’s job when it comes to consuming content, but lack the software tools and hardware features needed to create content. Windows-based tablets, which have been around since 2002, have always included the features needed for content creation, but lacked the easy to use interfaces needed for content consumption. The Metro User Interface in Windows 8 supplies these missing elements, and thus positions Win 8-based tablets as the only ones suitable for those who want to both create and consume content on a single device.

“Content Creation” as I use the term applies to a broad range of activities that includes tasks as varied as a student taking notes, a worker recording and distributing meeting notes, a club secretary assembling and distributing newsletters, a teenager spiffing up the audio from a band performance, a webmaster updating a website, and a mother preparing her annual Christmas letter. Contemporary PCs and MacBooks handle such work effortlessly. But, have you tried to accomplish tasks like these on an iPad or Android tablet? The process is at best arcane, and often impossible. Printing from a tablet? Most of the people I know e-mail the files they want to print to their PCs, and print from there. Manage a mail list? Forget about it. iPads and Android tablets work best as “companion devices,” and assume you have access to a PC or MacBook to handle everyday computing tasks. In fact, when I took my new iPad2 out of its box, it insisted that I connect it to iTunes running on a PC or Mac before it would let me do anything. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of those systems around my office, but what if I purchased it in the airport store, and tried to use it for the first time on a flight to China?

Windows 8 provides a more complete environment. Unless you’ve spent the last six months on the International Space Station, you’ve probably seen its vaunted Start screen, which replaces the Start menu used in earlier versions of Windows. The various colored blocks, referred to as “tiles,” contain live content updated by applications running in the background. Touch a tile and its associated program fills the screen. Switch from one app to the next by dragging your finger from left to right. Drag your finger up from the bottom of the screen to call up menus for the app. Drag your finger from the right edge of the screen to call up system menus, or to get back to the Start screen. Multi-finger gestures for pinching and zooming work intuitively, just as you’d expect. All-in-all, a well architected, contemporary user interface, great for leaning back and reading web content, watching videos, or whatever. But Windows 8 also supports more serious endeavors. Tap on the Desktop tile, and you are instantly transported to the familiar Windows 7 desktop. The applications you invested years learning to use are there in all their glory; not striped down versions that some guy in a marketing department thought were “good enough” for tablet users. Although the touchscreen interface works with these packages, odds are you will want to use a traditional keyboard and pointing device (mouse or track pad) arrangement, whether built into a dock or case, or freestanding. They may be old fashioned, but after 30 years of development, the industry has refined these input devices to the point where they’re hard to beat for content creation.

Digital Ink: Microsoft’s Unsung Advantage

Microsoft’s Tablet PC software includes a feature it calls “digital ink” that allows users to write on the surface of the display the same way one writes on a sheet of paper. The system makes no attempt to convert pen strokes entered this way into machine-readable text in real time, a la Apple’s failed Newton (although the option remains to convert information entered this way into a more conventional format if needed). Digital ink documents can be filed and searched in the same manner as conventional text documents. My tablet contains inked notes I’ve entered over the last eight years; I back them up, transfer them from one machine to another, and read them on my desktop when needed. Almost nobody knows this feature exists. Often, when I’m scribbling notes on my tablet at a conference, people sitting nearby will ask me what magical device I’m using. They’re amazed when I tell them it’s a five-year old tablet PC that runs Windows 7 and Office. I view Micro0soft’s failure to capitalize on this feature to be one of its biggest marketing disasters ever, almost as bad as Vista or Bob.

I don’t doubt the claims of a few of my colleagues that they can type faster than they can write. But can they capture graphic information as well? Here’s a snippet from the notes I took at a recent event where Intel’s Mark Bohr discussed the company’s new 22 nanometer technology. I captured the charts Bohr flashed on the screen on my tablet as he touted the advantages of Intel’s approach. I doubt any of my colleagues could key this in on their PCs.

Digital ink has always struck me as one of the most natural ways (other than pen on paper) for students to take notes in class or attendees to take notes in meetings. Yet Windows Tablets with this feature never gained much market share. Some of this resistance can be attributed to the premium (typically $300 or more) that suppliers charged for Windows Tablets, compared with conventional laptops. Some of this premium stems from the specialized hardware needed to implement digital ink (see below), which adds to the cost of Windows-based tablets. Suppliers like MSI omit such hardware in the interest of lowering the system’s cost. I’m confident the cost premium will shrink over time. I’m less confident that Microsoft will figure out how to market this capability successfully.

Since there will likely be a range of Windows 8 Tablets on the market, some with and some without the hardware needed to handle digital ink correctly, buyers who care about this feature should evaluate the specs of the devices they are considering with regard to the digitizer technology they use.

All told, Windows 8 melds a modern multi-touch user interface that’s great for consuming content with Microsoft’s successful Windows 7 environment that excels at creating content. No other tablet OS can deliver this one-two punch.

Why the iPad Will Not Reform Higher Education Anytime Soon

Lindsay Pund is a junior studying English and Business at Whitworth University. She is completing several writing assignments for a class and was given the topic by the Tech.pinions columnists of forming an opinion on iPad and higher education from a college students perspective.

Although Apple is clearly making adjustments and trying to modify the iPad so that it is more compatible and practical for higher education, a shift towards solo iPad learning is not likely.

Since 2010, a few universities have been experimenting with the iPad for more efficient classroom learning. Among these universities, some of the notable programs are at George Fox, where they give incoming freshman the choice between a MacBook or iPad, and Abilene Christian University, where they have implemented the mobile-learning initiative. This program, for the iPad specifically, is the inclusion of two classes on campus where each student is issued an iPad for the course. One of these classes is Economics, a required course for all undergrad students at ACU. While the professor of this course praises the iPad for assisting in increased classroom participation, it would be rare for an entire classroom of students to all own iPads and moreover, this poll-induced classroom participation is not only accessible through the iPad, but can be brought about by laptops as well.

While there are campuses that are attempting to implement the iPad into classroom learning, the majority of universities are not. And it is students on those campuses who are struggling the most to integrate the iPad into their learning experience. Although the iPad is touted for its ease of portability and compactness, for many college students, the praises end there when it comes to educational use.

In theory, the iPad would be the perfect tool for a college student. But as for now, the majority just aren’t buying it. This is not due to a lack of belief in Apple products. Looking around most college campuses today, there are MacBooks, iTouches, and iPhones everywhere. (This can be mainly attributed to the Apple back-to-school promotional) The current generation of college students believes in Apple products and are Apple consumers at large. However, when it comes to the iPad, hesitations arise.

After surveying a few college students who are iPad owners, I was able to better pinpoint my theory. While the iPad has its strong areas, there were many places where it falls short of college student’s needs and convenience. For most college students who own iPads, the device was purchased in attempt to replace their computer. However, Whitworth University Sophomore International Business major, Alexa Williams said, “The keyboard is electronic so it is not at all sufficient for typing papers.” This statement is testament to one of the key components keeping the iPad out of the hands of college students. When the primary role of a student is to type papers, having a main device without a keyboard is simply not practical.

Whitworth University sophomore Marketing major, Seth Owens encountered a similar problem when replacing his old laptop with an iPad. He said, “I had to buy the external keyboard so I could type my papers, but it is still a bit inconvenient because then I have two things to carry around instead of just one.” In carrying around two products, the plus side of iPads being compact deteriorates.
One possible solution to this predicament would be the ZAGG folio, an iPad case with a keyboard that essentially turns the iPad into the MacBook Air (size included). With this separately purchased ad-on, it is difficult to pinpoint what it is that sets the iPad above the Air, if anything.

Another aspect of iPads that has been assumed to make life easier is the ease it provides for note taking. However, when asked whether or not students found the iPad helpful for taking notes in class, all of them responded that it proves to be more distracting than anything, and even with the iPad they prefer to take their notes by hand or by typing.

Recently, with Apple’s announcement to partner with publishing companies and make digital textbooks more accessible, hopes for greater interest in iPads have risen again. However, when surveyed, studies show that 75% of students still prefer paper textbooks. In theory, having compact and lightweight textbooks is an improvement. However, in practice, this results in students trying to use the device for referencing material while simultaneously trying to type papers on that same device. I can see the benefits of interactive and compact textbooks, but there is still something to be said for having a textbook open while working on a paper without have to switch from one screen to another. Also, for many college students, studying is done in their dorm room or in the library, requiring a small amount of transportation of their textbooks anyway. And finally, many digital textbooks are nontransferable. This means that students will not be able to sell their books to other students when the course is over, thus overriding any money that might be saved through purchasing digitally. It is for these reasons that I find it hard to see digital textbooks becoming the new norm.

As for increased technology use in the classrooms, many students are wary. As it is, fiddling with overhead projectors and sound systems have the tendency to consume large portions of class time. While technology no doubt has its place in the education sphere, and as it has helped to add to its efficiency and thoroughness, as seen through PowerPoint and more effect communication via through email between professors and students, as with everything, there is a balance. University of Wisconsin Milwaukee English professor, Jeremiah Webster (and iPad fanatic) views the use of the iPad for education as being doubled sided. On one hand, Webster said, “It has fundamentally altered how I teach, lesson plan, and introduce materials (texts, video, articles, presentations) in the classroom.” However, at the same time, the iPad is technology, and on the flip side Webster said, “All technology is a “Faustian Bargain.” It takes away as much as it provides…Sure, we could all have iPads, but what is it being used for? Does it assist thinking? Reflection? Or is it merely another diversion? I use the iPad, but am vey much a disciple of Neil Postman. While Webster, as a professor with an iPad, is currently a minority, the concern of the iPad being more distracting than it is helpful is a sentiment among professors and students alike.

As a college student and MacBook and iPad user myself, I see the two products as somewhat redundant. For the average college student, money is tight and having both of these devices is a luxury that cannot be afforded. When it comes to having to choose either a laptop or an iPad due to budget constraints, the majority of students will purchase a laptop. Apple has created a product (MacBook) that is lightweight, user friendly, and dependable that they have marketed well to college-aged students. As it stands now, it is hard to imagine students who are loyal to the technology of laptops or of MacBooks specifically, making the drastic change to an iPad. I think Apple is going to have to do a lot of convincing (beyond their current two platforms) before students will readily, if ever, make the change entirely. Granted, I know this currently isn’t a popular stance to take — especially with the relatively recent announcement coupled with Jobs’ vision for textbooks. And for change makers, this might seem like regressive thinking. But as a student in the classroom, this is what I am witnessing and experiencing.

I definitely think the iPad is a neat tool with promise for higher education, and from my perspective, other college students think likewise. But as far as being the most practical and necessary device, I think it will be beat out by textbooks and laptops in higher education in the near future.

A PC is a Truck and Sometimes You Need a Truck

Steve Jobs said of the PC as he was developing his post PC theme, “PCs are going to be like trucks; less people will need them. And this is going to make some people uneasy.” Well he was right, if not accurate. A whole lot of trucks are sold. In just the US in February 2012 612, 145 cars were sold, and 537, 251 light duty trucks were sold, plus an additional 225,621 Cross-over trucks. So more trucks sold than cars, and even if you add SUVs (97,825) to the cars, there were still more trucks sold in the US, and that’s not counting the bigger ones that chew up your streets and bring stuff to your shopping center or gas station.

No doubt about it tablets and smartphones are popular and selling well. What most folks seem to miss (or want to miss) is we do have cars and trucks, and motorcycles, and we will continue to have smartphones (motorcycles), tablets (cars?), and PCs (trucks?) Because Tablets are popular doesn’t lead to the conclusion that PCs suddenly aren’t. But if all you’ve got to sell is a tablet, well then the world looks a little different. And even if you have a truck to sell, if it’s getting hammered by the competition, but your car or motorcycle is showing a better margin and/or shipment level, well your interest and emphasis is pretty predictable isn’t it?

So Apple wants to promote the “Post PC” concept as a way of casting the PC in a no longer important, been there done that, obsolete technology. And because they are Apple, the only company capable of original thought or charisma, and the role model for all other computer, electronics, and phone companies, the term “Post PC” will be adopted, and heralded as the coming, the new era, the I’ll follow Apple into hell slogan of all the wantabees—which is everyone from Microsoft to the smallest Chinese cloner.

Actually, Apple makes life so much simpler for the rest of us. We don’t have to invest time and money in clever ideas, or marketing, we just have to wait for Apple to tell us what’s cool now and then copy it as best we can.

The PC/Tablet/Phone industry reminds me of a bunch of teenage girls, watching the cool girls in order to find out what is in and what’s out. Nobody wants to get caught with something that’s out and not cool, that’s worse than a zits breakout on prom night. And it’s a caution to the buyers of all this non-Apple, Apple defined cool stuff. If the company you’re considering buying something from is an Apple follower you should think twice about buying anything from them. It’s unlikely they are going to be a faithful supporter of that currently cool copycat thingie—you’d be better off buying the real deal from Apple.

But it’s tough not being Apple when it’s so big, so rich, and so trend setting. Right now the only company that seems to have a chance at standing up to Apple is HP. All the rest are still in the beige/black box PC world where this year’s machine looks just like last year’s machine and the year before it. Where this year’s big breakout product is an Ultrabook that looks like every other Ultrabook which in turn is trying to look like Apple’s Air. It’s pathetic.

So if the PC industry turns into the unexciting truck industry, regardless of shipment numbers, it’s its own fault for being lazy and scared – get some backbone PC makers, take a chance—do something original. You might find you actually like it.