This article is exclusively for subscribers to the Think.Tank.
This article is exclusively for subscribers to the Think.Tank.
This article is exclusively for subscribers to the Think.Tank.
In the latest mobile focused podcast with Benedict Evans and myself, we touched on a theme that needs more fleshing out. That of a future only possible because of mobile computers/smartphones. When I detail the mobile first world in articles, presentations, and reports, what I highlight is not only the impact but the necessity of mobile to move computing forward. The PC in the shape of a notebook or desktop took computers as far as those shapes would allow. There are very few new users for PCs of that design. The PC in the shape of a tablet can take computing even farther, particularly in business environments, and that form factor gets a PC into the hands of more people. The PC in the shape of the smartphone, however, brings computing to everyone. Perhaps more importantly, the smartphone can bring the internet to everyone. More revolution will come from the PC in the shape of a smartphone than from any previous computing product in history. It is because of this, we will see countless opportunities emerge and it is a future only possible because of mobile.
The smartphone opens the door to new possibilities because it is the first time the technology industry is accessible to everyone. In fact, over the next decade or so, we will watch smartphones become a commodity. Estimates are, by 2020, quality, powerful smartphones could cost $10. The mobile web is already bigger than the desktop web and, in a few years, the mobile web will dwarf the desktop web. It is a cold hard fact, the future of the Internet is mobile. This reality brings out some interesting implications.
Global Mobile Web Browsing
There was a debate last year around the disparity between iOS web browsing and Android web browsing. It seemed a conundrum — Android had 2x the user base but much less of the global browsing share. As you see from this chart from NetMarketShare, only recently has Android overtaken iOS in global web browsing share, and it is still very close.
When we include Android AOSP and Google’s Android, there are well more than double the active devices compared to iOS. But why did it take so long? There are many theories but there is one in particular I find insightful and adds a bit of needed clarity to the global mobile web discussion.
The bulk of Android’s growth and market share is in the lower tiers of smartphone price bands. My estimates put premium Android price tiers at roughly 15% of the global Android installed base. Meaning much of Android’s installed base globally consists of non-premium/lower price tier smartphone users. This explained quite a bit of the global web browsing paradox. Apple has a significant installed base of premium users, larger than Google’s premium users, and those customers spend more time browsing the web and consuming internet data. As I started researching the mobile web in emerging markets, it became clear one of the factors for this disparity was, because of Apple’s premium customer base, this audience could afford to liberally browse the web. Where much of Android’s installed base, having to deal with pricey and slow internet connection times, and no wi-fi at home, could not.
This insight becomes even more clear when we look at this chart from Jana.com showing the number of hours of minimum wage work required to pay for the average data plan.
Due to the infrastructure challenges in many of these markets, consumers are very aware of not only how much data they are using, but also the size of the application they are downloading. This is a fascinating quote from a post from LightSpeed Venture Partners, an investment firm focused on India.
So, what is an ideal app size, especially in markets like India with challenged infrastructure?
The ideal size is 10-15MB globally. Idea size for an app for tier 2/3 countries (like India) is below 5MB. 500MB+ is a non-starter. At 50MB+ the conversion rates fall off dramatically. On Android and iOS, conversion rates dip by 50% in tier 1 nations for non-game apps above 50MB. In tier 2 and tier 3 nations, conversion rates dip by 50% for games above 15MB.
It is becoming clear the high cost of data plans in many emerging markets are influencing how they use the mobile web and the apps they use and download.
The Light Web
Understanding this leads me to consider the role web apps may play in these markets. There is a web app called Zomato, which is sort of like Yelp for India. Zomato is a great example of a light application that is useful via a web app in those regions where light applications are necessary. It is true native apps are still dominant in these markets, however, we are still dealing with only the top 30-40% of the global mobile audience that has a smartphone and a data plan. As we extend that reach into the broader 60-70%, a healthy portion of those customers will be even more sensitive to the costs of data and size of applications they consume.
This is why the “light web” is a reality for the next billion users. Whether by lighter/more efficient native apps or, as I believe, web apps, the light web is better positioned for the next billion. Interestingly, even Uber has a robust web app. It is possible the powerful cloud and light, thin client computing paradigm is destined for emerging markets.
It is clear, thanks to PCs in the shape of a smartphone and the inevitable inclusion of robust sensors in these devices even at low prices, that we are heading to a fascinating future not only made possible because of mobile devices but empowered by them. This future will pose great challenges to many incumbents but even greater opportunities for the innovators.
The PC market turnaround is real. ~ Bob O’Donnell (@bobodtech) 10/15/14
Q: IS THE PC MARKET TURNAROUND REAL?
Macs are resurgent. Google Chrome is slowly gaining ground. However, sales of traditional personal notebook and desktop computers that run the Windows Operating System and are known as “PCs”, continue to falter.
In the second quarter of 2014, Apple’s Mac sales grew by 18% while overall PC sales declined by 1%.
In the third quarter of 2014, Apple’s Mac sales grew by 21% while overall PC sales declined by 1.7%.
On the other hand according to NPD, PCs went from 75% share to 68% in two years.
Source: “PC market still shrinking, with smaller firms squeezed out“, Charles Arthur
Conflating Apple’s Mac, Google’s Chrome, and Windows powered PCs conceals, rather than reveals, what is happening in the personal computing category. PCs were expected to get a big bump in sales from the end of life of Windows XP. A bump occurred, but it hasn’t signified a recovery, it has only slowed the PC’s decline.
So you believe the Windows PC is dead? ~ Oren Kaufman (@HorhayAtAMD) 10/20/14
PCs dead? I think not…when are people going to finally wake up? ~ Bob O’Donnell (@bobodtech)
Q: IS THE PC DEAD?
No reasonable, rational observer of the tech marketplace is claiming the PC is dead. That’s a straw man — an exaggerated depiction of an opposing argument easily disproven. However, there is nothing unreasonable or irrational in asserting the PC will never again regain its once preeminent position in computing. In 2006, the PC dominated computing with around 95% market share. Today, the PC is but one of three branches of computing and, in terms of market share, it is rapidly becoming the lessor of the three.
(T)his is claim chowder for those claiming death of PC form factor. ~ Oren Kaufman (@HorhayAtAMD) 10/20/14
Q: DO INCREASED MAC SALES REFUTE CLAIMS THE PC HAS LOST PREEMINENCE?
Mac sales are up, but they are not increasing overall desktop and notebook sales. Instead, Mac sales seem to be displacing PC sales. Despite the increased Mac sales, notebooks and desktops as a whole continue to decline.
Windows 8 launched during a time when lots of people said that tablets would kill the PC. Does anyone still think that? ~ Harry McCracken (@harrymccracken) 9/30/14
Looks like AAPL made more money on PCs than tablets. What was that about the PC being dead again? ~ Bob O’Donnell (@bobodtech)
Q: DO INCREASED MAC SALES REFUTE CLAIMS IPADS/TABLETS HAVE SIGNIFICANTLY IMPACTED PC SALES?
We have to keep things in perspective. PC sales are mildly declining. Smartphone sales are rapidly growing. Tablet sales are flat, but they still easily outsell PCs.
There are now close to twice as many iPads as Macs in use. ~ Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans) 9/22/14
Just think about that for a second. Macs have been around for 30 years. iPads have been around for 4 years. Yet already, there are twice as many iPads in use as there are Macs.
Despite the Mac’s recent surge and the iPad’s stalled growth, iPads easily outsell Macs and the iPad’s base is therefore growing much faster. Just look at the sales numbers. In the third quarter of 2014, Apple sold 39.3 million iPhones. They sold 12.3 million iPads. And, in a record breaking quarter, Apple sold 5.5 million Macs. That means the much criticized iPad is outselling Macs by more than 2-to-1 and iPhones are outselling Macs by more than 5-to-1. The surging Mac is not catching up. It’s falling further and further behind.
As the chart above shows, even though iPad sales are flat and Mac sales are surging, iPad sales are still, far, far greater than those of the Mac. The Mac is not going to help the notebook and desktop form factors reclaim their once dominant position in computing. Rather, with every passing day, the notebook and the desktop’s total share of the computing pie becomes ever smaller.
Next quarter, Apple will sell its billionth iOS device (around 950m so far) ~ Jan Dawson (@jandawson) 10/20/14
Apple will probably sell more iPhones & iPads this quarter than there are Macs in use (~80m). ~ Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans) 10/20/14
IDC said worldwide PC shipments for the third quarter of 2014 were 78.5 million, down -1.7% year-over-year. ((IDC had an odd way of reporting this news. They said, “Global PC Shipments Exceed Forecast with Mild Improvement in Consumer Demand”. Translation? The decline wasn’t as bad as they expected it to be. But it was still a decline of 1.7%.))
Would not be surprised if 90 million iOS devices will ship next quarter. ~ Horace Dediu (@asymco) 10/20/14
Let’s try to put the above information in perspective. Last quarter, the desktop and notebook form factor sold 78.5 million units. Next quarter it is likely iOS alone — the minority platform — will outsell the entire PC industry. Add in Android and “other” and it’s no contest.
Apple will pass 1bn cumulative iOS device sold this year. Android will pass 3bn. ~ Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans) 9/18/14
Macs But Not PCs
IMO Mac sales are increasing because Apple is great at leveraging their monopolies. iOS only works with OSX so Mac sales up. ~ Oren Kaufman (@HorhayAtAMD) 10/20/14
Q: WHY ARE MAC SALES RISING WHILE PC SALES ARE FALLING?
I’m certain the “Halo Effect” is a contributing factor to the Mac’s increased sales. The more iOS owners there are, the more likely it is some of them will choose a Mac as their next notebook or desktop computer.
I’m even more certain Apple’s “continuity” feature is going to make Macs ever more attractive to iOS users. The close integration between the iPhone, the iPad and the Mac, makes the Mac a natural choice for many iOS owners.
Having used Continuity, Handoff across MacBook, iPad and iPhone, I can say it’s awesome. I would have expected Microsoft to get there first. ~ Patrick Moorhead (@PatrickMoorhead) 10/23/14
But here is my pet theory as to why the Mac is growing while the PC continues to decline.
In 2006, almost anyone who owned a computer owned a PC. Today, we can choose between a PC and a variety of non-PC computing alternatives, including phones, tablets, Macs, etc. Many people feel little need to upgrade their existing PCs. Others feel no need to own a PC at all.
I still believe the traditional notebook and desktop form factor is overkill for most mainstream consumers. ~ Ben Bajarin
However, many people absolutely and positively need the power and flexibility provided by a notebook or desktop computer. These potential PC buyers differ from those in 2006. In 2006, the PC was (almost) the only game in town, so everybody got a PC. Power users got powerful PCs and people who needed minimal computing power purchased the cheapest PC they could find. Today, people who barely need a PC are opting for phones and tablets instead. That leaves only power PC users as a potential PC buyers.
The power user never has, and never will, buy a cheap PC. They know their computing needs will only be met by powerful computing machines. Here’s the important bit. Many power users are realizing if they’re going to be spending a thousand dollars and more for a computing device, the best PC…is a Mac.
In other words, for the budget conscious, the Mac compares poorly to the budget PC. But to the power conscious, the Mac compares very favorably to the top-of-the-line PC. Macs are a premium product and more and more, the only people buying notebooks and desktops are power users who are shopping for premium computing devices.
[pullquote]Increased Mac sales are not proof the PC form factor is becoming more popular. Rather, it is proof notebooks and desktops are becoming a premium niche[/pullquote]
In my opinion, Mac sales prove the exact opposite of what the “PC-IS-RESURGENT” crowd is contending. Increased Mac sales are not proof the PC form factor is becoming more popular. On the contrary, increased Mac sales are proof the PC form factor is becoming a premium niche.
Maybe we aren’t in a post-PC world. Maybe it’s an also-PC world. ~ Farhad Manjoo (@fmanjoo) 10/20/14
Q: ARE WE IN SOMETHING OTHER THAN A POST-PC WORLD?
If a person as informed and as intelligent as Farhad Manjoo doesn’t know what “Post-PC” means, then I’m guessing most of us don’t understand what the term means either.
The Stone Age did not end because we stopped using stones. The PC era isn’tending because we stopped using PCs. ~ Horace Dediu (@asymco) 10/24/14
Post-PC does not mean the PC goes away. It does not mean we only use phones and tablets to do our computing. It simply means the PC is no longer the center of our computing universe.
“PCs are going to be like trucks,” Jobs said. “They are still going to be around.” However, he said, only “one out of x people will need them.” ~ AllThingsD, 2010
Apple has always emphasized the importance of the Mac in the post-PC world. Shortly after taking the reins at Apple, Tim Cook had this to say about the Mac:
[pullquote]As people walk away from the PC, it becomes clear that the Mac is what you want if you want a PC.[/pullquote]
And we haven’t given up on the Mac. A lot of people are throwing in the towel right now on the PC. We’re still spending an enormous amount on really great talent and people on the Macs of the future. And we have some really cool things coming out there. Because we believe as people walk away from the PC, it becomes clear that the Mac is what you want if you want a PC.
Two years later, that statement is looking mighty prescient.
Apple’s position is, whether it be a Mac or an iPad or an iPhone, people should use the right tool for the task at hand. In 2006, we owned one computing device. In 2015, we will own multiple computing devices. Truth be told, we already live in that reality today. Multiple computing devices are the norm not the exception.
Globally, the average connected devices per person is 2. In USA it is 2.8 ~ Ben Bajarin (@BenBajarin) 8/21/14
90% of students in the UK own both a laptop and a smartphone. A further 40% have a tablet computer ~ BBC News
Ironically, it was Bill Gates, in 2007, who predicted the multi-device computing world that we live in today:
Mossberg: What’s your device in five years that you’ll rely on the most?
Gates: I don’t think you’ll have one device.
I think you’ll have a full-screen device that you can carry around and you’ll do dramatically more reading off of that – yeah, I believe in the Tablet form factor…
…and then you’ll have the device that fits in your pocket…
…and then we’ll have the evolution of the portable machine. And the evolution of the phone will both be extremely high volume, complementary–that is, if you own one, you’re more likely to own the other.
Now tell me, does that sound like the vision embodied by Microsoft’s 2-in-1 Surface ((If you think the Surface is doing well, you need to read this article by Mark Rogowsky and look at this chart by Jan Dawson.
Source: THOUGHTS ON MICROSOFT’S Q3 2014 EARNINGS)) computer or does that sound more like the vision embodied by Apple’s iPhone, iPad, and Mac portfolio of computing devices? (And don’t forget the upcoming Apple Watch, either.)
To be honest, I don’t much care what your opinion is. The market is the only opinion that matters and the market has emphatically expressed its opinion by overwhelmingly voting for multiple devices. If you don’t think multi-device is the direction computing should be taking, argue with the market, not me.
I believe as we move further and further into the post-PC (or multi-computing device) era, two things are going to happen.
First, the base number of notebook and desktop computers will remain at, or near, current levels. However, the form factor’s overall share of the total number of personal computing devices will continue to shrink as phones and tablets rapidly spread across the globe.
Second, those who need less computing power will eschew the notebook and desktop form factor. Those who need the form factor, but eschew the power and complexity, will gravitate toward devices like the Chromebook. And those who need both the form factor and the power it embodies, will move towards Macs.
What was unthinkable only ten years ago is happening. The traditional Windows PC is being squeezed by Chromebooks from below and by Macs from above and is rapidly moving from monopoly to minority status. The Mac on the other hand is emerging from the shadow of the Windows PC and, among power users, is taking its place as the majority player. ((26.8% of the notebooks and desktops sold in the U.S. between July 4th and September 1st were Macs.))
Let’s start with the bad news: The Apple Watch. This beautiful, technological marvel is, in my view, the device our future selves point back to as delineating when Apple changed forever.
Not necessarily for the good.
The company long known for delivering absolutely amazing computing devices, so perfect, so uncannily universal that often times, one device, one product line, one price point is sufficient, is no more. The new Apple Watch starts out with three distinct variations and what appears to be a near-infinite number of eye-catching bands.
This feels wrong.
Tim Cook said the Apple Watch is the company’s most “personal device yet.” Maybe so. At present, my take is thus: The Apple Watch is a pricey talisman, one certain to accelerate the top-line yet with only marginal tangible benefit to Apple’s existing customers.
Have we crossed a line?
The Strange Changes
Yes, change is necessary, often good. I realize this is Tim Cook’s Apple, not Steve Jobs’ Apple. That’s both obvious and expected. What I find so troubling is that I no longer know if this is my Apple. Having defended Apple for years against the silly, baseless charge that “Apple is a marketing company,” I woke up last week to discover that, as John Gruber flatly stated, “Apple is not a tech company.”
I am at a loss to adequately explain why anyone would pay $349 for this device. Indeed, $349 just gets you in the door. Yes, many analysts made similar declarations about the iPhone and the iPad. Fair enough. The Apple Watch may prove transformative. Still, Apple was able to fully, succinctly proclaim exactly how we could and would all benefit from those earlier products. This is much less so with Apple Watch:
It’s the most personal product we’ve ever made, because it’s the first one designed to be worn.
Yes, but what does it do? And why should I buy one?
A device you wear is vastly different from one you keep on a desk or carry in your pocket. It’s more than a tool. It’s a very personal expression.
Yes, but what does it do?
Apple Watch combines a series of remarkable feats of engineering into a singular, entirely new experience. One that blurs the boundaries between the physical object and the software that powers it.
I do not understand.
Apple Watch also presents time in a more meaningful, personal context by sending you notifications and alerts relevant to your life and schedule.
Apple Watch is right there on your wrist, so it makes all the ways you’re used to communicating more convenient.
Tell me one!
Don’t Want To Be A Richer Man
Most of the world could never afford Apple products, be they Macs or iDevices. This was, frankly, because the costs of quality, usability, integration and reliability necessitated those high prices. True, Apple margins on iPods, iPhones, iPads and some Macs are sizable. Prices can be lower, in theory. The bargain between Apple and customer, however, is we accept these large margins knowing that year after year after year Apple products will get better, without fail, until a completely new magical device takes flight. That’s money well spent.
Will this be so with Apple Watch?
I think not.
Based purely on the company’s marketing messages, the various Apple Watch(es) appear priced primarily for reasons almost fully extraneous to its technology or functionality. I find this disconcerting, to say the least.
For most users, Apple offers the very best smartphone, tablet, MP3 player and laptop available anywhere. The Apple Watch changes this equation in no way. Still, I can’t help but wonder if my relationship with Apple will change now that this “non-tech” company so proudly offers what we assume will be, per Gruber, gold bands on deluxe watches that retail for an astounding $10,000 or more.
I don’t even go into those stores.
Time May Change Me
Throughout its history, Apple has gifted us with numerous incredible devices. Recall the iMac, the iPod (classic) or the very first iPhone. We never envisioned such a device, then quickly wondered how we ever lived without it. It was as if someone from the future left this marvel behind, perhaps accidentally, perhaps as a test. But always, magic, always liberating.
The Apple Watch feels the opposite of this. Lock-in is not liberating. With Watch, Apple has created a mobile computing device with a small screen which requires another mobile computing device with a small screen, the iPhone, before it can function properly.
I can’t help but think how much better it would be — for us, the users — had Apple taken all that Watch work, all those Watch resources, and made the iPhone, iPad and Mac even better, more magical. This applies to the iPhone, in particular. The fact is, I believe Apple and iPhone are on the cusp of remaking everything and I selfishly do not want Apple to blow this opportunity by getting sidetracked with a watch.
And now the good news.
Change Their Worlds
In his long interview with Charlie Rose last week, Tim Cook stated it’s important to think about long term, big picture ideas. One of these, he said, is what comes after the Internet?
I suspect Apple is not merely thinking about what comes after the Internet, but actually working toward this. What is it? My prediction: The entire Internet done right. That is, a secure, family friendly, screen-optimized web paid for by all of us — with our money not our privacy.
Google should be very concerned.
With iTunes, apps, Apple Pay, Apple TV, iCloud, continuity, inter-app communication — now available across all screen sizes and devices — we can finally have our “web” the way we’ve always wanted, the way we’ve always deserved, before we foolishly allowed it down that horrible path back in the 1990s, funded by pornography, data tracking, unceasing ads and content “aggregation” that bordered on theft.
Apple has developed the tools to make these bad bits all go away. We get what we want, reliably, securely, privately, by paying for it, not by having bits of us taken, not by having our eyes and ears assaulted with unwanted garbage.
This will change everything. It cannot come soon enough.
Oh, and the company is not just remaking the digital web and e-commerce. Apple is helping to re-configure offline retail, making it better, faster, more personal. Consider its currently available toolkit:
- Apple Pay (money and credit)
- Touch ID (security)
- iPad (cash register)
- iBeacon and Passbook (for deals and rewards)
- AirDrop (peer-to-peer sharing of money and benefits)
No one else has anything like this.
Perhaps I’ve been unfair to the not-yet-released Apple Watch. But, companies can’t do everything. The iPhone is literally helping us to change the world. It is re-making commerce, the web, play, learning, work. I don’t want to lose this opportunity.
I fear the Apple Watch has captured Tim Cook’s focus and consumed the best of the company’s design, hardware and software skills. If so, while Watch may be great for Apple I believe it is detrimental for the rest of us.
Does the iPhone hate dogs?
I know, that’s not a fair question. Still, I can’t help but wonder if the iPhone, if all smartphones, will fundamentally alter our relationship with our most trusted, faithful, ready-to-die-for-us-but-until-then-let’s-go-for-a-walk companions.
The arrival of the iPhone has, for better and for worse, diverted significant chunks of our attention away from both people and places. That much we know. But what about our dogs? Do we no longer require their fellowship? If not, what happens to them?
I do not know. The possibility of this scenario is without precedent. In such cases, I turn to fiction.
In the beloved film classic, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, all the dogs and cats are dead. Briefly, it’s because apes from the future come back to the present (1983) and, well, a disease subsequently wipes out all our little friends. Not a problem. Humans, being a resilient lot, decide apes will make effective pet replacements. They also quickly realize apes can do all sorts of things, more, even, than dogs and cats.
Smartphones are our apes is what I’m saying.
Let’s set aside for the moment how the apes launch a rebellion and wipe out most of humanity. For now, smartphones provide immediacy, interaction, diversion from our stresses. They tell us when to exercise, remind us if we are spending too much time at work, offer comfort when we are upset. They play music, show videos, hold our entire library, manage our schedule. They learn our habits, know our routines, and make us better than we are.
So why even have a dog?
These are the primary reasons for having a dog:
- Dogs alert us to dangers. They can even alert us to changes in our body.
- Dogs remind us to go out for a walk. They help us lose weight and get fit.
- Dogs are always there, always ready to interact with us at a moment’s notice.
- With dogs, we feel more connected, happier.
- If you have OCD, depression, or suffer from PTSD, dogs can help.
- Is your child safe? A dog can warn you.
- If you feel lonely, your beloved dog offers comfort.
- Need someone to just listen, empathize? Dogs are especially good at this.
Thing is, smartphones already do all of these. Some they do even better than dogs. And should you need to track a loved one, if they have a smartphone that’s much better than if you have a dog.
Smartphones also cost a great deal less than pets.
My oldest dog just required surgery. This set me back $5,000. That alone pays for two shiny new iPhones, an Apple Watch and at least two years of cellular service.
It’s not the cost, however, that prompted my speculation on the necessity of dogs. It was a trip to the vet. The old dog was in his normal jovial mood when I drove him in for surgery, despite having to go without eating for more than 12 hours. But he quickly got scared, intuiting the clinical surroundings could only mean something was amiss. He kept nudging up against me, kept seeking reassurances. I happily obliged. Every time.
Until one time when I did not. I was busy tweeting some brilliant insight, as I do, when I suddenly realized he was trying especially hard to grab my attention. A scared dog will do that. I stuck my iPhone in my pocket and left it there for the remainder of the appointment.
It is extremely difficult to put away that beckoning screen. Not just for me but for hundreds of millions of others. This is fact and offered without judgment.
Where does this lead us? Again, I do not know. I do know that smartphones will alter us because they will alter our relationships, disrupt our time, rearrange our priorities, and deconstruct traditional links with our surroundings.
I wish I could say always for the better, but that would be a lie.
The old dog’s fine. In fact, the vet says he probably has four good years remaining. What our screens will do for us by then, I can only imagine. I do know they are replacing much more than just other gadgets.
The best way to defeat the iPhone is to create a superior alternative to the app ecosystem. With widgets, notifications, continuity and inter-app processes in iOS 8, Apple did just that. Woe to Android, Windows Phone and anyone who hopes to see Apple falter this decade.
Unless, of course, I’m completely wrong.
Perhaps there’s some amazing technology out there waiting to leapfrog iPhone. Perhaps the new iWatch and iPhablet and all the various Kits and Plays fail to entice. Maybe Tim Cook and Angela Ahrendts succeed in transforming Apple into a luxury brand, turning the iPhone into a “Veblen good” and moving the company from high margin computing to higher margin fashion.
This seems unlikely. Nonetheless, on the cusp of the big Apple launch event, I am thinking not of new products, but of past ones, and not only of successes, but failures. When I labeled the iPhone 5c a “failure,” readers did not hesitate to emphatically declare I was wrong.
The iPhone 5c was a failure both in terms of sales and for how it diminished Apple’s image as an innovator. I may never have been so right as when I declared the 5c a failure. Expect it to be erased from Apple Stores before this year is out.
The 5c will not be the last Apple flop. I suspect the primary value of any iWatch, at least in the first few years, will be to show people you have an iWatch.
Carry That Weight
I understand if you vehemently disagree with my assertions. Tomorrow brings us new products but will not necessarily end any long standing debates. For example, despite the adoption of Chromebooks and the gutting of the great LA Public Schools iPad experiment, I steadfastly believe in the merits of my plan to give an iPad to every child in America. Similarly, regardless of what every other tech writer is saying, and no matter what Apple introduces tomorrow, I still think NFC is a waste of Apple’s talent and our time.
Going on public record can be daunting. Certainly, it is filled with missteps. Here are two minor predictions I have for tomorrow’s event:
- Apple will offer universal content search and a single log-in across apps for its Apple TV
- The company will launch consumer-grade, home-optimized iBeacons
Now a big one:
The weeks-long stream of “leaks” is well orchestrated and not at all coincidental. Apple plans to reveal a great many products tomorrow but few will ‘wow’ and several are almost fully dependent upon multiple partners. CarPlay and iPhone payments may be great — but these will take time and usage and third party vendors to make successful. As the ecosystem expands, Apple has less control. This forces them to talk up the product whereas in the past, the product spoke for itself.
We will know shortly if I am right.
Very soon, sensors throughout our homes, on our pets and possibly inside our bodies, all monitored or even controlled by our smartphone, will be the norm. Imagine now if these were ad-subsidized devices, like Android or Kindle, offering no escape from the latest marketing pitch or sponsored social media update. Is this a tolerable future?
I know. Brilliant.
But a paragraph later I followed up with:
The next design battle will almost certainly not be about “skeuomorphism” versus “flat design”. Rather, monetizing hardware, the Apple way, versus monetizing data and advertising, the Google way, will set the stage for this next great battle.
Nearly 2 years later, this was a battle that never happened. The market has embraced both models, not chosen one over the other. Perhaps, as wearables and smart homes become more common place over the next many years, this will change. That’s a rather weak prediction, however.
Here’s a bold one. From March 18, 2013:
As the blogosphere pronounces ‘Apple is Doomed’ at every turn, I can’t help but thinking we have it wrong. Apple will have its ups and downs, no doubt. It’s just, the more I follow Apple, the more I study Steve Jobs, the more I suspect that, while he could not live forever, Jobs absolutely believed his creation, Apple, could. Literally.
Am I right or wrong?
Fixing A Hole
Confession: sometimes I secretly blame you for when I am wrong. In “iOS 7 Game Changers,” I spoke glowingly of AirDrop:
I predict AirDrop will have a paradigm-shifting impact on content sharing – which means it should have a paradigm-shifting impact on social sharing sites, particularly Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.
Hundreds of millions of iPhones with simple, real time, on-the-spot sharing, all thanks to AirDrop. Big transformative things were supposed to happen. I really believed what I said. So why do almost none of you use this “paradigm-shifting” feature? (Because it’s not necessary, that’s why. I did not think it through at the time.)
Of course, some outrageous ideas may yet come true. Just over a year ago I recommended Apple:
Integrate iCloud, fingerprint technology, and an open API. Touch any connected screen and it instantly re-calibrates itself to our preferred, personalized settings, ST:TNG-like. In this way, Apple becomes the company that manages every screen in our life, everywhere, all the time.
I think this is a near certainty within the next 10 years.
Oddly enough, it’s the stuff that seems patently obvious where I get the most pushback. Following last year’s big Apple iPhone launch event, I stated:
Asking Apple to go down market is like asking Microsoft to no longer charge for software. It runs counter to their history, their strategy, their culture and skill set, their strengths, their leadership and how they recruit, reward and incentivize their staff.
…and took a great deal of flak for that.
I contend it was true then and more so now. That even the most expert Apple analysts refuse to accept this makes it no less correct. The 5c was a mildly painful reminder the company cannot go down market. That Apple is moving further up market is no surprise to me.
Getting Better All The Time
I think I have maintained a reasonably high average for prognostication. For example, fully nine months before the actual Amazon Fire Phone was released, I explicitly stated here that:
- An Amazon smartphone would be focused on getting us to shop more — from Amazon
- The widely reported “3D” screen technology would be a bust
- No Amazon Phone could possibly hope to compete with other devices unless it was completely free, which I seriously doubted would happen
Unfortunately, there are those predictions that are quickly proven wrong. Just two months ago I wrote:
Given Android’s headstart in wearables, it’s hard to see Apple winning any wearable app wars. Given the limitations of its market reach, it’s similarly difficult to see Apple winning the “smart home” market without buying its way in.
What was I possibly thinking? With Mac, iOS and HomeKit — and a premium user base — there may be no company with a bigger head start here than Apple.
Apple will reveal much tomorrow. I predict this will be a once-a-decade event, with a stunning array of new products, services and partnerships. However, despite all the talk, all the tweets, all the analysis, we will not know the full impact of the company’s efforts for years to come.
You want to talk about Apple. I understand. They are the biggest tech company in the world. Their products are used by hundreds of millions. Oh, and next week there’s — OMG! — a major Apple event, not at Moscone Center in San Francisco but at Flint Center in Cupertino, the very same location where the original Mac was introduced and where the phoenix-like (i)Mac was introduced, and this can only mean…
A new Mac?
How can that be?
We are all expecting an iWatch.
And a large, new iPhone.
Some of us are even expecting an iPad XL, complete with badly needed split-screen, multitasking function. Tim Cook has repeatedly promised us new products, after all. We are 14 years beyond Y2K. Macs are borderline inconsequential in our glorious new world. Apple can’t possibly be putting the Mac at center stage, can they?
Unlikely, but kudos for cleverly diverting our attention.
Oh, glorious Apple. Stoking the rumors, week after week. Divvying out the “leaks” bit by bit. Building our excitement. Inciting our lust until…shazam!
Something totally unexpected.
Fine. Two can play at that. Here’s my totally unexpected prediction: a 5.5-inch iRemote for the home.
Price? $299, including an Apple TV.
The $299 iRemote
Ben Bajarin says there will be no 5.5-inch iPhone “phablet.” I agree. Jony Ive resisted increasing the size of the original iPhone for years. Market demand forced his hand. The market now wants an even larger iPhone. Ive will once again be forced to capitulate.
A 4.7-inch iPhone should suffice.
An iPhone that size can retain most of Ive’s iconic design, support one handed use, at least for some, and have the additional benefit of offering a larger, longer lasting battery, which is sorely needed.
A 5.5-inch iPhone is nothing more than a twisted abomination of Ive’s design. I can’t believe this will happen. Unless the rumors of a 5.5-inch iPhone point instead to an entirely new device.
The Future Of The iPod
A remote control for the Apple-optimized home does not require one handed use. It needs only be light, mobile, affordable, possibly even unapologetically plastic.
Such a device can control your HomeKit-enabled appliances.
It replaces that wretched plastic Apple TV remote which has grown so useless even as Apple TV offers up so many more new content possibilities.
It’s the perfect size for tweeting while watching television. It encourages FaceTime calls.
Possibly, this device even supports multiple user accounts.
That Apple will finally offer “widgets,” which are optimized for both the small iWatch screen and glanceable CarPlay screens, may possibly work better on this new device as well.
The device also does not diminish iPhone sales, where Apple gets the bulk of its money from. Think of this as the future of the iPod, if that helps. Not quite an iPad, which is more personal, this new “iPod” belongs not to a person but to a home. It collects data, controls applications and commands other devices. Yes, even an Apple Television in time.
Instead of storing and presenting your music collection, this new iPod stores, presents and manipulates the collection of data from the family’s wearables, appliances, the Internet-connected thermostats, door cams, and lights. The iPod becomes the universal remote for the Apple optimized household.
Siri will be front-and center with this new iPod, encouraging you to tell her when to turn off the air conditioner, or for how long the oven temperature should be set. Plus, with iCloud, Apple suddenly becomes a leader not just in “machine learning” but more importantly, possesses a knowledge of people inside their homes that is truly unique.
Everywhere A Screen
I accept I may be completely wrong. Where a large iPhone ends, a small iPad begins, or how iPod evolves in a world with all of these is not as clear-cut as even Apple marketing would have us believe. My strength lies not in predicting new technologies but in understanding how existing technologies will re-make the world, the economy, learning, work, power, joy.
Yet, as computing spreads into all areas of our lives, and burrows its way into all of our things, we need new and better devices to help take full advantage of their combined potential.
This is a unique Apple strength.
Time and again, Apple shows us how all our many technologies are supposed to work — for people, not for corporations or things or business models or the established order.
This is why I am reasonably confident that, whether Apple reveals an entirely new device, a deconstruction of an old one, or something in between or far beyond, it will matter. If not right away, soon.
Next week, the very moment Apple releases a larger iPhone of any size, tech bloggers will giddily point their finger and exclaim: “J’accuse! Apple copied! The iPhone phablet is copying the Samsung Note!”
This is willfully missing the point.
Lousy artists copy. Tech bloggers squeal. Sound and fury signifying nothing.
Mobile computing is barely into the Model T phase. Apple is helping to push us forward, mostly in positive ways — even when we think their latest product is just one more device in an already crowded market. We can’t know what we need till we have it, be it an iWatch, a phablet, an all new Mac, or, yes, a universal home remote.
We live in interesting times. They are about to get even more interesting.
This article is exclusively for subscribers to the Think.Tank.
I’m happy to announce that I am rolling up my podcast with Andreessen Horowitz partner Benedict Evans into the Tech.pinions podcast as well. We will shoot to release these discussions between us every few weeks, midweek.
Ben Bajarin and Benedict Evans discuss what a low-cost iPhone could mean for Apple and explore the global and regional differences of iOS an Android.
If you happen to use a podcast aggregator or want to add it to iTunes manually the feed to our podcast is: techpinions.com/feed/podcast
Benedict Evans – Note on Cheap iPhones
Ben Bajarin – The Regionalization of the Smartphone Market
Jan Chipchase – Connectivity is not binary, the network is never neutral
The only way forward for Windows Phone — that is not death — is work. Real work. In the 21st century, real work is inherently collaborative.
Collaboration is the Achilles Heel of all things iPhone, iOS, and Apple.
Steve Jobs, for all his greatness, for all he achieved, did not play well with others. Evidence is legion. Jobs forced the future upon us, refusing to budge to present day concerns. His iconoclast’s vision is reflected in every Apple product and has been since the beginning.
Jobs exalted the individual, from the singular 1984 rebel through to the lone, joyful iPod listener to now, where budding creatives obsessively focus their gaze upon the shimmering, inviting iPhone screen and not upon the people, life and physical flotsam whirring about.
Apple marketing dutifully reflects both Apple products and Apple culture, a culture which reveres solitary pursuits and nourishes individual genius.
This leaves a strategic opening for Microsoft and Windows Phone. Not by creating a disingenuous demarcation between “work” (Microsoft) and “play” (Apple), but by optimizing its platform, its cloud, its tools, its services — and especially its mobile devices — for collaboration.
Steve Jobs empowered us, liberated us, heightened our creative abilities. He transformed us into digital cowboys, technological gunslingers, mad genius loners. Not collaborators. His heroes do not need others nor do they require consensus.
To quote Jobs:
Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules…
Such people are the opposite of collaborative. Yet, for all but a few crazy ones, greatness may only be accomplished via continuous collaboration and teamwork, not by being that round peg in the square hole.
Out Of Many One
Make no mistake. This is not about an Apple failure. Apple products, spanning the iPhone, the iPad and the Mac, are exemplary. But, their design and intent, empowering the individual, offers a clearing for whichever company develops computing and communication hardware and services which exalt the group.
Enabling new forms of work and new forms of creativity, facilitating time-shifting, globe-spanning, multi-modal collaboration from men and women, girls and boys whose full potential is untapped when pursuing their visions in isolation is the only way forward for Windows Phone.
The pieces to make this happen may already exist:
- multi-screen function (desktop, mobile)
- cloud support
- Office 365
- Office Lens
Each of these are capable of providing highly functioning services, synchronized sharing, and any time, any place collaboration. The problem, of course, is none of these are yet fully optimized for mobile in general, or for Windows Phone in particular.
Jobs Informs Nadella
The recent revisionist history (such as here, here and here) proclaiming Steve Jobs as a world class “collaborator” is simply unfounded. Recall the single biggest change at Apple since the passing of Jobs: Tim Cook’s executive management shakeup, which the company itself positioned thusly:
Apple Announces Changes to Increase Collaboration Across Hardware, Software & Services (emphasis added)
Apple’s pro-individual, non-collaborative, go-it-alone DNA runs deep. This has created an opening for giant Microsoft’s tiny Windows Phone: collaborative creativity, collaborative work.
It bears repeating: by “work” I do not mean those activities presently optimized for PCs inside the enterprise. Microsoft’s fading retort that Windows is the platform for “work” badly underestimates how capable, valued and productive users of Apple devices are. But Apple hardware and supporting services are purposefully created for the individual. The future demands devices — hardware — for the group, not the one.
It also bears repeating: time is quickly running out for Windows Phone.
In his “bold ambition” statement, Nadella mentioned Microsoft’s commitment to “first party hardware” four times. Yet, within his 3,500-word manifesto, he mentioned “Windows Phone” only twice, and even then withholding clear affirmation:
(1) Today the Cortana app on my Windows Phone merges data from highway sensors and my own calendar and simply reminds me to leave work to make it to my daughter’s recital on time.
(2) We will responsibly make the market for Windows Phone.
This and other Nadella statements led me to state several weeks ago that:
Prediction: Microsoft will focus its mobile hardware efforts not on Windows Phone but on Surface, on new mobile gaming devices, and new mobile “productivity” devices; anything and everything that might help them uncover that next great mobile computing inflection point. Smartphones are lost to them.
I now wish to amend that prediction. Microsoft lost the smartphone wars — that much is clear. But smartphones are lost to Microsoft only in how we define such devices at the present. An entirely new or repurposed mobile device which advances creative and productive collaboration as easily as iPhone advances personalized empowerment is still within Microsoft’s reach.
I believe (nearly) every child that comes to America seeking refuge should be welcome. I fully understand if you disagree. It is a complex issue after all.
We are told tens of thousands of children are showing up at America’s southern border hoping to be allowed permanent entry. The President has requested many billions of dollars to help address this pressing entanglement. The opposition party has similarly offered up many billions, albeit far fewer than the President says are necessary.
Assuming some, most, or all of these children are allowed permanent entry into the United States, what then?
I have no answer for this. I do have a suggestion, however: I think we should give every single one of these children – every child in America, in fact – a tablet, preferably an iPad.
What would my proposal cost?
Estimates, which vary wildly, suggest 100,000 children will seek refuge in America this year, and another 100,000 next year. An iPad mini with Retina display retails for $400. Sold in bulk, and for goodwill, Apple may be ready to part with these for $200. Certainly, other tablet vendors would be so willing.
$200 x 200,000 children = $40 million
But let’s not give tablets only to new entrants, but to all children in America, at least those of school age. There are approximately 45 million children, ages 6-17, in the United States. Thus:
45,000,000 x $200 = $9 billion
Yes, that’s a staggering sum. Except, Americans already spend over $650 billion every single year on public K-12 education and another $350 billion every year on higher education, at minimum. An iPad mini is reasonably future-proof, and likely to last at least three years, for example. Even if we factor my potential tablet spend against only one year of K-12 expenditures, that’s:
$9,000,000,000 / $650,000,000,000 = 0.014
That’s less than 1.5% of one year’s K-12 spend. With this, 45 million children have a tablet — a tablet that can come preloaded with literally thousands of free books; books which reveal America’s history, greatness and failures. Books that teach, warn, inspire.
That’s just the start. There are thousands of free apps that promote creativity and collaboration. We can preload twenty or so on every device. Already, Apple includes iMovie, GarageBand, Pages and Numbers, among others, with every iPad.
Should the child be fortunate enough to have access to WiFi, YouTube offers amazing resources for self-directed learning. All free. iTunes U similarly offers a wealth of free courses for those with access.
Perhaps Fox will donate the entire Cosmos series toward this effort, helping us to inspire a generation to embrace science, discovery and their innate smartness.
A front facing camera will enable every child to take a picture of themselves and their surroundings, offering a document of their life and their world unmatched in scale.
The Diamond Age
Why do this?
This is very likely the first and only time in human history where a nation can afford to provide every single child with a fully accessible, easily manipulated tool that contains or can retrieve nearly the entirety of that nation’s history, culture, great works of fiction, film, television, lectures, puzzles and knowledge.
Let’s seize this amazing opportunity!
In his Hugo-winning work, The Diamond Age, author Neal Stephenson posited a future where a young girl, poor, living on the margins, came into possession of a interactive book — what we now call a tablet — that educates and empowers her, leading her to achieve what was once assumed unattainable.
There are only two such ‘books’ in Stephenson’s future world. What a much better world we have now. In fact, in our present day reality, there are already hundreds of millions of such tablets. Even better: almost every one of them can be used, misused, manipulated and managed by nearly any child of any background without any prompting or guidance.
This is profoundly revolutionary.
The System Of The World
The second reason is self-directed learning has many lasting benefits.
Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page have famously credited Montessori schooling for spurring their entrepreneurial success. Montessori adheres to a self-directed learning model. Children follow their interests and avail themselves to information and knowledge in their own way and on their own time. Per Larry Page:
“I think (founding Google) was part of that training of not following rules and orders, and being self motivated, questioning what’s going on in the world and doing things a little bit differently.”
Will Wright, video game pioneer and creator of The Sims, stated this of his self-directed Montessori education:
“Montessori taught me the joy of discovery. It showed you can become interested in pretty complex theories, like Pythagorean theory, say, by playing with blocks. SimCity comes right out of Montessori.”
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also attended Montessori school as a child.
Correlation is not causation. What leads a child toward success is no doubt a multi-variant process. But tablets can expose children to untold learning resources, creative opportunities, collaborative play and work. This seems like an opportunity the country should not pass up.
Recently, two villages in Ethiopia were provided with (Motorola Xoom) tablets preloaded with various apps, ebooks, movies, drawing programs and alphabet games. The First Grade children who received the tablets were illiterate, had never used paper and pencil, yet within a few months had taught themselves to read.
“Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village, and within five months, they had hacked Android.”
It almost seems unjust to not provide every child with a tablet.
I know there are questions. Who will pay for this? What about theft? What about illicit online activities? Who decides which books to embed? Will the children spend too much time with their tablet?
These are all answerable. Yes, really.
The larger question: Will it work? Haven’t laptops, PCs and other technologies in the schools failed to incite a learning revolution?
Perhaps. But at no point before now has there existed reasonably affordable, highly interactive tools that are personal, mobile, configurable, pose almost no barriers to operation, and which can store truly stunning amounts of knowledge and learning resources — all of it accessible with the swipe of a finger.
The children are here. The opportunity exists. Let’s be willing to fail with this.
The iPhone is bigger than McDonald’s. That seems a useful demarcation for how we should view the iPhone in particular and Apple in general.
The iPhone is that once-in-a-generation product that alters daily reality for at least a century. The Model T production line, overnight shipping, indoor plumbing and the credit card are other such examples. I fully expect the iPhone will enable Apple to become the world’s first trillion dollar company.
There is a cost however, at least for we users. Almost certainly, iPhone will diminish Apple’s ability to create new game changing products.
Why? Because being irrational is hard, really hard. It’s rational to do everything in your power to maximize a product that has the legitimate potential to help you become a trillion dollar company. To do anything — anything at all — that might alter that path is irrational. Steve Jobs could be irrational at times. Tim Cook cannot. At least, I have witnessed no evidence of this. Apple is now iPhone. iPhone is now Apple. Just like Windows is Microsoft.
The Long March
No one ever got fired for buying Apple computers from IBM.
An iOS-based, touchscreen-enabled laptop, priced around $799, and sold by IBM to the enterprise seems an obvious product Apple should offer. It also seems like the kind of product that could destroy numerous existing giants.
For too long, iPhone users have not had their much desired iPhone “phablet.” A reason for this is because an iPhone phablet would gut iPad sales. Considering the iPad sales numbers for the past year, this is a fear Apple no longer possesses.
You will not give up your iPhone. You will not give up your Mac. You may give up your iPad. At this juncture, iPads are simply not must-have devices for nearly anyone. That’s the primary reason for the diminishing sales gains.
Easy prediction: We will almost certainly get an iPhone phablet this year and, likely by next year, a larger iPad.
I am regularly surprised at how bad Apple is at app discovery. That Facebook app ads are my current best source for app recommendations is a clear market failure. I hope the purchase of Beats, Swell and BookLamp signal that Apple is finally willing to get serious about content curation and recommendation.
I have no idea if Swift is a superior language. I am not a developer. I do know however, Apple is big enough to demand its use.
Despite the iPhone’s incredible array of features and functions, we mere mortals no doubt spend far too much time obsessing over which apps belong on the home screen.
Bugs And Features
The smartphone is the computer. Your app is your business model. Every business is impacted by iPhone. Know this or perish.
That Touch ID can’t read my thumbprint if there’s just a tiny bit of water on it seems more bug than feature.
It’s 2014, fourteen years since Y2K. Still, iPhone users can’t have their preferred calendar app list the date on the app icon. This is the equivalent of how the DOOR CLOSE button on any elevator never seems to work.
Samsung ads mocking iPhone users have been brutal and highly effective. Yes, I have had Android users (justly) mock me for having to scour an airport in search of an available outlet. The iPhone battery deserves its poor reputation. However, Samsung’s latest ad where they mock Apple users for not yet having a large display iPhone strikes me as desperation. Almost certainly, there will be a large display iPhone. What then, Samsung?
Amazing iPhone games are available for $5.99 yet millions refuse to pay such ‘outrageously high’ prices. There is much to celebrate and decry with this.
Using the same OS for the iPhone as for the iPad has some obvious limitations. On the small smartphone screen, getting into an app, grabbing the data, then exiting, a singular app occupying the entire screen makes obvious sense. Not so with the iPad. I want at least two windows open on my iPad almost always. Kindle and Twitter are the most common examples. Email and web browser are another. Even while gaming, I prefer two windows open. I can’t imagine buying an iPad until Apple offers this feature.
The Sincerest Forms Of Flattery
The almost laughable copying by Xiaomi of the iPhone and iOS 7 is all the evidence you need as to why Tim Cook must expend significant resources on building the luxury appeal and premium status of the iPhone; all those hard-to-define elements beyond actual quality, reliability and usability.
There are few people better at this, if any, than Angela Ahrendts.
Confession: it’s hard for me to watch the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie and not think of Steve Jobs and Apple.
Rumors Jony Ive was in a Flock of Seagulls cover band are completely unfounded.
Input method is now a more important consideration than processor, OS and software. No one seems to understand this more than Apple.
More Is Less
Lost in the bubbly talk of an Apple iWatch is the fact everything about it seems wrong. We do not need yet another thing. I want my iPhone — or any smartphone — to serve as my ID, car keys, credit cards, TV remote, glucose reader, everything. Apple should focus its genius on making the iPhone devour more of those things, not create new ones.
The newest version of PayPal appears to equal, possibly usurp, Apple’s Passbook vision: Payments, money transfers, loyalty cards, information on nearby shops, it’s all there. Apple certainly wants the iPhone to be used for payments, though maybe they have finally decided enabling payments and not powering them is the way forward. This may also explain the company’s recent decision to once again allow Bitcoin apps in the App Store.
I actually read app update notes. This recent update from Yelp made me laugh.
Jan Dawson made a strong case for why Apple should stagger launches of its major products. Commenters offered additional insights as to why Apple does not (or should not) heed his advice. Not stated, however, but which I think is at least worth considering, are the possible impacts of corruption. Nearly all assembly of nearly all Apple products takes place in China, where there is a less-than-transparent relationship between the government and business. It seems the implications of this should at least be examined.
I am surprised by how few iPhone users seem to ever use AirDrop to transfer files or data to one another. Perhaps personal iPhone-to-Mac AirDrop sharing is the superior use case.
I am unaware of the age, gender, race or LGBQT numbers at Apple Inc., Apple in Cupertino, or of those who work solely on the iPhone. But together, these people have created something positively impacting lives. And they keep making it better. I tip my hat to them all and hope in some way, my words can ever do the same.
This article is exclusively for subscribers to the Think.Tank.
This article is exclusively for subscribers to the Think.Tank.
“Apple announces NOTHING at developer conference”.
No, seriously, I read it on the internets, so it must be true. You can read it for yourself, here:
Apple Announces Nothing at Developer Conference ~ By Paul “Comic Book Guy” Ausick
Admittedly, that is just one man’s opinion, and an extremely harsh assessment at that. The consensus seems to be a little more moderate. What most Apple critics seem to have concluded is not that Apple announced NOTHING at their developer conference but that Apple announced NOTHING NEW.
No, seriously. That’s what they’re saying. You can read it here.
Great artists steal: The iOS 8 features inspired by Android ~ by Ron Amadeo
“(M)any of Apple’s announced upgrades were things the Android OS has boasted for years.”
Third party keyboards
Hotwords, music recognition, and streaming voice recognition
Videos in the App Store
Photo backup and storage
Fetish For First
What is it with our fetish for first? Where did we ever get the notion being first was all that mattered and — perversely — that nothing that comes after “first” matters at all?
Tech is not a race. It’s not some Olympic event, where you run 100 meters, cross the finish line, everybody jogs to a stop, and then you get awarded a medal. No. In real life, the tech race goes on and on forever.
If anything, tech is more like catching a train than running a race. You have to stand on the platform and wait for tech to arrive before you can get on board. Try to get on board too soon and you’ll fall flat on your face. Try to get on board too late and you’ll be left at the station. At least, that’s what it’s like for the consumers of technology.
If you’re a company that’s CREATING the technology — like Apple or Google or Microsoft or Amazon — you still have to wait for the technology train to pull into the station. But if you want to control that technology, you might have to actually anticipate where technology is headed and BUILD the platform first. And you’d darn well better hope you guessed right and built your platform at the right place and at the right time. Otherwise you’re going to be as lonely as a developer at a Microsoft Kin convention.
Maybe an even better metaphor is a wave. Tech is like many waves coming together to form one massive wave. To ride that wave, you have to time it perfectly. Too soon and it crashes on top of you. Too late and you are left behind. But catch the tech wave — catch it just right — and you can ride it all the way to wealth and fame.
Take, for example, the iPod:
People think of the iPod as just the iPod. But what people call the iPod was really three things: iPod, iTunes, and the iTunes Store. ~ Tony Fadell ((Excerpt From: Max Chafkin. “Design Crazy.”))
The iPod was introduced in 2001, but it didn’t take off until the hardware (iPod), the software (iTunes Store) and services (iTunes internet services) all came together to create a groundswell that flooded the market and washed the competition away.
First To Fail
QR Codes. NFC. JOYN. MMS. Infrared. Haptics. Projectors. So many dead ends in mobile. ~ Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans)
The tech graveyard is full of failed “firsts,” right?
— Apple’s Newton;
— Microsoft’s Windows Tablets;
— Samsung’s Smartwatches.
Here are some more examples:
The First Wheel:
The First Convertible Automobile:
The First Electric Automobile:
The First Highway Hi-Fi (1956):
The First Pedal Skates:
The First Motorized Roller Skates:
The First Vending Machine With Pre-Lit Cigarettes:
The First Automated Hot Dog Machine:
The First Picturephone:
The First Notebook Computer:
Let’s face it, being first ain’t always a good thing. Sometimes, when you get too far ahead on the road you’re traveling, you find you’re no longer on solid footing.
How Are We Not Getting This?
How are we not getting this? I mean, it’s not like this is new or anything. It has always been true, since the dawn of man.
The Greeks invented the Phalanx, but the Macedonians perfected it. They didn’t call him Alexander The “Late”, they called him Alexander The Great — and with good reason. ~ John R. Kirk ((That’s right. I cited myself. So sue me.))
And it’s not only geeks like Comic Book Guy who are getting this wrong. A lot of people — people who should know better — are getting this wrong too. Take, for example, a look at this March, 2014 interview with a Steve Ballmer:
Ballmer also took shots at Microsoft’s rivals, waving off Apple as a company that was “quote, cool, unquote” that has “had a good run lately,” and in tablets, (Apple) only commercialized the idea that others, including Microsoft, had originated. ((Emphasis added.))
I don’t stinking believe Steve Ballmer even thought those thoughts, more less said those words out loud, more less said them out loud to a reporter.
Apple ONLY commercialized the ideas? ONLY?
EXCUSE ME. Isn’t being a commercial success the frizzing POINT? Isn’t that Apple’s job? And Microsoft’s job too, for that matter? Tech pedants are so obsessed with “first” they’ve completely taken their eyes off the prize. They’ve forgotten the goal is not to be the first, but to be the FIRST TO GET IT RIGHT.
- You don’t want to be the first one to sail the high seas.
You want to be the first one to sail the high seas and RETURN TO PORT SAFELY.
- You don’t want to be the first one to fly an airplane.
You want to be the first one to fly an airplane and LAND IT SAFELY.
- To use a D-Day analogy, you don’t want to be the first one ON the beach.
You want to be the first one OFF the beach…ALIVE.
There’s “First” And Then There’s “First”
There are many kind of firsts, my friend, and first in time is not always first in value to either the producer or the consumer of technology.
You say Android is the first to offer third party keyboards? iOS is the first to do it without allowing all of your keystrokes to be read by those self-same third-party developers.
You say Android is the first to offer inter-app communications? iOS is the first to do it without exposing your mobile device to a “toxic hellstew” of computer viruses.
You say Android is the first to allow Widgets? iOS is the first to make them a seamless experience.
You say Android is the first to allow photo backup and storage? iOS is the first to let you do it effortlessly.
You say Android is the first with a slew of other features? iOS is the first to do those same features without bringing your operating system to its knees.
It means much more to us to get it right then to get it first. ~ Tim Cook
Customer, services, support, care, help, trust, advice, guidance — these are assigned ZERO value by Apple’s critics. Apple announces NOTHING, they say, and Apple announces NOTHING NEW, they say, despite the flood of new services and developer tools announced at Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC). Why the discrepancy?
You can’t teach a color blind man to appreciate a Monet and you can’t teach a person who discounts the importance of privacy, security etc, to appreciate what Apple does either.
First To Market Or First Priority?
Apple employs a whole different definition of “first” than Apple’s critics do. It’s not about shipping first; it’s not about getting to market first; it’s about getting it right BEFORE it ships and BEFORE it gets into the hands of Apple’s valued customers.
It is key to understand that Apple puts the experience first. Everything else flows from that priority. ~ ßen ßajarin (@BenBajarin)
- — “Google can periodically turn on mic, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, & similar features on all your current & future devices” ~ Android Police
— TouchID is being used by 85% of iPhone 5S owners
iOS 8 now requiring apps reconfirm authenticity of background location periodically. Steve Cheney (@stevecheney)
- — Steve had been absolutely against opening the App Store early on, because he didn’t want the phone to crash. You have to be able to call 911 on the phone anytime, so we couldn’t trust our operating system to a bunch of crazy stupid developers without putting them in a huge sandbox first. ~ Andy Grignon ((Excerpt From: Max Chafkin. “Design Crazy.”))
User Experience First
Ease Of Use And “Invisibility” First
In iOS 8, you’ll be able to AirPlay to Apple TV with zero configuration. Don’t even have to be on the same network! ~ Chris Marriott (@chrismarriott)
- — If your customer has to think about it, you’re not done designing the user interface.
Mail attachments up to 5GB in size are not a problem anymore. ~ Horace Dediu (@asymco)
- — There was a debate [on the Lisa] team about the mouse. Was it going to have a mouse, and how many buttons should it have? Steve and I wanted one button, because if there’s one button, you never have to think about it. One of the former Xerox guys argued for six buttons. He said, “Look, bartenders have six buttons on those drink dispensers, and they can handle it.” But that was a failure to understand what Steve was trying to do with user experience. ~ Trip Hawkins ((Excerpt From: Max Chafkin. “Design Crazy.”))
- — There is a huge difference between a learning curve, a low learning curve and NO learning curve. When you get to NO learning curve, everybody uses the feature, no matter how complex it is technically or how geeky it used to seem.
- — According to Teller (head of Google X), the truly innovative projects should become perfectly transparent in our lives. He started off his keynote by talking about car brakes and ABS systems. When you put your foot on the brake of the car, you’re not actually activating the brakes. It’s just an interface. You are actually making a request to a robot.
“That is a wonderful technology moment. We don’t have to mess with it. We just say here’s what we want,” he said. “When technology reaches that level of invisibility in our lives, that’s our ultimate goal. It vanishes into our lives. It says: ‘you don’t have to do the work, It’ll do the work.’”
- — “Jobs unveiled the so-called Bondi Blue iMac—named for a beach in Sydney, Australia—at a special event in May 1998. “It looks like it’s from another planet,” Jobs said. “A planet with better designers.” ((Excerpt From: Max Chafkin. “Design Crazy.”))
- — Google loves to characterize Android as open, and iOS and iPhone as closed. We find this a bit disingenuous and clouding the real difference between our two approaches. […] In reality, we think the open versus closed argument is just a smokescreen to try and hide the real issue, which is, “what’s best for the customer?” Fragmented versus integrated. ~ Steve Jobs
(T)oday’s additions are pieces in a larger puzzle, not the whole puzzle by themselves. ~ @BenBajarin
Benefits (not features) First
- — The competitors, like Commodore and Kaypro, were all doing speeds and feeds, whereas Steve always wanted things like “What is the significance in the world? How might this change things?” ~ Steve Hayden ((Excerpt From: Max Chafkin. “Design Crazy.”))
- — I find speed is typically the least interesting feature of a new phone. I’ll run a benchmark on a new phone out of dumb obligation (and noting how many times the maker used the word “speed” during my briefing). Fine. Yes. I find the numbers that are supposed to be higher and the numbers that are supposed to be lower are higher and lower, respectively.
But how, precisely, does the faster CPU make a phone better? Bravo for being the first to get the latest Snapdragon processor in a handset, but after people like me file our reviews and move on, who notices or even cares?
Here’s why I love Apple: speed actually matters. To Apple, there’s no point in putting in a faster CPU unless it makes the phone better. And “it’ll do things faster” isn’t necessarily a good enough reason. ~ Andy Ihnatko
Battery Life First
Apple is opening up iOS to extension in the same way it added multi-tasking: controlled and sandboxed, retaining security & battery life. ~ Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans)
So, am I saying iOS is superior to Android? No, I am not. “Superior” is a subjective term. Each consumer gets to decide for themselves what product best suits their needs. That’s the beauty of the free market.
What I AM saying is it’s time to stop contending Android is copying iOS and iOS is copying Android because it’s a damn lie. The WAY both operating systems create their features and the WAY those features are implemented makes their respective experiences totally unalike.
An original artist is unable to copy. So he has only to copy in order to be original. ~ Jean Cocteau
I can order chicken nuggets from McDonalds or chicken cordon bleu from a five-star restaurant. Both meals are made of chicken but that’s where the similarities end. HOW something is prepared is often as important — and often more important — than WHAT that something is.
It’s the same in mobile technology today. Even if the ingredients were the same — and they’re not — the way Apple and Google “bake” their products is as different in style and substance as would be the same meal prepared by Chef Ramsey and Chef Boyardee.
Tomorrow, in my Insider’s article (subscription required), I’ll focus on how Apple is making use of different “ingredients” to make their phones, tablets, notebooks, and desktops and how those different “ingredients” both differentiate their products, and make them competitor-proof.
Join me then.
This article is exclusively for subscribers to the Think.Tank.
I have crazy-high expectations for Apple’s worldwide developer conference. I expect, at minimum:
- An iPhone phablet
- iPad split-screen multi-tasking, necessary for the enterprise, awesome for gaming
- Touch ID APIs to support mobile payments
- Seamless inter-app communications
- Apps that can actually push data onto the home screen — because we are adults and this is the 21st century
- 25GB free iCloud storage per device
That’s just for starters.
What I mostly expect from WWDC is neither new products nor long-overdue enhancements but rather, affirmation. Too often of late it appears that:
- Ecosystem trumps product
- Brand usurps technology
- Growth precedes usability
- Margin before accessibility
Does anyone else feel this way?
The creeping doubts refuse to leave — even as I happily work on my MacBook, play on my iPad and yearn for that large screen iPhone.
Today, we mark our annual pilgrimage to WWDC. We learn of the many new products, the updates to Apple’s operating systems, extensions to the platform, the new and better paths to monetize content and services. Everything, no doubt, will be better than before, better than what can be had anywhere else.
That should be enough. Why is it not?
Because we long time users — the Apple faithful — have always held Apple to a higher, more personal standard. Apple is more than a business, even as it has become the world’s biggest business. Why else would we care so much about a developer’s conference?
Apple will never again be run by Steve Jobs. Pirate Apple has become Corporate Apple. Understood. Nonetheless, we want Apple, more so than any other company, and no matter how big, how global, how rich it becomes, to stay motivated not by profits but by an absolute and unwavering:
- commitment to innovation
Even as iPhone implants itself at the center of our computing life, we expect Apple to:
- disrupt everything
Is this true of today’s Apple? WWDC will affirm our faith, or dash it.
Clearly, we hold Apple to an impossible standard, not merely a higher one. If Elon Musk can build a reusable space capsule capable of ferrying astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station, why can’t Apple? Why must Apple spend the equivalent of 150 Dragon V2 spacecraft on a single headphone company?
These are the wrong questions.
Apple cannot do everything, cannot be everything. It’s simply unfair and unproductive to make Apple our litmus test upon which to judge all technological advancement and innovation. They make computing products and services. Nonetheless, we can’t help but demand Apple, especially Apple, relentlessly innovate, incite countless new revolutions, lift humanity to ever greater heights, with little more than screens that connect us to the world and connect us to our talents, the parts known and the parts yet-to-be discovered.
Belief sustained the Apple faithful through the dark times. It is this same belief that is now called into question. We want badly to believe in today’s Apple, and not merely admire its many products.
We want to believe blocking our messages was a bug, not hubris.
We want to believe China is not just about more billions, but about bringing the best of American technology to the world.
We want to believe CarPlay and “HomePlay” and “HealthBook” and Passbook are about making our lives simpler, better, not merely add-ons to enrich the ecosystem.
We want to believe that positioning the iPhone at the center of our digital life is empowering, not lock-in.
We come to WWDC to be inspired.
One Of A Trillion
As Apple continues along its inexorable path toward a $1,000,000,000,000 valuation, we hope the company remains personally connected with each of us, somehow.
In a world of big data and globe-hopping algorithms, driverless cars and autonomous bots, we expect Apple, more than any other organization, to power personal connections and accelerate human ingenuity throughout the world. We want it all to just work, exactly as we desire, even as the company extends across a billion customers.
That Apple will introduce more and better devices and services at WWDC is a given. Success is assured. The iOS moat is already so wide, so deep, as to make the company practically unassailable. The company’s shimmering glass headquarters will soon rise over Cupertino, its future set for decades to comes.
It’s not enough. Not for me, not for many of us, I suspect.
Fair? Of course not. But past performance influences present expectations. Which is why I say: Be a crazy one once again, Apple. Show us you are fully prepared to disrupt yourself just as you gleefully disrupt the world. Make us believe that you do now and always will think different.
WWDC has begun. The floor is yours, Apple. No pressure.
This article is exclusively for subscribers to the Think.Tank.
Please allow me to introduce myself…
You likely don’t care and would not believe the volume of blog posts, research reports, technical writings and analyst studies I sift through on a daily basis.
This is necessary both to stay informed and to re-evaluate my opinions as new facts emerge. I refuse to let my initial reactions to the latest rumors cement my long term perspective. Though I consider my views well-informed, reasoned and likely to be proven true in the due course of time, my peers disagree.
For your reading pleasure, below are opinions I hold that currently run counter to conventional wisdom.
Who’s side are you on?
Sympathy For The Devil
Unlike all of Silicon Valley, it seems, I applaud the EU’s ruling that affirms an individual’s “right to be forgotten.” I expect this ruling to become the global norm by the end of the decade. Technology should be empowering and liberating. Of course, I should be able to require Google, Facebook et al to obliterate any digital data on me they possess. Everyone should.
I consider Apple’s iMessage – SMS “bug” to be a sure sign of corporate hubris. The absolute worst trait any large company can have is hubris.
I love that Microsoft is sticking to its vision despite the doomsayers. Surface Pro 3 is meant to be both iPad and MacBook. Comparing it to just one device is skating to where the puck never was.
Yet, industry analysts seem universally opposed to the very idea of the Surface. They are wrong. The market for paid software licenses is, to quote Bob Dylan, rapidly fading. Microsoft should not even consider reigniting the licensing ecosystem of its glory days. Such a strategy will fail, miserably. iOS, OS X, Android, Chrome and Linux are now good enough and are cheaper and readily available. Microsoft must create its own devices for a bold new world even as its OEMs fall to pieces. The Surface Pro 3 has the potential to become the device we all really crave: both a tablet and a laptop.
Someone — anyone — says the word ‘grok’ and my brain instantly screams: poseur! I cannot turn this off. I refuse to believe this is wrong.
This recent New York Times piece that glowingly praises a smartphone app, backed by VCs, that sends under-employed Americans on a mad scurry to fetch groceries for harried tech warriors is, I suspect, that singular article we will all point to ten years from now as the glaring, obvious symbol of the last bubble.
Think about an iPhone 6. Go on. If it’s not a larger form factor, why do you even care? Odds are very high you don’t. I have to assume Apple knows this. No iPhone phablet this year and iPhone’s market share will plummet.
I can’t fault a Samsung lawyer for calling Apple “jihadists” considering the Steve Jobs “holy war” email.
But Then My Homework Was Never Quite Like This
Your assignment, dear reader, is to map the decision-making tree that led the Microsoft Corporation to offer the Surface keyboard as a separate item. I bet you fail. It is inexplicable.
Fitbit hires design icon Tory Burch. Intel partners with Barneys. Apple hires Burberry’s Angela Ahrendts. Rumors say Apple is dangling billions in front of cultural trendsetters Jimmy Iovine and Dr Dre. I think this is wise. Fashion boasts, fashion beguiles, fashion demands. Value and quality speak softly. It’s a big, noisy world out there.
Get a drone with a camera. Link it to your Oculus Rift glasses. Experience the world about you in profoundly new and different ways. Now, stream and share all you see and hear — on Facebook, of course. That’s Zuckerberg’s strategy.
One app, one task, one screen is a core value of iOS. If the new iPad allows two apps running on a screen, as rumors suggest, then we immediately know two things: 1) Apple is legitimately nervous about both Samsung and Surface, and 2) Apple intends to launch an assault on the enterprise. Smart and smarter.
I have serious doubts Tesla can ever build a car the 95% can afford.
We are all rock stars with our cool mobile phones.
Still Crazy After All These Years
The Samsung Galaxy Gear 2 is pretty. It’s also quite functional — provided you own a Samsung Galaxy. I think the bad reviews are all wrong.
I think a co-branded Mickey Mouse “iWatch” would be awesome.
Within ten years, schools and HR departments will have us wear Oculus Rift or a similar device to experience how others feel, think, and react differently to the very same people, words and actions.
The GoPro IPO, the rise of wearables, the Internet of Things, the budding Maker ecosystem. Hardware is eating the world, not software.
The best part of an iPhone phablet is it will create radically new experiences and app types. This Opera graphic reveals that phablet use is starkly different from smartphone and tablet use. No, I do not believe this is primarily driven by current phablet demographics. Rather, form factor.
I predict by 2017, apps will be made first for China for iPhone. Then for iPhone for America. Then Android. Then iPad. Then AOSP. Then Windows Phone. Then X or other.
Rhymin and Stealin
Dollar for dollar, there may be no better value in smartphones than the Lumia 630. And if I’m wrong, it’s because the Lumia 520, available for about $70, may be an even better value still. The Moto X and Moto E may prove me wrong yet again. Amazing, amazing technological evolution.
In 1997, Microsoft loaned Apple $150 million. Apple now has 1000X that just in cash. Also, one of these men is on the cusp of being a billionaire. No one saw either of those coming. We were all wrong.
Apple hardware is beautiful, understated, austere. Beats hardware is big, bold, gaudy. I have to believe an Apple – Beats acquisition horrifies Jony Ive.
It’s hard to overstate how much Google must fear Facebook. Facebook has over 1 billion users, mostly on mobile. Hundreds of millions voluntarily give Facebook highly personal information about themselves every single day, sometimes multiple times per day. This is not the same as unknowingly handing over select personal information to Google bots. By the decade’s end, search will be nothing more than a ‘signal’ for Facebook’s massive knowledge engine.
The other day, Yahoo flashed a pop-up on my screen asking me if I wanted to make Yahoo my default search engine. This made me laugh.
I believe Yahoo is on the cusp of what could be its worst-run, costliest period ever — and that, dear reader, is saying something. In her tenure as Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer has proven without a doubt her greatest strength is spending money. Sadly, her signal weakness is getting a return on said spending. If you are an investor, it’s time to storm the gates, else those Alibaba lotto winnings will be gone — fast.
Am I wrong? Share your thoughts.
We stand at the intersection of the Internet of Things and the Connected Car. Soon, Cortana shall summon to us a driverless, fully autonomous vehicle, shared by the community, owned by no one, that will safely transport us to our chosen locale, as we tweet, stream, and tap away from the comfort of the back seat. Mostly, this is good. For most even, it will likely be very good. But I fear one of humanity’s greatest inventions, the car, will be reduced to yet another boring box, stuffed with computer chips, powered by lines of codes, and possessing no soul.
Please Silicon Valley, do not kill my love for the car.
One Piece At A Time
A revolution is taking place within the automotive industry. It began not in Detroit, Germany or Tokyo, but as with all revolutions, from the outside. In this case, Silicon Valley. The spread of computing, connectivity and the cloud has at last reached our cars. Driving — and automobiles — will never be the same.
Per the glorious visions of venture capitalists, the new market dreams of old world automakers and the ceaseless, prosaic functions of the Internet of Things, this is our car’s very-near future: Sensors under the hood, inside the dash, within the tires, sensors embedded in the roads and placed above traffic lights, all pumping out streams of data in real time, sent via telemetry to nearby vehicles, transmitted to the web for processing and analysis, shared with the crowd, then acted upon by the many computer chips within our own increasingly self-aware vehicle, all part of a highly monetizable big data ecosystem.
I am not at all opposed to this. Such efforts will almost certainly lead to faster commutes, a greener planet, fewer accidents and many saved lives. The Silicon Valley vision for the car of tomorrow should be lauded.
I ask only that the very best aspects of the car be carried forward into the future and not de-constructed into little more than a cubicle on wheels.
As a native Detroiter, I know cars are more than just data generators. Cars are freedom, independence, liberty, aspiration, mobility. In so many ways, cars disconnect us from the world as they reconnect us with our primal emotions. Cars are beautiful, personal, powerful. I want this not to go away.
I am not at all convinced we can trust Silicon Valley to transform these glorious mechanical objects into anything other than another node in a data-fueled, globe spanning web.
Let Me Ride
While driverless cars, as Google has promoted, are likely a decade away from practical use, semi-autonomous vehicles should be available in the developed world well before the end of this decade. The Internet of Things will enable these semi-autonomous, ‘situationally aware’ vehicles to keep us properly centered in the lane, to apply the brakes if we, the ‘driver,’ fail to spot the pedestrian in the crosswalk. They can ease off the throttle should they sense another vehicle is too close.
The car of 2020, and probably much sooner, will inform us when we are driving too fast given the current road conditions — and take corrective action should we fail to heed its informed advice.
These semi-autonomous vehicles will communicate with other cars, busses, navigation services and transit authorities as much as they communicate with us. This is good. As a proponent of mobile technologies, the cloud, wearables, sensors, Bluetooth, et al, I fully appreciate the value that comes from the open sharing of our data. If I am stuck in traffic, by all means let my car inform others of a better route. If a driver’s car wishes to inform those of us a few minutes behind that there’s a hidden police stop, good for us.
Above all however, the connected car will make for safer roads. Over 95% of all car accidents are caused by driver error. The Internet of Things will put a stop to this.
According to Intel, which is keen to put still more computing chips into our cars, with a mere one second warning, over 90% of all car accidents could be prevented. A half-second warning will prevent over 50% of all car accidents. Sensors and computer chips can act faster than us. They can also behave far more rationally. If we are being dumb, careless, foolish or simply unaware behind the wheel, our connected car can save us from ourselves — and save many others as well.
Over one million people die each year from car accidents. The benefits of integrating connectivity and computing inside our cars and within our road systems is significant.
I still want the car to remain mostly mechanical, always beautiful, powerful, visceral — all those things that are never considered relevant in Silicon Valley.
Where I come from, it was absolutely no coincidence the boy whose father let him borrow the Camaro Z28 happened to be dating the prom queen.
No parallel to this exists for the young man with the biggest PC tower or the newest smartphone.
When it comes to our cars, whether for 2015 or 2025, let us not place clock speed above top speed, throughput over horsepower, or user interface above road handling. Nodes have primal desires, too.
No Particular Place To Go
While few things in life are as joyous as a fast car, top down, the open road beckoning, music blaring, such moments are rare. No matter how beautiful or powerful the car, the daily commute can be a grind. The connected car helps mitigate this, delivering all the comforts of our modern, fully connected world, accessible via a tap on the screen, or a command from our voice.
Stuck in traffic? No worries. The smartphone-like cars of post-2015 will offer:
- streaming music, your favorite podcasts, even videos (for the kiddies)
- news, weather, market data — read aloud, even personalized, as your new car, like a giant rolling Siri, knows your interests
- geofenced notifications
- Twitter and Facebook updates, voice driven, naturally
- the fastest routes to everywhere you want to go
- the nearest gas stations and restaurants
- driving analysis, perhaps even a driver ‘Klout’ score based on your speed, how hard you brake, how close you were driving to other vehicles
- engine diagnostics
These are all good. Silicon Valley is actively seeking to disrupt our commute. I stand with them. As our cars become increasingly more connected, tapping more computing power, more crowd wisdom, more algorithmic analysis, our driving should improve, our commutes should become more enjoyable, and ultimately, personal productivity should increase. Quite possibly, stress levels will all go down.
Again, my selfish concern is that these measurable goods will increasingly lead to an emphasis on “cars” that maximize efficiency, comfort, UIs, and that offer the best search, the most up-to-date data, the sharpest display.
Help Me, Apple. You’re My Only Hope
Is it possible to have the best of tomorrow with the best of yesterday?
I believe in the beneficent power of technology and innovation. I fully appreciate that Big Tech, Big VC, and Big Government want a lead role in the multi-trillion-dollar Internet of Things revolution. All are eager to remake our existing infrastructure, to place “intelligence” inside our cars, to link driver, car, road, and metro transit system into a cohesive, smartly flowing whole. I accept their work will alter not only driving but possibly even remake our towns and cities.
Why, then, does this make me a bit uneasy?
I do not fear my next car will experience a blue screen of death. Well, not much. Nor am I terribly worried hackers will access my car’s data, which will no doubt be linked to a payment system that lets me speed through electronic tollbooths.
I fear Silicon Valley will fail to divine the value in what makes cars glorious, and reduce the ultimate driving machine to just one more computing device.
Should I be disheartened or joyful that Apple SVP Eddy Cue joined the Ferrari board in 2012? Or that Apple SVP Phil Schiller sees fit to have a Racer X avatar on his Twitter profile?
Will these Apple executives help keep our cars from becoming just the latest personal computer box? I can’t afford a Ferrari, although I can pretend I’m Racer X — or possibly his brother, Speed. The question is, how long can I maintain the dream?
What can you do with a billion iPhones? What can all of us do with a billion iPhones?
Analysts, telcos, networking firms and research consultants expect more than 4 billion smartphones in use by the end of this decade, maybe sooner. I agree. Where I diverge from most other experts, however, is that I believe Apple is well positioned to capture a quarter of this market, possibly more. That’s one billion iPhones.
What then? No, not what for Apple. I am not terribly interested in Apple’s valuation nor its ability to negotiate the best content deals or carrier subsidies. I am, however, extremely interested in what one billion iPhones means for all of us, as nearly everyone of these devices will have similar functions, use the same OS, possess the ability to track us in time and space and, through iTunes, include a user-specific payment service. That’s significant collective power.
Making The Case
Are one billion iPhones in use possible? My math says yes.
There are approximately 1.5 billion smartphones in use today, still far short of the 4+ billion smartphones I am estimating for 2020.
A key driver of smartphone growth is affordable, accessible mobile broadband service (3G/4G). Ericsson estimates that mobile broadband connections around the world will quadruple by 2019. This will result in 5.6 billion smartphone “subscriptions.” Some people may have multiple subscriptions (e.g. using multiple SIM cards on same phone to minimize voice and data costs), so this number is higher than the actual number of individual smartphones in use. Being on the conservative side, I estimate 4.5 billion individual smartphones in active use by 2020, a tripling of what we have today.
What will be Apple’s share of those 4.5 billion smartphones?
Here, I get a bit aggressive. Apple has nearly 20% of the market for smartphones in use — about 300 million iPhones. (Over 500 million iPhones have been sold since 2007.)
If Apple can maintain a global marketshare at around 20%, and the smartphone market climbs from 1.5 billion to 4.5 billion as I expect, Apple has close to 900 million iPhones in use — within striking distance of a billion iPhones.
Confession: I think Apple will do better.
iPhone consistently receives higher customer satisfaction scores than competitive devices. A higher percentage of Android users switch to iPhone than the reverse. These trends disproportionately favor iPhone going forward.
Then there’s Apple’s secret sauce — slowly, slowly improving hardware and features while holding the line on price, even dropping the price at times. We can confidently expect iPhones to get better year after year even as prices fall. In a market that is rapidly expanding, this is a huge advantage.
Imagine if today’s iPhone 5s was faster, simpler, more capable, and Apple cut the price in half. I expect exactly this to happen, albeit in slow motion. When it does, many of today’s very best smartphone makers will be unable to effectively compete. This means even more room for Apple to grow. Indeed, I think most analysts, blindly focused on Apple’s current margins, are wildly underestimating iPhone’s long-term market potential.
Consider the following:
Smartphones and tablets are highly functional, highly personal computers. By this definition, nearly 95% of every computer Apple sells today is priced under $1,000. Note: I derive this 95% figure thusly: Last quarter, Apple shipped 43.7 million iPhones. Their highest-priced version is the iPhone 5s with 64gb hard drive. It retails for $849. Apple shipped 16.4 million iPads. The highest-priced iPad sells for $929. The company sold just over 4 million Macs, most of them priced above $1,000. Add it up and 60.1 million personal computers out of a total of 64.1 million are priced under $1,000.
Given Apple’s commitment to improvement while holding the line on price, I expect that in a few years, certainly before this decade is out, that 95% of every computer Apple sells will not be priced under $1,000, but perhaps even under $500, and far better than today’s very best. How will high-end and mid-tier competitors survive in such an environment? Will there be Panasonic smartphones in 2020? Sony? BlackBerry? Xiaomi? LG? I’m not sure. Apple? Absolutely. Remember, Apple actually earns a hefty profit on each personal computer it sells.
Add it up and a billion iPhones in use by 2020 is an extremely likely possibility.
At One Billion iPhones
Okay, so what then?
First, as this is about all of us, we must consider the potential of a billion iPhones in the aggregate, and not what a singular iPhone in 2020 will offer.
Let’s use Facebook as an example. They have over 1 billion active mobile users. At last week’s F8 developer conference, Facebook offered new tools which enable deep linking and de facto integration across disparate mobile apps — taking you straight from your smartphone map to Yelp to your digital wallet, for example. This should prove useful for users and developers alike. This effort can only succeed, however, if there are enough smartphone users and enough of them have Facebook credentials and enough app developers can directly benefit by allowing Facebook to manage a user’s identity. Now there are.
Absolute numbers at massive scale enable new forms of innovation that otherwise could not exist. I expect the same to occur when we reach 1 billion iPhones.
Crowdsourcing Ideas For Peak iPhone
I am confident in my predictions and so I put it to you: where are your ideas?
My inclination is to focus first on media. The business model that today forces us to pay for content we don’t want simply to get the content we do want — aka cable television — likely fades away. Perhaps Apple offers a “Pandora for television” service, with virtually every TV program and movie available. With 1 billion users, it would be foolish to not let your content participate.
Mix iTunes, AirDrop and a billion users, all with their credit card info on file, and there now exists the potential to revolutionize how we consume and share media — it may become possible that each of us can financially benefit from our various online recommendations.
Entirely new forms of social networking also become commonplace. Apple’s new multi-peer service (“multi-peer connectivity framework”) essentially enables ad-hoc, proximity-based, peer-to-peer networking of iPhones. Imagine watching the University of Michigan football team alongside 100,000 screaming fans. There’s a great play, which is instantly available on your iPhone. Share and discuss the play with thousands of others, in real-time, in physical space, and in forms not previously possible. Now take these tools to a political protest.
A billion users on the same platform, each with their credit card information stored by Apple, will significantly impact the direction of online and offline payments. At such a scale, retailers everywhere might readily accept cash, charge or iPhone. No need for Bitcoin, PayPal or any other digital alternative.
Yes, Apple could indeed roll out its very own search engine with little concern of Google pushback should the company reach 1 billion iPhone users.
Perhaps it also becomes practical for every mall, every college campus, every city to place iBeacons everywhere, creating deeper links between people, place and time.
Of course, if Apple ever does reach a billion smartphones, the company’s value will almost certainly exceed $1 trillion. That’s Standard Oil territory, which resulted in a forced break-up. That idea also doesn’t seem farfetched.
Nokia has fallen. Not even the name will remain. America’s victory in the smartphone wars is complete — for now.
Last week’s news from the front lines of the smartphone wars illuminates the scope of America’s rapid mobile ascendency.
“Microsoft acquires Nokia’s smartphone and mobile phone businesses, its design team, most of its manufacturing and assembly facilities and operations, and sales and marketing support.”
Mobile active users are 1.01 billion as of March 31, 2014, an increase of 34% year-over-year.
“We sold almost 44 million iPhones, setting a new March-quarter record.”
And the week before, from Google:
Q1 2014 earnings totaled $15.4 billion in revenue, a 19% increase over the previous year’s $12.95 billion. Oh, and their Android platform is on nearly 80% of every smartphone in the world.
Designed By Apple And Google And Microsoft In America
iOS, Android and Windows Phone – American designed, American-led operating platforms all – account for nearly 98% of the global smartphone market, a truly stunning statistic. There appears no line on the horizon.
As the world rushes to replace their mobile phones with smartphones, even Microsoft, now a distant third, is well positioned to fully capitalize on mobile. Their takeover of Nokia includes the company’s very popular Asha brand of hybrid smartphones/featurephones, as well as Nokia’s traditional handset business, which still ships more than 200 million devices a year. (Second only to Samsung)
Should America celebrate these results?
Should the rest of the world take bold, perhaps costly action to limit the continued rise of America’s mobile dominance?
Probably they should try.
The Pivot To Mobile
How did America so convincingly win the smartphone wars? First and foremost by attracting, developing, retaining, and fully incentivizing the best and brightest.
Vision and execution are also paramount. Consider:
- Apple’s relentless pursuit of optimizing hardware while simultaneously improving upon and expanding the modes of interaction with that hardware.
- Google encourages, captures and then attempts to make sense of (and profit from) the multiple data streams we generate.
- Facebook seeks to connect the world on a fully human level.
- Microsoft has spent the past four decades making computer applications more empowering and productive.
Also, and despite their vast size, these companies move with speed. Witness Facebook’s head-turning pivot to mobile. I think Mark Zuckerberg should be hailed for this accomplishment.
Weaknesses Along The Front Lines
Are there weaknesses in America’s smartphone leadership? Several, in fact.
iTunes is the center of Apple. It’s what locks us in, it’s what helps lure new customers. iTunes revenues are falling on a per-user basis. If iTunes spending falls on a per-user basis, I believe hardware margins will follow suit. Apple is optimized for hardware margins. The iTunes trend line thus appears ominous.
Google still does not have an effective messaging strategy. This is confounding. There may be no more important mini-platform in the near term than messaging. Facebook, of course, battered its way into this critical market, dropping $20 billion on Instagram and WhatsApp in a single year. Google will almost certainly need to do the same. Larry Page has the wherewithal to follow suit — does he have the necessary humility? I am not convinced.
Google’s primary response to date, requiring SMS and messaging to default to Google’s Hangouts service, seems a rather anemic response.
Though it claims over a billion mobile users, Facebook has no smartphone platform. This perpetually locks them out from critical user, usage and location data. That Facebook is now looking to buy its way into the wearables market, which potentially delivers incredible amounts of user data, should be no surprise.
That said, what will Mark Zuckerberg do when the ‘monopoly’ money runs out? Successful businesses aren’t sustained on buying up others’ creations.
Despite the well reviewed Windows Phone 8.1 OS, Microsoft has yet to reveal it can create a thriving mobile-first business.
Microsoft’s purchase of Nokia notwithstanding, the vast majority of manufacturing of every piece of smartphone hardware is outsourced. The case has been made that regular interaction with new materials and new manufacturing processes will lead to those companies (and nations) becoming the primary source of innovation, thus trumping Apple, Google et al. This idea has not been borne out and I suspect it never will. Shedding our manufacturing abilities has no doubt damaged America’s middle class, but not its technology leadership.
Money and the Snowden factor
Smartphone platforms almost certainly contribute to a nation’s economic well-being and security. Smartphones link people, telecommunications and banking, holds our most personal information, tracks our movements, manages our identity, logs our purchases, connects us to first responders, and provides vital access to news, cultural and learning resources. We have to assume larger nations in particular are keenly incentivized to repel America’s technological reach. This is especially true in a post-Edward Snowden environment.
It’s not simply a matter of geopolitics, of course. Real money is at stake. Google and Facebook are effectively banned in China — and the in-country alternatives are now worth billions.
Over 90 million smartphones sell in China every quarter. China may decide to lock out Apple and Microsoft — or demand unreasonable ‘rents’. If China creates barriers to Apple, for example, or perhaps does all it can to promote or subsidize homegrown companies such as Xiaomi, then certainly Apple’s growth potential will be diminished.
I would also not be surprised if government sponsored firms in India or Indonesia, for example, purchase BlackBerry or commit significant resources to improving the open source version of Android (AOSP), which is free of all Google services. Success by any means necessary.
Why This Matters
Smartphones are the next great phase in computing’s decades long remaking of work, play, learning, commerce, creativity and connectivity around the planet. They connect us with nearly everything. America is in the lead now. Americans may wish to celebrate this. To remain at the top, however, will demand vigilance, daring and vision.
Each phase of the computing revolution appears to come faster than the one before. The smartphone wars will soon be the technology revolution of the past.
I believe most analysts, including those that monitor Apple’s every move, are seriously underestimating the ramifications of Apple baking Shazam’s music identification service into iOS 8. This is not merely about increasing song downloads. Rather, this move marks Apple’s determined leap to re-position the iPhone in our lives. The digital hub metaphor is now much too limiting. As the physical and digital worlds mix, merge and mash together to create entirely new forms of interaction and new modes of awareness, the iPhone will become our nerve center. It will guide us, direct us, watch, listen and even feel on our behalf.
A bold statement, I know, especially given the prosaic nature of the rumor. Let’s start then with the original Bloomberg report:
(Apple) is planning to unveil a song discovery feature in an update of its iOS mobile software that will let users identify a song and its artist using an iPhone or iPad.
Apple is working with Shazam Entertainment Ltd., whose technology can quickly spot what’s playing by collecting sound from a phone’s microphone and matching it against a song database.
Song discovery? Ho hum. Only, look beyond the immediate and there’s potential for so much more. That late last year, Shazam updated its iPhone app to support an always-on, always-listening ‘Auto Shazam’ feature is no coincidence. Our phones are becoming increasingly aware of their surroundings. I expect Apple to leverage this technological confluence for our mutual benefit.
Today, Song Discovery.
Apple’s move no doubt satisfies a near term need. While Shazam has been around since 2008, and the company claims 90 million monthly users across all platforms, having their service baked into the iPhone will almost certainly spur increased sales. Song downloads have slowed — not just with iTunes, the world’s largest seller of music — but across the industry.
Instead of having to download the Shazam app, iPhone users will now simply point their device near a sound source and summon Siri: “what song is playing?” So notified, they can then buy it instantly from iTunes.
Little surprise music industry site MusicWeek was generally positive about the news. Little surprise, also, the tech industry could not muster much excitement. Thus…the Verge essentially summarized Bloomberg’s report.
Daring Fireball’s John Gruber offered little more than “sounds like a great feature.”
Windows Phone Central readers offered only gentle mocking, reminding all who would listen this feature is already embedded in Windows Phone.
That’s about it. Scarcely even a mention Shazam has a similar, if less developed TV show identification feature which could also prove a boon for iTunes video sales.
Place me at the other end of the spectrum. I think the rumored Shazam integration is a big deal and not because I care about the vagaries of the music business. This is not about yet another mental task the iPhone makes easier. Rather, this move reveals Apple’s intent to enable our iPhones to sense — to hear, see and inform, even as our eyes, ears and awareness are overwhelmed or focused elsewhere.
Tomorrow, Super Awareness.
Our smartphones are always on, always connected to the web, always connected to a specific location (via GPS) and, with minimal hardware tweaks, can always be listening, via the mic, and even always be watching, via the cameras.
What sights, sounds, people, toxins, movements, advertisements, songs, strange or helpful faces, and countless other opportunities and interactions, some heretofore impossible to assess or even act upon, are we exposed to every moment of every day? We cannot possibly know this, but our smartphones can, or soon will. I believe this Shazam integration points the way.
It’s not just about hearing a song and wanting to know the artist. It’s about picking up every sound, including those beyond human earshot, and informing us if any of them matter. Now apply this same principle to every image and face we see though do not consciously process.
Our smartphone’s mic, cameras, GPS and various sensors can record the near-infinite amount of real and virtual data we receive every moment of every day. Next, couple that with the fact our smartphone’s ‘desktop-class’ processing will be able to toss out the overwhelming amounts of cruft we are exposed to, determine what’s actually important, and notify us in real-time of that which should demand our attention. That is huge.
Going forward, the iPhone becomes not simply more important than our PC, for example, but vital for the successful optimization of our daily life. This is not evolution, but revolution.
The Age Of iPhone Awareness
Yes, it’s fun to have Siri magically tell us the name of a song. Only, this singular action portends so much more. At the risk of annoying Android and Windows Phone users, Apple’s move sanctions and accelerates the birth of an entirely new class of services and applications which I call ambient apps.
Ambient apps hear, see and record all the ‘noise’ surrounding us, instantly combine this with our location, time, history, preferences — then run this data against global data stores — to inform us of what is relevant. What is that bird flying overhead? Where is that bus headed? What is making that noise? Who is the person approaching me from behind? Is there anything here I might like?
Your smartphone’s mic, GPS, camera, sensors and connectivity to the web need never sleep. Set them to pick up, record, analyze, isolate and act upon every sound you hear, every sight you see.
This has long been the dream of some, though till now was impossible due to limited battery life, limited connectivity, meager on-board processing and data access. No longer.
Let’s start with a simple example.
Why ask Siri “what song is this”? Why not simply say, for example, “Siri, listen for every song I hear (whether at the grocery store, in the car, at Starbucks, etc.). At the end of the day, provide an iTunes link to every song. I’ll decide which ones I want to purchase. Thank you, Siri.”
Utterly doable right now. Except, why limit this service to music?
For example, perhaps our smartphone can detect and take action based upon the fact that, unbeknownst to you, the sound of steps behind you are getting closer. It can sense, record and act upon the fact you walk faster each time you hear this particular song. Or you slowed down when passing a particular restaurant. What do you want it to do based upon its “awareness” of your own actions — actions which you were not consciously aware of?
Our smartphone can hear and see. It is always with us. It makes sense then to allow it to optimize and prioritize our responses to the real and virtual people and things we interact with every day, even those outside our conscious involvement.
Ambient Apps Are The New Magic
The utility of our smartphone’s responses will only get better. Smartphones sense by having ears (mic), eyes (cameras), by knowing our exact location (GPS) and by being connected to the internet. These continue to improve. It is smartphone sensors, however, that parallel our many nerve endings, feeling and collecting all manner of data and notifying us when an appropriate action should be taken.
Though still a relatively young technology, smartphones have added a wealth of new sensors with each iteration. The inclusion of these sensors should radically supplement the recording, tracking and ambient ‘awareness’ of our smartphones, and thus further optimize our interactions, both online and offline.
Jan Dawson posted this Qualcomm chart which illustrates the amazing breadth of sensors added to the Samsung Galaxy line over just the past five years. What becomes standard five years from now?
Hear, see, sense. The smartphone’s combination of hardware, sensors, cloud connectivity, location awareness and Shazam-like algorithms will increasingly be used to uncover the most meaningful bits of our lives then help us act upon them, as needed. This is not serendipity, this is design. I think Apple is pointing the way.