Peering Inside The Apple Rumors Prism

Steve Jobs fully understood the value in surprise, the wonder of magic, and the awe a beautiful, functional, highly personal computing device can evoke when unwrapped for the very first time. Rumors, particularly a stream of unceasing rumors of all kinds, tend to sully this ideal.

Not much can be done about it, unfortunately. Not only because Jobs is now gone but because Apple is far, far bigger than it has ever been. The company now comprises ten of thousands of employees, a massive retail chain, strategic partnerships with nearly every big name in media, relationships with automakers and contractors by the score. The Apple ecosystems spans nearly half a billion active users, a global supply chain that touches 4 million workers, hundreds of suppliers, and 18 worldwide final assembly plants. Leaks and rumors are inevitable.

Apple suppliers

In addition to leaks, there may be story plants, trial balloons, media spin, hurt feelings from those let go, false leads from those gunning for a promotion, snapshots from an anonymous line worker in China, misdirections from a savvy executive and slip ups by trusted employees. Given the scope of today’s Apple, shutting down the rumor-media industrial complex is simply not possible.

The end result of all of this?

We don’t know what we don’t know and we aren’t always sure what we do know. To be sure, all the rumors and all the talk may help whet our appetite for the next great Apple product. It can also lead to far too many brain cells preoccupied with even the most ridiculous Apple tales.

For example…iRing. Yes, leading Apple sites have written about and thoroughly dissected the very real possibility of a computerized ring, forged by Apple, which could be, it is presumed, a means to support digital payments, possibly serve as a remote control for the wearer’s music collection, and all manner of other nonsensical functions.

This will not happen. There will be no iRing. None. If for no other reason than should Apple even dare release such a product, every sneer, every cutting remark made by any and every Apple hater everywhere since the beginning of time would instantly be made whole. I can barely write the word ‘iRing’ without laughing.

I am certain, however, that talk of an iRing will persist.

The Apple Rumor Prism

Like it or not, expect no end to the Apple rumors and tall tales that emerge from the amorphous flotsam the media periodically feasts upon. This is all exacerbated by the fact Apple PR, whom I have been in contact with on many occasions, nearly always refuses to comment on any rumor. Realistically, they have little other choice.

Which begs the question: Is there a way to pre-determine the veracity of a Apple rumor?

(Wait for it…)


The best we have so far are a few very well connected Apple writers, such as Jim Dalrymple, who can deliver a yay or nay but only at certain times and only for certain rumors. With Apple, rumors are like weeds, and no one person can stomp down all of them.

For example, thanks to the ongoing court battles with Samsung, we recently learned Apple has been rather concerned over the sales growth of large display smartphones, which it does not yet offer.


Surprise! Days later, we are treated to pictures of new iPhone molds suggesting a larger iPhone! Is this a plant from Apple? A false lead? Or some kid in Taiwan not very good with Photoshop? We don’t know. Worse, we tend to latch onto any data point, such as it is, that confirms our biases or affirms our hopes.

What then, is the best means of determining if a rumor is even merely likely when Apple refuses to say and the best Apple sources can’t (yet) verify? I focus on what I do know with a high degree of certainty and run the latest rumor through that prism. This may lead to some dead ends or errors, but it typically keeps me on the right trail.

I know with a high degree of certainty that…

  • Tim Cook is firmly in charge of Apple
  • Jony Ive is firmly in charge of the look and feel of Apple products — all of it, inside and out
  • Tim Cook has essentially removed Jony Ive from the bowels of the Apple design labs and made him a quite respectable SVP, which almost certainly means Ive won’t be as intimately involved with each and every product, manufacturing process and innovative material going forward
  • Cook’s big name hires have been in retail and branding, though he’s also hired veterans from the fitness and medical devices industry
  • Apple works on products and prototypes for years before it believes everything is just right for launch
  • iPhone margins are massive and counter to the direction of the marketplace
  • Apple cannot go down market 1
  • Apple is comfortable with offering seemingly confusing choices for consumers (e.g. iPad Mini RD vs iPad 2 vs iPad 3, I think)
  • Core Apple products such as the iPhone, iPad and the Mac are typically replaced by users every 1-5 years, and many of these are not junked but rather re-sold by the original customer or a third party
  • Apple possesses a near religious fealty to the notion of continuous product improvement
  • Optimizing and innovating all hardware in pursuit of product improvement — and product margins — is hardwired into the company’s DNA
  • Apple’s relationships with IT decision makers and procurement personnel in government, the enterprise and businesses with more than 20 employees is woefully lacking
  • Apple is worth more than $450 billion and is sitting on approximately $160 billion in cash and equivalents

These guide me whenever I dare pick apart an Apple rumor or chase down the latest crazy Apple tale.

Caution: these ‘knowns’ are not equal!

The majority of Apple’s revenues come from the iPhone. The addressable market for the iPhone is radically larger than the market for any other extant Apple product. Each fact from above, even if entirely true in isolation, is not inviolable should it ever even potentially bring harm to iPhone sales and iPhone margins.

iphone revenues

The Apple Rumor Mill

Running rumors though this iPhone prism serves as my handy guide in understanding if a rumor has legitimacy or not.

For example:

An iWatch should almost certainly integrate with (and be made most useful by) the iPhone. An iWatch will likely demand a keen sense of style, luxury branding and retail sales savvy. Given what I know, iWatch rumors are absolutely within the bounds of certainty.

An Apple television would not be appreciably enhanced by the iPhone. Televisions are kept in use far longer than five years. There’s little to justify this rumor, no matter its persistence.

A line of wearables or ‘smart’ accessories that all tie back to the iPhone? Absolutely. These enhance the iPhone’s value and should extend iPhone sales.

That Apple has to do anything this month, this quarter, this fiscal year to ensure its success? Complete nonsense.

A revolutionary new product that just might “disrupt” the iPhone? No. Repeat after me: No. For Apple to even consider disrupting its golden iPhone goose would not only be foolish but darn close to a dereliction of duty. Buttressing this is another fact: there is nothing on the horizon, nothing at all, even remotely ready to replace the iPhone (or any high end smartphone). Nothing. Not Google Glass. Not Oculus Rift. Nothing. We are in the early days of the smartphone market. Do not make me repeat myself. 

Within a week of reading this, probably sooner, you will hear yet another rumor about Apple. Before considering it, pro or con, first make sure you run it through your list of knowns. Most of the time, you will immediately recognize the rumor as utter nonsense. On rare occasions however and no matter the source, you will stumble upon a rumor more true than not.

Such is life for those that follow Apple Inc and the hundreds of millions who love its products. The true story of Apple does not begin or end at product launch. Those are merely two data points in an ongoing and very rewarding chase.

1. [Feel free to counter my claim Apple cannot go down market. Remember, however, even the ‘cheap’ iPhone, the iPhone 5c, is one of the most expensive on the market, and note also the major Apple retail hires come from luxury brand companies.]

Market Share Metaphysics

Twice before I have used Aristotle’s concept of “Essentialism” to explain why tablets are “real” computers and why OS X will not be merging with iOS. Today, I go to the well one last time ((…unless I need to go there again in my desire to quench my thirst for knowledge (or drown my stubborn opponents therein).)) in an attempt to definitively and finally put an end to the messianic myth that market share equals platform. Hopefully, we shall never speak of this again. ((Fat chance.))


What attributes make things what they are? Or, what attributes make things not what they aren’t? (Confused yet?)

Aristotle drew a distinction between “essential” and “nonessential” properties. ((Actually, Aristotle called “nonessential” properties “accidental” properties. That’s totally confusing so I “accidentally” changed Aristotle’s wording from “accidental” to “nonessential”. It’s my article, I can do what I want.))

Essential properties are those without which a thing wouldn’t be what it is. Nonessential properties are those that determine how a thing is, but not what it is. For example, Aristotle thought rationality was essential to being a human being and, since Socrates was a human being, Socrates’s rationality was essential to his being Socrates. Without the property of rationality, Socrates simply wouldn’t be Socrates. He wouldn’t even be a human being, so how could he be Socrates?

On the other hand, Aristotle thought Socrates’s property of being snubnosed was merely nonessential; snub-nosed was part of how Socrates was, but it wasn’t essential to what or who he was. To put it another way, take away Socrates’s rationality, and he’s no longer Socrates, but give him plastic surgery, and he’s Socrates with a nose job.

The Elephant In The Room

Baby elephantOne could describe an elephant as being big, gray and wrinkled. But are those essential or nonessential attributes?

  1. Are there elephants who aren’t big? Sure. Baby elephants are small. So were prehistoric dwarf elephants.
  2. Are there elephants who aren’t gray? Sure. There are brownish elephants. There may even be albino elephants.
  3. Are there elephants who aren’t wrinkled? Sure. Maybe. Or maybe not. Who knows.

In other words, bigness, grayness, and wrinkledness all fail Aristotle’s test of defining what an elephant essentially is. Instead, they describe how elephants are, generally and nonessentially.

The Church of Market Share

The Church of Market Share says majority market share is essential for a computing platform to thrive. But is this even close to being true?

  1. Are there successful platforms that aren’t big? Sure.
  2. Are there successful platforms that don’t have majority market share? Sure.
  3. Are there successful platforms that aren’t wrinkled? Uh, maybe. Or maybe not.

In other words, massive market share fails Aristotle’s test of defining what a successful platform is. Arguing market share size makes a platform successful is like arguing being “big” makes an animal an elephant. That’s simply a “whale” of a lie.

What Is Essential

Greek astronomerWhat is “essential” to a computing platform is an operating system which forms the foundation upon which third party developers can develop; developers who create desirable products; and consumers who desire and acquire those products. Bigness may be nice, but it ain’t “essential.”

In other words, bigness, grayness, and wrinkledness all fail Aristotle’s test of defining what an elephant essentially is. Instead they describe how elephants are, generally and non-essentially.

Likewise, bigness, majority market share and wrinkledness all fail Aristotle’s test of defining what a successful platform is. Instead, they describe how platforms are, generally and non-essentially.

This is true only up to a point. Something as small, white, and round as an aspirin cannot be an elephant, and confronted with such an object, we would not be tempted to ask, “Is that an aspirin you’re taking or an atypical elephant?”

Market share as small as Microsoft’s Windows 8 and Blackberry’s cannot be dominant platforms. Confronted with such a platform, we would not be tempted to ask, “Is that an insubstantial, unfounded stereotype you’re swallowing whole and without critical analysis…or an atypical platform?”

The point is that bigness, grayness, and wrinkledness are not precise enough terms to be the essential qualities of an elephant. Likewise, bigness, majority market share and wrinkledness are not precise enough terms to be the essential qualities of a platform.

It’s a certain size range and a certain color range that, among other qualities, determine whether or not something is an elephant. It’s a certain size range and a certain market share that, among other qualities, determine whether or not something is a successful computing platform.

Wrinkledness, on the other hand, may be a red herring, or perhaps a “whistling herring”.

The Wrong Question Will Get You The Wrong Answer

    Abe: I got a riddle for you, Sol. What’s green, hangs on the wall, and whistles?
    Sol: I give up.
    Abe: A herring.
    Sol: But a herring isn’t green.
    Abe: So you can paint it green.
    Sol: But a herring doesn’t hang on the wall.
    Abe: Put a nail through it, it hangs on the wall.
    Sol: But a herring doesn’t whistle!
    Abe: So? It doesn’t whistle.

Microsoft’s Windows platform was big, a monopoly and it whistled (or it didn’t whistle). But that doesn’t mean that it was or is the one and only way to create a successful platform. And anyone who says it is, is telling you a fish story.


Feel free to steal this argument and use it since I essentially (not accidentally) stole it, er, borrowed it from Thomas Cathcart: “Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar.”

Of course, a link to this article would be nice…

…just not “essential”.

Better For The World? Apple Or Google?

Arguably, Apple and Google are the largest, richest, most powerful, most influential technology companies on the planet. Across many markets their products, services and technologies directly compete with one another. Yet, in countless endeavors, each benefits the other, enabling both to earn more, reach more, do more, grow ever larger, their creations touching nearly all of us.

Which begs the question: which company creates more good in this world? Apple or Google?


I think the question a valid one. Despite their many similarities, the companies have profoundly divergent strategies when it comes to the development, release and spread of technology. Seeking the answer to this question might help us better understand how we should construct future tech companies, offer insights into what we should value most and whose methods we should help foster.

Pay To Play

As both Apple and Google continue to extend their reach deeper into our lives, the more obvious differences between the two begin to peel away. Once, Apple was hardware and Google was software. Now, both are mobile devices, cloud computing, entertainment, maps, apps, payments, productivity, music, messaging and — even if poorly — social media. We have to look deeper.

Start with pricing. Apple, whose products no one is required to purchase, is regularly blasted for ‘premium’ pricing. Google, whose products are mostly free, generates no such acrimony.

Is it better to demand customers pay for a product, to enter into a covenant where value is promised at a specific price, as Apple requires? Or is offering services for free the superior model? Certainly free seems better, but the price of free in today’s world is constant advertising, payment of which is continuous mining of our personal data. Does the Google way — pulling off tiny pieces of ourselves, bit by bit, moment by moment, and then selling these off to an unknowable coterie of people and businesses — better serve humanity?

I want to be in favor of free, but in its current form, the price of free seems too steep for me. For the rest of the world, I think in pricing Google trumps Apple, whether I wish it so or not.

No Product Before Its Time

Another core difference: product development and release.

Is it better to release products only when they are ready, as Apple does, or as soon as they reach sanctioned beta stage, as Google does, allowing anyone to experiment with their creation, make it better, expand its reach? Again, this seems to favor Google.

While we wait for the next insanely great product from Apple, a hyperfast-moving Google is — right now — helping us understand the pitfalls and benefits of driverless cars. Google Glass is forcing us to consider our views on personal privacy in public spaces and it must be acknowledged, pushing the technical boundaries and design limits of wearable technologies.

Google is meeting with city leaders, exploring methods to offer cheaper, radically faster broadband. They are unleashing ‘balloons‘ to bring the Internet to all points of the world. Push, push, push, now, now, now. The Google Way seems more right for our world.

Meanwhile, Apple…what, exactly? An iWatch likely few can afford once its finally released?

Tim Cook recently tweeted:

“Remembering Steve on his birthday: ‘Details matter, it’s worth waiting to get it right.'”

Is this true? Is this best for the 7+ billion of us on the planet? To wait?

Consider Android. Android is now the most widely used operating system in the world in part because Google unleashed it, for free, even while its business model remained in flux, and without waiting for agreement from potential stakeholders like Java’s Oracle. Nor was it perfect, by any stretch. Our gain.

We are rapidly connecting with one another, linking to astoundingly low-cost information resources whose total value is nearly incalculable, thanks in large part to this essentially free, freely available and extraordinarily robust mobile operating system. Humanity has been aided by Android, clearly.

Step back. Did Apple’s deliberate plodding make all this possible?

Look at an Android device pre-iPhone: it is an evolutionary dead-end. Think of all the apps, services, knowledge, entertainment and productivity we garner from all the phones that came only after Apple and the iPhone cleared the way. Consider the rather glaring limitations of Android, pre-iPhone. Had Apple launched iPhone before it was ready, before all the “details” were just right, the entire smartphone industry, now over a billion users strong, may have taken a completely different path – and died on the vine.

Might the same thing happen in wearables — likely the next iteration of the ongoing personal computing revolution? As wearable technologies abound in type and quantity, we await Apple’s entry.

Yet it may be wearables can only achieve their fullest potential for improving our health, our fitness, our connectedness to our minds and bodies only after the details are exactly right. That is, only after Apple clears a broad, lasting path just as they did with Mac (PCs), iPhone (smartphones), and iPad (tablets).

We have significant evidence Apple’s entry into a category has disproportionately, even radically re-shaped all that came before and all that follows. Perhaps we are better served in our analysis if instead of viewing Apple as sitting atop the ‘high end’ or ‘premium’ segment of a market, we acknowledge their products as a sort of official start, or a big bang of a new product category, unleashing and enabling the full potential of such technologies.

Apple and the big bang

Thus, it may be that Apple better serves humanity even as their products are viewed by many as the tools of the wealthy. Apple made possible the very revolutions Google has seized upon. I think when it comes to the development, creation and release of products, Apple does humanity better.

Origin Myths

While I harbor suspicions regarding some of Google’s actions, I deeply admire their speed and scale, along with their willingness to try, to fail, to push. Google’s fast, expansive focus seems much more aligned with our nature and certainly more aligned with our times. Google’s beliefs include:

  • fast is better than slow
  • democracy on the web works, and
  • great just isn’t good enough

Thanks in part to such beliefs we most likely will have faster broadband, more bandwidth, radically cheaper smartphones connecting the world, tablets everywhere, a nearly infinitely scalable and mobile-optimized real-time web, all manner of affordable information and content, search, driverless cars, and whatever else Google is cooking up in its labs or scouting for acquisition.

That’s a substantial list.

It took Google for us to have YouTube, free maps, real-time-anywhere search, and the ability to live our lives within a fully digital realm. Yes, this comes at the creeping and rising cost of advertising everywhere and aggressively lobbied laws that do not necessarily favor our privacy interests. Almost seems fair.

Apple’s mission, by contrast, is shockingly prosaic:

Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.

That’s it? No move fast and break things? No do no evil? Not even a computer in every purse?

In vision and purpose, I say Google bests Apple.

I suspect that despite their overlapping business interests, core differences between the companies are inextricably linked back to their founding — the mad, beautiful and deceptively detailed vision of computing borne inside the mind of Steve Jobs, versus the youthful, audacious and limitless grandiosity of Page and Brin. 

Apple and Google are a mere five miles from one another, yet the difference in their work and world views appears an impassable chasm. I do not know who does more for humanity. I am greatly proud, nonetheless, that these two giants of innovation are American-born, American-led, and are both, separately and together, creating a better world.

Why I Fear Apple CarPlay

I am excited by Apple CarPlay. But mostly terrified. 

Excited, because I love constant, unbroken access to my phone, music, apps, maps, search, contacts, tweets, email — everything on my smartphone, in fact.

Terrified, because I have significant doubts that CarPlay will make driving safer, as Apple suggests. In fact, I fear it will do exactly the opposite.

Not for me, of course, I’m an excellent driver. Rather, for you and the millions of others out there traveling on the same roads as me. I have doubts that your use of Siri and iTunes and Maps and texting and calling and, ultimately, Yelp and Twitter and Facebook and everything else you will want to do will make you a safer driver.

Confession: I probably have more faith in Apple than in any other company on the planet to provide the simplest, most intuitive, least distracting interface between smartphone — and everything that it contains — and car. But there are significant caveats.

How safe can these solutions be? Ever? Tech companies and car companies certainly want us to believe they are safe. Google said nearly the same thing as Apple last year when it announced the Open Automotive Alliance: “making technology in the car safer, more seamless and more intuitive for everyone.”

I am not convinced.

I believe the following:

The more apps, information, content, and data at our fingertips, the more tools at our disposal — that are in NO WAY related to the act of driving – the more our focus on driving is diminished. This reduces safety.

I fear a fundamental Apple strength could come back to harm us. To wit: The hallmark of Apple products is not that they are intuitive, rather that they are enticing. Watch an iPhone user. They can’t seem to stop themselves, ever, from checking, tweeting, texting, calling, looking, reading, listening, scanning, scrolling.

Now put that into a car.

Yes, I know CarPlay is by Apple and Apple has four decades of experience creating amazing hardware and intuitive operating systems. There are two obvious roadblocks:

  1. Apple has extraordinarily little say in any car’s actual hardware
  2. The entirety of Apple’s existence has been on focusing our (full) attention onto its screens

I don’t want your focus to be on the screen! You are driving a car!

What’s that? You promise to only use the paddles on the steering wheel and to expedite all interactions via voice? Question: How often has Siri worked for you without error?

25% of the time? 50%? 90%? And that was when you had your hand on the iPhone screen and your mind fully focused on the (non-driving) Siri-related task at hand. The fact is, despite millions of dollars in advertising and years of effort, Siri continues to have painfully clear limitations.

I cannot believe that I am the only one that has such misgivings about CarPlay. And, yet, following Apple’s announcement…

The New York Times happily noted that “Apple’s CarPlay Captivates The Auto Industry.”

Forbes cheered Apple’s “powerful play to seize the dash.”

AutoNews proclaimed “CarPlay is smart but simple.”

I can only hope. I am disappointed, however, that they appear to have glossed over the very real safety concerns we all should have about CarPlay (and all similar efforts). In their statement officially announcing CarPlay, Apple endeavors to put us at ease. CarPlay is:

designed from the ground up to provide drivers with an incredible experience using their iPhone in the car

Is this true?

After all, every single car maker will continue to have complete control over their dash, their buttons, their type of screen, their steering wheel and how they integrate CarPlay. Oh, and they must simultaneously make sure to configure their settings in such a way that the vast majority of drivers — those without iPhone — can also operate everything effectively.

Not to worry, Apple says:

Users can easily control CarPlay from the car’s native interface or just push-and-hold the voice control button on the steering wheel to activate Siri without distraction.

I’m still not convinced. To me, this screams complexity — and thus distraction: native interface, steering wheel controls, Siri. Now add your mother behind the wheel.

It gets worse:

iPhone users always want their content at their fingertips and CarPlay lets drivers use their iPhone in the car with minimized distraction.

Yes, we do want all the wonderful content from our iPhones at our fingertips. My smartphone is rarely more than an arm’s length away. This does not mean we should allow it to be accessible while we are driving! In fact, the more I read from Apple’s own PR statement, the more worried I become. Parse this:

Apple has led consumer technology integration in the car for more than a decade.

What? Where? I’ve hooked up the cable television in my home but I don’t claim to have a decade’s experience in the entertainment industry. Implementing iOS in the car is a completely new endeavor, and for drivers, a completely new experience.

Putting more apps, more content into our cars, telling ourselves that it’s fine because Siri can manage it all — I simply do not believe this, not yet, and will not take part in what I consider be nothing more than a consensual hallucination.

Go to Apple’s very own CarPlay “coming soon” website. Remember, every single auto maker will implement this differently, with different knobs, different buttons, different screen types, different paddles, different layouts, different response modes. Yet, even using Apple’s own imagery, CarPlay appears to aggressively demand your focus.

Here’s just a sampling:




Do Apple’s very own pictures look either distraction-free or Siri-optimized? Now imagine 10,000 drivers with this. Or 1 million. Or 30 million.

Despite my fears, my concerns, I must be fair in my judgment of CarPlay. I have not used it, only seen it demonstrated. When it comes to developing intuitive touch and voice interfaces, Apple has led the way. Moreover, I doubt any car maker will do a better job of crafting a more intuitive, less distracting ‘infotainment’ system. Furthermore, Apple has so far restricted what they will allow offered via CarPlay. iTunes, Siri, Maps and a few other third-party apps, such as Beats, Spotify, iHeartRadio. No Yelp, no Twitter or Facebook. No WhatsApp. 

Unfortunately, I simply do not believe this will remain the case. As the National Safety Council has stated, “the auto industry and the consumer electronics industry are really in an arms race to see how we can enable drivers to do stuff other than driving.” We mere mortals will no doubt demand more apps, more services, more entertainment, and if Apple doesn’t deliver we will turn to Android or some other provider for our fix.  

Perhaps our focus should instead be on preventing access to all of the things, not enabling it.

Aegis Mobility is one of several companies that offer solutions for organizations with car and truck fleets, solutions specifically designed to prevent drivers from accessing their phones while driving. This is good for the driver, obviously, good for the company — good for all of us, in fact. Their tools detect movements, limit what phones can do during a driver’s work hours, or whenever the vehicle is in motion, can prohibit certain functions, such as texting. Try and skirt these barriers and you just may find yourself out of work. Perhaps we should demand this of ourselves and of every other driver, rather than promoting access to evermore data and entertainment.

There are over 1 billion cars on the road. Drivers are more distracted than ever before.  We are hurtling down the wrong path. There’s still time to turn back. 

But Apple Is For Old People! Where iWatch And Apple Have The Last Laugh.

Anybody still recall when Apple’s chief competitors went about mocking the company for being, well, technology designed for older people? Those attacks came to an abrupt end in large part because Apple kept on printing money. I suspect, however, there is a second reason: iWatch.

iWatch may be the perfect personal computer for boomers, seniors and the elderly, yet Apple’s competitors, desperate to prove they are cool, have only now clued into the importance of this demographic. If at all.

Yes, the Apple iWatch does not exist. Rumors abound nonetheless, most insisting either that Apple iWatch will be the greatest computing revolution ever, or the latest batch of prognostication, an odd sort of tamping down of expectations, as if we should prepare ourselves to be disappointed.

Spoiler alert: neither of these groups knows.

We do know, however, that there is a massive, untapped market for an Apple iWatch: older people.

Consider that a device roughly as we imagine the iWatch to be, can at this very moment, serve as a tracking beacon, a camera, a heart monitor, an exercise monitor, pulse oximeter, a voice-based notification service – “time to take your pills” – a non-invasive glucose monitor, and a possibly a method of alerting the wearer to an impending heart attack.

All of which would be extremely valuable not simply to fitness freaks, but to baby boomers, seniors, elderly — certainly anyone over 60.

Bonus spoiler alert: there are a lot of older people. They positively abound in core Apple markets, including China, Japan and the United States.

The Bleeding Edge

Change comes fast to technology. The irony here is that the next insanely great market for computing tech, wearable devices, may reside within the demographic long considered furthest from the bleeding edge: older folks.

About time.

But first, a trip down memory lane.

“Apple is for old people.”

This glib statement has been a surprisingly persistent refrain from the media ever since the rapid mass market ascendency of the iPhone. Over the past 24 months, a “brand perception measurement” firm noted that Apple’s “biggest fans” hail from the older end of the spectrum. Bloomberg was happy to repeat this gospel: “Older people use iPhones, younger people use Samsungs.”

HTC — remember them? — mocked Apple back in 2011:

iPhones are not that cool anymore. We here are using iPhones, but our kids don’t find them that cool anymore.

Samsung famously mocked iPhone’s appeal to the older crowd in a series of blistering televised attacks:

Not wanting to feel left out, Microsoft joined in on the action, wondering if the mean old lady was nonetheless (wink wink) too young to have an iPhone:

As a way to limit Apple’s growth, this line of attack has simply not worked. Indeed, I think this mocking of Apple – and by extension, all their older users – will come back to haunt the perpetrators.  As this Digital Trends analysis reminds us:

Older consumers tend to have more disposable income and be less price sensitive than young consumers.

In addition, older people, happy and content with their iPhones and iPads, may offer Apple a sly path into the enterprise:

Having a positive perception among older consumers can also have indirect benefits to Apple’s business, since older users are more likely to be able to influence purchasing and technology policies and purchasing at schools, businesses, and enterprises.  

The technorati continue to miss the big picture: whether or not “old people” are a natural Apple customer, we keep making more of them. Lots more. Just in the US, we will have 55 million people age 65 and over by the end of the decade. China is already approaching 200 million people aged 60 and older. This number is growing — fast.

What’s Old Is New Again

Note the graphs below documenting the aging of Japan and China, in particular. These aging populations will require innovate support, services and technologies to meet their unique needs.


Breaks down like this: More older people, living longer, possibly living alone, and with a greater need for health (and health monitoring) services. Think of the massive potential of an iWatch or similar device for this group.

Thus, while Apple is aggressively pushing into China, I suspect there is far more at stake than sales of iPhone. As Bloomberg noted last year:

More than two decades of record economic growth turned the Chinese into the world’s top consumers of cars and smartphones.

Yes, yes, smartphones. And yet, that very same Bloomberg report noted:

As the almost 200 million population of over-60s more than doubles in the next 40 years…

Forget talk about Apple building a “phablet” because China consumers will demand it. I can’t help but think an iWatch is the most logical product for Apple to build for China (and beyond). An affordable tracking device that monitors pulse, breathing, glucose, offers reminders, its data instantly synched to the cloud, accessible by health authorities, shareable with children or caregivers, could prove invaluable.

Again, it’s not just in China.

The US is similarly gaining extraordinary numbers of older people, as this PBS report noted:

(Starting in 2011) the first of the estimated 79 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 will turn 65 years old this year, at a rate of 10,000 a day. (emphasis added)

It gets better — if you’re Apple and if you’re working on an iWatch:

The number of people enrolled in Medicare will grow from 47 million in 2010 to roughly 80 million when the last of the baby boomers turns 65 in about two decades, while enrollment in Social Security is expected to rise from 44 million to some 73 million. At the same time, the ratio of workers paying taxes to support the programs to beneficiaries will drop.

Our healthcare industry, and our seniors, are going to be tasked to do more with less. Something like an iWatch, priced under $500, say, could prove a rather innovative means to save money on health testing, monitoring and possibly even visits to the doctor.

The Case For iWatch

It may seem like smartphones are everywhere, but even in the US the latest data shows that less than 20% of people over 65 have a smartphone. Likely, they find little need. But an iWatch, as imagined, could prove to be a near-necessity. Ask yourself: who is best equipped, anywhere in the world, to build a highly functional, reasonably affordable, startlingly intuitive, wearable personal computing device? My money’s on Apple.

Almost a year ago, CEO Tim Cook said “I think the wrist is interesting. I’m wearing this (Nike Fuelband) on my wrist…it’s somewhat natural. But as I said before, I think for something to work here, you first have to convince people it’s so incredible that they want to wear it.”

I do not know if Apple has reached that “incredible” stage yet, nor when they might. But a device that older people can legitimately operate and will use, offering valuable and personalized health data, could prove to be yet another massive market for the company.

I predict the iWatch will usher in a entirely new personal computing paradigm, flipping the early adopter/late adopter convention on its head. For the next phase of computing, build first for the old, that’s the bleeding edge, then let the technology drift out to the rest of the market in due time.

Trying To Understand How The iPhone 5c Failed

Failure is fascinating. Failure highlights our limits, our strengths, our mortality. My ‘explorations in failure’ will this week examine the iPhone 5c. At the very moment Apple was about to slice deep into the Android behemoth, offer the world a glorious low-cost iPhone, it fell flat on its face.

How could this happen?

I don’t have all the answers, of course, but I think there is much to divine by piecing together the iPhone 5c detritus.

The scale of Apple, its global supply chain, massive retail footprint, market valuation, the popularity of its computing devices, these all reveal a company that rarely makes mistakes. Apple’s iPhone 5c has been a striking failure, however, selling far fewer devices than Apple expected, likely dampening overall iPhone sales, and, if well-placed rumors are correct, very soon to be no longer of this world. 

It all began, of course, with so much promise. The iPhone 5c — aka the “cheap iPhone” — was, we were convinced, going to be the aggressively priced new iPhone, ready to dismantle Android throughout the developing world, possibly beyond. It would (quickly) add tens of millions, ultimately hundreds of millions of new users into the Apple/iOS ecosystem.  

This was not to be. As Tim Cook stated during the company’s most recent earnings call, 5c demand “turned out to be different than we thought.” While Apple sold an astounding 51 million iPhones total in the last quarter, Cook admitted that “our North American business contracted somewhat year over year.” Cook placed the blame squarely on the iPhone 5c by bravely reminding us that Apple “actually sold more iPhone 5s’s than we projected.” 

Here’s the bottom-line: not only did iPhone 5c fail to sell in the numbers Cook calculated, the company suffered unnecessary expenses and pinched revenues by wrongly estimating the 5c/5s sales mix. 

In a rather harsh assessment to the 5c’s poor showing, USA Today noted that Tim Cook refused to address the device by name. The publication went on to state that:

Sales of Apple’s iPhone 5c have been so disappointing that the consumer technology giant will likely cut the price of the device soon or even scrap the model altogether.

Count me among those that doubt iPhone 5c will reach its first birthday.  

After all, the iPhone 5c, as it presently exists, is frankly inexplicable. It’s one of the highest-priced smartphones on the market, nearly as pricey as the 5s, yet with shockingly lesser hardware and camera features. Oh, and it doesn’t have the same look as the iconic iPhone 5s.

Go on – do your best sales job with that.

How did Apple so badly misread the market? In fact, there are several reasons. 

Failure 1. Losing the Narrative

The most obvious failing of the iPhone 5c may be in how badly Apple lost control of the narrative. Remember the build-up of buzz before the original iPad? A full touchscreen tablet, built on iOS! The only downside, it was going to cost about $1,000.

We happily got that wrong. iPad turned out to be Apple’s most reasonably priced personal computer ever.

The 5c was the reverse of this. For example, as speculated in Daring Fireball: “(Apple’s) three pricing tiers for the next year would be a new iPhone 5S at the high end, today’s iPhone 5 in the mid-range, and the new 5C at the low end.”

Sadly, no. Worse for Apple was that we all believed the rumors. Not simply because of their persistence, no, but from the fact that the market was so obviously ready for that awesome low-end device that we were convinced Apple was capable of delivering.

Perhaps we should not have convinced ourselves. As I have said here many times: it is extremely hard for any company to shift gears and go down-market, or, for that matter, to reverse its low-price strategy and go up-market. Apple is no different. All corporations have unique strengths, unique brands, unique positions within the larger marketplace. With the 5c, we learned this the hard way. Nonetheless, Apple PR must do a better job of controlling the narrative of its upcoming products.

Failure 2.  Anti-Apple design

A second failure is that the iPhone 5c altered the familiar design cues of the highly popular iPhone line. The 5c is “unapologetically” plastic and offered in several bold colors. This is the Nokia design template — and they’ve been doing it far longer than Apple. Apple offered up absolutely nothing new.

This is not to suggest the design is bad. I actually prefer the look and feel of the 5c. Not surprisingly, my go-to device is a Lumia 1520, with its bright yellow casing made of sturdy polycarbonate. The iPhone 5s feels much too light, much too fragile for my taste. Whether others feel the same is not the issue, however. Rather, the world knows at a glance what an iPhone is, and the 5c forks from this.

Unless Jony Ive and Apple are set to unleash myriad models of iPhone in numerous shapes, colors and price-points, iPod-like, then the 5c design stands out for all the wrong reasons. If you want the world to know you have an iPhone, the 5c states this with a whisper, if at all.

Failure 3. Devaluing Hardware

The most egregious, most confounding failure of the 5c, and the one I think will haunt Apple, is that the 5c effectively declares to all the world that one or all iPhones are radically overpriced. I am at a loss to understand how Apple allowed this to happen.

There is a measly $100 suggested retail price difference between the iPhone 5c and the iPhone 5s. For that extra $100, the iPhone 5s buyer receives the following additional hardware, services and benefits:

  • A7
  • M7
  • TouchID sensor
  • Lighter weight
  • True Tone flash and larger 8 MP sensor
  • Slo-mo video
  • Enhanced imaging features

Explain this: A 16gig 5c retails for $549. A 16gig 5s retails for $649. Why?

We know what that extra $100 gets us, and it’s awesome. What are we getting for that first $549? I now have no idea. The very existence of the 5c, priced so high, calls into question the entire pricing scheme for all of iPhone. Either the 5c is priced way too high or the 5s way too low. With the 5c, Apple has brought pricing to the forefront, and in a bad way.  

Putting a positive spin on the 5c’s failure, Tim Cook stated that:

“I think the 5s, people are really intrigued with Touch ID. It’s a major feature that has excited people. And I think that associated with the other things that are unique to the 5s, got the 5s to have a significant amount more attention and a higher mix of sales.”

In this case, I think it would have been better had he not spoken.

The 5c was passed over because people want Touch ID? Where are these people? I watch iPhone 5s users on a daily basis and TouchID is of scant importance to them, and certainly not the primary deciding factor between 5c and 5s.

There is simply no justification for either the 5c’s price or the 5s’s price, maybe both. Which is it, Apple? Why even allow this question to be raised?

Failure 4. Peeking behind the iCloud curtain

A final concern, one pointed out to me by reader iDawg, is that Apple may have intended to legitimately price the 5c at the mid- or low-end, but were prevented from doing so, possibly just before launch, because their services — Siri, iCloud, streaming media, data synching, etc. — weren’t yet ready to support a massive influx of new users.

The real reason Apple doesn’t sell more phones: fear of choking Siri (and online services) to death.”

Thus, as the 5c neared completion, this theory goes, it became apparent that Apple’s various services weren’t ready to effectively meet the anticipated numbers of new users. Raising the price, and thus limiting demand was the only realistic option to prevent every user, not just 5c users, from rage-inducing crashes and failures. This is a bit hard for me to fathom, though if true, ought to place Eddy Cue on the hot seat.

5c We Hardly Knew You

As I wrote a mere fortnight after its release, Steve Jobs would never have approved the 5c.  I stand by that assertion. Jobs had a near-religious fealty to focus and function, and the end result was hardware honed to near-perfect clarity. The 5c, on the other hand, is muddied, the result of varied and competing interests. The 5c doesn’t know who it is nor who it is for.

Let’s count the ways the 5c fights with itself and with what Apple is best at:

  • An alternative design which denotes newness and low-price versus the iPhone design is iconic and beloved
  • Lots of new Apple customers versus we must provide the best service to all our customers
  • A low-cost device versus we must protect our margins
  • We can make a great smartphone at any price versus we focus on the premium market

Is the iPhone 5c Apple’s canary in the coal mine? A telltale sign of near-term headwinds and divergent internal factions? Possibly, though given the company’s track record, I’m inclined to think of this as a minor self-inflicted wound, like how Disney spent far too much on that movie, John Carter.

That said, the failure of iPhone 5c is well-earned. This was not a case of technology before its time. Rather, of botched execution and that rare placement of profits before customers. Apple’s leadership, Tim Cook and Jony Ive, in particular, blew this one. That’s the most troubling aspect of all this. Tim Cook has scaled Apple to once-unimaginable heights. The iPhone 5c, however, reminds us that no company and no CEO has a perfect batting average.

Why Does Tim Cook Even Bother?

Now that the world no longer has Steve Ballmer to kick around, I think it’s time we direct our focus toward Apple’s Tim Cook. After all, just like Ballmer, Cook had to follow a legendary, visionary founder. Just like Ballmer, Cook is an operations guy, skilled in maximizing profits, growing a company, making sure the trains run on time. Like Ballmer, Cook’s more top-line than techie.

The biggest difference between the two men: Ballmer is worth billions whereas Tim Cook, late to Apple, is worth mere tens of millions.

Is this fair? Probably not, though also scarcely relevant. Regardless of the scope of Steve Ballmer’s fortunes, Tim Cook has enough money to live exceedingly well for the rest of his life. Which begs the question: why does he do it? Why does Tim Cook continue to lead Apple, with all its complexities, all its obligations, when he could retire — and perhaps pursue his other passions, or offer his time to the needy?

I find it fascinating that Cook — and so many others who have so much money — continue to give so much of themselves to a business. Does merely wondering this reveal I am destined to never lead a giant, highly profitable corporation?

Like so much about the murky Mr. Cook, his actual net worth is difficult to determine. The vast majority of his money is, unsurprisingly, linked to Apple stock awards which vest piecemeal over ten years. By the end of 2015, however, and based upon the various sources I reviewed, I will ballpark Cook’s wealth at about $250 million. Imagine you hit the Lotto this week and cleared $250 million. Would you still work? Really?

Break it down:

  1. $50 million for your children
  2. $25 million to charities (10%)
  3. $25 million to your alma mater (you are generous, after all)
  4. $50 million to family, relations, friends (you are very generous, after all)

That still leaves you (and your spouse) with $100 million in cash. If you’re, say, 40, and live to 90, you have $2 million to spend every single year for the rest of your life, however you wish — not including appreciable interest and investment returns.

Would you continue at your job, with all its stresses and demands, its long hours, and limiting focus?

Why does Cook? Why did Steve Ballmer? Why do Marissa Mayer, Susan Wojcicki, and so many other smart, talented and extremely rich men and women continue? Is there really so much joy, so much power, glory and opportunity from running Yahoo, YouTube, Microsoft or Apple?

Tim Cook has said that “money is not a motivator for me.” No doubt that is mostly true. What does motivate him? The morning meeting with the lawyers over the next patent suit? Responding to customer complaints over iCloud or email? Reviewing highly complex procurement contracts? Testing the iWatch 18 months before its launch? Firing Scott Forstall? Firing John Browett? Interviewing candidates to replace him? Talking with Walt Mossberg? Meeting with the CFO to decide when to buy back the next chunk of the company? Having to sit through that meeting where they discuss how the HVAC plans aren’t up to code on the new headquarters and then being interrupted because PR is upset that so many of the Apple faithful are inquiring about the allegations that Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt conspired to keep engineering salaries in check?

It all seems so exhausting.

Tim Cook will both never be Steve Jobs and always compared to Steve Jobs. That also seems an unnecessary burden.

So, why?

I really do not know. But, here’s a clue. When Microsoft named Satya Nadella its next CEO, Steve Ballmer emailed everyone at the company:

Microsoft is one of the great companies in the world. I love this company. I love the bigness and boldness of what we do. I love the way we partner with other companies to come together to change the world. I love the breadth and the diversity of all of the customers we empower, from students in the classroom to consumers to small businesses to governments to the largest enterprises. Above all, I love the spirit of this place, the passion, and the perseverance, which has been the cornerstone of our culture from the very beginning.

Have you said the equivalent proud, beaming, loving words to your own child? Do so, now.

Ballmer has billions of dollars — billions! Why even care? That said, I am pleased he does, and that many others, particularly in tech, care just as deeply.

On the occasion of Facebook’s tenth anniversary — yes, the social network is years older than iPhone — Mark Zuckerberg shared his thoughts:

When I reflect on the last 10 years, one question I ask myself is: why were we the ones to build this? We were just students. We had way fewer resources than big companies. If they had focused on this problem, they could have done it.

The only answer I can think of is: we just cared more.

While some doubted that connecting the world was actually important, we were building. While others doubted that this would be sustainable, you were forming lasting connections.

We just cared more about connecting the world than anyone else. And we still do today.

He cared and continues to care.

If I had Mark Zuckerberg money, I would still write, every single day, exactly as I do now. Only, the money would almost certainly alter the pattern of my days. I would never again work for a company, nor for an editor, nor ever look for work. Would my writing then improve? Would the subject matter change? Alas, I will probably never know. I do know, however, that whatever it is beyond money that motivates the Cooks, Zuckerbergs, Ballmers, and Mayers of the world, we are almost certainly the better for it.

On a regular basis, I hear someone mock Apple or disparage Microsoft. Mere Internet flotsam, signifying nothing. The fact is, these companies have enhanced our lives, our work, creativity, play, learning, and connections with one another. We are fortunate that their leaders give so much of themselves, even when they have every reason not to.

The Death Of iPhone. The Death Of Android. The Rebirth Of Facebook.

Well, that was a heckuva week.

Google sells Motorola for billions less than they paid for it. Apple sells millions fewer iPhones than nearly everyone expected, then directs guidance lower. Facebook becomes a mobile first company, for real this time. Amazon investors prove they don’t quite have unlimited patience. Yahoo remains last decade’s news. Microsoft probably has a new CEO, one with zero connection to Nokia. Oh, and they now make better commercials than Apple.

Anything else?

What we learned from last week’s machinations is that everything we think we know about the smartphone wars is completely, utterly false — or  worse, meaningless. Barely a fortnight ago, on this very site, I told you: “The smartphone wars are not over.” Nothing has been settled, least not the future. After last week’s fun-bumpy-tweet-filled ride, does anyone still dispute this?

Know this: The current market for smartphones, and all they are subsuming, transforming, re-making, inspiring — which is in fact all of the things — is itself under threat, betrayed by its own relentless innovation and rapid success. Yet, far too many analysts and bloggers stubbornly cling to the fiction that somehow, smartphones can alter every market they touch while continuing on a merry upward slope unscathed by their own destructive deeds.

The most basic assumptions about this market are nothing more than faith-based analyst alchemy.

Time now to kill the dominant fictions in the smartphone wars.

The Death of iPhone

Fiction: Apple owns the high-end of the smartphone market.   

If you are making assumptions re iPhone (or Android) sales growth based on an imaginary perceived share of a market that is already on the cusp of disrupting itself, then you are making faith-based decisions. It’s that simple.

As I wrote months before last week’s earnings announcement, if Steve Jobs was alive he would never approve the iPhone 5c. The 5c is a rare self-inflicted wound, the elevation of profits over values. Only, that is not the cause of Apple’s weakness in their iPhone business. The trouble is the smartphone market itself, which I am beginning to suspect does not actually exist. Bear with me.

The persistent belief among analysts that  as much as 90% of the current mobile phone market (nearly 5 billion users) will transition to smartphones is a religious ideal, nothing more. Repeat after me: There is no total addressable market (TAM) for smartphones. The very concept is a fiction. Indeed, we may already be within months of Peak iPhone, a year or two from Peak Smartphone. For billions of people, voice, robust SMS/MMS services, and perhaps some form of digital identity is more than they will ever need. What can Apple provide them? Even at, say, $300, nearly everyone on this planet cannot afford and will never need an iPhone.

It gets worse.

I carry my smartphone with me all the time and use it for far more than I can list here. For the majority of that time, however, I don’t actually need a “smartphone”. What I really need is something like a credit card-sized piece of glass that supports rare but necessary voice calling, possibly video calling, can display a virtual keyboard for texting, and includes a mag-stripe (and/or chip) for payments. Create this and the smartphone market is gone, reduced to the equivalent of the dusty home desktop PC. Given the rapidity of innovation in this market, I should reasonably expect to have my (truly) smart card by no later than mid 2016. No iPhone necessary — in barely two years.

Tim Cook must know this. This is likely one reason why Apple stockpiles so much cash. When you’re dependent upon a single product line, iPhone, for about 60% of your revenue, and that market may vanish in a few years, then your focus necessarily shifts to maximizing profits of that product line and funneling those profits into entirely new offerings.

Apple doesn’t release many new products. I suspect that is about to change in a very big way. Expect to see several new products and product lines from the company over the next year alone. Some designed for nothing more than padding iPhone margins. Others, desperately in search of that next big thing.

The Death of Android

Fiction: Android is unassailable

Google cut itself free from the anchor that was Motorola. They strong-armed Samsung into more closely following the sanctioned Google Android playbook. Wise moves.

I sense fear.

Yes, Android dominates smartphone market share. Look closer. What many call ‘Google-free’ Android, AOSP, now garners a solid second place — and is growing at a rate much faster than ‘real’ Android.

smartphone OS

AOSP is the “open-source software stack for a wide array of mobile devices with different form factors.” It can power Amazon’s Kindle line, or smartphones made for use in China, for example, where Google search, map, Play and other services are not terribly popular and not welcome by the government.

Does this matter?

Absolutely. Google no doubt believes that AOSP is a necessary sacrifice. It’s availability ensures the rapid spread of the  “Android” template and prevents iPhone or Windows Phone, for example, from garnering another new user. It seeds the future for ‘real’ Android — and it is hoped, heavy usage of those most profitable Google services. Except, this is false.

The fact is, the rapid, global embrace of smartphones has altered the entire value proposition of web search and web services — Google’s bread and butter. AOSP may presently be little more than Android without the Google, but it could ultimately become a fully-fledged ecosystem alternative in its own right, one that directly competes against Google on everything that matters to them, and not just in China, but in Japan, South Korea, Brazil, USA, everywhere.

Thus, while I suspect last week’s moves by Google signal the company’s preparations to launch an assault on the Chinese market, it may already be too late. The world’s biggest market for data and smartphones can do just fine without Google. Which means: everyone can.

It gets worse.

Extremely popular mobile services may now have a vested interest in supporting AOSP’s growth. Popular social messaging apps such as Line, WeChat or WhatsApp no doubt noticed that Google made its Hangouts service the default messaging app for Android Kitkat. They won’t sit still for such bullying. What’s to stop them from integrating their service and AOSP and offering a low-end smartphone in the developing world?

In the short-term, perhaps none of this happens. In fact, I expect Google to best Apple as the world’s most valuable tech company, possibly within a few weeks. Save the celebrations. Google’s value arises strictly from it’s ability to capture more of our habits, more of our actions, and monetize them across a near-endless supply of strangers and brands. What we are learning, however, is that despite the rapid spread of Android in all its forms, there are effective alternatives to Google services across every smartphone platform — even its own. Little wonder, then, that Google is moving quickly into moonshots, driverless cars, the connected home, consumer hardware, health and more. Such moves are driven by fear, even if they are shrouded in boilerplate Silicon Valley boasting.

The Rebirth of Facebook

Fiction: Unbundling Will Kill Facebook

Like that persistent meme that teens are abandoning Facebook, the idea that Facebook is being unbundled to death — via messaging apps, social picture apps, Christian dating sites and the like — is simply false. Facebook is benefitting from the unbundling trend.

In fact, after badly stumbling on mobile, after the laughable dung heap that was Facebook Home, the brief marriage to HTML5, and the spats with Apple and Google, Facebook is doing better than ever. More than half its revenues now comes via mobile — no smartphone OS necessary.

This is in large part because the company is embracing the unbundling strategy, shrewdly leveraging its billion users and their extant Facebook identity and eagerness to share everything. That some people want to share only some aspects of their lives with only some others at some times and places, via text or image or video, is fine — every 1 and every 0 feeds the growing Facebook engine.

Let a thousand apps bloom. Facebook will be there.

Barely a year ago, analysts were convinced Facebook was doomed given its utter dependence upon iOS and Android. Now, a case can be made that smartphones, once thought as the device to bring the developing world into the global sphere of the Internet, is already on the cusp of being disrupted. In this new world, it is Facebook (and our Facebook ID) that will connect us all to one another.

The Dogs of War

What I think last week’s official numbers and clever machinations reveal is that the “smartphone” market, which most still believe is a pitched battle between iOS profit share and Android market share, is, in fact, merely the initial wave in a coming tsunami, one that will deliver highly personal, nearly ubiquitous and ever-engaging computing and connectivity to all who want it and nearly all who do not, and in forms we have yet to imagine. Hardware profits and OS marketshare, be damned.

The smartphone itself may be no more than a fleeting, ten-year-blip in computing history. There will be no 30th anniversary for the iPhone. Android will betray its maker. Owning your own smartphone ecosystem does not matter. Everything is in flux. My verse is the destruction of everything — and the great tech companies of our day happily, foolishly oblige.

As Jim Morrison said, “no one here gets out alive.”

Unified OS Advocates Are Out Of “Touch” With Reality

Last week, Phil Schiller, Craig Federighi and Bud Tribble were interviewed as part of the Mac’s 30th anniversary. They — in no uncertain terms — slammed the door shut on the idea that Apple was planning on merging iOS (the operating system for their phones and tablets) with OS X (the operating system for their notebooks and desktops).

“We don’t waste time thinking, ‘But it should be one [interface]!’ How do you make these [operating systems] merge together?’ What a waste of energy that would be,” Schiller said.

“To say [OS X and iOS] should be the same, independent of their purpose? Let’s just converge, for the sake of convergence? [It’s] absolutely a nongoal,” Federighi said.

“And that”, I thought to myself, “finally puts an end to that discussion.”

Boy, was I wrong.

The Loyal Opposition

Brian S. Hall makes an impassioned case for operating system unification, right here at Tech.Pinions:

I want my various “computers”…to essentially operate as similarly as possible, preferably with a unified user interface and application set across all.

It’s troubling to me that the world’s biggest computer company (Apple) can’t seem to make this work. When I hear Apple execs mocking Microsoft’s UI strategy I think it’s an opportunity lost.

(I)t bothers me that it is Apple which seems so determined to accept multiple OSes across multiple form factors. Here’s a case, frankly, where I hope Microsoft wins.

Kyle Russell, of Business Insider, reviews the various operating system comments made by the Apple executives and comes to a similar conclusion, here:

As much as a well-executed touchscreen MacBook could make for an amazing device — maybe even “redefine laptop computing” — it seems that Apple doesn’t want people to get caught up on the idea, even if it is true.

(Emphasis added)

Do you fully grasp what both of these commentators are implying? It’s not, they contend, that Apple CANNOT create a unified operating system, it’s simply that Apple REFUSES to do so. If only Apple would not be so gol’ darn stubborn and get on the unified operating system bandwagon, Apple could not only make a device that would run on a unified operating system but they could make a unified device that would be totally AWESOME!

Bull hockey

[pullquote]A word to the wise is infuriating. ~ Unknown Source[/pullquote]

I VEHEMENTLY disagree. Operating system unification is not a “lost opportunity.” It’s not an “opportunity” at all. It’s a disaster because A TOUCH OPERATING SYSTEM IS WHOLLY INCOMPATIBLE WITH A DESKTOP OPERATING SYSTEM.

We have at least the courage of our convictions to say we don’t think this is part of what makes a great product; we’re going to leave it out. Some people are going to not like that… ~ Steve Jobs

The Interview

Metaphors Matter

“An incredible amount of thought and creativity went into the original Mac metaphor,” Tribble said.

A Tool Should Work The Way We Think, Not Make Us Think About The Way It Works

(T)he underlying principles behind them—that the Mac should be easily approachable and learnable by just looking at it, that it should bend to the will of the person and not bend the person’s will to the technology—those underlying threads also apply to our other products.

One Size Does Not Fit All

And I think what we are focused on is delivering the tailored, optimal experience for those kinds of ways that you work, without trying to take a one-size-fits-all solution to it.

No Touch Screens on Notebooks or Desktops

“It’s obvious and easy enough to slap a touchscreen on a piece of hardware, but is that a good experience?” Federighi said. “We believe, no.” ((Dr. Drang (@drdrang) has a thoughtful essay, here, on why touch screens WOULD work on notebooks and desktops. MY TAKE: This issue confused me for a while. It was clear to me that the input methods for notebooks and desktops were, and should remain, distinct from those of phones and tablets. On the other hand, it was also clear that phones and tablets were training us all to touch our computing screens. Ultimately, I concluded that metaphor mattered most. Using touch on a machine designed for a desktop metaphor only works SOME of the time and would ultimately cause confusion in the user’s mind. Better to make a clean break and have users to gestures on a touchpad, instead.))

The Personal Computer Has Been Honed To Work With A Keyboard And Mice; The Tablet Has Been Honed To Work With Your Finger

“This device,” Federighi said, pointing at a MacBook Air screen, “has been honed over 30 years to be optimal” for keyboards and mice. Schiller and Federighi both made clear that Apple believes that competitors who try to attach a touchscreen to a PC or a clamshell keyboard onto a tablet are barking up the wrong tree.

“The reason OS X has a different interface than iOS isn’t because one came after the other or because this one’s old and this one’s new,” Federighi said. Instead, it’s because using a mouse and keyboard just isn’t the same as tapping with your finger.”

The Metaphysics

Aristotle drew a distinction between essential and accidental properties. The way he put it is that essential properties are those without which a thing wouldn’t be what it is, and accidental properties are those that determine how a thing is, but not what it is.

Touch is ACCIDENTAL to a Personal Computer. It may enhance its usefulness but it doesn’t change the essence of what it is. Touch is ESSENTIAL to a Tablet. It’s the essence of what it is.

Pixel specific input is ANATHEMA to a Tablet. It destroys its very essence. A Touch device can literally not work with pixel sized input targets. But pixel specific input is ESSENTIAL to a Personal Computer. A Personal Computer can literally not operate without it.

A touch input metaphor and a pixel input metaphor not only should be, but MUST be, wholly different and wholly incompatible with one another. It’s not just that they do not comfortably co-exist within one form factor, it’s also that they do not comfortably co-exist within our minds eye.

In plain words, it’s no accident that the operating systems for tablets and notebooks are distinctly different from one another. On the contrary, their differences — their incompatibilities — are the essence of what makes them what they are.

Motorcycle-Motorcar ((Why Motorcar instead of car or automobile? Because I like alliteration, that’s why.)) Metaphor

A car and a motorcycle are both motor vehicles but they employ two very different user interfaces.

On a car:
— You use your left hand to steer;
— You use your right hand to shift gears; ((At least, you did before automatic transmissions came into vogue.))
— You use your right foot to accelerate and brake; and
— You use your left foot to keep time with the radio.

On a motorcycle:
— You use your left hand to work the clutch;
— You use your left foot to shift the gears;
— You use your right hand to work the front wheel brake; and
— You use your right foot to work the back wheel brake.

[pullquote]The mythical unified operating system is an insoluble problem, masquerading as a great good.[/pullquote]

You could put a hand brake on a car or a steering wheel on a motorcycle or a foot clutch on a car or a stick shift on a motorcycle — but none of those additions would make much sense. All would be confusing and most would be dangerous as all get out.

Unifying the features of a motorcycle and a car or a tablet and a desktop is not the goal. User understanding and usability IS the goal.

The Theory In Practice

That’s the theory. So what’s the reality?

Experience without theory is blind, but theory without experience is mere intellectual play. ~ Kant

The Tablet — Sans Desktop Interface — Is A Runaway Success

The iPad — and all the derivative tablets within the Android operating system — have only one operating system and only one input (touch) and they are fantastically successful.

By the end of 2014 the install base of tablets will be just over half that of PCs. ~ Ben Bajarin (@BenBajarin)

Take a deep breath and re-read that again. It only took FOUR YEARS for install base of tablets to reach half of that of Personal Computers!


If the tablet is only half-a loaf — if the unified operating system is the Holy Grail of computing — then why has the tablet been SO successful and why has Microsoft’s 2-in-1 effort been such an abject failure?

The failure of Apple critics is not that they don’t understand that Apple’s iPad/iPhone are selling. It is that they don’t understand why. ~ Ben Bajarin (@BenBajarin)


The Surface 2-In-1 Approach Is A Train Wreck

Design makes what is complex feel simpler, and makes what is simpler feel richer.

[pullquote]Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system is as pure as the driven slush.[/pullquote]

Ask yourself this question: “Is Windows 8’s 2-in-1 user interface simpler?” Heck no, Why, Microsoft can’t even get their own flagship apps to work well on Windows 8.

I’m really not sure that there’s a worse app to use with Windows 8 tablets than Outlook. The idea that MS thinks this is acceptable is crazy. ~ Ian Betteridge (@ianbetteridge)

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPad in 2010, he asked “Is there room for a third category of device (between the phone and the notebook)?” Now Microsoft is trying to introduce yet another category between the tablet and the notebook. If it is to succeed, then it must pass the same litmus test that Steve Jobs proposed for the iPad:

The bar’s pretty high. In order to really create a new category of devices, those devices are going to have to be far better at doing some key tasks. Better than a laptop. Better than a smartphone. (Author’s note: And better than a tablet.)

[pullquote]You can’t sit on two horses with one behind. ~ Yiddish proverb[/pullquote]

Now let me ask you this: What tasks is the Surface FAR better at?

The Surface, which is the embodiment of combining two operating systems into one, has failed and failed miserably.


It turns out that Apple had long-ago asked — and long-ago definitively answered — the question of whether they would be combining a tablet with a notebook. And that answer was “Yes”:

QUESTION: “What would happen if a MacBook met an iPad?”

ANSWER: The MacBook Air. ((New MacBook Air announcement))

[pullquote]Microsofts strategy and products will appeal to millions while Google and Apple’s will appeal to billions. ~ Ben Bajarin (@BenBajarin)[/pullquote]

Tablet and notebook interfaces are not combining because it simply won’t work. Great products are not defined by the absence of weakness, but rather, by the presence of clear strengths.

In 2007, when the iPhone was introduced, Steve Jobs famously said:

(A)re you getting it? These are not three separate devices, this is one device, and we are calling it iPhone.

When it comes to phones, tablets and notebook/desktops, we can reverse that and paraphrase Steve Jobs by saying:

Are you getting it? This is not one device. These are three separate devices, and we’re calling them the smartphone, tablet and notebook/desktop.

Phil Schiller put it this way:

“It’s not an either/or,” Schiller said. “It’s a world where you’re going to have a phone, a tablet, a computer, you don’t have to choose. And so what’s more important is how you seamlessly move between them all…. It’s not like this is a laptop person and that’s a tablet person. It doesn’t have to be that way.”


Wise men profit more from fools than fools from wise men; for the wise men shun the mistakes of fools, but fools do not imitate the successes of the wise. ~ Cato the Elder

[pullquote]It is hard to get to the summit, harder to stay on it, but hardest to come down. ~ Aleksander Fredro[/pullquote]

Apple showed Microsoft the way to do tablets right, but Microsoft refused to follow Apple’s example because they knew that it would mean the end of their existing Window’s monopoly.

Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Microsoft thinks they’re in the Windows business. They’ve forgotten their mission, their purpose. They’ve forgotten that they’re in the computing business.

ctrl-alt-delMicrosoft should Control-Alt-Delete their attempts at a unified operating system, but I don’t think there’s any chance that that will happen. Based on the statements coming out of Redmond, Microsoft is doubling-down on their current strategy which, in my opinion, is a tragic mistake. Besides, asking Microsoft to fix what’s wrong with Windows 8 is like making them the detective in a crime movie where they’re also the murderer.

Yogi Berra once famously said:

It’s not over until it’s over.

It’s over.

Surprise! Apple Execs Use The Mac Anniversary To Dis Microsoft.

When Apple executives speak to the press, pay attention. They may dodge. They may fail to disclose some facts, overemphasize others. But, and this is critical, Apple executives who speak on the record always reveal what they are thinking.

Surprise. Apple executives think a great deal about Microsoft.

Mostly, they think Microsoft has got it completely wrong. In this case, however, I hope it is Apple that is proven wrong.

Last week, Macworld scored a very rare interview with key Apple executives. The men spoke on the occasion of the Mac’s 30th anniversary. That the Mac (in its many forms) is thirty is a truly laudable achievement. For so long, the Mac was marginalized. So much so, in fact, that Steve Jobs had no choice but to turn to the iPod. No more. Today, Mac survives and by the great metric of profits, even thrives.

Which is why I find it so odd that in granting their interview, the Apple executives spoke so little about the Mac’s rather inspiring tale and instead directed jab after jab toward Microsoft’s unified OS strategy.

This, dear reader, is what we call a tell.

Hardware Trumps All Else

From Macworld’s brief interview, consider the many times Apple execs suggest that the current Windows strategy is all wrong:

“It’s obvious and easy enough to slap a touchscreen on a piece of hardware, but is that a good experience? We believe, no.”

“We don’t waste time thinking, ‘But it should be one [interface]!’ How do you make these [operating systems] merge together?’ What a waste of energy that would be.”

“To say [OS X and iOS] should be the same, independent of their purpose? Let’s just converge, for the sake of convergence? [It’s] absolutely a non goal ”

“You don’t want to say the Mac became less good at being a Mac because someone tried to turn it into iOS.”

“There’s a natural form factor that drives the optimal experience for each of those things. And I think what we are focused on is delivering the tailored, optimal experience for those kinds of ways that you work, without trying to take a one-size-fits-all solution to it.”

Tim Cook appeared on ABC in large part to talk about the Mac at 30. The company created a splashy new landing page at to celebrate thirty years of Macintosh. Apple execs spoke to the press as part of the Mac’s celebration. Yet, Apple’s conversation continues to come back to that central theme: Microsoft is doing it wrong.

What gives?

Partly, it’s because no matter how rich Apple is now, old grudges never fully heal. It’s also representative of the fact that, at least in part, Apple is smart enough to let sales direct strategy. Consider that for the last quarter, Apple will sell about 50 million iPhones, 25 million iPads, and probably less than 5 million Macs. There is simply no incentive for the company to even suggest a Mac OSX – iOS convergence.

I hope they are wrong.

Many Modes. Many Devices. One Interface.

Surface tabletI want my various “computers” — defined here as at least my smartphone, tablet, desktop, laptop, wearable watch, television and even car dashboard — to essentially operate as similarly as possible, preferably with a unified user interface and application set across all.

Yes, my many computers are for different tasks and will be used at different times, in different settings. I will want to use a keyboard and mouse for some activities, touch for others, my voice for still others. That said, I want all my devices to have a UI that looks and feels and functions similarly. Even more, I want a singular user experience across all devices and across all modes of interaction. Thus, Mac knows my touch and my voice exactly as iPhone. My iPad screen and Mac screen are essentially swappable.

It’s troubling to me that the world’s biggest computer company can’t seem to make this work. When I hear Apple execs mocking Microsoft’s UI strategy I think it’s an opportunity lost.

Apple Limitations

Apple has survived and prospered because of its rather profound understanding of the opportunities presented by its own limitations. Whereas Google is almost infinitely scalable, there are hard limits on what Apple can do. Thus, their relentless multi-decade focus on maximizing the potential of a fully integrated hardware-software-services ecosystem. The result is the world’s best smartphone, best tablet, best laptop.

It’s no longer enough. As data shifts to the cloud, hardware becomes increasingly de-constructed. Desktop, laptop, smartphone, tablet, an assortment of wearables, connected cars, connected homes and on and on. I want the very best of each of these. I also want each of these to operate with the same essential template.

Perhaps I can’t have that, now now, maybe not ever. But it bothers me that it is Apple which seems so determined to accept multiple OSes across multiple form factors. Here’s a case, frankly, where I hope Microsoft wins.

The Smartphone Wars Pivot And I Jump To Windows Phone

The smartphone wars are over. Apple won.

They are not the only winner, of course, just the biggest. I confess I do not fully appreciate the many moving parts of a Korean chaebol, nor understand Korean accounting practices. Such caveats notwithstanding, Samsung also emerged victorious.

Given that there now exists about a billion persons who use Google services everyday, several times a day, their most personal information monetized by the company’s anonymous servers in steady bursts, clearly Google also won, even if it has yet to show up in their earnings reports.

The losers include Sony, Panasonic, Sharp, BlackBerry, Palm, Dell, and far too many others to list here.

Except, our story doesn’t end there. The world keeps spinning. The market keeps growing, smartphones continue to invade new industries, apps are becoming more robust, software ever smaller, the power and scale of the cloud keeps expanding — and competition never stops.

One Shot One Opportunity Is False

HP — remember them — is set to release a low-end smartphone for emerging markets. Don’t scoff. The vast majority of the world still does not own the equivalent of the very device you refuse to give up for even a day. While Samsung continues to lead all smartphone makers, the company’s operating profit fell notably in the fourth quarter, likely due to reduced margins on its high-end smartphones. Apple, meanwhile, saw its global smartphone share drop to a shockingly low 12.1%. That’s not 12.1% of global mobile phone sales but of “smartphone” sales. I never expected it to be so meager.

Yet, new opportunities abound.

Apple’s iPhone is steadily invading corporate IT. With each job and every task smartphones strip away from traditional PCs, their inherent value increases.


Cars are another new battleground. That constant stream of real-time data, entertainment and connectivity we now demand fill every moment of our lives will not be halted simply because we get inside a car. This is a big deal. Around 80 million new cars and trucks are sold every year.

Last summer, Apple announced iOS in the Car, its effort to integrate iOS  apps and services with newer automobiles. I have exceedingly low expectations. Apple makes its money from hardware sales, iPhone hardware in particular. iOS in the Car still requires users to have an iPhone which they must then plug into the vehicle to gain the full benefits of Siri, Maps, iTunes and other content. This is much too limiting.

Google’s recently announced Open Automotive Alliance — still primarily vapor — has a far greater upside as it is free from such device constraints. The automotive market may force Apple to re-think its hardware-only focus very soon. After all, Apple hardware, at least while we are driving, is effectively irrelevant.

The situation is much different in wearables, where I contend Apple has a decided advantage. If we are ever going to wear computing devices en masse — be they wristbands, eyewear or clothing — they will have to be far more than merely functional. They must look good. They must synch effortlessly with our smartphones and other computers. They must be intuitive to operate. We will want to try them on without sales pressure. Advantage: Apple.

Sports and wellness, the Internet of Things, and the extrication of content from copyright, which will allow us to control, share and interact with content at all times and from any place, will similarly spin the smartphone market into numerous overlapping paths, merging with, tearing down and creating industry after industry.


Then there are the giant emerging markets. China, of course, but also India, which has long embraced Sony and Samsung. In my admittedly limited experience, Southeast Asia has long revealed a love of physical keyboards and robust messaging services — offering a potential return to life for BlackBerry.

As the many combatants prepare for these coming new wars, let us rejoice in the fact that we can now can go to practically any mall, any carrier’s store, any electronics retailer anywhere in the world, and purchase an extraordinarily powerful, highly functional and reasonably intuitive connected mobile computer for relatively little money. Which is exactly what I did recently. I was quite surprised by what happened.

I chose Windows Phone.

Though I have used smartphones built for nearly every single platform from all around the world, my go-to device for the past 5 years has been iPhone. No longer.

These are my reasons why — and they remind us that even where the smartphone wars are settled, they are never truly settled.

I Like Big Displays And I Cannot Lie

Nokia-Lumia-1520I now primarily use the Nokia Lumia 1520. It’s huge. I love it. Surfing the web, reading a book, racing cars (gaming), watching movies, scanning my photos; all are so much more delightful on the gorgeous and very big Lumia 1520 display than on the iPhone.

I dislike the iPhone 5(c/s) screen dimensions. I find it much too narrow. The dimensions of the iPhone 5 series, in my view, reveal the limits placed upon Apple by its highly successful app ecosystem. Yes, apps should be optimized for specific screen sizes and Apple is the clear leader in apps, both in terms of quantity and quality. Unfortunately, this results in a display with dimensions that I find to be both limiting and, frankly, unattractive.

I have found no device that is as beautiful as the colorful and unapologetically polycarbonite Lumia phones.

Build Quality

The Lumia looks great, yes, but it also feels great. In fact, Nokia devices have long been known for their build quality and durability. This is not to suggest that Apple’s newest iPhone is poorly constructed. Rather, they feel flimsy. iPhone 5s, in particular, feels much too light, like your grandmother’s jewelry.


The combination of Nokia Maps (Here Maps), which includes traffic data, search, and downloadable maps, plus Here Transit for public transportation data has proven more helpful to me than Apple’s alternative. Google Maps with Waze, not fully available on Windows Phone, may prove more useful to most. However, I simply don’t want to provide Google with still more of my personal data.


Most iPhone accessories are priced well above my pay grade. Not so with Windows Phone. I recently purchased a car charger for my Windows Phone at a gas station — for less than $10. The low price was due, of course, to Windows Phone’s use of the micro USB standard. Similarly, I lost my Jambox charger. Luckily, it also uses micro USB so I simply swap with my phone charger. Standards make life easier.

smart_hero_mba_11_2xiOS 7

I love what I think Apple is trying to do with iOS 7. The problem is, they haven’t done it yet. The emphasis on data presentation, plus improved integration across select apps and functions is a laudable achievement. It’s just that the damn thing freezes and crashes much too frequently.

Live Tiles

Live Tiles are often — but not always — preferable to static app icons. Tiles can display current weather, show me how many calories I have consumed for the day, display my favorite photos. Tiles that merely twinkle and flash and convey no useful information, however, are admittedly a time-sucking distraction.

The Fine Print

I am a Mac user. This means that with Windows Phone I no longer have apps that effortlessly synch across iPhone and Mac. This is just one of the sacrifices I’ve had to accept by choosing Windows Phone.

Because of copyright restrictions, I no longer have full, unfettered access to all the songs and videos I’ve purchased over the years through iTunes.

There are far fewer apps and most apps are of lesser quality on Windows Phone.

Maddeningly, the very latest Windows Phone keyboard remains determinedly stuck in 2011. The keyboard is cumbersome and stupid, rarely correcting my obvious typos.

As much as I dislike the iPhone 5 design, it adheres to what should be a cardinal rule for smartphones, despite everything I have said about big, beautiful displays: for every smartphone, it should be possible for every action to be performed with just one hand.

Games? There are great games on Windows Phone. Microsoft also appears intent on offering a gaming experience that truly integrates phone and Xbox console. Then there’s that bigger display. However, there are far more games for all types of gamers available on iPhone.

Mobile Safari and Mobile Explorer are equivalent. FaceTime and Skype are not, however, with Skype more a global and business telephony service and FaceTime the world’s most accessible video chat service.

Nokia offers highly granular camera controls that are sorely lacking on iPhone. My Lumia takes much better pictures at night. However, iPhone 5(c/s) takes great pictures and is faster to operate.

Email is simpler to use and to set-up on Windows Phone.

The Windows Phone equivalent of Siri is of absolutely no use. As I am at a loss to recall a single instance when I have found Siri useful, this probably doesn’t matter.

Winners & Winners

Clearly, whichever device and whichever platform you choose requires trade-offs. I expect this to become even more pronounced as the smartphone wars morph, move into entirely new arenas, enable new devices, like wearables, reinvigorate old device, like automobiles — and steadily connect more and more billions of people across the world.

For millions of people every month, and for nearly all of us at least once every year or two, an opportunity presents itself to embrace a new or different platform. This is a good thing as it keeps the combatants ever vigilant, always striving to improve.

The smartphone wars are not over. Rather, the first smartphone war has ended.

The Next Steve Jobs Will Destroy Apple

Apple is the biggest tech company in the world, worth at least $100 billion more than either Microsoft or Google. Apple has over 350 million active users. Within a few short years, I suspect a billion people will be using Apple computers every single day.

How did this happen? Thus: Steve Jobs proved us all wrong.

steve_jobs-wideIn so many ways, ways we now take for granted, ways that Google and Microsoft are rapidly trying to copy, it was Jobs who showed us the way — even as we all were convinced of his wrongness. Jobs proved us wrong not just on technical matters, but on profound aspects of both technology and business.

A few examples of Steve Jobs proving us all wrong:

  1. Building a global retail chain
  2. Requiring customers to pay for content
  3. Demanding high-margins for hardware
  4. Choosing margin share over market share
  5. Emphasizing design over commoditization
  6. Building a touchscreen-only line of computers
  7. Banishing pornography

All of these were business decisions that went against the accepted order. All were correct.

In this same way, Jobs taught us — for we did not initially believe — that:

  1. The big money resides at the top of the pyramid
  2. Walled gardens and well-controlled APIs are the future of the web
  3. Existing standards and popular features are of almost no consequence
  4. There is more money in consumer computing than the enterprise
  5. Set prices, clearly stated, benefit buyer and seller
  6. The web — websites, web pages, web standards — is less important than apps
  7. More users, more developers, more content providers directly benefit from a closed ecosystem than an open one


And here we are today, following decades of Jobs wandering the wilderness, steadfastly implementing the many and varied pieces of his mad grand vision.

Now, developers choose Apple first, others second (if at all).  Apple towers above Microsoft. Apple isn’t just the biggest computing company, it may also be the world’s biggest, most popular, most profitable gaming company. Symbian, BlackBerry, Palm, Motorola and Windows Phone have been crushed by iPhone. Dell has gone private. HP remains MIA. Jobsian tremors are still being felt across multiple industries as content, data, apps and services all collapse inside the iPhone — or its copiers.

In what turned out to be one of his very last shareholder letters, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer spoke with language clearly influenced by Jobs:

“We will continue to work with a vast ecosystem of partners to deliver a broad spectrum of Windows PCs, tablets and phones. We do this because our customers want great choices and we believe there is no way one size suits over 1.3 billion Windows users around the world. There will be times when we build specific devices for specific purposes, as we have chosen to do with Xbox and the recently announced Microsoft Surface. In all our work with partners and on our own devices, we will focus relentlessly on delivering delightful, seamless experiences across hardware, software and services. This means as we, with our partners, develop new Windows devices we’ll build in services people want. Further, as we develop and update our consumer services, we’ll do so in ways that take full advantage of hardware advances, that complement one another and that unify all the devices people use daily. So right out of the box, a customer will get a stunning device that is connected to unique communications, productivity and entertainment services from Microsoft as well as access to great services and applications from our partners and developers around the world.”

And, breathe…

Understand, I do not come here to mock Ballmer. Nor should the Apple faithful: Tim Cook is probably more like Ballmer than Jobs, after all. Besides, Ballmer did far too much to benefit the company he so dearly loved. And yet, in that single paragraph above, where Ballmer references billions of users, seamless experiences, delight, the integration of hardware and software, sounding so much like Steve Jobs, he grounds everything in the obvious, and the near-term. Contained within that same single paragraph Ballmer specifically mentions…Windows, PCs, tablets, phones, Windows, Xbox, Surface, Windows, Microsoft, partners, partners, partners, partners, and developers.

Ballmer’s statement is the beatification of the current product set, the glorification of the existing order, and fully aligned with the rational. This is not surprising. It’s nearly impossible to not be rational. Certainly this is true if you are the CEO of a publicly traded company.

Steve Jobs was not rational. His vision of the future was not dependent upon existing products, existing form factors, partners, developers, nor the established wisdom.

I lived through the years when Microsoft absolutely controlled the direction of personal computing. I was there for the rise of Google — and its destruction of the value of content and user privacy. I would not have dared believe that the radical visions of Steve Jobs would so thoroughly flourish in this world. It’s all so profoundly non-rational.

Steve Jobs was firm in his vision, proudly revolutionary, shrewd enough to avoid the trappings of both success and failure, and fully prepared to prove all of us completely wrong, no matter how long it took.

I am sorry for ever having doubted him.

All of which is prologue to the obvious: Apple is today’s monolith. All must acknowledge, possibly fear, every move Apple makes, each market it enters. We hang on the company’s every word, spin tales from its silence, and have grown comfortable in the knowledge that, as is the new natural order of things, Apple will succeed with each new release, each blessed launch.

Which is prologue to the less obvious: The next Steve Jobs, when she or he finally arrives, will have Apple squarely in their sites. Then blow it to bits.

Apple To Dominate The Wearable Devices Market

I have written much about “wearables” — wearable computing devices such as the Nike FuelBand, Fitbit Force and Google Glass. Wearables are set to invade consumer markets, healthcare, logistics and other industries, delivering a combination of personalized data, real-time notifications, and analysis of various human outputs, all stylishly wrapped inside the explicit promise of empowerment, enhancement and efficiency.

Whether these devices will actually improve personal fitness, lead to a healthier society, make for better-performing professional athletes, dramatically increase worker productivity, or even systematically violate our privacy are all questions I’ve explored.


One question not explored: who will dominate the bourgeoning wearables revolution?

The answer seems obvious: Apple.

Apple’s design skills, highly integrated ecosystem, apps market, retail footprint, customer support staff, computing prowess, touch-based OS and global manufacturing scale are peerless — and every one of these are critical for success in the wearables market.

Indeed, I have a hard time conjuring scenarios under which Apple will not crush the competition in wearables. For the moment, I can envision only three, and none I put much faith in:

1. Wearables Are Not Real Computers

Though unlikely, I can at least imagine Apple Inc, with its finite resources and very obvious talents in building high-end personal computing devices, simply abdicating the wearables market.

Tim Cook and company may decide to continue their focus on “real” computers — smartphones and tablets — and cede wearables and sensors to others. Then, as wearables, their apps and services all become so popular and so pervasive in our lives that they eclipse today’s computing market, Apple is relegated to the margins.

Given Cook’s poaching of key people from Nike, Burberry and elsewhere, this scenario seems extremely unlikely. Much more likely is my earlier Techpinions prediction: that Apple rolls out a line of premium-priced computing jewelry.


In fact, I think most analysts are missing the big story from Apple’s recent signing with China Mobile. It’s less about the number of new iPhones Apple will sell — let’s not play the smartphone market share game now, after all. Rather, it’s that a nation of a billion plus people, hundreds of millions of whom are transitioning into middle class, may ravenously desire beautiful, simple, and highly functional jewelry, watches, sensors and other wearables. Apple can provide all of these.

2. Apple Mistimes The Market

The “Apple copies” meme is partly true, at least on the surface. Apple works on a great many technologies, gadgets, form factors. However, the company typically does not release these until they believe both the product and the market are  ready, oftentimes long after competitors have their product collecting dust on retail shelves.

Apple may have a grand solution ready in, say, Q2 2015, only to lose out if wearables explode in popularity in early 2014.

Or, the market may radically veer onto a path Apple has no response to, and no strength to bear. After all, the accepted trajectory of such devices is that they become nothing more than computerized ‘tattoos’ placed on the skin, or tiny capsules we swallow. Perhaps a biotech company will ultimately prevail in the wearables market, or some uber-geeky Maori entrepreneur revolutionizes our very notion of a computer. As we well know, the best laid plans of giant tech companies are often complete failures.

3. Tim Cook Is Steve Ballmer


My final scenario, and the one I think most likely — though still unlikely — is that Tim Cook is the Apple incarnation of Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer. Baller delivered massive profits, global scale, and as Microsoft grew to unwieldy heights, Ballmer somehow kept the trains running on time. Innovation, however, was suffocated.

It may be that the path of the wearable computing market usurps the need for high-margin iPhones and iPads. In response, Cook might hamper Apple’s long-term potential by attempting to corral the wearables market inside the high walls of Apple’s highly profitable iOS ecosystem. Just like Ballmer attempted to force everything through Windows and Office, this also will fail.

Similarly, for all the potential of Apple computers in the enterprise, Apple can’t seem to pull away from the high-margin, high-profit, easy-money consumer market. Perhaps wearables revolutionize the enterprise, just as smartphones upended it, and Apple has no adequate response. Cue the return of Microsoft.

Lastly, I suppose Apple could also simply whiff on wearables entirely, the way Microsoft, for example, struck out on touch screens. All possible, all unlikely.

The Next Evolution of Apple

The competition should be wary. When I examine Apple’s talent, skill set, ponder its brand, analyze its active customer base, assess its growing retail operation, test the integration of its many products, proprietary technologies and devices, it is  difficult for me to see how the company fails to win the wearables computing market.

Though Samsung beat them to market, and their Galaxy Gear ad is sublime, long-term I see no company that can bring to the wearables market what Apple already has. Namely, the chips, the design chops, the OS, the integration across devices, the commitment to intuitive function, voice and touch controls, cloud support, media partnerships, carrier relationships, broad appeal across borders and demographics, battery expertise, AirDrop, their own video chat service, the best designed notifications service, the list goes on.

The scale of each new computing revolution is far bigger, far richer, spreads far wider than the one that came before. I expect this with wearables. These will eclipse smartphones and tablets, just as those devices eclipsed “PCs.” Thus, if I am right, Apple is about to get much, much bigger.

Where I Save Windows Phone

My name is Brian and I use Windows Phone.

Confession: I want Windows Phone to succeed. I want it to succeed because I believe users will benefit from Microsoft innovation and renewed market competition. I want Windows Phone to succeed because as Android increasingly takes over the computing world I am increasingly fearful of the success of an OS whose very existence is to track and record user behavior across the world.

I want Windows Phone to succeed because I want great, American companies to continue to dominate the global tech market.

I am not at all sure Windows Phone will succeed.

This has nothing to do with the silly, breathless rumors about a Nokia Android device. Rather, even given Microsoft’s money, brainpower and massive “Windows” install base — and 10+ years of fruitless R&D — the world continues to reveal that it is quite happy choosing between Android and iOS.

My hope, thus, is cruelly crushed by market reality. Must be doubly bad for Microsoft, I suspect. Therefore, I offer the following advice to help save Windows Phone.

1. Fewer Apps

Yes, this is counterintuitive, but absolutely necessary. You lost the app battle, Microsoft. It’s over. Accept defeat. We now live in a world where there are far more software applications for Apple products — and they are much easier to buy.

Stop pumping bad apps through the system in a futile attempt to make the actual numbers look not so awful. Instead, focus on offering the absolute best apps of any platform.

I have spent the past 4 years using iPhones as my go-to device. I have spent the past several weeks using the Lumia 1520 almost exclusively. In nearly every case, I’ve found an app equivalent for Windows Phone to match my iPhone. Unfortunately, nearly everyone is awful. Limited functionality, poor to no integration with web services (or iPhone apps), bad design. Indeed, the vast majority of apps in the Windows Phone store appear to me as little more than high school projects. End this anti-user behavior. Ensure that any app offered from your store is absolutely awesome and in no way a pale, brittle facsimile of what’s long been available for iOS and Android. Reject far more apps than you accept.

Fifty thousand great apps is better than 150,000 awful ones.

I also recommend you pledge every single of the many billions of dollars you receive from Android patent scofflaws to fund app projects with the very best app development houses. Bonus: offer huge cash windfalls for successful tie-ins with your very best mobile offerings (Skydrive, Bing, Office, Skype).

2. Fewer Devices

Windows Phone, the platform, will not be widely embraced by OEMs the way Windows was back in the 20th century. Android has won that war and its presence and pace throughout the world is accelerating. Your best hope is to focus on your own great devices. Luckily, you now own Nokia, which makes the most beautiful, best designed smartphones in the world.

Nokia’s problem is its insistence on offering as many variations of devices across every possible region, industry and demographic. This is no longer a viable strategy in a world where we are all connected. Worse, it increases manufacturing and marketing costs, generates user confusion and capitulates to self-serving carrier demands.

This is what you should offer:

  • Student model — for children, students, grandparents and those of lesser means.  The Lumia 520 is amazing for the price. Does the target market even know this?
  • Business model. Your premium offering. The Lumia 920 (or equivalent) with Office, Outlook, Skydrive and Skype included is a powerful combination.
  • Globetrotter model. The Lumia 1020 with 41mp camera is the baseline device for artists, photographers, creative types.
  • Gamer model. Your “gamer” phone fully leverages Xbox and the beautiful large-display Lumia 1520. Maybe offer Xbox credits with every purchase.

Next, you must give each of these devices comprehensible names. 520, for example, means absolutely nothing to absolutely no one. 920 is (obviously) less than 925, which obviously has lesser hardware than the 1020. Right? Nobody knows. Stop such nonsense.

3. Be Mobile First – Really

From this day forward, the role of Office and Windows is not to maximize shareholder value. Rather, it is to maximize profits to fund the future. The future is mobile.

You’ve bravely taken a few baby steps in this direction, and have now evolved from believing smartphones are mere satellites revolving around the PC sun to your current belief, where you appear to grudgingly accept that smartphones and PCs can be equivalents. Still wrong. The smartphone is the center of the computing world. Until you accept this your giant company will continue to flounder.

I fear this will not be an easy fix. Your Surface ads reveal that you, dear Microsoft, can’t even conceive of a “computing” device that is solely and purely touchscreen and mobile. In the second decade of the 21st century you still promote computers and “slates,” such as your Surface, as devices that work best when there is a physical keyboard attached and the user is seated. This is a profound misunderstanding of the future of everything.

Focusing on non-mobile, non-touchscreen devices is like if Android is the Death Star, iPhone is Ben Kenobi and you are Aunt Beru. Don’t be Aunt Beru, Microsoft.

Change your strategy. Radically improve touchscreen responsiveness. Offer a movie store. Make multitasking really work. Fix the (virtual) keyboard. Mobile first — really.

It’s not all bad, of course. Your instincts are sound. Note that the much-lauded Jony Ive continues to parrot what Windows Phone and Nokia have been doing for years: “Unapologetically” plastic devices. Bright colors. Polycarbonite-like feel. Flat design. Lots of white space. He knows.


4. Start A War With Apple

Android is good enough for most of the world. For what it offers, for its price, availability and ecosystem, you aren’t going to convince many to choose Windows Phone over Android, particularly at the low-end. You must prove your worthiness by taking on Apple. Fortunately, that’s where most of the money may be found.

Focus your marketing on a Mac vs PC-like campaign.

  • Your live tiles versus their static icons
  • Skype versus FaceTime
  • 20mp and 41mp cameras with Zeiss lenses and Nokia imaging controls versus iPhone’s 8mp camera
  • Office versus iWork
  • Outlook versus Apple Mail
  • Nokia Maps and real-time transit data versus Apple Maps
  • Xbox versus Game Center
  • Mock Siri. Belittle Touch ID.

Pay no attention to the Apple echo chamber. Ignore what people may say on Twitter. “In marketing, what looks new is new.”

A relentless assault against the iPhone earns you respect, customers, and helps focus your company. If possible, hire the “PC” guy to do the ads.


Reminder: not one moment of these ads, not one image, may include a keyboard or a person seated. Commercials advertising a “real keyboard” to do “real work” is my grandfather insisting that music used to be so much better. Probably, he’s wrong and if he’s right, it’s irrelevant.

Having spent the past month with a Nokia Lumia 1520, and having used every iPhone, several Android devices, BlackBerry, Palm, Symbian, Asha, MeeGo and others, I know that your odds are slight. Your potential remains great, however. Go forth. No excuses — you’re Microsoft. The time to line up your pawns has long since passed. These are the smartphone wars. Ball so hard.

2013 Winners And Losers In Tech

We track, analyze and oftentimes promote technology because of its overarching, mostly positive impact on our own lives and throughout the world. It’s many disparate parts, incorporating intellectual property and global manufacturing, hardware and software, content and creativity, when brought together at exactly the right time, in exactly the right way can be both uplifting and magical.

While we may not fully understand all the long-term ramifications of what our technology has wrought, we can know its winners and losers. In 2013, much like the harsh, unblinking truth at the final whistle of some great sporting clash, knowing who won and who lost was surprisingly rather easy to discern.



There wasn’t even a close second.

Hardware, content, search, real-time pricing algorithms, personalization and a near-infinitely scalable platform. There is no more high tech company than Amazon. Yes, $AMZN has (only) gone up this year. If Jeff Bezos is to be believed, and the evidence certainly suggests so, then the company is just getting started. Amazon is the low-price leader in retail, a behemoth in cloud services, the first place most of us think to visit when we think about buying anything — and the unmatched leader in big ideas.

Google Glass is so Spring 2013. All anyone is talking about now are Amazon delivery drones. Amazon is more than talk, of course. It took Amazon to offer live, personal (“Mayday”) support for every new Kindle tablet user. Did Apple, king of the locked-down, high-margin, customer-focused hardware-based ecosystem, even consider such an audacious idea?

Amazon, not Silicon Valley, is the new home of really big ideas. Amazon embodies a scope of business, a level of execution, and a breathless vision that I don’t think even Google can match. They won 2013.


A highly successful IPO, a highly engaged user base, the new home for breaking news, the place we share our most joyful moments, greatest tragedies, and idle thoughts.  Apple execs say damn near nothing outside of highly staged events. Yet both Tim Cook and Phil Schiller tweet often.


What, exactly, is the purpose of a tablet? No one seems to know. I cover the industry and typically recommend them only to grandparents and toddlers.  Microsoft finds the tablet so utterly confounding — despite 10+ years of effort — that they can still only envision such a device with a keyboard attached. The numbers do not lie, however. At least, not in 2013. Tablets are everywhere. Per IDC, 220 million tablets moved just this year alone.

Team iOS 7

iOS 7 is audacious, shocking, beautiful as a European runway model, and just as brittle.

If you were part of the team that developed iOS 7, congratulations. The iOS 7 adoption rate is already nearing 75%. With around 500 million iOS devices in use, that’s 375 million devices running with your OS — about triple the latest Windows operating system.

iOS should fuel Apple for at least another generation, and iOS 7 points the way forward.

Gaming and Gamers

A new Playstation, a new Xbox, and a new chip (A7) powering Apple iOS devices make 2013 the best time ever to be a gamer. Add in social media gaming, a billion smartphone users, and ‘computer games’ are now as ubiquitous as Miley Cyrus gifs.

Female Tech Execs

I believe Marissa Mayer’s strategy, such as I can divine, consigns Yahoo to a permanently middling presence in our lives. Much content, some personalization, cloud-scale, new acquisitions and several new mobile apps all point toward nothing more than news, views and reviews of the sort our parents now get from morning TV talk shows. Doesn’t matter. The market has spoken and the money people obviously like what Mayer is doing.

Meanwhile, Meg Whitman is righting the busted ship that is HP and Sheryl Sandberg is making the day-to-day adult decisions at Facebook. Since Tim Cook is determined to transform Apple into a “casual luxury” brand, I can absolutely believe the rumors that Apple’s next CEO will be Burberry’s Angela Ahrendts. That’s quite a line-up.

Road Warriors

All praise the glories of the market. In-flight WiFi became possible, then practical, then profitable, then widespread, and then the government — surprise — changed the rules. Now we can keep our electronic devices turned on, legally, throughout our entire flight. Self-interest mixed with technology is a powerful combination.

Google Lawyers

What a year! Google lawyers fought off Oracle, got a judge to agree that digitizing and making “out of print” books freely available was a public service, signed a sweetheart deal with the FTC, despite a monopoly position in search which they have frequently abused, and the late Steve Jobs’ thermonuclear war on Android has not slowed down the world’s most popular OS even in the slightest. I’m assuming there will be quite the cash bonus from Larry Page to his merry band of lawyers.

Considered: Kickstarter, Pinterest, iTunes (seriously), iPhone 5s, and the ‘smartphone’. 


Computing technology is deeply personal yet seeks to connect us with everyone and everything. It can eradicate the worst parts of our past, re-invent our very notions of the future and captivate our present. Oftentimes, however, it flops worse than a petulant soccer player on a losing team. This year’s biggest losers in tech:

Facebook Home

Facebook Home was such an utter, abject, laughable failure that you probably already forgot that it ever existed. I suspect that the mysterious illness that prevented Google’s Larry Page from talking for so many months stemmed from his laughing hysterically when he first saw Facebook Home.

Steve Ballmer

I believe no non-founder ever gave more of himself, his talents, his passions, his sleepless nights, as Steve Ballmer gave to Microsoft. Ballmer helped Microsoft become so big that it — literally — scared governments and sent the mighty Steve Jobs, fortuitously, scurrying off as far away from “personal computers” as he possibly could.

Nonetheless…Microsoft’s stock has done better since Ballmer announced his “resignation” then it did during the decade he actually ran the company. Worse, much worse, and nearly inconceivable, is that there are over a billion smartphones in use plus hundreds of millions of tablets and nearly everyone has absolutely no Microsoft software inside.

For all I admire about Ballmer, and I admire much, the company’s failure in mobile computing is, in my opinion, a far more devastating capitulation than Time Warner buying AOL at the absolute top of the market.


Samsung’s Galaxy Gear commercial is glorious. The watch itself is Kanye-cool. Only, no one bought one because there is no need for one. The year of the smartwatch was anything but. Galaxy Gear flopped. Apple’s iWatch never appeared. The Pebble watch was essentially a high-margin toy purchased by Silicon Valley insiders. Not wanted, not needed.

Google Maps

Every quarter, as Google reports anew the latest Motorola loss, we are presented with yet another reminder that Google’s purchase of Motorola was a profound strategic mistake.

I don’t think it’s their biggest. Rather, that would be Google’s decision to consign iOS users with an inferior version of Google Maps — for years. That led to Apple’s decision to offer its own mapping service. As Charles Arthur notes, Google Maps has already lost tens of millions of iPhone users — possibly Google Inc’s most lucrative customer base. Hubris.


Apple’s existence now spans across five decades. In all that time has the company ever promoted a device or a service as prominently, as consistently and as aggressively that has gone so utterly unused as Siri? Siri is now more than two years old and still doesn’t work as it should. Worse, even if it did we would still rarely use it.


We all learned what this word meant when Apple killed it off. It was time.

The Third Mobile Platform

As of this moment, smartphones now sell about a billion units a year. This massive, industry-shifting market belongs almost entirely to two platforms: Android and iOS. Symbian is dead. BlackBerry is at death’s door. There is effectively no Tizen, no Firefox OS in actual use, no Ubuntu and nearly no Windows Phone.

Has the industry consolidated this quickly, despite being this big, this global? As much as I believe there is room for a thriving Windows Phone ecosystem, the market itself, in every region and across every demographic, tells us that iOS and Android are enough for nearly everyone. Perhaps 2014 will surprise us.

Considered: Obamacare website, PCs, privacy, BlackBerry, the “cheap” iPhone, and RSS.

An Open Letter To App Developers

The smartphone has quickly become our primary interface to the world. The app has become our primary interface to the smartphone. Apps matter. Therefore, app developers matter. Unfortunately, too many apps, too many app developers, likely in pursuit of riches that shall never come, continue to offer copycat apps, apps poorly designed, apps that value ads over users.

I want to help. I know apps, good and bad. I was analyzing the “smartphone wars” back when most tech blogs were still talking Mac vs PC. I have used most major smartphone platforms, at length. This includes Palm and BlackBerry, Windows Phone, iOS and Android, Symbian, Asha and, yes, Meego.

I offer the following rules and declarations in the interest of creating more and better apps for everyone.

  1. The world does not need another weather app.
  2. By 2015, at the latest, I expect Windows Phone will garner at least a 20% share of all new smartphone sales. Create apps for this platform.
  3. It’s absolutely appropriate to ask me to rate your app. Once. If I choose not to, accept this — and never ask me again.
  4. Life is much easier when I can sign in to an app using my Facebook credentials.
  5. Never — not ever — should you request anything beyond my Facebook credentials, however. Do not ask to post my purchase of your app to my Facebook page, do not ask for my location unless there is a clear and present and ongoing user benefit. Do not ever ask me, and especially never require me, to tell you my Facebook friends.
  6. You have 3 seconds, tops. If I cannot fully immerse myself within the wonder and scope of your app in 3 seconds or less, then your app gets abandoned.
  7. Care about your app icon. It really does matter.
  8. Apple does not care about you. Apple provides you, for now, with the single greatest platform for monetizing your app. But do not believe they are your partner. They are the world’s largest (tech) company and do not like to share. iWork, iPhoto, Garage Band, Weather, Maps and more are just the start. Should a new app opportunity arise, possibly one you helped create, Apple will not hesitate to move in. Be ready to out-innovate, pivot, or die.
  9. We take our smartphones with us everywhere. For many, they are the first thing we see at the start of a new day, the last thing we see before going to sleep. This is a tremendous opportunity. At perhaps no time in human history has a single tool been used so fully throughout the day, everyday, for work and play, by child, teen, adult and senior, all over the world. Take pride in your work.
  10. You deserve to be paid. Of the hundreds of apps I have purchased, minimum, I have never once thought that I would rather choose the app with ads over paying $1, sometimes more, for an ad-free app. Even large display smartphones have relatively small screens. Cluttering it up with an ad, ever, is annoying. Worse, it’s a clear intrusion upon my privacy and a waste of time. I never click on a mobile/in-app ad. I can assure you that my time and my privacy are worth far more to me than my ad view is to you.
  11. Users deserve a second chance. Apple, especially, should offer an app trial period. Yes, even for a 99 cent app. Should they ever agree, these rules become even more important.
  12. Apps must be optimized for the platform and device. Always. Smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop. I subscribe to several web services (e.g. MyNetDiary, New York Times). The smartphone app version may look similar to the website, but must be optimized for the device itself (e.g. iPhone). There are no excuses for failing this.
  13. Touch, pinch, swipe. The touch interface is a beautiful thing. Yet, I have absolutely no use for apps, Clear, for example, or Tweetbot, that insist upon a needlessly expansive variety of gestures to access its data and features. This is nothing more than too many fonts on a Word doc.
  14. Almost every single app I have purchased over the past 18 months I discovered from a Twitter follower or a Facebook ad. Nowhere else. Not Apple genius. Not Google search. Not any app-focused website. You should know this.
  15. Specials are viral. I find out about your app on Twitter, for example, and learn it’s half-priced for today only, I am both extremely likely to buy and to tweet my purchase to others.
  16. Apps are like sperm. Only the first survive. If I have a decent grocery list app, say, there is an extremely good chance your far better, newer grocer list app will be irrelevant to me. Similarly, an app not on the ‘home’ screen is likely not long for this world. No advice, merely an acknowledgement. Your work is hard.
  17. Hold the line. Google has taught us that other’s information should be accessible, for free. Apple has taught us that hardware, not software, should be paid for. I don’t really know how you can succeed in this environment. But I hope you do. Most of you do great work.
  18. You get one chance only to ask if I want to connect with my friends. I should not have to repeat this. Ask once, then accept my ‘no’.
  19. I have a lot of friends. I know a lot of people. When you show me people I know or may know or should know and ask me to connect with them via your app, you make me feel nearly as dirty as you are.
  20. Never scan my contacts. Never ask to scan my contacts. It is a betrayal. This is why I can’t have LinkedIn on my phone.

As the world goes mobile, connecting everyone and everything, focused, functional and highly usable apps will serve as the entry point to all the world’s data, resources, people and content. The humble app, then, is a rather noble device. Treat it and its users with all due respect.


Truth And Lies About Apple

I regularly provide analysis of the computing market, trends inside Silicon Valley, the current state of the smartphone wars. This week, I offer instead my observations on Apple. Starting now…

The persistent view among analysts that Apple can (magically) go down market, whenever they want, is, in my view, utter nonsense. It’s the same as suggesting Burberry, for example, can be WalMart. Apple is high-end, high-margin, brand and image focused, and companies cannot magically transform their market approach. To remake their products, their hardware, to radically expand customer service and to effectively give up the lead role in their global retail footprint — all necessary to go down-market — would make Apple no longer Apple.

To those that point to the iPod as some sort of proof that Apple can go down market, even that is wrong. The iPod was (always) a high-end flash drive with minimal computing capabilities.

That Google continues to develop and support services optimized for iPhone is all you need to know about those who scream that IPHONE IS DOOMED. They are either ignorant or they are lying to you. Why do you continue to reward them with your attention?

Google’s biggest mistake was wildly overpaying for Motorola, which continues to be a noose around the company. The second biggest mistake, however, was saddling iPhone users — for years — with an inferior version of Google Maps. I am not the only one that now uses Apple Maps almost exclusively. I suspect they have learned their lesson, the hard way.

In the most recent Apple patent trial, Phil Schiller stated that “almost everyone” at Apple works on iPhones, not Mac. This is true. It’s also remarkable. The iPhone was an unexpected blessing for Apple, raining down more in profits than anyone ever imagined it could. But, Apple’s management team still doesn’t get the credit they deserve for effectively re-making Apple, once the Mac company, into the iPhone company.

The next iPhone will be just like the new Nokia Lumia 1520. Large display. Unapologetically plastic. Colorful. 20mp camera.

Apple will be forced to develop a “phablet” because the market wants larger display devices. For most, a phablet is simply a better alternative to buying both a smartphone and a tablet. This is especially true for Apple, with its over-priced iPad line. Steve Jobs intended iPad to rest in sort of that middle ground between laptop and smartphone. A great idea for those who can afford three devices. The vast majority of the world cannot.

iOS 7 is beautiful. There is a core design flaw, however. The world is eagerly embracing the visual web — Pinterest, Snapchat, the new Twitter. In an increasingly mobile, real-time existence, visuals convey a great deal of information in an instant. iOS 7 runs counter to this trend. Note that your iOS 7 device insists on using text even where visuals would obviously work better, such as when telling you the current weather. Jony Ive’s legend is no doubt secure, but I expect iOS will quickly evolve to incorporate more visual elements. Form should follow function and most of the time the market wins.

With Rockstar, Apple becomes a patent troll. Rockstar is absolutely no different from Lodsys. That said, there is absolutely validity to Jobs’ thermonuclear war. There was nothing available like the iPhone or like the iPad until the iPhone and iPad. Intellectual property and design should be protected and compensated. On this, I fully stand behind Apple.

I have covered the smartphone wars as long, as diligently as anyone on the planet. Nonetheless, despite the growth of iPhone and the global smartphone market in general, I never thought it would be easier for me to buy more and better software for Apple products than Microsoft products.

Nintendo is hurting. Sony is hurting. We recently discovered that Xbox may not even be a money-maker for Microsoft. The premiere gaming company in the world is…Apple? I know, shocking. At least for those of us who grew up on PCs and game consoles.

The new iWork is so bad primarily because of Apple’s insistence on a ‘one-size-fits-all’ software strategy, forcing the product to be the same on a smartphone, a tablet and a laptop. This will always fail. Giving it away won’t change how bad it is. The only question now is, how long before Apple abandons this silly notion and gives us a productivity suite that works well?

As bad as the new iWork is, Apple does not get the credit it deserves as a software company. iTunes may not be on every desktop, but its close. iOS is now on hundreds of millions of smartphones and tablets. Mavericks is on millions of laptops. Apple’s global software presence is approaching Microsoft’s. This was even recently unthinkable. Even more, Apple’s software is on a larger array of usable devices — tablet, phone, laptop, desktop, set top — and built for multiple modes: touch, keyboard and voice. Remarkable achievement.

Every tech blogger I read, and I think I read them all, is a poor stock analyst. Please do not buy or sell stock, whether $AAPL, $AMZN, $GOOG or other, based on what a tech blogger says. Ever. They are cheerleaders. Save your money.

The next Apple app revolution will be…email.

Email, that boring, dated, derided yet almost universal tool, used — with great reluctance — for personal and professional reasons, is on the cusp of a revolution. At least, I hope so. Here’s an example of what I think Apple will do — what I think only Apple can do. Use the Open Table app, for example, to make a restaurant reservation. Now imagine that the reservation confirmation email you receive contains visually appealing, pre-embedded Yelp reviews of the chef’s best dishes, a PassBook coupon, Facebook credits, Foursquare check-in rewards, your friends list for those having dinner with you, and Apple Maps directions to the restaurant. This is all contained within the email. All secure because each ‘chunk’ of personalized app data is run only through Apple servers. Speed, simplicity, convenience, enhanced benefits. Think Google Now, only on steroids, because Apple will allow its massive app ecosystem to take part. Delivering it all through iOS Mail servers is a nice little knife in Google’s side, as well. That’s my vision, at least.

I look forward to your comments on what you think is true and what you think are lies.

Next week: Truth and lies about Silicon Valley

Finding God In Our Smartphones

“Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony.”
– Albert Einstein

Smartphones have changed our world. Wearables will change our selves. Together, these amazing devices represent some of humankind’s greatest work, integrating the absolute leading edge of technical prowess, computer engineering, manufacturing skill and materials science. I wonder also if they are bringing us closer to God.

I confess, I do not know the answer.

Silicon Valley is about money, not faith. Real-time, not eternity. Change, not permanence. The worship that occurs here is typically at the altar of wealth, intellect, and luck; a place where residents proudly wear their atheism on their sleeves, and where the obviously religious are, if not looked down upon, then viewed the way far too many view obese people — broken, not quite fully evolved.

The spirit finds a way.

At the intersection of smartphones and wearables is a locus of desire to know ourselves, improve ourselves, celebrate ourselves. And yet, through these devices we are reminded how fully connected we are to one another, and soon, to all things. This strikes me as a form of grace.

At first glance, this notion seems incongruous. With smartphones and wearables, we post in real-time what we ate, how much we weigh. We tweet our passing thoughts on all manner of topics. We update our Facebook page to sanction our latest pleasure or most recent transient annoyance. We take pictures of our self, then another, then another, and display them all for the world to see. We actively seek the affirmation of nearby friends and faraway strangers, asking them to affirm our actions, no matter how small or fleeting.

We may all be, in this age of miracle and wonder, at our most vain.

Nonetheless, that fire hose of data gushing from these personal computing devices lays bare our very human failings, our strivings and our mortality. What comes after that? At the time of our greatest technical and intellectual advancement, do we merely expose ourselves as insufferably common, or are we (unknowingly) unlocking the fullest truth of ourselves?

The very tools used  to elevate our physical and intellectual selves, helping us to be the very best we can be, may ultimately serve to remind us that without a equal focus on the spiritual, it’s all for naught.

Consider that with smartphones, that which was once physical is now digital. Apps, tweets, music, movies, these are abstractions made real. We are contented with their ephemeral realness. Our very best technology, then, may be edging us closer — shaman-like — to bridging the physical and the virtual, and possibly to accepting the spiritual.

Our most advanced personal technologies are not merely uplifting, but guiding. We track everything, or soon will. In the morning our devices will remind us to eat right, to walk 10,000 steps. In the evening they will ask us if we gave due attention to our children, our spouse and our dreams. The daily rituals of monitoring what we do and how we improve may in fact help us find our way onto a narrow, possibly righteous path to goodness.

Yes, we can instantly access all manner of fetishism, violence, pornography, but also the greatest of humanity — and one another. The fragments of humanity, good and bad, are embedded within our technology, and resident inside our iPhones and Fitbits. Humans seek, we care, we dream, we sense there is far more beyond our self, our neighbors, even our world. This is true even if, at least in this infant stage of our meta connectivity, we initially turn such powers upon ourselves.

With smartphone in hand, we are connected to nearly everyone, from anywhere, at any time, and never truly alone. Wearable computer bracelet strapped tightly against our skin, the truth of our self is brightly flashed before our eyes, including our mortality. These devices will change us.

Which may not lead us to God but certainly should lead us all to be better.

Making the Case for Better Document Management on iOS

For my birthday two years ago, I treated myself to an 11-inch MacBook Air. I bought it with the intention of using it mainly as a writing machine away from home, for my blog and for school. It was (and still is) a terrific little dynamo of a computer, but I eventually grew tired of the burden of managing multiple Macs. Thus, I decided to bequeath the Air to my sister, and committed myself to using my iPad 3 as my "laptop".

I adore working from my iPad, but there is one constant point of friction that at times makes me yearn for my old Air: managing files — in my case, text files — is a pain. It's a problem that certainly isn't insurmountable, but one that throws a wrench into my otherwise seamless workflow.

Like most nerds I know, I use Dropbox to store and sync my data across my devices. All of my important documents are spread across folders inside of folders. Dropbox's hierarchical file system works well for the most part, but it's not perfect. I still have to navigate folders and then use iOS's 'Open In' command to get to the file I want. On an operating system where Apple's purposely abstracted the file system from users (nerds included) in an effort to eliminate complexity, using one effectively bolted on (the Dropbox app) feels weird and, as Rene Ritchie writes, downright archaic.

By contrast, I don't know anyone who uses Dropbox outside of my fellow nerd friends on the Internet. That is to say, none of my "regular" user family and friends have a Dropbox account. In fact, I would go so far as to say that most of them have no clue what Dropbox is or does. Moreover, I'm positive that these same family and friends have no clue (or care, really) about the complexities of iCloud — more to the point, they don't understand iCloud's many idiosyncrasies involving sync.

iCloud For Everything

Given this context, and given how much Apple pushes iCloud as the "everything" solution, I think it would make sense for them to give users a central location on their iOS devices from which to access and browse their documents. Apple's servers will always be the canonical place, of course, but an iCloud Documents app would, in my view, be a more straightforward and easier to understand concept than having to remember which app one used to create a document, and bear in mind that said document can only be opened in the same app. While I feel completely comfortable navigating my myriad of files in Dropbox, I would like a simpler, more forward-thinking way to manage my documents. Ideally, such a solution would use iCloud because, when it works, it works like magic. To that end, an iCloud Documents app for iOS is highly desirable to me. All your documents, all in one convenient place. If Apple sells iCloud as being "the easiest way to manage your content", then it surely should include a one-stop shop for one's important documents.

Here's how I envision such a hypothetical iCloud Documents app working. First, as I stated before, it would house all the user's documents within the app. Apple could design the user interface in such a way that it would automatically separate document types. You could have a toolbar at the top with tabs allowing you to switch to and from text files and Keynote decks, for example. Most of all, though, it would be searchable, as well as offer optional folder creation, a la Photos today. Programmatically, Apple would create a Photos app-type app where, instead of the ImagePicker API, it used a FilePicker API to find and display documents.

In addition to the iCloud Documents app, Apple could also incorporate a dedicated iCloud Documents Web app into The idea would be the same as on iOS: one central place that keeps all your documents, all up to date. Furthermore, it could be built could so that a user could choose to open, say, a text file in Byword or iA Writer on their Mac, or Notepad if on Windows.

While using iCloud to sync documents would seem to be the perfect solution — I use it for a few things, and it generally performs well for me —, it does have its share of hiccups. For one thing, iCloud can be notoriously unreliable. Another issue is that documents in iCloud are confined to their own silos. iOS itself is similar in this regard, which is great in terms of security, but not so much when it comes to accessing documents.

Yet another stumbling block is iOS's Open In command. It works, but it only works so well. The big problem with Open In, as Federico Viticci writes, is that users end up with multiple copies of files spread across a multitude of apps, which in turn causes headaches when deciding which copy is the canonical version. Again, Open In does work to an extent, but it's messy and far from the ideal solution. I try my best to avoid Open In, because I know its limitations, and, frankly, Dropbox is much easier to use.

You might ask, "What makes a hypothetical iCloud Documents app better than just directly going to the app in which you created the file?" That works, to be sure, but the my point is I believe documents needn't be strewn across a bunch of apps. If you're like me and use your iPad for productivity, there should be one place, one app, where you can see all your documents — and it should be different from Dropbox or Google Drive or whatever. You shouldn't have to remember that you created that parent newsletter in Pages. Rather, you should just be able to open iCloud Documents, tap on the file, and have it automatically open in Pages on your iPhone or iPad. Again, the current methodologies work, but they're far from ideal.

To be clear, The ideas I posit in this piece are not meant to imply that Dropbox is bad, or that I don't appreciate it for what it does. On the contrary, I love Dropbox. My argument is simply that I agree with Rene Ritchie insofar that Dropbox is a system built on the past, whereas iCloud, with all its mystic magic, feels like the future. Steve Jobs himself said as much when he said "the truth is in the cloud". More to the point, Apple gets a lot of flak, and rightly so, for not doing Internet services well. I feel iCloud has a lot of good points, but right now it isn't living up to its full potential. And, frankly, I feel, with all the talk of past and future, that a solution built on iCloud is better suited than Dropbox for the long-term, indispensable as Dropbox may be at this point.

I so enjoy working from my iPad not only because the tablet, hardware-wise, is so thin and light and power-sipping, but because iOS is so powerful. Thanks in no small part to third-party developers, the app ecosystem is rife with desktop-class apps that are so good that I don't require a Mac to get the majority of my serious work done. Add in iOS's one-app-at-a-time approach, which I find refreshing and which helps keep me focused, and the iPad truly is one terrific productivity device. As a writer, I couldn't be happier that my iPad's become my laptop. On the whole, the experience of getting real work done on my iPad has been awesome. That I (and others) are able to do so is a testament to just how powerful Apple's made the iPad and iOS. The reality is that, as a nerd, I get by fine with Dropbox. However, just because one solution works for me doesn't mean Dropbox is the answer, or that iOS and iCloud are above improvement. On the contrary, this piece (hopefully) illustrates that iOS and iCloud can be much better at certain things, like document management.

It's only one piece of a very complex puzzle, but it's my opinion that an iCloud Documents app would be a big step in solving the problem of how to directly access files on a system where, at least on the surface, the classic file system doesn't exist. My hope is that sooner or later, Apple will give users direct access to documents much in the same way Photos gives direct access to photos, and Passbook gives direct access to movie tickets, boarding passes, and so on. Such access would make working from my iPad orders of magnitude better, and make me quit longing for my old MacBook Air.

Stop Believing Apple Invents Stuff! Where I Interview The Biggest Android Fanboy In The World.

He is known simply as Charbax. You can find him on Twitter, on Youtube, and very often in the comments section of any post that trashes Android. He is in my opinion the biggest Android fanboy — fan, fanatic, believer, evangelist — in the world. His numerous first-hand, homebrew videos showcase the incredible innovation occurring across the Android ecosystem, be it in China, in Europe, or America.

What fuels his passion? Apple makes gorgeous physical products, easy to love. Android, by contrast, is a string of ones and zeros, cold, unfeeling code. There are many more questions, of course. If Android is “winning” then how does he explain Apple’s massive profits? Or the pre-eminence of iPad? Why care about an OS whose primary reason for being is not to get more people online but to capture more personal data to sell to advertisers? And what of Google’s continued moves to tighten control around this once aggressively marketed “open” platform?

Charbax arrived in San Francisco last week and did not shy away from any of my questions — though his numbers are often suspect.

Disclosure: I have followed Charbax online for at least three years. As that rare pundit who has gone on record stating that Android is, well, not very good, and almost certainly to be eclipsed by a far more functional and cohesive platform, I have faced his wrath many times over. Watch his videos, however, and you must admit that no person, no company — not even Google itself — has so well documented the stunningly rapid spread of Android throughout the globe, and into all manner of computing devices, be they phones, tablets, toys, cameras or sensors. If Android does come to rule our world, as Charbax absolutely believes it will — maybe already has — then history will lean heavily upon his work.

Author note: I have edited responses for the sake of brevity and clarity.  

His real name is Nicolas Charbonnier. He is from Denmark. He tells me that he funds his work primarily through his well-trafficked pro-Android website and popular Youtube channel.

What explains the rapid global spread of Android?
Android is the first embedded Linux for smart devices platform that got enough investment to reach full usability.

What are some current examples of innovative development taking place with Android?
Android is reaching sub-$25 Phones this year and it’ll be in sub-$15 phones next year. Android has reached sub-$20 Desktop HDMI Sticks now and it’s going to reach sub-$10 desktop prices next year. Without Android, there would be nothing of interest going on in the tech world.

Android is enabling the next 5 Billion people access to smart technology. You can fly to China and buy an iPhone 5S copy on MediaTek MT6572 (dual-core ARM Cortex-A7, Android 4.2.2) for the same total price as buying a “real” iPhone 5S in America.

It seems as if only Samsung has profited from Android. What if they abandon the platform?
This is the dream of the same morons that sank Nokia and Blackberry. Samsung is hugely profitable only thanks to Android. Android subsidizes Samsung, Sony and LG’s HDTV business and other businesses. Companies make money on Android because it’s free, open source, and optimized for the most advanced consumer products.

Are you affiliated with Google?
Nope. If Google wants to give me a job, they are welcome to hire me.

Why are you an Android “evangelist”?
I’m basically an evangelist of technology.  I think technology is the solution to all world’s problems and all the (latest) technology is powered by Android. I video-blog at 20 consumer electronics shows per year and 99% of what is happening there revolves around Android. Without Android, I would have nothing to video-blog about.


How do you support your globe-spanning work documenting Android?
My Youtube channel passed 25 million views and I make money from ads. A few companies pay for my flights and hotels when they want me to video-blog at their conferences. I have some 300+ members paying me $20/year on my website. I also earn money by offering advice on sourcing devices out of China.

What do Apple users get wrong about Android?
The world is bigger than Cupertino. Most technological innovation is not happening in the USA and especially not in Cupertino!

Stop believing Apple invents stuff! Apple never invented anything! Even selling overpaid hardware pre-dates Apple by millenia. Apple is simply a cash machine. They invest money wisely in components at the right time for them and they make absurd amounts of profits selling those devices.

They convince consumers that it’s worth paying $2,500+ with a 2-year contract for a device that cost Apple less than $150 to manufacture by underpaid workers in China.

While you may stay in love with your Apple plastics if you want, there is much more happening out in the rest of the world. Android has 100 times more engineers and 100x more R&D being invested throughout the thousands of Android companies working on Android innovation right now.

Author note: I did not ask Charbax if he was referring to me with his “stay in love with your Apple plastics” remark or to Apple users in general.  

What is the future of Android?   
Android has about 90% market share today (where it matters, growth markets and non-US developped markets). It’ll be 98% in 2 years. It’ll power everything in the world.

But isn’t fragmentation a significant problem for Android?
With retail prices for Android devices ranging from $20 to $2000, you cannot expect everything to work on all those different types of devices. On the other hand, even without “official” support on perhaps 50% of the Android device output to date, most apps and most Android features work perfectly fine on 98% of the Android devices on the market.

Author note: Again, Charbax did not offer verifiable evidence for his assertions.

Android was very ingeniously designed since day 1 for both massive backwards compatibility and forwards compatibility. The Android apps SDK enables 99.9% of the 1 million Android apps to work perfectly fine on 99.9% of Android devices being used on the market right now. Even your 3-4 year old Android device will support above 99% of the 1 million Android apps today.

This is absolutely not true of Apple iOS. iPad apps don’t work right on iPhone. iPhone apps don’t work right on iPad. iPad (2) apps don’t work right on iPad Mini. iPad Mini apps don’t work right on iPad Mini Retina.

Android is built to accomodate for just about any screen size, pixel density and any optional hardware features. You do not need to design “tablet optimized” apps for Android for example as you must absolutely do so for iPad.

What else is better about Android than iOS or Windows Phone (or any other operating system)?
Android is 100% open source. This is the most important thing. Android is like the web. iOS and Windows are like proprietary competitors to the web. Android is 100% free.

What about claims that Android or Android makers infringe on other’s patents?
All those patent lawsuits against Android are complete bullshit. Anyone who believes Microsoft or Apple have the right to sue Linux open source on smart devices is just out of his mind. Nobody must touch Linux, it’s free and open source. End of story. Nobody can patent any touch UI, any device shape, any essential user interaction idea, or anything that somebody else would have come up with.

Google appears to be transitioning away from the very open source view you espouse.
Admittedly, Android needs to be even more open source and even more free. That means open source GPU drivers, open source WiFi, Bluetooth, and other source drivers. It means perhaps 100% free alternatives to HDMI, USB, H264, Mp3, Dolby, as well as alternatives to whatever else other people are claiming licence fees against Android device makers for. That practice is just wrong and needs to stop.

Connectors, codecs, graphics engines, all those things need to be free to use for any device maker. Google needs to ramp up their involvement in providing 100% free alternatives to the market for these things so that device makers can in fact produce 100% free and open source Android devices worldwide.

But is this something Google should do? What about controlling the Android brand name, the use of Google apps, and controlling development of future releases?
(I suspect) Sundar Pichai‘s role overseeing Android may be to prepare Android 5.0+ to be totally open. Google should (and soon may) allow any third party developer access to see in real time all the future features of Android that Google is working on. Google should release dailies and accept way more third party patches and feature requests. Any improvements to Android that any third parties want to submit should get integrated in real-time.

You think Google will do this?
I think Google knows they are so far ahead of anyone else now that it really doesn’t benefit either Google or Google’s hardware partners to offer exclusive access to future Android development anymore. Give everyone equal, real-time access.

I also think Google will un-licence and un-restrict the use of their Android apps so that anyone will be allowed to ship Android with Google Play, Google Maps, Gmail, and whatever other apps Google offers, as much as they want, with no more need to ask for Google certification first.

Google should also count all Android activations in the future, and not only count certified Android devices. The 1.5 million Android activations per day are only certified Android devices being activated. That does not include the 500,000 – 1 million non-certified Android devices that are sold worldwide and activated each day.

Why are you visiting San Francisco?
I want to interview HP, Intel and others in the region. I will also be attending a Samsung developer conference. Before this, I was  in Shenzhen, China and purchased some Android phones for $36, and Android-powered devices that copy both Windows Phone and iPhone.

Thank you.

Author note: below are some of my favorite Charbax videos: 

Archos Childpad

A $29 Android tablet

Shenzhen Tablet Factory tour

Do Android Or Windows Phone Have Any Hope Of Defeating iPhone?


Neither Android nor Windows Phone, apart or in concert, have any hope of defeating iPhone. None. For the foreseeable future, iPhone will remain the world’s most popular, most profitable smartphone by a wide margin. The best apps, the first apps, the most popular accessories, the lion’s share of the industry’s profits all will belong to iPhone.

Indeed, I think the gap in profits and mindshare will only widen from this point forward. The iPhone is simply too good, Apple too rich, iPhone hardware too advanced, the iOS ecosystem too robust, integration across devices and platforms too seamless, retail footprint too large, customer satisfaction too high.

Mobile First

iPhone’s dominance is also partly the result of the right strategic bets. Apple has successfully re-positioned itself as a mobile first entity. Android and Windows Phone not only lag behind iPhone from a financial, technical and platform perspective, their masters — Google and Microsoft — still underestimate just how profoundly mobile will remake computing, work, play, commerce, interactions, our lives. Their smartphones suffer accordingly.

Google, which makes nearly all its money from (stationary) web advertising, continues to focus its efforts on getting more users on the web more of the time. Wise, but not enough. As I have previously shown, the person-to-web relationship is no longer central to the connected user. With smartphones, apps and services such as AirDrop and iBeacons, for example, we will witness a radical jump in person-to-person, person-to-group and device-to-device interactions that bypass the web entirely, never once to cross a Google server or gateway.

Likewise, Microsoft is still designed for a world where the “desktop” is at the center of an ever-expanding sphere of computing devices and services. This is fail. As Ben Bajarin has shown, it is smartphones, not PCs that will serve as the hub of our mobile, social and highly connected lives.

Apple’s iPhone is simply too far ahead of the competition everywhere that matters.

But, there remain opportunities — very big ones, in fact.

As I have written in the past, do not be misled by those who insist that Apple can magically go down-market whenever they wish. This is false. Apple’s skill set, cost structure, corporate expertise and branding all prevent this. Thus, Windows Phone and Android vendors can fight it out over the low-price, low-profit market.

There are several additional paths to take. These can all benefit from non-Apple innovation.

Form Factor

Apple now controls the most robust developer platform for personal computing. No one on the planet foresaw this happening, not even Steve Jobs who initially radically underestimated both the disruptive power of the app and the near-limitless potential of the iPhone.

Therein lies the opportunity.

Apple is now beholden to its developer community. The iPad and then the iPad Mini, the iPhone and then the iPhone 5, all have very specific display sizes in large part because these work best for the nearly million apps available. You may pine for an iPhone “Note” but the fact is Apple cannot offer us a wide array of display sizes because this would harm the performance and presentation of existing apps.

Android and Windows Phone should therefore radically expand their efforts and develop devices that embrace all manner of display size and form factors (e.g. these massive Microsoft ‘tablets’). The upcoming “bendable” LG smartphone and the extremely popular large-display Samsung devices reveal the potential of this market.

Similarly, iOS cannot well support physical keyboards. Mobile devices with physical keyboards — including, yes, the Surface — will remain in high demand for years to come.

The Integration of Things

The shockingly rapid transition from iOS 6 to iOS 7 only hints at the potential power of Apple’s platform. With hundreds of millions already on iOS 7, app developers, payments platforms, makers of accessories and hardware companies all know that building for iOS, unlike all other platforms, is a near guarantee that their service or device will function properly and have access to the most lucrative market.

There is another path, however, one which Apple may simply be unable to support: everything else in our lives.

I want my smartphone to serve as my identity, my credit card, my house key, car key, to manage my heating and cooling, monitor my home when I am not there, control my washer and dryer, serve as my television remote, connect with my medical devices (e.g. blood pressure monitor), track my dogs, offer me instant access to the subway and thousands of other activities.

Given the obvious limits on Apple’s marketshare and hardware development, Android and Windows Phone need to position themselves as the go-to platform for the Internet of Things. Apple and its hardware partners cannot be everywhere.

Government Intervention

Smartphones connect us with content, with the web, with one another, and with an ever-expanding array of devices and services. They are the center of our lives. Not the PC, as Microsoft envisioned. Not the web, as Google still believes. The smartphone is the last thing we see at night, the first thing we see in the morning. The odds of some new tech marginalizing smartphones any time over the next decade, say, are extremely remote.

A far more likely pitfall for Apple’s iPhone is government intervention.

No matter your political bent, the long history of government from at least the beginnings of recorded history clearly reveal that wherever there is a great deal of money, government will be there.

Apple has a great deal of money.

Expect new rules on how this money is taxed, how it may be spent, and a bevy of new and potentially inexplicable regulations on what Apple must do to satisfy each nation’s (or region’s) many and varied constituencies. Also expect nations to directly and indirectly limit Apple’s sales in favor of national entities.

How such intervention might impact Apple and iPhone is simply unknowable at this point. I nonetheless expect ongoing and potentially significant government intrusion upon Apple’s business, at least from China and the European Union, possibly even the US.

I suspect that government intrusion, more than the marketplace, more than any new technologies, more even than industry collusion, will impact Apple’s and iPhone’s continued success the most over this next decade.

If Steve Jobs Was Alive What Would Steve Jobs Do?

If Steve Jobs was alive I would not need to write this column.

He is not, tragically, and yet as I cover Apple, the smartphone industry, and the rapid spread of mobile personal computing throughout the world, I never hear the end of analysts, bloggers — and haters — telling me exactly what would be different if Steve Jobs was alive.

Google “If Steve Jobs Was Alive” and you are delivered 760,000,000 results. By comparison, “If Einstein Was Alive” yields only 142,000,000 results, and “If Jesus Was Alive” a distant 490,000,000. Obviously, people care deeply about ‘what would Steve do’ if he was still with us.

I used to fight this line of questioning, in the vain hope I could make it stop. I failed, and so here I embrace the idea, basing each and every supposition on my knowledge of the man and his work and not at all to prove a point, gain some advantage, nor even start a fight.

If Steve Jobs was alive…

There Would Be No iPhone 5c

The iPhone 5c combines the worst of iPhone 5 with the most iconic of the Nokia Lumia. Worse, it has no reason for being other than as a cash generator. It offers far less than the iPhone 5s and for the price there are far better smartphones available from Sony, Samsung, Nokia and others.

Apple will no doubt make a good deal of money from iPhone 5c, though I don’t believe Steve Jobs would have let that sway him. He would have said no. To quote Jobs: “I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.”

The iPhone 5c is a waste of the very best that Apple can do. The iPhone 5s is the latest truly “insanely great” product from Apple. Its brightness, however, is diminished by the far lesser yet ironically far brighter iPhone 5c. If Steve Jobs was alive, the 5c would not exist.

The Thermonuclear War Would Still Be Raging

Google wildly overpaid for Motorola — for patents. Nokia, near death, clings to its patents. BlackBerry is being sold for a bit more than its cash, its only other assets its patents. Intellectual property matters dearly — few in Silicon Valley understood this as well as Jobs.

Angry at how partners and colleagues shamelessly copied from Apple’s many years of hard work, and no doubt still wounded deeply by what he (wrongly) considered Eric Schmidt’s personal betrayal, the smartphone patent wars would be raging if Steve Jobs was alive.

Steve Jobs could change his mind. He listened to those around him. He knew when to move forward and what to leave behind. The patent wars, however, is that rare Jobs crusade that he would refuse to set aside.

Mentoring Mark Zuckerberg Would Make Him Happy

I am not convinced that wearable computing would excite Jobs as much as it does the rest of us. This despite the cool new “motion chip” in the iPhone 5s and the obvious benefits for Apple Inc. I am convinced, however, that having The Beatles and Bob Dylan always available, for free, via iTunes Radio, would excite him a great deal.

I also believe that mentoring Mark Zuckerberg would bring Jobs much joy.

There is much about Silicon Valley that I suspect would deeply trouble Steve Jobs. So much small thinking, so much incipient press coverage, the bourgeoning NSA – Silicon Valley mash-up, and the near-religious focus on get-rich-quick and sell-for-today.

Mark Zuckerberg is not like that.

I suspect Jobs would look forward to meeting regularly with Zuckerberg, even if just to talk.

The Reality Distortion Field Would Burn Just As Bright

If there is any company that does not need cheerleaders — or to distort reality — it is Apple. The company’s scale is almost hard to fathom. Consider that in less than a week they have sold more than 10 million new iPhones and gotten 200 million of their customers onto their latest operating system (iOS 7). No one else can achieve anything close to this.

Apple is the biggest tech company, has the most profitable global retail footprint, maintains stunningly high product margins, controls the biggest media ecosystem on the planet, and builds the very best mobile computing devices at a time when the world’s billions are clamoring to have one.

Cheering today’s Apple is like cheering on Microsoft — in its fight against Netscape. Right or wrong, it’s not really a fair fight.

But telling us all just how great Apple is was never what the “reality distortion field” was about, at least, not primarily so. Nor was it  about masking any of the company’s shortcomings. Reality distortion, so-called, was Jobs’ way of showing us what he saw, of helping us to glimpse the possibilities of the future.

Indeed, perhaps reality distortion is the wrong term. It should be called Jobs’ “time distortion field” instead.

Steve Jobs used his ‘time distortion’ powers to remind us that our talents and abilities, those unique parts of us, would soon be liberated. Apple just needed a little bit more time to make it happen. Each product moving us one step closer.


What do you think Steve Jobs would do? About anything? Have at it. Clearly, we all need to get this out of our system.

Did Apple Fail Us? Maybe. Did Apple Just Stab Microsoft In The Heart? Definitely.

Ambition is the last refuge of failure.
– Oscar Wilde

Apple held its much-anticipated iPhone launch event last week. The company offered up iOS 7, iPhone 5c, 5s, iTunes Radio, a “motion” chip, a 64-bit processor and several more goodies. The “one more thing,” however, turned out to be the reaction of the world. Neither awe, nor disappointment, really. Rather, a collective shrug of the shoulders.

It was plainly clear that the company missed the mark.

Except, this is not really true — at least, it’s not the full truth. The full truth is thus: we misread Apple at least as much as they misread us.

The Undiscovered Country

Anyone who labels the iPhone 5c as a “mid-tier” device does not understand the meaning of the term. The baseline version costs an incredulous $549 — not counting criminally high-margin bumpers. And this is the “low cost” iPhone we were all expecting?

Apple followers, Apple bloggers, and industry analysts were nearly universal in expecting a budget-priced iPhone. We were all wrong. Why?

Few companies plant and manage leaks as craftily as Apple. It was not “leaks” that caused us to expect a low-cost device. Indeed, that a few of the most well-connected Apple insiders started backtracking from this sentiment a week or so before launch was the leak.

The reason everyone was expecting a low-cost iPhone was because the entire world understands that now is the time for such a device. Great smartphones can be had for $200 – $400 all over the world. Apple’s competitors — Android, essentially —  offer a slew of great devices with good hardware, great apps, great camera and great screen for under $400.

There is no excuse for Apple to not offer us a similarly priced similarly great device. It’s not about margins or greed. The company literally has more money than it knows what to do with.

The reason the bloggers, followers and analysts were all wrong, however, stems from a rather profound misunderstanding of Apple.

Apple cannot go down-market.

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.

To go down market would likely require Apple to alter device specs — which would badly upset much-needed developers. To go down market would require Apple to outsource more of its production. It would require more deals with more carriers and retail outlets, offering them more leeway on pricing. It might require using other’s processors, other’s batteries, ramping up global manufacturing and sales capacity. Apple has close to zero experience with these. You can’t simply magically alter who you are. It’s hard enough just to try and buy your way into transformation.

Think Mercedes’ disastrous acquisition of Chrysler.

The faithful may argue that Apple refuses to chase market share. Or that Apple refuses to make lesser-quality products. Fine. But the fact is now plainer than ever before. There are companies in this world that can — right now — make awesome smartphones for under $400. Apple is not one of them.

Apple failed to deliver the low-cost iPhone we all were certain was coming. Yes, they failed us. But, it was our failure to expect from them something they simply cannot do.

The Next Generation

What Apple can do, of course, is make amazing mobile computing devices — the very best in the world. The iPhone 5s may be the best smartphone anyone can buy at any price. Not that you should.

A week after launch and I simply cannot get over the fact that the iPhone 5s is, uncharacteristically for Apple, less than the sum of its parts.

Apple had the perfect opportunity to offer the world an iPhone that featured radical improvements in camera specs, radical improvements in Siri, radical improvements in iCloud, and at least significant improvements in battery life. Instead, Apple tossed in a 64-bit (A7) chip, a “motion co-processor,” and a fingerprint scanner. How does any of this help you, the paying customer, here and now?

While the A7 chip will almost certainly improve device responsiveness and should enhance operation of the camera, the full value of the iPhone 5s may not be realized for possibly a year or more, as developers and industry partners catch up. Why pay for the privilege of being a beta user?

By the time you have wearable devices that make the M7 relevant to you, and by the time most games and apps take full advantage of the A7, will you even own your iPhone 5s? Possibly not. For most users, a 1-2 year lifespan is all their smartphone ever achieves. Then it’s on to the newest device. This was a missed opportunity.

The Wrath of Jobs

Apple may not have given us what we wanted, not really, not now, but they have nonetheless created a device that puts Microsoft on notice. This cannot be overstated. Indeed, I contend the biggest story to come out of last week’s Apple launch, and which almost no one is discussing, is the breadth of the assault Apple is readying for the enterprise, Microsoft’s final stronghold.

  • Free iWork — with secure cloud included.
  • The very best smartphone (and tablet).
  • A secure ecosystem that welcomes enterprise-class apps.
  • Working fingerprint identification.
  • An M7 motion chip can both support and foster the healthcare, logistics and wearable computer industries.
  • “Desktop class architecture” inside mobile devices. Yes, Apple gleefully reiterated the world “desktop.”
  • True end-to-end ownership of the hardware and software, delivering the best reliability, customer support and security.
  • The premier software developer community and the very best, most accessible, most secure software distribution platform. Yes, these all belong to Apple.

The PC is a relic of the 20th century. The smartphone is the computer. No one, still, is even close to Apple in this regard.

The Final Frontier

Techpinions analyst, John Kirk, noted that “Apple is quietly putting together the foundation for the next five to ten years. People seldom pay attention when foundations are being laid.”

I agree. Despite periodic missteps, Apple is relentlessly marching forward. Sadly, most of the world will never know.

I’ve long contended that Apple’s end game is thus: Siri (voice) + TouchID (fingerprint) + iCloud makes every Apple screen everywhere instantly available to you and fully personalized for you. That is as awesome as it is audacious. I’ve long hoped, however, that Apple could make this a reality for every screen, every user. This is a pipe dream, I’m afraid, and that’s never been more obvious.

Apple is designed to create amazing computing devices — just not for the vast majority of the world. That’s not really a failure, but it is unfortunate.

The Apple A7 – A is for Ambition

A great deal of articles have come out trying to sour Apple’s A7 processor and the fact that they have moved their ARM architecture from 32-bit to 64-bit. The narrative claims that there are no tangible benefits to make the move from 32-bit to 64-bit in mobile devices today.

Much of the narrative is rooted in a desktop perspective with regard to 64-bit architectures. Folks were quick to point out unless the iPhone has 4gb of memory that 64-bit will be useless. Those folks are using a desktop computing mindset to 64-bit not a mobile one. iOS for example is extremely memory efficient as are the apps that run on it.

This kind of thinking also discounts Apple’s vertical approach from the Soc, to the hardware, and the software. Because they control the OS they can “tune” or “optimize” the software to maximize efficiently every bit of the core they designed. Apple needs only to design the A7 for one purpose–iOS. Therefore, they can focus in on optimization for performance gains in all areas they feel are important.

Now, while we can certainly make the case that Apple could have achieved many performance gains by staying 32-bit we need to understand the context of how they would have achieved that.

Throw More Cores At It

If you study trends in the semiconductor industry you know that more area of the chip is being dedicated to graphics. It is almost as if the GPU is becoming more important than the CPU. But that is a discussion for another time.

Apple could have effectively accomplished performance gains of some magnitude simply by designing a quad-core version of the A7. Apple is yet to design a quad-core SoC and this would have given them performance gains. However, it would have come at a power cost. More cores require more power. Now there are very good and power efficient quad-core ARM processors available today from Qualcomm and Nvidia. But by moving to 64-bit and staying dual-core, Apple has effectively delivered equal to and perhaps better performance than competitors running quad-core chipsets with a dual-core solution.

So where will this matter? Battery life is the biggest beneficiary in the short term. Every task that utilizes the CPU or the GPU will happen faster allowing the CPU to return to a low-power state much faster.

Many will claim that consumers don’t care about specs. And this is true in most regions. However, there is a group that cares very much about specs, a group that is very important to Apple–developers.

Never Before Seen

One of my favorite lines when talking with developers is: “you can never have enough performance.” I hear this exact line so often you would think it is their motto.

Recently, I heard a wise man say: “Performance doesn’t matter. Until you don’t have enough of it.”

The key to understanding the value of the A7 being 64-bit is what developers will do with it.

We saw a great example from the team at Epic Games at the Apple event Tuesday. While showing off the preview for their upcoming game Infinity Blade III they made an important observation. They pointed out that they could keep “turning on features” they wanted to use in the game. Games like Infinity Blade use engines built around the graphics libraries. Many of the features encompassed in the graphics libraries can’t be used if the CPU or GPU can’t support it. When this happens developers just turn off features. When game developers are provided with more performance they take advantage of it and their applications and the experience with those applications benefit.

We will look back in a few months when we see extremely talented and creative developers take advantage of the A7’s performance and create classes of applications never seen or possible before on mobile devices.

Pundits and the media may look at the A7 being 64-bit and say big deal. However, developers who make a living creating best in class software to push the future of mobile computing forward will look at the A7 being 64-bit and say BIG DEAL!

Foundation For the Future

By going to 64-bit now it sets Apple up for greater performance gains utilizing the architecture for their future. This years gains are 2X with better power efficiency. Next years will be 2X or greater with even better power efficiency and so forth. Each generation delivering better performance-per-watt. Within this context it is easier to understand the “why now” angle to the A7 being 64-bit.

Apple certainly could have kept riding the 32-bit curve and just added cores and optimization with each new process node. But by going 64-bit now, it means they have more grand ambitions to push the envelope in what is possible computationally with their smartphones, tablets, and perhaps more much sooner than expected.

The iPhone will benefit from this, as I pointed out, with battery gains and new classes of applications (particular those that are graphically or computationally complex) but the real winner with this move will be the iPad.

I am, of course, speculating but I think it is reasonable to assume that the next iPad will run the 64-bit A7. Bringing a true desktop class processor to the iPad has the potential to change the game dramatically in terms of how the iPad is used and the types of applications possible on it.

And of course, this move will fuel the fire that Apple may have intentions of bringing the A7 to ‘some’ Mac products.

If you are interested in a much deeper dive on this new ARMv8 64-bit architecture, I recommend this article written by David Kanter.((if you do read the article pay attention in particular to the sections on register states, memory, and virtual addressing)) I found something he wrote in the conclusion of interest.

“In some respects though, the more significant changes came not from adding features, but removing them.”

Sounds kind of familiar.

Pondering Apple’s Big Day

As with all Apple events I have attended, which is every one going back to the launch of the iPod, there are many intriguing questions leading up to the event. Many have been speculating and analyzing every angle possible about what may or may not be announced tomorrow. I’d prefer to leave the speculating to others and focus my efforts on analyzing the impact at large of what does get announced once we have the whole story. That being said there is something in particular that I find interesting about tomorrow’s announcements. [pullquote]The interest doesn’t seem to be about something ground breaking but something ground gaining[/pullquote]

Apple’s Next Big Thing

What strikes me as fascinating is that everyone is making noise not about speculation of some new “innovation” but rather a less expensive and more affordable iPhone. The interest doesn’t seem to be about something ground breaking but something ground gaining. Apple’s next big thing is actually about Apple’s next big market.

I’ve been explaining to many in both our industry presentations and also in my writing that we can not get lost with where we are in the adoption cycle for products like smart phones and tablets. Moves companies make should be focused on driving adoption and addressing market needs. More often than not, the strategy behind this isn’t ground breaking innovation but practical evolution in order to address market needs. There is in fact, the danger of over innovating and thus over-serving the market with where we are at currently in the cycle.

That is not to say we won’t see some innovative things designed to move the market forward. I have speculated that I believe Apple to move the market forward and take a leadership position with regards to security. But whatever is released that is innovative, I doubt will over-serve the market needs. Apple has a tendency to be very calculated in the timing of the market development and readiness to adopt the innovations they bring to market.

Perhaps there will be a few surprises, but perhaps there will not. Whatever is announced should be analyzed within the scope of this question: does this move Apple’s smartphone business forward to address the needs of the global smartphone consumer market. The big deal about tomorrow will be about the ways Apple is addressing the big market.

So What About Big Phones?

I thought Samsung’s proclamation that they have sold 38 million Notes (I and II) in total worldwide was interesting timing. No leaks or real hard speculation has led anyone to think Apple will release a larger screen iPhone at tomorrow’s event. So it seems as though Samsung wants to get some press that hopefully sticks in people’s heads that Samsung has a large screen phone and is selling millions of them and Apple does not. Especially, in light of the fact that the overwhelming majority of those 38 million Note sales have been outside of the US. Large phones, some call them phablets, do well outside of the US but over the next 2-3 years it is doubtful that they ever get about 10% of the overall market in annual sales. What does have the largest part of the market are lower cost phones. Let’s keep that in mind.

So many interesting questions that I will enjoy analyzing post event. The Daily Tech.pinion will be delayed in so that we can focus on analyzing all the news from the day. There will also be a ton of extra content and analysis on Apple this week for Tech.pinions Insiders our subscription service for those who desire more weekly content and analysis from our team. I encourage you to check it out if you haven’t already. And of course follow the team on Twitter for live remarks of the event.

Ben Bajarin @benbajarin
Tim Bajarin @Bajarin
Steve Wildstrom @swildstrom