The Business Model of Never Growing Up
The very mortal Larry Page and the rapidly aging Ray Kurzweil, in their mad, sad dash to live forever, will fail in this utterly futile, mostly human effort at denying the inevitable, at fighting that greatest of fleshly trappings, that soul wrenching but unalterable truth which reveals the eternal equality of us all.
We are all going to die.
It is what it is.
Billions of years ago, literally, dying stars sent tiny pieces of themselves hurtling through space. A few trillion of those pieces, maybe more, reached Earth, falling unseen like manna from heaven. Fewer still, as if touched by (a) God, made it inside every one of us.
For what purpose, exactly?
We may never know. Till then, there’s money to be made. Lots of money. And it seems to me that by design or not, and unable to conquer death, Silicon Valley has instead embraced the business model of never growing up.
Mock if you wish but this is certainly more rational then what Larry Page and Sergey Brin are doing, spending untold amounts of Google money on “tackling aging” through a series of pricey ventures. The super-smart Calico is just one:
[Google-funded] Calico is a research and development company whose mission is to harness advanced technologies to increase our understanding of the biology that controls lifespan.
And of course it will fail. Or worse. We could wind up with this horrid “singularity” vision as espoused by Google’s Kurzweil, where computers and AI progress to a point where humans can radically alter their minds and bodies — and anyone else’s — or ‘upload’ the equivalent of our consciousness into a thinking machine that allows each of us, you and me, to effectively live forever.
What a bleak existence.
It is what you feel, see, hear, taste, who you live with, your stumbles and successes, a good joke and a big slice of birthday cake that make you who you are and all of these, every single bit, will be irrelevant to the ‘you’ inside a computer.
Each moment you go inside a computer, you die just a little bit. Till there’s nothing left.
The futile Kurzweilian effort helps explain why, outside of Google, so much brainpower and money are flowing not in fighting mortality but instead in empowering us all with the illusion of never growing up.
What is Twitter but a mode for all of us, like some recent college graduate, to espouse to everyone, every single thing we think and feel the moment we think it or feel it? Isn’t all social media in fact optimized for talking without ever listening?
Selfies celebrate the self, obviously. Why think beyond our corporeal form, at this moment, in this place? Let us glorify the now — with the self at the center, fixed for all digital eternity.
Is Uber, with its $40 billion valuation, anything other than a way for all of us, like teenagers, to never have to own a car yet always have someone there, exactly then, to take us wherever we want to go?
Gamification is the dream of liberating ourselves from the drudgery of even a moment of the kind of work “adults” must engage in.
Wearables literally transform the profoundness of computing into me, me, me!
Augmented reality seems intent on transmuting the real world, with all its imperfections, into a multi-player amusement that keeps us entertained, as if we are forever children, forever awaiting delight.
Not ready to settle down? Just need a couch to crash on? AirBNB has you covered.
Here’s a tablet! Never be bored, never feel alone — and free yourself from the fears of change, time and mortality.
Is this why Silicon Valley seems to have become so ageist? Do tech companies fear that should they hire anyone over 40 — the horrors! — then every other staffer will be forced to acknowledge their own mortality? To see exactly what awaits them?
I do not expect Silicon Valley to embrace death. But I do hope the Valley evolves to where it’s ready to fully leverage its brains and its wealth on very adult problems, many of which may never be fun but all of which are necessary should we desire a better future for everyone, however long it may last.
Research: Who’s Buying What Tech around the Globe This Holiday Season
Phone, Tablet, Desktop Usage
The Microsoft Surface Is A Yachting Cap, Not A Yacht
The Consumer Tablet Growth Opportunity
A great deal of my tablet market analysis has been spent exploring opportunities for a PC in the form of a tablet. Opportunities not fulfilled by a PC in the form of a desktop or laptop. As I explained here, the enterprise or commercial tablet market’s upside is still quite large. But the question about the tablet opportunity for the consumer market looms.
Tablets grew faster and were more widely adopted than any previous electronics device in history. Continued triple digit growth was simply not sustainable. The tablet market slowdown was never a question of if but always of when. As you can see by the following chart, that time is now. ((I’m keeping iPads and the overall tablet market separate due to the extremely high sales of white box, low cost Android tablets sold that are used for nothing more than portable TVs and game players.))
The tablet market, like all markets before it, is normalizing. Growth rates have slowed and now we can wrestle with the question of how much more growth is to be had.
Replacement Market vs. First Time Buyers
I find it helpful to focus on the question of whether the tablet market for consumers is a replacement market or if there is still a market for first time buyers. If the tablet is only a replacement, then it has peaked. However, I don’t believe that has happened. Apple keeps informing us 50% of iPad sales are to first time buyers. Which gives us an indication there are still new owners to be had. So how may that growth in first time buyers be had? I see two possibilities.
The first could be price. My friend Stephen Baker at NPD gave us some insights and holiday outlook for the tablet market. As Stephen points out for the US market, price could be a driver. I think it should be safe to assume that price war offerings for iPads and other tablets will be fierce in Western markets this holiday. Retailers use this pricing to get customers in stores where they hope they buy a plethora of other items. I’m guessing retailers will hope to leverage Apple’s new lineup with this strategy in mind. I believe Apple has a strong lineup from the original iPad mini to the newest iPad Air 2 covering many price points and giving retailers pricing flexibility with their offerings. In general, other branded tablet vendors have been seeing decreasing sales and Samsung in particular. It’s reasonable to assume Samsung tablets will see steep discounts this holiday at retail.
The second growth area is replacements and additions. It is very hard to predict when consumers will replace their tablets and more specifically their iPads. ((I point out the iPad specifically because it is the tablet brand that has the largest installed base by a healthy margin.)) As often is the case with Apple products, iPads are often handed down to other members of the family or to friends. In this scenario, the new iPad replaces the current owner’s device but another person gets their first iPad. Ultimately this is good because it builds the iPad owner base, who we would assume will be added to the future replacement opportunity. Continuing to build a large installed base will yield rewards. Whether the new lineup drives this upgrade and hand-me-down cycle we literally have no idea. But should it hit this quarter, it could be huge. While the iPad 2 is still a perfectly fine device, it has the highest installed base of all iPads. My firm’s estimates for active iPad 2s in use is over 60 million. We believe this base will upgrade at some point in time — we just don’t know when. It could be this quarter or it may not. But, given the price aggressiveness we assume we will see this holiday season, I’m guessing many iPad 2 owners may be enticed. Realistically, there is no better quarter to find deals than a holiday quarter. So this large installed base of iPad 2 owners would be smart to upgrade this quarter or risk waiting another full year. Given the channels I track, I should have a decent sense of what is happening before the quarter ends.
Stealing PC Owners: I still believe the traditional notebook and desktop form factor is overkill for most mainstream consumers. The decent sales numbers of PCs we are seeing are largely coming from enterprise and commercial markets such as education/students. The consumer market has yet to move in mass to upgrade their PCs. We believe at some point in time those consumers will make the move. And the wonderful unpredictability of many consumers leaves us guessing at what they will buy and when. Will they buy another PC? Or will they move to a tablet? This is the tension we will have to live with until we see a market indication of what is happening. The tablet will still have the price advantage this quarter and I suspect Windows 8 is still a hinderance. I do expect Macs to have a very strong holiday as well and, with the new iPhones in the mix, there is a lot competing for consumers’ wallets this holiday.
These are a few of the scenarios I think about when I look at the upside for consumer tablets. This quarter seems very hard to predict right now for nearly everything but for the smartphone market. For the first time in a long time it’s hard to say with any accuracy how the consumer market for PCs and tablets is going to play out.
Did Apple Do Enough?
At Today’s Apple’s Event, I got a question over and over again. I thought I would share my thoughts on it. First off, the question, “Did Apple do enough?” is the wrong question. The correct question is, “Did Apple release a better product than they did last year?” Of course the answer is yes. A smart fellow once told me, “If it is worth doing, it is worth improving.”
We can view product enhancements and demand the revolutionary without realizing that revolutionary requires evolutionary improvements. Leaps in innovation don’t happen without the evolutionary cycles that come before them. But what matters is that each year’s product is better, in a fundamental way, to meet the needs of current and new customers.
I have a core thesis that Apple does not really have any competitors. I know many disagree and we can debate this from a business, strategy, and market standpoint, but from a product standpoint I believe this is true. In fact, I believe Apple’s primary competitive product benchmark is last year’s model. This is why the correct question is whether or not Apple released a better product compared to last year’s version.
Is the new iPad Air better? Yes. Is the new iMac better? Yes.
Getting that out of the way, let’s look at why it matters to today’s announcements.
iPad. In my mind Apple did several important things for the iPad product family. The first is Touch ID. While it may seem like an obvious upgrade, it is also significant for two reasons. In enterprise accounts, where the iPad is nearly universally deployed in some way at Fortune 500 companies, Touch ID is an extremely important improvement. We can debate whether the iPad has peaked in consumer markets but one area I am absolutely certain it has not is in enterprise. What is key to understand about the iPad in enterprise accounts is it is not being deployed to replace notebooks or desktops in most cases. Rather, what it is doing is bringing a computer to a field worker who used a simple handheld device or no computer at all.
The iPad is being deployed to many mobile field workers who are generally on their feet all day. Public safety, construction, employees doing truck rolls or installs, compliance officers running routine safety checks on oil rigs, power plants, etc. These mobile field workers usually use a clipboard and have may never have used a computer regularly in their day job. Desktops and notebooks are designed to be used while sitting down, not walking around in the field. This is the enterprise use case for which the tablet form factor is best designed. But because these workers are mobile, they are also the more likely to lose or have their work tool stolen. This is where Touch ID is critical. Enterprise has been clamoring for Touch ID on iPads for the security elements they enable. The upside for the iPad in enterprise is still large and Apple’s partnership with IBM will greatly enhance this.
Enterprise sales alone won’t continue to drive annual iPad growth. So what is the current story for consumers?
Apple has shared a statistic over the past few quarters. 50% of iPad buyers are new to the iPad. This is a key metric. Rather than look at Apple’s lineup and wonder if it will drive upgrades, look at it and wonder if the current lineup is inviting to first time iPad buyers. Here is the full lineup.
From beginning to end, Apple has an iPad for nearly every price point. By keeping the original iPad mini in the mix at $249, Apple has an attractive price across the board. This is a key story when we think about first time buyers. Not everyone needs the current generation iPads. Last year’s models serve a purpose in helping fill price gaps and giving consumers more options.
The challenge of thinking about upgrades is we still have literally no idea what the consumer upgrade cycle is. We have estimates about how many Gen 1 and iPad 2s are still in use and it is a significant number. But we have no read on if those consumers will upgrade at this point. Because of that, predicting the consumer upgrade cycle is near impossible. It could happen one random quarter and catch everyone off guard or we may get early signs. But right now, we don’t know. So in my analysis, I’m focusing on the story for first time buyers. And that story is strong with the full iPad lineup.
Retina iMac. Lots of interesting things about this computer. The first is I joked Apple made a 27″ 5K TV for $2499 (less than a 4K HDTC) that just happens to include a computer. The display is something to behold when you see it. With this product, Apple continues to cater to their bread and butter customers – the creative professionals. This is a product a creative professional will see and say it is NEEDED not it is just wanted.
Whether you make movies, TV shows, create graphic arts, edit photos, etc., there is literally no better option than this 5K Retina iMac. I expect significant demand for this iMac and let’s hope Apple can keep up with it.
Tying it All Together
Again Apple has emphasized the story of their ecosystem. During the event I tweeted:
Key point from Cook – Apple’s products are designed to work together seamlessly. Very different reality than other ecosystems.
— Ben Bajarin (@BenBajarin) October 16, 2014
The hardware story, iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite with features like Handoff and Continuity strengthen the ecosystem. No other company is addressing the full lineup from desktop, notebook, tablet, smartphone, and soon a smartwatch, to work together this harmoniously from a user experience standpoint. If you are going to own any combination of computers from PCs, tablets, smartphones, and eventually a smartwatch, Apple’s seamless ecosystem is presenting itself with the strongest offering across categories. This is the heart of the “only Apple” narrative.
First Half 2014 Tablet Report
In New Job Steve Ballmer Forces Windows on the L.A. Clippers
I was fascinated to read a recent article about Steve Ballmer and how, in his role as owner of the L.A. Clippers, he has told his entire staff to get rid of their iPads. From now on they will be a Microsoft only facility. I was especially interested in this part of the article:
“Most of the Clippers on are Windows, some of the players and coaches are not,” Ballmer said.”And Doc (Clippers coach) kind of knows that’s a project. It’s one of the first things he said to me: ‘We are probably going to get rid of these iPads, aren’t we?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, we probably are.’ But I promised we would do it during the off season.”
To his credit, he is trying to make the online experience at their arena work via Wifi and Bluetooth with any device. But for his staff, it is all Microsoft, all the time. Of course as owner of the Clippers he has the right to do this. But it is his total lack of understanding that we are no longer in a homogenous device world and are now in a heterogeneous world where people or users make the choice of the product they want to use and actually hire them based on personal needs and preferences that surprises me. IT has had to embrace this BYOD approach for some time and have made it work in most cases.
It was his blind loyalty to Microsoft and Windows that kept Microsoft from being a leader in smartphones and tablets. Everything had to be Windows based even though Windows was not an optimal OS for a smartphone. Instead, they spent years trying to push the round peg of a desktop OS into the square hole of a smartphone device while Apple and Samsung created mobile operating systems from scratch and left Microsoft in the dust.
This blind loyalty also caused him to miss an opportunity to make MS Office the de facto standard productivity tool outside of the Windows world and forced Microsoft to create subpar versions of Microsoft apps that worked poorly on other operating systems. This crippled any real chance for the applications group to win big in a heterogenous computing world where Microsoft no longer sits at the center and the biggest growth in personal computing has shifted to pocket computing dominated by Apple and Google.
This push to force Windows on his new company just says to me Ballmer still does not get it. I am also certain his coaches and players are not about to give up their iPads and will use them behind his back while being forced to use Windows-based products during business hours whether they like it or not. Yes, I know he is the boss and he can do anything he wants but to force them to use Windows only, I believe, will frustrate his staff.
The good news is there is a new sheriff running Microsoft and from what I have read and heard from folks inside, their new CEO Satya Nadella is not as narrow-minded as Ballmer and in fact has become more focused on creating great products around their own brand as well as make all of their apps world class on other operating systems, too. This says to me Nadella actually understands we live in a heterogenous world and will embrace it as part of his goal to make Microsoft relevant again.
To me this is a big deal. When I first went to visit Microsoft in the early 1980’s, the company had less than 100 employees. In fact, I was one of the first actual analysts invited to meet with them in their early days and was one of the first they reached out to when they formally created an analyst relations group in the early 1980’s. This means I got a ring side seat to watch Microsoft develop and grow. In fact, many times in the 1980’s, Ballmer would call me up and ask me to lunch when he was in town to run by some new project or effort they were doing in order to get my feedback and ultimately to try and get me to support it.
During those days, Microsoft was the only game in town. That is how they grew. The good news is because they were so focused on Windows and Windows apps they grew the company exponentially. The bad news is they were so focused on Windows they missed the major rise of operating systems beyond the desktop and laptops. This has left the company scrambling to even be competitive in the world of mobile where all the real growth has shifted to in the last 7 years.
Satya Nedella’s approach to the market embraces heterogeneous computing and is important but he also walks a fine line when it comes to Windows. Windows 10 hopefully buys him some much needed grace in the eyes of the consumers and IT and by making all of their apps “world class” on multiple operating systems keeps them in the game. However, with the PC market shrinking and mobile rising, Nadella really has hard task ahead thanks to Ballmer’s narrow minded strategies.
Windows will probably work well for the Clippers management and team. Although, I have a sneaky suspicion from the comment of Clippers coach Doc Rivers they would have preferred to use their iPads. As boss, Balmer has the right to push the tools he wants the team to use. But it would have been interesting if he had to deal with his IT the way most of the IT world has to today by supporting BYOD and innovating around that reality. Instead, the Clippers are a recipient of the old school thinking of Ballmer and will just have to work with what he has given them.
How Microsoft and Apple’s Ads Define Their Strategy
Recently, after spending a lot of time with many of Microsoft’s OEM partners and looking at their overall strategic view of the PC and tablet markets of the future, it has become clear to me there really is a huge difference between how Microsoft and their partners view the computing market compared to the way Apple designs and markets their Macs and tablets to these same users. This divide in strategy is very pronounced.
In a sense Microsoft approaches the market from the top down, while Apple goes after the market from the bottom up.
Microsoft centralizes their strategy around their belief that everyone needs tools for a wide range of productivity tasks, regardless of who they are. Microsoft and their partners, including Intel, are designing all of their products around this focus. Of course, productivity is Microsoft’s sweet spot and a strong push to create products with an eye on productivity first makes sense. This is why they keep pushing the 2 in 1 concept. Is it a tablet or is it a laptop? As far as they are concerned, it doesn’t matter to the customer. The tagline for 2 in 1’s is “It is a PC when you need it and a tablet when you want one”. They believe that, in this product, they can push the customer to cover all of their bases and hope in the process these 2 in 1’s revive the lagging PC market and get it back on track. The problem is, since the focus of these designs really emphasize the productivity aspect of the experience, 2 in 1’s turn out to be OK laptops and, in many cases, mediocre tablets.
On the other hand, Apple approaches the market from the bottom up. When Steve Jobs introduced the iPad in 2010, he put a huge emphasis on the fact it was a “consumption” device first. In fact, he downplayed any possible productivity features although he did hedge his bet by creating a version of Pages, Numbers and Keynote apps for those who “might” want them. But when Apple created ads for the iPad they were all focused on consumption. Only in the last 18 months have they even added the focus on the iPad as a serious “creation” tool. Notice the distinct difference even in terminology. For Microsoft, the term “productivity” is key to their marketing while Apple uses “creativity” instead. Microsoft shows ads of people mostly working while Apple shows ads of people doing cool things with their iPhones and iPads. Microsoft’s ads invoke work while Apple’s ads show you how to use their products to create and play.
In a good article on TUAW written by Yoni Heisler entitled “Microsoft still doesn’t get why the iPhone succeeded,” Heisler says:
As Microsoft continues its push to remain relevant in the mobile space, it still doesn’t appreciate the factors that allowed Apple to enter a market it had no previous experience in, and turn that market on its head with the iPhone. Arguably blinded by the profits brought in by its Windows monopoly and its suite of productivity software, Microsoft still doesn’t seem to fully comprehend how the iPhone was able to push established players like RIM to the brink of irrelevancy in just a few years.
As an illustration, here is Nadella’s response to a question from Joshua Topolsky regarding Microsoft’s strategy to sell more devices to consumers.
You’re defining the market as “It’s already done, Apple and Google have won, because they won the consumer side.” And I’m going to question that. I’m going to say “No, any thinking consumer should consider Microsoft because guess what, you’re not just a consumer. You’re also going to go to work, you’re also going to be productive and we can do a better job for you in there.” And that’s what I want to appeal to.
And therein lies the problem. Consumers primarily buy mobile devices that make their lives easier and more fun, work be damned. Microsoft Office wasn’t available on the iPhone until June of 2013. An iPad version wasn’t released until four months ago! And guess what, hundreds of millions of consumers bought iPhones and iPads anyhow.
Heisler captures the essence of the difference between Microsoft and Apple well. Microsoft is all about productivity while Apple wants to give people a break from work and let technology do cool things for their customers. While this may seem like semantics, it actually drives a very different mental picture to consumers about how they view their devices. As Apple has proven, this approach is highly successful and brings into real question whether Microsoft’s productivity push will help them get customers outside of the enterprise to buy their products in the future.
In fact, Apple drives a solid line between productivity and content creation vs creativity and content consumption. Tim Cook and team are adamant that, when it comes to productivity, they believe that Macs are at the center of this activity. They have created innovative laptops, especially the MacBook Air and these products continue to defy the downward market trend in PCs and every quarter Apple sells at least 4 million Macs worldwide. They then focus iPads and iPhones on the more fun activities one can use technology for and again, have sold massive amounts of these products to very satisfied customers.
Of course, there is an actual dichotomy in the ultimate use of iPads in many people’s lives. Although Apple designs their iPads as pure tablets, people and companies have found their own ways to use them for actual work and productivity. But ironically, it was never at the center of Steve Jobs’ design and its role as a productivity tool has come mostly from third party products like external keyboards and companies and individuals creating apps and tools that allow them to adapt iPads and even iPhones for work when needed.
Satya Natella’s heavy focus on productivity is an interesting one and using 2 in 1’s to bridge the gap between a laptop and tablet will be driving their strategy forward. With the goal of creating a single OS that runs on laptops, tablets and smartphones, Microsoft is at least creating an OS environment less confusing than in the past. However, Apple has shown there is success in making great laptops, tablets and smartphones each with different goals in mind. However, if Microsoft continues down this heavy productivity road I suspect they will be challenged in their quest to gain any serious ground against Apple and even Google, who at the moment have the lion’s share of the mobile market. Apple with the Mac and Google with the Chromebooks are seriously eating into the Windows market share and have changed the dynamics of the personal computing marketplace forever.
Counterpoint: Tablets Were Never Supposed To Be The Next Smartphone
I’m (supposed to be) on vacation this week, but I saw an article by Peter Bright of Ars Tecnica, that got my dander up: “Op-Ed: Tablets really are the new PCs; nobody needs to buy them any more.”
Peter Bright’s article looks for trouble, finds it where it doesn’t exist, diagnoses it incorrectly, and applies the wrong remedy. So here’s my (not-so-very) quick ((Apparently, even my “quick” responses are over 1,000 words.)) response.
I need a six month vacation…twice a year.
Some Joly Analysis
- “The tablet market is tapped out. We saw signs of this when Apple reported that its iPad sales were down year-on-year and we’re seeing a similar message from retailers. Re/code’s Walt Mossberg recently talked to Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly, who said that tablet sales had “crashed.””
With all due respect, Hubert Joly doesn’t appear to know the difference between “flattening” and “crashed.” It is fortunate for us all he is not an air traffic controller.
- “Global tablet sales are still rising—though less quickly than they once were…”
Again, “rising” is very different from “crashing”
- “…but in developed markets the tablet boom may be over.
That’s a mighty big “may”.
- “…Joly reported that PC sales—which the tablet was supposed to kill—have picked up. He attributed that resurgence partially to the end of support of Windows XP.”
One of these arguments is not like the other, one of these arguments doesn’t belong…. ~ Sesame Street
Tablets Aren’t The Next Smartphone
- “The computer industry has to face an uncomfortable truth. Tablets aren’t the next smartphone. They’re the next PC.”
Agree and disagree. Tablets were never the next smartphone. Phones are smaller, fit in our pockets and are expected to be with us at all times. Plus — “duh” — they’re telephones. This means they will be ubiquitous.
Smartphones are the first stage of computing where the addressable market isn’t a segment, group, industry or demo, but everyone on earth. ~ Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans) 7/13/14
If anyone ever contended that tablets were the new smartphone, the blame falls squarely upon the faulty analysis, not upon the tablet.
Tablets Aren’t The Next PC
As for tablets being the next PC? Well, that isn’t really true either.
Apple sells more iPads each quarter than PCs were being sold when Windows 95 was launched. ~ Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans)
There are at least twice as many iPads as Macs in use today. ~ Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans) 7/24/14
But let’s set aside the fact the four year old tablet market is already about to eclipse the sales of the 40 year old PC market and continue with Peter’s analysis:
- “The low-hanging fruit of easy incremental improvements [for tablets] seems to be tapped out. Short of an unpredictable revolutionary new feature, our staff felt that they’d stick with their tablets until they broke, their batteries became useless, or they ceased to receive software updates.”
Gee, Peter. It’s August and that prediction could be proven wrong by as early next month when the Fall tablets arrive.
Tablets Aren’t The Next Netbooks
- “Unable to win sales by making PCs substantially better, the OEMs slashed prices. Netbooks epitomized this; they cut dozens of corners in screen quality, keyboard size and quality, thickness, and even performance. But they sure were cheap.”
Yeah, about that. iPads are not netbooks. Netbooks were HATED. Tablets are not only respected, they are, by many, adored.
(W)hat’s most important to us is that customers are enjoying their iPads and using them heavily. In a survey conducted in May by ChangeWave, iPad Air registered a 98% customer satisfaction rate, while iPad Mini with retina display received an astonishing 100% customer satisfaction rate. ~ Tim Cook
Tablets Are Not Big iPod Touches
- “A large screen smartphone can do all the things a smartphone does (including important things like fit in your pocket and make phone calls) and it can do all the things a tablet can do… just with a slightly smaller screen. And among large screen devices, the laptop always has the edge as the richer, more capable device.”
“Who needs tablets?”
Wow. I’ve stepped into a time warp and it’s 2010 all over again.
“There is no surprise with this device; it is just a huge iPod touch. ~ John C. Dvorak, MarketWatch, 26 March 2010
(H)ere’s what that S-curve of adoption looks like. It puts saturation of the market for iPads sometime around 2018, not 2014. … Something like half the people who will someday own iPads haven’t even purchased them yet. ~ Horace Dediu
Tablets Are A Separate Category
Is there room for a third category of device in the middle? Something that’s between a laptop and a smartphone? ~ Steve Jobs
In order to really create a new category of device those devices are going to have to be far better at doing key tasks. Better than the smartphone, better than the laptop. ~ Steve Jobs
Let’s keep this analysis simple. For many tasks, a larger screen is better than a smaller screen. The end.
Not believing a bigger screen is important is the same as not believing in gravity and I’m not going to waste my time arguing with you about either.
It’s so much more intimate than a laptop, and it’s so much more capable than a smartphone. ~ Steve Jobs
When the iPad appeared in 2010, it had its doubters. For a humorous look back, check out The iPad Death Watch. Apparently four years of experience has taught us nothing. The doomsayers have retaken the forum.
The only thing experience teaches us is that experience teaches us nothing. ~ Andre Maurois
Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so. ~ Douglas Adams
Here’s the thing. Despite its recent lull in sales, the tablet is BELOVED by many. You can’t pry it out of the hands of most owners (and especially seniors).
I think I have become addicted to my iPad. — my mom ~ Rene Ritchie (@reneritchie)
Sometimes tech people outsmart themselves. You’ve got two pieces of evidence before you. Customers love their tablets. Tablet rates flattened for two quarters. For one to assume that tablet growth is over, one has to ignore the former and put all of their analytical weight on the latter.
There are some ideas so wrong that only a very intelligent person could believe in them. ~ George Orwell
For an excellent analysis of what’s really happening in tablets, check out “Why Ipad Shipments Aren’t Growing, But Might Start Again Soon” by Jan Dawson.
iPads At The Border
I believe (nearly) every child that comes to America seeking refuge should be welcome. I fully understand if you disagree. It is a complex issue after all.
We are told tens of thousands of children are showing up at America’s southern border hoping to be allowed permanent entry. The President has requested many billions of dollars to help address this pressing entanglement. The opposition party has similarly offered up many billions, albeit far fewer than the President says are necessary.
Assuming some, most, or all of these children are allowed permanent entry into the United States, what then?
I have no answer for this. I do have a suggestion, however: I think we should give every single one of these children – every child in America, in fact – a tablet, preferably an iPad.
What would my proposal cost?
Estimates, which vary wildly, suggest 100,000 children will seek refuge in America this year, and another 100,000 next year. An iPad mini with Retina display retails for $400. Sold in bulk, and for goodwill, Apple may be ready to part with these for $200. Certainly, other tablet vendors would be so willing.
$200 x 200,000 children = $40 million
But let’s not give tablets only to new entrants, but to all children in America, at least those of school age. There are approximately 45 million children, ages 6-17, in the United States. Thus:
45,000,000 x $200 = $9 billion
Yes, that’s a staggering sum. Except, Americans already spend over $650 billion every single year on public K-12 education and another $350 billion every year on higher education, at minimum. An iPad mini is reasonably future-proof, and likely to last at least three years, for example. Even if we factor my potential tablet spend against only one year of K-12 expenditures, that’s:
$9,000,000,000 / $650,000,000,000 = 0.014
That’s less than 1.5% of one year’s K-12 spend. With this, 45 million children have a tablet — a tablet that can come preloaded with literally thousands of free books; books which reveal America’s history, greatness and failures. Books that teach, warn, inspire.
That’s just the start. There are thousands of free apps that promote creativity and collaboration. We can preload twenty or so on every device. Already, Apple includes iMovie, GarageBand, Pages and Numbers, among others, with every iPad.
Should the child be fortunate enough to have access to WiFi, YouTube offers amazing resources for self-directed learning. All free. iTunes U similarly offers a wealth of free courses for those with access.
Perhaps Fox will donate the entire Cosmos series toward this effort, helping us to inspire a generation to embrace science, discovery and their innate smartness.
A front facing camera will enable every child to take a picture of themselves and their surroundings, offering a document of their life and their world unmatched in scale.
The Diamond Age
Why do this?
This is very likely the first and only time in human history where a nation can afford to provide every single child with a fully accessible, easily manipulated tool that contains or can retrieve nearly the entirety of that nation’s history, culture, great works of fiction, film, television, lectures, puzzles and knowledge.
Let’s seize this amazing opportunity!
In his Hugo-winning work, The Diamond Age, author Neal Stephenson posited a future where a young girl, poor, living on the margins, came into possession of a interactive book — what we now call a tablet — that educates and empowers her, leading her to achieve what was once assumed unattainable.
There are only two such ‘books’ in Stephenson’s future world. What a much better world we have now. In fact, in our present day reality, there are already hundreds of millions of such tablets. Even better: almost every one of them can be used, misused, manipulated and managed by nearly any child of any background without any prompting or guidance.
This is profoundly revolutionary.
The System Of The World
The second reason is self-directed learning has many lasting benefits.
Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page have famously credited Montessori schooling for spurring their entrepreneurial success. Montessori adheres to a self-directed learning model. Children follow their interests and avail themselves to information and knowledge in their own way and on their own time. Per Larry Page:
“I think (founding Google) was part of that training of not following rules and orders, and being self motivated, questioning what’s going on in the world and doing things a little bit differently.”
Will Wright, video game pioneer and creator of The Sims, stated this of his self-directed Montessori education:
“Montessori taught me the joy of discovery. It showed you can become interested in pretty complex theories, like Pythagorean theory, say, by playing with blocks. SimCity comes right out of Montessori.”
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also attended Montessori school as a child.
Correlation is not causation. What leads a child toward success is no doubt a multi-variant process. But tablets can expose children to untold learning resources, creative opportunities, collaborative play and work. This seems like an opportunity the country should not pass up.
Recently, two villages in Ethiopia were provided with (Motorola Xoom) tablets preloaded with various apps, ebooks, movies, drawing programs and alphabet games. The First Grade children who received the tablets were illiterate, had never used paper and pencil, yet within a few months had taught themselves to read.
“Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village, and within five months, they had hacked Android.”
It almost seems unjust to not provide every child with a tablet.
I know there are questions. Who will pay for this? What about theft? What about illicit online activities? Who decides which books to embed? Will the children spend too much time with their tablet?
These are all answerable. Yes, really.
The larger question: Will it work? Haven’t laptops, PCs and other technologies in the schools failed to incite a learning revolution?
Perhaps. But at no point before now has there existed reasonably affordable, highly interactive tools that are personal, mobile, configurable, pose almost no barriers to operation, and which can store truly stunning amounts of knowledge and learning resources — all of it accessible with the swipe of a finger.
The children are here. The opportunity exists. Let’s be willing to fail with this.
Apple Earnings: iPad Struggles and iTunes Revenue Importance
More Than One Jony Ive At Apple Now
Microsoft Removed Chesterton’s Fence
Losing My Apple Religion. Seeking Salvation At WWDC.
I have crazy-high expectations for Apple’s worldwide developer conference. I expect, at minimum:
- An iPhone phablet
- iPad split-screen multi-tasking, necessary for the enterprise, awesome for gaming
- Touch ID APIs to support mobile payments
- Seamless inter-app communications
- Apps that can actually push data onto the home screen — because we are adults and this is the 21st century
- 25GB free iCloud storage per device
That’s just for starters.
What I mostly expect from WWDC is neither new products nor long-overdue enhancements but rather, affirmation. Too often of late it appears that:
- Ecosystem trumps product
- Brand usurps technology
- Growth precedes usability
- Margin before accessibility
Does anyone else feel this way?
The creeping doubts refuse to leave — even as I happily work on my MacBook, play on my iPad and yearn for that large screen iPhone.
Today, we mark our annual pilgrimage to WWDC. We learn of the many new products, the updates to Apple’s operating systems, extensions to the platform, the new and better paths to monetize content and services. Everything, no doubt, will be better than before, better than what can be had anywhere else.
That should be enough. Why is it not?
Because we long time users — the Apple faithful — have always held Apple to a higher, more personal standard. Apple is more than a business, even as it has become the world’s biggest business. Why else would we care so much about a developer’s conference?
Apple will never again be run by Steve Jobs. Pirate Apple has become Corporate Apple. Understood. Nonetheless, we want Apple, more so than any other company, and no matter how big, how global, how rich it becomes, to stay motivated not by profits but by an absolute and unwavering:
- commitment to innovation
Even as iPhone implants itself at the center of our computing life, we expect Apple to:
- disrupt everything
Is this true of today’s Apple? WWDC will affirm our faith, or dash it.
Clearly, we hold Apple to an impossible standard, not merely a higher one. If Elon Musk can build a reusable space capsule capable of ferrying astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station, why can’t Apple? Why must Apple spend the equivalent of 150 Dragon V2 spacecraft on a single headphone company?
These are the wrong questions.
Apple cannot do everything, cannot be everything. It’s simply unfair and unproductive to make Apple our litmus test upon which to judge all technological advancement and innovation. They make computing products and services. Nonetheless, we can’t help but demand Apple, especially Apple, relentlessly innovate, incite countless new revolutions, lift humanity to ever greater heights, with little more than screens that connect us to the world and connect us to our talents, the parts known and the parts yet-to-be discovered.
Belief sustained the Apple faithful through the dark times. It is this same belief that is now called into question. We want badly to believe in today’s Apple, and not merely admire its many products.
We want to believe blocking our messages was a bug, not hubris.
We want to believe China is not just about more billions, but about bringing the best of American technology to the world.
We want to believe CarPlay and “HomePlay” and “HealthBook” and Passbook are about making our lives simpler, better, not merely add-ons to enrich the ecosystem.
We want to believe that positioning the iPhone at the center of our digital life is empowering, not lock-in.
We come to WWDC to be inspired.
One Of A Trillion
As Apple continues along its inexorable path toward a $1,000,000,000,000 valuation, we hope the company remains personally connected with each of us, somehow.
In a world of big data and globe-hopping algorithms, driverless cars and autonomous bots, we expect Apple, more than any other organization, to power personal connections and accelerate human ingenuity throughout the world. We want it all to just work, exactly as we desire, even as the company extends across a billion customers.
That Apple will introduce more and better devices and services at WWDC is a given. Success is assured. The iOS moat is already so wide, so deep, as to make the company practically unassailable. The company’s shimmering glass headquarters will soon rise over Cupertino, its future set for decades to comes.
It’s not enough. Not for me, not for many of us, I suspect.
Fair? Of course not. But past performance influences present expectations. Which is why I say: Be a crazy one once again, Apple. Show us you are fully prepared to disrupt yourself just as you gleefully disrupt the world. Make us believe that you do now and always will think different.
WWDC has begun. The floor is yours, Apple. No pressure.
The Terrible Tablet Tantrum, Part 2
The Terrible Tablet Tantrum: Part 1
In the first quarter of 2014, Apple sold 16.4 million iPads, a 16% drop compared to the number of units sold in the same quarter one year ago. Apple CEO, Tim Cook, explained the news away, but the tech press was having none of it.
Sales of iPad were flat. Sales were less than flat. Sales were depressed. Sales were depressing. Sales were awful. Sales were catastrophic. The Tablet world was about to come to an end! The iPad was hanging on by its finger tips!
You think I’m exaggerating, right? Employing hyperbole? I’ll let you be the judge. Here are some typical headlines and comments that have been written about Tablets generally and the iPad specifically over the past two weeks — many of them by some of the finest and most respected names in tech.
Apple’s iPad Business Is Collapsing ~ Jim Edwards
Are the iPad’s go-go years over? ~ Jean-Louis Gassée
Contention: people are discovering that tablets are not really a thing, and that in general, the gap between phone and PC barely exists. ~ Peter Bright (@DrPizza)
Giving Up On The iPad ~ Jared Sinclair
Have we already reached peak iPad? ~ Brad Reed
I can’t find a way out of an uncomfortable conclusion. In order for the iPad to fulfill its supposed Post-PC destiny, it has to either become more like an iPhone or more like a Mac. But it can’t do either without losing its raison d’être. ~ Jared Sinclair
There is, however, a growing perception that the iPad growth could continue to stall. ~ Ryan Faas
Tablet demand hits a wall ~ Jon Fingas
I don’t think tablets will ever disappear, but for mass-market use, they’re going to keep getting squeezed from both sides: larger-screened phones and smaller, lighter laptops. The percentage of people whose primary computing device is a tablet may have already peaked.
Over the next few years, I suspect an increasing number of people will choose not to replace old tablets, instead just choosing to use their phones for everything… ~ Marco Arment
As battery life gets better and screen sizes grow, it’s likely tablets and smartphones will eventually just converge into one device that can be simply slipped into a pocket, instead of two devices that overlap each other in many areas. ~ Owen Williams
Young people are growing up on the mobile phone as their primary computing device, which has fundamentally changed the way they use and think about the internet. Tablets are simply unnecessary for them… ~ Dustin Curtis
I think the future of the iPad is for it to disappear, absorbed at the low end by iPhones with large displays and at the high end by Macs running a more iOS-like flavor of OS X. Perhaps it won’t disappear completely. After all, for certain niche uses – especially those listed above – the iPad is great because it’s neither a phone nor a PC. But these are still niche uses and can’t possibly sustain the long, bountiful future that many hope the iPad has. ~ Jared Sinclair
The iPad is dead. ~ Steve Kovach (@stevekovach)
The iPad is so over, even Apple seems to be moving on. ~ Galen Gruman (@MobileGalen)
The iPad may already be past its prime. ~ Brad Reed
While good at some of the things and pretty to look at, iPad (and other tablets) aren’t particularly useful. ~ Javed Anwer
Why Apple’s iPad Is in Big Trouble ~ Adam Levine-Weinberg
Young people don’t use tablets because they don’t see them as necessary ~ Owen Williams
Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. ~ Mark Twain
I cannot agree with the tablet doomsayers and I would respectfully suggest the facts don’t agree with them either.
1) PREMATURE: Talk about resting your entire argument on a thin reed. We’re talking about a single down quarter in a non-holiday period that has already been explained away as a glitch in the supply chain. Much of this speculation rests on a foundation so fragile a single robust quarter of sales will blow it into the dustbin of history.
2) AGE: The iPad is only four years old — FOUR YEARS — and has sold 210 million units.
3) PCs MANUFACTURED: If you count the iPad as a personal computer (and you should) Apple is, even excluding the Macintosh, the largest manufacturer of PCs in the world. For those of us who remember the days of Windows domination, that statement is absolutely mindblowing.
In 2013 alone Apple sold nearly as many iPad’s as they did Mac’s between the years 1991-2010. ~ Ben Bajarin (@BenBajarin)
4) STANDALONE BUSINESS: Based on the last 12 months of revenue, the iPad would be in the top 100 companies in the Fortune 500. ~ via MG Siegler
CAPTION: The iPad is only 17% of Apple’s revenues, but if it were split off, it would be a Fortune 100 company.
In 2006 — the year before the iPhone — Apple had revenue of 19.32 billion.
In 2009 — the year before the iPad — Apple had revenue of 36.54 billion.
In the first 90 days of 2014 — the quarter that generated all of the angst-filled headlines — the iPad generated revenue of approximately 11.5 billion.
In other words, using back-of-the-envelope calculations, it appears that last quarter’s disappointing iPad revenues were twice as large as the revenues generated by all of pre-iPhone Apple and larger than the revenues generated by all of pre-iPad Apple. Most companies would kill for such disappointing results.
6) NEW USERS: Tim Cook reported over two-thirds of people registering an iPad in the past six months were new to the iPad.
Let me repeat — over two-thirds of the people buying iPads are NEW to the form factor.
Sounds like the opposite of stagnation to me.
7) EDUCATION AND ENTERPRISE: The iPad has captured an overwhelming 91% of the Education market and 95% of the Enterprise purchases. And yet we think the sales of the iPad are going to stagnate? With kids being handed iPads in their schools? With adults being handed iPads at their place of work? Seriously? Am I the only one who thinks that conclusion runs counter to all the evidence and is completely bonkers?
St. Paul schools dumps Dell after one year; students to get iPads
8) ANECDOTAL: A middle school teacher recently caught a student with this:
If you think a product that inspires kids to hollow out their books so they can sneak it INTO class is generating no interest amongst the young and is on the verge of extinction, then you are mad, I tell you, STARK RAVING MAD!
CAPTION: Picture of the typical analyst, trying to kill the iPad.
Tablet naysayers are totally ignoring the existence of the adoption cycle.
A) The adoption rate of tablets has been extraordinary.
— The iPad is selling at nearly twice the rate the iPhone did during the iPhone’s first four years.
— The install base of tablets worldwide is almost as much as the install base of desktops. ~ Ben Bajarin (@BenBajarin)
— It took the PC approximately 15 years to reach one billion units sold. It will likely take the tablet 5-6 yrs. ~ Ben Bajarin (@BenBajarin)
— On its current trajectory, the iPad, by itself, will soon eclipse the entire PC market in terms of sales. The broader tablet market, of course, already did that some time ago. (Remember, this was all done in only four years.)
B) Rapid Adoption is highly predictive.
Historically, products which become ‘mainstream’ or widely adopted follow an S-curve during that adoption. The curve is remarkably predictable given a limited set of points….We are fortunate that data also exists for Tablets. ~ Horace Dediu
It is highly improbable that tablet penetration would rise from 0 to 42%, in a mere four years and then suddenly come to a screeching halt (more or less reversing itself). Such a claim is so out of keeping with historical norms the proof required to sustain it would have to be extraordinarily strong.
Exceptional claims demand exceptional evidence. ~ Christopher Hitchens
C) Some tablet naysayers claim the tablet market is saturated. I’ll let Mary Meeker respond to them:
We think tablets can be nearly pervasive but only six percent of people have one today. ~ Mary Meeker
I may not agree with you, but I’ll defend to the death my right to tell you to shut up. ~ Andy Borowitz
Tomorrow, I take a deep dive into the two questions that seem to be perplexing Tablet naysayers the most:
— Is the Tablet good enough to replace the PC?
— Is the Smartphone good enough to replace the Tablet?
Turns out, the logic used to explain why the tablet deserved to be a category separate from the PC is also the very same logic that can be used to explain why the tablet will remain a separate category from the smartphone. Join me tomorrow and I’ll explain why. (INSIDER ARTICLE, Subscription Required.)
Microsoft Is At War With Itself
On Tuesday, May 20, Microsoft held an event to unveil the Surface Pro 3 Tablet. You can view the webcast here. ((Ironically, the video stream provided by Microsoft is in Adobe Flash, so if you’re on a mobile device, you’re out of luck.)) NOTE: The quotes, below, are time stamped so you can locate them on the video.
I am breaking my coverage of the Microsoft Surface Tablet Event into two separate articles. Today, I will review the six minute introduction given by Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella. In my opinion, Nadella’s statements were very revealing but not in the way he might have wished. Once we look “beneath the Surface” or “behind the curtain,” we can see that the contradictions inherent within Microsoft’s overall strategy force it to war with its customers, its partners and itself.
Tomorrow, in my Insider Article (subscription required), (now available, here) I will turn my attention to the specifics of why Microsoft’s grand strategy is self-contradictory and self-defeating. In essence, Microsoft is playing a game of Roshambo (rock, paper, scissors) and wants to simultaneously throw the rock, the paper and the scissors — with wholly predictable results.
- 01:53: “It starts for us with this obsession of empowering every individual and organization to do more and be more. That is what we at Microsoft are all about. This is what is the unifying theme for the company across everything that we do. We want products and technologies that enable people to dream and get stuff done, we want products and technologies that enable people to be able to get more out of every moment of their life. that’s the mission we are on.”
The good news is Satya Nadella seems to be able to articulate Microsoft’s vision better than Steve Ballmer ever did.
The bad news is the vision Nadella articulated wasn’t very compelling. I’m willing to give Nadella and Microsoft a pass on this because, if we are grading on a curve, very few companies have compelling visions. Not everyone, however, graded on a curve:
Ugh. Can someone please get Microsoft a new mission statement? Classic best-to-worst. ~ Ben Thompson (@monkbent)
It will be awfully hard for Microsoft to ever again create a mission statement as great as “A computer on every desk and in every home.” ((Bill Gates, Microsoft chairman and chief executive officer, 1980)) but merely saying Microsoft’s Mission is to create products and technologies that enable people to dream and get stuff done won’t cut it in the long run.
Competing Against Customers?
- 00:45: “Our cloud enables everyone on every device.”
03:09: “(T)hat’s what has led us to build the ubiquitous software products that we’ve built today.”
These statements raise more questions than they answer. If Microsoft wants to be on every device, if they want to have ubiquitous software, then does it make sense for them to build hardware too? Isn’t it an inherent conflict of interest to ask other companies to use your cloud services on their devices while simultaneously trying to replace their devices with your own?
Competing Against Partners?
- 04:55 “We’re not interested in competing with our OEMs ((OEM = Original Equipment Manufacturers))when it comes to hardware.”
Really? You sure have a funny way of showing it.
Nadella says that Microsoft isn’t interested in competing with its OEMs when it comes to hardware, a stance I don’t really understand. ~ Harry McCracken (@harrymccracken)
If Microsoft is not interested in competing with their OEMs — then why are they doing it? The Surface Tablet competes directly with Microsoft’s own (so-called) hardware partners. And what hardware company in their right mind wants to license software from Microsoft in order to build hardware that then has to compete against Microsoft-branded, and Microsoft software-integrated, hardware?
The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which everybody had decided not to see. ~ Ayn Rand
- 04:05 “The question that needs to be asked and answered is why hardware?
I give Nadella full credit for asking the exact right question. I can’t, however, give him full marks for actually answering the question.
- …We are not building hardware for hardware’s sake. We want to build experiences that bring together all the capabilities of our company…to build these mobile first productivity experiences. That’s the mission.”
Hmm. Not really answering the question of “why hardware” just yet.
- …In fact our goal is to create new categories and spark new demand for our entire ecosystem. That’s what inspires us and motivates us with what we’re doing in our devices and hardware.
Hmm. Microsoft wants to create new categories and spark new demand. Sounds good, as far as it goes. But honestly, what company doesn’t want to create new categories and spark new demand? The real question then is: “What category is the Surface Tablet creating and does that category deserve to exist?”
- 05:30 Can we design and build a device that takes the best of the tablet and the laptop and enables any individual to be able to read and to be able to create and write; allows you to watch a movie and make a movie; enjoy art and create art — that’s the device we want to create.
CAPTION: The Surface Hybrid seeks to create a new category between the PC and the Tablet
Now the picture is coming into focus. Microsoft doesn’t believe tablets are always good enough. Microsoft doesn’t believe notebooks are always good enough. What people really want, what people really need, according to Satya Nadella, is a hybrid computer — like the Surface Tablet — that’s the best of both worlds. A device both a tablet AND a PC — one device that can do it all.
It is not the writer’s task to answer questions but to question answers. ~ Edward Abbey
However, if Microsoft’s answer to the question: “Why Hardware?” is “New Category Creation”, that begets a whole new set of questions:
- If the hybrid category is so compelling, so wanted, so needed, then why couldn’t Microsoft’s hardware partners have taken the Windows 8 operating system, applied their hardware designs to it, and created the hybrid category on their own?
- Not every category deserves to exist. What makes Microsoft think the hybrid is deserving of being a category of its own?
- Creating a category is hard. Creating a category in hardware, which is outside of Microsoft’s core skill set, is harder still. Aside from “sparking new demand”, is there another, more obvious reason why Microsoft feels the need to create this new category?
The only interesting answers are those which destroy the questions. ~ Susan Sontag
Tomorrow, I take a deep dive into those questions and many more as well. Here’s a hint as to what we’ll be finding:
In business, as in Roshambo, you can never beat your competitors if you’re always beating yourself first.
Microsoft Needs To Burn More Bridges, Faster
Peering Inside The Apple Rumors Prism
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.
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!
[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
“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.”
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.
Microsoft 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.
Tech Toy Story
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.
In 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:
- Building a global retail chain
- Requiring customers to pay for content
- Demanding high-margins for hardware
- Choosing margin share over market share
- Emphasizing design over commoditization
- Building a touchscreen-only line of computers
- 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:
- The big money resides at the top of the pyramid
- Walled gardens and well-controlled APIs are the future of the web
- Existing standards and popular features are of almost no consequence
- There is more money in consumer computing than the enterprise
- Set prices, clearly stated, benefit buyer and seller
- The web — websites, web pages, web standards — is less important than apps
- 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.”
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.
Grading My Predictions For 2013
Time to fess up and see how badly I did in last year’s predictions. You can find them all here.
Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things. ~ Winston Churchill
Prediction #1: There Is Little Room For A Category Between The Tablet And The Notebook.
This is still in dispute. Many still feel that a hybrid category between the tablet and the notebook will eventually emerge.
Not me. And it surely didn’t happen in 2013, so I’m chalking this one up as “correct”.
Here’s the thing: The touch user input (finger) is wholly incompatible with pixel specific forms of user input (mouse and stylus). And putting both side-by-side on a single device is not the solution, it’s the problem.
Why (my wife) hates Windows 8? In her words, “It doesn’t do what I’m telling it to do!” ~ Brad Reed (@bwreedbgr)
It’s anecdotal, but that’s about as damning a criticism as a product can receive.
In 1995, Cynthia Heimel wrote a book entitled: “If you leave me, can I come too?” I think that’s today’s de facto motto for Microsoft. Microsoft wants to have it both ways – sell you an all-in-one notebook AND tablet — and consumers are having none of it.
Prediction #2: Tablets Are Going To Be Even Bigger Than We Thought.
Worldwide the number of smartphones will surpass the number of PCs in the next 6 months. ~ Benedict Evans
Nailed it. 2 for 2.
Tablets were the biggest story in 2013. And they may well be the biggest story in 2014, too.
Prediction #3: Apple Will Create A New iPad Mini In The Spring.
Wrong, wrong wrong. I thought that Apple would target the tablet for the education market. But Apple has opted, instead, to move almost ALL product launches — iPod, iPhone, iPad – and maybe even Macs — to the holiday quarter.
2 for 3.
Prediction #4: iOS will become the premium model, Android will take the rest.
Sounds about right to me.
There a persistent misunderstanding of the Apple business model.
…Apple simply doesn’t care about market share. As a properly capitalist company it cares about the profits…
Apple has repeatedly said that it’s not interested in being a top Chinese or anywhere else smartphone player. It’s interested in being a top player at the top end of the smartphone market which is an entirely different thing. ~ Tim Worstall
No one seriously argues that Burberry should be more like Walmart ((Analogy borrowed from Brian S. Hall.)). Why ever does anyone think that Apple should be more like Samsung?
That makes me 3 for 4.
Prediction #5: Samsung Will Be Forced To Create Their Own Ecosystem.
Hmm. Lots and lots of talk about such a thing happening but almost zero action. Got that one definitely wrong.
Final score: 3 for 5.
I don’t really have much faith in my predictions anyway. I don’t pretend that I’m a seer who can peek into a future that no one else can see. As I often say, I prefer to predict the past — it’s safer. Easier too.
I more or less see my role as trying show people that the future they’re resisting is already here today — that the things that they are denying have already happened.
To most men, experience is like the stern lights of a ship, which illumine only the track it has passed. ~ Samuel Coleridge
Here’s a couple examples for 2014.
A) Microsoft is in more trouble than people seem to realize. Microsoft is making lots of money — which is good — but consumers are about to fire Microsoft from its current job and Microsoft doesn’t have any obvious prospects for obtaining future income — which is bad, bad, bad.
B) Phones and tablets are a thing. Notebooks and Desktops are a niche. Still getting lots of resistance to this fait accompli, and that resistance is warping the analysis of many.
C) Android is not the Windows of the 1990’s. Apple is not the Apple of the 1990’s. If you can’t see that today’s marketplace is entirely different from the computing marketplace of the 1990s, it’s because you refuse to see what is right before your eyes. The evidence is all around you.
There’s more, of course, but this isn’t a prediction article, it’s a mea culpa article. I was extremely conservative in my predictions and I still got 2 of 5 wrong. C’est la vie.
Happy New Year to all…and one last prediction:
I predict it will be an unpredictable year.