The Greatest Show In Tech

John Kirk / September 6th, 2012

You can’t tell the players without a program

It’s like the circus has come to the world of tech. Over the next 30 days or so everybody and his brother is going to be announcing a spanking new tech product. And like the circus, there will be a wide variety of acts. Some will be strongmen, some will be clowns. There will be metaphorical elephants in the room. There will be high-wire acts, balancing acts, jugglers, contortionists, snake charmers and freak shows. There will be illusionists and magic acts. And if some of these product introductions go wrong, a couple of tech company CEOs may play the role of human cannonballs as well.

It’s going to be quite a fall for tech. And for some unfortunate devices, it’s going to be quite a fall from tech too.

I’m no prophet, but I like to play one the internets

“The groundhog is like most other prophets; it delivers its prediction and then disappears.” – Bill Vaughan

Since we know so little about these products, there’s not much point in analyzing any of them – but I’m going to do it anyway. Rather than take a deep dive into the bewildering array of new product offereings, I thought we’d go on a shallow swim instead. So get ready for a fact-free, thought-free, light-on-analysis, heavy-on-snark romp through the circus of tech.

“A little snark, properly directed, can change the world.” – Shannon Hale

Grab your popcorn, and pull up a chair, the show’s about to begin.

“I prefer to make up my own quotes and attribute them to very smart people, so that I can use them to win arguments” – Albert Einstein

1.0) MP3

It’s hard to believe, but Apple introduced the iPod just 11 short years ago in 2001. The iPod rocketed Apple to relevance but now the category itself is rapidly moving towards irrelevance.

However, the category is not dead quite yet. Apple continues to make a boatload of money from the dwindling MP3 space. And the iPod Touch remains Apple’s stealth iOS device. So what is Apple going to do to its iPods in the coming days?

Who knows? Who cares? Apple controls that market. They can do what they damn well please.

2.0) PHONES

2.1) Windows Phone 8

“Four or five frigates will do the business without any military force.” -– British prime minister Lord North, on dealing with the rebellious American colonies, 1774

Talk about a slow motion disaster.

In 2006, Microsoft’s Windows Mobile was one of THE premiere players in smartphones. In 2007, Steve Balmer was laughing at the iPhone. In 2008, Microsoft realized their mistake, reversed course and started work on Windows Phone 7. In 2012, Microsoft abandoned Windows Phone 7 and prepared the debut of Windows Phone 8.

My perilous prediction? iOS is Coke, Android is Pepsi (except that they have way more market share) and Windows Phone “whatever” is destined to remain the un-cola of smartphones.

2.2) Nokia Lumia

“If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A year and a half ago, Nokia CEO Stephan Elop announced that Nokia was, metaphorically, jumping off a burning platform into the frozen North sea. And now people are surprised that Nokia is drowning?

People don’t seem to get this. Nokia has a problem. They’re not in control of their fate. It doesn’t matter how good their product is. If the Windows Phone 8 platform that they’re standing on fails, they fail.

2.3) Samsung Windows 8 Phones

A very, very big fish in a very teeny, tiny, Windows 8 Phone pond.

2.4) HTC Phones

1% of the sector’s sales. Maybe less.

How the mighty have fallen…

…and how they’ve fallen mighty rapidly.

2.5) Motorola RAZR

So, Google owns Motorola but they still can’t put out a phone that runs the most current version of Android. Unbelievable.

Google Motorola is not yet a threat to anyone…but themselves.

2.6) Amazon Phone

Just one question:

“Why?”

2.7) iPhone Whatever

Before a Tsunami makes landfall, it gives warning by causing the waters to recede from the shore. This is called a “drawback”. Drawbacks have been known to last for 10 minutes or more. The longer the drawback, the larger the impending wave.

The drawback for the iPhone Whatever has lasted for some three months.

You’ve been warned.

2.8) RIM

Never saw off the branch you are on, unless you are being hanged from it. – Stanislaw Lec

RIM has nothing to announce…

…and that’s all you need to know about RIM’s prospects.

3.0) E-BOOK READERS

3.1) Amazon Kindle

Not everyone sees the need for the Amazon Kindle. I think the Amazon Kindle is a unique and uniquely useful product. It fills a niche. People love it. I’ve got nothing snarky to add.

3.2) Barnes & Noble Nook

A few months ago, Microsoft was suing the Barnes & Noble Nook product. Then Microsoft turned around and announced an agreement to work on a joint Nook product instead. Keep an eye on this space. Could be interesting.

3.3) Sony

Is Sony still even in electronics? It’s just sad to see how far this once great company has fallen.

4.0) 7 INCH TABLETS

“Economists give their predictions to a digit after the decimal point to show that they have a sense of humor” – Anonymous

4.1) Nexus 7

When you lose, don’t lose the lesson. – Author Unknown

The Google Nexus 7 stole a march on the industry by arriving in mid-summer. The Nexus 7 has fine hardware and excellent software but it’s about to get a lesson in the importance of ecosystem.

4.2) Android Tablets

Don’t ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up. – Robert Frost

The Nexus 7 gutted the 7 inch Android tablet market. Rest in peace. Or in pieces. Or whatever.

4.3) Amazon Fire

This category reminds me of an old joke about the two hikers who stumble upon an angry bear. As one hiker turns to run away the other hiker says: “You can’t out run that bear.” The first hiker replies: “I don’t have to out run the bear. I just have to out run you.”

If the rumored 7 inch iPad arrives as predicted, we’re going to find out which one can out run the other – the Nexus 7 or the Amazon Fire.

4.4) Apple iPad Whatever

One should always play fair when one has the winning cards. – Oscar Wilde

The Nexus 7 is a bigger Android phone. The iPad Whatever will be a smaller iPad. And that distinction will make all the difference.

5.0) Full Screen Tablets

5.1) Apple iPad

Nothing to see here, move along, move along.

5.2) Windows RT Tablets

Very nice operating system. Very few Apps. Very difficult road ahead.

5.3) Windows 8 Operating System on a Tablet

“I was not predicting the future, I was trying to prevent it.” – Ray Bradbury

A desktop operating system masquerading as a tablet operating system so that it can pretend that there’s no difference between a desktop and a tablet.

5.4) Windows Surface Tablet

The Windows Surface is a great looking piece of hardware but its focus is on taking a tablet and turning it back into a notebook. That makes no sense unless one simply doesn’t understand what is currently happening in the tablet space.

“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do. ” – Michael E. Porter

And Microsoft’s creation of its own hardware and its attack on its own licensing business model isn’t a strategy – it’s a sign that they lack a strategy.

5.5) A Gaggle of Windows 8 Hardware Offerings

Wow, we’re seeing a plethora of Windows 8 devices hit the market. Convertibles and hybrids and phablets, oh my!

What we’re really seeing here is the anti-Surface. Every OEM is working around the Surface tablet so that they don’t have to directly compete against it. And no OEM knows exactly what to do – so they’re doing everything.

Throwing things up against the wall in order to see what sticks may work with spaghetti. But it’s awfully tough on hardware.

6.0) NOTEBOOKS & DESKTOPS

6.1) Ultrabooks

All of those Windows 8 tablets that want to be a notebook and all of those Ultrabooks that want to be as thin and light as a tablet, are fighting over the same space. And it’s not that big a space.

6.2) Windows 8 Desktop Operating System

A desktop operating system, welded to a tablet interface, just so that Microsoft can pretend that touch inputs and mouse inputs aren’t entirely separate things but that those two divergent input elements can be conflated into one and the same thing.

Good luck with that.

Just remember, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do everything and the wrong way is to keep trying to make everybody else do it the right way. – M*A*S*H, Colonel Potter

CONCLUSION

“Be careful what you predict. It may come back to haunt you… or laugh at you.” – Annonymous

We’re about to get a lot of questions answered. Or we’re about to get a lot of answers questioned. Or both.

The problem with knee-jerk reactions is that they can make you look like a jerk. – John Kirk

Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

John Kirk

John R. Kirk is a recovering attorney. He has also worked as a financial advisor and a business coach. His love affair with computing started with his purchase of the original Mac in 1985. His primary interest is the field of personal computing (which includes phones, tablets, notebooks and desktops) and his primary focus is on long-term business strategies: What makes a company unique; How do those unique qualities aid or inhibit the success of the company; and why don’t (or can’t) other companies adopt the successful attributes of their competitors?
  • Rich

    John, you didn’t mention a Facebook phone. My prediction is: probably as likely as a Walmart phone.

    • FalKirk

      I know. The list seems endless.

      It’s a great time to be a fan of all things tech.

  • Grwisher

    Regarding your snark at Sony:
    “Is Sony still even in electronics? It’s just sad to see how far this once great company has fallen.”

    Poor misinformed John. If your were paying attention, you would have noticed that Sony just announced a television with 4 times the pixels of anything on the market for $25,000 (not a misprint). This will assure them the position of market leader in high end televisions. This pixel density will provide a user experience unlike any other. Of course you will have to ignore the fact that in order to see any difference, you will have to sit very close to it. In addition, content in the 4 times density will have to be produced in the future in order for you to sit close to it in order to see any difference.

    • Rich

      A $25,000 TV won’t sell in significant volumes, and one product doesn’t mean a company has a good position in the market. Sony may still be capable of producing good technology but in business terms they’re well below (or even far below) where they once were.

      • Grwisher

        I guess my attempt at humor has failed once again.

        • FalKirk

          Humor has a nasty tendency to dry up in print, but I got it. 🙂

  • Grwisher

    As usual, you have skillfully navigated us through a highly relevant topic (however, you will never top the one about the forks).

    This next few months will tell the tale, it will be where the rubber meets the road, when people will have to put their money where their mouth is, the lick log thing, etc. By this time next year the electronics landscape will be much different. And much less populated.

  • Please use *it’s* properly.

    • FalKirk

      Noted, thanks.

  • pawhite524

    Absolutely the most entertaining column I have read in quite a while. I am entering your outstanding (and outstandingly placed) quotes in my iPhone as soon as I finish this note. To borrow another famous quote, “Now that’s entertainment!”

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