November 27, 2011 1:13 PM
Posted by: Ron Miller
With the death of Steve Jobs in October, followed by news that iPhone sales that failed to meet market expectations, it was a rare rough quarter for Apple, but was it a blip or the beginning of the end of Apple’s mobile dominance?
Apple attributed the lower iPhone numbers to the persistent rumors of a new iPhone holding back sales of the existing one — a perfectly reasonable explanation — but when you combine this news with the death of company visionary Jobs, I’m wondering if Apple’s glory days are behind it and we don’t know it yet.
I can hear you moaning already, but bear with me for a moments and let’s look at another consumer electronics company that also had about decade of dominance before Apple stole its thunder. That would be Sony.
In the 90s I bought Sony everything. I had a Sony TV, DVD player, boom box and Vaio laptop. Sony was a killer brand and I was loyal…that is until I wasn’t anymore and my loyalty turned to Apple.
I don’t recall Sony doing anything particularly wrong to subvert its brand dominance. It’s just that Apple started making great products and it caught my attention. First it was a laptop, then a router, then a phone, then a tablet and before you knew it, I was comfortable with Apple’s quality and the way the products worked together.
But part of that product quality was due to the obsessive nature of CEO Jobs, who reportedly sweated small stuff and bullied engineers to get the exact design he could see in his head. He gave up on legacy technology like the disk drive and the CD/DVD drive long before his rivals did (or even his customers had caught up with his thinking).
If the iPad were to be released today, what are the odds, it wouldn’t run Flash and have a couple of USB drives. I can almost guarantee you it would because with Jobs gone, others voices are going to have an impact — for better or worse.
Without the creative genius of Jobs or his clear understanding of exactly what he wanted, the company will create products as most do on series of compromises. Engineers will say the screw placement is good enough. Marketers will want everything on the device Jobs would have insisted get left off and he won’t be there to say no.
And Apple has had a decade of dominance. Sony had theirs. Microsoft had theirs. These companies aren’t gone of course. They continue to roll along and will for the foreseeable future, still making money, occasionally hitting a home run, but for the most part they are not the brands people really lust for anymore.
So who will replace Apple? I’m guessing it will be Samsung, the South Korean mobile giant with its own parts manufacturing, its popular line of mobile phones and a tablet that scares Apple enough to go to court in Australia and Europe to force it off the store shelves.
I’m not suggesting this will be a precipitous drop by any means. It will proceed slowly, so slowly we won’t even probably know it’s happening — until the next big brand comes along to replace it and Apple is merely a good, but not great one that we remember fondly.
Maybe I’m wrong of course. Perhaps that drop in iPhone sales is just a blip. Maybe that rumor about iPad orders being down is wrong. It’s possible that Apple will continue to amaze and delight us, even without the genius of Jobs driving the company forward.
Apple has been a dominant brand for some time, but I can’t help but feel we are on the edge of a change, that the natural progression of things says Apple had its moment and now its time for a new company to step up and be *the* brand. Only time will tell if I’m right or not.
November 23, 2011 12:01 PM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, HP TouchPad
HP had some great news this week! The now-defunct HP TouchPad took the top spot in non-iPad tablet sales in the US for the first three quarters this year. The bad news was they had to cut the price to $99 and get out of the tablet business to achieve that.
But that’s some sales figures, eh? Number 2 in the US market without even trying. I’m sure new CEO Meg Whitman is very proud.
According to a CNet article, the total numbers for non-iPad sales weren’t that great. iPad sold more than 11 million units in the first three quarters this year. Everyone else sold a paltry 1.2 million and of those, HP was the big winner taking in 17 percent of the non-iPad market.
The figures released by NPD showed a lackluster market for anyone not named Apple, but the folks who did buy competitor devices (and I use that term loosely) reportedly said they never even considered an iPad, apparently opting for a cheaper alternative.
The company actually still selling tablets was Samsung which came in just a touch behind HP with 16 percent of the non-iPad market. Interestingly, it is Samsung that’s under legal attack in the EU and elsewhere, being accused by Apple of violating its tablet patents.
The good news for Samsung is that with HP out of the picture, it will take over its rightful place as the number two tablet maker in the world. The Motorloa Xoom and RIM Playbook, which came to market with some fanfare earlier this year, have barely registered. When all of these companies can barely even move a million units combined, that says a lot about Apple’s domination.
When HP comes in at number 2 by practically giving away their devices, it says even more. Would HP have sold these devices at the original price of $500? Probably not. They would likely have languished with the competitors.
So it seems the formula for success in the tablet market (if you’re not Apple) is to create your product, build a developer ecosystem, then abandon it shortly thereafter.
On second thought, there might be better strategies than this, but for this year, it really worked out great for HP and I’m sure they’re dancing in the halls at HP today — or maybe not.
November 22, 2011 9:36 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
With 200 million Android devices in the world, you would think that would translate into a huge income stream for developers, but one analyst says that’s not the case at all.
According to a CNet article, Google announced at its Google Music launch last week that there were 200 million activated Android devices in the world today. What’s more, Google claims another 550,000 are activated every single day.
If these numbers are accurate — and don’t forget, the late Steve Jobs accused Google of inflating its activation numbers, a charge Google later denied — it’s truly astonishing. That means more than a million new Android devices are being activated every two days, 22,916 are being activated every hour, 381 every minute.
Anyway, it’s a big number.
Apple isn’t exactly an also-ran here though. At its October press event, it announced that 250 million iOS devices had been sold since the launch of the first iPhone in 2007. That’s an impressive number until you look at the fact that Neowin.net reported that in May Google claimed 100 million active devices, and in just 6 months it activated 100 million more.
What’s more, Amazon wants to boost that figure a bit more this holiday season, announcing that every non-iPhone on Amazon is available for just a penny with a two-year activation contract.
So with all these Android devices flying out the door, that has to mean big profits for developers creating apps, right? Not so fast. Fortune blogger Phillip Elmer-Dewitt reported on a study by Piper Jaffrey analyst Gene Munster which found that Google had generated just 7 percent of the income of the Apple App Store.
While some people such as Todd Ogasawara at Inside Mobile Apps have questioned the basis for these numbers, it’s hard to argue with one data point in the Fortune post:
“Apple developers have made more than $3.4 billion since 2011, compared with less than $240 million for Google developers.”
And Ogasawara even acknowledges that the spirit of the report is true, even if he quibbles with some of the details. No matter how you count the income, the bottom line is Apple developers are making way more.
And Munster say that he expects Apple to maintain this kind of dominance for at least another 3-4 years.
If you’re a developer, you have to be looking at these numbers and shaking your head. You have this incredibly large market with an open environment and that has to be a lot more attractive to many in the technical community than Apple and its controlling, closed environment — but it’s hard to ignore the bottom line.
Let’s face it, the number of Android devices in the world is only going to continue to increase in leaps in bounds. That’s because there are multiple vendors selling Android devices of varying quality and price points around the world from high-end to very cheap low-end phones and tablets. There’s only one Apple selling iOS devices.
All things being equal, it seems most developers would go Android, but they aren’t equal as Munster’s report clearly indicates, and it creates a conundrum for developers on which platforms they should place their bets. For now, it’s clearly Apple, but Android’s shear size is hard to ignore.
Photo by Jemimus on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.
November 17, 2011 12:49 PM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Cloud Adoption
Each time I hear someone cite research about cloud adoption in the enterprise, I’m always suspicious. That’s because these surveys tend to ask the wrong questions to the wrong people.
Typically they look at enterprise-wide initiatives and ask an IT executive where the company is in the cloud adoption process. Usually when you ask the person at the top, he or she is only aware of the enterprise-wide projects, and these may not be very ambitious or very far along, so the numbers look low and the perception is that enterprise cloud computing adoption is low.
Yet cloud infrastructure service provides such as Amazon, Verizon and Rackspace seem to be doing very well, as do cloud software and platform providers such as Salesforce.com.
So customers are clearly buying these services, but they might not be going through IT to do it — and that’s why the surveys aren’t really getting at the true level of adoption.
It’s harder to measure when it comes from the bottom up, then when it comes from the top down. I watched a presentation by Box.net CEO Aaron Levie last year at the Web 2.0 Expo where he explained that by offering a product for free using the freemium model, it allowed his company to get inside organizations it would have been otherwise more difficult to penetrate.
This trojan horse model isn’t unusual in cloud computing. When users find a compelling product, they are going to use it and then go to IT later when it’s time to buy the premium version. It’s a strategy that worked for Box.net, Yammer and many other cloud vendors.
As I wrote in this space in the post, IT-Cloud Disconnect Remains, this is really not unusual and one blogger found that when asking about cloud spending in a company, the answer he got depended greatly on whom he asked.
And let’s face it, if you were to ask the average person if they use cloud services, assuming they understood the concept, I’m guessing most people with an Internet connection would have to answer an emphatic yes. Most people at a minimum get email through a web service like Gmail, use a file or photo sharing service like Dropbox or Flickr or a music service like Pandora or Spotify.
The cloud for personal use has become a given, and people who use these services at home are coming into work and using them too because they are easy to use and there is a low barrier to entry. If you don’t have your company locked down — which in my view is completely counter-productive — then chances are these same folks are accessing the services they like to use at home while at work.
So what we end up with is a shadow IT, where users take advantage of ease of use outside of IT oversight. If IT doesn’t know who’s using cloud services, asking IT management about cloud adoption is not going to yield an accurate measure of cloud usage. And that’s the issue I have with most cloud surveys.
November 14, 2011 1:23 PM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, mobile operating systems
, Windows Phone 7
It used to be back in the day, you had version 1.0, 1.5 for an interim release and 2.0 for the second full release and so forth. And it was good. That’s because you knew exactly where you were in the upgrade cycle. Today’s upgrades have names produced by the same folks who name paint colors.
Instead of 1.0 and 2.0 or even 95 or 98, we have Mango and Ice Cream Sandwich. Notice that Mango’s real name is 7.5, which at least makes sense. But for some reason, these companies have chosen to use a torturous secret naming system instead of a meaningful system that gives you some clue to as, you know, which is the latest upgrade and how it relates to other versions that came before it.
Everyone does it. At least Microsoft went back to the numbering system with Windows 7, but if you’re not a geek like me would you know where Windows 7 sits in relation to say Windows Me or Windows Vista?
And Apple’s certainly guilty of it too. How about Lion or Leopard and Snow Leopard — two kinds of leopards?Really, Apple?!
I honestly have to look up which is the latest version and how it relates to the other wild cats that came before it. This makes absolutely no sense to me and I’m sure it doesn’t to the public either.
When I encounter these names in the title of a press report about an upcoming release, I’m left wondering why I care about a product with an OS named Ice Cream Sandwich — if I even realized it was an OS to begin with.
I’m sure it’s useful and wonderful upgrade. I’m not suggesting that it’s not. I’m just saying that the name is stupid because it is. When I think of Ice Cream Sandwich, Google, I don’t think of your next Android operating system, sorry. And if I do, I just get a big question mark in my brain thinking WTF? Why are they calling it that?
I know Mango was the latest upgrade to Win Phone 7, but I have no idea why they called it that. If you want to know the players, you literally have to go to a web page to get the program. Did you know, for instance, that Microsoft had a previous upgrade called NoDo? Really, that’s what they called it.
If you walked up to an average person and told them they could have a million dollars if they could name the OSX upgrade names in order, I’m guessing most couldn’t do it (unless you’re the biggest Apple fanboi on the planet, that is). I use Apple products and I couldn’t begin to tell you.
I’m asking to return to a simpler time when upgrade names had some meaning and gave you some context as to where they fit in the scheme of the upgrade path. Let’s take the naming out of the marketing department and put it back in the hands of people with common sense.
As it stands, this modern naming system is completely chaotic and frankly makes no sense.
November 9, 2011 6:50 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Eric Schmidt
, Ubuntu Mobile
This week Google CEO Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt went to a lot of trouble to assure Android partners, particularly Samsung, that its recent purchase of Motorola Mobility does not threaten the openness of Android, but it’s hard to imagine how it can’t.
It’s a case, I believe, of Mr. Schmidt protesting too much.
If he didn’t believe that was going to happen, why would he say it at all. In fact, it was the first thing I thought of when I heard about the sale back in August. I’m sure that Samsung, LG and HTC, and the other successful Android handset manufacturers had the same thought.
The latest numbers from comScore showed Motorola with 13.8 percent of marketshare in terms of mobile subscribers. Well ahead of them is Samsung with 25.3 percent and LG with 20.6 percent. The two latter companies sell a lot of Android phones.
Reuters reports that he’s in Asia this week on an Android good-will tour. I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that he started his trip in South Korea where two of the most successful Android handset manufacturers, Samsung and LG, are based. Schmidt tried to distance himself from the idea of competing, however by insisting that Motorola Mobility would run as a completely separate operation, ensuring that the openness of Android would continue along as though Google didn’t own Motorola.
If you believe that one, I have some swamp land in Florida and bridge in Brooklyn you might be interested in. The fact is as I’ve written in this space before, Google is trying to play both ends against the middle with this deal. It can’t be both a handset manufacturer and develop an open source operating system that competes with other handset manufacturers. It’s not a tenable situation.
So he can make all the nice friendly statements he wants and even make promises to use the power of Google to promote South Korean culture, which he actually did. According to an article in PCMag Online, he actually promised the president of South Korea a YouTube channel to promote Korean pop music.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who sees this as being remarkably similar to a politician trying to assure the allies that everything is OK when it’s clear something is very wrong. Schmidt is the equivalent of the American president touring Asia to reassure them and even bringing (meaningless) goodies as a peace offering.
That’s probably because it really is hard for Schmidt and the companies he’s visiting to imagine that Google can really build a firewall between the Android development team and Motorola. After all, why would it want to?
But if you’re developing a so-called open operating system, you can’t lead the way by trying to sell your own phones. That’s why if you want a truly open source mobile operating system, the mobile version of Ubuntu Linux sounds so interesting.
The openness would be undeniable and it might give handset makers looking for alternative to Android an open source choice from a company that Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols points out on ZDNet has the chops to develop a mobile OS that could reach a wide market.
Meanwhile, Eric Schmidt can go on all the good will trips he wants, and make all the promises about his company’s continued neutrality around Android, but the fact is Google is in the handset business now and nothing is going to change that or the perception that it will always have the upper hand in Android development moving forward.
November 7, 2011 1:47 PM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, smart phones
, Windows Phone 7
In spite of marketing blitzes and many available phones, the latest numbers from comScore show that Microsoft continues to struggle to gain market share, actually losing .2 in percentage of subscribers running a Microsoft mobile OS in the latest figures.
The numbers dropped from 5.8 to 5.6, leaving me to wonder whether Microsoft is ever going to catch on with consumers in a big way. Only RIM had a worse quarter and it had further to go.
RIM lost another 4.6 percent of marketshare in the quarter as their overall share dropped from 23.5 percent all the way down to 18.9 percent, a downward trend that continues for RIM quarter after quarter.
It’s worth noting that these numbers are for the period ending September, 2011, so it’s possible that in the next set of numbers we will start to see some greater penetration from Microsoft, but it’s more likely going to be second quarter numbers next year, after we’ve had some time to judge the impact of the Nokia deal that we can truly measure Microsoft’s success.
For whatever reason, without any push from Nokia, Microsoft’s number have remained soft. CNet reports that Microsoft is holding an event in New York this week to try to generate some attention for the phones ahead of the holiday rush. In addition, prices on Win 7 phones have dropped pretty significantly with some free after rebate.
But given it’s been a year since the launch, Microsoft has to be disappointed with the results so far. Microsoft is literally trying a big promotion, by building a huge Windows 7 phone outside of Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square in New York city. The CNet article reports the phone is 150 times larger than a hand-held counterpart, but still features live tiles with weather updates and a mini concert from the band “Far East Movement.”
It’s quite a show, but it’s doubtful it will be enough to pull market share from Apple and Google. In fact, the two smart phone juggernauts just kept right on chugging along in comScore’s most recent market survey with Apple up to 27.4 percent, up 0.8 from June, and Google up to 44.8 percent, up 4.6 from June.
It’s interesting to note that RIM lost 4.6 percent and Google gained that exact same amount. What’s more, these numbers don’t reflect the release of the iPhone 4S, which happened on October 4th, after these numbers were released. This is bound to drive up Apple’s market share for the next round of numbers.
It’s also worth pointing out that the smart phone pie is a growing one, not a fixed point in time. In the latest report, comScore reports that the number of people who owned smart phones in the United States alone was up 12 percent to 87.4 million.
So for RIM and Microsoft, the fact the US market is growing has to be at least encouraging, but that Apple and Google continue to grow with it, while RIM and Microsoft continue to fall off has to be awfully discouraging.
For Microsoft, it’s probably going to take more than a giant phone in Manhattan to change its fortunes, but what it’s going to take isn’t inherently clear just yet. For the executives in Redmond, I’m sure a quarterly report with some positive growth would at least be a start.
Photo courtesy of subcld on Neowin.net.
November 3, 2011 2:47 PM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, smart phones
While many of us, regardless of our age, find the Internet to be an increasingly important part of our lives, a recent survey by Cisco of 1400 college students and 1400 young professionals found many young people believe they literally couldn’t live without an Internet connection.
Just how important do these young people think the Internet is in their lives? Would you believe that 4 out of 5 said the Internet is vitally important and part of their daily life’s sustenance. Two out of three said they would rather have an Internet connection than a car and 1 in 3 said it was a vital human resource up there with food, water, air and shelter.
These young people obviously didn’t live through the aftermath of this past weekend’s October snow storm in the US because they would have realized what I learned. While it’s a pain to not have an Internet connection (or electricity), it’s really not life threatening.
Regardless, these young people are mobile too and the survey found that 66 percent of students and 58 percent of young employees listed their mobile device as the most important device in their lives. This was defined as a laptop, mobile phone or tablet.
When you consider that a recent Nielsen study found that 62 percent of young people between the ages of 25 and 34 own smartphones, it further proves just how connected this generation really is.
And as these young people grow increasingly connected, consider that they don’t read newspapers–only 4 percent of those surveyed believed the newspaper was an important source of information. One surprising data point to me, especially since half the survey was college students was that only 1 in 5 had bought a physical book in the last 2 years.
As you would expect, young people are social with 91 percent of college students and 88 percent of working young people reporting having a Facebook account. I’m actually surprised there are 12 percent of the young employees who responded actually don’t have an account.
What these numbers prove is what we all would have suspected all along, that young people are connected and extremely mobile and social. The Internet is more than a tool for them, it is literally a part of their being, a part that many perceive they couldn’t even live without.
As the demographics of the work place begins to shift towards these young people and the generation coming of age behind them, the way these young people work is clearly going to have an impact on the way businesses operate in the future. And it clearly isn’t going to be your father’s work routine.
And smart companies will begin to recognize and accommodate that shift, rather than trying to shoe-horn a generation of completely connected young people into the previous generation’s way of working and doing business.
October 31, 2011 12:07 PM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, HP TouchPad
Last week HP did an about face and announced that it was not only keeping its PC division, it was going to develop a new tablet running Windows 8.
By now, nearly everyone who follows technology news has to know that in August just several weeks after launching the webOS-based TouchPad, HP announced it was pulling the tablet from the market, selling them off at bargain basement rate of $99 and spinning off its PC division.
Further, it was buying Autonomy for $10 billion and changing its focus from a hardware company to one that sells much more lucrative software and services.
To say that people were shocked by this development was an understatement. The markets reacted particularly badly and it didn’t take long for the Board of Directors to fire CEO Leo Apotheker, the man who architected this vision.
A short time later, the company hired former eBay executive Meg Whitman to take over. At first, it looked like she would stay the course and continue Apotheker’s vision (which seemed odd given the Board fired him because of it), but then came the news last week that HP was keeping the PC division along with the new tablet strategy.
Meanwhile, to nobody’s surprise, I’m sure, webOS employees are fleeing HP as fast they can as it’s clear HP has completely abandoned this side of the business.
HP bought Palm in April 2010, precisely for webOS. Almost a year later, Apotheker announced his “webOS Everywhere” strategy. It was a bold vision and something that HP clearly needed, and it was a clear signal to Redmond that HP was no longer going to be beholden to Microsoft and the Windows OS.
HP had an OS of its very own and it was going to run with it — only problem was that it didn’t get very far.
Now we find HP running back into the arms of Steve Ballmer and company, apparently thinking that a tablet running Windows is better than the tablet it already had on the market for all of 6 weeks.
And don’t forget that prior to purchasing Palm, HP had a short-lived, high-priced tablet called the Slate that ran…wait for it…Windows.
If you’re completely confused at this point you should be because it’s a long, sordid and confusing tale that took a once mighty company on a full-on plunge.
I’m not sure what the latest tablet announcement means, or if the world is more likely to buy an HP tablet running Windows than one running webOS. It’s hard to say because HP never really gave the TouchPad a fighting chance to find out.
I believe HP looked more innovative and edgy when it went the all-webOS route, but perhaps going the safe route holding hands with Microsoft might be better in the long run and provide the company with some much-needed stability after this long, chaotic period.
Whatever the reasons, at this point, HP needs to find a plan and stick to it — once and for all.