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Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management. Photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and nature who is exploring the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found.
Author and Blogger. They are not the same thing. Sports occasionally spoken here, especially hockey. Veteran of Sun, Apple, Palm, HP and now Infoblox, plus some you've never heard of. They didn't kill me, they made me better.
Person with opinions, and not afraid to share them. Debate team in high school and college; bet that's a surprise.
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Category Archives: Computers and Technology
When asked directly about the possibility of offering same-day delivery, Szkutak hedged a bit, saying that “we’re always trying to get closer to customers… That’s not new, it’s been something we’ve been doing for years.” However, he then freely offered that “we don’t see a way to do same-day delivery on a broad scale economically.” That’s as close to a flat-out “no” on same-day delivery as we’ve ever seen from Amazon, so we’re not going to be holding our breath for that to change anytime soon
My reaction is different. I think there’s a lot of wiggle room in that statement. Define “broad scale”.
I agree with him, it’s probably not economic to do same-day delivery in, say, Billings Montana. What if Amazon decides to take, for instance, the top ten metro areas and build a service for them? That’s not “broad scale” in that geographically, it’s only covering a small percentage of the US — but it touches a non-trivial number of potential users. Could you build a service for, say, New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Silicon Valley, Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta — pick some big, fairly dense populations and think it through.
Anyone who remembers Webvan here in the Bay Area knows it’s possible, if you don’t mess up your logistics chain as totally as Webvan did. Consider this….
There have been reports on and off for about a year about a huge distribution center being built in Patterson California for some mystery company. Everyone “knew” that company was amazon, but it’s only recently that’s been admitted formally. So Amazon is going to have one million square feet of automated warehouse coming to the greater Bay Area. it’s due to open soon after the sales tax change occurs; Amazon couldn’t put a business presence inside the state borders without triggering that. Now that they’ve agreed to do it anyway, they don’t have to stick their warehouse out in Nevada.
(interesting side question: is Amazon taking advantage of ‘losing’ the sales tax war by moving distribution to Patterson? Or did Amazon strategically give up that fight so they could start implementing a business model that takes advantage of big distribution centers within the state of California? interesting question…)
A quick look at driving times from Patterson: San Francisco, San Jose and Sacramento are all almost exactly 90 minutes away. Fresno is two hours. So in theory, if you wanted to order something that lived in that warehouse, and you were willing to pay for expedited delivery, it wouldn’t be too hard for Amazon to promise same day delivery. Order by 10AM, on your porch by 6PM. What price? Good question. But where I doubt you’d pay $20 to get toothpaste delivered this evening, what about a flat screen TV?
Webvan did this a decade ago; Webvan died because they did it BADLY, not because it was a bad model. What Webvan needed was solid distribution and warehouse logistics. Guess what Amazon has?
So think about a service with significant limitations: I’d target the top 10 population markets in the country, say, and limit delivery to 90 minutes driving from the distribution center. you limit the items to a subset of inventory that is (a) in reasonably high demand, (b) in that warehouse, and [c] shippable without a lot of hassle. These same-day priority items get picked and shipped out from the main distribution center 3-4 times a day on big trucks to smaller redistribution centers. You could cover the majority of the Bay Area eligible for these deliveries with three: South San Francisco, Milpitas or Fremont, and near Sacramento (say, Elk Grove). Big trucks pile in, and incoming orders get pulled off and stuffed onto delivery vans that run out and do a round of deliveries, then circle back and grab the next load. These models are also proven, it’s a combination of what UPS does today with what Pizza Hut does. So none of this is inventing new models, it’s scale and execution.
Take it a step further: you now have buildings handling sub-regions where you are packing up for final delivery. What if you shifted some of your inventory here? What if you stocked your 5,000 most in demand (for same day) items in those regional hubs? Those hubs could take those items and have them on your porch in four hours. For the right price, of course. This is the Pizza Hut model, but for WIFI routers and hard drives instead of pepperoni.
So without a lot of innovation (instead, it’s all about capital, ability to scale and knowing how to execute logistics — all of which Amazon has), Amazon could put a key subset of product items four hours away from a lot of people, and a much larger inventory within same-say delivery capability.
they may only be able to offer it to 30% of the population (which I think excuses them from “broad scale”), but that’s still a lot of people, and a lot of revenue opportunity. And over time you expand to new metro areas and refine the model and the product mix.
Will they do this? I dunno. But it sure seems like the kind of thing Amazon CAN do, and that almost nobody but Amazon could do. And the business and logistics models it’s based on are all known and proven (including how NOT to do it like Webvan did it).
Could you build a price point that’d make this pay? I think so, but I haven’t done the math. But it seems to me there’d be enough demand that $20-25 for a small box delivery, $45 for a large box and a discount for 2nd-etc boxes in the same delivery could be made to work — and that enough people would go for it to pay for it.
And then, of course, I think to myself: what if one of the ways Amazon builds out this infrastructure is to buy UPS? If they did that, a big chunk of what they would need is already in place….
So when I hear Amazon saying “no, we don’t see why we’d do that”, I just think about how many times Steve Jobs said something like that. And with Amazon, like Apple, I always hear “… until we’re ready to.” at the end of those sentences…
Hey, everyone else is telling Marissa Mayer how to fix Yahoo!, I thought I would, too.
First of all, congratulations for getting the job. Second, my sympathies. It’s not going to be easy. But this has taken that first big step: people are at least paying attention to Yahoo again, and seeing possibilities there. that’s better than a week ago, when I think almost all of us just expected Yahoo to continue its slide into the dusty mists of irrelevancy. It’s a small victory, but it’s a key one; people are paying attention to Yahoo again, at least for a little while.
That window will be small; don’t waste it. Get your vision out where people can see it as soon as you can, and then start showing that Yahoo is taking steps to implement it. You will likely run into parts of Yahoo that don’t want to work that hard — when Steve returned to Apple, he ran into organizations that had the “we do things our way, we outlasted the last two CEOs, we’ll just ignore you until you’re replaced, too”. He solved it the old-fashioned way: he had some public executions and put a few key heads up on pikes outside of Infinite Loop 1, and then watched as the rats scurried off the ship. The ones that didn’t scurry fast enough he took care of himself. Don’t be afraid to do the same at Yahoo; in fact, I’d strongly recommend finding one or two very visible, long-entrenched people and make sure the world knows they’ve decided to spend more time with their families (I can offer names privately if you want suggestions…)
I realize I’m down to two sets of things that use Yahoo — my mom’s stocks are on Yahoo finance, and I still use Yahoo groups for some email groups I manage. That’s a long, slow decline from when I left Apple and fully planned on hiring myself off to Yahoo. Came close twice (closest was with the Igor group), and over time, rattled that cage a couple of other times, but never found a match both sides could agree on. In retrospect, I have to thank Yahoo for not hiring me, because I’m frankly glad I’ve missed the last few years of fun there. Funny how life works out some days.
If I were in her shoes (which I’m glad I’m not, high heels make my calves cramp), here’s what I’d do with Yahoo.
I view Yahoo as three major pieces: content, product, and technology. Content are those sites that produce information for Yahoo users, such as Finance, Weather, Sports and Movies. Products are sites that offer services that attract users: Yahoo Groups, Flickr and the fantasy sports sites are some significant examples. Technology is broken down into two subsets: user visible (external facing) technology suites like YUI and Pipes, and internal technologies that are used to drive the rest of Yahoo (like the advertising engines).
I would split the company into these three parts, each reporting to a GM. Each major component reports up to the GM. Content and Product both become P&L’s, and each major piece needs to be examined. If it’s determined it can’t be made profitable again, sell it, give it away, or shut it down. If it can, build a plan to make it “best of breed” for its segment, fund the plan, and get going. Some of the more profitable sites will probably surprise you (and the geeks); I’m betting omg does better than most folks think. Actually, I’m guessing most geeks don’t know omg exists.
Technology has a GM, but serves two masters. Some technologies are externally facing and are used both by Yahoo and outsiders, like YUI and Yahoo Pipes. Yahoo Pipes desperately needs some TLC. These technologies can be useful tools for outreach and recruiting, if you engage and evangelize the users. All of Yahoo’s externally facing properties have gotten rather quiet and reclusive in the last few years. Time to make some noise. Internally, I’d examine all of the technology systems you use to actually run the business and ask a few key questions, like “are we supporting duplicated technology stacks that need to be merged?” and “is this a proprietary solution where we can adopt something open source and contribute back to it and it’s community instead?” and “is this something we should open up and build a community around rather than keep private?” — from what I’ve seen, you’re not going to be happy when you start digging into the infrastructure inside Yahoo’s data centers. An interesting question to ask might be “what is the average CPU utilization in each data center?” followed by “Why the @#$@#$@ are so many of the CPUs spending so damn much time idle?” (hey, has Yahoo ever figured out real virtualization? Just asking). I could be wrong, but I think there are a lot of efficiencies to be found by some intelligent cleanup of the things Yahoo uses to build and deliver stuff to users. Or so I hear.
I think Yahoo’s opportunity is make itself a place people want to be again. There are a lot of core pieces. Facebook owns where people share their lives with each other, but a dent can be put in that by creating a place where people create their own little reality. There are chunks of pieces in place: the content pieces. They need to be glued into pages where a person can define themselves and what they are, and a page where they can see the stuff they’re interested in easily.
To start solving that problem, I’d suggest buying Rebelmouse and Prismatic. Rebelmouse has done a really nice job of aggregating in a view of what a person is and what they say (see mine here) and Prismatic is all about figuring out what a person is interested in and showing it to them (see mine here). Rebelmouse is 90% of that personal profile/portal that Yahoo has tried to build a half dozen times and failed at (remember Yahoo 360?). Prismatic is what Google Reader should have been long ago, except Google got bored and stopped trying to improve it. These two pieces can be a key to centering a Yahoo comeback, I think, by creating a place for users to organize what they present to their friends and the world, and a place where they organize what their friends and the world present to them, with no programming and a little coaching. And some careful integration with Yahoo content sites like Movies and Weather and Sports. Which is where the ads are. Which is what drives revenue. Hmm.
Before you touch EITHER of those companies, though, call up the founders of Delicious and ask them to explain what happened from their point of view. Don’t hear the Yahoo side, listen to the founder side. Because if you don’t fix the “everything stops for a year while you port your system to whatever systems Filo is in love with this year so we can move you to our data centers” problem, it won’t matter.
Flickr is your well-loved, neglected crown jewel that everyone is rallying around to convince you to save. It’s a bit sad that part of the reason it’s so well-loved is that unlike so many other technologies and companies that Yahoo bought (and screwed up) over the years (like Delicious), it’s still doing as well as it is partly because Yahoo was committed to keeping hands off and leaving it alone. That’s changed in the last year or two, and it shows, not for the better. But Flickr is a highly visible property with a lot of goodwill and karma in the community. Some public commitment to love and caring of Flickr will go a long way towards building both interest and momentum. As you work to figure out how to make Yahoo a place people want to visit and be again, rallying those plans around Flickr seems like a smart way of starting.
Another two properties I’d focus on: Yahoo groups and Fantasy sports. Fantasy sports is a huge draw and the yahoo fantasy sports engines are some of the better ones. It can drive a lot of traffic (and page views) onto the sports pages, and gives sports geeks a reason to come to the site. Don’t’ underestimate it’s ability to draw in the male audience and drive them places to generate pageviews.
Yahoo Groups? It’s main competitor is Google Groups, which is even more stagnant and ignored than Yahoo Groups is. Both of them are pretty outdated and smell of mildew and neglect. The google site is where tech geeks go to use email to share stuff, where yahoo is where consumers go to use email to share stuff. (every time someone tries to tell you email is dead or dying, go see just how much communication still goes on via this dead and boring technology). I have to be blunt: this is an area dead ready for disruption; I know someone (who has the chops to pull it off) that believes it can be done, and is working in that direction, and I’ve spent a little time looking at some of her plans and giving them feedback, and mailing lists have a lot of life and innovation in them still (or more correctly, group communication systems. Not JUST email any more). These are still ways people use to tie groups of people together — and those ties draw those people onto the site. Yahoo groups isn’t just a mailing list system, it’s a water cooler that draws people around it to chat. Do it right, and it’s a recruiting tool to bring people into Yahoo as users. and Yahoo users drive page views through the content areas, which drives revenue.
So… the plan?
Rebelmouse, as the place users put their stuff to share to others.
Yahoo’s content sections, which is where that stuff originates. And drives ads onto that stuff, which drives revenue. This is your users new newspaper
Prismatic, as the place users go to see stuff shared to them. This is your users new, personalized newspaper front page.
Yahoo Groups becomes the social hub users use to cooperatively share information among each other. It’s not just a mail list system any more (right?)
Flickr for pictures and video, and there’s already a solid social sharing hub here (bring it up to snuff, use it as a model for everything else where you want social sharing)
Fantasy sports which draws in the sports geek crowd, and drives a lot of page views off into the sports ares.
Yahoo mail is positioned to replace gmail and hotmail as the place these users get their email.
There are lots of interesting pieces around Yahoo that don’t need LOTS of work, but need coordination and integration, and a social hub that helps people share those pieces with each other and drive them to be the default sources of that information for users. And — how coincidental — if that happens, it takes a chunk out of Facebook, but even more amusingly, takes big chunks out of various Google properties. I’m sure that’s of no interest to a former Googler, though. (seriously, though, I think a well done integration of Rebelmouse with Yahoo Mail, Yahoo groups, the content pages and an upgraded flickr can put a stake through the heart of Google+ and kill it stone cold dead, and Google won’t be able to stop it).
Lots of work to do to make this happen, but for the first time — I see someone who might make the changes needed to make Yahoo relevant again. And has the technical background to know how to make it happen. (I was, if folks remember, a fan of Carol Bartz going to Yahoo; the Yahoo I saw her building was a lot different than this one I see today, but she was either unwilling or not allowed to put those heads on the pikes, and so Yahoo played the “I outlasted the last few CEOs” game with her, and outlasted her. Don’t make that mistake again, Marissa).
But I think if nothing else, the thing to remember was this: two weeks ago, I was planning my exit from the few Yahoo properties I still used in any way, because I figured it was only a matter of time until everything faded to black. Now, Yahoo’s brought in someone that gives it some time to prove it can fix itself. Apple was the same way once, and look at it today. that doesn’t guarantee a comeback. but at least now some of us see a glimmer of hope. Time is short before that hope fades again. Time to get to work….
Let me put a little perspective into the discussions about what developers want out of their platform. Much of this is aimed at Apple, because IOS is the dominant revenue platform, but it’s true of all platforms to some degree or another; each has its strengths and weaknesses and possibilities…
If you want to know how iOS developers really feel about working with Apple, just ask Mike Lee. Lee has had plenty of interactions with developers
Apple has not done enough to crack down on knock-off apps.
This one keeps coming up. I talked about this a few months ago the last time it came up. The bottom line is that at best, this is difficult to do. In practice, if Apple DID become more active about this, it’d simply open itself up to a different set of complaints, and some nasty legal liabilities. It’s a no-win situation for Apple. And back when I was working with webOS developers, some of the apps they bitched about not deserving to be in the catalog also were some of the better sellers among the general public. quality and crap are in the eye of the beholder.
A big complaint that developers have is they are cut off from their customers,” Lee said. “If I have a customer who is unhappy with my app for any reason, the customer should be able to write me telling me they have a problem.
Guilty as charged. Which ties into another version of this being discussed (again) right now, that developers should have some way to respond to reviews. And get reviews removed removed from the app catalog.
But think about it from the customer point of view — they have a say here, too. Many don’t want to be contacted. They especially don’t want to be marketed to.
The core problem here is twofold: customers who write critical reviews, and customers who try to use the review feedback as a support channel.
the first problem? Frankly, customers have a right to their opinion, even if that opinion is stupid or wrong. Developers don’t have to like it (and don’t. trust me), but just because a developer doesn’t like it doesn’t mean it should be removed. That’s why my review policies were built around whether or not a review was appropriate, not whether it was positive or negative. Frankly, some developers I worked with wanted any review that wasn’t a glowing 5 star removed. Part of my job was to protect the integrity of the reviews seen on the phone from developers who wanted it managed purely as a marketing vehicle for them.
What SHOULD matter in terms of discoverability and ranking is the consensus opinion, and a catalog should know how to figure that out and promote it. the webOS catalog frankly sucked at that. Apple’s is better. Amazon’s got a good handle on this, and I don’t know why any site building a catalog doesn’t just start with what they do as a baseline requirement.
The whole “customer using reviews as a support channel” is a different beast. The webOS catalog was terrible at helping a customer figure out how to get support, so they took the easy way out, and stuffed it all into reviews. The answer isn’t to let developers reply to reviews. I also don’t think the answer is handing customer data over to developers — you open up a situation where developers start pressuring or badgering users over negative reviews, and frankly, I don’t want to be in the middle of those arguments trying to mediate (have you folks seen how toxic things can get over on eBay where negative feedback or the threat of it turns into outright extortion at times, and is horribly painful in general?)
What the catalogs need to do, IMHO, is twofold. First, I think the catalog needs to help educate users how to get support and make it easy for them to find the support channel. Many end users will do what’s easy and convenient, not what’s appropriate, and if posting a review is easy and finding a “get help” channel isn’t, they’ll simply dump things into the review. So thought on the user interface and documentation needs to go into how to route things into the right place.
I also tried — and failed — to create a way for developers to add a note to their catalog entry, something kind of like what Apple does with the per-release release notes on updates. Not give them the ability to respond to reviews, but to create a paragraph or two they can use for warnings or explanations or documenting their support channel, or whatever they felt made sense. Give them a way to communicate back to users on their way to the review area, but not get into direct replies on a review by review basis.
What I also tried to convince people we needed (and honestly, I was about as successful as an Erdu speaker at a Cherokee bar-mitzvah) was that the whole review area needed to be a social system, where reviews got reviewed and users effectivess was ranked and their impact on the community depended to a good degree on how their peers ranked their contributions. As a first approximation, send Amazon and Stack Exchange off for a long weekend, and you start to see what I’d like to see in these systems. I also tried to convince people that the support channels should be THROUGH the app catalog, making that connection as easy as possible for the end user. That would allow us (as owners of the catalog itself) to manage the conversation between developer and end user without disclosing contact info to the developer explicitly, but by doing so, give the end user the option of sending that info over or using our brokered conversation system — and if we did that, the user would have a “do not let that person contact me again” button in case of problems with the developer. Creating this kind of intermediary communication setup would solve a good chunk of the issues around support problems that end up in the review area. Not all; some users are just plain old stupid or mean. But in aggregate/consensus, those users get filtered out.
And if somebody doesn’t like my app, I should be able to give them their money back.”
Really, REALLY bad idea. Really. Trust me. you want to open the system up for abuse, start allowing refunds into the system.
The most common complaint I’ve heard is that there’s no pro-level support for developers inside Apple,” Lee said. “There’s nobody you can call to answer your questions or help you when you’re stuck in App Review or some such.” However, Lee says Apple does have a Partnership Management program, which is intended to provide this kind of service. The problem, he said, is that this program is a “pure meritocracy.” He added, “You don’t call them, they call you.” Nobody really understands how the app approval and rejection process works.
How much do you want to pay for it? that kind of support is expensive. That said, Apple does a poor job of that, and this was one of the things we targeted with webOS as a way to differentiate ourselves to developers. And our webOS developers appreciated the ease of access and hands-on we tried to give them. It helped draw developers onto the platform we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, and it made a difference.
It’s also one that would be a real bear to scale. But as a platform attempting to boot itself, it was a competitive advantage to “not be Apple” here. Google does this a lot better right now, and is one of the ways I think Google can pull developers away from IOS over time, or make itself more viable for developers where the revenue trails what Apple brings.
I could go into a long rant about how Apple is messing this up, but maybe some other time. The TL;DR version is this: you create goodwill during good times by being good to your partners, and then when you hit the rough spots, the partners will be more willing to help you through them. You instead take those good times and act like the 800 pound gorilla and boss everyone around, when you hit that rough spot, everyone stands back and applauds. And IOS developers, by and large, are looking for excuses to applaud. Apple will some day regret treating their developers the way they do, but by the time this comes home to roost, it’ll be way too late to fix the problem.
Apple’s entire app process is just too opaque.
Yup. It’s one way alternative platforms can compete against Apple for developers: openness and transparency. Changing Apple to be more open and transparent towards its developers isn’t an easy thing, but if I were involved in WWDR, I’d certainly be arguing that it was necessary to figure it out. But traditionally, this hasn’t been part of Apple’s core values, which drove down direction from Steve Jobs. It may be under Tim Cook this will change over time (I hope so), but right now, it’s right up there with “apple going social” in terms of likelihood of happening.
(hat tip: brent)
The rumor and/or speculation is that Apple will spin podcasts out into a separate app (but keep it in the desktop version of iTunes). This prediction is supported both by funny business in the app, and also inside information from unnamed sources “close to the company.”
The prediction that Podcasts will get their own app sounds reasonable. But the interesting part is: Why?
Why would Apple put music, movies and TV shows all together in one app, but create an entirely separate app for podcasts? Sounds dumb, right?
Actually, if Apple is doing what I think they’re doing, it’s a stroke of genius.
This single change could align Apple’s organization of services on iOS with multiple strategic objectives at once. Here’s what I think Apple intends to accomplish.
Make ‘iPodcasts’ a Brand
Interesting idea, but I think it’s wrong. My guess is the reason for this is a lot simpler.
Back in the day, I had a conversation with one of the people who put podcasts in the iTunes store. At the time, nobody had a clue whether podcasts would be huge or not; it definitely wasn’t about driving revenue — but they knew they could help drive awareness of podcasts this way, and if podcasts did turn into something big, they didn’t want to risk having iTunes aced out of the discussion.
I think it’s fair to say podcasts have become a moderate success but not a world changer, and that iTunes helped drive their acceptance some, but I wouldn’t give it primary credit. I also think this whole space is still growing into maturity — if you look at what 5×5 and Geek and Sundry and what Adam Savage and the folks on Tested are starting to do, there’s a lot of innovation happening, in part driven by improved inexpensive video tools and in part by the growth of broadband making video more practical. So maybe podcasting has made it to teenaged status; it’s definitely still growing up.
But to be honest, I’d be stunned if Apple chose now to try to brand or trademark this stuff, or try to make this a big deal or a serious promotion. If there was interest in doing that, it would have happened long ago.
I think the real answer is a lot simpler than that: it’s iCloud.
We are continuing to see tighter integration of iCloud and IOS and MacOS. Starting with iTunes Match, Apple began a migration where your content lives there instead of on your hard drive, and I see that continuing and expanding to all kinds of consumable media.
I think Apple’s ultimate goal is simple: if it lives in iTunes, it lives on iCloud.
Is Apple going to offer that status to podcasts? My bet is no. And since they won’t, podcasts are exiting iTunes for their own app. That app will store and sync settings to iCloud, but not the actual podcast content.
Some content — your music, your videos, your eBooks — is going to be hosted by Apple using iCloud, and that content will be managed by iTunes (or whatever replaces it in its next generation).
Other content — podcasts, for instance — is going to be hosted by others, and apple will reference and coordinate access, but not actually manage its storage directly. As long as podcasts aren’t a licensed content the way music and videos are, I expect podcasts to be treated like this.
And since Apple doesn’t license the podcasts for redistribution (and I see no reason why they might consider doing that), they won’t host it on iCloud. And if it’s not in iCloud, it won’t be in iTunes.
And that’s why I think you’ll see a Podcast app in IOS 6. It’s a way to make this transition without abandoning podcasts, and also without kicking the existing podcast app developers in the knee too hard.
Not as much fun to speculate on, but I think it’s a lot more likely, given how Apple thinks about these things…
iFixit Tears Down The MacBook Pro With Retina Display, Deems It Nearly Impossible To Repair | TechCrunch:
iFixit states “[The MacBook Pro with Retina Display] is, to date, the least repairable laptop we’ve taken apart.” Apparently the new MacBook Pro is built like a MacBook Air and an iPad in that everything is custom and designed for the thinnest possible end product. The batteries are glued into place, the RAM is soldered to the logic board, it uses a custom SSD, and, worse yet, the screen assembly is all one piece, which means owners will need to replace the whole thing if something happens to any part of it. This nonsense sort of signals the end to hometown Mac repair shops.
Allow me to take exception to the phrase “This nonsense sort of signals….”
Why is this nonsense?
But first, a story. amuse me, I’m an old fart.
Back in the day, when I was working for Mama Fruit, we were selling a machine called the Mac IIfx. Like it’s older brother, the Mac II, it had seven (count them, seven!) expansion slots. One was required for the video card. The rest were for users to stick stuff into.
Apple later came out with a newer model, known as the Iici. It only had three slots, including the video card slot. There was a hue and cry, gnashing of teeth, the geeky pundits of the mac world declared this to be the end of the universe as they knew it, etc. etc.
The Mac IIci t4urned out to be one of the best selling, most reliable and highest rated computers of its era.
What Apple knew, which the pundits didn’t (and didn’t CARE to know) was that the average number of slots used in a typical machine was under 2, and only about 3% of the seven slot machines had three things in its slots. There might have been a couple of people stuffing all seven slots, but you could almost count them on two hands.
Sit back and listen to the WWDC crowd on twitter talking about the new Macbook pro (for instance, Jason Snell, but he’s far from alone). What are the biggest complaints? How big and heavy it is, and how they’re so used to their Macbook Air’s and 13″ MacBooks that much as they love the retina display, a large chunk of those power users are going to wait until the Retina slides down the product line to the smaller screens. For that matter, that’s my opinion on the new Retina machine as well — it looks like an awesome machine, but my current laptop is a 2010 model and I’m in no hurry to upgrade, and I really am not looking forward to going back to a 15″ monitor (I have one of those at work, and carry it to meetings, and it’s heavy compared to my home device).
What most users are asking for — power user or not — is smaller, lighter, better battery, faster units.
Lack of repairability is important to iFixit (for obvious reasons), so of course they’re going to complain about this. I don’t blame them. But stop and ask yourself this: what percentage of users repair a device through anyone OTHER than Apple?
What percentage of users upgrade RAM on their device over the life of it?
10%? probably not. It used to be higher when RAM prices in the Apple BTO store were margined like crazy, but now, getting your box built with all the ram isn’t painful, so I expect a much larger percentage of users do it that way now.
Repairability is not free.
Expandability is not free.
Connectors cost money. Connectors cost space. Connectors KILL reliability. They add complexity and support costs. So fi you want your device to be upgradeable, if you want to be able to replace things on it or have someone tear it apart and fix it, you’re going to pay more for that device up front.
By removing those aspects of the product, Apple can make them more reliable (if they don’t break in the first place, who needs them repairable?), increase performance and reduce the cost.
This is a replay of the “oh my god, Apple is dead, I can’t swap my macbook battery” complaint from 2009. And as we’ve seen since then, that big “controversy” turned out to be a huge nothing (as I said it would at the time).
Fact is, unless you’re one of that 3% or 5% that use a company like iFixit, or you’re iFixit’s CEO, nobody cares about this. AppleCare is endemic and is bought by a huge percentage of users; the Apple repair process (via Fedex or Apple stores) is easy and painless and reliable. Apple doesn’t need devices to be repairable, and there’s no reason why consumers need to pay the extra money for a device to have repairability engineered in.
And in fact, if you look at how sales have gone for Apple devices, consumers have voted with their pocketbooks already; iPhone and iPads are non-repairable for the most part, and buyers are increasingly going for the smaller and lighter devices over the bigger ones. How does Apple make these things smaller and lighter? One important and relatively easy way is to remove things like the space and weight and cost associated with connectors and module bays needed to support your ability to swap RAM or replace a battery.
If you were given a choice between two features: “replaceable RAM” or “one more hour of battery life”, which one do you think most buyers would choose?
Yup. they’d configure in the ram at purchase, and go for the battery life.
And with these changes to their new retina macbook pro, Apple is doing exactly that as well.
So unless you’re the CEO of iFixit, this is a good thing.
But if you buy one of these, you should consider Applecare to be a mandatory accessory now. Just in case.
it’s about what Cory Doctorow calls the war on general purpose computation (video.) Doctorow makes a compelling case that copy protection, DRM, the DCMA, SOPA, PIPA and ACTA are not battles that have been fought and won but skirmishes in a war whose endgame makes it actually illegal to own a completely programmable piece of general-purpose computing hardware.
A great illumination of the position that keeps me from supporting the EFF when actually agree with them on the core issue.
The first problem is this: if this were to actually happen, as long as the “typical consumer” could actually do what they want with their devices, they wouldn’t care about the details because what consumers care about is doing things, not theoretical arguments like this. Because of this, they’re taking a position that’s very hard to convince most people to get terribly worried about, because it doesn’t significantly impact them.
But really, the problem I have with this argument is this: it’s the same argument the NRA uses to justify fighting bans on assault weapons and “cop killer” bullets, because, you know, once the cops have confiscated everyone’s Uzi’s, they’ll start bashing down doors to come take their hunting rifles and that pistol kept handy for burglars. It’s just so obvious that once they’re given permission to take on any such restriction, it’s only a matter of time before it’s all gone.
It is also the same argument the government uses to keep tight restrictions on Marijuana and other so-called “gateway” drugs: if we relax our restrictions on pot, next thing you know you’ll have armies of crack-high teenagers tearing apart your cities.
These kind of positions are absurdist positions, and it’s a great way to marginalize yourself out of the greater debates where more moderate thinkers work to find some middle ground that everyone can put up with. Absolutist positions ultimately lose when people get tired of dealing with them and work around the roadblocks or replace them with more malleable decision makers. IMHO the NRA has done itself no favors by taking a hard position on assault rifles, and the EFF is doing the same to itself with it’s own no-compromise positioning.
(via Daring Fireball)
That’s the number of months it took Palm, Inc. to go from the darling of International CES 2009 to a mere shadow of itself, a nearly anonymous division inside the HP machine without a hardware program and without the confidence of its owners. Thirty-one months is just barely longer than a typical American mobile phone contract.
Understanding exactly how Palm could drive itself into irrelevance in such a short period of time will forever be a subject of Valley lore. There are parts of the story that are simply lost, viewpoints and perspectives that have been rendered extinct either through entrenched politicking or an employee base that has long since given up hope and dispersed for greener pastures. What we do know, though, is enough to tell a tale of warring factions, questionable decisions, and strategic churn, interspersed by flashes of brilliance and a core team that fought very hard at times to keep the dream alive.
The following is an account of Palm’s ascent prior to the launch of the Pre, the subsequent decline, and eventual end, assembled through interviews with a number of current and former employees.
Interesting and well-written piece on Palm and webOS by Chris Ziegler at the Verge. I didn’t contribute to it, and while I’d say it’s not 100% accurate as I know things, it’s well-researched and it’s a fair and pretty accurate history of what went down.
Definitely recommended as a read for those still interested in this circus.
In retrospect, I think a few key things killed what I still think was a legitimate shot at doing something special:
- A corporate naiveté that the carriers were our partners. In fact, they were just our customers, and were completely behind us only until they found other things to be partners with (“android”). That said, I think both AT&T and Verizon treated us reasonably and most of the damage was in fact self-inflicted.
- The first phone, the Pre, was not ready for prime time, hardware or software.
- I argued at the time, and I still feel strongly that I was right, that the decision to move forward with webOS 2.0 and the “Pre2″ was a mistake, and that we needed to put phones aside and get a tablet out (and get a good tablet out) while the market was open to it. It was decided (I was told by Bradley) that it was important to stay in the market and we needed to keep our carriers happy with us, so they went forward. By the time we actually shipped the Pre2 and webOS 2.0 (long, redacted whimpering sigh of explanation about that death march belongs here, but no…) it was way late and nobody cared, and it pushed the tablet work out even later, so that by the time it came out, nobody really cared.
- The first tablet was pretty good. Nobody cared. It was priced the same as an iPad, which was insanely stupid. It killed the product; you can’t go up against the iPad with pricing parity and a a lesser product. If you can’t compete on feature and quality, compete on price. We did neither. Why? I don’t know. It could have been a re-entry into the market; it turned into a literal firesale, a viking funeral.
- I think we under-scoped how much work was needed to get to first ship; first ship was therefore not what it needed to be. That dug a hole we never climbed out of.
For all of the criticism of the HP purchase, I’m still convinced that (a) it was our best shot, and (b) HP did everything it could to do right by us. That it didn’t work was at least partly because Palm was pretty broken even at that point (and never got fixed) and partly because HP needed to be capable of things that HP at it’s size simply wasn’t capable of. But it tried. Meg is trying to fix the latter, and I wish her nothing but luck.
That said, of the rumors I heard about the sale, all indications were that all of the other serious offers were IP/Asset sales, not “continuing operations” sales — i.e., it was patents and technologies, not the engineering team and marketing. I was enthusiastically trying to get out of the company when the word came down it was HP and they wanted things to continue, because i was convinced the patents were going to HTC or Samsung and the rest was going out the side door into recycling. So criticize HP if you want, but any other buyer would have meant the end of webOS even sooner. The only other potential suitor at that time who might have kept webOS intact was Amazon, at the time looking for an alternative to Android, and I believe our burn rate was too high for their tastes; it wasn’t purchasing webOS, it was keeping it moving forward after that killed that possibility.
We shipped too soon. We shipped too late. We marketed badly. Our quality was marginal. By the time we shipped decent stuff (Pre3, Touchpad), the market window had closed. Nice try, didn’t work.
But damn, it was worth a shot. If we’d executed better, we had the opportunity. we just didn’t do a good enough job of grabbing the brass ring when it was within reach.
It needs to be the hub of the home theater — look at what Microsoft is doing with Xbox 360 (I love mine, by the way. Microsoft needs Blu-ray, too).
Right now, it’s a stub on the home theater, tied to another mac. It needs to become the central player in the home theater, more like a console, less like an iPod. We’re not THAT far from where a computing system tied to the television is what ties all of the other devices in the home together. Apple TV has to decide to be that computing system, or it’ll be just another peripheral tied to something.
Right now, microsoft and the Xbox 360 is closest to what I want. I’ve been considering upgrading the DVD player to a blu-ray. originally thinking about a Playstation 3 (not a bad investment once you decide you’re buying a blu-ray anyway), but after Microsoft announced the netflix deal, I’m waiting again; rather see Xbox 360 add a blu-ray and buy a second blu-ray for the TV set than buy a PS3, and Playstation’s home theater strategy doesn’t impress me.
The next year is going to see massive changes in this space, a lot of maturing, really fast. and two years from now, the fight will be basically over. Here’s hoping we see Apple TV updates for the holiday market, if Steve waits for MacWorld in January, he may be too late.
That’s what I wrote — in 2008. It’s now 2012, and Microsoft has been building the Xbox into a really interesting media center, and Microsoft’s new announcements show that this is the year that the fight for the living room — which platforms and which companies are going to dominate the fight to own the living room — finally happens.
Why has it taken so long? It takes convincing the media-creating companies to go along, and that’s been a long, involved process. And online video takes a lot of bandwidth, and in the U.S., adoption of high speed broadband has trailed other developed countries, and companies service consumer broadband have implemented limits and caps. Since most homes are served their internet by their cable company, is it any surprise those companies aren’t in a hurry to make it easy for companies like Apple or MIcrosoft to disrupt their high margin cable-TV businesses?
But it’s happening, slowly but surely. Microsoft has made it clear it’s gearing up for the fight. All of the rumors indicate that this year’s WWDC is when Apple will remove the “just a hobby” label from Apple TV. Sony and Google have both been pushing their platforms into this space with less enthusiasm.
What’s clear is that this space is finally going to get very, very interesting. And right now, it’s gearing up to be a dog fight between two old friend-foes: Apple and Microsoft. And it wasn’t that long ago that both of their platforms (Apple TV and Xbox 360) were declared failures by the pundits with no long-term vision. Fortunately, both companies were willing to let things mature as they needed to, not with the geek-pundit-demanded speeds.
I found myself pondering whether I should get an XBOX as a media center (my original XBOX was retired a while back because I never turned it on, since I just don’t have that much time or interest for hard core gaming — now, I use parallels and use the window’s version of games that aren’t written for Mac or IOS). Then I realized any decision on this had to wait for WWDC and what Apple might say, but it’s clear we’re almost at the point where I can make decisions about the next generation of the in-house entertainment suite.
right now, the plans between now and the end of the year are leaning towards a broadband speed upgrade, bringing in a computer to act as hub for the home media platform (either an iMac or a Mac Mini; leaning towards the iMac as my new Lightroom processing system as well), upgrading the DirecTV system since the existing hardware’s a bit long in the tooth (first ten HD receivers), and making a choice about which platform will drive the home media onto the screens, Apple or Xbox. And I fully expect this to be my last DirecTV upgrade, although I don’t see any way I’m going to cut those cables for the next few years, unless Apple really, really surprises me.
That’s all subject to change, of course. But I do believe the directions this is all headed are being set, at E3 with Microsoft, and soon, with Apple at WWDC. And I’m fascinated watching this all come together.
In the comments to my previous post, Suzi asked a question that deserved a detailed answer, so I’m turning it into another blog post…
so, do you think the webOS way (developer mode) is better choice?
I think that for webOS, it was the right choice, and I spent a lot of time arguing for it and supporting it internally. Is it always the right choice? I’m not sure I can make that blanket statement. With webOS we needed to create an app ecosystem; it wasn’t easy to build a financial case to get developers to write for a new and unproven platform, so we looked for ways to change the dynamics. One thing we did was subsidize development indirectly through the contests (which injected a couple of million dollars into the developer pool) and through bundling app dollars into phones. But we also felt that if we could encourage the hobbyist/individual programmer onto the platform with non-financial reasons and incentives, that would help us grow the platform faster than device sales alone, and that would help us grow the app ecosystem, which would encourage device sales. There’s a chicken and egg problem here, which every new platform needs to find solutions to.
So we felt we could attract developers to the platform by making them welcome, as opposed to Apple’s model, which is one of, well, an indifferent hands-off approach that borders on arrogance. Well, sometimes Apple wanders over the border to arrogance. Other times, it simply treats developers as if they don’t exist, or are infinitely replaceable. There are reasons why they do this; there are reasons why I feel strongly they’ll regret this some day. It’s all about karma, and at some point Apple’s attitude towards developers will come home to roost. But right now, you can’t argue about their success.
So we didn’t just tolerate homebrew, we encouraged and tried to embrace it as much as we could, to make developers feel welcome on the platform. That brought us some really good developers that otherwise wouldn’t have come to the platform, and they did some really nice apps, so I think it was the right, and a successful, set of decisions.
But building in developer mode, making it easy to side load apps onto the device, is not a panacea and it creates risks and challenges. A mobile device is a very resource limited device, and so a misbehaving app can do all sorts of things that can degrade or damage the device, and unless you understand what’s going on, it’s easy to blame the deviice for the problems (this is especially true of poor battery life, and webOS battery life was a challenge on the best days; it’s really the #1 reasons why I moved back to IOS full time when I left Palm/HP.)
The easier you make side loading apps around the “official” channels, the easier you make piracy, and the harder you make managing that problem. And even on webOS, this was a problem and I was talking to developers on a regular basis about pirated copies and ways to try to get the binaries offline — with limited success, given that easily 80% of the complaints brought to my attention included the name “megaupload” attached.
You also create a channel for malware and scam ware, one that can be tough to plug. The things that enable a homebrew app to do things to access the private bus and restricted APIs also allows apps to access private data and do things that aren’t caught by whatever things your app review process might be doing, which I won’t explain further other than to say the app review process is about more than seeing if an app crashes during testing.
And what should a vendor do about a side loaded app it had no review or control over? Do you pull the kill switch on it? What’s the vendor’s responsibility to protect a user from herself? This turns into a slippery slope very fast. What if someone wrote an Angry Birds clone and the Angry Birds people wanted it kill switched, even though it was never published in the catalog? Where do you draw these lines? Most users would expect the vendor to kill switch an app doing identify theft, even if it was homebrew loaded, but once you make a decision to step in there, it creates legal questions about an implied liability to step in on other legal issues — and would a court force a vendor to kill an infringing Angry Birds clone? Most users would probably be pissed, based on my experience, but my guess in a court might well enforce that requirement. Tech lawyers (and community managers, and app review geeks) get ulcers having meetings about stuff like this…
What’s this mean for Apple? Should it take its jailbreak community and embrace homebrew the way we did?
Honestly, I’m not so sure. Because the easier you make these side loading capabilities, the more likely people will do it. And the larger the group of users doing it, the larger the percentage of users who only see the fun, and don’t understand the responsibilities and side effects, of the choice they’re making. And those are the ones that when it blows up in their faces demand the vendor fix the problem and trash them online for a problem the user created for themselves — and I just don’t think Apple needs that set of headaches. By tolerating but not encouraging the jailbreak community, they limit how large it grows, and it tends to limit the size of the population to people who understand that if they do this, then don’t blame Apple when bad things happen.
I’m not kidding when I say I used to recommend that turning on developer mode should have been done by a big red button that made it painfully clear that if you do this, here there be dragons and there’s no calvary coming to save you.
That’s the flip side of the unwalled garden. You really CAN’T have it both ways: the walls protect you from the evil nasties that live in the forest. If you tear down the walls, you can’t complain when the owners of the walls don’t stop those evil nasties show up and kill your dog. and your family. and send off your personal info to Moldova. And yet, people still do this, and then blame the vendor when the nasties show up.
So I don’t blame Apple for not encouraging homebrew. There’s no market or business reason for them to. It’s a potential customer support and PR nightmare. The audience it’d likely serve is already jail breaking anyway.
So while I think we did the right thing for webOS, Apple is doing the appropriate thing for it, and for IOS. Which is probably not the answer the geeks want, but Apple doesn’t design and build their products for geeks, and haven’t for a long, long time. Nor, given their success, do they need to. Which, of course, pisses off the geeks, who want to think they’re the center of the universe…
I too wish that Apple would introduce an optional ability to install unapproved apps. Although, when you think about it, jailbreaking provides that ability right now, which means that the world isn’t all that far from Lee and Eckersley’s desired state.I also share the authors’ alarm over Microsoft’s decision to allow the distribution of Windows 8 Metro apps only through its own Windows Store. Microsoft would never, ever have made that move without the App Store’s example, so sure, let’s go ahead and blame Apple for it.
This was something we talked about a lot back in webOS land.
When it comes to consumer products — in other words, things built to be sold to your mother and your sister the hairdresser, not to you the geek — you have to stop thinking about how to make them usable for geeks. Not that you will, because geeks are like that, and geeks tend to think everyone OUGHT to be geeks. (This is one of Apple’s core advantages in the market. They get consumers and that they’re different from geeks, and aren’t afraid to tailor their products for consumers instead of geeks. But I digress….)
With a phone, you really have two options; you can create an infrastructure that protects a user from the malware and jerks out there (that’s your walled garden, your “only through the App Store” model), or you can let users install anything. And as soon as you do the latter, the hackers start playing the identity theft, steal-your-info game, and as soon as that hits the press (which it will), the vendor is put under immense pressure to fix it. And the way you can fix it is to build walls around your garden. Seriously.
Here’s the other challenge: if you let “just anything” on the phone, it’s typically the PHONE’s fault when things start crashing, at least in the eyes of the consumer. And if the consumer decides the phone is unreliable or crappy, guess what happens? It goes back to the phone store and is replaced by a different model. And if enough phones get returned to the stores, the stores stop pushing your phone. And if enough stores stop pushing your phone, your friend the carrier stops returning your phone calls, and you suddenly realize their TV commercials now feature someone else’s phones. And then you’re screwed.
So a practical reality is that geeks like open, but only a tiny percentage of a phone’s audience is geeks. Most of the market likes simple, but really, what they want is for it to work. And once you open it up to outside code (aka, third party apps), you lose a lot of control over just how reliable it’s going to be. So as the vendor, now you’re figuring out which set of compromises you have to make to allow for diverse app ecosystems — without that ecosystem creating situations that cause your platform to fail, either because the users return your phones, or because the carriers stop selling them, or because the developers stop writing for it (killing the ecosystem).
If you can navigate that set of ulcer-creating compromises, THEN you can start worrying about how to also keep the geeks happy. Apple’s choice seems to be to tolerate (sort of) the jail breakers, as long as jail breaking isn’t TOO easy (meaning too many consumers start doing it and then screaming when bad things happen as if it’s Apple’s fault); with webOS, we went with homebrew and more openly embraced it. And yes, we did have have long talks about whether to enable homebrew with a big red flashing button that says “if you do this, we can’t protect you from the big bad world any more”.
The problem comes when people want both the openness of an unregulated ecosystem — and for the vendor to be responsible that nothing bad happens when they go unregulated. Apple forcing you to jailbreak IOS more or less limits jail breakers to people technically savvy enough to understand “on your own”, although nothing’s perfect or 100%.
Stop and think about it. How do you have an open phone — and protect that phone from the kind of apps we’ve seen on Android; Google was a lot more open about it’s app market to start, and had to figure this out the hard way.
Consumers don’t think like geeks. Nor do they want to. They want it to work. They want it to do the things they want done. they don’t want to have to jump through hoops, and they aren’t really tolerant of a phone that doesn’t do that. They will replace the phone if it messes up too often, and you live or die with a carrier on your sales AND your return rates. When that return rate goes up, bad things happen. (or so I’ve heard).
So the question of limiting access to only vendor approved apps through a vendor approved app store is never really a question. A phone is a lot more limited environment than a desktop computer, with a lot of sensitive user data to protect. And users are a LOT less tolerant of their phone randomly crashing than they’ve been conditioned to be about their Windows XP system crashing…
I thought we struck the right balance between the walled garden and giving users an open alternative in a way where they knew what the tradeoffs were. I definitely like the webOS approach of enabling homebrew more than the IOS model of tolerating jail breaking; but no vendor has delivered a phone that is truly open and unmanaged that’s sold more than a token number of units, nor will they. That’s the nature of the mobile device.
Think about it: if anyone thought that being unwalled was a competitive advantage against Apple, don’t you think someone would have gone up against them with that strategy by now? Yet everyone emulates Apple’s setup. There’s a reason for that: it works, and the alternatives don’t.
They sound good, until the first time you find out that tip calculator you downloaded shipped off all your credit card info to Moldova, and the phone vendor and the carrier can’t do anything about it because the garden has no walls. People love to complain that the walls hinder their view of the landscape — until the Huns come over the hill and flash their swords as they move towards the village…
But by bringing up the prison thing, the EFF’s authors aren’t making their case more compelling. Instead, they’ve giving readers a convenient opportunity to roll their eyes and reject their argument.
When you take extreme, no-compromise positions and use extremist rhetoric like this, you do a disservice to your cause in a couple of ways. One is that as noted, you make it easy for people to write you off and write off your position (good points and all). the other is that you get minimized out of the discussion because you’re simply unpleasant to deal with. It’s the more moderate voices that tend to sway and move, not the zealots. think about it. As much as I’ll give credit to Stallman and company and the early editions of the GPL for bringing forward the open source movement, in the last decade, most of the real innovation and energy in the movement has been because of more moderate positions and voices (especially the people driving the BSD license, or instance).
Scott Bourne on Aperture:
Okay – in short – I’ve had it with Apple. Ever since Steve passed, the company has seemed to be off course – not financially – but in regards to vision. Even before Steve passed, we saw the Final Cut Pro debacle – turning one of the most successful professional video editing applications into a glorified version of iMovie. While I am often mindlessly called an Apple fanboy, I have routinely called the company to task when I think they have made a mistake. And this is going to be one of those times.
Looking at what’s happened to the Apple Pro Apps division – one has to ponder – Is Aperture next? That’s the problem. I don’t know. And nobody at Apple will talk about it. For years I’ve defended Aperture and Apple for making such a great project. I think that was the right decision – then. But as Apple has grown even more reclusive in its willingness to share its plans or talk to the media, they have forgotten that the people who aren’t getting the information are ultimately their customers.
I assumed we’d hear something about Aperture 4.0 by now. I was really confident in fact that there would be an Aperture 4.0 by now. I wrote an article not long back linking the timeline to releases and thought surely we’d have an answer by now. After all, Lightroom 4 is shipping and in every way it needed to, Adobe caught Aperture and in some cases passed it. But from Apple – not a peep.
Since I was at Apple at the time, I was one of the really early adopters of Aperture when it was first release. It was a “where have you been all my life?” moment.
Unfortunately, since that early release, Aperture simply hasn’t evolved nearly as quickly as photography has. When I made that decision to leave my project at Apple, one of the groups I wanted to explore going into was the Aperture team. What I got was this thick, unexplainable silence. Ultimately, I didn’t stay at Apple, of course (a great decision for both sides).
What I didn’t know at the time, although I heard whispers, was that the Aperture team that pushed out 1.0 was — troubled. I later got to know the guy Apple put in place to fix things, although even if I knew the details of what went on in there, I wouldn’t say. The end result was there was a lot of restructuring and turnover in the team, the original 2.0 project was blown up and started over. And when Aperture 2.0 finally did ship, it was over a year later than it needed to be, Lightroom had shipped and had effectively lapped Aperture in terms of functionality, and Aperture 2.0 was, frankly, rather disappointing. When I took a look at Aperture 3.0, it was — okay — but even then, Apple still seemed to be behind the curve to Lightroom.
By that time, I’d given up waiting. I spent some time using Photoshop and Bridge, then shifted to Lightroom. Around the start of 2012, I heard a few tentative whispers about an upcoming Aperture release, but they’ve faded back out again. Adobe released the Lightroom 4 beta, and when I took a look and played with it, it was clear it was a huge step forward, and I gave up any thought that the Aperture upgrade was going to come out and convince me to change over to it. I say that as someone who is strongly predisposed to give Apple money, and not so motivated to give Adobe money.
But — Apple may have been the initial innovator here, but they fumbled it, and Adobe has taken the ball and run with it. It’s the technology leader, and it’s where the innovation is. Aperture? After the initial release, it’s never regained any of its momentum, and releases have always trailed Lightroom in timing and technology.
My expectation is that it always will at this point. If Apple had a chance to take on Lightroom and become the market and thought leader in this technology segment again, it’s long passed. I think it’s pretty clear Apple’s made the decision not to try; to me, Aperture 3 was a “let’s keep our existing user base happy” upgrade, not a “let’s get back in the game” upgrade. And the timing of upgrades (not aggressive) and the push Apple puts on for Aperture (basically, none), is a hint that it’s moved it’s priorities elsewhere.
I used to tell folks to evaluate both Aperture and Lightroom and choose the one they feel most comfortable with. Now, I tell folks to buy Lightroom. Aperture isn’t headed into “end of life” mode, but Apple has pretty clearly stuffed it into an eddy in a backwater somewhere, and it seems to be just kind of drifting. I don’t see any indication Apple’s going to change that.
So, if you’re a current Aperture user? What now? If you’re happy with it, great. I don’t think it’s going to magically disappear or stop working. At the same time, I don’t think you’re going to see massive improvements in Aperture, not of the kind of technology upgrades we saw in Lightroom 4. I can’t see any way Apple will “leapfrog” Lightroom, the best an Aperture 4 will be is a closing of the gap.
So if you’re someone like Scott Bourne, my recommendation is: start moving to Lightroom. It will take you a long time, but you can focus on new work on the new platform and worry less about migrating existing content. Start now, so it doesn’t turn into a project-by-crisis. And I’m as disappointed about this as you are about how Aperture ended up. it’s a perfectly nice program, but that’s not good enough, and that won’t change. And I say that as a person who at one point would have donated a finger or two to the cause to join the team building it.
The writing is on the wall, and has been since before Aperture 3 shipped: Aperture isn’t a priority, it’s not a battle ground where Apple is fighting to own the market, and it’s slowly wandering into obscurity and irrelevance. And if you depend on your tool and workflow to turn out the best possible images, then Aperture is no longer the solution. It’s not for pros or serious amateurs any longer, it’s for people who’ve outgrown iPhoto.
And here’s hoping Apple releases something next week that makes what I’m posting here look stupid. But I’m confident we won’t see anything like that out of the Aperture team at this point. Which is too bad.
(P.S. for what it’s worth, Scott’s comment about “ever since Steve passed” is pure flame bait, and absolutely incorrect. Aperture was seriously broken long before Steve passed, and Steve had his chance to make it a priority to fix, and chose not to. El Aura does a good job of kicking Scott in the knee for this comment, so I’ll simply point to that and not pile on further, but, Scott, sigh.)
(thanks to Duncan for the pointers)
Micah Lee and Peter Eckersley for the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
Apple’s recent products, especially their mobile iOS devices, are like beautiful crystal prisons, with a wide range of restrictions imposed by the OS, the hardware, and Apple’s contracts with carriers as well as contracts with developers. Only users who can hack or “jailbreak” their devices can escape these limitations. “Join us now and share the software, you’ll be free, hackers, you’ll be free-ee-eee!” – Some crazy-eyed old neckbeard.
Seriously, EFF, just shut up.
I really want to support the EFF. I know a good number of people who are involved with them. I’m in agreement with their primary goals and their positions in general. Lots of my friends are big supporters.
And yet, every time I’ve considered sending them money to support their cause, they say stuff like this, and remind me that deep down inside, they’re primary DNA is, well, Stallman-esque. It’s the same issue I have with being a huge supporter of open software, and being completely unwilling to support the GPL (thank goodness more rational licensing schemes came out of the movement).
At one level, I understand that many times the only way hold back the folks these groups are fighting is to take extreme positions and fight “no compromise” with “no compromise”, but, well, I reserve my funding and commitment to more moderate causes. And that’s the ultimate problem I have with the EFF (they’re in good company, I feel the same way about Greenpeace) — there’s a fine line between fighting for an important cause and going all radical over it, and the EFF is on the wrong side of that line for me. And this is a great example of why I think so.
EFF: damn glad they exist and are fighting the fight, but I do wish they weren’t quite so extremist about some of their positions. But I long ago realized that wasn’t going to change.
Hewlett-Packard chief executive Meg Whitman said in a conference call with analysts that she is “cautiously optimistic” that the company’s financial results are stabilizing.
“We are creating the process to adapt to innovation and product leadership,” Whitman said. HP will take a $1.8 billion charge and it will reduce its work force by 27,000 jobs by October 2014. That will save $3 billion to $3.5 billion by the end of October 2014.
Since I’ve opened my big mouth about this, a couple of quick words on Meg and HP, spoken as one of the earlier rats off of the sinking ship called webOS….
I am not predisposed to be a fan of Meg. Just putting that out up front. But since she’s taken over HP, she has impressed me with her willingness to dig in to find the right answers, and her willingness to make hard decisions and tough investments to make things work.
That said, the first email I got the day HP bought Palm was from an old Apple friend who had moved on to HP. And he wrote me and said “get the hell out before this place eats your brain”.
He was right (he since has left HP, also). HP tried very hard to keep itself from engulfing webOS and Palm, and succeeded as well as they could, but interactions with the mother ship were inevitable, and when they happened, it was almost scary how interactions there went.
In one of my attempts to get the forums upgraded for the developer portal (remember that initiative? sigh), I had a meeting with the team in charge of web forums and community tools for HP, to explore options with them. It went something like this: “Here’s the tool you’ll use. Here’s how you’ll use it. We’re a busy team, so we’ll find a place on our calendar and then tell you when you’ll be allowed to migrate. Here are our usage processes. And you’ll love every minute of it”.
I tried three different times to shift the discussion into, well, actually talking about my needs and requirements and it was made clear that was irrelevant, that at HP, you did it the HP way and that was that.
I left that meeting, went back to my management, and said “we can’t let them get anywhere close to us. The forum upgrade is on hold until we can figure out how to hide from them”, and stopped returning phone calls.
THAT is the reality Meg is having to fight right now. AT HP, there’s a culture of innovation — if you fill out the project plan in triplicate in advance, it’s approved by the global council of plan evaluation, and there’s a 100% chance of success before you even start, and it doesn’t violate any of the 37 volumes of rules and processes along the way that define “the HP way”.
Back in the bad old days at Apple (the Spindler/Amelio era), there were chunks of Apple that took the “here’s how we’re doing business, we outlived the last two CEOs, so we’ll just ignore you until they fire you, too” attitude. It wasn’t until Steve came back and started putting heads on pikes outside of infinite loop that he broke that “what’s good for my group is more important than what’s good for the company” attitude in some parts of the company.
HP has an even bigger problem — no only is that kind of “protecting my turf” going on, but the company is so damn huge that inertia and process overrules everything. It feels like you’re diving for oysters from an aircraft carrier. For Meg to turn HP around, she not only has to find and root out the fiefdoms of “this is my place, and you’ll do it to my convenience”, but she has to figure out ways to give HP flexibility in process and operations so it can try new things. What I found was that every time I dealt with the “mother ship” part of HP, everything shoved you back into “this is how we do things”, and any time you wanted to do something that wasn’t a 100% fit with the process, all energy expended went towards putting you back into the process. So either you did it “the HP way” (i.e., whatever was easiest for whatever team you were dealing with), or you went rogue and did things more or less under the cover of darkness (like, say, hosting your developer portal at an external colo instead of with the HP IT teams…)
It’s a hell of a way to run a business. Fixing it will be tough, and I wish her luck. She’ll need it (and a ruthless attitude, a few public executions to shake up the fiefdoms, and some pikes installed in front of corporate headquarters for the heads). I think the problems are similar to the ones Carol Bartz ran into at Yahoo, and Yahoo won. I don’t think the fight at HP will be any easier.
Me? I’m just glad I got out of there with my brain intact (mostly). But as it stands, the words “HP” and “innovation” are fundamentally incompatible, because the company that HP has evolved into is like that aircraft carrier; very good for some things, but nimble navigation is not one of them. And that’s the core problem Meg has to figure out — if she chan.
The Mac App Store has been a huge boon to Mac software developers, but has an enormous flaw: it needs to allow developers to charge existing customers a discounted price for major upgrades.
Right now developers selling through the Mac App Store face a lose/lose choice: either provide all major upgrades to existing customers for free (thus losing a quarter of our revenue), or create a “new” product for each major version (creating customer confusion) and charge existing customers full price again (creating customer anger). Why The Mac App Store is Nice
This was one of those things I got to talk about with developers a lot back in webOS land. All developers want this. No app store (with any significant audience, that I can find…) implementation provides it. Why the disconnect?
Behold the three stages of product manager hell:
- Okay, to make this date, what features do we absolutely positively have to have for launch? Upgrades? We can add that later. It waits.
- The SAP geeks say it’ll take eight months to add support to the back end for this. We need to launch in Botswana. It’ll have to wait.
- I know the developers are asking for this, but we seem to be doing pretty well without it. It just doesn’t seem to be a priority right now, not compared to [REDACTED].
Now, throw in a random “oh my god, do you know what this will do to our tax liability and reporting requirements in Lithuania?” and you get some sense of how you end up down this path. I’m sure no software developer has ever had discussions like this about their product, right?
My view on this: I see the developers pain. I see what the expectations users have for this. One of the things I asked for when we implemented coupons (aka promo codes) was the ability for a developer to send out discounts to existing users so they could release “Delicious Monster: TNG” at list and give existing users a code to upgrade at 20% off. Did I get it? (hollow laughter).
If you look at what Apple does (since it doesn’t actually say anything) and guess to their intentions, I’m guessing — based on what they’ve done with Aperture — that their model is moving forward without upgrade discounts. Instead, they’ve cut the cost of the product up front. What used to cost $200 now costs $79. When they release Aperture 4, it’ll cost $79. And Aperture 5 will cost $79. And if a user complains about paying full price for each release, Apple can ask if they’d rather go back to paying $200 for the package and getting upgrades for $99. it’s actually a persuasive argument, if your business plan can handle it and you don’t mind getting hit on the head a lot while explaining it.
And so, if you’re building product, that’s what I’d recommend you plan for. No upgrade discounts. Which implies setting your pricing scheme so that you can make a good “cost over the life of product” argument to users, and make sure each release has persuasive upgrade features (I’m looking at you, Adobe CS 5) or users will simply yawn and skip the release.
Honestly, as a user, I can live with that model. And yes, if I think a product is overpriced or the features of a release are not persuasive, I will skip it (he says, as a proud owner of CS 3; neener, Adobe, I spent my money elsewhere — but happily upgraded to Lightroom 4, because it was worth it. hint hint). It’s going to require retraining users who expect discounts. that will be painful. But I think Apple has set this standard, and I think that’s going to be what it is moving forward. I don’t see a persuasive reason for them to change their strategy.
And whether they admit it or not, I bet a lot of product managers for app stores on various platforms have the “if Apple isn’t doing it, why should I?” test for feature requests. And then they go off into a closet and come up with reasons for the powerpoint that don’t sound so, well, reactive and lame.
The Mac App Store has been a great new source of revenue for Delicious Monster — we’ve seen almost double total sales of “Delicious Library 2” through it. And although paying ~⅓ of our gross to Apple is pretty steep, if Apple’s finding new customers who wouldn’t have found us before the Mac App Store,
Of course, if you remember back to the good old days… Not the good old days of selling downloads on your own site, but the REAL good old days, if you could have gotten your software INTO a store like Best Buy, you’d have to pay for physical packaging and distribution, and deal with returns and all of the sales and management of your retail channels — and those channels would suck about 50% of your sale price off on top of it for THEIR margins.
And FWIW, that 30% margin they take is maybe break-even. they certainly aren’t paying for expensive cars in the parking lot with it. App stores aren’t cheap to run. Or so I hear.
I like the new iPad. As someone who is still using a first gen tablet, I’ll probably upgrade. But not right away. Let the lemmings beat their head against the brick walls of the apple store to get first access to day one bugs. have fun, guys. I’d love to upgrade to an LTE device and turn it into my tether hotspot — but the cost for data is too high, so I’ll stick with a wifi tablet and my iPhone hotspot for tethering when I need it.
The Verge has come up with updated (read: correct) pricing on the LTE plans for the new iPads:
Apple has been shuffling the data plans that it shows for the Verizon and AT&T versions of the new iPad with LTE service in the past day, and it’s a little confusing — AT&T’s $30 plan was originally indicated as 2GB instead of 3, and buyers still can’t see all four Verizon plans that are available. Here’s the definitive word on the commitment-free offerings from both operators:
AT&T (3 plans total)
250MB $14.99, overage $14.99 per 250MB 3GB $30, overage $10 per 1GB 5GB $50, overage $10 per 1GB Verizon (4 plans total)
1GB $20, overage $20 per 1GB 2GB $30, overage $10 per 1GB 5GB $50, overage $10 per 1GB 10GB $80, overage $10 per 1GB Perhaps more notably, Verizon’s plans include hotspot service across the board at no additional cost
I went and spent some time on the ATT wireless web site (which is just such a joy to work with) trying to figure out when I bought our iPhones and what our usage is to see what might make sense moving forward. If I’ve read this right, my iPhone 4 is right around 18 months old, since ATT is almost ready to offer me “a deal” to upgrade to a new phone (with new 2 year agreement. of course). Laurie’s was bought about six months later, so she won’t get that special deal until fall.
The corrected info on the LTE charges isn’t as bad as the original pricing people were quoting. I seem to be averaging about 700-800 meg a month on my iPhone, laurie less. Neither of us is a road warrior, so working through Wifi is available most of the time, and even adding in an increase in usage because of the retina display, faster network and 1080P capabilities, it still doesn’t seem unreasonable.
So… I still have no plan to upgrade to the new iPad immediately. But when I do, I may well decide to upgrade to an LTE version. Because ATT isn’t doing tethering, I’d do this via Verizon. And to put it bluntly, while I’ve been moderately positive about ATT over time (because I live in an area where it works pretty well; sprint, not so much, as I found out in my life in webOS land), increasingly you can see how they’re slow to the game on things like tethering, and those things are becoming more important to me. So, ATT, consider this advance notice. I expect new iPhones to be released by Apple sometime in 2012; Laurie and I are skipping the 4S because with our phones, skipping generations works just fine for us — but we’ll be moving to the next one. And when we do, I fully expect to shift from ATT to Verizon as the carrier. And it looks like it makes sense to do the tethering via the LTE iPad on Verizon vs. using the phone as the hotspot, although if I haven’t bought the iPad by the time the phones come out, I might change my mind. we’ll see.
But in looking how both Verizon and ATT are setting up their plans and support models here, I’m convinced: it’s time to move off ATT, because it’s increasingly not competitive with how these devices are used and are going to be used, because ATT hasn’t gotten their networks up to snuff to be able to let us use them that way. (but ATT is a damn site further along than Sprint is…)
All of this of course subject to change. but I doubt it…