Thursday, February 5, 2009

Take a bite out of this

NOTE - Some of this was originally going to be posted before Christmas, but some information was conflicted. Not that things are crystal clear today, but cleaned up enough that I'll stick my neck out and share some obvious and not so obvious tidbits about those darn secretive Apple folks.

My little birdies are indicating to me that Apple is moving forward with finalizing a tablet/handheld device that's fitting the bill for what I've been talking about for some time now. The acquisition of the chip maker last year, combined with more mobile functionality into the forthcoming Snow Leopard have the final hardware and software pieces dropping into place to bring the new device to market in a viable form. Hardware designs for the device have been mostly stable in terms of screen size, rough dimensions and battery since last summer/fall.

This is all coming to a head as a new version of the iPhone is in early trials and readied for launch - though specs of this device are hard to nail down. Most of the "biggies" are in the tablet and for good reason, its running the new OSX, while the iPhone isn't. (but the OSX for the iPhone is also getting bumped, but its still not REALLY OSX)

Even with an upgraded CPU and RAM, the new iPhone still is going to show some sluggishness that currently frustrate users of the 3G that's selling like hot cakes. Still no factory option keyboard in sight for either units, but the new tablet will have support for bluetooth devices and possibly sport a single USB port, so take that for what it is. Nothing yet for iPhone input support, which I think would go a long way to make the units more usable, but Steve's been adamant about this almost to a fault.

Also on the network side is the imbedded mobile network capabilities in the tablet. Several technologies have been in trials, and the thought behind the final incorporation will be similar to Amazon's Kindle in terms of being bundled with the unit. (but for basic services, additional fees could apply) No word yet as to who the carrier is, but if AT&T wants in, some think that they might give on their original iPhone deal to get more of Apple's lovin'. This would be odd since technically the tablet's data services would end up costing less than equal services for the iPhone in this model, so I'm suspect on this info. That said, I think there's a lot of opportunity here for Apple to really change the rules of the game. Lots of issues with the antenna - mostly around cosmetics/location with the aluminum chasis.

The other rumbling was about pricing. A $99 price point for the iPhone has been in market viability presentations, and with subscriber fee underwriting, this is more than doable. However, I think Apple will split the difference with any new hardware, though a revamped $99 version of the current 3G has been/is being considered for that holy grail price point since it will be old generation technology once the new phone is announced. Tablet pricing is in the $499 target range. (ho hum - nothing new there ... probably low IMHO)

Of note were meetings on functionality restrictions where heated discussions took place between the two product teams, mostly from the iPhone folks who felt their blessed device is getting the back seat to the new tablet. Ah, politics. And I particularly liked the comment about the Axiotron Modbook - "Not a bad hack considering, but I hope they're banking every dollar their making 'cause their business is headed for the Hudson."


Bill's Excellent Adventure!

Ok, finally! After decades of totally lame presentations, demos and WAY too many Powerpoint slides with WAY too many words per slide, Bill Gates pulled a masterful opening to his TED presentation worthy of Steve Jobs's famous "One more thing".

Bill was giving a talk on Malaria and what his foundation is doing world wide to impact its effect on nations in poverty. To make his point, he started by releasing mosquitos into the room with the statement, "Malaria is spread by mosquitos, I brought some."


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Step away from the SMS!

Twitter tweaked its logo today. It made it slightly smaller. Lots of Twitter users freaked out. (Ok, perhaps not "lots" but enough that its making the rounds)

People. Shut. Down. Your. Computers. And. Go. Outside. As. You. Will. Note. That. The. World. Has. Not. Ended. Because. Of. The. Logo. Change.


Is six a big number, or a small one?

When you're six years old, six seems insignificant. Six is halfway to a dozen, and when you're talking doughnuts, thats pretty good. (more than I can eat!)

Six is also 5 more choices than one, and consumers (much against many sales/marketing ideologies) really don't like complicated choices. It makes making the actual decision to purchase painful and negative.

Microsoft is trying to save their sinking ship. The new (and improved?) Windows 7 is going to be available in SIX (6) versions. Each with their own pricing and licensing restrictions (of course!).

I have to ask, why? When the rest of the world is moving towards simplicity, Microsoft seems to gravitate towards complexity. Does the idea of confusing the customer somehow make sales better?

When Steve Jobs back back to Apple. (Many of you know that I refer to this as when NeXT bought Apple) he did something remarkable. He slaughtered the Apple Mac model lineup down to four basic macs. Two in two segments. The segments were consumer and professional. The models were desktop and laptop. Sales soared and in the switch to OSX and Intel based hardware to lesson hardline costs, Apple made a move from niche computer company into mainstream consumer products. No matter how things rolled forward, there's never been more than one version of OSX available for sale (go ahead, argue OSX Server - negate your argument by asking any Apple consumer what that is.. they have no idea so just park it for now).

Anyway, as I was saying, my example is a quick illustration as to how simplification makes life easier for not only the consumer, but the sales channel, marketing, accounting, etc.

So, why on God's green Earth is Microsoft going to have SIX versions of Windows 7?

Microsoft aside, what are things in your company that can be streamlined to make purchasing easier? From the number of products, to service choices, to even the number of clicks (steps) it takes in order to be a customer.

If anything is greater than six, try to reduce it by half. In the end, three could lead to bigger numbers on your bottom line.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Obama's Blackberry

Ok, this one has been stewing in my head for a while, and since I've got some downtime as I recover from last night's puke-o-ramma, here's the brain dump.

Everyone was making a big fuss over Obama having a Blackberry. There's issues of record keeping, etc. but I think everyone was missing the point.

The security risk isn't the device, its the SERVICE.

Wireless carriers are notorious for employees snooping into high profile customer's information, and now we have the President with a standard Backberry (albeit running some killer encryption .... we hope) ... a Blackberry that has to use some sort of common carrier for its use.

While the data might be encrypted, even access to what numbers it calls/txt's would be sensitive information and this is where things get touchy.

I don't think its a good idea for the President, or any of his staff to be using handhelds that use common carriers for that reason. National security is pretty damn tight around the POTUS, but this situation has created an open door literally right to the man himself. Sure they can make all sorts of software changes to his account with the carrier, but at the end of the day, it comes down to people, and that's the weakest link in the chain.

I sure hope someone is really on this issue. I mean ON this issue.

The downside is something I'd rather not contemplate.