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Ball Drop: Dell’s Faulty Product Page

February 20th, 2010

As a number of perturbed status updates I’d posted to my Facebook profile in the wee hours of Friday morning suggested to my friends this AM, the health of my Mac Mini, Cylon.local, took a bit of a nose dive last night. Now, it’s probably just a hard drive failure, which is actually not so bad1, but I won’t know for sure until I take the little fella down to Tekserve‘s “ER” this weekend and get it properly diagnosed.

So one of the thoughts that naturally occurred to me is that there’s at least some small chance that Cylon.local won’t be coming back; perhaps the resurrection ship was simply too far away when the dreadful moment arrived.

I’d just bought a Mac Mini for my parents this past Christmas, so I already know the value proposition of replacing it with the latest model.

But, while I’m entertaining the notion of replacement hardware, it occurs to me that Dell rolled out a competitor a few months ago, called the Inspiron Zino HD. Now don’t get me wrong: I’m quite happy with the Mini’s performance over the last four years, and I’d be happy to keep it for as long as it’ll stick around with me, but any sensible man would think to check in on his options. Read more…

Footnotes

  1. Thanks to the trusty Time Capsule I managed to snag with a friend’s NYC teacher’s discount — thanks, Jenny!

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Playing Hard Means Risking the Occasional Foul

August 23rd, 2009

Michael Arrington of TechCrunch published a post Friday, titled The Truth: What’s Really Going On With Apple, Google, AT&T And The FCC. It is—in my opinion—a fairly insightful piece, particularly regarding his analysis of Apple’s seemingly misleading wording behind their reasons for “not approving” the Google Voice app for inclusion in the App Store.

I do believe that Apple perceives a risk behind allowing this particular piece of software “hijack,” as it were, the iPhone user experience, particularly as the Google Voice service will likely become wildly popular amongst the demographic of folks who are attracted to products like iPhones. I must also note that Apple themselves pulled quite a similar customer “hijacking” trick on AT&T with the iPhone.

So if anyone knows the smell of this type of usurpation, it’s Apple. They’re also right to fear it.

I ultimately get exactly why Apple attempted to block it: to paraphrase the late father of a past girlfriend of mine, if you’re not pulling at least one foul per game, you’re just not playing hard enough.

It’s all a game of strategy, folks, and the stakes in the competition for slices of the burgeoning mobile Internet device market are pretty damned high.

Arrington does make one claim, however, that I just can’t get behind. He writes:

[Apple is] jealously guarding control of their users and trying to block Google and other third party developers at every turn from getting their superior applications in front those users.

The first half is spot-on, but the second half is very wrong—they are not fearful of developers offering better software than their apps. Apple doesn’t care, for example, about superior stock tracking, weather, or memo programs.

They do care about Safari, Phone, Contacts, Calendar, Mail, Messages, and iPod, App Store, and iTunes applications: they are the signature apps of the core iPhone user experience.

If Google Voice takes over the dialer, a significant problem is introduced: people may likely start demanding that the phone experience is designed around the Google Voice service. In such a case, Apple will have lost control of the UX of this core component of the product, as they would then have to choose between two paths:

  1. chase after the Google Voice UX requirements, OR
  2. consciously choosing to ignore it, causing customers that want it evaluate switching to an Android phone.

Apple are specifically looking to control the core user experience of the device, but that’s what Apple does, and what’s more: that’s what we (largely) want them to do! Their passion for that sort of thing is directly attributable for the design excellence of their products.

In any case, the ref is on the field, and we’ll get a call on the game play. The only certainty here is that—whatever call the FCC ultimately makes—the outcome will be interesting.

My call: offensive holding.

Business Sense, Conversation , , , ,

Schwarzenegger to Education: Learn From the RIAA’s Mistakes

June 12th, 2009

Arnie discussing the imperative to modernize the publishing infrastructure in California’s education system by moving to digital textbooks:

As the music and newspaper industries will attest, those who adapt quickly to changing consumer and business demands will thrive in our increasingly digital society and worldwide economy.

It’s one thing to hear the tech nerds of the internet speak of the RIAA’s clueless clamoring into the digital phase of the digital publishing landscape, but quite another to see such a high-profile politician so plainly paint the RIAA as a poster child embodying the inability to adapt to changing market realities.

I can’t help but speculate that this imperative takes aim at two birds with one stone. I find it difficult to imagine it to be mere coincidence that California-based Amazon dropped their Kindle DX — introduced with a marketing message explicitly speaking to its value proposition to text book publishers — with such an uncanny confluence of timing.

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The Habits of Effectively Exploiting Twitter

June 4th, 2009

I’ve lately been involved in a number of conversations about the value proposition of Twitter as a publishing platform to anyone interested in developing a public persona for a company, an organization, or even one’s own career identity. What follows are ideas that have repeatedly surfaced during these conversations, as well as a handful of links I’ve been amassing from my reading, as well as links friends and colleagues have shared with me.

Some Terms

Throughout this post, for the purpose of simplicity, I will use the term brand to apply to all types of public personae, whether organization or personality.

I will also be speaking about a brand’s domain of interest, by which I intend to refer to the plurality of whatever industries and/or disciplinary fields that are relevant to the brand. I’ll use it in this singular form as a blanket concept, covering all topics of interest to the brand.

Finally, I’ll be using the term market to refer to any and all entities to whom a brand seeks (largely competitively) to offer a value proposition, and who interest — in whole or in part — in the brand’s domain of interest. In the case of a company, their market is naturally their customers, clients, etc. In the context of an organization, its market may be composed of the members it seeks to attract, or the community that it seeks to serve. Finally, a market for an individual’s own brand can consist of one’s prospective employers, clients, students, an educational institution, or grant or fellowship for which he or she may wish to apply.

Why Even Bother With Twitter?

Before I get into the any of the how, let’s invest a moment to get on the same page with respect to the why, since the means must be evaluated against whether or not they advance your efforts towards the desired ends.

This is material that’s been covered the world over around the Web, so I’ll keep this concise:

The goals are currency and reputability.

Currency here refers to the state of maintaining continuing familiarity with the ideas and topics relevant to the conversations presently taking place in the brand’s domain of interest. Currency helps a brand focus its efforts to remain relevant to its market, and is maintained by consuming incoming information.

Reputability refers to the brand’s reputation within the context of its market. Its measure exists only in the eyes of the brand’s prospective market, so it can only be built and developed with public action. On Twitter, this means publishing, or tweeting.

And so the value-proposition that participation in the Twittersphere offers a brand is that it can help the brand stay at the top of its game, and give the market a sense of the brand’s voice, relevance, and even competitive acumen.

But how can a brand engage with Twitter to realize these goals?

Read more…

Business Sense, Tutorials , ,

Family Planning: Start With One

May 9th, 2009

John Gruber recently published a characteristically insightful piece about the Verizon iPhone rumors in the press earlier this week. Speaking to rumors of what Business Week has called the “iPhone Lite,” Gruber revisits Apple’s introduction of the iPod Mini, which was the event that turned the iPod from a single product into a product family.

He writes:

The formula behind the iPod Mini was simple: Apple made a smaller, cheaper device with more or less the same technical specs as the original iPod from October 2001.

[...]

So here’s how I see Apple applying its iPod strategy to the iPhone. At some point the iPhone will expand to two form factors:

  1. A high-end iPhone with the same basic size and price as previous iPhones, but with significant new features…

  2. A new, lower-priced, smaller, and more adorable iPhone, with more or less the same technical specs as the original iPhone. Given that those specs include the 320 × 480 display, I wouldn’t expect something tiny…. Shrink the iPhone’s forehead and chin and make it thinner … is what I’m thinking. Existing iPhone apps would run just fine on the new device, as it’d have similar, if not identical, CPU performance and RAM to previous full-sized iPhones. [emphasis added]

Reading the piece got me thinking back on the concerns I had about Palm’s fragmentation of both their prospective developer communities, as well as consumers, should the rumors of their introducing “Pre Lite” to the market.

Note the points where emphasis has been added. There are two reasons for Apple to aim for roughly the same specs as the first generation iPhone when it introduces additional models:

  1. a device with such specs will be significantly cheaper to produce more than two years later, and
  2. it helps ensure maximal compatibility of existing apps with the prospective newer members of the product family.

Apple has been very clear that minimal hardware variance is an explicit concern in their iPhone product design strategy (and, even their platform strategy for all devices running iPhone OS, or what I've been calling Touch OS X). Naturally, since the devices in the product family must continue to evolve, it’s impossible to entirely avoid hardware variance, but the more that the devices in the iPhone product family can have in common, the easier a job developers will have creating and testing the apps they make and sell.

By contrast, the Android platform is beginning to get its first dose of non-trivial woes around hardware variation issues, but more on this later.

There are plainly over a billion reasons that Apple would want to maximize the extent to which apps remain compatible across their entire product family of iPhones, and screen size and shape is one of the critical details to keep consistent in the mobile world, where developers (at least the competent ones) take great pains to make every last pixel count.

And for platforms like iPhone OS (and even Pre’s webOS) that are designed so meticulously around the user’s direct physical interaction with the screen, screen size is not a detail to be varied willy nilly.

Read more…

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