Adobe Flash has been the King of the castle for website animation, video and other "hip and cool" things for about a decade. Yet, ever since Apple released the iPhone and then the iPad without Flash support, the future of Flash has been in question.
Not too long ago Apple started building a new sales model. Apple made a shift when selling a new iPhone, as they continued to offer the dated version of the iPhone, but at a lower price point. The forthcoming iPad 2 launch is believed to be no different.
Apple first started this sales model with the release of the iPhone 3GS at $199, while the iPhone 3G stayed in the lineup, dropping to $99. Apple repeated this product positioning with their iPhone 4 launch, slotting the iPhone 3GS to $99. How successful has this sales model been? Apple never reveals a breakdown of iPhone sales by model, delivering only a total number of iPhone sales per quarter, but iPhone 3GS is AT&T's third best selling smart phone (coming in behind a Samsung Android and the number one selling iPhone 4).
One thing not found at One Infinite Loop is mediocrity. Since Steve Jobs returned to Apple their success has been built upon designing and executing excellence. Excellence is found in the iOS — an OS designed just for touch systems. Excellence is found in the Mac Book Air with its super thin sleek design, long-lasting battery life and solid state drive. No matter what Apple product you consider, that product has excellence built-in.
|It’s just an App, right?|
|Facebook has the potential to do to what Microsoft did to all Windows PC manufacturers — turn all computer hardware into a commodity.|
Another way to state this is that Apple does not manufacture commodities. A commodity is an item that can't be distinguished from a competitor's product except for by price, delivery or something that has little to do with the product itself. For example, the Windows PC quickly became a commodity. Speeds and price were the only real differentiators, but in essence, one Windows PC was just like the next one. This commoditization significantly reduced the value of the PC Manufacturer while it raised the value of the Operating System. Apple was able to avoid being seen as "just another PC" by making its products different — better and special — through hardware innovation, design and software integration.
|Never Designed for Touch|
|The Windows interface does not work with a pen let alone a finger... Steve Ballmer may like his strategy, but the consumer does not.|
Trying to fit a desktop operating system in the tablet will never work. These tablets require a new operating system built around its touch display and power sipping processors. Microsoft has been trying to fit Windows into a tablet since 2001. Each time they have tried and failed. The last Windows tablet was the HP Slate, which topped out at 9,000 units sold. These HP Slates could not compete with the iPad three months ago, why does Microsoft think that these new ones will? It may still be up for debate whether Windows belongs on a desktop, but we know that it does not belong on a tablet.
The New York Times is reporting that Microsoft will be coming out with new tablets next month at CES. Before the iPad was released, Microsoft had almost no competition and they still failed. Now these new tablets will have to compete against the iPad. Apple has sold more tablets than anyone else combined. When these new tablets are released, the failures of Windows on the tablet will be obvious when compared to the iPad.
|But Apple changed the game with iPod, offering a vertically integrated solution which married hardware, software and content into one seamless ecosystem.|
It's no secret people move in packs. Whether populations migrate to new continents or flocking to malls on Black Friday, it makes no difference, the masses will follow each other over cliffs if the herd moves that way.
Technologies that win the day are not lost on human behavior either. VHS vs Betamax, Windows versus Mac OS or the air-popper vs the superior oven roasted Whirly-pop popcorn, the masses consistently find themselves settling for the lowest common denominator as "good enough" often defeats better or best.
The biggest weakness of the iOS platform right now is the lack of a user accessible file structure. Without a file structure or Finder app, iOS devices can not be a complete mobile platform. Right now, Apple tells us that files should be stored in applications on the iOS. This may be fine in the short term, but over time Apple's current file strategy will turn into frustration as users try in vain to access all their files. There needs to be a place to store, edit, and transfer those files from application to application. Organizing files into folders is a must on any computer platform. Without a directory structure, all those files will turn into a mess. Even Google's Gmail, which was supposed to be all about search, now has folders. So, we all must hope that the current app file storage is only a stop gap until Apple comes up with AirFinder for the iOS. This new AirFinder must be designed specially for today's mobile user. You don't just create, edit, and store your files on a single iOS device anymore. The files need to move with you as you go from device to device. This new Finder needs to sync between all of you computer platforms seamlessly, in the background. AirFinder will allow you to access these files at anytime and anyplace.
The strongest crop of productivity applications in the App Store right now have either added Dropbox or are planning to add it. Why is Dropbox so popular on iOS? It allows seamless transfers between your iOS devices and any other computer or device you have from Macs to PCs. This is exactly what a mobile user is looking for. With Dropbox, you don't need to sync your iPad or iPhone with iTunes to get your latest files. All your latest files will be accessible via the Dropbox cloud service. This turns the iPad into a major productivity device saving tons of valuable time. It is not only good for productivity, but also for application preference syncing as well. I use 1Password by Agile Web Solution for password and private data storage. Dropbox allows me to sync that data between all my devices in the background. I no longer have to manually sync my valuable data between devices or even remember which device has the latest files. The list of uses for Dropbox can go on and on. Since Dropbox is not part of the OS, it does come with many disadvantages. One of those being, you have to add it your apps to use it.
Microsoft has been the golden child of the tech industry for a long time. And while there is no need to deeply rehash the last 30 years (we've all lived it or read about it ad nauseam), here is a quick recap before covering what's in store for Microsoft this decade:
- 1980's: DOS/PC revolution
- 1990's: Windows and Office revolution
- 2000's: Microsoft has no revolution
- 2010's: Microsoft cannot make up lost ground. The rest of the tech industry moves on.
- Desktop software continues to take a back seat to mobile solutions.
- Microsoft delivers Windows Phone 7, a product that holds no relevance in the marketplace. Win Phone 7 fails. Consider it the Kin III.
- Consumer and business mobile device markets continue to explode. Microsoft cannot keep up with Apple, Google, RIM and HP.
- IE continues to have it's market-share eroded, falling below 50% by 2015 with a sub 5% in mobile share. Silverlight becomes irrelevant in the face of HTML 5 and mobile apps.
- Microsoft is relegated to server and .net database solutions.
- Microsoft becomes the new IBM. A silent company working in the background of corporations and backbones, nothing more.
The year 2011 is looming over Redmond and tablets are poised for explosive sales. Whether you buy into Piper Jaffray's 40 million 2011 tablet shipment figure (23.2 million million of them iPads), or Gartner's rosy looking 54.4 million figure, the point is well made - 2011 is the year of the tablet and Microsoft is nowhere to be found. Unlike iPods and iPhones, tablets will make a profound impact on Microsoft's Windows stronghold.
I remember back when I was in college having to log into a workstation or a mainframe through a dummy terminal. Mainframes and workstations dominated the computer industry and were big and expensive. If you wanted to use a computer, you had to use one of these. By the time I graduated, that had all changed. Personal Computers were cheap enough to not only fill a computer lab, but also for students to even own one. Intel and the x86 processor helped to start this computer revolution. The x86 processor brought computers down to an affordable level. The personal computer was much slower than a mainframe or workstation, but they were also much cheaper and fast enough to do the basic things. The personal computer (or PC) began to dominate over these more expensive mainframes and workstations. You can still buy Mainframes today and they are still much faster than personal computers, but they are only used where they need that extra processing power. Intel has come to dominate the personal computer market for processors. Apple used to use the PowerPC chip, but recently move to Intel due to lack of performance with the PowerPC. AMD still makes a drop in replacement for Intel's x86 chip, but most computers still come with an Intel chip inside. The prices for their chips range from as little as $100 all the way up to almost $900 per chip. That is nothing compared to mainframes which start out around $400K.
You may be wondering why I am taking this trip down memory lane. Well, history is about to repeat itself with a new player — who is not really all that new — ARM. ARM originally stood for Acorn RISC Machine. ARM processors are used in all kinds of imbedded devices from smart phones to digital video recorders or DVRs. Acorn Computer Ltd started making the ARM processors back in 1983. Apple got involved with the ARM chip back in the 1980s and Acorn spun off their partnered project into another company called Advanced RISC Machines Ltd. Apple then used these new ARM chips in the Apple Newton PDA, the first real mobile computer. Later, the company changed the name to ARM Ltd. ARM began licensing their chip in the early 2000's. The ARM chips have continued to be developed over the years, getting more powerful, yet still are very power efficient.
Mobile carriers in the UK — 3, T-Mobile and Orange — are providing iPads through a subsidized model, perhaps as early as year’s end. Fresh on the heels of the UK carriers, Japan's mobile provider Softbank has just announced a subsidy program for iPad. Apple's competitors, who have been unable to compete pound-for-pound with iPad's pricing, thought they had found Apple's soft underbelly via the carrier subsidy model; however, it appears Apple is more than willing to play the same game, but that's where Apple stops playing fair.
|iPad Subsidies in the U.S.?|
|The subsidy model is quickly launching in other regions across the world, so this begs the obvious question: When is it going to happen in the US?|
The UK carriers are taking an agressive approach, bring iPad to the masses for around £199, with a two-year subscription. But in Japan Softbank's approach is nothing short of stunning, offering the iPad for free, with a two-year contract.
When Steve Jobs introduced us to Lion (OS X 10.7) back in October, there were a few items that were certainly interesting to note:
Lion OS X 10.7 Lion will be the next giant step away from computing as we have known it for the past 25 years.
- Lion is a move away from the Finder — The Finder was Apple's original way of helping us technical neophytes understand directory structures and files. It is clear that Steve wants to move to the next step which is to make us less dependent on files and where they are stored. Instead we are just use them in the appropriate application. For example, think of Mail.app. Do you deal with files per se? No, you are dealing with an App called Mail.app and it helps you organize "files" called E-mails. A better example is iPhoto. Few of us rarely ever see the actual files in iPhoto but instead manipulating those files through the application. Never must one go to ~/Pictures/iPhoto Library/ and so on. My bet is Steve would like to make our computing day file-and-directory-structure-free. Apps just handle everything for us, in a more useful way.
- Lion is a move away from the Dock — We were introduced to the Dock (in its current form) with OS X 10.0 (sure there were previews of it in OS 9 and 8). But the Dock is limiting. There are only so many items one can fit on the Dock until it becomes so small that you need a magnifying glass to understand what is in there. You should see Mark (Guy #1's) dock. It is so small and so busy, only he can use his computer. If you think about it, the iOS has a dock, but it is far more flexible and far more customizable... yes the main screens (or windows) we swipe through to find,.... what? Apps. See the previous point. Apps become center stage and Lion will make this more evident.
- Lion will make files, not apps, cloud-centric — In Lion expect to see that auto-save also means auto-save to the cloud. For those of you who use IMAP as your e-mail protocol or MobileMe (based on IMAP), you can quickly picture how all files could work that way — not just e-mail. This makes sense with Apple's massive data center in North Carolina. So with Lion I can work on a presentation, then continue when I get on the plane with my iPad.... because all files are synced (like IMAP e-mail). Apps on the other hand are not. They must be installed on each device. In the future, I'm sure if you buy an app for the Mac (through the App Store) it will also have an iOS flavor as well (like iWork does).
A lot more is in-store for us with Lion. Steve said he only had a limited amount of time to share with us some key features. What I think that really meant is he wasn't quite ready to reveal the massive change (and improvements) Lion will bring to our computing lives. Lion will be the next giant step away from computing as we have known it for the past 25 years.