Particle Debris (wk. ending 8/26) That Was The Week That Was

| Particle Debris

First, there was a lot written about Steve Jobs this week. Perhaps too much. It’s absolutely a seminal event that Mr. Jobs has stepped down as the CEO of Apple, and that marks the end of an era. But it seems to me that, while news organizations wanted to keep readers informed, some went out of their way to either sensationalize the event for the sake of ratings or took it as an opportunity to call a successful future for Apple into question or, worse, rolled out some of their Steve Jobs obituary material. Geting through the noise has been tough.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

I thought TMO did a good job of reporting the news and adding some color around the edges. What really interested me, however, is that the people who cover Apple 24 x 7 are fairly optimistic about Apple’s future. And then there are the people you’ve never heard of who say that Apple is doomed. Par for the course.

The best article I read all week, besides the TMO coverage, was this insightful and whimsical piece by Horace Dediu: “PolyMath.

Here’s a cogent, visual recap of the progress Apple has made under Steve Jobs since 1997. Amazing.

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As for the other events this week, what I think I’m seeing is the sudden impact of the post-PC era on the minds of senior executives. Smartphones and iPads, that is, mobility, is the future, so until the followers can get their act together, they’re litigating to mark their territory on the battlefield. (I guess they could also try peeing, like my cat.)

But that’s not all. Building PCs has become a low profit margin business for Hewlett-Packard. And so, they came to the same realization that IBM came to previously when it sold its PC business to Lenovo. There’s no money to be made anymore selling PCs, and it’s time to bail. Some may pick up the crumbs and ride the continued, remaining wave of world wide demand.

More importantly, some serious strategic thinking is going on. For example, there are only four viable tablet OSes: Android, iOS, webOS, and Windows 8. If Apple could, for example, acquire (or simply threaten to acquire) HP’s webOS patents, those companies being sued into oblivion over Android would have to turn to Microsoft. And we all know how hip Microsoft is when it comes to tablets. So Samsung might be thinking defensively in the face of Apple’s hugh pile of cash. That takes time and money and drains a company of cash reserves need for R&D. It really is like an 18th century naval battle with guns amidships blazing away.

Naval Battle

In short, all these acquisitions, product failures, patent law suits and strategic moves are designed to position companies so that they can compete with Apple. The only problem is that Apple has a huge head start, and only a small percentage of the consumer base likes to go with niche products. Beta never caught up with VHS, Mac OS never caught up with Windows, and tablet competitors are never going to catch up with the iPad. And as the competitors, in panic, reshuffle their deck chairs, they’re not really developing the technologies they need to get caught up. Or, if they do, they’re very, very late to the game. So there’s trial and error and carnage. You might even call it particle debris:  What to do with your HP TouchPad?

Of course, when you work these deals, you hope that it will all work out. It may not. Henry Blodget makes the case that the Google-Motorola deal won’t. “THE TRUTH ABOUT THE GOOGLE-MOTOROLA DEAL: It Could End Up Being A Disaster.” He makes some good points. And I’ll make my own: We know that Apple has become wildly successful by avoiding acquisitions of failing or even mediocre companies. Seldom do we see a huge success from one company trying to infuse its own company with another. (Apple’s absorption of NeXT is an exception because Apple got Steve Jobs in the deal.) So, by definition, Google isn’t likely to benefit greatly by acquiring Motorola. Again, the process will drain and distract Google.

The net result of all this squabbling and distraction is that none of the current tablets are really getting any traction. Don Reisinger has made a list of the tablets he thinks should just call it quits.

All the above makes me think that none of the current tablet makers can give Apple a run for its money. New players, having learned by watching, will now emerge. But, again, they’ll be getting an even later start.

Here’s an interesting story, filled with anecdotes, about why the PC makers can’t seem to catch up with Apple’s MacBook Air. For one, they can’t risk change. “Windows Laptop Makers Can’t Catch Up to the MacBook Air.

The record labels dragged their feet while Apple dragged them into the future. The turmoil in that industry has been staggering. Now, the same thing is happening in the textbook industry — the publishers are dragging their feet and can’t quite figure out how to make money with textbooks on iPads, and it’s creating frustration. See: “iPad, I Saw, I Waited: The State of E-Textbooks.”

iPad

Have you wondered about the age profile of iPad owners? It’s obvious when you think about it. Older users just don’t want to fuss with Windows-based computers nowadays. Here’s the not unexpected shift as the over 60 crowd jumps on the iPad bandwagon.

And last but not least, here’s an in-depth exploration of that very iPad phenomenon. Its everything you wanted to know about why every day consumers will give up their wretched desktop PCs and switch to tablets. This is highly recommended: “The Future of Desktops and Design of the Workstation OS,” by Josh Marinacci. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and savor this one.

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Comments

Lee Dronick

Here?s the not unexpected shift as the over 60 crowd jumps on the iPad bandwagon.

Oh yeah! I am over 60 and have an iPad and can see how us ” older folks” would go for it.

mhikl

Yup. So much pontification on this transition I had to get my own in at Forbes:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/briancaulfield/2011/08/26/apple-ceo-tim-cook-the-one-that-didnt-get-away/

You are correctish.

Howeverish, what if Steve knows that he may not exactly be dying at this very moment but understands that his longevity is in real question? We know he ain?t going to spin 90.

Regardless his timing with the Grim Reaper, Steve is going to die. We all are. So, doesn?t it make sense that he pass the helm to someone who is very well respected so Steve can still keep a fairly high profile in a low profile sort of way and when his time does come, soon or not so soon, Tim boy will have cemented his image and style in the minds of the public and the press?

Now that sounds like a plausible course of reality that covers all possibilities. It allows for eating one?s cake and having it too. Unless, of course, Steve pops off tomorrow

I should have writ lower profile instead of low profile.

John Martellaro

So, doesn?t it make sense that he pass the helm to someone who is very well respected so Steve can still keep a fairly high profile in a low profile sort of way and when his time does come, soon or not so soon, Tim boy will have cemented his image and style in the minds of the public and the press?

Nicely said.

RonMacGuy

I think Tim’s first job in the big chair should be to buy patents/webOS from HP for a couple $ Billion (a drop in the well), set up an “Apple Event” and set the only remaining computer with the webOS source code on fire and watch it burn!! Destroy webOS.  Why?  Windows is light-years behind in the mobile OS market, and with the google/Motorola union this would leave no where for Samsung or HTC to go.  It would be fun to then watch Samsung and HTC trying to find a way to make android work while google/motorola start to build their own stuff while screwing said Samsung/HTC.  Would be very interesting…

mhikl

Ron, during my weekly visit to my shrink, I mentioned your name to him and he said he was well aware of your posts. He’d like you to join me in my next visit.

RonMacGuy

mhikl,

I am LMFAO!! Thank you, I needed a good laugh after a stressful week!!

Tell your shrink that I have severe Bosco issues and I’ll see him next week. My shrink dropped me once I described Bosco in great detail to her - she thought I was too looney to proceed!!  Said I was off my bleeding nut!!

Lee Dronick

I was talking to my barista about you two guys and she sad not to sweat it, but recommended I get a tall bold and a croissant. Sage advice from a willowy twenty something who has never left her hometown.

mhikl

croissant

Ah, the croissant. Would never tastes as sweet as its history is savoured with a tall bold and a willowy twenty something on the side.

http://socyberty.com/history/how-bakers-in-vienna-invented-the-croissant/

mhikl

Quote: The only problem is that Apple has a huge head start, and only a small percentage of the consumer base likes to go with niche products. Beta never caught up with VHS, Mac OS never caught up with Windows, and tablet competitors are never going to catch up with the iPad.

As we cry, “O, the poetry, the poetry!”; while the competition cries, “Oh, the humanity”, or would it be ” I’ve seen horrors… horrors that you’ve seen.”

Lee Dronick

As we cry, ?O, the poetry, the poetry!?; while the competition cries, ?Oh, the humanity?, or would it be ? I?ve seen horrors? horrors that you?ve seen.?

“Assemble all the poor men of your sort. Draw them to Tiber banks, and weep your tears, into the channel till the lowest stream. do kiss the most exalted shores”

mhikl

Sir Henry, I don’t remember by basest metal ever being moved. I was more concerned with Brutus’ safety. Would that make Brutus, Apple, or need I revisit that worthy play. I don’t’ believe I like the outcome. But then that was history and this is history in the making.

Good choice, regardless.

Lee Dronick

Sir Henry, I don?t remember by basest metal ever being moved. I was more concerned with Brutus? safety. Would that make Brutus, Apple, or need I revisit that worthy play. I don?t? believe I like the outcome. But then that was history and this is history in the making.

Julius Caesar is one my favorite Shakespeare plays, but the real story of is much more interesting than the play. Brutus was quite possibly Caesar’s illegitimate son and that was not much of a secret.

“How many ages hence?
Shall this our lofty scene be acted o’er,?
In Macs unborn, and OSs yet unknown!”

wab95

Gentlemen, I hate to interrupt this festival of the arts, but I wish to make a more mundane point, if you permit.

John:

Josh Marinacci’s piece on the workstation OS is excellent. I believe that he is right about who needs a general purpose OS that is both ‘wide and deep’. I also agree with the point that the transitional event horizon for the tablet/workstation divide is nearer than not (it may be nearer than 5 years in high-income resource-rich countries).

That said, one of the engineering challenges ahead is to design systems, as well as applications, that can exploit the capacity of those systems (including the hardware) that are intuitive, easy to learn, and get out of the way to let the human work. Additionally, they need to be responsive and learning-enabled with respect to how the human uses them, responding to what the human is trying to do, and offering solutions in real-time without being intrusive. No mean feat; and here is where a company like Apple can excel. I cannot tell you how many times I have stopped using software because I simply no longer have the time to invest in learning a non-standard interface to do one or two tasks.

Software engineers can facilitate ease of use by using common standards interfaces, at least as the port of entry. When I fire up the app, if I’m the least bit familiar with say a standard word processing app or a data analysis app, I should know how to use this one, at least to get started. Afterwards, as I go to save my work or am trying to do something creative, the app can offer me options and teach me, on the job, how to do that. The next time I open it, and to do that task, I’ll know some of the unique, within-app-tools I can use. But I should not have to spend time learning that before I open the app and get to work. I’ll return the app to the company first. I believe, to borrow a phrase, that ‘the software was created to serve man, and not man to serve the software’ (to paraphrase).

Another OS feature I would add to Josh?s list (and app feature) is ‘adaptability’. By that, I mean not only the iterative process to which I refer above in task completion, but a robustness feature in the core OS that enables it to adapt to newer technologies as they come on board; either as minor updates or as dormant features that can be awakened with a preference change or simply by my style of usage. This requires forethought and planning by the engineers, and understanding of industry trajectory.

Finally, I see thematic convergence between the Marinacci piece and the Blattberg piece on e-textbooks. We have an entire generation growing up on ultraportable iDevices who are uncomfortable when NOT using these and having to use other media (paper - but I include myself in this category; ask me to scrawl more than my signature on a piece of paper and I’ll ask you to go see my admin assistant). While companies like Apple, Google and Amazon (and yes, even MS) are working to create a new working paradigm without dead trees (you just need to see parts of the world where people die every rainy season because they’ve cut down all their trees for money), publishing houses recapitulate the Quixotic windmill tilt of the music industry against time and change, at the expense of our next generation.

The point being, how we work has changed forever. We now enter a period where we differentiate by tool-type; and those tools need to become progressively more defined and robust to accommodate those needs.

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