More and more, there are all kinds of articles, coming out from under the woodwork, criticizing Apple. The stock is down, no one likes how much they have to pay for the iPad mini, and Tim Cook is making management changes at Apple. All this is inviting ever more pompous armchair criticism. What’s happening to cause this?
Ever since Steve Jobs took the industry’s breath away in January 2007 when he announced the iPhone, Apple has been perceived to be at the top of the heap in smartphones. When Apple, again caught the tech industry napping with the iPad in 2010, Apple was once again years ahead of the competition. Apple has had a great vision and the manufacturing know-how to exploit it.
We laughed at the early, silly attempts to copy the iPad, and for a year after the iPad launch, there was no credible competition in the 10-inch tablet market. Then, despairing of any original thought, companies took copying to a new level.
Now, almost three years after the iPad announcement, companies have figured out how to compete with Apple. Their mistakes have been corrected. Manufacturing and component supplies have improved. Now, Google, Samsung and Amazon are making cool, inexpensive tablets and mostly backing them up with infrastructure. Even Barnes & Noble has a very nice new tablet, the Nook HD, described by David Pogue as gorgeous.
Thanks to Apple’s leadership, PC sales are declining year over year and the age of the tablet has arrived. Everyone, and I mean everyone, wants to sell you a tablet. Even Toys R Us.
So, Apple isn’t insanely dominant now, but it’s doing very nicely. The company builds great products and prices them to make money while copycats try to carve out a niche. Pundits want oodles of choice, celebrate every new tablet as an iPad killer, then complain when Apple doesn’t maintain obscenely high market share. It’s a no-win game best left to masochists.
Back in the reality timeline, Tim Cook has said that he can’t predict when iPhone 5 supply will catch up with demand. Predictions are that the iPhone 5 will sell a hundred million units in its lifetime. The iPad mini pre-orders are sold out. And, by the way, the MacBook Pros with Retina displays are drop-dead-gorgeous and sell well.
But it’s fashionable now to question Apple in a time when it’s getting its affairs in order, when Tim Cook is exercing some leadership and developing a team that can compete in this new market. But any small mistake brings out the armchair quarterbacks because there’s money to be made by making people worry about their investment in a winner -- all in the cloak of being an unbiased outsider.
I think there’s such a thing as reading too much about Apple. I do it for a living, but you don’t have to. All the professional analysts concur that all’s well with Apple. But, hey, on the Internet, any outside consultant or blogger can agitate for a buck. Fomenting a little doubt creates page views and makes you look oh-so authoritative.
I must punctuate this discussion with one of my favorite quotes from Robert M. Hutchins. "It is not so important to be serious as it is to be serious about the important things. The monkey wears an expression of seriousness which would do credit to any college student, but the monkey is serious because he itches."
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Brent Ozar doesn’t think Microsoft can really get away with delivering the Word Preview as it exists on the Surface RT tablet. “The hardware makes promises that the software can’t deliver – and the ability to type faster than Word can digest is a great example of that. Sure, I understand that the shipped version is ‘Microsoft Word Preview,’ but you can’t deliver software like this. It’s a recipe for returned products – and frankly, that’s exactly what I’m going to do with the Surface RT, return it.”
From a formal review perspective, I think the most balanced review I’ve seen is at CNET: “Innovative tablet stranded in an app desert.” You knew that the Surface RT can’t run the standard Windows apps right? That’s because it uses an NVIDIA Tegra 3 CPU, based on ARM. So Windows/Intel binaries are excluded.
Bob Cringely thinks that Microsoft is in a pickle. The market for PCs is starting to dwindle as individuals, schools, companies and governments move to tablets. That trend can’t be reversed. But Microsoft is betting that people will want to keep running Windows on their tablets. That’s the bet of the century, and if Steve Ballmer and his successors lose that bet, Microsoft will go the way of Smith Corona. “Steve Ballmer’s Dilemma.”
For more on that, see Tim Bajarin’s “Windows 8: Back to the Future.”
There may be many reasons why Scott Forstall lost his job at Apple, and many columnists are busy exploring those reasons right now. Curiously, I was referred (by a little birdie) to this article just days after the Tim Cook announcement, and there is much to learn (or be reminded of) in terms of one’s behavior is this article that talks about being a senior engineer.
Sometimes outsiders who write about Apple ramble. They have a seed of an idea and can stitch together a story with a catchy title. As I’ve said before, experts in other fields often have experience that seems to apply to Apple, but they aren’t able to put it in larger perspective. This is one of those articles. It addresses two ideas, first, how Apple has exploited the “information layer,” and second, how Tim Cook needs to manage the current sentiment, if you will, about Apple. It’s worth a read perhaps because it uses a language and perspective we’re not accustomed to seeing from the Mac crowd. Even so, it also steps a little into the territory I described in the preamble above. Judge for yourself. “What's Really Going On At Apple?”
iPad mini. Image Credit: Apple
There is an emerging idea, at TMO and elsewhere, that the iPad mini could end up outselling the full sized iPad at some point. I’m not talking about cumulative sales. The iPad line sold it’s 100 millionth unit on October 9th, 2012. But at some point, the rate of sales of the iPad mini might just start outselling the 9.7-inch iPad series. Of course, Apple doesn’t mind the cannibalization, but the idea that this could happen at all is intriguing. Erica Sadun has some thoughts on this: “Does it matter if the iPad mini cannibalizes iPad sales?”
Recently, Apple made a change to iOS that requires the user to provide explicit permission to an app to access the contacts list. In contrast, Android apps, especially free ones, and especially games, are very likely to continue plundering information about your contacts and your location. For more on that, here’s an enlightening Juniper networks report. “Exposing Your Personal Information – There’s An App for That.”
I asked the author, Daniel Hoffman, if he had any thoughts on how the Android security -- or lack of it -- compared to iOS. He basically said that the closed nature of iOS apps makes it a lot harder to “access any insights into invasive and malicious application statistics....” Even so, what he found out about Android apps is enough to give one pause. It's a game of Who Do You Trust?
Finally, here’s more on Apple’s new Fusion Drive system: “How it works, and how to roll your own.” As for me? I’m done with internal hard disks for my boot system. All my Macs boot from SSDs now (except my wife’s iMac) but that will change in 2013.
Finger pointing via Shutterstock.