Customers? No. Fans? You Betcha

Ah, brick and mortar stores. I can smell the hardwood right now. My own reaction to the downfall of the Gateway stores, and I’ve been in one back in the 1990s, was that the focus was on sales . Just sales. And Gateway didn’t even do a good job at that because you couldn’t walk out of the store, in general, with a product. The stores were designed to demo and take an order. In some cases, I surmise, and it happend to my wife, you’d poke around, then leave, finding that you couldn’t actually buy what you wanted.

FansIf that’s the case, then the real secret is not sales. It’s solving a problem. The Gateway people could’t begin to handle the intricacies of Windows, all they wanted was your credit card for the hardware. In the Apple stores, as we know, the focus is on answers. And occasional maintenance. And everything that’s on display can be purchased, right there, on the spot. So that’s why the Apple stores succeeded when the pundits who sized up the Gateway failure incorrectly, said the Apple stores would fail. Wow. What a simple concept.

With that, we have Amazon getting into the brick and mortar business, at least on a tiny scale. Is their motivation envy? Or is it a genuine recognition that service and support can only be done in person? If so, look out all you other merchants. Here’s some good background on Amazon and Microsoft’s thinking for that matter. “Why Amazon Will Create Brick and Mortar Retail Stores.

There are rumors that supplies of the Apple TV, second generation, are drying up and not being replaced. That has led to speculation that we’re on the brink of a new Apple TV, 3G. What might such a device have? Enhanced support for AirPlay Mirroring? Elimination of wired Ethernet? IPv6 capability? Send me you thoughts; I’m thinking hard about this.

Anyway, along those lines, I read this week that Comcast has stemmed the tide of cord-cutters. Philip Swann at TV Predictions says it’s because Comcast has radically improved its service — not to mention a great iPad app. And the subscriber growth of DIRECTV has subsided. Mr. Swann’s claim is that the fraction of people who actually cut the cord are small and that it’s really movement between services. Plus, the economy is improving somewhat, so some might be coming back into the market. In light of all that, and what Apple may be up to, it’s interesting to see what Roku is doing. They’re actually courting the cable guys and playing nice. This might be a short term thing, or it might be strategic: shoring up against what Apple may be planning. In any case, ponder: “Roku Plays Nice With Cable Guys.” Think of it as a precursor.

Meanwhile, here’s a temporary solution for AirPlay Mirroring. And when Mountain Lion ships, will AirPlay Mirroring drive Hollywood bananas? Ryan Faas thinks there’s not much they can do.

If you follow my other writings, you know that one of my technical interests is ebooks and ebook publishing. One of the trends, just one, is that some publishers, and yes, book stores, are having a hard time figuring out how to make money with ebooks. Again, it all seems to circle back to the customer relationship. I saw a tweet this week that said essentially, you don’t want customers, you want fans. Anyway, here’s some food for thought. “Indie Bookseller On E-Books: ‘I Don’t Think We’ll Ever Make Money On Them’.”

I knew Matt MacInnis back when we both worked for Apple, and so it warmed my heart to see that he’s all over ebook publishing these days at a new company. I want to find out more about Inkling, so I think I’ll look him up. In the meantime, take a look at what Inlking has been doing all along in light of Apple’s recent iBooks Author announcement. As they say in English class, compare and contrast. “The Death of the Page, the Dawn of Digital

Matt MacInnisMatt MacInnis

Tim Cook has said that the Ultrabook makers are going to have a hard time copying the MacBook Air. It’s hard to know exactly what he meant by that, but one hint comes from this article: “Apple MacBook Air Patented; Beware, Ultrabook Makers.TMO already alluded to what Apple is up to. Looking at the Asustek Zenbook (see next link), it’s not hard to figure out why Apple is leaning on Pegatron.

If you follow John Gruber, you’ve already read this rather neat story about how he was introduced to Mountain Lion by Phil Schiller in person. If not, check it out. It’s a great read.

The corporate design and marketing consultant said, “Your name is Windows. Why are you a flag?” And with that, yet another redesign of the Windows logo was launched. Here’s the story of how the Windows logo has evolved over the years. Fascinating read: “Redesigning the Windows Logo.” Of course, Apple altered its own iconic logo, but just once, going from rainbow to monochrome. And JC Penney, under Ron Johnson (formerly Apple’s VP of Retail Sales), just changed theirs. So it does happen. With Microsoft, it’s just more often. What do you think of it?

In our weakest and most fancy-free moments, we tend to think of Apple as a company that prefers to protect our privacy. And it does. And we are fans of that. Also, we know that Steve Jobs embraced that notion authentically. But what are the secondary benefits? This article takes a more in-depth look at the business of privacy. Probably not what you wanted to hear, but good for you anyway. “A Sad State of Internet Affairs: The Journal on Google, Apple, and ‘Privacy’.


Fans image credit: Shutterstock.