Like a New Solar System, Apple is Formed by Clashing Forces

Everything is About the Balance of Forces

Humans beings are stretched to the limit when it comes to analysis that has substance when also burdened by the need to be timely and appealing. Headlines are designed to attract attention and make bold claims. As a result, much of the time, nothing is as it seems.

The real substance comes from understanding the opposing forces. Sometimes one force is more dominant on the Internet because it's in a group's interest or perspective to emphasize that side of the picture. Even so, the opposing forces are there to find.

Apple isn't the only company affected, but many of this week's examples come from Apple.

  • Is Java on OS X just plain dead? It certainly isn't for those who need it.
  • What happens when a company's own need to survive comes into conflict with its partner's needs? How do they navigate the rocky shoals and avoid sinking together?
  • The free service Facebook is desperate to increase its revenues, and that will lead to annoying ad intrusions. Must that always be the balance or is there a way out? Can Apple find it?
  • Is the success metric for selling 35 million iPhones in a quarter whether or not Apple could have sold more? Or should it also be looked at in terms of the health of the ecosystem for developers?
  • Are books printed on paper doomed to early extinction? Should savvy publishers (and tablet makers) make that assumption?
  • Does the Post-PC era mean that PC makers should close up shop? Or rethink their mobile offerings? Now that the tablet era has arrived, should we expect another big revolution in the next 12 months? Or are we in a typical transition period?

One of the lessons of modern technology is that nothing is as it seems. One has to dig around a little bit and form a cohesive model of what's going on. Otherwise one is just like being a member of a giant school of fish, drawn into a perfect sphere, working to maintain that instinctive defensive position, trying to avoid a dolphin feast. I liked this week's items because they told me something about balancing forces. They penetrated the surface effects and suggested that not all is as it seems. That's not sexy, but it's good writing.


Tech News Debris For the Week of April 15

Apple is a company that prides itself on moving relentlessly forward with technology, but when 27 percent of your OS base is still using Snow Leopard, it's responsible to listen to them. Plus, there are plenty of enterprise customers who need to run Java applets on their Macs for just one or two business related functions. Perhaps an in-house, trusted application. And so, I was very pleased to see the changes Apple made in Safari this week to accomodate those needs. I was also pleased to hear that Oracle changes its mind and would continue to provide updates for Java 6 JRE. Gregg Keizer fills us in, and it's one of the most pleasing articles I've read in awhile. "Apple keeps patching Java on OS X Snow Leopard after proposed drop-dead date." A must read whether you're using Snow Leopard or not.

Most everything you need to know about the pressure Facebook is under to generate revenue for its free service is right here. "Planned Facebook Ads Go Big But Less Social — And Users Will Hate Them."

Essentially Facebook is caught in the same vicious cycle as the TV networks: deliver content for free (well, except for cable access fees) and support the content with commercials, this time, that can't be suppressed or ignored. It seems we're stuck with those two opposing, eternal forces, "free" and "ads. It's why we hunger for Apple to change the rules.

And most everything you need to know about Facebook Home is right here: "Facebook Home's Uniquely Flawed Experience Examined." Some salient quotes:

Facebook Home is on most of the time and therefore like all active apps, uses power. I will estimate that my battery life was reduced by 30%....As you would expect, Facebook Home heated up my phone, warmer than any game had done. This is simple physics, but not something you expect from a social media app."

All that heat. All that processing power. Working behind our back, a black box, doing what? It's a scary thought. In this case, the balance is a free service that mesmerizes people against the invasion of privacy. But with Facebook, there is little choice for most -- it's like the (euphemistic) Three Laws of Thermodynamics. "You can't win. You can't break even. You can't even get out of the game." A boring smartphone can be a good thing.

There's a saying. "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you always got." That seems to be relevant for Microsoft, in this case its miserable positioning with tablets is combined with a need to maintain its Windows and Office hegemony. And so, as Microsoft eases into the hardware business, its OEM partners are annoyed. And they're speaking about it publicly. Caught between its own vision and the needs of its partners, Microsoft looks to be doing some mild waffling with Windows 8. This article sums it all up. "What a Windows 8 U-turn will mean for the PC."

That situation makes me wonder about how Apple will work with the HDTV OEM vendors for Apple's so-called iTV project. It'll be a real intreresting case of balance of interests.

On April 23rd, we'll have all the details of Apple's health by the time the Q2 Earnings Report is over. (Apple's Q1 Fiscal quarter is Oct-Dec.) Meanwhile, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster is projecting a sale of 35.5 million iPhones for last quarter. Anyway you slice it, selling that many iPhones in 3 months (16,400+ per hour) is an amazing feat. Plus it's a testimony to continuing customer interest in Apple, even if some financial observers are disgruntled that the sales number isn't trending, to their satisfaction, to some other fantasy number.

It's easy to surmise that eBooks are on a linear path to replace paper books, but, as usual, when one digs into the customer buying habits, one finds surprises. This summary is just an overview, but takes note of the fact that not everyone who can buy ebooks for their iPad or Kindle do so. Understanding that is important for the publishing industry. "More Than 50 Million in U.S. Read Ebook in 2012, But Their Habits Are Changing."

I noted this in my own series on eBooks here at The Mac Observer. An iPad user has to make a conscious decision about what kinds of eBooks are bought and for what platform. Apparently, customers are figuring this out. The implication may well be that books on paper aren't as doomed as some would claim.

Remember the days of the PC wars when Apple customers bitched that some new and exciting app was coming out for Windows first and wondered when, or if, they'd see it on the Mac? Nowadays, the situation is reversed. Despite the popularity and market share of Android, hard-nosed business people are realizing that the real business prospects lie in iOS. And so, most developers go iOS first. Here's the analysis: "Where’s Twitter Music For Android? Why Today’s Tech Companies Are Still Going iOS First."

I note that the success of a platform is related to how good a job a hardware company does helping other companies in its ecosphere make money. If developers were to turn their backs on Apple for business reasons, that would be a disaster. Instead, developers are embracing Apple. And in that light, WWDC will be announced soon, and the time it takes to sell out the event is not a reflection of the craziness of youth. It's a confirmation that developers believe they can make serious money selling software to Apple customers.

Well, maybe not quite yet!

Finally, Ben Bajarin reflects on the structure and fate of the PC industry. It's not about how PCs are going to dry up and blow away in the Post-PC era. (A theme of mine and Bryan Chaffin's as well.) Rather, it's all about how PC makers are going to arrive at a better understanding of what customers really need. That's more boring than a glitzy technology revolution, made to order, on schedule, but it really does apply. Apple has shown that it understands this with its MacBook line. Read Mr. Bajarin's thoughts at: "The PC Industry of the Past is Not the PC Industry of the Future."

Nothing is as it seems until you find the balancing of forces and the fundamental reasons for conflicts. Headlines make monolithic claims in 64 characters or less, but the truth is out there.


Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event of the week combined with a summary of articles that didn't make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays. 


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RIP/PC image made with help and help from Shutterstock.