Particle Debris (wk. ending 8/12) Analyzing the Shifting Sands

| Particle Debris

We tend to think of serious enterprise coding being done in Windows or perhaps Linux. However, every once in a while, a startling fact comes out that upsets the conventional wisdom. Namely, while Windows holds first place as a development environment, the Mac has supplanted Linux for second place. That’s all the more surprising given that a lot of Java developers have left the Mac and moved to Linux. Here’s the story from CNET: “Coders choosing Mac OS over Linux environment.”

If you missed this link when I wrote about restoring iLife after a Lion reinstall, here’s the link again to Apple’s rather extensive Knowledge Base article: “OS X Lion: About Lion Recovery.” You’ll want to bookmark that one.

We all have plenty of experience with the consumerization of digital technologies that threaten a business model — for example CD ripping. But what about extending some of those technologies to law enforcement in the hands of citizens. Here’s a scary tale that will give you pause thinking about your Facebook or Google+ photo: “Google Group Members to Use Facial Recognition to Identify London Rioters.”

Shifting sands

What’s the number one thing you need to be able to do with a mobile phone? Why, make a phone call, of course. Suppose you picked up a BlackBerry on the street? How long would it take to simply dial a number? Professor Dennis Gallatta at Harvard wanted to find out, so he and his students did some experiments with newcomers to smartphones. Windows Phone 7 and the the iPhone came out on top, perhaps helped by years of experience with the design of of icons and discovery processes on the PC and Mac desktop. Here’s the story by Harry McCracken: “Harvard Students Put Smartphone Usability to the Test.”

Last week, I mentioned that Hewlett Packard was offering a special price on the TouchPad for just the weekend. That worked out pretty well, so HP decided to make the price cut permanent. Now it’s US$399 for the 16 GB model. While that may spur sales, it certainly does smell of brand dilution and desperation. The $399 price, I’m guessing, eats up most of HP’s profits. Apple has HP just where it wants them.

I know my readers special. They’re thoughtful and smart. So I’m not adverse to leading you all to a rather long essay by a remarkable fellow, Will Shipley. He talks about developing software, running a company and working hard for success. He contrasts with the mentality by some who want to start up a company fast, get famous, get bought out, end up rich and forsake the customers. Certainly Steve Jobs never had that motivation, Mr. Shipley reminds us. I think you’ll love this thoughtful essay, even though I’m a few months late finding it. “Success, and Farming vs. Mining.”

Okay, it’s drool time. Want to see what some people think the iPhone 5 will look like? MacRumors commissioned CiccareseDesign to create high quality renderings based on some leaked specifications from Chinese case manufacturers. It’s a clever way to back into some concept drawings, and I for one like what I see. “This Could Be What Apple’s iPhone 5 Looks Like.

Here’s an interesting open letter to the Twitter managers and board members. It too is rather long, but it’s chock full of insights into what a delicate position Twitter is in. The technology is not especially complicated or intrinsically valuable. Rather, the value has been provided by how people use Twitter, and that must be kept in mind. We could all pack up and go elsewhere, taking our value with us. Food for thought.

One of the issues related to the movement from PCs & Macs to tablets like the iPad is the usability of tablets. We admit, today, that there are some things better done on a MacBook than an iPad. So the key question is, at what point does the future generation tablet carry the load so well that the classic PC & Mac become obsolete. No doubt Apple has been asking itself that very question.

A lot of the answer comes in the form a more complete understanding of how human+computer activity can translate into gestures, advanced metaphors if you will. Here is some evidence that Apple is thinking about precisely that. “Apple Focused on Advancing iOS Metaphors to a Higher Level.”

Finally, this essay by IBM’s Chief Technology Officer for the Middle East and Africa is important in an interesting way. Most of it is a promo for IBM, and it contains a lot of fluff. Also, it’s all too easy to get worked up about Mr. Dean’s comment about the post-PC era: “But, while PCs will continue to be much-used devices, they’re no longer at the leading edge of computing. They’re going the way of the vacuum tube, typewriter, vinyl records, CRT and incandescent light bulbs.” That’s been quoted a lot this week.

But I think the more important observation is that Apple is wagging the dog. Apple is leading the entire world in technology now. We know that when a company like IBM is working hard to convince you that they’re also on the bandwagon of the technology that Apple is spearheading, then in the sense of Thomas Kuhn’s book, the paradigm for the future is set. In that sense, the concessions by Mr. Dean are profound. It’s one thing for Motorola and Samsung to throw a tablet out there. It’s quite another for one of IBM’s CTOs to adopt the vision and lay down his own, and IBM’s, roadmap for the future.

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Quote: Apple has HP just where it wants them. (We’ve Got You Where We Want You; Caught by the Short Hairs)

This could be an article unto itself, or an anthem, a personalised T-shirt, a chant by Apple enthusiasts, a camp fire song, a roaring good tale:

“Up my back, an’ in my boots, an’ in the short hair av the neck - . . .” They’ll shout and carry on like this for five minutes. Then they’ll rush in, and then we’ve got ‘em by the short hairs!”

?from The Drums of the Fore and Aft, Rudyard Kipling, Indian Tales, 1890


You are right John, the Farming vs. Mining article is long for those who do not enjoy the time to savour a good moment. I wasn?t quite sure where it was going and I didn?t try to think ahead?I just enjoyed the ride. A well written article can touch the soul as a literary tale does. For the hurried, here?s what I think captures the spirit and bodes well the AppleFan who knows why Apple does what it does and why it ain?t a crapshoot.

Quote: The people who really change the world are farmers. Steve Jobs works constantly on his products, every waking minute of every day. He lives and sleeps and breathes them. He’s obsessive and crazy and kind of scary ? but he’s trying to build something. He didn’t just say, “Here’s my idea: . . . BAM! Go make it happen. Ima jump in the sauna.” That simply doesn’t work. God is in the details. In the implementation.

And the rest I leave for my Saturday morning cuppa.


Apple has HP just where it wants them.

Well, figure that the iPad costs Apple $270.50 to manufacture.  I would imagine that the HP Touchpad is about the same.  HP certainly isn’t losing money on the deal.

John Martellaro

Peter.  Oh, if the cost of parts were the only cost!  There are some others: the charger, documentation, packaging, shipping, warehousing and ongoing marketing.  There’s also the amortized cost of the webOS software that has to be recovered, per unit. I’m sure I haven’t thought of everything.

Of course, I never said HP is losing money on the TouchPad. Merely that most of the profit is gone.


iPad parts costs may be lower dew to Apple’s practice of using its’ huge cash reserves to buy up large quantities at good prices. Not sure HP is buying in bulk like Apple. One company’s costs are not another’s.


John , I do suspect HP doesn’t making any profit and is actually losing money on every sale. I have seen manufacture costs for the 16GB iPad that range from $187 to $325 per unit. What ever Apple pays, HP does not have the scale of purchase to command component prices Apple does.

Peter says: ?Well, figure that the iPad costs Apple $270.50 to manufacture.  I would imagine that the HP Touchpad is about the same.  HP certainly isn?t losing money on the deal.?

Let?s go with your scenario. The profit for HP would then be about $130 and for Apple, about $230.

HP, however, probably sells most of its pads through Walmart, Best Buy and other commercial stores. Commercial stores usually expect to take half the sale price. Thus the commercial seller expects to make $200 on a $400 HP pad. A store may sell for less, but in the end, HP would still only be receiving the other $200. HP would not even be covering its $270 cost of production much less make any profit. Meanwhile, Apple, selling through its own stores, does make a profit of $230, based upon your scenario.

John Martellaro

mhikl.  Excellent point.  I’ve even written about that, but forgot to mention it to Peter. After the $100 price cut and then the take by HP’s retailers, and all the other things I mentioned, the margin is all gone. Thanks mhikl.


Will Shipley says -The stock market itself encourages this behavior: what?s important to the market is the potential growth of your sales, not your current sales, since the point of buying stock is to sell the stock to someone else later on, at a higher price. -

Is that right?  Some of the world’s most successful investors consider dividend yield to be very important.  Neil Woodford for example.

That really took the edge off a very good essay.

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