The tech press needs to play up the competition to the iPad as much as possible, because drama drives clicks. But the reality is that Apple's iPad is so far ahead of everything else that it's almost out of sight. Have you used one of the 'iPad killers'? That is not competition. It's a joke. You can't even buy any of them, except for Samsung's Galaxy Tab. [And the Motorola Xoom, but only at retail Best Buy in America, from what I can tell.]
I applaud Samsung [and Motorola] for giving it a real try, but I think they fall short of the iPad. Few people are buying those things. I wouldn't, myself. I have some Android phones, but I probably won't get an Android tablet, if Honeycomb indicates where the platform is heading.
The lack of competition is allowing Apple to, rightfully, do whatever it wants to with the App Store. And I don't see the situation changing anytime soon. Apple is making the rest of the consumer tech industry look incompetent.
Serious competition with the iPhone took time to emerge, but it did. It's a temporary advantage, not a permanent one, as are all such advantages. Just as in the iPhone arena, Apple won't stand still but eventually it will not be able to singlehandedly defeat everybody on all fronts.
But while they lead, they will rake in the bucks, and more power to them. I don't want them to be the only viable company out there and I'm not personally a fan of their products per se (don't "hate" them but they do not sing to me) but I'm glad they're out there pushing the envelope in a way few other companies are. Smartphones and tablets would still have happened eventually but I'm sure they moved the timeline up a good two or three years. (I wouldn't go much further though; the major factor driving the iPad is that the tech is finally ready. You simply couldn't build an iPad as recently as 2007 and have anything like the same experience at any price.)
In some ways it doesn't even matter if they have competition or not, since Apple effectively defines the category and the expectations of the users. Even now, smart phones are generally playing catch-up to the iPhone. Yes, there is some innovation above and beyond Apple; Windows Phone 7 is surprisingly impressive, and the Web OS notification system is arguably superior. But, the comparison always comes back to the iPhone or iPad, just as it did to the iPod. By providing the first truly mainstream offering in each category, Apple establishes its products as the benchmark. This gives it the freedom to go where it thinks makes sense, instead of being stuck following the leader.
> defines the category and the expectations of the users
It's stunning how long that has been true. The modern desktop OS is patterned after the Macintosh, modern laptops all use the form factor introduced by the Powerbook 100s, and now all the best phones are made to look like an iPhone.
First of all, the modern desktop OS is patterned after the work of Xerox PARC.
Second of all, that form factor was used before Apple introduced the Powerbook.
Last but not least, best phone doesn't equal slab of touch-sensitive glass that drops calls when you hold it wrong. Touch screens in general aren't a great fit when it comes to phone use. If we're talking phones, models like the Nokia E52 beat the pants off of any touch model.
Can you find an example of a pre-PowerBook laptop that has a form factor with these traits?
* Clamshell with hinge at the back of the case, not in the middle.
* Keyboard at the back of the case.
* Blank area in front of the keyboard to rest your wrists.
* Pointing device centered in this blank area, with mouse buttons below pointer.
There were earlier laptops with some of those elements, but I'm pretty sure the PowerBook was the first to bring them all together.
In this case I believe that crediting Apple for setting the bar on what a graphical user interface for a personal computer should look like is accurate. While they did borrow heavily from Xerox PARC and certainly didn't invent the dekstop, Apple put a compelling product in front of the masses.
"the only similarity between Android and iPhone is the form factor"
Where form factor includes size, shape, interaction paradigm and user interface conventions, software delivery mechanism, full web browser, on screen keyboard, accelerometer as a key user input device, ... and probably many other things I am forgetting.
If you look at most "smart phones" today, they will be surprisingly similar to the original iPhone (or at least the iPhone version when the App Store appeared).
> the only similarity between Android and iPhone is the form factor
That's a huge similarity, though. Didn't the original Android plans have a keyboard and look like a Blackberry? And what about the talk about using a stylus with a touchscreen - that talk didn't die until after the iPhone came out.
Android is a copycat, I don't deny that, but it has important differences that make it better than the iPhone in certain cases and viceversa. You can hate iPhone because you can't install apps outside the AppStore for instance and that's not even related to the hardware.
That being said, I don't think that touchscreens should win against keyboard phones, both have certain advantages. A stylus is not necessarily a bad thing either. e.g: drawing, using the phone with gloves on, etc.
There's current Android phones still being announced with keyboards that look like a Blackberry (plus other's with various kinds of slide out keyboards). And the new HTC 7" Android tablet has a stylus.
Serious competition with the iPhone took time to emerge, but it did. It's a temporary advantage, not a permanent one
I'm not convinced that's true.
The more integrated the iOS platform gets, the more effort it takes another company to get from scratch to competitor.
The more effort it takes, the more money and people it needs, and the bigger the potential competitor has to be to try it.
And what are bigger companies worse at? Pivoting, innovating, making well integrated polished products that mass market consumers thrill over.
Is it possible that the further we get from "any company putting current off-the-shelf technology into a package", the less likely we are to ever see "serious competition"?
Maybe Apple is a freak one-off. Maybe Apple will put a retina screen in the iPad 3, enable wireless sync and full airplay so it doesn't need a storage space bump, and that's it. No revolutionary changes left in that niche, "Post PC" finished, no other companies in any position to do anything but copycat and Apple spends a few years polishing the software integration in their ecosystem, SJ leaves, Apple stagnates. The next decade of "computing" started, dead-ended and finished and it's iPad clones and Windows 8 notebooks until 2020.
The difference from smartphones is that carriers are pushing Android. It's a free OS they have total control over, unlike the Apple-controlled iOS. Tablets aren't phones and must stand on their own as legitimate appliance computers. Apple has proven before that it can win that kind of battle--the iPod has been the dominant MP3 player for almost a decade.
Xoom can be bought online at Verizon or Moto websites. That nitpick aside it isn't anywhere near as bad as you are making it out to be. I am typing this post on one.
The browser is far better. The OS is far more usable than the iPad, the higher screen resolution is great - I can RDP into my work PC and use it all day. The hardware is top notch, and battery life is plenty. I haven't connected it to a PC yet - have my apps, music and video wirelessly synced! Once Flash is out and Moto ships SD Card enabling update I have everything I need from a PC replacement tablet.
People sadly have just decided to exclusively fall for whatever Apple markets them and there is no convincing them to drop their prejudices.
We got a Xoom delivered to the office yesterday and the first-time experience was terrible. It locked up 10 seconds after turning it on and displayed the keyboard and nothing else on the screen. 6 engineers played with it for a few minutes trying to get the home screen to show up but we couldn't so we forced a hard restart. That seemed to work and we got into the setup process which forces you to pick wireless connectivity. In our case, the Xoom had extreme trouble finding one of the three networks set up at the office and was unresponsive for long periods of time. Finally after it did find the network we used the browser for 2 minutes and it froze and then that managed to freeze the recent-apps sidebar listing panel as well.
This all happened in the first 15 minutes of us pulling it out of the box. If this thing is supposed to compete with the iPad and now the iPad 2, I'd say Motorola already blew it with most consumers. I'm a geek, and so are my coworkers, so we have more patience than many, but at the end of yesterday the consensus in engineering was that the Xoom is a hunk of junk compared to the iPad, and even the Apple-haters at work admitted so.
Ugh. That's a nasty experience. Did you get the Verizon plan, or did you try to activate it without configuring 3G first? Up until launch day, everybody believed you needed to activate it on Verizon before WiFi would work.
My Xoom had greasy fingerprints all over the protective plastic film, which was gross. But once I peeled the plastic off, everything worked great. It found my password-protected wifi network without any configuration at all, which means that Google must somehow have copied the access credentials from my phone. Freaky but convenient.
I've seen a couple of the built-in apps force close in about a week of very heavy use, and the OS rebooted once after I did something unkind to it.
It's definitely a 1.0-quality product, with some rough edges, but my experience has been vastly better than what you went through. If it weren't so pricey, I'd happily give one to a non-technical family member. Oh, and if it had decent video-watching options: The biggest problem right now is the lack of Flash and Netflix.
I think Motorola's problem is quality control, and perhaps releasing too early.
I had a Droid 2 that had all sorts of problems (I've been complaining about it on HN for a few months). Finally the camera stopped focusing, and I took it to Verizon. They gave me a brand new unit on warranty (which I was impressed with, it took two minutes for the Vz guy to suggest that. Or maybe they have a lot of problems with these?).
This phone is so much better than the one I had before. The problems I had with my original Droid - home screen weirdness, four different camera problems, locking up on the unlock screen, etc. are not present in this phone. I don't know if it's new firmware, or that the hardware on my old one was bad, or a combination.
So you might just have a flaky individual tablet. That wouldn't really be excusable, of course... Motorola needs to step up their game if they are going to challenge Apple.
Yes but for most non geeks, the Xoom doesn't do much beyond the built in apps, whereas the iPad has 65,000 apps they can use today. That might be different in a year's time but the average user would be crazy to choose a Xoom over an iPad 2 now for that reason alone.
Maybe I'm the weird one, but in nearly a year of using my iPad every day, I've simply found that apps don't matter nearly as much (for me) as they do on a phone. There are a handful of really popular apps like Kindle and Twitter, but those are also the ones that run everywhere. Looking at my iPad usage, there are only about 10-12 apps I use regularly. Most of them have equal or better Android versions (browser, mail, kindle, zinio, etc.). The one app I use that has no good replacement is Papers.
Like I said, I use my iPad constantly. But the things I hate about the first one, I hate about the second one too (notifications, no filesystem access, low-res screen). It's smaller, lighter, and faster, but the first one was small, fast, and light enough.
Meanwhile, I have an Android phone and there's a lot of stuff I like there. Especially on a large screen like the iPad/Xoom, the iOS notification system and static grid of icons on the home screen are just criminal. I'm going to buy a Xoom and give it a shot.
Umm no - most existing Android apps work and look good on the Xoom. Better than the iPhone apps looked on the iPad. I gave it to my wife who has an iPod touch and she has yet to complain about lack of apps - I found most of what is needed for her. So lack of apps is not really a burning problem.
I think the Apple mind control conspiracy theory stuff is a bit outdated these days. You can 'convince' a small number of people to choose one product over another for superficial reasons through clever marketing but that's not a very good explanation when you're talking about tens of millions of people. If Apple had these secret mind control talents they would have 'convinced' people not to buy Android phones or Windows PCs. For now it just happens that they have a big head start and consumers simply don't know (or care) about the alternatives yet or just aren't sold on them.
Which is irrelevant because when the iPad came out there are more than 3,000 dedicated apps, many of them from household brands, and there was no competition.
I'm not saying the Android tablets aren't competitive with how the iPad was at launch. I'm asking why a regular consumer would choose an unproven tablet with a tiny number of apps over a proven tablet with 65,000 apps today.
A more interesting benchmark would be "time spent in each app". Sure, there are eight trillion apps for the iPad. But I bet most people spend 95% of their time in the browser (or an ebook reader), and the other 5% of their time in the email app.
Guess what, you can do that with a 386 laptop from 1995. Apple's success comes from convincing people, through marketing, that they want to do that on an iPad and not on something else.
I think that's probably true for some parts of the user base - particularly the more tech savvy - it's effectively true for me - I'll concede twitter and reeder as not much more than an extension of the browser or an ebook reader.
However I think you're underestimating how many non-tech savvy users find appliance-like apps much easier to understand than the web. Yesterday my wife borrowed my iPad to use with her mother to look at furniture on Craigslist.
She got me to buy a $2 craigslist app that I'd never dream of buying for myself which turned the iPad into a light-table of photos of stuff for sale linked to a map. Suddenly her mother could use Craigslist. At a certain point the screen blanked and she had a moment of panic of not knowing what to do - but then she realized there was only one button to press and everything was ok again.
That 386 laptop from 1995, or for that matter an iMac from 2011 requires a vastly more developed mental model in order to do anything. Even if most people can eventually learn this, it's work, whereas the ease of the app model on the iPad makes it relaxing and fun.
"Guess what, you can do that with a 386 laptop from 1995"
Then why do I want to do that on a 2011 Android clone tablet that costs more than the baseline Apple one (as of 3/2/11 more than $100 more)?
"Apple's success comes from convincing people, through marketing, that they want to do that on an iPad and not on something else."
They convince people that the things that they normally did on their desktop or notebook propped on their lap, they can now do on the couch curled up leaning against the arm of their favorite chair, perhaps with the TV on, as they pinch and zoom and tap and slide freely around a large, bright touchscreen instead of a tiny glidepad.
I agree "time spent in each app" is a better benchmark. In the event that Apple held an event in April 2010 announcing, among other things, iAds it was announced that the average user spends 30 minutes a day in apps. Again, this is the average user. I spend far more time than that, and I would also say that I probably spend, at least, 90% of my time in non-Apple apps.
Apps matter. More than any other consideration, including brand.
Right - I said in my original comment that the situation would change over the year, but for now an average user would be silly to buy a Xoom and only have blown up phone apps and hope that stuff they like gets developed in future, when they can buy an iPad 2 and have great dedicated apps today.
for now an average user would be silly to buy a Xoom and only have blown up phone apps
"Blown up phone apps" are much better on Android than the pixel doubling that the iPad does for iPhone apps. Android apps aren't hardcoded for a specific resolution, so most of them work well on tablets even without being specifically designed to.
That's not true. Ipad apps are usually gratuitously more expensive and if you buy them, you won't be able to use the app on your iPhone and iPod too. For most apps I stick with the standard version. Mind you, I only use my iPad rarely, usually for distraction on plane journeys; not recharged more than once a month.
No, I'm saying that I personally have bought relatively few apps that are specific to the iPad, and where there was a choice between an iPad and an iPhone app, the difference was not often compelling enough to get me to both pay extra and forego access to the same app on other devices. The killer app category for the iPad in my experience is distractions and games, and they don't lose much being scaled up.
Why did anyone buy an iPad when they came out? There were no iPad specific apps when it came out, and yet it sold well.
Clearly, Android has a good web browser and email client, and that's enough for many. Just as clearly there are a huge number of non-tablet specific apps that will run fine on the Android tablets, and Android developers are desperately releasing tablet apps as fast as they can to try and take advantage of the "gold rush" when a new platform launches.
I thought there were quite a lot of apps for the iPad at launch, thanks to an early SDK release. At least there was talk of another app-store gold rush, stories of non-US developers flying to the US for the launch day just so that they could immediately check whether their already published app worked on the real device, etc.
There were more than 3,000 tablet specific apps on day 1, and there was no competition.
New platforms don't automatically lead to a gold rush. There hasn't been one for the palm pre.
The argument you are making is that normal consumers will pick a more expensive android tablet with very few apps over an iPad 2 with thousands of apps, some of then mind-blowing on the basis that there will surely be a developer gold-rush.
Even if there is a developer gold-rush, people will still have to wait a year for then software to be written.
I can see enthusiasts doing that by but why on earth would a regular consumer?
Yes, but all those carriers have had the prices jacked up to the roof. The US gets a $49 3GS, UK prices range from £59 ($95) to £189 (some offer it free on a very expensive monthly contract over two years). For an out-of-date handset.
Compare the Android phones, where you get HTC Desires for free, on 12 or 18-month contracts with monthly charges in the £20s.
Apple has a big price problem competing in the UK in phones. It gets away with $1:£1 in computing, just, but it won't when Android is "good enough".
the higher screen resolution is great - I can RDP into my work PC and use it all day. The hardware is top notch, and battery life is plenty.
I worked out a way to do this with my iPad. And you know what made me say "wow"?
The way a triple head 1920x1280(ish) 24" desktop was so usable on a 10" 1024x768 iPad because I could zoom out.
You're not going to get desktop resolution on a tablet any time soon, and not properly without it being the same size. A few hundred pixels here or there is not much of an advantage really, good software is the advantage. It Feels good. iOS has it. Has Android? Has webOS? Has Windows phone 7?
The way a triple head 1920x1280(ish) 24" desktop was so usable on a 10" 1024x768 iPad because I could zoom out.
Years ago I remember playing around with a proof of concept for Archy, a new user-interface concept by Jef Raskin. The basic idea was that all the contents of the computer were on a great big canvas, which you could zoom in and out of. One "folder" of pictures, might be little specks up in this corner, which you could then zoom in on and browse. Then you would zoom out, pan to the side and zoom in on something else. The browser's "links" were really tiny pages, so if you wanted to follow a link you would just zoom in on it and the new page would take up the screen.
It was a very interesting concept, although it was difficult to use at the time. But with pinch and zoom multitouch, I'm sure the whole experience would be worlds different.
I unfortunately can't seem now to find the demo I played with. :-(
Ah, I still remember when the 1st Android phone came out (G1). A lot of people were dismissing it because the IPhone had a 2-year head start. Interface was ugly, phone is thick like a brick, only on 1 carrier, the smallest of the Big 4 at that.
Well, how did that turn out? Android is selling more than the IPhone.
A proper tablet OS didn't arrive until last month and people are already saying it's almost too late for Android to catch up with the IPad.
Alright, people will say that it's not the same. But I believe the barriers to entry to the table market is lower than that of phones since manufacturers do not really need carrier approval. Once Google refines the Android tablet OS, I can't wait to see what manufacturers can come up with.
You're right, it isn't the same. This analogy would make sense if Apple was exclusively selling the iPad through their retail stores alone (and maybe a partner, say Target) whereas all other stores (BestBuy, Staples, etc.) were selling Android tablets exclusively.
Google (and manufacturers) need to move with their tablets and get them at prices people feel comfortable purchasing them fast. Otherwise, iPads will become the next "iPod" where your average consumer associates tablet/slate pcs with an iPad.
Not sure you can lump all Android phones together against the iPhone. To me it seems Android is now the new baseline. All phones to come out from now on have to be at least this level or they won't sell. Google has now given each carrier the possibility to hit this baseline with relative ease compared to the past.
A fair comparison would be if Apple licensed iOS for any manufacture to put on their phones. Then it would be an apples to apples comparison.
Right now people are comparing a licensed OS with an unlicensed one.
IDC predicts Android to be the second best selling smarphone OS in Europe Q1 2011, that is, now. The first is, of course, Nokia which undermines your claim that Apple dominates on a second level. (Also, in the UK RIM is, somewhat inexplicably, the premier choice for young people and recently overtook Apple's web market share).
I was unclear: I meant iPhone (20%, +6%) vs Android (11%, +10%). Not saying Android won't pass, but I see it more like Q4-2011, 2012 even. Mostly depends on Apple's strategy notably WRT entry-level devices: phones like Spica are really appealing price-wise, especially when they're sold with small contracts (sometimes less than half the price per month of high-profile smartphones like the Galaxy S, Desire HD or the iPhone). Nokia's decline is staggering and unless they build up steam quickly with WP7 I see them in troubled waters.
Many of the companies in the consumer electronics spent the last decade wasting energy trying to screw each other over interoperability and standards issues - failing to agree because none of them wanted one of the others to gain an advantage.
Meanwhile Apple just ignored the silly games and built their own end-to-end ecosystem.
It's not lack of competition that's killing the rest of the industry - it's lack of cooperation.
Precisely. I don't think people understand just how huge of a deal the iPad really is. They're well on their way into a defining a huge product category in a bigger way than Microsoft defined PCs to be Windows. I don't think their competition can compete effectively; price is cheaper, software is better, hardware is better, UX is easier, even the store is a more pleasant experience, which is important, because that is when the largest transaction actually takes place. It's scary thinking how far ahead of the competition they are.
Well the Xoom has now been released as well, so in theory it's competition as well.
But you are right, in reality there is no competition. There are a lot of people out there who think competition is on specs alone - #slots, ports, ram, memory, etc. Because that's how it was in the PC era.
They are wrong.
That shouldn't be so surprising. 'Sell the benefits, not the features' has always been a sales mantra. The PC market has always been kind of a weird exception to this, and I think that's in part because of the way the PC market grew out of the enthusiast/hobbyist microcomputer scene of the 70s and early 80s. Enthusiasts like to see impressive technical specifications and a long feature checklist - that's true with phones, cars, computers, cameras, espresso machines, and lots of other things that certain people are enthusiastic about - but in general that is not the way consumers view products.
Have you used one of the 'iPad killers'? That is not competition. It's a joke. You can't even buy any of them, except for Samsung's Galaxy Tab.
Have you played with them before coming to these conclusions? Jumping to conclusions without actual experience & trusting the media is a fool's errand.
I've played with them all, some being not-quite-release models. I'd have to largely agree that they are jokes.
The Xoom comes closest to being an iPad competitor, but I'd still much rather have an iPad. However, I think that there's a sizable segment of the market who would prefer a Xoom over that of an iPad, and maybe that's good enough for Motorola. Apple is still at what? single digit percentages with the Mac? They seem happy enough.
Unfortunately I found it to be, well, shit compared to the iPad. I bought one for the lure of speed and returned it the next day when I realized that speed was very low on the list of properties that actually mattered. The total user experience is just far worse.
The Xoom feels like a PC that has better specs than a Mac. Yes, the frame rate is higher but the game sucks.
I seriously wish that webOS is going to show Apple some real competition. It's not healthy for one company to be so far ahead. Power corrupts.
Honestly, I had a similar first impression. But as I used it more, and saw iPad-specific apps begin to appear, it really is it's own device. If anything, the iPhone is a smaller, less functional clone of the iPad.
I can grok that, though for me I found myself going back to my MacBook Pro because the iPad needs propping up and is too slow (browsing). Ignoring slowness, admittedly a problem for any tablet in my opinion.
I have tried one myself otherwise I wouldn't have asked.
The relevance is that the apps are what provide the UI.
For the iPad there are 65,000 of them customized to utilize the full screen. For the Xoom, there are 16 customized for the full screen, and the rest are literally just blown up phone apps, many of which don't even rescale properly.
Actually, I have been pretty disappointed with iPad apps. Many, many iPhone apps haven't been ported over, and the iPhone app experience on the iPad is pretty shoddy, not even using the Retina graphics.
How many apps do you need? Don't get me wrong, I think the iPad is very, very good. I use mine every day. But I just took it out and counted the apps I actually use really ever, and apparently 64,987 of those 65,000 apps could be deleted tomorrow with no apparent loss of functionality for me. Of the 13 remaining, at least half run everywhere (Kindle, Twitter, etc.), several others are nice-to-have ways to access web sites (Alien Blue for Reddit, Instapaper, FeeddlerPro for Google Reader), and only one by my count has no suitable replacement outside of the iPad (Papers).
Yes, everyone will have a different set of apps they use, but there's no realistic justification that "SearchEngines.ru Forum" (from the recent release page I just looked at) is adding much value to the platform. A lot of those 65,000 are apps like those. Realistically, if you have maybe 1500 of the most popular apps, you have enough to pretty well serve the market.
>>Realistically, if you have maybe 1500 of the most popular apps, you have enough to pretty well serve the market.
Yes, that's the point. It's just that iPad now has so many good quality apps compared to Android. It _may_ change in future, but for the time being iPad wins. (The total number of apps never matters, most of them are crap anyway)
That's a reason for some geeks to buy one. It's the reason I looked at buying one - not so much for Android, but for something to build a DIY dynabook on. I still probably will when someone makes something closer to Apple's industrial design, but I don't think that's going to help a whole lot with market share.
Most of the Xoom is available now. I'm amazed they deemed it sensible to ship it with a non-functional SD slot, and "promised upgrade" to a 4G radio. And then there's the touting of Flash as a major selling point, even though it's not yet available either.
"And here are the keys to your new car. By the way, the windshield wipers don't work, yet…"
That's not really true. While Apple has a huge lead, they've already begun to lose marketshare (95% down to 75% last quarter). With more and more competition coming soon, I don't think that Apple will be able to hold on. One only has to look at the success of Android phones -- which literally didn't exist at all when the original iPhone was released -- to see that such a lead is not insurmountable.
> Have you used one of the 'iPad killers'?
Have you? The Motorola Xoom gets very good reviews -- most praising the software as much as the hardware.
It's no surprise that Android phones have numbers. They're on multiple carriers compared to just one (now two). Tablets don't have carriers backing them like that--they must stand on their own.
Apple fought off "iPod killers" for 10 years, so they've proven they know how to keep a lead. I think there's a lot of wishful thinking from some people wanting Apple to fall. For some reason, Apple's constant success antagonizes them.
This is why I hope Steve Jobs continues to drive Apple for years to come. He presses forward relentlessly, driving the user experience forward, even when the competition can't come close. No one else has been able to match the original iPad's size, cost, and specs; the iPad 2 makes the other tablets seem so bulky, so utilitarian, even though they haven't shipped yet.
Any other company would milk the original iPad for all it's worth. They'd get a device with the iPad's dimensions and call it good enough. They wouldn't push forward unless their competitors caught up. I can't imagine Motorola, Microsoft, Samsung, Google, or anyone else having the muscle to put a device like the iPad 2 out so soon.
Forget pro-Apple or anti-Apple. More companies need to strive harder to be better, whether or not they see someone hot on their tail.
And this is exactly what worries me. When Steve Jobs steps down, his replacement is gonna have a hard time assuming he is not Steve Jobs. I just hope he (or she) doesn't try to prove anything by making bold decisions on his own.
On a related note, have you ever found weird that Apple doesn't have any women in a VP position? At least that is the impression it gives me. For such a liberal company, it seems to be mostly run by men (nothing wrong with that btw).
How is the iPad 2 not just milking the original iPad? It has no revolutionary changes, it's just faster, thinner, and has the cameras the iPad was rumored to have from the beginning. I think most companies have the muscle to put out a slight revision on a first product after a year.
I agree there are no huge surprises, but I think you are underestimating the difficulty of redesigning the form factor in under a year.
Even just changing processors, radio chips, adding gyro, camera in the exact same mechanical form factor is a non-trivial change. This is a completely different housing that needs to be integrated and tested. To the user, it's the "same size" device- a flat device with a glass screen, but make no mistake, this is a re-engineered device less than a year from the previous. (Yes, parallel development, etc. but still.)
Not revolutionary, but far from "milking the original".
One thing that drives me crazy is how each competitor focuses on one or two things, usually hardware specs, and use those things to extol its superiority over Apple's offerings. That's like a car maker homing in on horsepower or number of cup-holders to sell a car.
If I were to run a tech company competing in this space, I would do the following:
1) Get rid of the nonsensical names. There's a good reason why car makers give their flagship cars a specific name and stick with it through the years e.g. Toyota Camry, Honda Accord. I don't know why these highly-paid marketers insist on giving their products a new name every quarter.
2) Show how sensible and easy it is to migrate away from a desktop-bound, expensive, heavy and loud computer. Show the customers how losing one's device doesn't mean the end of the world (cloud-backed storage etc), and how easy it is to migrate to a new device should the need ever arise.
3) Start a retail channel where my products can be experienced at the customer's own pace. Best Buy and all those stores are not the same thing because they are electronics retailers primarily interested in moving product and I cannot count on them to build a lasting relationship with my customer.
The naming thing is such a big issue and I don't see why everyone just keeps on getting it so wrong.
For an example, I bought a Sony Vaio laptop a few months ago. Great piece of kit and I love it, but trying to work out what to get was bewildering - there's 7 or 8 categories with single letter names - 'S-series, Y-series, Z-series, F-series' etc.
What do they mean? Which should I be looking at? I had to scour through comparing until I realised which one I should be looking at.
Compare that to Macbooks - you've got:
Macbook (the standard, economical)
Macbook Pro (high performance)
Macbook Air (portable)
It's pretty clear to most people interested in buying a Macbook which one they should look at. Also relevant is the fact that Apple don't put too many versions out keeping things in well defined clusters.
I'm not sure about Sony's Vaio line but a lot of computing/electronic manufacturers will build specific models for various chain stores, not sure why they do this but I guess it's to head off comparison shopping by consumers.
Apple, of course, refuses to play by the rules of its retailing partners.
It's easy to offer a 110% guaranteed price match guarantee when you know most of your products can only be purchased at your store (never mind that the same model but for a different screw type can be purchased down the street for $100 less, it's got a different SKU).
True, but I think the model differentiation is more apparent from immediate visual inspection: for example, a shopper may not know any meaning behind BMW's 3 series, 5 series and 7 series, but it's obvious upon looking at it that 5 is a bigger car than the 3 and the 7 even more so.
Whereas computers are much more mysterious -- it's not always easy to tell which is better based on looking at it.
Also, cars are much more expensive, so a consumer is more willing to invest time in figuring out odd naming practices.
Still, I have to wonder whether even luxury auto makers would be better off with better naming.
High definition movie editing, on a phone (iMovie on iOS)? It is amazing to see how far things have come in since 2007. In 2007, if you said you were going to download an app to edit a high definition movie on your smartphone you'd be institutionalized.
When the iPad was announced last year, it appeared to be a somewhat risky move on Apple's part, lest it cannibalize Mac sales. Now, just a year later, Apple could take the Mac and shoot it and survive. This has to make the PC maker's blood run cold; Apple is selling a device with 95% of the usefulness of a Windows PC but only 5% of the hassle (to the casual computer user), and they've got nothing to lose if they cannibalize all of their laptop sales.
The breathtaking aspect of this is how just a year ago the Microsoft monopoly still looked unassailable, but now, to some, the iPad's position seems nearly unassailable and on track to capture a huge portion of the casual computer users of the world.
In 2007, if you said you were going to download an app to edit a high definition movie on your smartphone you'd be institutionalized.
Why? I don't recall the first time I saw a phone that came with video editing software, but I'm pretty sure it was before 2007. So if someone had said "in a few years this software will be easier to use and can edit even higher resolution video than it can today", I would have replied, "well, that sounds obvious"
Interesting, didn't know that. It makes me wonder if the success Apple has had in mobile is due to their better understanding of software. Has Sony/Ericsson iterated on their video editing feature? Apple definitely gets that software is never done; I can't think of another mobile device company that constantly improves not only the core (i.e. OS) software but also improves its value adds (iBooks, GarageBand, iMovie, iWork, Remote, etc...) RIM comes to mind, but I don't have much experience with RIM devices.
It's a bit unfortunate that most of the post is a bunch of gushing about how Apple is so amazing. Unfortunate because there's a very insightful point in that second to last paragraph.
The chair is definitely part of Apple's genius when it comes to the iPad. It shows us that this isn't a laptop or a PC and the iPad doesn't fall into the paradigms we're used to. It's something new, meant for you to use when you're relaxing rather than working, and you haven't experienced anything like it. You won't get it until you try it.
As for the competitors, they do have a ways to go. But the Xoom is definitely a great step, especially with the higher-res, less awkward screen for watching video (the aspect ratio is an annoyance on the iPad).
But the Xoom is definitely a great step, especially with the higher-res, less awkward screen for watching video (the aspect ratio is an annoyance on the iPad).
This reminds me of my friends who've dated someone for many years, and then once they got the nerve to leave them, they end up marrying the next person they date, within 12 months.
When you spend time with something, you get really familiar with its weaknesses. Then something walks along that doesn't have any of those weaknesses, and because you are so obsessed with those specific traits, you perceive this new thing as perfect.
Of course nothing is perfect, and once the glow wears off, you see everything the old one was amazing at, and the new one sucks at.
Widescreen is good for watching movies. But you do a lot on a tablet that's not watching movies.
I think Apple has the sense that the iPad will dominate the tablet market like the iPod has dominated the mp3 market. The main reason Android has overtaken # sales of smartphone is because of the price tax that the carriers (and also Apple) has taken. But Apple doesn't have the carriers to worry about with the tablet (cause most people are buying the wifi versions). And they've decided they're going to compete on price with the iPad, just like they did with the iPod and iPod Touch. After watching the keynote, it's hard to see the competition creating a better tablet (hardware, software, design, apps) for a cheaper price. Apple has integrated the whole process of innovation, and they're way ahead... and this shows the most in the iPad.
Agreed. I think Apple will be forced to compete on price with the iPhone. Hence, likely will see some lower priced iPhones. I have a feeling that Apple is working to solve the real problem, namely the ridiculous contracts and fees carriers are charging.
The big elephant in the room is that there actually is no product category of "iPad" for Apple to dominate. I agree with the Gruber of 6 months ago who thought that phones and tablets would merge into the same product category, which he called "tablets" and I'll call "webpads" since I think that's the key distinction between them and the Microsoft tablets and smartphones that preceded them.
Apple thinks there will be 3.5 inch webpads, and 10 inch webpads and that they are two totally distinct markets, so it doesn't matter if you lose share in one of them. Everyone else thinks you can have 3.5, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10 even 12 inch webpads and that they're made from 99% the same commodity hardware and software.
Android is in the process of returning Apple to single digit marketshare in the small webpad category, a story that tech churnalists have missed because they live in a rich, old, white, U.S.-centric, gadget-obsessed bubble. I'm fairly certain it'll happen even faster for the iPad.
I agree that he probably understands the motivations and spirit of Apple better than most. My point is that he's now a part of the system in a subtle way, and to think about it when reading his coverage. He's no longer just a guy with a blog.
I seriously don't see how competition can catch up with Apple any time soon. They build such infrastructure and line of products, all tight extremely well together, looking amazing and they keep improving it almost every 3 months so that from competitors perspective even to decide from where to start is extremely puzzling.
I can tell for sure that Android will take most of the market, maybe even 60-70%, but this will not be because of quality or user experience, it will only be because of cheaper prices, low end products and trying to please mainstream. But I'm pretty sure that Apple will be happy with their part of the cake with high quality products, high margins and very loyal and happy costumers. Just brilliant from any point of view.
Love how Steve Jobs has craftily defined a point in time "Post-PC era" that everyone including me is referring to in the discussions.
A phrase that many of us had not used a few days ago is now the parameter to judge policies of companies: "that's how it was in post-PC era".
As far as the point of power corrupts is, I do not really see the basis for that. iPod, iPhone? How did the power corrupt Apple? Or is there some serious competitor to iPod that I have somehow missed?
Yes, I do see the issue with that and on a fair note, sad to see Apple resort to this. While the rules and the implementation has been dogmatic, there were companies who were very craftily bypassing the app store in app purchases to do all kinds of stuff.
Again, I am not justifying the way in which Apple did this, but I do not see how not letting competitors and app developers by pass the rules of the eco-system is getting corrupted.
Excellent points about how Apple's perception of iPad has changed in a year. I also loved this:
"Good iPad apps can make the iPad feel not like a device running an app, but like an object that is the app. GarageBand isn’t a musical app running on an iPad. It turns an iPad into a musical instrument."
So true. But the most insightful quote is at the very end:
"But there are other things any competitor could copy, easily, but seemingly don’t even understand that they should, because such things aren’t technical."
That's it! In order to compete effectively, you need to fully understand your adversary's strengths, which I don't think Motorola, Samsung, and others fully grasp. They still brag about the dual core, and this or that technical detail. I have yet to see apps as polished as iPad's on Android. When they come (and when Android has a better app store), then Apple needs to be worried.
> But there are other things any competitor could copy, easily, but seemingly don’t even understand that they should, because such things aren’t technical. Take that chair. The on-stage demos of the iPad aren’t conducted at a table or a lectern. They’re conducted sitting in an armchair. That conveys something about the feel of the iPad before its screen is even turned on. Comfortable, emotional, simple, elegant. How it feels is the entirety of the iPad’s appeal.
This is an illustration why product companies, however large, should still be led by a product-oriented CEO. Companies led by MBAs or finance people are not doing too well on innovation front. Microsoft is a prominent example of this observation. Sony during Nobuyuki Idei's tenure was another example.
I don't understand Gruber's conclusion, starting with:
“It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology is not enough.”
Firstly, what does Steve Jobs mean by that? I believe simply that Apple is where "Technology meets Liberal Arts".
Gruber seems to think this means "better designed, has more developer support, and it’s cheaper", which is all stuff that competitors can't copy?
That seems to just be an overview of Apple's status in this and their status relative to others, not necessarily having to do anything with "Technology meeting Liberal Arts".
In addition, I don't believe Jobs is referring to their marketing model in this -- that the technology is part of a greater "experience".
Rather, and perhaps I'm wrong on this and assuming too much, but I see it as a plea for something greater beyond just the technology and the ingenious marketing scheme. I see the devices (most specifically the iPad) as a technology that is humankind-enhancing material beyond just making life a little bit easier. Sure other tablets are, or could be rather, and I hope will be, the same or better, but at the moment the iPad does hold a special slot here. With the immense backing that it has, that's a fact I would say.
Whether Apple has purposefully created it to be so exceptional in so many areas (partner in healthcare, schools, etc.) is something I don't know or if they just got lucky, but it is true that it is excellent(or at least a big step forward) in those areas. And for that reason alone I see the device as more than just a gimmicky piece of technology and rather more of a device that assists in the advancement of mankind.
I think the "advancement of mankind" piece might get you some flak but the basic concept sounds like what Steve Jobs was alluding to. My view of it is that Apple doesn't build technology for the sake of building technology. Every technological investment is married with a deep focus on how it is APPLIED in the real world hence the deep focus on user experience and app ecosystem. I think a good way to look at it is that Apple built the iPod because they LOVE music as a company. I know some people will think it's a marketing gimmick but it's clear that Jobs & Apple are true music fans and to them, the dearth of a player that could hold thousands of songs drove them to think about a solution that could solve that problem.
I would say it very much looks like technology from 1928. Compare it with the minimalist forms of Gio Ponti's Superleggera Chair, or side-by-side against the sinuous curves of a Rio chaise by Oscar Niemeyer. The LC3 looks downright old & Bauhaus-y.
Re. the innovation: This is a fascinating topic. One difference might be a result of value retention. A furniture model from 2006 won't have compatibility issues with the latest upholstery. I'm being silly to a degree, but knowing my iPhone 3GS will soon run at the speed of snot does not endear the thing's design to me. So old style could stick around without seeming too outdated, reducing the need for innovation.
Second, related thought about design innovation (again, from my very non-authoritative perspective) Furniture design seems have two extremes in innovation: A) periods of minor & incremental developments, essentially stagnation. B) Radical developments based on changes in artists' context.
The long periods where innovation is noticeably absent generally parallel times when artisans have no new medium in which to elevate their craft. During these periods, they're generally relegated to small changes: modifications & cosmetic variations on mostly-optimized forms.
Same as in vehicle design or computer hardware, the real magic happens when you develop new materials for medium & new methods for construction. (Esp. when those materials that improve fundamentals, a material's increased load-bearing ability will radically enhance what is possible in chair design.)
A good example are the years after bentwood techniques are pioneered, where designers for firms such as Thonet and J.J. Kohn produced radical new forms - the organic curves of Thonet rocking chairs look decades ahead of their mid-1800s origins, and they anticipate Art Nouveau by more than a quarter-century.
The same innovation groundswell appeared when synthetic materials (Lucite, plastic laminate & other petro-products) are introduced to the consumer markets post-WWII. A generation of design names like Charles & Ray Eames, Verner Panton, Charles Hollis Jones & Ettore Sottsass seized on these materials, creating parallel expressions of the abstraction & geometry in post-war architecture.
Recommend reading on hotbeds of design innovation:
The Sevres Porcelain Manufactory: Alexandre Brongniart and the Triumph of Art and Industry, 1800-1847 pub. by Yale University Press for the Bard Graduate Center
Italian Lighting Design 1945-2000 by Alberto Bassi
Good iPad apps can make the iPad feel not like a device running an app, but like an object that is the app.
This sentence alone is worth reading the entire post. Subtract the parts of the sentence having to do with iPad, change good to great, and you get a universal truth.
Great apps feel not like a device running an app, but like an object that is the app.
Apply this to your user's content/data. A great X app doesn't feel like a device running a X app, it feels like you're directly manipulating X. You can substitute pictures, reports, movies, invites, events, etc...
"This is the iPad doing something new, things that couldn’t be done on the Mac"
This is what I want to see, I don't own an iPad but I won't until there is genuine things on it that I cannot achieve on my laptop.
I feel it is easy for a device like this to become widespread as it feels magical to use, but for me as a computer scientist, and someone who uses his keyboard almost exclusively, I need something from the iPad that I can't get from any other device.
The thing with the Kindle (I've only used one briefly) and the iPad (I love my 1st gen) is that they do some things better than a laptop.
Reading is better on a Kindle or an iPad - especially curled up on the sofa - than a laptop.
Sketching is better on an iPad than on a laptop.
Browsing in bed is better on an iPad than on a laptop.
Typing is much worse on an iPad than a laptop.
I'm particularly looking forward to Garageband (and I've spent a lot on music apps for the iPad) because it looks like it will be better than Garageband on a laptop (although I admit that's a prediction - one I'm willing to gamble five quid on).
I fear the world got lucky in that the Internet inherited its openness from academia, and the PC inherited its openness from the early hobbyist microcomputer scene. As in many other industries, openness - except when necessary for a bare minimum of interoperability - has never really been the norm in consumer electronics. As computing moves beyond the PC, I think that (sadly) we are going to have to get used to proprietary platforms and their attendant pricing shenanigans.
Unfortunately for companies moving beyond the PC, the genie is out of the bottle already.
Phones have been historically locked down by carriers. Taking a look at the alternatives from just 5 years ago, the iPhone looks pretty damn open. And there is a reason for that, and why consumers didn't care.
Consumers are used to phones being locked, but consumers are also used to doing whatever they want with the computers they've bought. And funny thing - this wasn't always the case. IBM-compatible PCs that you could extend with ISA cards, assemble your own, coming bundled with MS-DOS / Windows - weren't the first PCs available. Even Apple came after Atari. And those home computers back in those day were pretty locked.
What changed the scene is the simple fact that software is so much bigger and more profitable than hardware; and there are many forces in the market that want hardware to be an unlocked and cheap complementary to software. You can see that playing right now with the battle between Android / WinMo 7 / iOS / Blackberry.
That's the biggest reason why Microsoft won in the 90's - not only over Apple, but also over IBM's OS/2 - they made no discrimination when it came to hardware, they ensured backwards-compatibility for third-party software at all costs, they kept the SDK free of charge. Compared to IBM's OS/2 ; Windows was a piece of shit ... but it ran fine on 286 processors and was compatible with everything you wanted.
My phone has at least ten times the horsepower of my first computer. I had no expectations out of my Nokia 3310; as I only expected it to make phone calls.
Bottom line - computing doesn't move beyond the PC, but towards the PC.
And Apple is increasingly becoming aggressive because they'd like to keep the grip they have right now, but they also realize that they cannot do it. Want to bet that they'll lose costumers to Android if for example Kindle for iOS is shut down?
(Nitpick: I'm aware IBM compatibles weren't the first PCs available. Before them came, among others, the Apple II and the Commodore - both of which came with full schematics in the back of the manual. That's openness if you ask me.)
It's not just about users being able to install video cards or whatever. You as a developer are going to have a harder time inventing the next email or WWW or Google or Netflix or Twitter, if your potential users are all using closed platforms rather than open ones.
Indeed, there was always a big contrast between the telecom world (closed) and the PC world (open). As these are merging now, I hope the openness won't be sacrificed. I really hope we can prevent that from happening. It's one of the things that makes the internet a really great place for innovation.
It's not just telecom either. Game consoles have always been closed. And we are starting to see apps running on TVs, in cars, and other places that definitely do not have the history of openness that the PC does.
"Seriously? Bigger and more important than the invention of the Internet and WWW?"
Well, Possibly. I think he's referring to tablet computing in general. It represents the fruition of progress toward a true household computing appliance, the kind of handheld "electronic book" that used to exist only in science fiction. Someday, the paradigm of the desktop PC and its required upkeep and complicated interfaces may be considered the short-term condition of a young industry.
iPad's post-pc experience: holding your computer get's old fast, touch is frustratingly imprecise, copy/paste and the web suck. SJ talks about how it's not a computer and then points out how great it is for creating content and for business. He is P.T. Barnum and the suckers are lapping it up.