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Entries in Apple (51)

Monday
Jul082013

Cool or Fool?

Some time ago I wrote a post about the Apple Brand Promise where I proposed that the magic of Steve Jobs was making his customers feel cool for buying his products.  I still think people buy Apple products because of the way it changes how others view them.  People feel cool when holding an Apple device and not because it makes them more productive or smarter and clearly not richer, but because the Apple brand promise says cool people buy Apple devices.

Cool is almost impossible to fake, and there is no formula for becoming cool.  Just ask any rock band, super model, or San Francisco restaurant owner -- cool is as impossible to predict as stock price.  

Cool is also impossible to copy.  Fake Rolex watches will never be cool.  No one is going to remember the band that tried to be like A Flock of Seagulls.

Those who have been touched by the ferry godmother of cool all know down deep that the chances of becoming cool are about the same as winning the lottery.  Feel lucky if you win, but don't start thinking it was because you deserved it.

Which brings us to Microsoft.  Microsoft makes people productive and enables them to keep more of their money in their pockets.  It is rare that one feels cool with a Microsoft product, but who cares!  I will take smart over cool any day.  Smart matters, smart is lasting, people who are smart got there on more than the luck of the draw.  The Microsoft brand promise should be associated with smart -- not cool.

I think many of us have lost track of what the Microsoft Brand Promise is.  If you know, feel free to post a reply.  

When using W8 the other day (I mostly use W7), I did not feel smart or cool!

 

 

Sunday
Oct282012

The Microsoft Effect

The Hawthorne Effect famously demonstrated the changes to worker productivity resulting from changes in work environment.  Like many studies the key learning turned out to be somewhat different than anticipated.  Initially intended to figure out if lighting levels or other environmental factors impacted productivity the result turned out to be that workers did better when working together to improve the conditions.  The improvements were not dependent on the changes but on the process of working together to make the changes.

I have to wonder if the same thing is happening in the Microsoft/Google/Apple race for the hearts and minds of the workers.  Each is courting the users with new and improved ways to be productive.   Microsoft has of course dominated the worker productivity area with the Office suite and the addition over the years of Outlook, Access, Visio, and OneNote. Google helps workers find stuff and has innovated around the edges with priority inbox in gmail and better spam filtering and Google docs and drive. Apple has turned the world mobile, brought about the app revolution, and companies now shower iPhones and iPads on their employees like they used to do with sales trips to Hawaii.

I am 24 hours into using my new Windows RT Surface and all I can think about is how much work I could do on the thing.  It has been 90 years since Elton Mayo did his study in Hawthore, IL, maybe it is time for a new study.  We could call the key learnings the Microsoft Effect.

Friday
Oct262012

Technology That Changes The Game 

It was a relatively short time ago that computers were produced in the dozens, cost millions of dollars, and were run by the phone company, the government, and a few very big businesses.  The most technological thing that a small business had was a cash register.

In an office environment like a law firm or an accounting firm, there were typists, and a copy machine, and the only cloud application was the connection to AT&Ts big computer (the phone).  In some cases professionals had specialized tools -- I for example had my HP12C programmable calculator.  I never programmed it to do anything though.  Amazingly, HP still sells that very calculator - 30 years later.

Then came the PC and voicemail and email and mobile phones and well, we all became computer operators plus whatever our jobs had been before that.  Now we spend so much time staring at the screen that we feel like computer operators all of the time -- so it is no wonder that we sometimes forget that we have actual jobs to do.  Facebook even relieves us from having to pull away from the computer to waste time at the water cooler.  

We have become much more productive despite the time we have to spend getting our machines to work for us.  Since the introduction of the PC, GDP per capita in the US has grown from $27,000 to $47,000 per year.  And that is the average for the entire country.

Keep in mind that workers that use PCs have done much better than the rest of the population, so the productivity has more than doubled for PC users. Advances in technology drive our economy and our ever improving quality of life.  This is an easy argument to make when you consider that penecilin was an advancement in technology.  A bit harder in the context of nuclear weapons. 

These advances in technology have provided for us so much extra time and money that we don't know what to do with it all.  Most of us have more than one computer plus a phone with computer like computing power plus maybe a tablet too.  

There are two types of advances in technology: incremental things and game changers. New computing capacity that reduces the time to run a report from a giant database is incremental.  New sensors that report every person's location, everything they purchase, and many of the things that they think and say into a giant database is a game changer.

The incremental things we get from technology are gains in efficiency that make one business more productive than another.  Game changers are new capabilities that just could not be done before and that completely change the business environment.

As the cost of compute cycles comes down the incremental functions will blend into the background and deliver less and less profit to their makers -- so look out HP and Dell.  Game changers will become the whole game and command more and more of the profits.  And as always the pace of change will be accelerating.  Very few companies have the will to change their own game.  Apple did it with the iPhone and now generates half of their revenues from a product they introduced only 5 years ago.  Google did it to the advertising industry -- but it remains to be seen if they can do it to themselves.  Microsoft is in the process of trying to change their game with Windows 8.  Will they be able to do it?  

 

 

Wednesday
Oct242012

Business Runs on Microsoft Software.  Period.

It is insteresting and instructive to take a step back from the big ecosystem builders and think about who their customers are and what they are selling.  Just so we all start from the same point on the map, I am going to clarify that customers are the people that pay and they pay for whatever a vendor is selling.

Microsoft

This is a big week for Microsoft with the long anticipated Windows 8 launch.  Even though I am very much looking forward to getting my MS Surface (hardware) this week, Microsoft is still the maker of software and its customers paid $16 B in the most recent quarter and generated $5.3B in profits including for operating system software ($3.2B revenue /$1.6B profit), servers and dev tools ($4.5B/$1.7B), and productivity and business software ($5.5B/$3.6B).  This is highly profitable business with one half of all revenue returned in profits.  You will notice that a bit over $2B is missing from this revenue analysis - because that is the amount MS generates from XBox -- without generating any profit.  Ouch!

Simply, customers pay Microsoft for the software they need to be productive.  Anyone who has tried to be productive on an iPad knows what I am talking about.  Producers need Microsoft's products to produce.

Apple

Apple quite famously makes more revenue and profit on the iPhone than all of Microsoft combined.  In its most recent quarter it generated $16.2 B of a total of $35B from the iPhone at 43% margins.  Any company that can grow from zero in 2007 when the iPhone was introduced to over $60B in annual revenue from a single new product line - deserves to be the worlds most valuable company.  Even more impressive is the $9.2B in iPad revenue last quarter from a product just 30 months in the market.  However, as Apple is demonstrating with the change of the standard cable plug on the latest version of the iPhone - it is selling devices that are driven by their popularity, not by business acceptance.

So, customers pay Apple for fashionable gadgets and Apple cranks out fashionable gadgets like no one else.

Google

Google has revenues about the same size as Microsoft's.  The most recent quarter concluded with $14.1B in revenue and $7.45B in profits. 75% of Google's revenue comes from advertising.  Advertising was 97% before the acquisition of Motorola -- and Motorola now makes up 19% of Google's revenue.  Google makes all kinds of software (gmail, Google docs...) but most users get those services for free -- and the customers are the companies that pay to place their advertisements where those users can see them.

So customers pay Google for advertising.  Google dominates the search market with 65% of all internet search traffic.

When analyzed from the perspective of the paying customer it is almost hard to believe that these three companies are fierce competitors.  No one buys Microsoft products to be seen with them in the first class lounge at the airport.  Almost no one pays Microsoft for advertising.  Just about everyone pays Microsoft to make their businesses run.

 

Friday
Oct192012

What is CRN Smoking?

CRN ran a story this morning about how Microsoft is like Philip Morris.  I know that expecting web sites to avoid link bait is like expecting candidates running for the oval office to tell the truth.  Even so, this one is over the top.  There are many companies with comparable growth rates to Microsoft.  Picking the one that sells an addictive product that causes cancer and that spent decades undermining efforts to understand the effects of cigarette smoke -- is poor form.

The article did make one good point though:  when channel partners pick the vendors they partner with, they are making investments.  In fact, they are making very big investments.  

CRN says that channel partners should partner with Apple, Cognizant, Google, Rackspace, and Salesforce.com instead of Microsoft because those companies are growing faster. Really?!?

Let's take this apart company by company:

Apple:  Apple is in fact starting a partner program.  Apple however does not have a single enterprise software app.  It can offer a desktop operating system, and a productivity suite, but Microsoft has hundreds of products -- and most of them solve very real enterprise computing problems.  

Cognizant:  Most people have never heard of this company.  It is in fact a $6 billion dollar company, but it is a consulting and outsourcing firm -- a competitor to most channel partners.  I bet it is a very big Microsoft partner.  So there really is no reason a solution partner would partner with this organization instead of Microsoft.

Google:  Google is kicking everyone's behind in search.  True.  But I can't think of how it would make sense as a channel partner to give up Microsoft's partner program in exchange for Google.  Google offers no side by side go to market capabilities to support partners.  Even if we were to humor CRN and think for 10 more seconds about this one - how can a partner make any money deploying Google Docs?  This is one of those cases where Google takes a dollar someone else is making and turns it into a dime of advertising for itself.  So Google can take revenue away from Microsoft, but it does not have that dollar to share with its channel partners.

Rackspace:  Rackspace is not even a software company.  

Salesforce.com:  Salesforce.com, like Oracle (where Benioff came from) has a nasty habit of eating its own young.  A few companies have made a living working with Salesforce.com, but most get run over by their scorched earth sales team.  And all of that to partner with a company that has one product.  Oh sorry, two products if you count Chatter as a seperate product.

Microsoft has made its way in the world by working side by side with its hundreds of thousands of partners worldwide.  There are some companies that are growing faster, but none that comes anywhere close to supporting a partner ecosystem like Microsoft does.

It is hard to imagine what CRN was smoking when they proposed that Microsoft was like Philip Morris!

Thursday
Sep272012

Amazon Could Crush Apple in Maps, and Maybe Google Too

The biz is all cranked up over the Apple vs Google Maps thing that came from the latest release of Apple's mobile operating system, IOS 6.  See this article in the NY Times.

In the background however, Amazon has been building its own maps capability.  In July of this year Amazon bought mapping company UpNext and I think Amazon could come from behind to leapfrog Apple and maybe even catch up to Google.

Impossible?  After all, the reason that Apple has rushed its mapping solution to market before it is ready is because Apple needs user data to improve the service.  

Amazon just happens to have a close relationship, a codependent relationship some would say, with delivery companyies like UPS and FedEx.  UPS has 250,000 drivers!  It would not surprise me if there are 500,000 drivers worldwide driving all day, every day, delivering stuff -- much of which is from Amazon.  This year Google announced it has driven 5 million miles collecting mapping data.    If Amazon got its 500,000 drivers to collect map data -- that would be only 10 miles for each driver.  It would take more time to install the collection equipment than it would to surpass all of Google's collections efforts so far.  Call it a week to install the stuff and by the end of the first day, Amazon would have 10x the data that Google has collected.  

Not only that, but professional drivers in every market in the whole world could return much higher quality data than users could.

Could be cool.

Wednesday
Sep262012

Apple is Just Another Tech Company

This year for my birthday I bought myself a MacBook Air (11 in).  It is a cool machine, but the best thing I got out of it was an increased appreciation for the quality of Microsoft's Windows operating system.  Two months later and I find myself reaching for my old Win 7 machine most of the time.  

I suppose I like the Mac best when I am not using it.  It is beautiful, light, and technically, its best feature is the speed at which it stops and starts.  When I am done, I just close it.  When I want to use it -- I just open it.  My Windows machines have never been able to do that.  If I close my Windows machine without completely shutting down, it fights with itself while in my briefcase until it runs out of battery.  Then when I go to open it -- no juice left.  Not only that, but then I boot to the black screen that asks if I want to repair my machine.  Anyone who has ever gotten sucked into that option knows it is like heading out on a trip from Seattle to New York and deciding to stop by Moscow on the way.  Definately not the fastest route to productivily using the machine.

One of the new features on the Mac that I was looking forward to was the thunderbolt to HDMI connection for an external monitor.  It works, but in typical Apple style, they have decided a few too many things for me.  For instance, if I expand an app to full screen on the external monitor, it banks out the laptop monitor.  What on earth are they thinking?  In fact, I have yet to find an app that expands to full screen in the way that I would want.  Pages just blacks out the left and right of the screen and the doc is small in the middle.  Crazy!

The final blow is the speed of Chrome.  Google's Chrome browser screams on my windows machine but crawls on the Mac.  It is so slow that I have to think that Apple is somehow throwing sand in its gears -- just to get back at the competition.  I do find myself using Safari more often as a result, but it is the biggest reason I don't reach for the machine at all.

Most people are not crazy enough to use two or three machines at a time - so I suspect that my side by side comparison is not typical.  Even novices will notice how slow Chrome runs though.

So I have concluded that Apple, like all of the other tech companies, is using its moment in the sun to cast the biggest possible shadow on its competitors.  Could it be that they realize that they do not have the vison that Steve brought to the company and they have decided to hang on as tight as possible to the lead they have?  Boy would that be sad.

After all of this, Time Magazine will probably name Apple the "person" of the year -- which will further seal its fate.

Thursday
Sep062012

Center of the Ecosystem 

Vertically integrated technology companies like Apple and Oracle have established themselves in the center of the the consumer and enterprise ecosystems by building proprietary systems with just about every feature contributing to customer lock in.  The strategy has clearly worked for them, so far.  Getting new customers is going to get more and more difficult for them as the world moves away from lock in and the competition does something other than push customers away by throwing up ill conceived and poorly executed competing products or services.  

In this context a diverse and horizontally oriented technology firm will have a once in a decade opportunity to establish itself in the center of the new world -- not unlike the way IBM did in the ‘90s.  In fact, we can learn a lot from Lou Gerstner's playbook from nearly 20 years ago.  Here are the three partner relationship management things a company could do to establish itself at the center of the technology world of the next decade:

Embrace Open

The difference between open-ness and open source are more nuanced than can be described in this post.  One similaritiy however serves our purposes.  In an open system everyone is welcome.  Everyone.  Some companies can do this and others just cannot get their brains around it.   Companies that are insecure about the value they deliver -- build walls and moats. Companies that are good at what they do are the ones that can let everyone in.  

Love Engineering Great Products

A company with an engineering pedigree and that is full of talented people that love building great products has what it takes to be open.  Such a product focus injects confidence into the decision making about being open.  

Deliver Value Every Day

The irony of the lock-in strategy is that its is a cancer that eats the host from the inside out.  IBM has shown us that the discipline of being open inspires everyone in the company to deliver value every day. 

A company that works to immobilize its customers with contracts and proprietary and non transportable systems sends a message to customers -- but more damaging is the message it sends to the people inside the company.  Soon the company is hiring more lawyers than engineers.  And that cannot end well.

Thursday
Jun282012

Solving the Tablet Puzzle

When I was a kid my mom taught me how to solve puzzles.  She said to find the corners first, then the edge pieces, then assemble the frame, then sort the pieces by color...  It was a sound process and surely was easier than randomly picking one of the 500 pieces out of the box and trying to figure out where it went.  From that experience I learned that solving the puzzle depended heavily on the sequence.

It is interesting to see how the four big players in tablets computers:  Apple, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are each approaching their complex puzzles.  Just like doing puzzles with my mom, the sequence is everything.

The first entrant into the market was Microsoft - over a decade ago.  Bill Gates was correct that tablets were going to be big.  We now know that his vision was extraordinary.  Unfortunately, he was pulling one piece out of the box and there was really no hope of fitting it in with the other pieces.

Meanwhile, Steve Jobs was laying down the corners and the frame of his puzzle with the iPod.  It was a simple but amazing device that enabled users to do one thing:  carry 1,000 songs in their pocket.  At the time the next best solution held only 10 songs.  Then the iPod lead to the iPhone, the iPod Touch, all those apps and app developers, and finally the iPad.  That final puzzle piece was easy to place in the picture because so many other pieces were in place already.

At the same time, Amazon was creating an amazing shopping experience for books and everything else in the universe on its web site.  By the time it introduced the Kindle (same time as the iPhone in 2007) its puzzle was pretty well formed too.  The Kindle put hundreds of books in your pocket and there really was not another alternative.

Just after that, in 2008, Google introduced its Android Operating System and the Chrome Browser.  This story is a bit more complicated because Android was started outside of Google in 2003 and acquired by Google in 2005.  Either way, the Google puzzle was being assembled well before the Samsung Galaxy Tab was introduced in late 2010.  Add the proliferation of Android devices, 400,000 apps, and by the time we arrive at yesterday's announcement of the Nexus 7 a great deal of the Google tablet puzzle had been filled in.

It is true that there were a billion personal computers already running Microsoft operating systems when Bill Gates introduced his tablet in 2002.  Surely that would form up the Microsoft puzzle. Right? So why does it seem like Microsoft is just now pulling out the first puzzle piece with the Surface and holding it over a blank table?  Because Microsoft is trying to start a whole new consumer puzzle -- and all of its existing puzzle pieces make up an enterprise picture.  Yes we use the Windows OS at home -- but it has not created any more of an ecosystem than Phoenix BIOS -- which we all run at home too.

It is going to be tough for Microsoft to complete its consumer tablet puzzle.  The Surface may end up being a great device, it may get a great response from Microsoft's enterprise customers.  But it is going to be hard to put the pieces together for consumers.

 

 

 

Tuesday
Jun262012

Microsoft's New Partners

Lost in the fracus about Microsoft and its relationship with its partners is the new partner relationships that invariably are going to emerge.  Microsoft has always been a partner focused company and will always be.  But the partners do change quite a bit.  Some people think that the partner ecosystem has a churn rate of as much as 30% per year.

Long time partners of Microsoft including HP and Acer have been quoted recently saying that were mystified about the move by Microsoft to develop the Surface and not consult them first.  Many have predicted, including me, that partners will ultimately produce most of the Surface devices.  The partners just may not be the ones that we think.

Apple did not start cold with the iPad.  First came the iPhone and more importantly, the iPod Touch.  In fact, according to the account in Isaacson's book, the iPad idea came before the iPod Touch and the work done on the iPod Touch was necessary to prove that the iPad idea was even viable, and of course to ensure that the product was insanely great.

Microsoft's OEMs might be frustrated with Microsoft's moves on the Surface, but they really should be looking at Samsung and HTC and maybe even Nokia.  They are the ones with the expertise to build a Windows 8 tablet that could compete with the iPad.

PC Mag reported this week that Samsung may be working on its own operating system just in case it needs it to compete with Microsoft and Google in the tablet market.  That is crazy talk.