Oh, How Apple Has Changed Since Steve Jobs

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Sticking to his guns typically paid off dividends for Jobs and Apple, even when vocal critics mocked the company’s decisions. But since Jobs’ death in 2011, Apple has been slowly pushing back against some of its founder’s most strongly held beliefs and doing things Jobs said he would never consider. Here are a few things that he strongly disliked that Apple decided to incorporate into their products:

Stylus: This week, an Apple analyst suggested that the company’s forthcoming iPad will ship with a stylus. One of Steve Jobs’ most famous rants was about how much he hates styluses. In 2007, while introducing the iPhone at the Macworld convention in San Francisco, he mocked other smartphones of that era that featured styluses.

“Who wants a stylus?” Jobs said while introducing the iPhone. “You have to get ’em, put ’em away, you lose ’em. Yuck! Nobody wants a stylus. So let’s not use a stylus.” “God gave us 10 styluses. Let’s not invent another,” One of the first things Jobs did when coming back to Apple in 1997 was to kill the Newton, a tablet-like device that used a stylus.

Yet Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities said the widely expected 12.9-inch “iPad Pro” will come with a stylus when Apple announces it in the spring, according to reports.

Small tablets: Another epic Jobs rant came in October 2010, when he discussed his disdain for a new wave of smaller tablets coming to market. On the company’s earnings call with analysts, Jobs said the iPad’s 10-inch screen was “the minimum size required to create great tablet apps.”

He said even making images appear sharper on the screen wouldn’t help smaller tablets become usable “unless your tablet also includes sandpaper, so that the user can sand down their fingers to around one quarter of the present size.”

“There are clear limits of how close you can physically place elements on a touch screen before users cannot reliably tap, flick or pinch them,” he said. A year after Jobs died, Apple introduced the iPad mini — by far the best-selling iPad in the company’s lineup.

Big phones: During Apple’s iPhone 4 “Antennagate” nightmare in 2010, Steve Jobs derided big phones. When a reporter asked him whether Apple would consider making a bigger iPhone to improve antenna reliability, Jobs scoffed. He called Samsung’s Galaxy S phones “Hummers.”

“You can’t get your hand around it,” Jobs said. “No one’s going to buy that.” Apple finally debuted a taller iPhone 5 a year after Jobs died, and a much larger iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus last year.

Life-like software design: Steve Jobs wanted the iPhone’s software to mimic real life. For instance, he told Apple’s designers to model iCal’s leather after the seats on his Gulfstream jet.

Apple’s Mail app had a linen background, the iBookstore featured wooden shelves, and the Notes app was made to look like a legal pad. A year after Jobs died, Apple fired Scott Forstall, a software executive who was a champion of Jobs’ design preferences. A year later, Apple introduced iOS 7, which did away with any ties to real-life objects.

Rumored Sapphire Display on iPhone Screens Likely Won’t Happen

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It’s pretty clear that something went very wrong between Apple and its bankrupt sapphire supplier GT Advanced Technologies over the past year. There are good reasons to believe that Apple’s sapphire display plan for the iPhone 6 may have been doomed from the start because it seems both Apple and GT Advanced underestimated the major difficulties. These difficulties varied from needing to have an extremely clean environment during ongoing construction, to having uninterrupted supplies of water and electricity to regulate the temperature of the molten aluminum oxide. Apple declined to help install backup power supplies, thus multiple outages occurred, ruining whole batches of sapphire.

Sapphire, the world’s third hardest mineral, was supposed to drastically reduce or eliminate scratching on the surface, thus eliminating the need for screen protectors. It would be a huge selling point for those of us that seem to find some sort of way to scratch or drop our phone throughout any given day.

The Apple-GT marriage was troubled from the start. GT had never mass-produced sapphire before the Apple deal. The New Hampshire company’s first 578-pound cylinder of sapphire, made just days before the companies signed their contract, was flawed and unusable. GT hired hundreds of workers with little oversight; some bored employees were paid overtime to sweep floors repeatedly, while others played hooky.

All of which is a major problem in its own right, but add in the fact that Apple already uses one-fourth of the world’s supply of sapphire to cover the iPhone’s camera lens and fingerprint reader alone, upping that supply to cover screens is bound to exacerbate any preexisting problems—like, say, keeping track of the sapphire in the first place.

Manufacturing wasn’t the only problem. In August, one of the former workers said, GT discovered that 500 sapphire bricks were missing. A few hours later, workers learned that a manager had sent the bricks to recycling instead of shipping. Had they not been retrieved, the misfire would have cost GT hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Whether Apple or GT is ultimately at fault here we’ll likely never know. However, it may be safe in saying that given the huge difficulties Apple encountered in producing sapphire displays in its first attempt, you probably won’t get a sapphire display on the iPhone 6s or even the iPhone 7.

Fingers Crossed for Apple Tomorrow… We Need a Cool New Toy

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This Tuesday, Apple launches their highly anticipated live event. Many have speculated what is set to be revealed this year, as Apple has been rumored to make a splash in the wearable technology market with the so-called “iWatch.”

Most analysts believe such a device is coming, releasing a smartwatch now would mirror Apple’s strategy in the MP3-player market, where the company waited for a few smaller players to release devices and then went on to dominate the market with its own higher-end product.

Should Apple announce an iWatch this week, the company will likely also unveil a release date a little later in the year so as to coincide with the holiday shopping season. However some analysts believe Apple may postpone the iWatch announcement altogether, allowing it to stagger its big announcements and keep this week’s focus squarely on its new phones.

Beyond the traditional improvements Apple tends to make with every new generation of hardware, the defining feature of the products expected to be unveiled this week will almost certainly be screen size. The above photo is one of many rumored prototypes of a new iPhone, including a bigger screen than the traditional iPhone size. For years, Apple refused to alter the screen size of its flagship device.

In recent years, top rivals of Apple such as Samsung have proven that there exists a market for phones with larger screens. It is unlikely that Apple will release anything as large as the 6.3-inch Samsung Galaxy Mega, or the 7” Galaxy W, but analysts expect Apple to unveil two new types of iPhone – one with a 4.7-inch screen and the other with a 5.5-inch screen. Both would be larger than the most recent, 4-inch iteration of the smartphone.

Since the iPhone morphed from a revolutionary new product into a consumer mainstay several years ago, Apple launch events have largely focused on new tools and services for the hardware, rather than the hardware itself. This week’s event will likely be no exception, as Apple executives are expected to spend a lot of time talking about various cloud-based services – most notably, a new wireless payment standard that will allow iPhone users to make purchases simply by swiping their devices past terminals at the checkout. Many Apple rivals, including BlackBerry, have spent considerable energy on similar wireless payment models, but Apple’s entry is likely to shake up the technology, which has not yet taken off in a big way in North America.

But Apple’s promotion of cloud-based services is likely to prove a little tricky after an embarrassing black eye last week. In a high-profile incident the company has yet to fully explain, numerous celebrities saw their iCloud accounts hacked and intimate photos and other content stolen and distributed across the Internet. The hacking incident reignited a debate about the security of the infrastructure in which Apple users store everything from multimedia to credit-card numbers. As such, Apple executives will now almost certainly have to dedicate some time during this week’s presentation to reassure current and potential customers that their data are safe in the Apple cloud.

The Distraction Conundrum

I’m easily distracted… always have been. Had I been born in the 80’s rather than the 60’s, I’d probably be a life long Ritalin user. My internal hamster is running a mile a minute and if what’s happening right now isn’t getting to the point fast enough I reach for the zapper… I have often thought how neat it would be to have a human zapper, which allows you to fast forward through lackluster conversations. This impatience extends to media. I was raised in the UK on commercial free BBC TV and radio with the result that I am physically unable to sit through more commercials than the concise 30 seconds offered by the brilliant people at HuluPlus. I’m clearly not alone in this; media companies and advertisers are in constant conflict with consumers who don’t want the distraction. Placing ads anywhere, especially on social media, draws cries of outrage from consumers who have gotten used to the price of admission being free… both from cost and distraction.

Wallace-and-GromitSo, it is with interest that I started playing with Vine recently. If you haven’t tried it already you are probably using an Android phone… so far it’s only available on iPhone and iPod Touch. What this cunning, but evil little App does is allow you to create six second long stop-motion micro movies on your iPhone. If you ever watched Wallace and Gromit, or anything by Ray Harryhausen, you will be familiar with this technique. It’s very easy to do and kinda fun, but in the same way that Twitter drove the wannabe witty commentators to compress their deathless prose into 140 pithy characters, so Vine is going to turn a good number of us into six second animation crazy people. The app allows you to post direct to your twitter feed or Facebook, and it’s pretty addicting. I haven’t had the nerve to post my first efforts yet, but I’m working on it.

The challenge this very cool App, and the social integration it brings with it, goes beyond the interest it may generate in millennial cineasts or middle-aged goof balls like me. In the same way twitter declared 140 characters to be the required length for any conversation (commercial or otherwise), so Vine and the compressed media featured on Hulu is driving the attention span and the media window ever closer. Advertisers are responding by attempting to build their brands into successful vehicles much like Hyundai and the Walking Dead. That’s a show where no matter how horrific the zombie attack may be, you can be sure that our heroes will escape in a weirdly clean Hyundai… makes perfect sense. I’d much rather be trying deal with zombies in a shinny new Hyundai rather than (say) a Humvee. Mobile is further compressing the real estate available to target. The end product is an audience which is highly fragmented, talking to itself or just the people it likes, consuming media on multiple screens often in time shifts who is increasingly intolerant of the distraction commercial messaging creates.

What was that?… Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention.

A Very Mappy Christmas

The recent hoopla over the return of Google Maps to iOS has focused on the accuracy, splendor and coolness of their revamped app. I have to agree it’s terrific. I’m fairly frequently critical of Google in these pages (nothing like biting off the hand that feeds you) but I will happily give credit where it’s due with this new app. However (you knew there was a however coming right?) it raises a set of larger and perhaps more interesting questions beyond how gosh darned neat the thing is.

So very much of what we do is essentially local. Much of the hoopla surrounding the space this year has been to do with local. It seems like every other company (including my own) is essentially trying to solve the local dilemma. We have location based apps for pretty much everything from reviews and coupons to directions and deals. Millions have spent on geo-fencing to allow stores to pull of the ‘Minority Report” greeting individual customers with appropriate messages as they enter or pass their stores. Millions more have been spent building user bases for coupon or loyalty programs so we can get offers from our favorite coffee shop. Reviews have long been a mainstay of all things online, add the exploding world of mobile to that and we have a valuable and high energy mix.

Pretty much all of the above can be best experienced with a smart mobile device and a really good map app. Google maps is just that. So in 2013 look for Google to further expand their reviews and check in options way past just the Zagat they purchased. I’d expect them to add a checking and review feature probably closely tied to a virtual geo-fence program offered to members of many loyalty programs. Look for coupons and daily deals pushed to your map app together with offers from Apple’s Passbook and or Googles Maps/Fieldtrip. The ability to pay with your mobile device although missing from iPhone 5 is already in some handsets and is likely to be in many more in the very near future. Either way, maps are central to all things local and Google has snatched the crown back. 2013 should be interesting.

Proximity Creeping Up On Us

The good people at Google have just released an interesting App for Android which turns the heat up even further on the whole proximity thing. The App (called Field Trip) offers you interesting data, trivia, reviews etc of places near where you are standing to your phone without you asking for it. They are fronting it with historic data, reviews from Zagat etc. I’m sure initially it will have just that…probably not a huge amount of coverage but it’s a start. Whilst they may not have a vast amount of local trivia right out the box what they do have is hundreds of thousands of local advertisers who would arguably be relevant to you as you pass by with your android phone running this App. As an iPhone user I don’t have the opportunity to try it out yet so I can’t give you a firsthand review, but it meshes nicely with the Passbook feature of iOS6 from Apple. In both cases it allows content to be delivered to you based on where you and your phone are standing, sitting or driving. The Apple application is focused initially on airline tickets, loyalty cards and the like but in both cases I’m predicting within six months you will be getting polite alerts on both operating systems from companies you know and like or perhaps even ones you don’t have a relationship with to stop by and take advantage of this or that offer since you are in the neighborhood.

On a side note we have to hope that before Apple turns this on full bore they fix up their new map App. It’s a pretty impressive tool and the turn by turn GPS navigator voiced by your friend Siri is very impressive (if I were Garmin or TomTom I’d be reaching for the scotch by now). However, it’s so buggy that Tim Cook the Apple CEO actually apologized to users for making such a pig’s ear of the release. I imaging Jobs would have had firing parties at dawn. I was in DC the other day headed to the airport when I checked how long it would take to get there. My iPad running Google Maps thought Dulles was 35 minutes away iPhone thought over 90 minutes. Ahem Sir you could walk there in that much time….close but no cigar.

Have a great weekend!!

The Pied Piper of Local

The recent iPhone5 was being watched avidly by locally oriented folks for the introduction of an NFC chip to the phone to turn your iPhone into a swipe payment device. Sadly it wasn’t there, so we will have to wait for the next slightly thinner, slightly faster slightly more cool iPhone6 for that much needed feature. Buried deep amongst the other “slightly better’ features which I really don’t care that much about, is an entirely new feature which I do think will make a significant difference. The Passbook feature comes as part of the new operating system and it’s potentially a game changer. There has been much hoopla touted about rewards and coupons being made available to folks based on where they are. The ideal scenario is that you walk into your favorite coffee shop and your phone tells you that cookies are half off for the next hour….it sounds simple but it has eluded the market …till now.

To date major brands have tried to use Twitter for this kind of deal push and it works to an extent, but the App based loyalty programs available so far really only work if the App happens to be running…which is a huge pain in the phone. The new Passbook feature lets you accumulate your electronic coupons, tickets, boarding passes and cards in one place so you won’t have to fish through your pocket book for those loyalty cards or coupons. That’s both useful and convenient but the Passbook also opens the iPhone up as a real time proximity coupon delivery device. Apple is famously stuffy about who it works with and what those partners can do but it’s a pretty good bet that some time real soon when you sign up with some kind of affinity program or you when you follow a brand you will be asked if you would like to receive notices of special deals through Passbook.

The cool factor comes in when you add in proximity. Just how close you are to a particular location to trigger a coupon will vary based on the kind of offer. The cookies makes sense when you are right inside the coffee shop, whereas a nail salon might push an offer to clients on a wider basis on the grounds that they are more likely to drive to the location. In both cases the end user does not have to have an App running to get a notification on the lock screen that there is a relevant and perhaps very close offer to consider.

I think this could be huge, it could be bigger than the deal of the day nonsense and will likely force every loyalty and coupon play to get on board or go under. We can be sure that Android will have a similar feature in the next release or two so we are looking location based offers becoming very common very soon (I think propinquity ubiquity has a nice ring to it). Apple doesn’t need this feature to build their business so my expectation is that they will do it carefully and right so we don’t get deal spammed out of existence and they have the massive user base needed to make this relevant right out of the box. It could even lead to a ‘Pied Piper effect’ where a deal gets launched and leads to a crowd of deal hunters following to the location like the famous rats of Hamelin. Remember….you heard it here first.

Big Week in Google World

As a little fishy swimming in the vast digital tank which is Google it’s been an interesting week to see what’s happening at the mother-ship.  The big news is the secret talks between Apple and Google over Android. As I reported months ago Google has secured a clutch of strong early patents from Motorola in good part just to bolster their position in an inevitable conflict over their wholesale borrowing of features from the Apple iOS in Android. It’s the classic Mexican Standoff where both sides compare arsenals of patents and agree eventually to not hurt each other.

That’s an arguably progress, the last thing Google needs is a cage match with Apple. Google has had a couple of setbacks on other fronts this week. The long drawn out fair use case based around it’s program which is digitizing large parts of the worlds printed knowledge is now moving ahead..so that’s another legal headache waiting in the wings. In the same week Google announced its plan to shut down Google TV. This has been a long standing project to incorporate local TV advertising into the ad products it offers. It died for essentially the same reason Spot Runner died…it just took several years longer to stop moving. Google rightly argues that TV is going digital so it plans to chase that instead. The TV initiative went the way of Google’s attempts to include print media which they shuttered a few years back. Bottom line is traditional media works a certain way…it has entrenched vested interests and cost structures and changing those interests is a tough battle….indeed the media may die before they ever evolve…nobody nowadays misses the giant sloth. It’s easier to go digital than go back.

Have a great holiday weekend.

The Rise of the Mobile Mammals

I have been is search for over a decade and ever since 2000 each year has always been “the year when mobile breaks through” and it never was. Indeed, it felt like it never would. As smart phones emerged blinking into the dust of the 2008/2009 recession it was still the mighty search owned by Google executed on the mighty Desktop controlled by Microsoft that ruled the roost striding like tyrannosaurs through the verdant jungles of a the online Silurian epoch….(is that the right epoch.?) In any event the amount of usage grew rapidly spawning a plethora of cute apps dedicated to wasting our time and still it wasn’t quite the year mobile search broke through.

I was at Search Engine Strategies last week where the Geek and the Good of our industry meet to kibitz about Google’s plans to conquer the world and how they can best ride those coat tails. Talking to folks and sitting through the presentations (well a good sub set of them any how) you could be forgiven for thinking that the desktop was dead…or perhaps had never been invented. The dash to mobile devices of all kinds has the search world scrambling for solutions. Best guesses have search volumes from mobile devices out stripping desktops by 2015 latest. Mobile devices bring their own problems, the small real-estate limits advertising opportunities but the fact that they are inherently locally target-able generates enormous opportunity. The other thing with mobile devices (especially phones) is that they are…well phones. Phones (as old fashioned as they may seem) work terrifically for local transactions. We have focused on pay per call delivered through all forms of new media and mobile looks like being the most effective channel. It makes perfect sense and it’s a trend that seems to be catching fire.

Mobile devices have finally come into their own…and it looks like they may well take on a much greater role than we ever envisaged back in the early 2000’s. Back then we saw it as augmenting the desktop or laptop. Nowadays it’s entirely replacing it. For example, for the two days I was at the conference I kept in touch, did email surfed the web and did various social media things all from my iPhone. All aspects of search, social local and mobile have hit critical mass and look like they may just take over the world. What’s interesting from a search point of view is that Google who has ruled the roost for years now has an unexpected competitor in Apple. Google has fought and conquered Yahoo and Bing for years….now almost out of the blue comes Siri from Apple. Apple is also dropping Google Maps from its devices. It was interesting as to how concerned the Google Guy Matt Cutts seemed to be about Apple. When challenged by a questioner from the audience about their new Knowledge Graph cannibalizing web site owners content he pretty much said “if we don’t do it Apple will.” It will be interesting to see if the mobile mammals will be able to give the desktop dinos a run for their money.