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Posts tagged with ‘apple’

Benedict Evans On The Unbundling Of Samsung

Benedict Evans digs into the bind that Samsung is in, maybe a response to Ben Thompson’s Why Samsung Will Fall  posted on July 8.

But Evans goes a step beyond Thompson’s analysis, suggesting that Samsung is being unbundled by the entire Shenzhen ecosystem, not just being trapped in the middle between Google and Apple on one side, and low-cost manufacturers on the other.

Benedict Evans, Unbundling innovation: Samsung, PCs and China

When you unbundle an industry, you get new and different types of innovation in different layers of the stack. The skills you had in the bundled world may well still apply in the layer you find yourself in. Hence Samsung carries on doing interesting and impressive things in components, and can innovate up to a point in handsets, with things like phablets, so long as they do not depend on concessions from other parts of the stack. Equally, for example, Dell created an entirely new type of PC company - the PC company as a highly specialised logistics business - without differentiating at the operating system layer at all. 

But what’s happened for PCs and smartphones and, to a large extent, mobile networks is that it’s that top layer of the stack, that the PC and Android OEMs  and operators struggle to play in, that’s where most of the differentiation happens…ged these adjacent strengths to create better products and a stronger market position. Samsung has used the scale of the component business and access to those components to drive the devices business and vice versa, despite failing, mostly, to create compelling software differentiation. This leveraging of scale, combined with some great execution, has taken it to at least half of the total Android market. 

The problem is that Samsung is increasingly competing with another sort of scale effect - it is competing with the entire Shenzhen ecosystem. Before, it was competing with individual companies (many of which happened to use that ecosystem), and like Nokia before it was fortunate in the relative weakness of most of its competitors. As for Nokia, that luck was bound to run out. Now Samsung is starting to face competition with new companies who are finding ways to build new types of handset businesses on top of that ecosystem - taking that ecosystem and using it to unbundle Samsung.

So Samsung is hosed because they can’t dominate any specific part of the stack. Again, their only avenue is Tizen, but they keep fudging the launch.

Ben Thompson on Why Samsung Will Fall

Thompson has a great post cataloging why Samsung is stuck in the pincers between sustainable high-end smartphones (Apple), and the inexorable appeal of lower-cost smartphones to those who are price conscious. Read the whole thing.

But I thought this one section — about the stupidity of analysts — is dead on:

Software Matters – For years analysts treated all computers the same, regardless of operating system, and too many do the same thing for phones. I personally find this absolutely baffling; you cannot do any serious sort of analysis about Apple specifically without appreciating how they use software to differentiate their hardware. The fact is that many people buy iPhones (and Macs) because of the operating system that they run; moreover, that operating system only runs on products made by Apple. Not grokking this fact is at the root of almost all of the Apple-is-doomed narrative (which, by the way, is hardly new).

Software-based differentiation extends to apps. While a fully-fleshed out app store is table-stakes, for the high end buyer app quality matters as well, and here iOS remains far ahead of Android. I suspect this is for three reasons:

  1. The app store still monetizes better, especially in non-game categories
  2. iOS is easier to develop for due to decreased fragmentation
  3. Most developers and designers with the aptitude to create great apps are more likely to use iOS personally

None of these factors are likely to go away, even as Android catches up with game-based in-app purchases and as iOS increases in screen size complexity.

[…]

Ultimately, though, Samsung’s fundamental problem is that they have no software-based differentiation, which means in the long run all they can do is compete on price. Perhaps they should ask HP or Dell how that goes.

In fact, it turns out that smartphones really are just like PCs: it’s the hardware maker with its own operating system that is dominating profits, while everyone else eats themselves alive to the benefit of their software master.

Maybe Tizen is the shovel that Samsung could use to dig themselves out of the hole?

fastcodesign:

Apple’s “Transparent Texting” Could Make Typing And Walking Safer
If you’re walking, you really shouldn’t be texting. While not as perilous as texting and driving, there’s no surer way to annoy fellow pedestrians than by zigzagging across a sidewalk, eyes glued to your precious screen. But if you absolutely must walk and text, Apple might have a new feature that could make that action safer.
More> Co.Design

fastcodesign:

Apple’s “Transparent Texting” Could Make Typing And Walking Safer

If you’re walking, you really shouldn’t be texting. While not as perilous as texting and driving, there’s no surer way to annoy fellow pedestrians than by zigzagging across a sidewalk, eyes glued to your precious screen. But if you absolutely must walk and text, Apple might have a new feature that could make that action safer.

More> Co.Design

(via dackdel)

I think Typo will sell a shit ton of these cases. Apple should snap up the company, and make it a standard offering, like the smart cover on iPad.

I think Typo will sell a shit ton of these cases. Apple should snap up the company, and make it a standard offering, like the smart cover on iPad.

Battelle Pitches An ‘App Search’ Argument For Apple’s Buy Of Topsy

Battelle has an interesting theory about Apple’s purchase of Topsy. It’s not, he says, about Twitter at all: it’s about making search the central metaphor of a new iOS UX.

John Battelle, APPLE+TOPSY: IT’S NOT ABOUT TWITTER (AND TWITTER IS PROBABLY COOL WITH THAT)

In  Apple Won’t Build a (Web) Search Engine and Of Course Apple Is Going to Do Search, I argued that Apple must get into the “app search” game. Just as web search became the coin of the web realm, app search will be next. It won’t look like web search, I argued, but at its core, it’s quite similar.

That was three years ago, right after Apple bought Sirilaunched iAds, and was relentlessly touting the growth of its app ecosystem. I was certain Apple was going to figure out a way to create value above the level of a particular app, using all that tasty data it had within its restrictive walled garden to build the next generation iOS interface.

But so far, Apple has failed to innovate inside its own ecosystem (unless you count minimalist icons and bright base colors as innovation). Three years later, we’re still stuck in a user interface of app-filled screens, most of which we never use, each disconnected  from the other save for the fact they happen to reside on your phone, possibly right next to each other, but otherwise unaware of the value they might reap should they magically start sharing links and data with each other. (You know, the way the web works.)

This has to change.

Google knows it, which is why I find Google Now so fascinating. Apple knows it too – the days of home screens littered with app icons are numbered. What will replace it?

My guess is some kind of intelligent, search-driven interface that “understands” you, based on the intent you signal through your use of all kinds of apps – including browser apps, of course, as well as true search apps like Siri (or Google Now). This new kind of interface responds to your voice as well as your location, your history, and anything else you might willingly (or unwittingly) feed it. It will strive to always put the very thing you need at your fingertips – something that simply isn’t possible without understanding your interactions as the equivalent of …. well, a personal interest graph.

And to do that, Apple needs a powerful engine, the kind of engine that, say, has been hard at work understanding a massive corpus of interest data for, say, six or so years. Something like Topsy.

I go along with some of John’s complaints. As I have added a few dozen apps that I use regularly to my iPhone, the UX has become an impediment. Yes, iOS 7 is an improvement, but its the same old restaurant with better tablecloths.

I’d like to see a better UX, and search offers some great angles. And it’s a good idea to buy new talent, considering how bad Spotlight was for so long (and it’s still not wonderful). In particular, creating elements in the OS where apps could register and allow a search to index their data stores, so that I could search against the data and not just apps. Including, of course, Twitter data, and all sorts of other things that could be relevant.

So, maybe we should call this app-centric search, not app search.

Facebook, Still Dominant, Strives to Keep Cachet - Jenna Wortham, Vindu Goel, and Nicole Perlroth - NYTimes.com →

The authors of this NY Times piece ask an interesting question about the compatibility of Snapchat’s imagined world and Facebook’s:

excerpt

As for Snapchat, its compatibility with Facebook is unclear. Snapchat is centered on impermanence and offers privacy and anonymity. Facebook constantly pushes users to share more and is rooted in real-world identities and creating a permanent, largely public record of people’s daily lives and interactions.

Given these differences, the Snapchat bid looks like an attempt to corral back some of the cool factor in the form of young eyeballs. Three years ago, Snapchat did not even exist, and Facebook, with a valuation of $100 billion before its public offering, was the hot company. Now with younger users preferring Snapchat — which says it processes nearly as many photos as Facebook each day — Snapchat may well have the upper hand.

“It’s head-scratching,” said Christopher Poole, 25, the founder of 4chan, the message board. “From a business perspective, I understand it. But from a cultural perspective, it’s like, ‘Wait, what?’ ”

Mr. Poole said Facebook’s aggressive pursuit of Snapchat may point to an identity crisis of sorts.

“Does that mean that they’re willing to embrace an alternative to Facebook identity, or does it mean that they feel that threatened by it that they’d leave their own wheelhouse?”

But what of the larger question: is society (starting with the Snapchatting young) rejecting the Facebook notion of a single, unchanging identity and a global social network based on publicy? Yes. The fall of Facebook has started. Peak Facebook has already passed or will soon. Why?

The Benthamite underpinnings of Facebook are becoming unpopular. Young people in particular don’t want their teachers, parents, employers, and even all their friends to know everything going on in their lives. Oh, and the government. People want to have multiple, contextually defined identities, different circles of knowing, different non-overlapping rules of attraction. Everything is not everything.

Google is involved in a huge brouhaha now about imposing Google+ ‘real identities’ on YouTube commenting, which is an echo of the same shout for identity freedom.

My bet for the next answer is on social operating systems, although Google is moving down a dark road with Google+ identities, and Apple seems oddly reluctant to do anything social, natively. Perhaps the failure of Apple’s Ping has frightened them off it.

Maybe we should be on the lookout for some crazy developers that build streaming at the OS level, or near to it. Dropbox and other virtual distributed file systems are close enough to do something like that, constantly syncing in the background, and implementing a distributed model of sharing. Imagine if Dropbox supported plugins to provide the equivalent of Snapchat, or Facebook-like sharing of updates with friends, but where the user can define the visibility of interactions, not Facebook. And — if they want — users could opt to share some things in closed contexts, like private accounts on Twitter, and others in more open settings. People are after a spectrum of identity sharing, and Facebook just won’t go there.

Microsoft is caught in a reality-distortion field — Stowe Boyd -- Gigaom Research →

an excerpt

People don’t want Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, per se. In fact, those apps are generally considered bloatware, with confusing, UX-challenged, and overwrought design. What people want is something that doesn’t exist, but which Google and Apple are moving toward. People want to be able to view, edit, and create documents that are largely compatible with the de facto core standard of Office documents, the basic 20% of the three apps. And they want those documents to be sharable with other people, no matter what solutions those other people are using.

The big shift here is that in this era, the hegemony of Office is not going to dictate hardware decisions. People won’t put up with the limitations of Windows-based tablets from Microsoft or Nokia because they are the only place to get full-fidelity Office. And the simple reason is that people don’t want full-fidelity office, really.

Our work communications have moved outside of the interior of documents. The pattern of reviewing a Word document with internal comments and tracking changes is being displaced by external comments — in a work media tool (Yammer, Chatter, etc.) or in a social editing tool like Quip (see I want a social editor, but Quip isn’t there quite yet) or Draft (see Draft is a small and simple co-editor). In the heyday of Office, email with attachments was state of the art. Microsoft has acquired Yammer and moved Office to the cloud with Office 365, but they haven’t seen the change that is going on the perimeter of their model of office work.

So Frank Shaw is saying that Microsoft — at least under this CEO — is still fighting the last war for office productivity, while the world has moved on to a new form factor for work, where the social interactions of people cooperating are not concealed inside documents, but are instead mediated outside of them. And, as a result, the documents themselves can be much simpler in their internal architecture. We are relying on social architecture, now, instead.

(h/t ParisLemon)

Of note: Apple’s 9M units sold over the weekend likely banked the company in excess of $5.4 billion in revenue, which would have ranked one weekend’s sales of one product line at #462 of the Fortune 500, exceeding annual revenues of companies such as Facebook, AMD, Priceline.com, Wynn Resorts, Charles Schwab, JetBlue Airways, and Yahoo!.

Best Buy: Can stores be asset vs. Amazon? →

parislemon:

Larry Dignan:

The advantages to the store-as-fulfillment center plan are that Best Buy can deliver products faster and cheaply. The downside to that strategy is that Best Buy’s in-store inventory visibility isn’t good and the staff may not be as efficient as people in a distribution center.

The conventional wisdom would say that Best Buy’s stores are an albatross around their neck — much like they were for Blockbuster. But what if they can shift them into being more along the lines of warehouses — much like the ones Amazon is trying to build as quickly as possible — for fast local delivery? And what if only a small area of those warehouses were actually a storefront to show off their goods?

This would all take a lot of logistics (and possibly some re-zoning?) but it doesn’t sound like the craziest idea in the world. Again, what if your weakness is actually your strength?

Sounds like Joly might be onto something. But he can forget the ‘Microsoft Experience Stores’.

PC Makers's Forecasts Dim as Mobile Pressure Weighs on Profitability - Eva Dou via WSJ.com →

Hardly any touch screen PCs are being bought, so the world is breaking into a small number of successes: growing number of touch-oriented smartphones and tablets, stable numbers of keyboard + touchpad laptops, and a falling number of keyboard + mouse desktops. Strangely, PC manufacturers continue to over estimate people’s desire for oddball hybrids and touch laptops.

from the article

Acer and Asustek this week said touchscreen laptops championed by Microsoft Corp. haven’t made as a big a splash with consumers as previously estimated.

"Our first wave of Vivobooks was not a success," said Asustek CEO Jerry Shen at an investor conference Friday, referring to the company’s line of touch notebooks. "We are working very closely with Microsoft and Intelin an effort develop game-changing devices to launch in September.”

Mr. Shen said Asustek also plans to “attack” the nontouch notebook segment in coming months, as many customers still aren’t willing to pay extra for a touchscreen.

Acer and Asustek have pushed heavily into the low-cost tablet market this year to try to counteract the consumer preference shift away from laptops, but so far it isn’t clear whether sales of their Android tablets, which sell for less than $200, can offset the sales decline of more-expensive laptops.

Acer Chairman J.T. Wang said the company is shifting its product mix away from the traditional Windows system “as soon as possible,” with its percentage of devices running Google Inc.’s Android or Chrome operating systems to grow from about 10% this year to as much as 30% next year.

Asustek, which sells under the brand Asus, had up until this spring managed a better performance than many PC industry peers, partly because of a partnership with Google to make the popular Nexus 7 tablet. The sales helped boost Asustek ahead of Kindle-maker Amazon.com to become the No. 3 tablet maker behind Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co.

But even with the success of the Nexus 7, Asustek is now struggling. After the release of the second-generation Nexus tablet, Asustek was hit by a crush of inventory of the first generation, as well as poorer-than-expected sales of Windows RT tablets, analysts said. Windows RT is a version of Windows 8 geared to work with ARM mobile-device processors.

Touchscreen laptops, which PC makers initially saw as their defense against threat from the mobile advance, haven’t taken off.

I expect that we’ll see a huge surge in Android and Chrome laptops, and the near-term collapse of Windows. It will be Apple OS X and iOS v Google Chrome and Android, and maybe Ubuntu as a distant third, starting with smartphones.


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