iPad mini: I was only mostly right

From July 15: First public prediction: The 7(.85) inch iPad will happen

Over the last 3 months, the coming of the iPad mini became such conventional wisdom that it hardly qualified as a prediction. But there were plenty of doubters back in July.

7.85 got rounded to 7.9, so I got that right.

Pricing: not so much. They took a bite out of the pricing umbrella, but plenty remains.

Some theories on this:

1. They see the iPad as a fundamentally different class of device than the army of 7″ Android tablets. They’re right, of course. Even if you don’t care about Jony Ive build quality, the app ecosystems just don’t compare. But if all you’re going to do is watch media and surf the web…. Wait. More than 90% of tablet web surfing is done on iPads. Okay, I’ll just stick with “different class of device”

2. They can’t make enough. With the iPad 2 at $399, the $329 iPad mini (entry level) price is about as high as they could set it. Apple is a smart very-much-for-profit company and if you can’t make enough you charge a high price to dampen demand and maximize profits.

You can’t gain additional share if you can’t make the actual units.

I read a comment from the Android world that the form factor was the only reason to buy the iPad mini. I think it was meant as a criticism. But that is exactly Apple’s point.

And that’s why I only score myself as “mostly” right. Because the point of the iPad mini wasn’t to lower the price. The point was that for some users/use cases, smaller is better. This also may be good for the platform. A full sized iPad doesn’t carry a big premium, so we won’t find a swath of users with full sized needs cramming themselves into smaller screens because the prices are so different.

I also think of those web surfing statistics and wonder if the iPad has any  real competition. Maybe those really big Samsung phones? And I believe they still make netbooks.



There are worse things than weird

Weirdest macs of all time?

I actually owned a Mac XL. It showed that if you put a hard drive on a mac it just might be the future. Because as I learned early and have never forgotten, speed is an essential ingredient in ease of use.

The “collector” (hoarder) in me wants to own one of all of these except #1. That one is just too ugly.

Missing from this list, imho, is the Macintosh Portable. Quickly forgotten when Apple hit the design home run of the original PowerBooks. Yes Apple did a few great things while Steve Jobs was not there… two decades later the modern laptop still is still a recognizable descendant of the PowerBook, which is quite a run. (Yes, I checked. ThinkPad shipped a year later.)

But weird macs are okay. What was tragic was the endless proliferation of undistinguished beige box models in the 90s. “Macintosh Performa 9208*” There are worse things than weird. In fact, maybe with Apple’s iPhone and iPad home runs, we should hope Apple just might be a little bit weird again?

* probably not a real model number. But who cares–they’re all a bad memory from dark times.

Continuing my foolishness on Maps and Steve

Harry Marks makes good claim chowder dissecting a year old article which boiled down to “If Apple doesn’t become like its competitors, it’s doomed.” I guess there’s a real art to writing it in such a way that lots will read and not ask the obvious: “Are you high? (If so, please tell me on what so I can avoid it.)”

The obvious point is that leaders fail when they stop acting like leaders.

But a lot of people don’t get Apple, have never gotten Apple, and just ascribe its success to “marketing.”  It’s not too hard a sell–tech people think marketing is evil voodoo; marketing people like being ascribed that kind of power.

Back to Maps and Steve.

Harry (who clearly does get Apple) listed plenty of Steve Jobs-released products that were not exactly successful. But as I read that Consumer Reports likes iOS 6 maps and Philip Elmer-DeWitt goes gaga over 3D I think we’re looking at the wrong set of Steve Jobs released products.

How about this one: Mac OS X.

In its first iterations, OS X wasn’t completely ready for prime-time either. Critics had long called for Apple to make distinctive hardware and maybe add a UI skin to a serious OS, like Windows NT. (Just like today they call for Apple to remain chained to Google.) But Steve Jobs dragged us, kicking and screaming, into the future.

Every subsequent Apple success has had OS X at the root of its technology stack. (Including the iPod which entered life as a Mac peripheral.)

And yes, if you’re Apple and mobile is most of your business, mapping is pretty damned important as well.

There’s another parallel too. An OS can only go so far in a lab… it can only reach maturity with wide usage by developers and users.

Now a more reasonable leader might have released iOS 6 Maps as just an option, letting early adopters use it while others could fall back on the previous product.

That same leader would certainly have included a floppy drive on the iMac.

Where I foolishly indulge in: What would Steve do?

I cried the day in January 2011 he announced what would be his final leave of absence. Again when he resigned as CEO. And again, much much harder and longer, the day he died. I’m no Steve basher.

But ship a beautiful reboot of a product with a little less substance under the hood? That’s exactly the kind of thing my namesake Mr. Jobs would do.

iOS 6 Mapping: A Guess and a Clear Observation

The Guess

Apple dropped using google data for the long term health of mapping on iOS. Control of map data was a strategic asset that google would use/was using to differentiate Android and disadvantage iOS. And it would only get worse… every data request to google map data is more information to improve google map data. So Apple felt it had to bite the bullet and launch a product without the benefit of 100s of millions of users improving it for years… in order to insure its users would have a first class solution with that exposure to real world usage. No way around it.

The Clear Observation

Since google mapping was completely available on iOS 6 by loading it into Safari (and yes you can create an icon for it on the home screen), all this controversy seems to say something about the importance of apps vs. the mobile web.

But, of course, the HTML5 mobile web is the One. True. Future. Of course.

Mobile Mobile Mobile…

MG Siegler, in which he first uses the word “mobile” like an 8 year old to make his point.

The value in the desktop web is increasingly an illusion. Given the rate at which these mobile devices are improving, a plunge is rapidly approaching.

Don’t build an app based on your website. Build the app that acts as if websites never existed in the first place.

Before i was an IOS developer, I wrote for desktop platforms. Software you installed on your hard drive and not only didn’t require a net connection… it didn’t use a browser. Ask your Dad or a high-end gaming geek.

I had good reasons not to embrace the web as a developer. I used it, but come on, serious software was always going to run locally so it could scream. I couldn’t have been more wrong and these days I’m having to spend time away from my true love (iOS) to remedy the shame of having a godaddy.com hosted web site. And web guys are still on top of the world right now.

But just as the web was once the new Microsoft Windows, it is now the old Microsoft Windows. Yesterday’s platform, and mostly today’s platform. But not tomorrow’s. It’s kind of amusing watching history repeat itself, watching the web guys see mobile the way we desktop guys saw the web.

The mobile future, however, is not making mobile work like the web any more than the web was about making it work like Windows (Microsoft definitely tried.) It will be the primary platform (and yes, there may be more than one OS.) Design with a clean sheet of paper. Use the best tools. Bring your A game.

And if you don’t have a great native iOS app, not to worry. Somebody else will.

If there was any web entity with enough power to impose its will on mobile it was facebook. Instead they made a 180 degree turn, embraced native, and spent a billion dollars for Instagram.

Few companies will be able to spend a billion to buy the app they should have built. Users will simply find the apps that feel right.

The Write Once Run Anywhere Holy Grail

Jean-Louis Gassée on HTML 5 apps for smartphones

Then we have the good old Write Once Run Anywhere (WORA) refrain. Developing and maintaining native apps for different devices is time-consuming and expensive. You need to hire separate teams of engineers/designers/QA, experts at squeezing the best performance from their respective devices, educing the most usable and intuitive UI, deftly tracking down elusive bugs. And even then, your product will suffer from “feature drift”: The ostensibly separate-but-equal native apps will differ in subtle and annoying ways.

HTML5 solves these problems. In theory.

In practice, two even more vexing dilemmas emerge: Performance and The Lowest Common Denominator.

As well as I’ve seen it put. And he’s not anti-HTML at all. He’s just seen the quest for this holy grail before.

In my opinion, iOS is the most dynamic and competitive native app platform ever. Bring your A game.