Tag: touchless

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The iPhone Metaphor

Today we arrive at the first of two 10-year anniversaries regarding iPhone: Steve Jobs unveiling the handset six months before its release—unusual for Apple’s then-CEO to pre-announce something, but necessary, with the federal regulatory rigmarole that cellular devices go through. Jobs and his management team brought the smartphone to market at great risk: Established and entrenched manufacturers, mainly Nokia, had huge distribution channels and massive amounts of research and development invested in their cellulars. iPhone debuted in one market (United States) and on a single carrier (AT&T, which concurrently rebranded). By most measures of business strategies: Insanity. But risk was a defining characteristic of Jobs’ leadership style running the company.

You will read many “state of iPhone” analyses and commentaries this week spotlighting slowing sales, as buying growth plateaus in major markets (China, Europe, and the United States) and observing that Android continues to gobble global market share. The problem with iPhone is something else, and it’s a metaphor for what’s desperately wrong at Apple as 2017 starts: Loss of innovative mindshare; obsession with an outdated design motif; unwillingness to take meaningful risks. The company’s fortunes rose with iPhone, and they will fall with it. 

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Tim Cook’s Last Stand

Washington Post reporter Hayley Tsukayama asks, following up on a commentary by software developer Marco Arment: “Is Apple really at the risk of becoming BlackBerry?“. The answer is absolutely “No”. But the concept is right. The fruit-logo company’s dire straight is much more profoundly catastrophic. The risk is becoming Nokia, and the path to that destination is already well-trodden.

Marco calls BlackBerry “king of smartphones”, referring to its market position before Apple released iPhone nine years ago in June. The description is apt enough. “BlackBerry’s success came to an end not because RIM started releasing worse smartphones, but because the new job of the smartphone shifted almost entirely outside of their capabilities, and it was too late to catch up”, he asserts. But smartphones were a niche category in 2007, so insignificant that analyst firms lumped the devices together with PDAs. iPhone’s disruption was far, far greater—Nokia lost its perennial global handset lead; for many of the reasons Marco identifies. Nokia, and not BlackBerry, is the metaphor, and it is frighteningly foreshadowing. 

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Siri Says: ‘Google is Big Brother’

I have some advice for the European Union Competition Commission: Lay off. You don’t need to reign in the Google monopoly. Apple will correct the market around search and mobile. That’s one of two related takeaways from Monday’s WWDC 2015 keynote. iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan up Apple’s push into search and proactively-delivered information in big ways. That is if delivery is as good as the company promises.

The other takeaway harkens back to what I told you last week about Tim Cook’s piracy rant against unnamed Facebook and Google alongside the friggin U.S. government—plural if thinking beyond the Feds: It’s BS marketing. Apple prepares a major competitive assault against Big G, hitting where damage can be severe: Perception and profits. I cannot overstate Google’s vulnerability, which ironically is where the search and information giant exploited Microsoft during this Century. 

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Amazon Echo Is All About You

While professing not to be a geek, sometimes I act like one. This afternoon, I requested an invite to buy Amazon Echo, which promises to bring Star Trek-like responsive computing to the home. The cylindrical device, announced today, is a Bluetooth- and WiFi-enabled streaming speaker that responds to users’ questions. Just say “Alexa” and ask something.  “What’s the weather?” “What is the largest dinosaur?” This is how search information should be, assuming Echo resounds as strongly as Amazon’s product information and demo video claim.

Voice response is exactly what consumers need from a personal device, and many others used every day that pack chips and operating systems. While humans are tool users, for which touch interfaces make sense, the ability to communicate with language sets us apart from all other species. What is more familiar than talking, and expecting response because of it?