Archive for May, 2010
Haters gonna hate…
…but, nonetheless, Apple’s iPad has two million customers in less than 60 days. At that figure, iPad has already eclipsed the total sales of Amazon’s Kindle (which has been in the market for over 2 years) if we extrapolate a bit from this 3Q09 estimate. Barnes&Noble’s Nook device entered the market later than Apple’s iPad, and no sales estimates have been forthcoming from B&N. And, the Border’s Kobo…well.
In the run-up to Apple’s January 2010 announcement, the pundits misjudged the iPad as a tablet-format computer and embued the non-existent device with all sorts of wished-for laptop features. When iPad arrived – as primarily a media-consumption device rather than a new-format personal computer – these same pundits, now wronged by Apple, derided the device for lack of the features they’d projected on it. Even those that liked it commented how Apple’s control over media sales and distribution to the device would create a world Google recently labelled “one man, one company, one device”. Cory Doctorow went bonkers on the iPad.
I think we’re seeing the “one superpower” problem here. With IBM and Microsoft both vanquished, Apple is clearly king of the hill in personal digital technology these days. And digital entertainment. There’s no longer any we versus they. No over-arching ideological battle. There’s only a string of solid home runs from Apple – redefining digital music, redefining the mobile phone, and now defining a new category of must-have device, the portable high-definition media consumption device (that’s jjjuuuussstttt good enough at work-related tasks to possibly supplant the need for a laptop for a lot of people).
So the conspiracy-theory types have come out of the woodwork to turn the former David into the new Goliath. You’d think Apple had turned into Alan Moore’s vision of Norsefire, the totalitarian regime that runs Britain in the movie V for Vendetta. In fact, it’s worse than that. We’re at Redactio ad Hitlerum already (whereby it is nearly impossible to discuss Apple’s incredible success without mentioning their “unprecedented level of control”).
I have another theory, however, and it’s simply this: We lived too long under the computing dominance of Microsoft. Except for Apple – who remained the only company clearly rebelling – everyone else just fell into line. The consumer-oriented companies of the last twenty years simply waited for Microsoft to innovate, and Microsoft always innovated in a single way – the way that best suited Microsoft’s need to keep itself powerful (which, some would say, usually included appropriating the ideas of others more than inventing new ideas itself). Now the sun is shining again – we have a true consumer-oriented innovator in personal computing – and writers and bloggers everywhere (let alone competitors) can’t figure out how it all happened so quickly and without their blessing.
Customers are now showing themselves to have been waiting all these years for an alternative to the Microsoft-dominated world. They want a device that puts less between them and their media, not more. They’re ready to embrace books, magazines and newspapers in this new format whose user experience technologies seem tailor-made to encourage new-found creativity among publishers. They’re ready to think beyond the personal computer.
Frankly, I think Apple’s success does more to pave the way for genuine competition than the vast majority of pundits are willing to admit. With Google’s Andoid operating system running on mobile phones, tablets and now TVs, many companies can participate in this freedom to move beyond the stale personal-computing world defined first by IBM and later monopolized by Microsoft.
We should all be thankful for that.
NewsCorp’s newspaper properties in the UK – The Times and Sunday Times – are switching to a subscription model roughly June 1, 2010. Currently, highlights from both papers are available free with advertising support via NewsCorp’s Times Online.
The Times is a highly-respected paper, perhaps the UK’s most-respected (in terms of its journalistic content, if not its management). Rupert Murdoch – Chairman of NewsCorp – thinks worthy writers should be paid accordingly, and I happen to think he’s right. The question is: Can The Times create a publication that stands apart plainly enough to make it valuable to customers hooked on free news?
I believe we’re entering a new era here. To be worth paying for, The Times – and all others newscrafters that pride themselves on journalistic excellence – are going to have to re-invent what being a newspaper means. They’re going to have to embrace technology, but more importantly they are going to have to end their ugly reliance on advertising support. Face it: newspapers – and their mostly-awful on-line services today – are crafted for advertisers, not for readers. This will be the subject of an upcoming (long!) post, but for the meantime, the news industry needs to return to providing readers quality journalism in a form and format that customers enjoy and derive value from.
If NewsCorp’s new electronic editions are simply identical to the current offering – replete with unreadable layouts, flashing ads, and unblockable full-page ad insertions, but with a login required – I suggest they will fail. The New York Times – America’s most venerable daily publication – failed at this model. A newspaper online needs to be different than a newspaper-in-the-hand and it needs to be crafted – journalistically and structurally – for the reader. Until newspapers recognize that, paid subscriptions will fail.
Let me point, here, point back to my recent post on MasterCard opening its credit card payment system to developers. Perhaps “subscriptions” is also the wrong approach. Perhaps newspapers need to experiment with other models for generating revenue – alternatives to buying the whole enchilada when you only want one article.
Best of luck, Rupert!
This portends something big: MasterCard is opening its payment platform to developers. PayPal, who’ve been open to developers since November 2009, had to respond. Visa will be forced to follow suit. Perhaps Apple’s recent payment patent got everyone moving?
Competition in this area is a good thing and, hopefully, will make accepting payments easier, especially for small values (less than one US dollar). That could unleash a wave of innovative services that do not need to be funded by advertising. Right now, payment for small items or services when mobile is next-to-impossible. And paying for information in small bites is certainly not possible. Happy to pay for one article out of a magazine, but don’t want to buy the whole thing? Sorry. Want to read just the bullet points from the WSJ’s famous summary section without buying the entire paper? Can’t. There’s a treasure-trove of information and services waiting to be unleashed, but for the lack of a trustworthy, convenient payment mechanism.
Perhaps we’re about the see that change.
You’ll remember that I recently rooted my TMobile G1 so that I could run a WiFi tether and use my Apple iPad on the TMobile 3G network. Boy, is it sweet! That process (rooting) turned out to be more conceptually frightening than actually difficult. So with all the Android action at Google’s recent I/O conference (much of which can be found online here), I’m pretty excited to upgrade my device to the newer versions of Android OS.
At I/O, Google confirmed that running the 2.x operating system on the Dream/G1 was “technically possible”. That seems to be geek code for “you’re unlikely to see the upgrade via official channels” (e.g., the operators and/or Google itself) but, (b) “Dear hackers, go forth and prosper”. Cyanogen (and the community that have sprung up around his original work) seems to have heard that loud and clear. They’ve got Android 2.1 nearly baked.
This is great for a couple of reasons. The most important? It shows Google has gone to lengths to assure that their original hardware is still supported. We’re still very early in what is likely to be a very long game and it would have been unfortunate if Google decided to cut life-support. It’s worth noting, though, that the operators themselves are not being supportive of Google’s efforts. By appearances, they’ve determined the right approach is to make their G1 customers upgrade to a newer phone (which will likely require re-upping for a 12- or 24-month extension to contract as well). Nonetheless, in the past there was no avenue to upgrade an older phone. Google has, at least, given us one with Android.
The major reason to go to extremes (metaphorically) to get Android 2.1 is speed. These later releases of Android have, we hear, seen a lot of work on performance. So, it’s not just the modern hardware making Android fast – it’s Android itself. As with other open source projects, we’ve got lots of eyes on Android, and a community generating requirements. That seems to be pushing Google in the right direction.
In addition to speed, there are a number of new OS and application-level tweaks and features available with the 2.x OS upgrade. The list is virtually identical to this description provided for the Nexus One. Wow, it would be a shame to miss out on this stuff!
So, I’ll be upgrading as soon as Cyanogen gives the word. A quick thanks to both Google and Cyanogen for keeping Android’s original fans current!
I’m going to attend O’Reilly Media’s Developing Android Apps with Java class online – weekly over the next month and a half.
I’m anxious to see how Android’s implementation of something-like-Java-but-can’t-be-called-Java actually works. I have some pretty decent experience with Java Micro Edition and it’s raft of extra libraries. Java’s promise to make device programming easier never worked out, though. So, I’m anxious to see how well the Android team exposed the operating system’s functionality to Java.
I’ve been a fan of O’reilly’s book series since I started working with computers – and, gosh, how long ago was that?! I’ve always found their publications right on the money in terms of understanding my starting point, then getting me to the next level.
In this case, I also admire O’Reilly’s creative mechanism for charging for the course: attending the live sessions online is free, but access to the course materials after the fact costs money. The charge, by the way, is reasonably low – so if you want to go back for a refresher or just have a cache of examples to start from, it’s not going to be too expensive. I like that O’Reilly is working very hard to figure out what it means to be a publisher in this era of all things digital. I figure that’s something I can support.
Lots of folks like to include Twitter tweets in their blog posts and other stories. That has required resorting to screen-grabs, typically. Until now. Now Twitter offers Blackbird Pie – it’s official ‘Retweet outside of the Twitter space’ capability. So, let’s give it a try.
After “Moon” last night (see it!), the question is: Should I slum it tonight and watch “Zombieland”?
So, how do you get the URL of the tweet you want to copy? Using Twitter’s browser client, open your profile or the tweetstream of any other user, then tap on the time stamp below any tweet. This will bring up the individual tweet in it’s own display and the address of that tweet will be in the browser’s link/address input (where you can paste it the clipboard). Then, swing on over to Blackbird Pie, paste the link into the provided text input, and the Twitterites will craft some HTML you can paste into your post – just like I did above.
NOTE: It looks like the tweet-time is going to be wrong on tweets handled this way. It appears the time-of-baking clock is used, not the original posting time. If posting time matters to you, use the screen-grab technique instead.
The folks over at Wired News are reporting that Apple has sold one million iPad units in just 28 days. Other sources corroborate. That’s quite an achievement – and one that’s quite to the chagrin of the tech press, as Wired News points out.
I attended the iPadDevCampNYC event two weeks ago and was amazed by the creativity and vision I saw in iPad applications created just within the space of 36 hours. It’s clear to me that Apple has created a new space here, even if you see iPad only as a media-consumption device (which is a wholly-limiting view in itself). This next twelve months promise to be very exciting indeed!
Andy Badera, over at Flip Bits Not Burgers, has just gotten his talons on an HTC Droid Incredible from Verizon Wireless. Andy’s been a long-time Windows Mobile phone owner. As some of you may know, many of those phones where built by HTC as well. In fact, it could be said WinMo made HTC’s reputation.
Since many of my readers are Verizon customers, I’m providing a link to Andy’s review.
Net: Very positive. HTC seems to be learning with every new Google Android OS design. Looks like those of you looking to upgrade from Blackberry or a feature phone should definitely consider the Incredible. You’ve got the Motorola choices, too.