Archive for June, 2010
After opening up their international sales shortly after crossing the two million mark, Apple’s iPad was even quicker to cross the three million threshold – just twenty more days, another million units sold. Can you spell S-U-C-C-E-S-S?
Apple also announced it had sold 1.7 million iPhone 4 units in the first 4 days of availability, almost making a mockery of iPad’s great run and setting a company record.
Hopefully, this will signal to anyone listening that we’re offiicially in the post-PC era now. America, especially, is moving closer to the European and Asian model where the main Internet access point is mobile. Yes, it took the larger screen of the iPad to convince us, and it’s a great sign that our foreign colleagues and friends also see the new form-factor as valid.
As I talk to clients and potential clients, the world has changed. With the exception of enterprise customers – still stoically soldiering on with their secure, managed, and aging PC-based applications – the new focus is on crafting a new range of experiences adapted to the easy-to-carry, easy-to-access iPad hardware. The set of ideas pouring forth from clients – who in the past wanted, at best, “me too” mobile applications – is really quite exciting. And the iTunes AppStore model for delivering low-priced applications in high volume will assure these new treats will be accessible to a broader range of people.
I’ve enjoyed my iPad since the first day of sales in April, and I’m completely happy with my wifi-only unit. I urge potential customers to consider this option instead of the wifi/3G edition simply because the tariff for 3G connectivity is way too high (in both initial, and on-going, costs). If you need occasion access via 3G, consider purchase of a smart phone that allows tethering – e.g., all the Google Android-based devices can be modified to add tethering. See my blog post on this topic.
Kudos, Apple, for a fine product!
AT&T is ending its unlimited data plan. Owners of Apple’s iPhone – who account for a very high percentage of data traffic on AT&T’s network – will be affected. But I predict most iPhone users will be affected positively. That’s because AT&T claims that 3% of its users account for 40% of the traffic. Once those 3% of users are reigned in – by making it more expensive to over-consume bandwidth – everyone on AT&T will start to see better performance, particularly in the very congested areas (New York and San Francisco in particular). And, the 97% of typical users will pay less for the bandwidth they do consume.
Frankly, you don’t need an economics degree to understand this situation. What AT&T is doing is arresting a true Tragedy of the Commons situation on their network. AT&T’s network approximates a public resource – a network utilized by a large customer base with widely differing aspirations and needs. Some of these users – a tiny percentage – have destroyed the resource by making overly-aggressive use of it, to the point the some users can’t even acquire access to the network at all for reasonably long periods. Everyone – including, curiously, the over-users – is frustrated.
Certainly, AT&T’s problem is not created solely by network over-use. AT&T has internal policies for managing its network, and the company in effect “places bets” on how the network will be used in order to craft the best possible access characteristics. AT&T also decides when, and how, to upgrade its network. None of us is privy to any of these considerations, and we can only believe AT&T’s public announcements on these matters. But overuse has seriously limited the tools AT&T has at its disposal. Something had to give.
It should be noted that Carnegie Mellon University – one of the nation’s most prestigious Computer Science schools – has instituted a fairly bold policy that throttles bandwidth available to users who have consumed too much in a given period of time. Students are subscribed automatically to CMU’s network, and there is no additional fee for network over-use. But this policy is deemed prudent here because it limits the tragedy of the commons situation (which affects all users). In the mobile arena, TMobile is already employing traffic shaping.
What sorts of usage consume lots of bandwidth? As explained here, streaming media, peer-to-peer file sharing and file download account for 66-75% of mobile bandwidth usage; web browsing 25-33% of usage – in both cases, dependent on region. To quote:
“…voice (VoIP), instant messaging, email and all other apps besides video and Web applications are a negligible driver of bandwidth consumption”
That’s right – the network is not being over-consumed by the Blackberry crowd, heavy users of Facebook, or people exchanging IMs. It’s being overused by consumption of media – streamed or downloaded files, legal and illegal. If you’re one of the people who’s got SlingBox Mobile, or a jailbreak phone running iHulu, or just can’t get enough AirSharing – well, you’re one of the people in AT&T’s crosshairs. And deservedly so (in my opinion).
Frankly, despite all the hype or what it’s called – 3G, 4G, LTE, WiMax, EV-DO – the mobile networks are simply not ready for high levels of media consumption. So those who do consume in this fashion need to compensate those harmed (impractical in this case) or pay more for over-consumption (which, indirectly, will compensate those harmed).
Please note that the altruistic blogosphere will no doubt erupt in anger over this change. Curbs on our freedom! Control by the Wicked Overlord! A slippery slope to usage monitoring, privacy invasion and government censorship!!! All very odd for a group of people normally in favor of spreading the most benefit to the most people (and disallowing the maximum benefits from accruing to the privileged few).