What’s next for Apple? My guess:

It has happened before. Apple has released a new product line and the stock price is going down a bit. These days, following the iPad Mini Special Event, the stock price is sinking just like that but a lot more than usual. Mostly, because Apple is sending mixed signals. Sure, the iPad mini is selling like crazy, 3 million units in three days, but that doesn’t count enough. Read more about those signals at Business Insider: Scott Forstall was fired, customers aren’t upgrading as quickly as they used to, Android is vastly outpacing iOS, Apple missed the iPad sales goal and so on and so on. People are leaving Apple products, once a lovebrand, for greener pastures.

The first thing that seems to be on everybody’s mind of course is that Apple without Steve Jobs is losing it. “Maps would never have shipped under Jobs.” “All product lines are now updated at the same time which means there is a 6-9 months window without a big bang.”

Well, this is not going to be a fan boy post, but I don’t see it as black as e.g. Nils Jacobsen writing for Manager Magazin. Yes, FaceTime was probably not the best way to spend money and resources and maps could have used a bit more time (after all, the Google contract was valid for another year). But there is more than the stock market. The company is still growing. The growth trajectory was bound to decrease, this shouldn’t really surprise anybody. Apple is still selling product like crazy, so fast in fact that the manufacturer Foxconn has problems keeping up. And so what if Android is growing faster at the moment, Apple at the moment still has the after sales market meaning the App Store that is generating much more revenue than Google’s Play Store.
Also, I belong to the group of people who thinks that Apple Maps isn’t all that bad. Sure, there seem to be some funny images and parts where the data isn’t as detailed yet, but so far when I was using it: Rock solid and the tin lady giving me directions? Wonderful. Finally hands-free driving again.

But the truth is, there is indeed an empty window coming up. What is Apple going to launch in the next 6 months? I think they have a couple of things on their sleeves. The first guess is the much talked about Apple TV. Will that come? My guess is yes. After the Isaacson Steve Jobs biography quite a few pundits had projected it for February of this year (2012). I think Apple is working on it and with the same intensity and secrecy they were working on the iPhone in 2007.

Secondly, I think Apple’s music offering needs a huge rework and I can imagine they are working on that. Will that be a revolution? There is potential I think. First off iTunes is heavily outdated and no longer adept for the landscape now compared to what it was 10 years ago when it launched. Syncing over several devices, different formats, several accounts, iTunes Match – at the moment this is not a good user experience and if Apple were to reinvent it to the point of “it just works” again you suddenly have a selling point back. In addition, Apple’s status with labels at the moment put it into a great position to solve the streaming business as well. Maybe they buy Pandora or Spotify and enable logging in and payment with Apple credentials.

I have read speculation that Apple would come out with a fitness device but I don’t think so. It’s too small and would undermine the relation with Nike and Nike+. If Apple were to enter the health market they would go bigger. Rather than that I think search and video are two areas where one could look. Google is concentrating on other important areas and has managed to finagle around with their search experience enough so that it is still dominant but not as dominant as it used to be – market share is dropping a bit. Maybe this is a good time to try to make a dent there.

I don’t think that a watch will be the solution, another rumor I have seen. There have been two successful Kickstarter projects in that area and the smartphone has become the watch replacement for many people – I don’t think that the “phone in watch”-product has enough legs to follow in the footsteps of the iPhone.

To conclude I think two things are necessary: Cut the nonessential. Follow out to the Blue Ocean again, get rid of the clutter (like FaceTime, and please let me decide whether I want the stocks app). Secondly, I think they’ll make a big splash. Like buy Square for example. Or, wait for it, the new MySpace if that turns out any good. And thirdly, just one more thing, there will be a new product. But I don’t know what it is yet 😉

Now please rip me.

Microsoft Surface and Apple iPad mini – what does it mean

Update: If this topic interests you at all, read Marco Arment’s piece on his visit to the Microsoft Store…

Obviously, I don’t have all the answers but in this case I have a strong hunch.

Let’s start with the new “tablet” from Microsoft, the Surface RT. If the reports I read (Gizmodo, Wired, AnandTech) have any truth to them – and why shouldn’t they – I think this device is dead in the water. You want three bullets? Here you go:

Price: 620$ for the device including the cover (which you need for typing, and it’s obviously the USP according to the ad)? Is Microsoft out of their mind? You can’t compete with iPad, the top of the class incumbent by putting out a device that costs the same or is more expensive. You need historical proof? Remember HP TouchPad?

Software: Robert Scoble said it often enough: If the software is of no use, it won’t fly. Not that he is always right, but he is in this case. The Windows app platform obviously doesn’t have the sheer number of apps to compete with Apple. But there is no Facebook app? No Dropbox? Kindle unusable? (This comes from the Gizmodo piece) What am I supposed to do with the Surface, work on spreadsheets only?

The cover: Go back in time and remember how Steve Jobs presented the first iPad. He sat down in this black leather chair on stage and started browsing. And what is the activity people use their iPad for most? Surfing the web, on their couch or somewhere where there is no flat surface. And then it turns out, that this oh so great detachable keyboard doesn’t work as well when  it’s not lying flat on something?

Dead in the water. And just to complete things: Have you ever started a new job and gotten an old keyboard? Have you experienced what kind of germs and whatnot collect there? Sure, you love your friends, but do you really want to switch your typecover with the one that bites her nails, eats apples or munches chips all day or the one picking his nose? I wouldn’t.

Other competition?

Having established that Microsoft Surface is no competition, I thought that Phil Schiller did a great job showing that even the iPad mini stacks up amazingly against the competition, especially in terms of ‘actual screen real estate’. 30% more in portrait and 60% more in landscape is gigantic. If they manage to put that in an ad and not the cute but silly Garage Band clip they’ll be fine.

But my hunch says the following: We have seen the beginning of the end for the original iPad as we know it. In two years time, the mini will be the regular and the bigger one will be called Pro. The small one will be ubiquitous and the bigger one will have business uses at best (maybe they’ll even discontinue it). This was a typical Apple learning curve. They needed to get the experience right and they did. They wanted to go smaller from the get-go but couldn’t. They didn’t have the technology yet. Now they do and yesterdays updates prove their technological prowess. Apple is so far ahead of the competition in terms of combining engineering with software it is ridiculous. Laugh all you want about the exaggerating attributes they use in presentations but be warned (again, this is just a hunch): This line-up update – remember they also updated the bigger sized iPad – gives them even stronger foot-hold on the tablet category. And the iPad mini will be the silver bullet for all those consumers who don’t have an Apple tablet yet.

Mobile video – consumption and creation shifts

After I read Mitch Joel’s post on the shift of YouTube consumption from desktop to mobile from last night I immediately checked the source to see if it had more information on how the YouTube iPad app is assessed. Or any tablet for that matter. It didn’t have any. Do they consider tablet views mobile? Probably and it would explain the increase from 6% to 25%.

I do agree with him that viewing videos on smartphones is not the same as watching on a flat-screen, or just a laptop (side-note: i can’t wait to try the new mirroring feature and catch up on my “to watch bookmark list” – not on the desktop but the big screen).  The whole Airplay-technology is just mindboggling if you think about it, doing with video what we first were able to do with audio, switching podcast consumption from the headphones to the appartment-stereo with a button.

Mitch’s later points on issues with geolocation I only know too well since a lot of YouTube content is blocked in Germany due to licensing issues with local bodies. To often we don’t use the Store or YouTube on the Apple TV  but hook up a laptop with HotSpot Shield to circumvent the IP-restrictions. That aside, regular television interrupted with commercials almost never happens anymore in this household.

The mobile shift also extends to creation. I have to really think about when I last took out that old FlipCam, probably last time I recorded an Speaking English Podcast (sorry for the long summer break!). In the meantime, camera and software for the iPhone have become very powerful, be it social video apps like Viddy, Socialcam and Klip TV, or simpler Apps like Givit, Gifture (sadly this app never worked so far) or Cinemagram. Combine that with the iMovie app and you are in trouble justifying the extra configuration – remember when you chose the MacBook Pro over the MacBook because you needed the power for video?

Aided by artists who are figuring out the power in their own hands (e.g. Fred Durst/Limp Bizkit; Britney Spears) the mobile revolution extends from consuming video to creating it.

If you are wondering what the role of brand marketing can be in this space you are probably not alone.

Online-Shopping und die Erwartungshaltung

Seit knapp zwei Jahren sind wir Amazon Prime Kunden und ich kann alle Studien bestätigen: Mit Sicherheit haben wir durch 24 Stunden-Versand und keine Versandkosten mehr Umsatz beschert.

Während Amazon also profitiert, müssen andere büßen. Jüngste Beispiele sind bei mir die Telekom und der Hersteller des Jawbone Up. Bei beiden habe ich vor Wochen eine Order platziert, nur um zu sehen, wie Kollegen einfach in den Apple Store gehen, um sich die betreffenden Produkte zu kaufen. Insbesondere weil ich Amazons 24-Stundenservice gewöhnt bin, finde ich längere Lieferzeiten eher lästig. Wenn dann aber “klassische” Geschäfte das Produkt bieten, von dem mir der Online-Lieferant sagt, dass es nicht verfügbar sei, werde ich grantig. “Juhu, ich hab das neue Jawbone Up im Büro, wer gucken will einfach vorbeikommen.” Pfft. Wozu bestelle ich das denn dann?

Was ist aus diesem Zustand zu lernen? Liegt es am Marktgewicht von Apple, dass die Produkte gerade dort zuerst “offline” verfügbar sind? Sind es Einzelfälle? Fehler in der Supply-Chain? Und, nicht unwichtig, fühlen andere Einkäufer wie ich? Ist das vielleicht auch eine neue Art von Beschwerdefall, die wir in Zukunft häufiger sehen werden? Welche Firmen haben das schon auf dem Schirm? Fragen über Fragen…

Subject: Why is the iTunes Store so little optimized to sell? and so little for not downloading?

Hi Steve,

I’ll keep the intro short: PowerBook G4, White MacBook, MacBook Pro, iPhone 3, 3GS, iPods… iPad: for sure!

I actually buy quite some music and TV shows in the iTunes Store. And I wonder: Why is it so, well, 1999? The only thing it seems to remember is my name. Certainly not my previous purchases. If it did, it would tell me at login that there is a new episode of House ready to download. It should do that whether I have a season pass or buy every single episode.
You know which music I buy – why don’t you automatically show me new releases? Why does the Genius feature not work on your end and present me with “you might like to listen to this too.” It doesn’t have to be on my machine, could be in the cloud and thus much faster. I would probably purchase even more…

Do you know what the worst part of buying TV shows at the Store is? The ever-returning Downloads which I can’t delete.
Example: I bought season 1 of West Wing and later got the DVD box set. Obviously, I didn’t need to download all episodes. But that is what the Store intends me to do every time I purchase something. A year later still, because it won’t start downloads in reverse chronological order as it should, but chronologically. To make matter worse, I got How I met your mother Season 4 which had Standard D and HD for one price. I only downloaded one definition yet, but iTunes Store wants me to download the rest.
Which means that every time I buy a new TV show the Store automatically starts downloading old West Wing episodes. To-be-downloaded-items that I can’t permanently delete. Do you really want me to download 20 GBs just to get rid of this?

Still, looking forward to the iPad…
sebastian