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Archive for the ‘gadgets’ Category

Welcome to the Age of Mobile Devices, Mr Romney

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 18, 2012

Mitt Romney was dealt a tough blow today by a video that looks like it was taken with a smartphone:

The video was published by Mother Jones magazine.  In it, Romney says, “There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”  He goes on to say that his job “is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

That’s not going to sit well with a large number of Americans, at least the 47%.

It marks the first time I remember a candidate running afoul of ubiquitous smartphones, but you can bet it won’t be the last time.  There are no closed door guarded moments with a friendly audience in the Age of Mobile Devices.  Everyone is potentially always on and always public.

Posted in gadgets | Leave a Comment »

Time Commoditizes Every Advantage

Posted by Bob Warfield on May 25, 2010

“For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.”
- Gen. George C. Patton

Indeed, all glory is fleeting, as is all competitive advantage.  Steve Jobs is one of the modern-day Pattons of Tech, very much in the mold of the George C. Scott movie character.  He is a superb warrior who occasionally embarrasses himself through his ego, but who rarely loses the fight.  His thirst for more glory in the form of more crushing wins for Apple is seemingly insatiable.  But time is not on his side from many perspectives.

When left to his devices, Jobs will eventually spawn a product that completely upsets the conventional wisdom and storms the markets.  John Doer has rightly called Apple one of the four horsemen of the Internet, and Steve Jobs is surely the rider and master of the horse.

Yet the very success Jobs craves drives competitors to extraordinary lengths to take the market back.  Imitators come along and at first do poorly.  But over time, they get better and better as Apple’s advantage gets less and less.  Eventually it boils down to brand and fashion.  Sure, its a nice polo shirt, but mine has an alligator or a polo player, so it has to be better.  Time whittles away competitive advantage.  It is relentless and cannot be bargained with.  The only antidote is to keep running to produce more innovations.  Apple is actually quite good at this, but they’re poised on a teeter totter of advantage that can come crashing down quickly as weight shifts.

Because their devices are better and came first, many more people use them.  Because many more people use them, their ecosystems are more vibrant, which makes more people use them.  It’s a virtuous cycle, but it is vulnerable.

Larry Dignan says the Android Tablet Armies are starting to form.  He has a great insight in that the iPad isn’t as big an innovation as the iPhone was.  In fact, it is many of the same innovations built on a different form factor.  The world is further along at copying the iPhone, so therefore the iPad will enjoy an even shorter period of uncontested glory.

Google is already outselling the iPhone with Android during some periods.  A growing audience is getting experience with both phones, and will write about the experience.  Some people will choose the alternatives for reasons that Apple’s followers will scoff at–because they are cheaper, because they have keyboards (I know a lot of women who hate the iPhone because their long fingernails make the touch screen difficult), because they like Flash (and mobile Flash games are pretty cool), because the Kindle screen is easier to see in direct sunlight, because Android has tethering, to get away from AT&T, and on and on. 

This is the part where open beats closed just by sheer attrition, and one man, one device, and one carrier cannot claim to be more open, no matter how skilled they are at marketing.

The other thing that happens is a peculiar emotion related to Schadenfreude (pleasure derived from the misfortune of others).  We’re genetically wired to be wary of the most popular thing.  There’s too much power there that can one day be used against us.  In fact, you don’t have to watch the Tech Markets for very long to conclude it will be used against you–it’s only a matter of time.  This genetic wiring is why the underdog always has a following.  In this case, Google is doing a masterful job of positioning themselves as the good guys and the underdog, just as Apple’s share of these devices is huge and the value of their stock is soaring, even though Google itself isn’t exactly an underdog by any normal measure.   It doesn’t matter, people crave an alternative to the leader.   It isn’t safe when there is only one leader.

Startups take heed.  A long time ago a very successful VC drew a chart on a napkin that he said was everything anyone needed to know about startups.  It consisted of a line that popped up very suddenly and then grew slowly.  Meanwhile a faster growing line starts a little later, but without the big initial pop.  The initial pop represents the startup’s inspiration–the big idea that put them on the map, created most of the value, and then grew from there.  The faster growing line represents the market trying to copy and commoditize the startup’s idea for their own advantage.  We don’t necessarily know all the variables at the outset:  how big is the pop?  How fast can the startup grow?  How long will the market wait before it tries to commoditize?  How fast can it commoditize?  What we do know is that when the lines cross, the startup is changed forever unless it can create another big innovation.

You can grow a startup to a big company either because all the variables line up right (you got a really big pop, you grew really fast, and the market gave you time to build up an unassailable lead), or because you keep building with more innovation pops.  Either way, you’re running out of time faster than you think.  Time commoditizes every advantage.  All glory is fleeting.

Posted in apple, gadgets, Marketing, platforms, strategy | 1 Comment »

Amazon Should Launch a Kindle iPhone App

Posted by Bob Warfield on December 3, 2008

There was news today that Amazon has launched an iPhone application.  The application is Amazon Remembers.  It’s an interesting application where you can photograph something you want to buy and Amazon will try to match it to a product they sell.  You can also just browse the Amazon shopping experience, but the “experimental” photo matching feature is the real news.  The photo recognition is done by real people via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk facility.

This is all well and good, but it just makes me wonder why Amazon hasn’t launched the real killer iPhone application:  a Kindle-style reader that runs on iPhones.  Assuming Amazon doesn’t think it makes most of the money from sales of the Kindle itself, the iPhone would be a huge acclerator for the Kindle business model.  And what better time than now, during the holiday season, to launch such a thing.  Amazon’s updated Kindle version 2 was delayed until next year anyway.

Can you imagine what a big splash a Kindle reader application for the iPhone would make?  Heck they could charge $50 or $100 for it and sell a bunch at a nice profit..  It might cannibalize some of the Kindle hardware sales, but I’ll bet not that many.  I’d sign up for an iPhone Kindle application in a heartbeat.

Posted in apple, business, gadgets, strategy | 10 Comments »

The iPhone of Home Phones?

Posted by Bob Warfield on January 9, 2008

I like this John Sculley idea that I found on engadget:

iPhone of Home Phones

It does seem a bit reminiscent of an iPhone.  What I like is the iPhone aesthetic, but more importantly, the idea of having a web browser in the kitchen that doesn’t take more space.  It doesn’t take more space because I already have a phone and answering machine in there.  Now there’s some fine tuning we could do to make it particularly nifty.  Here’s what I’d like to see:

-  A model with a little bigger screen, or maybe just iPhone-like zooming and panning.  I want to be able to see a recipe on this thing!

-  Pursuant to being able to see the recipes, it would be awesome if the touchscreen was removable so I can carry that recipe over to where I’m cooking.

-  I’d love to have an optional gizmo to extend WiFi from this phone.  Turns out the kitchen would be an ideal place at my house for another WiFi hub.  It’s close to the family room and it’s close to our deck in back–both places laptops are often seen.

I’ll bet we see a rash of the iPhone’s clever ideas and aesthetics applied to other devices.  Cool beans!

Posted in gadgets | 1 Comment »

30″ Monitors Rock But Smugmongous Is Really Cool

Posted by Bob Warfield on December 8, 2007

Recently I bought a Dell 30″ monitor.  I got a new one from eBay for circa $1000, which seemed like quite a deal to me given that it hadn’t been that long since I paid nearly that for a much smaller monitor.  I was immediately enthralled with the thing after setting it up.  Playing first person shooter games you can just about get lost in the image and motion sick it’s so immersive. 

For certain tasks, screen real estate can be very important.  I once heard Alan Kay say that using a windowed user interface wasn’t like a desktop at all.  He said it was like taking everything off your desk and throwing it into the bottom of a trashcan and trying to work on it there.  For coding, web page design, or whatever else you use your computer for, there finally seems to be enough real estate on the 30″ monitor. 

I also found that as I’ve gotten older, I’m reaching that uncomfortable state where I don’t quite need bifocals, but there are zones of discomfort where things are hard to read.  Initially, I would take my glasses off and it worked.  Now, for certain things, I move the glasses out on my nose a bit.  It was starting to be annoying, but the 30″ monitor makes everything easier on the computer.

Just as I had settled into loving this thing, I caught Robert Scoble’s video interview of Smug Mug founder Don MacAskill.  MacAskill demos their new services on a pair of 30″ monitors.  The SmugMug site has the cool ability to open a window that spans both monitors with tons of thumbnails and a giant view of the currently selected thumb.  Holy photo sorting Batman!  I need this thing.  It’s so hard to be able to wade through tons of thumbnails, and the Windows Explorer makes the thumbs too small anyway.  I may have to give this a try, although I don’t know where I’d even put a second 30″ on my desk.

SmugMug is a really cool business, BTW.  Watch the interview.  I met MacAskill briefly at the Amazon Startup Project.  I’m hoping to interview him some time soon–waiting to hear back on their interest. 

P.S. It was so annoying not to be able to get the interview to pop out on Scoble’s site.  It popped out once with Seagate.  I zapped that window and then could never get it to pop out again and zoom up.  Oh well.

Posted in gadgets, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment »


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