Thursday, March 10, 2016

TiVo Mini and Apple TV

I am dedicated to TiVo - I've had multiple boxes for nearly 15 years.  I like the ease of use, the reliability, etc.  It's a great product and service (but very expensive).

I love the TiVo app for iOS.  It works great, it has a lot of flexibility, and has a pretty good interface (pretty good as it tries to do a lot, including acting as a soft remote control for multiple TiVo boxes).

TiVo makes a TiVo Mini. This is sort of a weird product - it is like a headunit for a TiVo that allows one to replicate the functions of a TiVo on a different monitor.  But, at its heart, is really just the TiVo app in hardware form.  And it is very expensive ($149).  And, even weirder, it is inconvenient to set up - it requires a hard wire (coax or ethernet) connection.  No wireless permitted.

My wish: that TiVo would release its app for Apple TV.  I know this would cut into TiVo Mini sales but I wonder how many people are really buying a Mini. I also wonder how many people would find TiVo more attractive if they could own one and watch in multiple locations with an AppleTV.  AppleTV seems to work fine on WiFi (unlike the TiVo Mini).  And the programming effort for TiVo is likely trivial (I believe tvOS is closely related to iOS).  I know that the TiVo remote won't work but, given that the main benefit of the TiVo Mini is just to stream from the "main" TiVo box, I think it would make sense for TiVo to offer this.  It would bring more people into the TiVo fold and that's probably a good thing.

Friday, January 15, 2016

What is a success?

I’m not cheerleading for the Apple Watch (exactly matching this article, I find myself simultaneously: telling most people not to buy it and yet, personally, wearing the Watch every day).

However, when it comes to determining if the Watch is a success, it seems like it would be useful to think about the right frame of reference.

The wrong frames of reference:  Annual sales in comparison to the iPhone’s revenues.  Annual sales in comparison to Apple’s overall revenues.    Benchmarking against the most successful product of the past 10 years? Revenues of the most valuable company in the world?  I agree they are relevant for the purpose of figuring out if the Watch will be a “needle-moving” business for Apple but they are bizarre benchmarks for success of the Watch itself.

I don’t know what the right frame of reference for success is but suggest that they might include:

1) Familiarity/Recognition.  This is measuring the success of building mindshare and interest in a new product - how well was the product rolled out.  Here, we have a product introduced less than a year ago that is widely recognized on sight and at a distance.  Even more conspicuously, if I say: “Is that The Watch?”, a large portion of listeners will assume I mean the Apple Watch.  For a newly introduced product, that seems like a measure of success.

2)  Market Share.  Unclear what the right scope of the market is (all watches?  all watches over $200?  all watches over $200 but less than $1000?) but it seems like it would be fair to compare the Watch against well known names.  Taking the three largest Japanese watchmakers (Seiko, Casio, and Citizen), their combined annual revenues are about $3 billion.  The largest Swiss watchmaker is Swatch/Omega.  Its revenues are about $10 billion.  If Apple Watch has sold anywhere near the numbers guessed (maybe 10 million), Apple is one of the largest sellers in the world by revenue in its first year (probably $7 billion).  For a watch (not a mobile phone, not an automobile), that seems like a measure of success.

3) Creating Prospects.  Apple Watch is a very imperfect product.  Releasing it in its initial state may have been a mistake (then again, given the above, maybe not?).  But, maybe a measure of success is how well Apple has created a potential platform.  The work of figuring out size, positioning, appearance, functions, and relationship with the phone seems to be pretty on target (given the balancing required by the state of technology and battery life).  The Watch doesn’t do all the things it should and many of the things it purports to do it doesn’t do well but, if part of the job is to create a credible platform that is worth paying attention to, again, the Watch seems to be a success.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

iOS adoption rates

I wonder to what extent iOS adoption rates are affected by the longevity of iOS devices.  For example, if the rate is truly determined by looking at the number of unique devices that access the App Store, older devices that cannot support the most recent iOS release would drag down the reported adoption rates.

It would also be interesting to see official adoption rates by device (iPhone 6, iPhone 6S, etc.) or at least device type or vintage (iPad, iPod Touch, etc. or 2015 purchase).  There are unofficial trackers that do exactly this, but it would be nice to have more authoritative data.

Finally, it would be nice if the official page gave some detail on the methodology beyond being “measured by the App Store”.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Perhaps a small product portfolio and growth are not at odds?

This DaringFireball post made me think a little bit about the recurring (2015, 2014, 2013, 2012) theme of "Apple is too dependent on a single product".

There's no doubt that Apple's results and future are closely tied to the iPhone's continued success.  But I also think it is important to think about how much that concentration on iPhone has created the success.

Gruber's comment about Apple's rapid and enormous growth (i.e., both its rate as well as its rate in the face of its large size) highlighted, again, the importance of having a small suite of products (the fabled: "We can put all of our products on the table you're sitting at").  It's not news that the sharp focus allows Apple to break the mold of low-return device sales.  My small question of the day is whether, beyond customer satisfaction, the only way to manage a giant company (at least by market cap) successfully is to have a narrow portfolio of products?  I'm distinguishing between a complex company and a complicated product mix.  There can be a lot of activity (a complex company) that supports the sale of those products but, to make sure efforts are coordinated, the products (and thus goals) must be few.

And the portfolio is even smaller than it may appear.  The criticisms of "iPad is a just a big iPhone" and insight that AppleTV is just a display-less iPhone also mean that the products have significant overlap.  Which means that the supporting underlying activity for each is largely complementary.

And, as I write this, I realize it may be captured in the Asymco post I just linked to - from 2010 (of course Asymco figured this out a long time ago).  Oil companies (the title is "Apple vs. Exxon-Mobil") are another example of giant complicated companies with small portfolios.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Chromecast Audio

Chromecast Audio makes good sense - it seems like Google's approach to Airplay and so allows a phone or computer to "cast" audio to a speaker.  Apple TV and Airport Express do the same thing but, as Apple TV morphs into a more full-fledged console and given the Airport Express's wider mandate (router, printer hub, etc.), this is a reasonable slot to fill.  And the 3rd generation Apple TV is still a little pricey (and big) to act merely as a speaker bridge.

A simpler "Apple Audio" dongle could respond directly but I still think an even more interesting approach would be to take the Airport Express (and Airport Extreme - which, bafflingly, does not have speaker output) and allow Apple Music to run directly on the router rather than simply act as a bridge between the computer and speaker.  This would avoid lag and help battery life enormously.

Monday, September 28, 2015

New Apple TV (4th generation)

I understand that the new Apple TV will be available in two different storage sizes: 32GB and 64GB.  What I can't figure out is why we would need 64GB.  I'm sure there is a good reason but I can't find anything that gives the answer.  Movies, music and photos are currently streamed and that shouldn't need to change.  And I understand that apps will be downloaded in chunks on an as-needed basis so we shouldn't need to have every single app onboard at all times.

A few guesses:
1) to avoid stuttering from slow or choppy downloads.  Lots of storage will help avoid this BUT: any meaningful size should be enough and the initial download will still be at the mercy of download quality (assuming the app or stream is used immediately)
2) to use when not connected to the internet.  Maybe?  But seems weird for an at-home device.
3) to store non-internet based items.  Home movies?  But 64GB (or even 32GB) seems like either too little or too much.  Too little if you really want to use the Apple TV for storage.  Too much if it is just a temporary repository.

None of these makes sense.

A crazy guess: for people on satellite internet?

Note that none of this explains why 32GB is the base amount (although perhaps, given the 20GB app limit, perhaps Apple figured the first 10 minutes of the most likely 25 movies to be streamed could be onboard for instant start? or something similar where the device tries to predict usage and have some portion onboard?).

A small bonus question: is the memory solid state?  I assumed it was but, really, don't see why it needs to be given that the device will probably just sit on a shelf.  And I don't think I've seen any confirmation of the storage type.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Watch OS Workout App Idea

For the next iteration of the workout app on Apple Watch, I’d like to see a “trim” feature.  Apple’s workout app, correctly, doesn’t shut off just because a pre-specified time has elapsed.  This makes good sense as a user would hate to lose credit for a workout because she went longer than anticipated.  However, it also means that it is easy to forget to turn off the app and thus can cause the recorded length of a workout to exceed its actual length.

I think it would make sense to be able to “trim” a workout in a manner analogous to trimming a video.  Exercisers would still be kept honest (any activity recorded has to have occurred) but would allow a more accurate reflection of active minutes.  Ideally, the trim feature would have some sort of “activity” or “exertion” graph that makes it easier to judge where to trim back to rather than relying on time as the only metric.

I imagine the workflow is:
  •           In addition to “save workout”, there is a “trim workout” button
  •           After selecting, there is a line with a waveform reflecting intensity (adjusted for the type of workout) with time stamps or ticks
  •           The digital crown would control the cutoff point (highlighting what will be excised)
  •           A simple button to confirm the trim and save or to cancel the trim and return to the save workout screen

An even better trim feature would be to be able to cut a workout into different segments to avoid capturing time spent resting.  But that seems a little harder to do on the watch interface.