Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Perhaps a small 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. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

can't delete Apple Music?

Why does this Wired author assert that "You can't delete" Apple Music?  If Brian Barrett means "you can't go back to the old Music App", he's pretty wrong.  If he means you can't delete the Music App period, he's right but that has always been the case.  And I'm pretty sure he means the former as he seems to be lamenting the change from the old Music app.

For those who don't want Apple Music (I didn't - I was spooked by the lost songs/mixed up metadata problems and didn't think it likely I would use Connect), and who want to revert back to the old pre-Apple Music app, do the following:

1) go to settings>general>restrictions and scroll down to "Apple Music Connect".  Deselect Apple Music Connect and enable restrictions.
2) go to settings>music and deselect "Show Apple Music".
3) if you use iTunes Match, leave "iCloud Music Library" enabled to keep playlists synced and all music available on your devices.

And now you are back to your pre-Apple Music app.  No Connect.  No "New".  No "For You".  Just Music, playlists, and radio.  Just like before.

Is it a little inconvenient?  Absolutely - I needed to write a set of instructions.  Is it difficult?  Not really, the instructions had two (maybe three) steps.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

oil prices

Given that certain countries are highly dependent upon oil earnings for their government budgets and economies generally, how much political work goes into destabilizing other oil producing countries (and thus both permitting increased deliveries and increasing prices)?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

"Windows Fans"

In most of the articles about Microsoft's write-down of $7.6b on its Nokia deal, as well as the source email itself from Satya Nadella, there is a reference to refocusing Microsoft's mobile efforts on three groups: business/enterprise customers, users of lower-cost phones, and "Windows fans".

The first is fine - I think that Microsoft's franchise has shifted to weight Office more than Windows and so targeting business makes sense (although I'm not sure how giving Office away for free works to earn profits).

The second is dangerous but perfectly plausible.  Not a great customer base but big volumes can go a long way.  Of course, for software, the margins are nearly 100% so competing on price is dangerous but fine (also, hard to see how this works well with targeting business users?).

But the third is baffling.  Who is a "Windows fan"?  I thought Windows was universal because users had no choice, not because users loved the brand.  And I write brand very specifically.  I don't mean that some users don't love a specific version of Windows (personally, I think Windows 7 is great and they really should have just fired everyone and kept raking in the profits from selling it for years). I mean that, given the multiple changes to the OS (especially on mobile but also more generally - see Windows 8 v 8.1), it can't mean that they love their Windows workflow (there is no such thing as workflows generally don't translate from desktop to mobile/keyboard to touch). And it can't mean for the APIs (programmers are not a big enough market to set as one of three core targets for sales).  So it must mean a devotion to the BRAND.  But that seems insane.  And why do none of the articles even question the idea of their being a meaningful set of fans of the Window brand large enough to translate from desktop to mobile?

People like Android but, really, it is by defining themselves against iOS.
People like iOS but, really, it is either by defining itself against Android or against history.  As the OS stops evolving so rapidly (there was no cut and paste only a few years ago...), there will be less to delight and the OS will just fade into the background.  And, what people really like about iOS are the apps available and the integration with other Apple products at a core level.

But I don't think anyone LOVES Windows because there isn't another reasonable comparison.  And the apps don't exist on Mobile.  And I don't think the experience is really so different from Android or iOS that it matters.

So are there only two legs?