April 2010
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Month April 2010

On Apple's Two Monopolies

I argue that Apple now has not one but two monopolies:

I)    A nearly-total monopoly on computer (and pocket computer) systems designed with good taste.
II)  A total monopoly on the Microsoft-free, hassle-free personal computer.

Imagine that every car maker save for Toyota insisted on using the infamous East German Trabant as a standard of quality – yet blindly imitated random elements of Toyota’s visual design.  How long would it take for the whiners to appear on the scene and start making noises about monopolistic tyranny?  How long would it take for Toyota to start living up to these accusations in earnest?  And why should it not do so?  What is to be gained from corporate sainthood? …

Of course, Apple’s competitors cannot actually copy the secret of its greatness, because Apple is a fundamentally different type of organism.  Rather than a brainless government-by-committee, it is an extension of one man’s will, projected with the aid of a small group of trusted lieutenants: no focus groups in sight.  For the Apple-imitators to turn into genuine “Apples” would be as fantastic and unlikely as it would be for a slime mold to spontaneously become a true multicellular animal, equipped with a central nervous system.  It is also unclear that, from their own perspective, they should want to grow brains – for a creature with that kind of centralized point of failure is decidedly no longer immortal.

via Loper OS » Non-Apple’s Mistake.

I’ve always thought that Apple had only non-consumption to compete with.  The non-consumption of hassle-free technology.

RIM chief competing for "Most out of touch CEO" award

RIM’s co-chief Mike Lazaridis downplayed many of Apple’s efforts today in a keynote at the TD Newcrest technology conference in Toronto. The executive was concerned that there wasn’t necessarily a market for tablets like the iPad and that any devices would have to be put in the context of computers and smartphones. Many companies ask new hires to choose either a new smartphone or a new notebook, and if the tablet is simply a substitute for a notebook it may not have an easy answer, Lazaridis said.

He added that smartphones are getting more powerful and more computer like, and by extension would reduce the need for a tablet.

The company leader also dismissed the importance of touchscreen phones. While it’s important to give customers what they want, touch-only phones like the iPhone aren’t that popular, Lazaridis argued. He claimed that most of the people buying touchscreen phones are going back to phones with hardware QWERTY keyboards, like those that made RIM “famous.”

He pointed out that it was the experience and not the features that determined a phone’s success, and that the most popular BlackBerry was actually the starter Curve 8520. It not only lacks touch but 3G and a high-resolution screen.

via RIM chief: no market for tablets, touch-only phones | Electronista.

Jobs must be thinking: with enemies like these, who needs friends.

Sony Ericsson and RIM reach market share parity

[Sony Ericsson] said it shipped 10.5 million units in the quarter, a 28 percent decrease compared with the same three months in 2009. It was down from the 14.6 million units shipped in the fourth quarter.

via Mobile phone maker Sony Ericsson posts Q1 profit – Yahoo! News.

A few weeks ago RIM said it shipped 10.5 million devices.

With Apple claiming 85 million installed base of iPhones and iPod touches vs. 75 million last quarter, it’s safe to assume at least 10 million Apple smart devices shipped in Q1.

By units at least, SEMC, RIM and Apple are neck and neck.

On Toys

Don’t be discouraged if what you produce initially is something other people dismiss as a toy. In fact, that’s a good sign. That’s probably why everyone else has been overlooking the idea. The first microcomputers were dismissed as toys. And the first planes, and the first cars. At this point, when someone comes to us with something that users like but that we could envision forum trolls dismissing as a toy, it makes us especially likely to invest.

via Organic Startup Ideas.

Stranded in Oslo, John Cleese takes taxi to Brussels

The longest trip so far was from Oslo to Paris

via Stranded in Oslo, John Cleese takes taxi to Brussels: media – Yahoo! News.

The Progress of the Platform

The Progress of the Platform.

On why there is a ban on intermediate layers of software development on the iPhone OS.

But the reason isn’t technical. It’s partly business (Apple doesn’t want another company to control any important part of the iPhone platform), but it’s also in no small part grounded in aesthetics and the progress of the platform. Apple wants developers to do things the iPhone and iPad Way because they believe it will result in a better user experience and better designed apps. That’s an aesthetic, design-centered argument about how touch apps should be done. Apple has created tools customized to the iPhone and iPad; hell, they built a whole new touch-based operating system. They created a whole set of user interface metaphors that are supposed to be standard and system-wide, and they want developers to do things the new way not because Apple just loves power, but because they believe it’s necessary to force developers to think about the new world of touch-based computing correctly. All of this in service of giving users who are taking their first steps into touch-based computing a great experience.

Developers who want to write software for the iPhone have to write iPhone-like software. To do otherwise will hinder the progress of the platform.


Smartphones taking over in mobile gaming

Smartphones are upturning the mobile gaming market, comScore found in a study today. The number of players on iPhones and other smartphones has jumped 60 percent in the past year to almost 21.4 million and has cut deeply into the portion of those using regular cellphones. Their numbers dropped a sharp 35 percent over the same period to just 29.5 million.

via Smartphones taking over in mobile gaming | Electronista.

More data from Flurry analytics here.

Other game platforms vs. iPhone catalogs here.

Speaking of selling out…

Demand for Apple’s newly upgraded line of MacBook Pro notebooks was strong on the first day, with scattered reports of the low-end 13-inch model selling out in some retail locations

via AppleInsider | New MacBook Pros off to strong start, 13-inch model selling out.

Apple Media Advisory – iPad rationing to continue

Although we have delivered more than 500,000 iPads during its first week, demand is far higher than we predicted and will likely continue to exceed our supply over the next several weeks as more people see and touch an iPad™. We have also taken a large number of pre-orders for iPad 3G models for delivery by the end of April.

Faced with this surprisingly strong US demand, we have made the difficult decision to postpone the international launch of iPad by one month, until the end of May.

via Apple Media Advisory – Yahoo! Finance.

How about that.

iPad sold out in Boston [Updated]

There are no iPads in any of the four Apple stores I called in the Boston area for three days now.  If any units arrive they sell out in minutes.  This is still with a limit of 2 per person and no 3G units available.  Also, bulk purchases by education are being delayed.

Now I have no data for the rest of the country, but there have been notes from analysts saying that stock-outs are occurring sporadically.  My experience tells me that it’s a pretty serious retail shortage.  On the other hand, the on-line store is still delivering with one week shipment times.

It could be that the international trade or “mules” are taking large shipments overseas.  To discourage this, perhaps Apple is giving preference to mail order over in-store purchase.  The phenomenon is similar to what was observed with the first version of iPhone. Apple was limiting sales to 5 per person and eventually banned cash purchases.

[UPDATE] Still sold out 6 days later.