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Category Nostalgia

The (iPod)Touch(i)Pad

The world’s largest PC company just launched a “media tablet[1]“. Conflating the iPod Touch and iPad brands into “TouchPad” HP joins RIM in announcing an integrated OS/device product to compete as a platform vs. iOS and Android (and to some degree even against Windows).

There are others waiting in the wings. Presumably, Microsoft is hard at work to release a tablet-compatible Windows sometime near the middle of this decade. MeeGo is also going through its gestation period targeting Atom-based tablets. John Gruber notes the excitement around tablet platforms in his article about this post-PC renaissance in computing alternatives. I also noted that the end of the PC era was marked by the end of WinTel at CES.

Steve Jobs on Apple's priorities

To me, Apple exists in the spirit of the people that work there, and the sort of philosophies and purpose by which they go about their business. So if Apple just becomes a place where computers are a commodity item and where the romance is gone, and where people forget that computers are the most incredible invention that man has ever invented, then I’ll feel I have lost Apple. But if I’m a million miles away and all those people still feel those things and they’re still working to make the next great personal computer, then I will feel that my genes are still in there.

Jobs Talks About His Rise and Fall – Print – Newsweek

In the language of innovation theory that Clayton Christensen created, companies are characterized by three attributes

  1. Resources
  2. Processes
  3. Values (or Priorities)

Resources come and go, typically arriving every morning and leaving every evening.

Processes take a lot of hard work to change but they can be changed.

Values and priorities are almost immutable. They are what Jobs refers to as the “genes”.

The fact that Steve Jobs said these words about Apple in 1985 after his first departure gives one hope that in 2011 (after his return and departure and return and departure again) the genes are still in there.

Unforeseeable growth: Analyst failure on iPad as indicator of disruptive change

Professional analysts’ first year iPad unit forecasts (sourced from TMO Finance Board)

  • Brian Marshall, Broadpoint AmTech   7.0
  • David Bailey, Goldman Sachs           6.2
  • Kathryn Huberty, Morgan Stanley     6.0
  • Shaw Wu, Kauffman Bros.              5.0
  • Mike Abramsky, RBC Capital Markets   5.0
  • Gene Munster, Piper Jaffray           3.5
  • Ben Reitzes, Barclays Capital           2.9
  • Keith Bachman, BMO Capital         2.5

Nokia's UK managing director resigns

Nokia’s Uk managing director Mark Loughran reckons that the Nokia N97 will prove superior to the iPhone due to its significantly better camera sensor, lower tariffs and its radical change in styling and especially form factor from the company’s ex-flagship the Nokia N96.

Loughran said: “The new iPhone is an evolution rather than a revolution and for people trying to decide whether to get a Nokia N97 or an iPhone, it comes down to a decision on performance and value for money.”

Loughran added: “the new iPhone seems to have the same design and colour, upgrading froma sub-standard two-megapixel camera to a still low 3.2 megapixel camera, and is probably a disappointment.”

Nokia General Manager Believes N97 Will Beat The iPhone

Good times…

Gartner Predicts Mobile OS Market Share

Lots of people apparently think it’s a big deal that Gartner is predicting Android will surpass iOS for second place. But why is that necessarily a good thing, given that they’re predicting Symbian will remain in first place? Who thinks Symbian is actually doing well? Nokia’s board sure doesn’t.

via Daring Fireball Linked List: Gartner Predicts Mobile OS Market Share.

I also noted with amusement that by 2014 “other” is slated to sell 85 million units or nearly 10% share, up from 6.1% in 2009. These “others” will be selling more than twice what Apple is expected to sell this year. Is “other” WebOS, Bada, MeeGo, LiMO? If so they’re in for a healthy future.

But dwelling on details like these is missing the point. To see how improbable this prediction is, let’s go back to 2006 and ask what Gartner was forecasting would happen now.

First thing to note is that in 2006 Gartner was busy tracking PDA sales. You might wonder why this is relevant. The reason is because a significant proportion of RIM’s Blackberries counted as wireless PDAs and were therefore considered to compete with Palm’s Treos, HP’s iPaq and Dell’s famous Axim. Nokia was in the running with its Communicators. Here is how Gartner characterized the equivalent market in early 2006:

So I’ll just come out and say it: In 2006 Gartner did not have a clue what a smartphone was. By their admission:

Gartner defines a PDA as a data-centric handheld computer weighing less than one pound that is primarily designed for use with both hands. These devices use an open market operating system supported by third-party applications that can be added into the device by end users. They offer instant on/off capability and synchronization of files with a PC. A PDA may offer WAN support for voice, but these are data-first, voice-second devices.

In other words, in 2006 Gartner was splitting phones with operating systems into two separate markets: data-oriented wireless PDAs and voice-oriented smartphones. The split was mostly based on the judgement of the analyst on whether a device was “voice” or “data” oriented. I suppose they used the primary input method as a proxy: numeric keypads meant the device was one-handed and therefore voice-oriented. If the device had a full keyboard and/or a stylus-actuated touch screen then it was a two-handed data-oriented device. But even this proxy was not quite enough, sometimes devices were classified whimsically.

To make it more complicated, they bundled non-cellular but Wi-Fi enabled PDAs with wireless PDAs. This made some sense from a corporate IT point of view (their primary customer base) as these data-oriented devices would be used either on a LAN or a WAN (Wide Area Networks: what Gartner anachronistically called cellular networks.)

The presence or absence of a cellular radio did not enter into their view of these devices. So if you asked Gartner in 2006 to forecast smartphones (as we know them now) in 2010, I suppose you’d get what they forecast for “data-centric” devices.

So assuming that today’s smartphones are mostly “data-centric” we would have to look back on their view of that market and not the voice market which was seen as an entirely different thing. Their answer should have had something to do with the market leaders and participants in 2006. As the table above shows Gartner showed that RIM, Palm and HP led in 2005 with Nokia and T-Mobile[1] pulling up the rear.

However, from a platform point of view, at the beginning of 2006

Microsoft Windows CE was the No. 1 PDA operating system (OS) in 2005 as 7.05 million PDAs were loaded with the OS, up 33 percent from 2004 shipments of 5.28 million units. Palm OS PDA shipments declined 34 percent to 2.96 million units in 2005.

In late 2006, Gartner made further predictions for the year:

In 2006, Gartner expects the PDA market to increase by 6.3 percent to 16 million units. The market will continue to be driven by broader availability of cellular-enabled PDAs from wireless carriers. Gartner estimates that 53 percent of all PDAs shipped in the first half of 2006 featured integrated cellular capability, up from 46 percent during the same period in 2005. “The share of PDAs purchased by enterprises will continue to increase; it accounted for 49 percent of all PDA shipments in the second quarter of 2006 and Gartner expects that the enterprise market will account for 52 percent of all PDA shipments in 2006,” said Todd Kort.

At this time I have not yet dug up a Gartner “Wireless PDA OS” four year forecast from the year 2006 but I suspect it would not show devices running Google’s Android operating system or any running something called iOS.

I also seem to remember that they were suggesting that Windows would be the leading mobile platform. Although it was trailing in 2006, Gartner was quite bullish on the disruptive challenger from Redmond.

[1] T-mobile is in the list because it was common practice in 2006 for operators to market Pocket PC Phone Edition devices made by HTC under their own name. Orange, Vodafone and Verizon also had own-brand HTC Windows touch-based devices. Now what does that strategy remind me of?

Apple sales by product line

The following chart shows the value of sales per quarter (in $million) since the beginning of 2005. What’s interesting to note is that more than half of sales is contributed by products which did not exist three years ago (iPhone and iPad). Music and iPod did not exist 10 years ago.  It’s entirely appropriate that Apple removed “Computer” from its name, though they still sell mostly computers of a different kind.

Remembering netbooks

“That market is falling off a cliff,” said Ashok Kumar, an analyst with Rodman & Remshaw, of the netbook sector. “It cannibalized notebooks and simultaneously all it has done is accelerate a price decline.”

Saripella agreed. Sales of netbooks, he said, the brightest light of the PC market during the recession of 2009, tumbled 30% in the second quarter. “The market for netbooks is cratering.”

The PC industry is at the beginning of the end.

40 percent of US iPhones are sold to enterprises

Four out of 10 sales of the iPhone are made to enterprise users. When the iPhone came out, what most people heard in the first year from ‘07 to ‘08 was oh my God, it’s not BlackBerry secure. This is not going to work on the enterprise space.

At the end of the day, it’s just software. That’s all it is. And by the time the 3G came out in ‘08 they had solved about 80% of the security issues.

So enterprises today view the iPhone as a mobile computer. It happens to have a voice application on it.

via AT&T exec: 4 out of 10 of our iPhone sales to enterprises | ZDNet.

Compare Apple’s approach to that of Nokia:

Will Apple rule the iPad market? (part II)

Continuing from Will Apple rule the iPad market? | Asymco.

The first claim is that

it is unclear if [Apple] will end up dominating the market the way it has come to rule the digital music player market with the iPod.

After hearing a thousand voices cry out that the iPad is nothing more than a bigger iPod touch (which, plainly, it is) it’s amusing to read that its similarity with a sibling ends when it comes to market performance.

Let me make one claim up-front: the iPad is more of an iPod than the iPod.

The original iPod was successful because it had a significant integrated value chain bolted on. Apple disrupted music with a value chain, not a product. It changed the way music is bought, consumed and even how it is produced. It changed the economics from retail down to songwriting.

This is why it came to dominate its market. Every competitor that took a run at it did so with a partial solution to the value chain. Often it was nothing more than a music player, and in some cases (e.g. Zune) it was bundled with some other pieces of technology, but poorly executed and too late.

The iPad comes with an even bigger value chain bolted on: the App Store. Apple is flogging not just an “app player” but also a new way to develop and distribute software. If you cut “music” and paste “apps” you see the immediate parallel between iPod and iPad. The app ecosystem will quickly grow to be larger than the music ecosystem with the mobile software business already eclipsing the music business.

A competitor launching a tablet device will have to somehow overcome the momentum of billions of downloads fed by hundreds of thousands of apps built by tens of thousands of developers for hundreds of millions of users.

The iPod juggernaut pales in comparison to the iPad supernova. The iPod had no apps or dedicated developers. Its ecosystem consisted of a handful of music companies. The only thing that made it “sticky” was the tie-in with one type of content.

The iPad on the other hand has a thousand other jobs to do for its users. It has a rich tapestry of functionality and a multi-dimensional (literally) user experience.  It’s a platform. It’s even powerful enough to impose new standards on the web itself and to suggest that search is a bygone activity.

So to suggest that Asus or Dell will somehow build “iPad killers” sounds asinine. These competitors don’t even grasp what the product is and what it’s for.  Sony said they don’t see a market for it. Microsoft, trapped in the innovator’s dilemma and overshooting the market by miles, said they don’t understand what the point is because users want full PCs.  Google asked what’s the value of a big iPod. I could go on, but there was not a single company in the industry who recognized what they were looking at in January. Apple keeps a tight lid on new products so that competitors don’t get a head-start on copying, but in the case of the iPad, advance knowledge would not have had any impact. Competitors look at the iPad and see nothing.  They’ll only react once the market explodes and they start to feel belated pain.

If, and it’s a big if, they do recognize what an iPad is, their response cycle is going to be measured in years. On hardware, they were blown away with a product that had twice the power, half the bulk, twice the battery life with half the price of what they had on the shelf. They may catch up on hardware in a year or two and launch some sort of iPad-like assembly of components, but that is like making the first iPod killer in 2002.

Then there is software. Their software supplier (Microsoft of Google) will have to build a platform that works. That will take years. Years during which the iPad will penetrate every geography, demographic and vertical market.

Google might move more rapidly than Microsoft, but they will produce an open source poster child of a platform. Fragmented and rough around the edges to the point of looking like a hobby project. Their flea market store will also have the smell of fresh glue about it. Microsoft is so far behind the curve that I don’t even think they will try to move the tiller.  Their view of the market was betrayed by the recently knifed Courier demoware. To suggest a challenge to the PC/Windows model inside Microsoft is a career-limiting move so don’t expect their brightest to be lining up to propose new platforms to management.

What about HP? Assuming they overcome the pitfall of NIH that kills 80% of integration efforts, they will still need to perform an enormous amount of heavy lifting to get WebOS to be a competitive experience on a tablet. Most opinions were that Palm came pretty close with a smartphone, but that was nowhere near enough to stay alive, never mind challenge iPhone.

Then there is the ecosystem. Building it is just not something I can even begin to roadmap. What about developer tools, SDKs, frameworks and evangelism? With a Palm division, HP is the best positioned of the PC vendors but it has a chance at being a player as much as Creative did vs. the iPod, or needless to say, Palm vs. the iPhone.

So the iPad challengers face five daunting obstacles:

  1. Recognition of a threat from a seemingly benign product
  2. Execution on hardware against the best integrator on the planet
  3. Execution on software against a new UI metaphor fortress surrounded by a patent moat
  4. Integration of hardware and software to a sublime whole
  5. Re-building a value chain for which they have no handle vs. a broad and deep existing universe of app/content creation distribution and consumption enjoying logarithmic network effect value.

That does not even touch the logistics, sourcing, margin and pricing challenges of world-wide distribution of the whole value chain. Nor does it cover the lock-in of advertisers to new tools for creatives or the billions of daily views from a platform that is blindingly dazzling.

To put it in the language of disruption, by the time the competitors launch symmetric attacks on the iPad, Apple will be the incumbent. And we all know that symmetric attacks never work against entrenched incumbents who have all the levers of power at hand to deploy in a withering counter-attack.

Will Apple rule the iPad market?

This question sounds like a tautology. It’s like asking “Will Apple rule the iPod market?” But redundancy has not stopped WSJ journalist Benjamin Pimentel from asking. His answer to the question is below:

But while Apple apparently has the edge in the emerging tablet war, it is unclear if the company will end up dominating the market the way it has come to rule the digital music player market with the iPod.

Gartner’s Fiering said the iPad has “raised the bar and suppliers are now scrambling to make sure they get it right.”

IDC now projects 6 million tablet devices to ship this year, including 4 million iPads, Shim said. But while Apple has taken the lead, he added, the company faces the “burden of lifting or defining this entire new market,” because there are no other competitive devices available.

“In the iPhone market, they learned from everybody else,” he added in a video interview. “In this new space, there’s nobody else to kind of bounce ideas of so to speak.”

But Apple may not have to feel so alone for long.

Fiering specifically pointed to H-P’s as the best positioned challenger, given its scale, reach and its upcoming merger with Palm.

“There are not too many suppliers that can pull all those pieces together,” she said. “H-P could if they integrate the Palm acquisition properly.”

Another IDC analyst, Crawford Del Prete, agreed saying, while the “buzz” from H-P had generally been defensive in relation to the iPad, “the longer term story is far more interesting.”

“Given H-P’s massive scale, I think they have the ability to drive new price points for this kind of product,” he said. “With a lower price point, the category becomes far more interesting.”

via PC Makers Look To Challenge Apple’s IPad – WSJ.com.

Before diving into the statements above it’s worth noting where the journalist went to get opinions to fill his column. He called Gartner and IDC. Quoting industry analysts is a standard operating procedure to fill column-inches with material that does not offend. But how good are they?

In my years of watching those who watch markets I formed a ranking of analyst types and their likely accuracy with respect to prognosticating a market shift. In order from most accurate to least accurate:

  1. The most accurate are rank amateurs (deagol, Muller, et. al).  Independent bloggers who do some fact checking tend to make the boldest but most accurate forecasts.
  2. The next most accurate are sell-side analysts (purveyors of analyst reports from established brokerages).  They follow financials for individual companies.  You might think their record is quite poor, but in fact they are much better than..
  3. Industry analysts (like Gartner, IDC).  Their forecasts and sensitivity to disruption are often off by an order of magnitude.  This is partly because they forecast a bit further out than Wall St. but also because they are closer to their industry clients– the source of their ideas.  They spend a lot of time talking to the least accurate forecasters…
  4. The corporate analysts.  They are typically hired to advise management in the incumbent companies. These are people who have the most information about the way the industry is performing on a daily basis.

You might notice a pattern here: the closer you are to the market, the less likely you are to observe how that market is crumbling around you. You cannot see the forest for the trees.

How could this be? How can having more access give you a poorer picture? The answer lies in the asymmetry of a disruptive attack. The more you know about how things are the less you know about how things could be.

In practice, the analyst information value chain works like this:

Corporate analysts feed information to management that management is comfortable digesting. Those managers then hire industry analysts to validate their opinions. Industry analysts are keen to maintain a relationship with those firms and so they listen carefully to the prejudices of their clients. They then hold up a mirror to those myths and consolidate those opinions for wider distribution and quotation by journalists at respectable publications.

Stock analysts listen with one ear to the chatter but with the other to the way the wind blows with the stock market. Sometimes they actually sample the data in the value chain directly by calling acquaintances in the market and hire interns to watch what’s happening in the shops. They then build an opinion that has some level of surprise but that they hope will not stray too far into controversy so that they can keep their jobs in case they are wrong. The safe bet is always to say that things will stay mostly the way they are, but to say it in clever ways.

So that just leaves only one group of analysts with independence from a paycheck who can make an opinion on the basis of facts alone.

This post has become longer than I planned, so I’ll dive into the exact answer to the article claims in part II.