Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Flooding the rumor mill

In a recent TIMN podcast, Joshua Topolsky stated that he had no idea what the next iPhone would look like because there are so many rumors about the device. This got me thinking, what if that was Apple's strategy all along. And, if not, should it be?

Apple plays things close to the vest. Inevitably, however, plans leak out or a prototype gets left behind in a bar. Apple fights vehemently to dispel the rumors and to recover lost devices. What if they took a different approach? Instead of secrecy and tight lips, what if there was a steady stream of rumors coming from the company - through unofficial sources, not PR - and seed fake devices were intentionally left in bars, airports, etc.?

Employees could be randomly assigned rumors or tidbits of fake plans then encouraged to "leak" them to tipsters at technology blogs and other websites, spread among friends outside the company, etc. Likewise, Apple could create 10-20 fake iDevices, ranging from incremental updates to flat-out ridiculous concepts. Then task employees with "accidentally" leaving them behind. One key would be to include Foxconn, or at least the impression of Foxconn, as one of the sources of leaking information and/or devices. It would probably be good to include a case or accessory partner in the shenanigans as well, since that's a common source of industrial design leaks.

Eventually, there would be so much misinformation in the tech press that one wouldn't be able to discern a true leak from the noise.

I know what you're thinking. This would be impractical and improbable. But wouldn't it be fun?


[Update:  Either Topolsky reads my blog (unlikely) or we're on the exact same page.  On this week's podcast he alluded to this exact same strategy.]

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Things don’t have to change the world to be important

In the wake of the news surrounding Steve Jobs’ resignation, the Wall Street Journal posted a list of Steve’s best quotes.  Among them, was this gem:

“Things don’t have to change the world to be important.”  [Wired, February 1996]

I latched onto this for a couple of reasons.  One is that Jobs’ keynotes and persona often come across as ego-laden and overplay Apple’s implementation of existing technologies as “world changing”.  I’ll leave that for the fanboys and haters to debate.

The more compelling reason this piqued my interest is that start-ups and the press that covers them (I’m looking at you TechCrunch) are obsessed with how these fledglings will change the world.  In fact, there are two boilerplate templates about how start-ups pitch themselves:

1.  Start-up X is the Y for Z.  For example, YouPud is the YouTube for corporate sexual harassment videos.

2.  Startup-up X is changing the world by …  For example, MyNicheNetwork is changing the world by creating an online community of people who are left-handed and right-footed.

I think number one is the result of laziness.  Not on behalf of the start-ups, but on behalf of the VCs.  I would venture to bet that this format was borrowed from Hollywood, where new movie ideas are pitched as similes.

But it’s number two that really annoys me.  In fact, it’s why I left YouNoodle in a huff.  I got tired of so many start-ups pitching themselves as “changing the world”.  Especially when they were targeting a very small niche, doing something that was easily emulated, or just copying another successful company.  If you are doing any of these, you are not going to change the world (at least in a positive way).

But even if a company really is doing something new, unique, and innovative, it most likely WON’T change the world.  There may be one company in a generation that really changes the world.  An you know what, that’s OK.  You don’t have to change the world to be successful, to make money, to impact the world. 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tablet Virtual Keyboards: A Typo Comparison

I have been surprised at how capable my iPad 2 has been at content creation.  The virtual keyboard and autocorrect are surprisingly efficient at capturing meeting notes, jotting down thoughts, etc.

Over the course of the last few weeks, I have had a Motorola Xoom to play with as well.  I have been using both my own iPad and the Xoom at work, alternating which I use at meetings.  I’ve been astonished at how much better the iPad is at typing.  It’s surprising, given that both keyboards are roughly the same size; actually the Xoom is slightly wider due to the screen aspect ration.

This is far from scientific, but as a demonstration, here are a few sentences I typed out on each tablet.  The only corrections were autocorrect.  I explicitly prohibited myself from using backspace:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation.
iPad:  Four sore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation.
Xoom:  Four score and seven years avoum our fathers brought fir kn thus continent a new nation.

The quick brown fox jumped over the two lazy dogs.
iPad:  Te quickl brown fox jumped over the two lazy dogs.
Xoom:  The quick briuwn fix jumlex over the two, az div.

Which is better, the apple keyboard or the android one?
iPad:  Wich is heather, the apple keyboard of the andoird one?
Xoom:  Which us better the aop,e mdybkarx ir the andkjd kind?

Why does the apple keyboard routinely miss the second letter of a word?
iPad:  Why dos the apple keyboard routinely miss the second letter of a word?
Xoom:  Why did the aooke keyboard routuneky miss the second letter if the word?

So many words typed on the android keyboard don’t even resemble real words.  Why is that?
iPad:  So may words tped on the android keyboard don’t even resemble real words.  Why is that?
Xoom:  So many words tyoed in the android keyboard don’t even resebke real word, why is that?

So far it looks like the biggest problem on the apple keyboard is missed keystrokes.
iPad:  So fear it looks like the biggest or Len on the apple keyboard is missed keystrokes.
Xoom:  So far t kijs like the biggest lripen in the aooke keyboard us missed meystrijds.

No doubt there are plenty of typos is both.  But the iPad performed significantly better than the Android tablet.  It also appears that the Android spell-check is a Scandinavian person who hates Apple.  In three attempts at typing the word “apple” on the Android keyboard, all three failed.  Conspiracy? 



Sunday, July 24, 2011

For Hulu Users, an Apple Acquisition is Bad News

There has been a lot of buzz over the past several days about Apple acquiring Hulu.  Surprisingly, a lot of people are in favor of it.  As a cable cutter and Hulu user, I don’t see why.  An Apple acquisition would be the end of Hulu as we know it.

Apple is a company that is fueled by organic growth.  That’s not to say they don’t acquire, but their acquisition strategy is clearly to buy companies for their technology, patents, people, etc. and use those assets to bolster Apple’s core products.  Apple does not buy companies to operate subsidiaries at arms length.

So what does this mean for Hulu?

It means that if Apple bought Hulu, it would have no interest in maintaining the free catch-up TV service.  An acquisition would most likely be used by Apple to bolster TV episode rentals in iTunes (expanded content partnerships, shorter lag between airing and web availability, etc.).

What’s also unclear is how Apple’s ecosystem approach would impact Hulu.  Hulu+ Android Apps – gone.  Hulu on a PC – probably safe but you have to use iTunes (@#$%@!).  Hulu on Roku, Boxee, gaming consoles, etc. – kiss them goodbye.  On the flipside, however, those that are already Apple ecosystem devotees (or prisoners) would probably gain some benefits such as the expanded portfolio of content.

What does all of this mean for Hulu users?

It means that instead of watching free catch-up TV, you would be paying Apple $0.99 per episode.  All of sudden my cable cutting would become more expensive than a cable subscription.
At the end of the day, Apple, Apple fanboys and fangirls, and cable operators should be happy about this prospect.  Hulu users, however, should be worried and thinking about the lesser evil – Apple or Comcast.


Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Evaluating Android Tablets

Here's an automated method for evaluating android tablets:

foreach(tablet in landslideOfAndroidTablets)
return "meh";

Why I no longer use Firefox

I've finally moved [almost] exclusively to Chrome. Here's why:

Updates available
Updates installed
Updates available
Updates installed
Updates available

Just let me use my damn browser already!