Wednesday, October 26, 2011

WARNING: do not use iCloud while drunk

I have been carefully listening to the feedback on iCloud in the last few days, and I have to say it is underwhelming. I keep hearing people bitching about it: it is not much different than the last time they launched MobileMe.

Of all the comments, one stood out.

If you take a picture on your iPhone, it shows up automagically in Photo Stream and it is synced right away to your other devices. In most cases, that means an iPad sitting on the couch. Cool.

One little feature Apple forgot to add: delete.

Yep, if you take a picture on your iPhone, it gets automatically synced to your iPad. And you cannot delete it from Photo Stream. Ever.

Now, let me imagine an unlikely scenario (also known as a use-case): you are out drinking, you drink too much, you snap a picture you should not take. You wake up the next morning with a hangover. You remember you did something the night before (not sure what, though...), you check your pictures for confirmation and there it is, the picture you do not want anyone to see... You delete it and go on with your life. You are allowed a crazy night once in a while, right? Nobody will found out, anyway.


You get home the next night, your daughter is playing Cut the Rope on your iPad (remember, it is a shared device in any household...), she opens up Photo Stream, sees your picture and hands it over to your spouse with a "mom, look at this picture of daddy!!"...

Ooppps. Didn't you delete it? Yes, you did. But only from your iPhone. You cannot delete it from Photo Stream. It will be there to haunt you on the friend's couch you are sleeping on tonight.

If you want to use iCloud, make sure you are sober.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Steve Jobs 1955 - 2011

Apple cannot build a better iPhone

I admit it: I was wrong. A few days ago I wrote:
First of all, there will be an iPhone 5. I know some of you are thinking "doh", but there are rumors that Apple will actually launch an iPhone 4s instead. I do not think so. There is too much competition, they have to move the number up, whatever they ship. They just cannot give the world the impression that the iPhone platform is not moving, that Apple is not innovating, that Steve Jobs is gone and therefore the company is screwed. They have to ship an iPhone 5, even if it is just the iPhone 4 in pink.
To be fair, I was right on the reaction to the lack of an iPhone with a new number: the analysts, the media, everyone was disappointed. The stock tanked after the event. Everyone is convinced this is a window of opportunity for Nokia (I bet there was a lot of alcohol flowing in Finland last night, knowing the Finns), RIM (stock is up 12% today...), Samsung and the like.

Now, I have been thinking about the "why" since yesterday. Why did they not ship an iPhone 5, improving on the case and the form factor? Why? Why?

They did open a window for the competition, there is no doubt about it. Whatever is inside the device does not change it (Siri being the coolest thing after ice cream). They could have killed Windows Mobile 7. They could have finished BlackBerry. They could have challenged Android for real, stopping their growth (and not just trying to play the price game with the 3GS still alive).

Instead, they did not do it. But Tim Cook is no dumb... Sure, having the same case will make logistics better, probably even increase margins. Now why?

The easiest answer is: arrogance. Hubris is what kills companies, and Netflix is giving us a good example of it. Apple maybe thought they were so ahead of the competition, that the world loves them so much that they could have the luxury of slowing down. Something like: "you know, we kept the iPhone 4 in the market for 18 months and it is the best selling device, another year would not make a difference: we are the best and we win anyway".

I just do not buy it. You finally become CEO of the coolest company on earth and - at your first event - you disappoint? You make your stock go down? You make everyone say "aahh, when Steve Jobs was here..." or "this looks like Microsoft when Bill Gates left"??

No, no, no. I do not buy it.

I have a different theory: they just could not make it. They looked around at ideas, like the teardrop design. But it did not make any sense in landscape mode. They looked around for new materials, but they just could not find anything better than what they had built.

Simple said: the iPhone 4 is the best smartphone factor there is. You cannot make it better. It is the best shape, it has the perfect dimensions to hold it in your hand, the buttons are where they are supposed to be. You cannot improve it.

I believe we have reached the top of the form factor in smartphones. Apple is telling us this is the case. Period.

The game now is inside. It is the software, and the stuff around it to make it faster. It is the cloud. It is the personal assistant and the voice recognition. The outside is not going to change, all smartphones will look alike. Same for the tablet world. Forget the outside, it really does not matter anymore. Apple knows it, and they are delivering on the inside and the cloud.

It is that simple.

The form factor is dead. It is not a factor anymore.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Siri and the evolution of crazy

As you might know, I grew up in a mental institution. Yep, it explains a lot of things. Anyway, my parents were both shrinks and it was convenient for them. It was great for me too, because I learned to see things a bit differently.

Who was crazy back then?

Think about it. It was a person who talks to himself in the middle of the road, like she is having a conversation with an imaginary other person.

What about now?

You still have people walking down the street and talking loudly to themselves. The difference is that they are actually talking to a real person. They have a Bluetooth headset you cannot even see, and they talk loudly. Nobody around them cares about what they are saying, everyone around is just annoyed.

We moved from reacting to crazy people with a smile, to being annoyed. Sad.

What is going to happen next?

Well, Apple just announced Siri. It is a personal assistant for the iPhone. You tell her things like "remember to call my wife when I leave work" or "please wake me up tomorrow at 8 am" or "how do I get home?". She replies with the perfect answer, assuming you do not have an accent (I am eager to try it, of course ;-)

The next crazy person is going to be someone in the middle of the road, yelling to a phone. Not having a conversation with someone else, real or virtual. Yelling to a little piece of plastic. Swearing like a sailor "F***ing Siri!! Do you understand what I am saying??". Not even a Bluetooth headset in sight.

The evolution of crazy. No way to tell them apart.

Monday, October 03, 2011

iPhone 5 predictions

UPDATE with scorecard
  • faster, better screen, better camera (that was easy)
  • no teardrop design (many were betting on it, I got this one right)
  • Siri is indeed spectacular
  • they kept an iPhone 4 and even 3GS for the low end 
  • the cloud was all over the presentation
  • no Iphone 5: wow, I got this one badly wrong. Apple must be feeling really comfortable against Android and Windows. Or they have an iPhone 5 coming up very soon. Or they have no clue on how to make that device better: it is all inside...
Considering I missed the number on the device, I would give myself a 5 out of 10. The real big news was the absence of an iPhone 5, really. The rest was kinda easy.

If you live in Silicon Valley and you work in mobile, you have to play this game: what is Apple going to present tomorrow at their live event?
I play it every year, sometimes twice in a single year. I win some, I lose some. Actually, even when I win, nobody gives me a prize, so it does not make any difference.

Now, what about tomorrow, the launch of the iPhone 5?

First of all, there will be an iPhone 5. I know some of you are thinking "doh", but there are rumors that Apple will actually launch an iPhone 4s instead. I do not think so. There is too much competition, they have to move the number up, whatever they ship. They just cannot give the world the impression that the iPhone platform is not moving, that Apple is not innovating, that Steve Jobs is gone and therefore the company is screwed. They have to ship an iPhone 5, even if it is just the iPhone 4 in pink.

Actually, I do not think it is going to be pink. Just with a bigger screen and a great camera. The best screen out there. The best camera out there. Super light. Very fast. No frills and no teardrop design (this is my biggest bet, I do not believe a teardrop design would fit well in landscape mode, so I do not think they will go for it).

I believe they will go nuts around voice recognition. The event is called "Let's talk iPhone", so - in my opinion - the big message will be around voice recognition. They will sell it as the best thing that happen to a device after Star Trek (whatever that is, you know my love for sci-fi...). If you recall, Apple bought Siri over a year ago.

I am expecting something spectacular, a lot better than what I have today with Google (which is already pretty good, even with my accent). I am expecting you could just look at the new iPhone, talk and it will do pretty much everything you want. Speaking with your normal voice, giving commands with casual sentences and creating a wow effect in the audience (BTW, Windows Mobile is built on a very powerful voice technology but nobody gives a damn, because it is Microsoft. We are talking Apple here, so it will be the best thing after the invention of the wheel).

What else? I think they will have an iPhone 4 or 4S, a low-end phone. 8GB, cramped down features, old look&feel. Perfect for emerging markets (finally entering India) and the low-end of the market in many places. It is not much a tool to attack the Android market, but more to defend and make sure Android does not take the entire bottom part of the pie: those who will buy a low-end Android now, will end up buying an high-end Android later. Apple needs to make sure they get on the iOS bandwagon instead, to move them up the chain later (to a powerful iPhone, iPad, AppleTV and a Mac).

Lastly, the cloud will be all over the place. It is the official launch of iCloud and they will make sure everyone understands why it is going to change everything we do.

Here you have it. My predictions.

One last thing: I do not think Steve Jobs will show up.