On the road (again)

February 26, 2009

In Seattle on Monday and Tuesday and LA on Wed. Posting will be light. Figuring out what gear to bring on the road.


iTunes Pass – First Take

February 24, 2009

There’s a lot of buzz that Apple’s getting into the subscription music business with the launch of a iTunes Pass today. What’s iTunes pass? From the EMI press release.

With iTunes Pass, music fans can get new and exclusive singles, remixes, video and other content from their favorite artists over a set period of time, delivered to their libraries as soon as they’re available. The first iTunes Pass debuts today in conjunction with Depeche Mode’s forthcoming 12th studio album, “Sounds of the Universe,” to be released on April 21 in the US. Fans who sign up starting today get the alternative/dance pioneers’ new single, “Wrong,” as well as the Black Light Odyssey Dub Remix of the new track “Oh Well.”  They will also receive the new album on its street date plus great music and video exclusives before and after the album’s release over the next fifteen weeks. The Depeche Mode iTunes Pass can be purchased starting today for $18.99.

Well, I guess it’s technically a subscription but this hardly Apple getting into the same business as Zune Pass, REAL’s Rhapsody or Nokia’s Comes With Music. What this is an updated distribution model for content ownership, which is actually pretty important (but not important enough for Apple to make the announcement as opposed to EMI). The question is what exactly am I getting over the next fifteen weeks in terms of content that would make this valuable?

Over time, this is something that can help the industry drive new revenues but it doesn’t quite change the game in a major way. Subscription services based on the “all you can eat model” for a fixed monthly fee still face challenges. Consumers for the most part still only recognize two models for music consumption, the free and ad supported stuff on radio or music you bought or owned. While consumers "rent" content all the time from theaters, cable companies, netflix etc, there’s also a lot of other stuff sold on dvd. This is not binary, rent or buy. It’s going to be both side by side but the first step to making this mainstream is to educate and evangelize the market, which is something REAL, Napster, Microsoft etc have all failed to do. Perhaps iTunes Pass will start to engage the market at a different level and help change consumer thoughts on how music is purchased and consumed. That could lead the way to more interesting stuff down the road.

 

Update – EMI clarified what you get over the fifteen week period. “in addition to the two tracks today + album, more than a dozen indiv pieces of content, inc lots of exclusive stuff.” Seems like a pretty good deal if you’re a fan of the band.


Safari 4 – First Take

February 24, 2009

imageJust installed both the PC and Mac version and so far I’m impressed. Forget Chrome for OS X, Safari is likely to remain the Mac user’s browser of choice. It’s hard to innovate on the browsing experience, it’s simple, familiar and works well but I like what Apple’s done here. The performance enhancements are quite real. GMail in particular is very, very fast as is Google Reader. Apple says the new Nitro JavaScript engine executes JavaScript up to 30 times faster than IE 7 and more than three times faster than Firefox 3. It certainly feels quite fast here.

Some of the other features like Cover Flow are mostly eye candy but I love the new tab interface and the full page zoom is something I’ve wanted in a browser for a long time.

Apple is pretty serious about the web and Safari takes this commitment to a new level. More importantly, Apple did it in a way that focuses on standards without proprietary extensions to deliver on that experience. As the web continues to grow in importance, the ability of a browser to work with key sites is critical and the browser that defines drives standards controls quite a lot. Imagine a browser that couldn’t support YouTube for example. By driving new enhancements for Safari as well as leveraging the Windows platform, Apple is growing the installed Safari base and at the same time making certain Mac OS as a web platform will has the latest and greatest browser support as well. No waiting for IE or Google Chrome.

Driving innovation with Safari on the desktop will also likely help the iPhone down the road as well. Safari changed the mobile web experience (on not only the iPhone but other webkit based browsers) and I expect we’ll see some of the cool new stuff here in future versions of the iPhone’s OS.

Apple’s also been able to leverage distribution for the browser through iTunes. Let’s face it, iTunes is one of the most downloaded applications. Apple has been wise to make Safari an optional part of the iTunes installation and that’s helped give adoption a boost as well.

There’s some obvious comparisons to Netscape vs. IE and the browser wars of the last century. While today’s browser battles are being played for different stakes, they are no less important. Investing in Safari is an important strategic move for Apple that will push their technology further on to the Windows platform and cement support in OS X. Expect more responses from Microsoft, Google and Mozilla. Browsing’s getting interesting all over again IMHO.


Apple introduces Safari 4

February 24, 2009

In a surprise move, Apple dropped a new version of Safari this morning for both PC and Mac. You can read the press release here and download the software here.

Here’s what’s in the new release. I’ll have a full hands on posted shortly.

– Top Sites, a display of frequently visited pages in a stunning wall of previews so users can jump to their favorite sites with a single click

– Full History Search, where users search through titles, web addresses and the complete text of recently viewed pages to easily return to sites they’ve seen before

– Cover Flow, to make searching web history or bookmarks as fun and easy as paging through album art in iTunes

– Tabs on Top, for better tabbed browsing with easy drag-and-drop tab management tools and an intuitive button for opening new ones

– Smart Address Field, that automatically completes web addresses by displaying an easy-to-read list of suggestions from Top Sites, bookmarks and browsing history

– Smart Search Field, where users fine-tune searches with recommendations from Google Suggest or a list of recent searches

– Full Page Zoom, for a closer look at any website without degrading the quality of the site’s layout and text

– built-in web developer tools to debug, tweak and optimize a website for peak performance and compatibility

– a new Windows-native look in Safari for Windows, that uses standard Windows font rendering and native title bar, borders and toolbars so Safari fits the look and feel of other Windows XP and Windows Vista applications.

 

Let’s meet at CTIA

February 20, 2009

I’m starting to book my agenda for CTIA. If you’d like to meet up, do a briefing or just get together please send me an email or give me a call. Looks like a good event this year.


Dorothy Parker and me

February 20, 2009

I get the same email every so often, asking how I write what I write and where do my ideas come from and how do you get over writer’s block.

The answer is, I don’t know. I think about what interests me and go from there. Writing is hard. It’s called a discipline for a reason. I start every day writing. I for about an hour or two every morning. Every morning, on the road or not (which is more than I can say about my workout schedule). I force myself to write *something*. Some of it becomes blog posts, some of it makes it into research reports, some of it goes into columns and one day, some of it will go into a book I want to do about the research industry. It all gets used somewhere :) The key to writing, is well, writing. Don’t ask about, just do it, ask people to read it, and then write some more.

Dorothy Parker said it best for all those who make their living with words. "I hate writing, but love having written".

Fellow writers, what inspires you to put pen to paper?


Sony and Nintendo should be concerned about Apple

February 20, 2009

The more I think about, the more clear it so to me that Apple is going directly after Sony and Nintendo, positioning the iPod Touch (and by extension the iPhone as mobile gaming platforms). One look at their latest ads should pretty much confirm this. Apple is correct, the iPod touch is the a gaming machine and a contender against the Nintendo DS. Why? It is not tied to a mobile phone contract; it is a great audio/video player; it has WiFi enabling multi player games along with web surfing and email. In reality it is the first successful MID although Apple wisely doesn’t market it as such. Here are a few reasons why the iPod Touch works.

  • Games for the iPhone & iPod touch are for the most part, much cheaper than Nintendo DS and Sony PSP titles. Although I’m seeing a small price creep on game pricing there are lots of  titles at $0.99.
  • There are quite a lot of free titles available. Game play is a very accessible feature, even for those on a budget.
  • iPods are still cool, even as you get older.
  • If the original iPod brought 1,000 songs in your pocket, the iPod Touch is bringing an entire game library. No disks or cartridges to carry around.
  • The iPod offers a better game experience than either Nintendo or Sony offers as media centric or Internet experience.

 

Here’s some of what I’ve been playing, titles tend to fall into two categories, classic genre titles and iPhone optimized

Genre Classics

Rebel Onslaught – It’s a typical 3D rails shooter that’s very reminiscent of StarFox and the like. Plays well, and there’s not a lot new here in terms of innovation. But it is fun.

WordsWorth – Think Bookworm genre word game. Again, not much new but well implemented.

Low Gravity Racer – Think Wipeout racing style game. Fun and well executed.

All these titles are interesting as they do represent tried and true formulas on the platform. They work well and play. Consider them the table stakes. What gets more interesting are the two iPhone optimized titles I tried.

Crayon Physics – It was a YouTube sensation last year and it’s something that’s totally optimized for the iPhone experience. Draw with your finger, use multitouch to navigate and zoom and shake to erase. It’s totally fun and totally not something you’d see on a PSP.

Dropship – It’s a semi-3d shooter with a difference. The controls materialize on screen when you place your thumbs there. Multi-Touch is the way the game is played. It’s not totally new in terms of gameplay (lots of elements of older titles, noticeably Choplifter) but interaction that could only be done on this platform.

It’s titles of this quality that are making the platform look more and more viable as an alternative to dedicated mobile consoles. If I were Sony and Nintendo, i’d take some notice of what’s going on here and start thinking about how my platforms need to evolve.


How Microsoft should market multi-touch

February 19, 2009

If I were Microsoft, i’d be embracing the iPhone/iPod Touch platform in a big way, (there are some really obvious apps beyond the few things they’ve done to date) and make sure each and everyone was properly branded with the Surface brand. Strong emphasis on doing multi-touch both big and small screen. Multi-Touch is rapidly becoming associated with Apple. I’d work to change that if I were Redmond.


Control sync, control the world, once more

February 19, 2009

A while ago I posted about the need for what I called, Exchange for the Rest of My Life. It started after a meeting with the founder of Sharpcast who at the time was working on a really cool photo sync service… but it wasn’t enough for me. Here’s what I wanted.

I want to have (or have access to) every picture I have taken (I’ve been a digital camera users since 1995), every song in my collection and every document I have written on every one of my PCs. If I take pictures and download them to one of my PCs, I want those photos updated on all my other machines the next time I access them. I want it to happen simply, invisibly and just work.

The solution for this is here. I’ve talked about it before but with a new Windows Mobile client, it’s worth discussing again. it’s called SugarSync and it does exactly what I asked for. I simply install a client (PC and Mac) and tell it what folders I want on what machines… Everything is linked and stored in the cloud. Bonus? I can access all my content on any machine from a Web UI, see all my photos arranged into galleries (and there’s a nice smartphone client for WinMo and Blackberry that lets me view them as well). I switch among a half dozen computers on a regular basis and the ability to sit down on any one of them and see updated versions of what I’m working on is super useful. If you use more than one computer, you need to look at this service. Does this sound a lot like Live Mesh? Yes it does, except that the folks at Sharpcast are already delivering most of that functionality today.

I’ve spoken with the team there again recently and there’s even more fun stuff to come (which I have been asked not to discuss just yet) but keep an eye on these folks. I’ve talked a lot in the past about the power of the company that controls sync and my mantra of “control sync, control the world”. The team at Sharpcast are well down that path with the SugarSync eco system.


Expendability

February 19, 2009

image


Lessons in Analyst Relations

February 19, 2009

I’ve had the fortune of working as an Industry Analyst for more than a decade now. One of the interesting aspects of the job is dealing with the various analyst relations folks at different vendors over the years. Most are great and hardworking professionals. There are a few bozos out there too. What really separates the effective ones from the non-effective ones is how they approach the job.

1. AR is not the same as PR. Often, AR is handed off to PR folks and some folks have a problem seeing the difference the between the two. Understanding what analyst needs are is a big part in getting things right. Remember, we’re not here to report a story or get it first. We’re here to make sure we get it right and understand what an event means in context of many other things.

2. Analysts, Trade Journalists and Bloggers are similar but not necessarily the same. I’m analyst, I also blog and write a column for Computerworld. They’re all activities that are similar but they’re not the same. I have different needs when wearing each hat. Good AR folks know this and understand the differences. If you’re not sure, feel free to give me a call.

3. Know Your Analyst and Know The Analyst’s Firm. Every analyst is different. So is every firm. By definition, some firms like to create adversarial relationships with vendors as it’s in their best interest to do so. (we’re not one of them). Understand who the analyst is and what topics they cover is also really important. I used to cover a lot of enterprise IT stuff, I don’t cover that topic any more so briefing me is a waste of time. On the other hand, if you’re doing something in consumer or personal technology and we haven’t spoken, that’s not a good thing.

4. Financial Analysts aren’t the same as Industry Analysts. See above. While we care about numbers, we don’t care about them in the same way as the Wall Street folks do. Don’t confuse the two jobs.

5. Provide A Single Point of Contact Where Possible. This seems basic, after all a good part of succesful AR is about relationships. One of the best companies I have worked with over the years has a head of PR that keeps all of AR in house. They also have a dedicated point of contact for each analyst. There’s someone I know I can call anytime to get an answer about something or to deal with any issue. If that person is out, I always know who is covering. By contrast, other firms I know outsources AR to PR agencies, oftentimes, different products  get different AR folks and those folks can easily shift to different roles over the course of the year. Even worse is when in-house AR folks and outsourced AR folks seem at odds with each other. 

Most of the AR folks I have the pleasure of working with are fantastic, they’re hard working and whether they’re part of the in house team our outsourced do really get it. There’s an art to establishing analyst relations and if you’re not getting in front of the folks you need to, give me a call and I’ll give you a crash course.


Ethos, Pathos and Logos

February 19, 2009

I’ve talked in the past about the importance of vendors to understand Ethos, Pathos and Logos when they present to analysts and discussed the issues of analyst relations.

It’s important to understand that many vendors actually need to be prepared to tell three different stories as well as deal with three very different types of people who, in the end, have very different goals.

I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m an analyst, a blogger and a journalist. When I write a syndicated research report, it’s a very different process than writing a blog post, which in turn is very different than writing a column for Computerworld. I won’t even begin to get into the differences among analysts and analyst firms (and how they need to be approached) or the difference between industry and financial analysts.

The big disconnect is that analyst relations is not public relations, even though it’s often handed off to be done by the same folks who don’t differ in their approach. 

As I’ve said in the past, analysts are not here to report a story or be first with some "scoop". We’re here to make sure we get it right and to make sure can put whatever is happening in the world into the context of other things that are happening. There is a difference and the best PR and AR folks know and understand that.


The Coolest Guy in the Room

February 18, 2009

One discussion I’ve been having a lot over the last few weeks (and an awful lot over the last week) was whether iPods were still cool to the 18-28 crowd. Like the famous Supreme Court ruling, we often know cool when we see it but it’s  a lot harder to quantify.

We do know that there’s nothing worse than something that’s not cool trying to be cool.

image I’ll suggest there’s at least two types of cool, perhaps you can think of more. One type is stuff that’s short lived, trendy and comes and goes pretty quickly. In fact, that type of cool, often looks pretty silly just a short time later. Think Leisure Suits” from the 70′s for example. But there’s another type of cool that’s different. It’s timeless and transcends generations, demographics and genders.

Think Sean Connery as James Bond, Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry or Steve McQueen as, well, Steve McQueen. It applies to products too. Most 45 year olds think BMWs are pretty cool cars. So do most 25 year olds (although they might not be able to afford them). While I agree that every generation has a unique voice, there are some types of cool that just go beyond just demographics.

I’m pretty sure Steve Jobs is also in that category. Pretty sure iPods are as well. At least for now.


Feedback loop or loopy feedback?

February 18, 2009

I get a lot of e-mail from folks, like most of my colleagues or anyone who offers public opinion and analysis. Lately it seems that some topics are very sensitive with some folks and are provoking rather harsh responses. For some that means posting a comment here on the blog, for others, it seems they prefer a more direct response via email.

Now, topics, like bashing Microsoft, are always cool. No one reacts too strongly and people generally like stuff like that which is probably why it’s done a lot. Other topics, like Apple, Linux or Firefox seem to bring out strong and often nasty responses for anyone who dares to criticize them. Now I’m all for discussion and the honest exchange of ideas but let’s face it, calling someone an idiot in your opening sentence usually doesn’t further the discourse.

So in that spirit, I’ll address some of the emails I’ve gotten over the last few weeks right here.

For those of you who have written offering intelligent and alternative views to my own, thanks it’s been a pleasure conversing.

To the rest of you, I’ll collectively answer what seems to be the biggest question on your minds. "Yes, my parents were indeed married prior to my birth".

Finally to the kind soul who blessed me, "to be fruitful and multiply". Thanks for the kind thought… Even if those aren’t the exact words you used in your e-mail.


We weren’t insightful enough to recognize what we had inside HyperCard

February 18, 2009

Reading an old interview with John Sculley, he recalls a number of things but one them struck me was his views on HyperCard. (long a favorite program of mine that’s disappeared into the mists of history)

“As I look back on things that I wished we would have done differently when I was at Apple, I think one of the biggest missed opportunities, and it was on my watch, so I feel responsible and disappointed that we didn’t do more with it, was HyperCard. It was created back in 1987 by Bill Atkinson, Apple’s first software programmer. We could never figure out exactly what it was. We thought it was a prototyping tool. We thought it was a database tool. It was actually used by people as a front-end communications device for TCP/IP to connect the Internet to large Cray computers. We weren’t insightful enough to recognize that what we had inside of HyperCard, essentially, was everything that later was developed so successfully by Tim Berners-Lee with HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) and HTML (Hypertext Markup Language). We didn’t call it that. But essentially, we had all that hypertext, radio buttons and linking capability architected in the original HyperCard. In hindsight, I wish Apple had recognized that we had a huge opportunity to go take our user interface culture, and our know-how, and applied it to the Internet. I think we would have had a very different story for Apple during the 1990s. But that, of course, is hindsight.”


The beginner today will be the expert of tomorrow

February 17, 2009

Latest column from Bruce Tognazzini is well worth the read. Who is Bruce Tognazzini? I’ll let him tell you.

Bruce Tognazzini was hired at Apple by Steve Jobs and Jef Raskin in 1978, where he remained for 14 years, founding the Apple Human Interface Group.  He remains a major Apple fan, which is why, when they’re doing wrong, he feels compelled to talk about it.

Bottom line?

Apple needs to take a fresh look at all of their products across the board, specifically looking for where old decisions favoring new users are now dragging those same users down. Of course it’s a good idea to avoid complexity, including hierarchies, where possible, but some tasks are inherently complex. Go for visual and behavioral simplicity where it works, but be prepared to back off.

I could think of a few Apple products that could possibly fall into this category. You?How about you? What would you like to see Apple update or refresh?


The best way to read the NY Times on a mobile device

February 17, 2009

As an experiment and also because I like to read when I am out and about, I’ve tried  all the different official ways to read the NY Times when I’m mobile on my phone. None of them work as well as Dave Winer’s NYT River of News. It’s actually a pretty good way to read the Times on a PC as well but it really shines on a phone. Works on just about every mobile browser. Highly recommended.

Note, The NYT iPhone App is particularly awful. It’s slow to update on a fast WiFi connection and totally useless on any other connection. The AP, Bloomberg and USA Today all have great iPhone apps, why is the Times stuff so bad?

 

UPDATEOmar Shahine – recommends the NYT Article Skimmer. Cool on a PC but doesn’t work at all on mobile devices.


Start Me Up (again)

February 17, 2009

I’ve told this story before, the definitive history of the Rolling Stones, Start Me Up and how that song became part of the Windows 95 marketing campaign. By request, here’s the tale once again as told by Brad Chase who was a key part of the Windows 95 effort (and one of the best war time consiglieri that Microsoft has ever employed). So what song would you pick for Windows 7?

 

Background

————-

We were struggling to find an ad campaign that worked. The agency WK (Wieden+Kennedy) was well briefed, had a good understanding of our goals, was working hard and had alot of creative ideas but we kept asking them to go back and try again as they just were not hitting the center of the bulls eye. I am sure we were hard clients. Finally they presented the idea of a campaign based on the song “Start Me Up”. I immediately loved the idea (as did Brad). Without going into details it was on strategy, creative and catchy (commercials based on famous rock songs were not done then as i recall) but then WK told me that they had been unsuccessful negotiating the rights for the song so the campaign was a non-starter. The Stones wanted us to pay $10M to sponsor their next concert tour and then they would consider the rights to the song. WK knew we would not do that. That created a pretty big debate as I wanted to know why they would finally present a winning idea if it wasn’t possible to do. They told me that the reason they pitched it was to see if I could negotiate with them myself – they figured we had nothing to lose.

Amsterdam

————

Time was at a premium at that time as the launch planning and execution was a whirlwind. WK set me up with sort of an entertainment broker who set up a meeting in Amsterdam with key Stones personnel. The key contact for the Stones at that time for this negotiation was Michael Cohl the promoter and organizer of their concerts. The Stones were performing two “unplugged” concerts May 26/27 at the Paradiso in Amsterdam. Some of the tracks on the Fall 95 Album “Stripped” came from the May shows. Someone on Amazon claims Richards said those concerts were the best the Stones have done. I flew out to meet their team and discuss things on May 25th but had to return on the 26th. I don’t remember the hotel name but it was an old elegant posh European hotel and we sat in a big ornate conference room discussing the details. Outside Stones fans huddled hoping to catch a glimpse of the rock stars. Cohl had a litany of folks with him and we discussed the deal for a few hours. We did not make substantial progress. Cohl asked me if I could stay the next day to discuss the deal more and attend the concert. Since I could not, he instead invited me to the dress rehearsal that night. The dress rehearsal was fantastic. I was one of only two nonStones personnel even in the place. They played for two or three hours. They were tight. They would stop periodically to discuss something and joke around. I remember Jagger giving Ron Wood a hard time about all the cigarettes he smoked but mostly they talked about the music. It was very cool.

Back & Forth

—————-

For a good month we continued negotiations mostly on the phone. I had only so much I would and could pay and that made things easier on our end. The fact that we had to fish or cut bait to get our TV ads done in time for the August 24th launch served as a forcing function and eventually we agreed to terms. They rushed WK the “Start Me Up” recording as we were already working on the ad. The next day I got a frantic call from WK saying that the Stones had sent a later live version of “Start Me Up” that wouldn’t work. I called up Cohl and told him that I had to have the original version or there was no deal. Eventually they agreed. I found out later that the reason they gave us the live version was that it was recorded after Bill Wyman had left the band. Giving us the original meant that Wyman got his allocation of the deal which of course meant that giving us the original version of “Start Me Up” meant that Jagger, Richards and the rest of the band got less.

Jagger & Richards

———————

I also found out later that Jagger and Richards did not always see eye to eye on the deal. As Brad indicated, Jagger was less inclined to commercialize their music in this way. I was told he was especially ready to just forget the deal when we made it clear we needed the original version but that he did not want to piss off Richards over it because Richards wanted or needed the money.

Prince Rupert

—————-

After the deal was done but before the launch, Prince Rupert Lowenstein the manager of Jagger’s and the bands money who had been involved behind the scenes (Cohl had to clear things with Rupert as well as the band members) decided he should come out and visit Microsoft. We had to have a limo pick him up at the airport and bring him to the campus.

Prince Rupert was smart and funny. He was an investment banker and came dressed on a baby blue suit. He talked with a strong wonderful British accent. For example he said sometimes at the end of a concert tour bands like the Stones would get “naughty.” He was a Prince because he was a descendant of some royalty (I read on-line that he was a descendant of the Rothschild family). He explained that in the 70’s he got a call from a friend saying that a musical group called the Rolling Stones were in a financial mess. Rupert was told the Stones were stuck in a bad deal they had done with their manager Allen Klein, they had tax problems etc. His friend asked if Rupert would take them on as a client. As Rupert explained it he asked his friend to hold for a moment, put his hand over the telephone and yelled up to his wife, “Honey who the heck is the Rolling Stones? They want me to be their manager” Rupert said that his wife immediately told him to take the job so he did.

The ad

——–

Meanwhile of course the team was frantically working on the ad. WK and the person running advertising on the team for me Cynthia Krass were on locations shooting and then editing etc. I remember when they came to preview the final ad to me and how impressed I was with their work. I gave them only one material comment and that was that they had to fix the end of the ad. It needed the compelling emotional ending that fit the aspirational nature of the ad. The little girl who turns to look at the camera was added after that point. The team did a great great job. Even today folks tell me it is the best ad Microsoft has ever done and one of the best ads they have seen. I recall analytically that it scored very very high on the advertising testing that we did.

The $14 Million

——————-

After it was announced that we did the deal with the Stones a rumor (started in a British paper) started that Bill had called Mick and asked for the rights to the song. According to the rumor, Mick through out a crazy high number – $14 million figuring that Bill would say no but that Bill suprised Jagger and immediately agreed to the $14M. We all laughed uproariously when we heard this (we paid a fraction of this). In fact, when one a reporter called us to get our comment our PR person just laughed and laughed. As I recall, the story quoted that the Microsoft spokesperson just busted out laughing when asked about the rumor. Though never confirmed, as Brad said, it was believed that some Stones personnel made up the story to help them with future negotiations with other vendors. The story is still quoted (often as “legend”) on the web to this day.

In terms of the overall marketing Windows 95, the start me up ad was a small though visible component of strategy. The overall strategy itself is very interesting to look back on and I should write it down at one point. But when it comes to stories around Windows 95, and there are many, “Start Me Up” ranks up there.


Windows Mobile 6.5 – First Take

February 17, 2009

It’s been a long time coming but Microsoft finally unveiled the long awaited update to Windows Mobile, called Windows Mobile 6.5. It’s a nice update of the core UI and it makes the overall Windows Mobile experience something that not only can compete from a technical perspective but from a UI perspective as well.

 

Lock Screen 2Lock Screen PinHoneycomb Start Screen 1New Internet Explorer Mobile

 

Windows Mobile started life in 1996 as Windows CE, with the first clamshell device coming from Casio. Over time, it’s evolved into a stable platform, with both enterprise and consumer appeal with devices from multiple vendors available for carriers around the world. Despite selling 20 million devices last year, there’s a still a lot of negative buzz about the platform. Bloggers, analysts and journalists have all called the platform’s future into question (while still believing in a mythical Microsoft branded phone) and in some cases, raised the question of platform viability. I think 6.5 addresses many of those issues along with strong support from OEMs who are still committed to the platform.

Let’s be clear, while Windows Mobile’s UI is not as flashy or fluid as the iPhone, it certainly stacks up well against offerings from Palm, RIM and Google. This week’s UI enhancements along with innovation from licensees HTC, Sony Ericssonand LG have also helped put a little chrome on the UI as well. The key is that the core of the product works rather well in my experience and for synchronization with Exchange, there’s simply no better solution (or more cost effective solution, as pointed out in TCO study after TCO study).

It’s nice to see a richer browsing experience and Microsoft’s made it clear that’s part of 6.5 but let’s not get too caught up on that. Most website are simply not designed to be read on the small screen and miniature renditions of sites like the NY times make for great demo but lousy usability. Email, the other main mobile activity for smartphone users works just fine as is and in fact no only supports Exchange but multiple email accounts supporting IMAP and POP.

Media and entertainment are also relatively strong on the device and a Zune software client would help add to the richness of the platform (interestingly, Zune subscription content already plays just fine on Windows Mobile). No word on that this week as part of 6.5 I expect that it’s coming soon enough.

Bottom Line? Reports of Windows Mobile’s death have been greatly exaggerated. While there’s room for improvement and Microsoft must update Windows Mobile and bring it in line in terms of users experience and features with other platforms, Windows Mobile is a strategic initiative for Microsoft that’s not going to be abandoned any time soon.

As always, making the right choice of platform and device is a decision that has many factors for both business and consumer users, Windows Mobile should be on any of those decision short lists.

Microsoft also introduced two new services this week as well. One for synchronization and one for selling mobile apps. From the press release.

My Phone Service Connects the Phone to the Web

The free My Phone service will enable people to access, manage and back up their personal information on their device to a password-protected Web-based service, making it easier to upgrade phones without the worry of losing important information. With automatic syncing and backup, users can count on their contacts, appointments, text messages and other information being kept up to date and easily restored should they lose or upgrade their phone. Consumers also will be able to wirelessly update photos and video from their Windows phone directly to the My Phone service, making it simple to share content that, in the past, would have lived and died on the phone. The My Phone service is currently available in a limited invitation-only beta.

Rich and Integrated Marketplace Service Will Offer Easy Access to Mobile Applications

The new operating system features Windows Marketplace for Mobile, a rich and integrated marketplace for searching, browsing and purchasing mobile applications from Windows phones or from a PC by simply using a Windows Live ID. The new marketplace will ship inside all Windows phones based on Windows Mobile 6.5, which will allow consumers to easily find, install and experience those applications that fit their needs and make the phone truly personal.

Developers, who have already built more than 20,000 applications for Windows phones, will be able to offer applications to customers through the marketplace via a simple security and compatibility check from Microsoft.

Not too much to add here. I’ve been testing My Phone and it works pretty well as a sync and backup solution but it’s no competitor for services like SugarSync. The app store is a long time coming and given the news this week from other players, it’s now simply table stakes to have store integration as part of the OS experience.

Bottom line? a pretty good week for Microsoft. They did what they needed to do in introducing the new OS to the market and starting to make some noise about services and applications. The work’s not done here and given a lot of reaction to the news, there’s still a lot that needs to happen in terms of marketing and messaging going forward. It is clear that mobile is a core strategic initiative for Microsoft, the key will be messaging and execution with partners over the next 18 months.


The Myths of Apple and Business Users

February 17, 2009

With the growth in popularity of the iPhone, there’s a lot of questions about how suitable it is as a business tool. That question alone has once again raised the issue of how suitable Apple is in the Enterprise in general. Most IT departments are not deploying Macintosh systems in large numbers and those that are are deploying are usually in niche spaces such as graphic arts, multimedia and publishing. The truth is that Mac OS has changed quite a bit in the last few years and today’s Apple systems offer a reasonable alternative for Windows systems for many mainstream uses OS X Leopard is rock solid UNIX at the core with Apple’s elegant user interface on top. Once again, I’ll address the three biggest myths that still surround Apple and the platform.

The first myth is that Apple’s computers are expensive relative to their PC cousins. While Apple is certainly not a discount brand and will almost never be the cheapest computers that can be purchased, they are certainly price competitive with most PCs coming from tier one vendors. While we can debate the specifics of pound to pound pricing, there’s really not much of an “Apple tax” these days. Yes, there’s some premium for both the Apple brand and the innovation that goes into Apple’s often hardware and software designs, the premium is not out of line with that users already pay for name brand systems from vendors such as Sony, HP or Lenovo. In many cases, comparable Apple systems are priced similarly or in some cases are even cheaper than their competition. And yes, sometimes they will cost a little more.

The second myth is that there is a lack of software available. While OS X does not offer the same sheer number of titles that Windows offers, there is an abundance of business software for Macintosh. In some markets, such as content creation, there is actually more software available for the Mac. In addition, Microsoft offers a complete and compatible version of Office for the Macintosh so knowledge workers can easily share documents and communicate with colleagues across platforms. Apple’s support of web based Internet standards mean that most Internet base applications will simply run without modification. While there might be a specific application lacking that can hold back some deployments, most organizations might never hit that wall.

The third myth is that Apple architectures are based on proprietary protocols. While that was certainly true in the past, it is not an accurate portrayal of Apple today. Today, Apple is one of the most standards driven operating systems you can purchase. From MPEG 4 support in Quicktime to full TCP/IP support for networking and WiFi protocols for wireless access. (Apple was actually the first OS vendor to bundle TCP/IP support into a commercial operating system).

Apple systems can be a seamless fit for many organizations. Time to get over the myths and take a closer look.


HTC understands how want people use smartphones

February 17, 2009

HTC came out with a few new handsets this week, a new version of the Diamond Touch, a new Android based phone for Vodafone and my favorite, the Touch Pro 2. Here’s the quick overview of the specs.

    • Processor: Qualcomm® MSM7200A™, 528 MHz
    • OS: Windows Mobile® 6.1 Professional
    • Memory: 512 MB ROM, 288 MB RAM
    • Memory Expansion: microSD™ memory card (SD 2.0 compatible)
    • Dimensions: 4.57 X 2.33 X 0.68 inches (HxWxT)
    • Weight: 6.17 ounces (with battery)
    • Display: 3.6 inch TFT-LCD WVGA (480×800) touchscreen
    • Camera: 3.2 megapixel autofocus camera
    • Battery: 1500mAh LiIon

imageWhat I really like about the Touch Pro 2 (in addition to that very nice, very high resolution screen) is that HTC (like Palm) really understands how folks are using these devices. HTC calls this Straight Talk. As they describe it.

The new HTC Touch Pro2 leverages voice in a new way to create one of the most sophisticated communication experiences found on a mobile phone.   HTC’s new Straight Talk technology delivers an integrated email, voice and speakerphone experience. Users can transition seamlessly from email to single or multi-party conference calls and turn any location into a conference room. In addition to the new simplified calling experience, Straight Talk includes an innovative mechanical and acoustic design that features a sophisticated speakerphone experience similar to those found in corporate boardrooms. Straight Talk delivers a high-fidelity voice and sound experience enhanced by asymmetric speakers and advanced noise suppression with full duplex acoustics. When the Touch Pro2 is flipped over it automatically turns into a conference room speaker phone system.

I had a chance to play with this a few weeks ago and the implementation is downright brilliant. Need to see a contacts history in terms of email, messages or other interaction? It’s all there. Want to call a person instead of emailing them back a reply? It’s one click. Want to make a conference call to all the folks on an email list? No problem. Favorite feature? Turn the phone upside down on a flat surface and it automatically engages in speaker phone mode. There wasn’t a whole lot of innovation this week at MWC, but the Touch Pro 2 delivered quite well. This is one handset to look for when it hits later this year.


Zune re-org points to Zune’s future

February 13, 2009

Ina Fried talks about a re-org in the Zune division.

The software and services portion of the Zune team–the bulk of its staff–will be added to the portfolio of Enrique Rodriguez, the vice president who currently runs Microsoft’s Mediaroom and Media Center TV businesses. The hardware team, meanwhile, will now report to Tom Gibbons, who also leads the hardware design efforts within Microsoft’s Windows Mobile unit.

This is a move that makes a lot of sense I think and points the way to the probable future of Zune that I outlined In the past.

One way Microsoft could go is uniting the Zune desktop client and Windows Media Player. It makes no sense for them to have two desktop software plays. Beyond that, they could the Zune software and port it to Windows Mobile and make that the de-facto mobile media platform. While Microsoft could continue to support the legacy Zune devices, this could serve as an exit strategy from a device business that has not served them well and allow them to make their stand in the place that makes the most sense for them, in software as a client on their phone platform. But my current thinking is Microsoft is going to stay in the hardware business and that means that they will need to re-think what devices they need to bring to market. Previous generations were OK but for the most part, reflected where Apple had been with the iPod 12-18 months prior.

This re-org pretty much confirms that thinking to me. Split off the Zune software to become the core music and perhaps other media strategy for MSFT and get that service on to as many devices and screens as possible. Simultaneously, drive the hardware forward with a major new refresh (hopefully in time for the holidays and perhaps back to school).


Do you think MSFT’s message on Win 7 is confusing? I do.

February 12, 2009

Ok, this is getting a little confusing. Microsoft is telling customers:

We know some of our customers are considering waiting for Windows 7 instead of deploying Windows Vista today. We want these customers to understand the following considerations, so they are not surprised later on:

  • You may find your company in situations where applications are no longer supported on Windows XP and not yet supported on Windows 7.
  • You will want to take time to evaluate Windows 7 just as you evaluate any new operating system for your environment prior to deployment (see deployment realities above). As Windows 7 is planned to be released in about 3 years after Windows Vista, the total period that many customers will likely be waiting prior to deploying Windows 7 in their environment will likely be in the range of 5 years after Windows Vista release.

But wait… as Joe Wilcox points out

  • Many customers stayed with Windows XP because of Vista application compatibility problems.
  • Windows 7 is largely based on Vista, with emphasis on maintaining backward compatibility.
  • Backward compatibility is near the top of Microsoft’s priority list for Windows 7 development.

S-o-o-o, if Seven is to Vista and Microsoft claims Vista is now to XP, why isn’t Seven to XP? If A is to B and B is to C, then A is to C, right? There’s a breakdown in somebody’s logic, either mine or Microsoft’s… How does Microsoft’s Windows 7 is Vista-compatible marketing reconcile with her warnings about XP and Seven compatibility? I raise this point because Windows 7 won’t support XP upgrades. Businesses will have to do clean installs. Now why is that?  Maybe then, there really are compatibility problems. But if Windows 7 is as compatible as Microsoft repeatedly claims, why should there be any concern migrating from XP?

So what’s the story here? I’m more than a little confused as well. What are these apps that are no longer supported on XP and not yet supported on 7 and how does going to Vista help in that scenario? Is it really good advice to recommend a costly double migration from XP to Vista and then Vista to 7 as opposed to testing the merits of 7 and then making the migration decision? I know MSFT doesn’t want to freeze the market into waiting for 7 when they’d love to sell Vista licenses today (or at least get IT folks to deploy Vista licenses they’ve acquired) but this advice seems totally off and somewhat contrary to the 7 compatibility story MSFT’s been telling.


Would you buy a device between a laptop and smartphone?

February 12, 2009

My latest column on the topic is here. Bottom line?

Mobile devices are following two contradictory trajectories. One class is fragmenting in terms of core functions, creating new markets for stand-alone devices such as dedicated cameras and media players. The other, which includes such devices as smartphones and mobile Internet devices, is taking on new features and functions, rivaling stand-alone devices in terms of functionality through convergence. Neither approach is universally correct, and vendors more than ever need to understand the contextual factors that influence consumer device usage. They have to focus on providing the sorts of core features that will lead users to include these devices among the three that they’re willing to carry. Devices that can’t displace one of those three will simply not be purchased.


When it comes to blogging, Love is a better master than duty

February 11, 2009

Earlier I talked about the benefits of blogging and how blogging had specific business benefits when I launched them at Jupiter Research. There was no advertising on the blogs, the blogs themselves were the advertisement. What I didn’t discuss were the bloggers who’ve been successful who weren’t looking for monetary success when they started. They blogged because they had something to say about things that interested them and others found those thoughts interesting as well. Dave Winer probably wasn’t looking to make millions when he started sharing his DaveNet thoughts to a list of users on AppleLink or when he evolved that into scripting.com. But Dave’s not the only one. Kevin C. Tofel and James Kendrick are two of the most passionate folks I know about mobile technology. Last year they sold their site to GigaOm and now they both write about mobile tech full time. Dave Zatz turned his passion for digital technology into jobs with Slingmedia and Dash. I suspect his blog is one of the things that got people’s attention. Good friend Jeremy Toeman’s blog helped grow his consulting business at Stage Two. Of course, i’d be remiss not to mention Peter Rojas and Ryan Block’s success with Engadget. I could go on, feel free to let me know your examples as well. Bottom line? There’s far more ways to monetize a blog than with AdSesne.

Einstein reportedly coined the phrase “love is a better master than duty”. I suspect if Einstein were alive today he’d be reading some of these blogs. He’d probably be writing one too.


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