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Monday, June 8, 2015

Apple's News and Multitasking Provide a Valuable Mid-life Kicker for iPads

The kickoff keynote session at the 2015 Apple Worldwide Developers' Conference promised a new News app from Apple. Elegantly designed, it initially provides curated content from about 20 publishers including the New York Times, ESPN, Time Inc. and Condé Nast.  Apple is courting new publishers. Clever content curators will become top publishers, threatening the established brands, after all the New York Times is starting with limited content.

Whereas Android is the platform of innovation, iOS is the platform of smoothness. The scrolling is smooth, the look is smooth.  Apple has been losing out, particularly in the education market to Google's Chromebooks. Nevertheless, an iPad can offer incredibly creative experiences for a student, enabling them to create movies, musical experiences and now News. RSS feeds can be added to News, but soon News Publisher on iCloud will enable the new Apple News Format.  

Busy consumers will be able to refine their news feed by selecting from a million topics. News will also work on iPhones and will be available in the fall.  Privacy advocates should like News because Apple won't sell your viewing preferences to other companies or clutter your screen with ads.

A major limitation of iPhones and iPads has been the ability to only see one app at once. You can play background music, it's true.  You can click the home button twice and see your recent apps.  To date you've not been able to see apps side-by-side.  In iOS 9, available this fall, you'll be able to see two apps at once.  This should fuel demand for larger iPads, as the smaller iPads aonly allow you to put the 2nd app at the side of the screen in a narrow window, as if it were on an iPhone. A larger screen enables two apps to each have half of the screen and each can be used fully. Apple also offers the ability to run a window-within-a-window for applications like ESPN sports, where you could watch a game while doing your email, for example.

These two features alone should make iPads highly productive platforms and help stave off competition from cheaper Samsung tablets or colorful Kindles.  

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Should take on Facebook?

Dalton Caldwell wrote to Mark Zuckerberg about a recent meeting with Facebook, where he discovered that Facebook was going to compete with him. He believed he was being supported by their developer relations program, only to find that his supporter there had been put in charge of Facebook's App Center.

What should he do? Join Facebook or compete like crazy or reboot his company to do another product. Throwing out software, is not necessarily bad, sometimes a rethink and a rewrite generates a better product. It's the team that counts. So rebooting the company, while painful may not be the worst outcome.

Having been a third party relations software manager many years ago, it might be instructive to see what others have done in a similar situation.

Accounting Software - Intuit and Microsoft

When Intuit was moving into small business accounting on Microsoft's Windows platform, Microsoft responded with Microsoft Money. Intuit fought back hard. Intuit had focused marketing, industry analysts were quick to compare the solutions. Microsoft tried to grow its business with acquisitions:
Because Microsoft entered the market, there was plenty of press for independent software vendors and those that capitalized on it could succeed. So Intuit gained by promoting heavily, focusing sharply and expanding into payroll and tax. By comparing itself with Microsoft, Intuit was seen as playing in the big league.

Mac Software - Claris, Apple and Adobe

Software vendors are often fearful of hardware vendors. When the Apple Macintosh came out, it had some software like MacPaint, MacProject, MacWrite and MacDraw. It had a "Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom" software policy. The app that made Mac sales soar was an independently developed publishing package, PageMaker.  Apple started to get heat from developers about its apps strategy. Sensing conflict, the company set up a software subsidiary, Claris, to market apps like MacPaint. Claris purchased FileMaker. Some products, like AppleWorks for the Macintosh went back to Apple.  Claris eventually rebranded itself as FileMaker.  
Claris never really realized its potential. One player in the thriving Mac ecosystem was Adobe who started with a language, Postscript, to drive printers. Adobe ended up doing a very small, but important part of the platform. It went on to create Photoshop that was so much better than MacPaint. Eventually it acquired PageMaker and had a much better outcome than Claris. So don't bet on the big platform guy to get the apps right.

Enterprise Databases - Oracle, IBM and SAP

Database vendors have had particularly rocky histories with platform vendors. On the one hand they fear that system vendors will compete with them. On the other hand application software vendors that use their platform fear the database company coming after them. 
IBM was king of the large databases in the 1980s. Then IBM's Ted Codd and Chris Date came up with the relational database model. It's worth reading about UC Berkeley's work on the Ingres relational database by Michael Stonebraker. Relational database companies like Oracle, Informix and Ingres danced around IBM, offering their solutions on multiple platforms, mainly variations of UNIX. Oracle, the winner, used IBM's SQL language and marketed very aggressively, long before the code was ready in many cases. Oracle had by far the biggest vision - run on everything from mainframes to PCs. They never had big success at the low end, but they conquered the enterprise. Billboards on 101 featured Oracle and Informix's rivalry. Eventually part of Informix was sold to IBM. 
Database vendors are squeezed between systems vendors and application vendors. SAP competes with Oracle in the applications space. SAP's TomorrowNow subsidiary stole Oracle software and customer support documents. Originally Oracle won a $1.3B verdict that was thrown out and Oracle was given the choice of accepting $272M or continuing the battle. The court case continues.

So What About Twitter and Facebook?

Are Twitter and Facebook reliable platforms? It depends on the software product, which parts of Twitter and Facebook you need and what you are prepared to let them know about your service. So Dalton Caldwell who plans to offer a competing social platform that is ad free and relies on paid subscriptions can do what Intuit did. Make the most of the PR around Facebook, get some good lawyers to avoid patent disputes and prove that consumers are prepared to pay. plans to raise $500K on Kickstarter.  With 11 days to go they need to raise $360,000.  So far they have over 1800 backers. Another model is the public broadcasting model, where grants and pledges fund the community. The Facebook platform provides a quick start for, but I suspect that long term it will need to rewrite code to create strategic advantage. Go Dalton!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ten Favorite iPhone Apps

I've installed over 200 Apps since I bought my first iPhone on Day 1 - June 29th, 2007. I gave a presentation at the Stanford-Palo Alto Users Group for PC on May 11th 2011 and was asked for my ten favorite Apps. I chose them because they are useful, fun or innovative.