iWant my iPad – iJust don’t know why?

With the much anticipated launch of the iPad, I stepped back from the hype and techno glitz to ask the question,”Is Apple making the same mistakes of 25 years ago?”

The macro headline for Apple of that time would be “Great Product, lack of licensing and eco-system cedes market to Microsoft” So what’s different this time and what is the same?

The differences are that Apple, under Jobs is an innovation engine that is inventing new product classes – iPod, iTouch,  iPhone, iPad, etc.  The new products are launched and live in a ecosystem  under a benevolent dictatorship (or is it?).  One architecture, One way of getting apps, ads or “tunes” through their closed garden eco-system.  Everyone pays a tax to Apple to play.  This works as long as there are not viable alternatives to the Apple product.

In the case of the iPod, Apple’s eco-system became so powerful that it all but squeezed out all comers. Does anyone own a Zune?  The iPhone, however,  will likely be a different story.

The iPhone was the techno-product equivalent of a genetic mutation, the first of a new species.  It leveraged the eco-system of the IPod , then enhanced it with a vibrant app store.  So what’s the problem?   Apple’s problem is that Google is not the Microsoft.

The Android Platform will mutate and evolve dozens of times a year.  The Apple Iphone is on pace for one major release a year.   Add to this mix Nokia’s Symbian platform, Palm, Blackberry , and yes even Microsoft – and the challenge to Apple’s smartphone bonanza is formidable.   The challengers permit innovation from many hardware vendors  ( HTC, Samsung, Motorola and LG  to just name a few).  The innovation of smartphone products with a common eco-system(s) (Android, Symbian, Nokia, etc) will be more than Apple can bare.  Their share will become a significant but much smaller niche.  This will happen unless the iPhone OS is permitted to evolve outside of Apple.  Since the history of Apple is to control their value chain, this is not likely.

But have no fear you Apple devotees.  Apple’s respond is to morph new species, not new versions of an old one.

Thus enter the iPad – Not a netbook, not a laptop, not an iTouch….  It’s something new- and yes it leverages the vibrant iPhone eco-system,  Another key aspect of the iPad strategy is cloud computing.  The more your “stuff” is stored online , the less you need mass local storage.  Ironically a leader in this space is Google with their Google docs.   I recently purchased a Netbook for around $250.  Rather than double that investment with a version of Microsoft Office, I use Google Docs.  For most use cases it works great and all the docs are backed up – check that – live on the net.  If the iPad is going to squeeze in between netbooks and laptops, it has to have cloud computing for email storage, simple “office-like” apps and document storage.

Is there room in this Darwinian e-volution tree for this hybrid being?  Apple is betting yes – and if successful it will provide them another 5 year run before competitors really catch up.  In the mean time, they invent a new product category, while the previous product hits start to get caught and even surpassed from a market share and innovation standpoint.   Apple cannot afford to compete in every e-category of consumer products with 100% of the innovation – no company can compete with the entire industry.

The secret to this strategy is not to suffer from innovators dilemma.  Apple seems very content to re-invent products categories, even if they diminish the position they have in a previous market.  It is hard to come up with many examples that rival such a strategic culture.   Rather than invest in two more iPhone iterations or faster innovation on an Ipod – they re-invent them all.  This is the truly amazing aspect of Apple and can only come directly from Steve Jobs.  They bet the company on continued hit products.  The strategy works as long as the hits keep coming and Jobs remains at the helm.  Apple would not have been able to sustain a “Vista-like” disaster and have a flagship product be a complete bomb for years.

So – now its off the Apple store to buy my iPad.  Why?  I don’t know – but I’m sure I’ll like it when I figure it out.

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Kudos to Verizon for taking on Leadership – Mobile without Phone Numbers

Approximately one year ago I wrote an article entitled “The Future of Mobile – without phone numbers.” In my discussion I put forth the proposition that social networks would take over the fundamental connectivity for individuals and that phone numbers would be a network “IP address”.   This article generated 100’s of emails and questions, some supportive, some not, but all thought provoking. It was clear that I had hit a nerve.

A major step towards my view of the future of mobile communications was taken by Verizon in the last week.  Verizon Announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and later confirmed and launched at CTIA 2010, an integrated Skype calling service.  This service enables users to click any Skype username, make a call, and not be charged for mobile minutes.  This service even uses the mobile voice connectivity of Verizon for the wireless network of the call.

This is a major watershed event for the industry.  A major carrier embracing voice as a data service, with calls completed outside of the carrier’s equivalent phone number – DNS.

In fact, this capability had been  available by such applications as ISkoot.  What is big news is that Verizon is openly promoting this service and not charging for mobile minutes.   Another advantage of the Verizon version is that it is “always-on”.  I received my first Skype call on my mobile yesterday.  It just happened like any other mobile call.  It was an important business call and all I could think about at the conclusion was – that was cool.

The use of social networks and non-phone number connection services implies that that contact DNS aggregation services will become even more important.  My network contact list will be an amalgamation of my Facebook, Linkedin, Skype, Twitter,  existing phone books, AOL IM list and likely several others.  Aggregating my contact lists, storing them in the network cloud and presenting them to me on demand in a usable form is essential.

While at CTIA I was on a panel discussion with   Mike Mulica, CEO of FusionOne.  FusionOne is a leading example of such a network based contact/address book that spans social networks.  They are certainly a company worth watching in the future, as they appear to be “on the right side of the technology curve”.

A question that remains is how does Verizon generate revenue by connecting calls for free?  Simple answers include increased data subscriptions and greater subscriber growth via churn from other carriers.    In the U.S. market, with mobile penetration approaching 90%, carriers can only increase subscribers by churning their competitor’s customers.   Since the Skype app on iPhone is not as full featured and cannot be “always-on”, VZW has given leading edge users a reason to switch NOW.

In the future I would expect connections between Skype calling capability and other applications on Verizon, especially those provided through the Verizon’s own app store.  I also expect that full mobile video calling and even video conferencing via Skype is no doubt on the roadmap.

This feature is only available to VZW smartphone subscribers , and that means a $29.99/mo data charge.

Regardless of the long term revenue sources, VZW has taken a clear leadership position in its market and now has the their competitors determining a catch-up strategy.  Kudos to Verizon on this move.

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Filed under Acquisitions, advertising, android, Apple, AT&T, cloud computing, CTIA, facebook, FusionOne, iphone, location based services, MAc, mobile, mobile advertising, Mobile Application Stores, mobile commerce, portal, skype, smart phone, Smartphone, Twitter, Verizon, Web2.0, widgets, wireless

SNL Really!?! Really?

This past episode of SNL had a Toyota Prius commercial parody..

You can view it by clicking here:

What was even funnier than the skit was the targeted advertisements for this video clip on the NBC website.

When I first viewed it on the web I was shown a Toyota Sienna commercial. Would Toyota want to sponsor such an anti-Toyota commercial parody with Toyota’s advertising budget? Really!?!

Not to be satisfied with just one viewing, I reloaded the web video to see what I would get next. I was pleased that the Toyota Sienna ad had been replaced…… by a Lexus Hybrid Ad! Really? Really! The ad voiceover describes that while others are just now building hybrid cars, Lexus hybrids have traveled over 5 billion miles. This is the ad that runs before a skit on a Toyota hybrid that will not stop? Really!?!

To be truthful in my advertising of this advertising faux pas, these Toyota Ads , along with ones from, Sprint, Mercedes, Audi, Nissan, a Broadway Play and other food products. This ad rotation seemed to be running on all videos on the SNL site.

The Mercedes ad shows one of their cars rolling and bouncing down a test track highlighting its structural integrity in crashes! Really!?!

There was even an ad for the “Parenthood Driving Challenge”, sponsored by Nissan,

Despite this “run of site advertising mode”, Toyota and their agency cannot be thrilled at the commercial parody coupled with their partial sponsorship of their own humiliation.

Really!?!

Lastly it is worth asking, ”Did Ford actually sponsor that commercial parody?” It is their most effective advertisement in a long time. Really!

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Filed under advertising, Automobile, mobile, mobile advertising, Toyota, Web2.0

The iPad– “Thou shall have apps…

The much heralded announcement of the iPad brings with it profits (or prophets?) as well as naysayers.  Perhaps Steve Jobs should have dressed in long ropes, grew a long white beard and walked down to the stage with a view of the mountains in the background?  The scene might be further played out with the masses dancing around and worshipping the netbook, the new deity of computing.

Steve Jobs raises his two iPads and declares that he has heard the word of the almighty and has declared that these tablets are the new iReligion.  Then he declares that he alone will now lead them from their transgressions to the land of endless apps.

(Note to Mr. Jobs:  If I recall my bible studies it took Moses another 40 years to find the Promised Land)

The announcement of the iPad will cause debates, forecasts, and predictions of successes and/or doom.  One thing is clear; the iPad is Apple’s near-term answer to the netbook phenomenon .  According to eWeek, netbook sales topped 33M in 2009 and Acer predicts sales in excess of 50M in 2010.   Apple sells about 3M Macs a quarter.

The sub $300 price point of the netbook did create a new category of device.  A device that is intimately linked to the trend of cloud computing.  Netbooks are good at email and web browsing.  They are not great entertainment devices.

The iPad promises to be as good as netbooks in what they do well – email and browsing – and also be a fun personal entertainment device.  The iPad wisely brings along over 100K apps at launch from the iPhone/iTouch world.

The question that the iPad raises for me is – how many personal connected devices can one person have?

The emergence of the smart phone category (iPhone, Android, Symbian, Blackberry, Palm, Windows Mobile) has created the instant connectivity to email, web and apps.  These devices fit in your pocket , are reasonably robust, and cheap to buy.

The laptop category, as Steve Jobs pointed out in his keynote, is another version of mobile computing.  With the weight of laptops hitting 5lbs and below, and with desktop computing capability, they have become the standard for students and professionals

Netbooks have created a bridge between the two major device areas as a lightweight computing device.  Now, enter the iPad at a $499 pricepoint.  Will the iPad grow the mobile Internet market or cannibalize other sales?

My prediction is market cannibalization.

The smart phone market is secure and growing.  The basic functions of instant and multimodal communications are clear and a continued focal point of human need.

The laptop and netbook markets are likely to be the feeding ground of iPad sales.

But how and why?

The answer is personal cloud computing.  The more the consumer environment transforms from local storage and processing to cloud storage/computing with local display and data entry – the better the market environment will be for the iPad.   The Apple entry into personal cloud computing – MobileMe – has been less than compelling.  This is especially true as Google, and others,  offer many of the same capabilities for free.

The iPad equation still requires one more piece of the puzzle to reach the Promised Land.  Steve Jobs will have to climb the mountain again and come back with another divine revelation.

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Filed under android, Apple, cloud computing, Content, holy grail, iPad, Isarel, microsoft, mobile, Moses, netbooks, smart phone, Smartphone, Steve Jobs, wireless

Clouds can make it rain, and follow you – Your Personal Cloud

Cloud computing is in the air. Wherever I turn people are talking about public clouds, private clouds, enterprise clouds. It seems that the makers of cloud technology can be the next generation of rainmakers. Truth be told, the computing concept of virtualization or even time-sharing is hardly a new one.

The natural ebb and flow of computing power and application requirements has swung to the point where most applications can share a single physical platform, thus virtualization and cloud computing. This trend coupled with a high speed connected internet enables cloud computing to become a metered utility.


All of that dark fiber and infrastructure that was placed during the dot.com boom is coming into play. But, as I said , nothing really new here.

Back in Graduate School, in a time when Carl Sagan was still gazing at the billions and billions of stars, my personal computing account was metered by compute cycle. If I designed a particular program poorly and ate up a lot of compute time, it might be time to whip out the credit cad and recharge the account. This methodology certainly made you a precise and careful program designer!

While this cloud trend is particularly relevant and profit making for companies such as Amazon, RackSpace, VMware, Microsoft, etc – what does it mean for the guy on the street?

The companion trend that will have more far reaching implications for the consumer is personal clouds. A personal cloud is a collection of your data and applications that is accessible from any device, anytime. This includes documents, photos, videos, games, TV and movies, applications and personal preferences. Everything that now sits on your semi-connected home or work PC, mp3 player or smartphone  just waiting for a hard-disk crash,  or the device to break or be lost ,will now be available in your personal cloud.

This has already started. Gmail, Hotmail, and other online mail providers store and manage your email accounts. Goggle docs can store any document type and has online versions of word processing, spread sheeting and presentation software. The majority of my TV viewing is done online. I do not even know the original air date of most of the shows that I retrieve form Hulu or the network sites.

The personal cloud has been complimented by netbooks and recently the iPad. (I will share my thoughts on the iPad in my next article).
A netbook should more accurately be called “My Cloud Viewer”.

What a netbook does well is get on the Internet and get to your stuff. The personal cloud does for the individual what enterprise cloud computing does for the corporation – it turns computing power and storage from device centric (PC, Laptop, Phone, TV) to a network utility. Display and connectivity is what will be needed in the future.

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Filed under advertising, cloud computing, Distribution, iphone, mobile, netbooks

Marketing is about choices – or is it? You decide

Marketing is about choices – or is it?

I recently went through a mental exercise of trying to determine what makes great marketing companies…. well…. great.   There are the obvious, and historic , iconic brands of the last 100 years – Coke,  Ford, AT&T,  McDonalds, Bud,  Chevy.  These brands have become part of the American DNA.  They will not necessarily be the great marketing giants of the next 20 years, but like that old pair of jeans, somewhat comfortable,  but  not what you will brag to your friends about.


None of these companies excelled at consumer choice.  Coke gives you with/without caffeine and  with/without sugar .  Ford and Chevy have nearly gone out of business by trying to offer too many choices, or more correctly, dictating what the consumer should choose.  Bud gives you regular or lite.  McDonalds is about the burger.  These companies have used massive advertising to direct the consumer choice to their pre-determined, limited set of options.


The companies that are dominating consumer choices now are Google, Apple, Facebook, Your Cable/Internet Providers, and Amazon.com.   They all seemingly put choice back in the hands of the consumer.  Google presents you with literally whatever you want.   Apple provides endless apps on the first really open smartphone.  Facebook opens a world of new and past friends and lets you choose who you want to be friends with, or not.   Cable television began to break up the monopoly of the networks by providing consumers 100’s (and now 1000’s) of channels of choice, coupled with video on demand.   In this era of consumer empowerment, does brand matter?


The conclusion I came to is yes , and now more than ever.  Fundamentally, marketing is about directing a consumers choice to a specific product or service.  Google only makes money when you choose to click on a product search that was highlighted via advertising.  Apple needs you to choose their marketplace for apps.  With thousands upon thousands of apps, what will be the mechanism for consumer adoption?  The featured list of apps on the iphone is really what? It is a mechanism to show you that you have unlimited choice , but then direct your choice in a specific manner.     Facebook is a huge social marketing machine that tries to influence your choices by having your friends influence you.  Influence the Influencers, and you direct choices.

Your Cable providers can offer you 100’s of channels, and as has been seen in recent days, can take those channels away.  They do however; seem to come the closest to providing relatively influence free choices. (Their advertising for paid VOD movies aside).


Amazon provides a brilliant mix of peer reviews and product recommendations.  They are really the more direct version of Google.  Search on what you want to buy, get a couple of choices.  If you don’t like what you see, they suggest close alternatives. While their marketing value proposition is about unlimited choice, their technology is all about limiting your choice, so that you will make a choice.


So, the older model had a marketing organization pre-determining a consumer’s choice through some form of market research and then marketing the heck out of those choices.  Now, companies give the illusion of unlimited choices, monitor and track the actual choices that are made and then capitalize on those choices and utilize more subtle earns to influence those choices.


Marketing is marketing.  The techniques evolve, but the goals remain the same.  Buy my product or service and not the other guys.

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Filed under advertising, Apple, E-Commerce, economy, facebook, mobile advertising, Mobile Application Stores, mobile commerce, smart phone, Smartphone, Social Media, social networking

A Special Thanksgiving Lesson – From Mobile Social Networking

Thanksgiving is a holiday that all Americans, regardless of culture, ethnicity, religion and politics seem to rally behind. I decided to put this notion to a test.

A couple of years ago, I decided to run a small social experiment during the Thanksgiving season. At the time I was CEO of UPOC. I invited members from several diverse groups into a special “What are you thankful for…?” – mobile chat group. The idea was to have everyone give a “shout out” of thanks. The experimental part of this mobile chat group was the source of the member groups that were invited.

These groups included: Christian Fundamentalists, Atheists, Communists, Hassidic Jews, Muslims, Anarchists, Right to Lifers, Republicans, Druids, Democrats, Red Sox Fans, Yankee Fans, Reform Jews, Blacks, Asians, Gays, Lesbians, Hispanics, Satanists, Israeli and Palestinian, Young and Old.

Yes! I even invited Red Sox fans!

I tried to get the most diverse group of individuals I could possibly imagine that had open chat profiles. In the end I invited about 5000 people and got about 500 to join.

In the week leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, I was careful to hide the sources of the groups of the members.

Different Cultures, Religions, Ethnicity, Sexual Preferences, and Sports Affiliations. None of the differences were obvious, just the similarity of giving thanks.

Leading up to the holiday, the expressions of thanks were heart warming. Many gave thanks for Family, Friends and God. Some expressions of thanks were deeply personal including being thankful for a second chance with a loved one, being paroled from jail, having recovered from an illness, having the opportunity to see a loved one for the holiday, etc. The expressions of introspective appreciations knew no boundaries of culture. If you hid the chat handles from the messages you would have had a very difficult time identifying the group that a specific message had originated. It seems that people are really just people.

Everyone has their share of joy and “meshugas”

The second unexpected part of this experiment happened after the long Thanksgiving weekend. The expressions of thankfulness stopped and biases and bigotry emerged.

By the end of the week the word had gotten out to the participants who some of the other members of this group really were. That’s another side of social networking, its tough to keep secrets.

Right and Left Wingers began to spar, Fundamentalists started to try to save the Satanists, Hassidic Jews were condescending of Reform Jews- And the Red Sox and Yankees fans – it was just too ugly to repeat…

Stripped of their diverse background identifiers, people of vastly different cultures have very similar things to be thankful about.

Once the identity veil was lifted I was thankful that everyone in the group was in cyberspace and not really in the same physical room. I removed the group a week after Thanksgiving to avoid potential bloodshed.

Maybe there is something we all can learn from this social experiment in this season of Thanksgiving.

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