Apple. In A TV.

Starting with some 2018 and 2019 models, Samsung will integrate the Apple TV and iTunes capabilities directly into the TV interface, similar to how they currently do the same with Netflix, Amazon Video, HBOGO, Hulu and others. From the Verge:

The iTunes Movies and TV Shows app, which will be available in 100 countries on both Samsung’s 2019 TVs as well as its 2018 models (after a firmware update), marks the first time Apple has allowed third-party devices to access its video library outside of Windows PCs. It could also be a prelude to a video streaming service that Apple is currently rumored to be working on which is tellingly also reported to be coming to 100 countries.

Jon Porter, The Verge

I got a new Samsung Smart TV for my birthday last year and it’s integration with Netflix, Amazon, etc. is fantastic. Strangely, I am now rarely if ever using my Apple TV device other than to watch movies in my digital video library.

Multiple Leaks Ahead of Tuesday’s Apple Event

A variety of new details about what Apple is going to announce this week have become available as a result of some surprisingly sloppy work coming out of Cupertino.

Face ID is referenced in Apple’s firmware, and it appears to be the official name for the new way to unlock the iPhone 8 with just your face.

I feel like I’m just getting into the swing of using Touch ID and now they are going to switch it up on us (granted, it appears to only be for the higher end phone)

Apple is also reportedly introducing ‘Animoji’ which are animated versions of the popular emoji found in iOS 11. Animoji will supposedly use the hardware face scanning features of the iPhone 8 to create custom 3D versions based on your own facial expressions. Apple describes Animoji as custom animated messages that use your voice and reflect your facial expressions, and they’ll be featured in the messaging app.

Yawn.

The final leak from the new iOS 11 firmware also shows a new revision of Apple’s wireless AirPods. 9to5Mac reports that it’s not a major upgrade, and it appears that the charging indicator has been relocated to the outside of the case to make it easier to check on battery status without opening the case. An animation shows the refreshed AirPods, and the design looks almost identical to the existing version.

It took them forever to get the ‘original’ AirPods out to market and now they are turning around and changing them. Lends credence to the strategy of waiting for the second version of an Apple product/feature/software update before upgrading.

Apple used to be “Fort Knox” in terms of controlling rumors, leaks and the like leading up to their marketing events (and yes, they are marketing events) but over the past few years these leaks are becoming more prevalent…probably because the folks doing the research are becoming more and more sophisticated. I wonder how Steve Jobs would have handled this?

Source: Leaked iPhone 8 firmware reveals animated emoji, Face ID, and updated AirPods – The Verge

There’s A Dongle For That

The annual tech pilgrimage to Vegas for CES has come and gone. As usual, Apple was not present – they never have a booth – but they have been known to have a big presence in terms of buzz, apps, and other items within the Mac ecosystem. Apparently, according to ReCode, this year there was one big area of “innovation” within the Mac ecosystem:

The large iProducts section of the convention hall boasted the usual array of cases and chargers, but not a lot that was really new or exciting. Perhaps the biggest area of innovation was around trying to replace all the ports Apple took away on its latest MacBook Pro.

Courage.

Let’s Talk About Apple

Watching the Apple MacBookPro (MBP) announcement the other day, I could not help but get the feeling of a struggling, quiet desperation coming from the Apple leadership team making the presentation. I wasn’t in the room but the vibe of the room and the presentation felt desperate and flat to me. The details and advancements that were discussed during the presentation seemed like natural, next-level evolutions of the Apple product lines – the only thing that was really interesting was the TouchBar on the MBP – everything else…meh. Maybe the industry is so used to Apple’s high standards that it is taken for granted. Maybe we need to look past the giddy Apple fanboys vigorously defending Apple’s decisions and take a really critical look at the shit show that is all the different dongles and cables that are needed across the product lines and how they are expecting Apple customers to adjust and adapt to the confusion. Here is a quick hot take on different items that were announced.

Apple TV

apple-tv-homescreen-tv


They integrated Minecraft. Sure, Minecraft is still a thing, but is it really? Wasn’t that relevant like 3 years ago?

Steve Jobs said before he died that he had ‘solved’ TV. Granted that’s a bold statement – that is now 4 years old – and all they could deliver is an app called TV that enables universal search. And don’t get me started on Siri – Google Assistant anyone? 5 year head start and they’ve been lapped by Amazon and Google? You could tell that the woman doing the demo was speaking in a deliberate tone, praying that Siri understood what she said. Having the TV app on other iOS devices is definitely a good addition and that is an interesting addition and opportunity for TV viewers.

MacBookPros


For context, the day before this event, Microsoft announced the stunningly cool looking Surface Studio desktop computer. The human interaction of the Surface Dial on the ultra thin and gorgeous screen looks fantastic. Apple countered that with “the thinnest MBP EVER” – gee what a surprise. And it has an all metal design! It has the “best and biggest track pad that [Apple] has ever made.” None of this is a big deal. It is bordering on technology and change for change’s sake.

The TouchBar at the top of the keyboard is a really interesting feature however to me, it seems to be something that will take people a long time to adapt to. I think it’s potential is high – especially in terms of security and it’s ability to read fingerprints. But hey, at least it organizes my Emoji.

The MBP looks like a gorgeous machine and I am taking absolutely nothing away from the brilliant Engineering and design that went into it. Yet, as Apple was explaining the capabilities of the TouchBar, speaking with quiet reverence of how you can use both hands when using the MBP, all I thought about was how quaint the Apple demo was compared to the amazing interaction of Microsoft’s Surface Dial.

Dongles & Wires

So let me get this straight – Apple gets rid of the headphone jack in the iPhone for an accelerometer, so the customer has to buy and use unique headphones that ONLY work with the iPhone (because of the Lightning connector). Then Apple doesn’t include the Lightning port on the MBP, but DOES include a headphone jack. So the customer has to use a different set of headphones or the dreaded ‘dongle’ to listen to music on the MBP. In fact, it looks like the customer will need to purchase several dongles to adapt to the different connectors you could be using.

In Closing

It is unrealistic to expect a company – yes, even Apple – to develop a groundbreaking product, on the scale of the iPhone, every year (or even every two years for that matter). There are only so many opportunities that present themselves like what was in front of Apple in 2005-7 when they developed iPhone. It is, however, realistic to expect the same level of innovation that they believe they are delivering, and I’m starting to feel that the gulf is widening between the innovation Apple believes it is delivering compared to that of their competition.

Unscientific Headphone Research

I was on the NYC Subway last night heading home from work (Downtown E Train) and was listening to a tech oriented podcast that was discussing the recent decision by Apple to remove the headphone jack from the iPhone 7. The discussion made me think about what sort of impact Apple’s decision may have on customer behavior relative to their headphones, and what headphones people use. How many people really go out and purchase different headphones? How many people say ‘screw it’ and just use the free ‘in the box’ Apple earbuds?

So I started to look around at the folks in the train car – a pretty solidly random collection of people. I’m going to say there were somewhere around 150 people in the car and of that total, maybe 30-40 people were wearing headphones (roughly 20%). And of those 30-40 people, at least 15 (~10% of the total and ~50% of the people wearing headphones) were rocking out using the white Apple issued headphones.

So this says to me that in this random sample of people, a solid 50% of people using headphones in this train car were not picky enough with the quality of the audio produced by their headphones to go with anything other than the less-than-elete free, hard plastic, non-maliable, non-noise reducing/cancelling Apple EarBuds that come with every iPhone.

And when you then extend that out to the new iPhone 7, you could make a stretch assumption that in a similarly random sample of people, probably more people would use the free Apple EarPods with the Lightning connector because they came in the iPhone box and they are locked into using the Lighting headphones due to the iPhone 7’s lack of a headphone jack. These people would not be that up in arms about the lack of a headphone jack because of similar behavior when there WAS a traditional headphone jack. A good chunk of them would simply say “Fuck it, why bother with better quality audio and great noise cancelling technology from someone like Bose when I can listen to the rumbling of a NYC subway and the noise of the guy chomping on a burrito, drone out the sound of ‘Arcade Fire’.” Let’s just use these Apple issued Lightning EarPods (that are basically the old, free headphones with a Lightning connector) that sound like tin cans in your ear.

An observation. Hardly scientific, but an observation none the less.

Pixar Animation Standard

In case anyone is questioning Pixar’s position as the undisputed leader in digital animation, they have gone ahead and released for free another digital animation application, this one called the Universal Scene Description tool. It is basically a method for pulling together different assets from different animation applications in a seamless manner.

What makes this interesting to me is that back in July during a trip to Boston, I went to see the amazing “The Science Behind Pixar” exhibit at Boston’s Museum of Science. It was a very hands on demonstration of how Pixar develops it’s amazing digital animation movies. What was exceedingly clear from the exhibit was the painstakingly detailed production process that Pixar applies to each and every one of it’s movies – from the tiniest short to the most epic long form movie. The rigor and attention to detail that was demonstrated in the exhibit was stunning – I can only imagine how it works within the overall Pixar operation – but what was more impressive was the way they made the exhibit so easy to understand and consume, whether you were 14 or 41 years old. They easily demonstrated all the steps that Pixar goes through to produce their movies – from Modeling, Creating Realistic Surfaces, Animation, Simulation, Lighting and Rendering the Imagery. To say that they have the animation production process down to a science is a gross understatement.

By releasing this as ‘open source’, they are doing their best to bring some standardization and rigor to the industry they work in, a subtle dig on the fact that there are so many apps, processes and standards that don’t fit into how they produce their products.

So many folks in the media and around the world talk about Steve Jobs’ influence on the technology industry from his time at Apple (which I am not at all questioning), but after seeing the Pixar exhibit at the Museum of Science, and watching the multitude of movies that Pixar has produced, you can’t help but wonder if what he created at Pixar has been more transformative in the movie and entertainment industry.

Source: Cable TV subscribers plunging – Business Insider

It Just Works

For close to six years now, I have been using Android phones. Because the iPhone was late to join Verizon, my current wireless carrier (VZW has the best coverage where I live although I am very tempted to try T-Mobile…but I digress), I went with Android early on and then stuck with it through some of the lean early years of that platform. So when my wireless contract ended in March and I became a wireless phone/carrier free agent, I started to debate what phone I should get?

During the past 3 years or so, I have also been migrating a lot of my house to the Apple iOS/OSX ecosystem – iPads, Apple TV, iMacs, MacBook Airs, AirPorts – but during that time I was sticking with Android for my mobile phone. Yet I was starting to waver with my mobile device – do I stick with Android and go for a Samsung Galaxy 4 or do I make the move that seemed inevitable with the migration of the rest of my digital life – and go over to Apple’s iPhone.

And so a few weeks ago, I took the plunge and picked up the new Apple iPhone 5S. There was no specific attribute or feature that drove me into Apple’s hands, but more of a growing frustration with the Motorola/Android devices that I have used the past few years. With my Android phones, it always seemed that they slowed to a miserable computer processing crawl after about 10-12 months. Whenever I tried to do the most basic of mobile computing tasks – opening apps, sending messages, making a phone call (novel concept), etc. – it became an ordeal. And the real kicker was when I tried to take a photo with my Android phones – oh, the countless photos that have been missed waiting for the photo app to load. To sum it up with my Android devices, whenever I *really* needed it to work – to capture a photo, to make a phone call quickly, to find an address/location – it failed me. When I didn’t need it in a crunch, oh, it worked fine.

My initial impression of iOS on an iPhone is much different (in a good way) compared to what I have been exposed to on the iPad. The processor and the apps are really snappy. The software and iOS experience is so solid and tightly integrated. So far, my experience with my first iPhone has been great and for now, I’m not looking back.

Bad Apple

A couple of observations coming out of the Apple announcement the other day.

Apple really missed on the pricing for the new iPad Mini. The $329 price point for the 16GB flavor of the new “must have” iPad Mini feels too expensive especially when compared to the tablets of competitors Amazon and Google that each start at ~$200. You could even see Apple trying to justify that price point by having Phil Schiller make a very rare but overt “point, counter point” (Jane, you ignorant slut) comparison of the iPad Mini to the Google Nexus. As soon as he started in with that comparison, I had a feeling that the pricing was going to be expensive relative to the competition. His comparison was basically trying justify the benefits of the iPad Mini ahead of revealing the price, so to ease the pain. I never thought the iPad mini was going to come in at $200, but I was thinking somewhere in the $249-$299 range. If they came in at that range, I think that would have sealed the deal for the Tablet marketplace. Now, I think there is still a window for others to play in.

Secondly, I think Apple did some damage to their brand with how they have handled the “new” iPad (i.e iPad 3 and iPad 4). Releasing an updated version of their iPad on Tuesday, just six months after they released the “new” iPad (3rd Gen) is not going over well. Beyond a Twitter storm, a site called CouponCodes4U.com ran a flash poll on their site (granted, not exactly scientific but still…) that conlcuded:

Forty-one percent of the respondents, who all stated that they owned at least one Apple product, said they had bought the third generation iPad. Of these, 83% said they felt “cheated” by the announcement of the fourth gen tablet.

Not the kind of feedback I’d want around a product release.

And personally, I purchased a “new” iPad in late August, just about 2 months before the Tuesday’s announcement, because my iPad 1st Gen died but also because I didn’t think an another upgrade would be happening until early 2013. I have called Apple and even went to my local store to plead my case and to no avail.

For a company that takes such efforts to make sure things are done pixel perfect, you would think they would manage things like this a bit more effectively.

via Macrumors

Strong Quarter For Android

Smartphone Market Share Q2 2012

Another huge growth quarter for Google’s Android mobile OS. According to a recent market share release from the research firm IDC, Android’s market share in Q2 grew to 68% while Apple’s iOS grew 26% to capture 17% of the market. On the other side of the spectrum, Blackberry’s installed base fell a massive 41% to under 5% of the market, while Nokia’s one’s eponymous Symbian OS dropped 60% to 4.4% of the market. Sadly, Windows Phone OS begged for the scraps and was bundled in the “Other” category that represented 6% of the market.

Now it should be noted that these numbers represent the installed base and do not reflect revenue or any financial numbers. When you look at it by that metric, which in my mind is the real number that needs to be highlighted, then Apple is clearly crushing everyone including Android. And I have to say that it feels like the iPhone has a much larger share/footprint and social impact on the market than what these numbers indicate.

via CNN Money

Rethinking Microsoft’s Brand

A really really interesting project by Andrew Kim where he re-thought and re-designed Microsoft’s entire brand and branding system. And right now, the company really needs a shot in the arm.

Kim’s core hypothesis is that when you compare Microsoft to Google and Apple (the “big three”), Microsoft is perceived as outdated, slow, corporate, conservative, while its only positive brand assets are its gaming (XBox) and Kinect. Compare this to Apple’s brand that is centered on design and engineering, and Google’s that is focused on the search engine and “don’t be evil”.

From a visual design perspective, he addressed this gap by taking the “traditional” old school, antiquated view of a (four paned) window and looked at it through a different lens. He thought about it through a more hip, urban perspective and visualized how people look at windows on an angle while looking at a skyscraper from the ground and used that as the core element of the “new” brand concept.

Hit this concept up against the generally bland, Finland flag like new Windows logo and it is definitely a fresh perspective on where Microsoft/Windows could go.

The other day while at a local mall, I was surprised to see the Microsoft Store had opened up. And the thing that completely dominated the experience was the gaming consoles – XBox, Kinect, etc. The PC’s, phones and peripherals that Microsoft “owns” were taking up space in the store and were complete afterthoughts to the customers. To me, that spoke volumes.

via Waxy Links.

The Human Scale of Apple Stores

Apple Store – 5th Ave., NYC

Really interesting and insightful article about the architects that have designed many of the Apple stores around the world, and their relationship with Steve Jobs.

I remember when Steve first hired us, he said: “I hired you because you’ve done very good large buildings, and you’ve done great houses.” If you’re doing houses, then you’re thinking about the subtleties of a building.”

As is legend now, Jobs’ laser focus on the user experience within Apple’s products also extended all the way to the retail experience, to the point where Jobs perceived retail as simply an extension of the overall Apple product line.

via NY Times

Your Logo or Mine?


A neat project where Stefan Asafti over at Behance used competitor logos to render each other’s brands.

There have always existed disputes among the competing parties, divergent opinions, while the fans of each brand were convinced that theirs was the best product. Last, but not least, the rivals have even conducted ad campaigns against the competing brands. This project mostly approaches the visual “conversations” between the company logos and the ways that they influence each other, hence the name of the project, Brandversations. It is a parallel between the modern and the old, some of the slogans dating back to the 40s and 50s.

Yes, I am a heretic for displaying the one above. :)

via Logo Design Love

Apple Snark

In the tech world, there has been quite a flurry and the abundance of jokes and head scratching about Apple’s epic struggle to bring to market a white version of their popular iPhone. So today it was announced that the White iPhone is finally here!! So Techcrunch led off their article with this great piece of snark…made me laugh:

Apple has just announced the availability of the white iPhone. Unlike the black iPhone, it is able to reflect all colors of the visible spectrum, thereby making it white.

Via TechCrunch

iPhone Monster

Apple’s iPhone represents about half of their $12.3 Billion in revenue. And while the iPad numbers flattened off in Q1, I would argue that a big reason for that was the impending release of iPad 2 coupled with the inventory issues that hampered iPad 2 sales. None the less, its pretty crazy to look at this graph and think that the iPhone was only released in 2006 and now represents such a huge element of Apple’s business. Amazing.

via Business Insider

I Want My Apple TV

Apple

Actually, I already have it. And I love it.

I’m bringing this up because Crunchgear reported that ATV has sold ~2 Million In about 7 months. Clearly I’m not alone.

What I’m liking is the on demand element of the service. Whatever I want to watch is only a few clicks away. Its seamlessly integrated with Netflix, YouTube and many of the top video podcasts out there. I can easily buy/rent movies from iTunes, although Netflix somewhat solves for that. And it enables me to connect to online services like Flickr and other “cloud” services. One big downfall has been the lack of support for “have to watch live” events like sports…but that was recently solved with MLB.TV and NBA League Pass announcing deals with Apple where you can stream any and all league games via Apple TV. For someone like me who’s a Red Sox/Celtics fan living in pseudo – enemy territory (New Jersey…but I do like the Knicks. Long story.), this is a huge win.

But what really pushes it further for me is the seamless integration with the iOS “ecosystem”. Drop a movie in iTunes, and you can easily stream it to your TV via ATV. Want to listen to your music in your TV room via your surround sound speakers, just navigate to your music library and hit play.

I’m not going to get all “tech pundit” on you and say you “have to get it”. Go get a Roku box if you prefer. But go try it. Its only around $100 for either ATV or Roku. You won’t be disappointed.

Eating Android’s Dust

Some new numbers have been released showing that Android has picked up a staggering 7% absolute points (26% market share in November 2010 and 33% share in February 2011) of market share in the past 3 months. That’s a whopping 27% increase. If I was a brand manager, I would take a 27% share growth any day, thank you very much.

As I’ve mentioned before, Apple and its iPhone get all the hype from the fan boys, however Apple once again is fighting and losing the exact same battle as it did in the 1980’s and 1990’s

Apple is fighting a very similar war to the one it fought–and lost–in the 1990s. It is trying to build the best integrated products, hardware and software, and maintain complete control over the ecosystem around them. This end-to-end control makes it easier for Apple to build products that are “better,” but it makes it much harder for the company to compete against a software platform that is standard across many hardware manufacturers Windows in the 1990s, Android now. 

As the SAI article I’ve quoted notes, I would have to agree that Apple and the others in the mobile space (RIM, Windows) need to really consider the implications here.

My mobile contract on Verizon is up in July and while Verizon now has the iPhone, and I have recently acquired other Apple products like iPad and iPad 2, I have to say that I am pretty reticent to switch over to iPhone for my mobile device. The flexibility of the Android phone is something that I’m not ready to give up yet, and I get the sense from these numbers that others are feeling the same way.

via SAI.