Posts Tagged ‘apple’

A tale of 3 IT Giants…and a corporate ineptitude

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Yesterday was the day after Apple’s big iPad launch event and they released v7.03 of their iOS operating system, so I clicked to upgrade.  Apple has a global reputation for excellence and ease-of-use, so it was bound to be simple wasn’t it?  NO!  It turned out they had changed their T&C’s for iCloud and you had to accept these… simple?  NO!  I and numerous other unlucky users found you couldn’t accept them as their server wouldn’t connect.  I spent an hour searching the net for answers, none of which worked, and ended up having to delete my account and reset it up… Great service… very slick!

Later I tried for the third time to download and install Windows newest  release of their global operating system 8.1.  Microsoft having been dominating this space since the 90’s, so they have this off pat surely?  NOPE!  I had tried twice before, wasted about 3 hours and nearly messed up my system over the weekend.  I’d read everything out there and updated every possible driver and unplugged every peripheral device as it was deemed to be some kind of driver conflict.  It got to 40% installed and the machine (the almost brand new, completely updated and highly specified machine..) turned off mid-install!  Luckily it reverted to its previous state okay but when I called my PC helpline they said “Loads of people are having issues with it, we recommend waiting a month or so till they get it right and and reissue the code”.

Finally, my afternoon was wasted by Samsung who despite being the one of the worlds biggest maker of smartphones and computers seem totally incapable of writing a simple piece of backup code.  I wanted to backup my phone; on my old Blackberry this was simple and took 10 minutes.  I spent an hour or so just trying to get the computer to see the phone, and once it had, the program kept hanging.  Four hours later, I still hadn’t succeeded in this simple task.

Three global leaders, worth $900 billion, seem incapable of doing their basic ‘job’ properly.  They employ the smartest people so it can’t be a lack of capability, and it certainly isn’t because they lack the resources, therefore we must assume it is because it simply isn’t important enough to them.  How on earth do the survive when they don’t care if their products work properly?  It is pretty hard to avoid their products so we have to lump their lousy programming.  If you are running a smaller business it is a very different deal.  We need to ensure that our customers lives are made easier and better by working with us.  They have to know that we care that we deliver quality and that we don’t take their business for granted.

Every Dog has it’s Day

Monday, January 14th, 2013

It appears that Apple’s time as the unchallenged ‘cock of the walk’ is over.  They became the most valuable company ever with a value of $622 billion last year.  People queued for days to pay premium prices for their every new offering, it was a gold mine!  However, although the iPhone 5 still sold well and was acknowledged as “The best iPhone ever”, it was not met with unalloyed praise.  It was felt that they had launched a very safe, conservative phone.  The success of other companies with 7” tablets forced them to go back on Steven Jobs decision never to make one “7-inch tablets are tweeners: too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with the iPad. ….7-Inch tablets are dead on arrival.” [Steve Jobs]  And when they brought the iPad mini to market, although once again it was a product which sold well, critics again criticized them for the low resolution of the screen and it is believed they have a new, more competitive version coming out in the Spring. 

In 2013 Samsung & Google with its Android offerings stole some of Apple’s success.  Samsung sold 30 million of its S3 Galaxy.  Android activations back in July were 1.2 million per day, with 3.7 million over Christmas alone, it is expected that they will reach a billion soon.  It has 80% of the important Chinese market. 

It seems to me no matter how good you are you will hit a phase when others catch-up  and set the pace.  What you do then is very important.  Do you copy them, or hold true to your previous ideas?  Knowing what to change and when to do it is the true mark of business genius.  I can’t offer a golden rule but will say that if you aren’t continually re-evaluating your path and practices then you will be less successful.  Challenge your assumptions, ask daft questions, ask “Why not?” rather than “Why?”  You also know what makes you different and special and if you don’t then perhaps the answer is “Nothing”.  In which case, then you need to decide if you live with this and the risk it represents or if you can create a niche for yourself.

Apple and Google: the result of their patent wars

Saturday, October 20th, 2012

The net impact of Apple and Google taking each other on in the courts has not seemed to affect the public and their buying decisions.  Android phones are being activated at a rate of 1.3m per day!  The Samsung S3 outsold the iPhone 4s in the US in August, though admittedly this was just before the iPhone 5 was due to launch, but it is still the best selling phone on T-Mobile in the US.  It has however made a lot of lawyers very rich. In fact these two companies have spent more on law suits than R&D.  It makes me wonder just what improvements in their products and services we might all have been enjoying if they had decided to invest in them rather than in this legal battle. 

Many years ago I was involved in a top level bench marking mission to top Japanese corporations.  One of our executives asked why they were willing to share their ‘secrets’ with us and they replied “By the time you have succeeded in copying us, we will have moved on..”  In a fast moving world, it seems to me that focusing on the thing which drives you forward is a better bet than looking over your shoulder.  It is interesting that Apple introduced a chip into their new ‘lightening’ cable (the one that connects the new iPhone and iPod to your PC) to ‘authenticate’ it as a genuine Apple accessory.  Within mere months of its introduction the reverse engineers have discovered that it is a relatively simple chip, in fact far simpler than those used in print cartridges, and it is likely to be easily bypassed.  The thing that no one has succeeded in copying Apple in, is its style and joined-up offerings, that make the vast majority of its users feel secure, looked after and chic.

The irony is that they have quite different strategies.  Apple want to create a safe ‘walled garden’ within which they control everything and make sure it works.  Google are interested in the whole net experience and seek enable technologies that will extend and enhance that experience, such as mobile phones, tablets & programs that draw you into engaging more with them such as Google maps.

So what are the lessons for the average business?  I think they are:-

  1. Be clear on what are really good at
  2. Be clear on your strategy
  3. Understand why your customers choose you
  4. Focus on the things that drive you forward
  5. Don’t forget that it is often the quality of the relationships you have that are your key differentiator.  In real life, most of us do not have such distinctive offerings as Apple or Google, and people do business with people they like and those who help them to be successful

 

Resources:

  1. Gizmodo
  2. BGR

Ipad 2–my impressions

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

You will have heard all the rave reviews of the new iPad 2.  I have admired Apple’s technology and design from  afar for years now.  There have always been reasons why something else suited my needs better, but you have got to love those sleek lines and the sheer class of the whole design.  Blackberries have better suited my phone needs, I’ve used cheaper mp3 players and the facility on my phone.  However, as someone who is interested in change, it is impossible to ignore how much Apple have changed the game by their entry and design philosophy.  There seems to be an app for everything these days and the sheer imagination of some of them is incredible.  I saw one the other day which when you played it a snippet of a song, it not only identified it, but offered you the chance of buying it.  You can control you home music system, program your Sky box from afar, navigate your walks with a an OS map and so much more!  I won’t say that I wasn’t fascinated and just a little envious of this virtual toy store. 

The whole tablet pc phenomena has been very interesting and as someone who was an early adopter of a netbook, this seemed the next step in the journey of personal and mobile computing.  I’ve been (uncharacteristically) waiting on the side-lines to jump into this area and decided that Apple seemed to have got a sufficient strategic advantage that this might be the best opportunity for me to try both this form factor and their product for the very first time.  That is the rationalisation… if I’m honest, I also fancied playing with a shiny new toy and this seemed the brightest and shiniest in the store.

I got it on Saturday, and was slightly surprized by actually being able to get hold of one as I had found almost none available previously.  I picked it up for list price at Argos, who delivered it here free.  As a total iPhone novice I had no idea how to drive this but managed to set it up reasonably easily and was able to import my contacts and calendar from Outlook which was essential for me.  It picked up my wifi easily enough, so far so good.  I love the clever engineering of the smart cover that grips the side by magnets and also doubles as a stand. 

You don’t need me to tell you about the clever apps, which I only partially explored.  I had in mainly to enable web browsing and email plus the chance to find other uses (such as watching movies and listening to catch-up radio.)  I was very surprised, and not in a good way, with how often I needed to touch the screen to make it do what I wanted.  Quite often it would take 3 taps to make it work.  I totally own up to not mastering the system, but even so, it didn’t seem sensitive or accurate enough for me.  I was very impressed by the quality of the onscreen keyboard but unimpressed with the spell checking and editing options.  I found it almost impossible to get into the middle of a word to edit a mistyping.  This was  a big issue for me if I wanted to use it for email etc.

I can totally endorse its status as a beautifully made toy.  I can understand why people fall in love with it.  However, for me it was too expensive for what it offered, so I’m sending it back, and here a little plug for Argos, who made this totally effortless.  I’m sure many of you will disagree but I really wanted to fall in love with this beautiful model, but seeing her in the morning with no make-up changed things…

Corporate Change & Strategy and the Blackberry Bold 9780

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

This is one of an occasional series of blogs that look at my latest techie toys.  More than 2 years ago I bought the original Blackberry Bold 9000 and it is was widely regarded as the best ever Blackberry, and was certainly the best phone I ever owned.  It was a big step forward and like many trend-setting devices, RIM found this difficult to follow up and as a result I have not upgraded despite the seductive charms of the iPhone and android offerings.  All the subsequent new phones from RIM were minor changes and, in my mind (and that of many aficionados) none represented a significant improvement.

What I wanted was, first and foremost, a very good phone (so iPhones antenna problems were a serious issue for me) a first class communications device and then a means of accessing the web on the move.  I waited a long time for the new Blackberry slider (called the Torch) as it seemed to offer a wonderful package, a much bigger sliding, touch screen and a real keyboard.  When I looked at it I was put off by the shape of the keyboard which wasn’t as user friendly as the the traditional blackberries and the sliding arrangement felt a little unbalanced to me and the new operating system (version 6) seemed very odd.  I freely admit that I might have got used to it if I had plumped for that. 

Yesterday I opted to try the 9780, the 3rd Bold.  They have made it smaller and, at present, I feel that I wish they hadn’t!  It is very handy but I never found the old one too big and the smaller size is affecting my typing speed  but I suspect I’ll adjust.  However, many original Bold fans think they should have kept the form factor the same.  The screen is very bright and clear.  This version is an upgrade of the 9700 and doubles the memory, upgrades the camera to 5 mg (mine was 2mg and the 9700 3.2).  They have upgraded the video to 640×480.  One of the most important changes is this operates on version 6 firmware and they have streamlined the user interface and much improved the web performance.  2 years ago I was thrilled just to be able to access the web on the move.  Now expectations have moved on and Apple & Android deliver almost home speed mobile net access and that is what we need/want. 

The call quality is good and the reception excellent as ever.  When you live in the depths of Surrey you need every half bar of reception you can get and this phone will pull a signal where others can’t.  Another thing that RIM do supremely well is the neatness of their programing; I was able to swap all my data, software and settings from my old phone directly to the new one.  It took half an hour and worked flawlessly.  If only swapping computers was this easy!

It is interesting to observe that at a time when everyone who is anyone has an iPhone, the Blackberry seems to be considered strangely cool and the phone youngsters are all switching to (everyone in my family has one, and so have many of their friends).  They are also cheaper to buy and and run than the iPhone. 

RIM are doing some very interesting things now, and we will see their playbook (their tablet rival to the iPad) coming out in the next month or so; it will use an entirely new operating system QNX, which will ultimately be the basis of their next generation of phones.  They can’t compete with Apple and Android in the high specs or apps arenas but are still doing well financially.  They have been quite clever in in not blindly following the higher and higher spec route as this is one reason why the battery life of their rivals phones are so poor.  They aren’t focusing on just being able to move huge amounts of data but on processing it efficiently in order to reduce the packet size.  It is an interesting to watch 3 such successful companies competing with such radically different strategies.  Apple focusing on design and user experience, but high price and closed systems, Google on open access and a more geeky platform, and RIM who traditionally have focused on the corporate market and security and efficiency, now realising the importance of the consumer.  It is an interesting exercise in Change and corporate strategy.