iPad 14 – Electronic Magazines Prove (once again) That Content Trumps Bells & Whistles

Here’s an important tech axiom: Developers have far more interest in applying application bells and whistles than people have in using them.

I learned this lesson on my first project out of college. In that project I designed a network of Apple 2’s to display wire wrap harness instructions for avionics assembly at General Dynamics. (Back then I was a software engineer with a couple of degrees in mathematics.) Read more of this post

Brand Begins and Ends with Your Products (Or Services).

I once sat in a meeting discussing a highly successful TV campaign. Underlying the discussion there’s this funny unspoken question from the brand side of the house: “How can it be good branding if it sold so well?”

The truth is that product is your best way to build brand. But this has been lost by the billion dollar brand consultancies and amidst the plethora of marketing PhD dissertations – with collusion from creative teams who learn the hard way that their best opportunity to get the NEXT ad job is to ignore product in THIS one.

Consider the brand ecosystem chart Forrester tweeted today. (Link here.) I challenge you to find product in this brand activity chart. Oh, yes. It’s there…somewhere…amidst all the complexity.

It took me a while to find it. But the product seems to be hidden in the upper right in touchpoint #5 – “Use”. That’s funny, this chart gives it one word. But “using the product” is 95% of a consumer’s interaction with the brand. (If consumer interaction with product is below 95% be afraid. That means you’ve got a quality problem and they’re probably pretty mad at you.)
Read more of this post

iPad 13 – App Developers Must Improve Their Finished Product; Thoughts To Start My 2nd Laptop-Free Year

Just one year ago I took possession of Flatland, my iPad 3g. And just this week I’ve received Flatland 2 – my new iPad2 (64GB, 3g, black with Red case).

A laptop free year. After getting Flatland, it took a while for it to dawn on me that I had immediately started living Laptop-Free. In fact, in the past year, I carried a laptop only once (when I had to do a Skype presentation from Des Moines to an audience in Czecklosovakia).

This is quite significant. I travel about twice a month on business. And that travel extensively covers the US – from Florida to California to Boston to Oregon and points between. On these trips I leverage the iPad extensively. I create spreadsheets, Word docs, & presentations, show presentations on projectors, play back video, stay in touch, write blog posts, write scripts, review our TV work in progress, and do a whole range of other work. Flatland has been fully sufficient – even much better than my previous laptop.

It’s also interesting that around Portland I never carried a laptop much. But I take my iPad all the time and regularly get things done at the coffee shop, lunch, or waiting at my son’s swimming lesson.

Apple, great job! I might even have to bite the bullet and use the word “magical” (tho’ I despise it’s use in marketing anything but Disneyland).

App Developers? I Sure Hope You Get it Together…and SOON! After my year-long experience, App developer weaknesses are my one lingering disappointment in Flatland.

Seems that App developers must be a pretty thick headed group. The Apps they create (a) refuse to take advantage of the pad’s strengths and/or (b) abuse the screen by wasting it on “white space” that abuses my screen space productivity.

A small handful of examples:

– Why is it that Huffingtonpost’s iPad app is so weak? (I’m not alone. Many other iPad owners complain about it. (It’s weird, because they’re iPhone app is good.)
– Why can’t WordPress get a good app? One year later, it remains buggy, tricky to use in some cases, and seems to have been left to fall apart on the sidelines.
– Why don’t Apps like CBS Sports, Bloomberg, and many more have the most basic interface fundamentals – like indicators to tell you when you’ve selected something? This is a user interface basic!
– There is no single App that does what I need to do with Office documents. There are 3 that each have strengths. But each has a major weakness. And none of them work well with MS/Word tables.

App after App simply doesn’t live up to the potential it SHOULD bring to the iPad. Obvioiusly, I’m getting by quite well. But it remains disappointing that every App I download shows up one or two significant weaknesses in major areas. My guess is that these weaknesses result from a few things.

App developers learned their skills with phones but haven’t grown up to tablets. This is too bad. Survival will require that they figure it out. Phone users are more forgiving – tablet users aren’t at all. With a tablet, size is everything and I want apps that use the screen size to become more effective – not just to show off how cool they can be. That doesn’t mean to avoid white space. It means that if you use white space, use it to deliver a better app – not just meaningless space or cool hype.

Developers Don’t Charge Enough. So many apps are cheap – really cheap. Clearly, they are too cheap to be well crafted. Maybe this is driven by the mythology of the companies who build little gimmicks for no investment then sell millions of them at $1.99 each. But I’m pretty well past those cheesy cheap apps. It’s time for real ones that we pay more to buy. How much? Clearly I’d not hesitate to pay over $20 for the right high quality app.

Android’s strength may lead developers to make apps that are lowest common quality (Android). My students describe Android as “the Windows of mobile operating systems”. And that’s not far off. So I’m guessing at this leads to Android “dumbing down” because the Apps feel like they’ve been built with the same hamfisted approach we find in many PC applications.

Of course, history suggests that developers will probably blame Apple (lack of tools, communication, kickbacks, so forth). So I’m ready for it. But I doubt it (having worked briefly at a developer and watched the developer battles since the early 1990’s). In fact, my first software development project was in 1982. And I’ve watched software progress with tremendous interest since. The mistakes I’m seeing are mistakes of an immature industry.

App Developers Need to Catch Up to Apple. The way I see what Apple has achieved in the past 10 years is that they turned technology quality into consumer quality. Nowhere will consumers put up with the fundamentally poor finished quality that is delivered in electronics – except in electronics because they haven’t had a choice.

But in the iPod, iPhone and iPad, Apple has delivered fully consumerized electronics products. Despite Apple’s figuring this out, the rest of the tech manufacturers really haven’t. They’re still delivering products with the same fundamental messiness that they were delivering in 1995. (The specifics may have changed, but the overall experience remains the same.)

Other than game developers, App Developers haven’t figured it out either. Many of the game developers already consumerized their software – but they had to because their “under 10 year old” audience required it.

Apart from the big games, I wouldn’t say that there are many Apps of exceptional consumer quality. Yes, I can get things done. And, yes, the Apple business apps are the best ones (although they still have some unusual failings).

App developers, help us all out. Set a higher standard for yourselves. Set a standard that your apps have to deliver dramatic value and exceptional satisfaction among the mass audience (and not just the tinkering digi-rati).

And I’ll bet that the first one who does will dominate the world within a very short time. Because those of us who live in our own Flatlands will become your fast friends.

Copyright 2011 – Doug Garnett – All Rights Reserved

iPad 12 – Flatland Gets Eyes (It’s a Miracle)! My iPad 2.

Here we are. Just two weeks short of 1 year since I received Flatland. And what finally shows up? Flatland 2.

Have to admit that the full blown wide-eyed amazement has worn off. Because this is “merely” an upgrade and no longer a step into an entirely new world.

Or is it? First, I love it. Faster, Thinner, Better Cover… and those eyes. Pools of pure technological wonder. (Of course, with one on each side it’s a bit hard to get romantic. It’s perhaps like a very thin fish with eyes pointing two directions – only one of which works at a time.)

But let me get back to “better cover”. At the risk of making a positive mountain out of a reaonable molehill, I LOVE this new case, form factor. It’s simply…well…it hurts me to do this…but it is actually kind of magical.

What did I buy? iPad 2 with 3G (AT&T) and 64 GB. Upgraded memory – not because I every came close to using up my 32 on Flatland 1. Rather, I believe in buying the higher end for resale and because software starts expanding to use more memory.

The case came today – one day later. I bought Apple’s red leather version. (Not because of the (Red) connection. I just like the color.)

My initial experience. Absolutely what you want. I took it out of the box & plugged it into my computer. It downloaded new software and restored my entire Flatland world from backup. And, I was off and running. Took about 20 minutes total.

Initial Thoughts. It is great. And here are specifics:

– Internet is clearly faster and stronger. Pages load more quickly, switch more quickly.

– I find less restarting of applications when I re-open them. That means the multi-tasking is working better. May be the result of better iPad 2 design. It might also be an advantage of the 64Gb size. But even Angry Birds, which I’ve rarely had work well under multi-tasking, was staying in its same state when I navigate away and back.

– The camera’s just seem, well, natural. I have an iPhone 4 so they’re not a surprise. But, it’s pretty cool to add. And, these will let me Skype and FaceTime from the road. Very nice.

Did I Mention The Case? For something you handle all the time this is important. Ever notice how many people kept their iPhone 4’s without a case for way too long? That’s because they loved the product and didn’t want to cover it up. Yes, they were risking damage. But I regret that my iPhone 4 has to live in a case.

So, too, with the iPad. For the iPad 1, I bought Apple’s case then started to search. Bought a case that was a portfolio and traveled a bit with it. Not very helpful, made it really bulky, lacked precision for standing it up, and it was a pain to remove my iPad to work in the keyboard dock. Then, I bought a second case – it was so bad I never really tried to use it.

My year with Flatland 1 was spent with Apple’s case. And, it really was superb – no vendor could compete.

This time I decided Apple probably had a great idea. And they do. This one is is outstanding. The screen needs protection and this case protects it. Otherwise, it’s just me and Flatland 2 – the case stays out of the way. And, when it’s rolled for support – it seems stronger than Apples case for the iPad 1.

In other words, I really get to enjoy the slim wonder that is the iPad 2.

Final Words? App Developers are the Tablet Weak Point. My lingering disappointment in Flatland isn’t with Apple. It’s with the App developers.

Fundamentally, App developers are proving to be a pretty thick headed group. The Apps (a) refuse to use the advantages of the pad and/or (b) abuse the screen by wasting it on “white space” when it should be used productively.

– Why is it that Huffingtonpost’s iPad app is worthless? (They’re iPhone app is good.)
– Why can’t WordPress get a good app? One year later, it remains buggy, tricky to use in some cases, and seems to have been left to fall apart on the sidelines.
– Why don’t Apps like CBS Sports, Bloomberg, and many more have indicators to tell you when you’ve selected something? This is a user interface basic! Very fundamental.

I could go on and on. It’s possible that these are Android weaknesses and that these developers are making things for lowest common denominator (Android). The Apps feel like they’ve been build with the hamfisted approach of many PC applications.

If so, they are making a mistake. The apps which really utilize the tablet are the ones that get bought most often – unless you have no choice.

And So… I head into the new world, powered by a more powerful Flatland. The only question is…what adventures lie ahead?

Copyright 2011 – Doug Garnett – All Rights Reserved

Should Apple Share its Software?

It’s interesting to see discussion that criticizes Apple for not releasing their software. Now I’m in no way a ShareWare/FreeWare expert. But some of the fallacies surrounding FreeWare seem pretty obvious.

One: There’s an implication that “Microsoft succeeded because it shared its code.” Really? It did? I don’t think so. If I remember right, Microsoft is paid for every unit that is sold with it’s proprietary operating system. What makes. Microsoft different from Apple is that it is primarily a software company where Apple is a systems company. So you would expect Microsoft to seek to put its software everywhere.

Two: “Offering your software to other people is the road to business success – profitability.” Let’s ask Sun Microsystems about how much profit they got from Java. Although Java penetrated the market thoroughly, it didn’t generate a big enough bottom line advantage for Sun to save the company.

Three: “What about Unix?” I love Unix and used to use it quite a lot. But you can’t compare Apple’s IOS with Unix. No one needed to profit from Unix because it came out of a government and university funded effort. Why don’t we check with Apple’s CFO to see if they’ve become government funded?

Four: “What about Android?” Now we arrive at the newest test of the theory that a public company’s best interest is maintained by publishing FreeWare (or ShareWare). Truth is, we can’t say how it’s going to turn out – Android is too new. But don’t confuse a plethora of Android handsets with success. Google’s ultimate win must include generating higher ad revenue because it published Android.

Scientists help each other to tremendous new discoveries by sharing what they know and learn. That’s important. (And, scientists also fight like tigers to protect things they believe will help them get ahead.)

So, maybe tech’s fascination with sharing got its start with scientific collegiality. More often I think it’s based on some ill considered utopian ideals.

Personally, I hope Apple doesn’t share. Love them or hate them, when you buy something with Apple software, you know exactly how it will work: the way Apple intended. And that’s what builds a strong brand and strong profits.

Copyright 2010 – Doug Garnett

My Ipad – Post 11 – Did the Apple iPad Succeed Without Early Adopters?

Did Apple turn tech marketing on its head with the iPad?

The marketing world is guided by theories – “models” that are expected to explain the key issues we face and help us take action. Without these models, marketing would grind to a halt. Too often, though, we forget that these marketing theories and models lack the strength of true scientific theories.

Scientific theories aren’t accepted unless they can be replicated under controlled circumstances. But in business, there are no controlled circumstances. So marketing theories try to make sense of behavior we’ve observed, but lack the strength and repeatability of science.

With all this in mind, I’ve been looking at Apple’s iPad success. It looks like they broke away from classic tech marketing models. The iPad succeeded without first being released to “tech early adopters”. (For decades, tech marketing theory has focused on a classic type of early adopter who loves gadgetry and the ability to tinker with technology.)

We know about Apple’s success because of some unusual, and slightly flakey, attitudinal research which shows that the earliest iPad buyers weren’t wild eyed tech crazies but core mass market buyers. (While I don’t love this research, it does appear reliable in the finding that iPad buyers generally lack the attitudes of traditional tech early adopters. Other research on early iPad purchasers has focused purely on demographics. But early adopterism is most clearly explained by attitudes and not demographics. This other research has blandly concluded “classic early adopters” but the study findings don’t show one way or another.)

How did Apple pull this off?

First, I doubt that they thought a lot about it. People who change the rules do so because they’re entirely focused on their vision of the end result – not on the idea that they’re changing things.

Second, it appears that a small team at Apple shared a very powerful vision of how mass market consumers would use the iPad and drove product development to satisfy that core audience.

Apple understands that to continue to generate revenue from consumers, products need to be more refined.

Third, Apple demanded that technology rise to the quality of a consumer good. This is most publicly evident in the statements that have gotten them in hot water with the industry. Apple refuses to support Flash because it degrades the quality of their end users experience. Apple controls the types of Apps approved for their store in order to, again, provide a good user experience. They’ve been pilloried in the press for these choices, but they make the iPad a damn fine product.

Fourth, the iPhone had pre-trained the market to use the iPad successfully. Anyone with iPhone experience can pick up an iPad and be quite capable in a very short time.

As I consider what Apple’s done, it makes me think the traditional model may have been wrong all along – and even been a problem for the industry. Why? Because success with classic early adopters requires a focus on gee-whiz gadgetry. That causes products to be harder to use and may even lead companies into failure with designs that are impossible to change to satisfy mass market requirements.

So should we all now reject the older model? Absolutely not. In any set of circumstances one model or another will be most useful. Marketing wisdom is fundamentally the ability recognize the uniqueness in your situation.

But to follow Apple’s success, most companies will need to learn new skills in order to develop a clear vision of the mass market product and make certain that product development delivers that vision in the first release.

Now back to my premise. Did Apple succeed without early adopters? Of course not. But they dramatically changed the typology of the early adopter – reaching a much broader market than tech has traditionally reached. The exciting news for all of us is that their successful approach leads to much larger successes.

Copyright 2010 – Doug Garnett

My Ipad – Post 10 – iPad Input Strengths and Press Misinformation

We simple citizens expect that major news organizations work hard to find the truth about topics. And we expect they won’t pass along mis-information coming from competitor’s attack machines.

But it doesn’t work that way. In politics, Clinton’s 1992 team found that the first story to be filed almost always established the one “storyline” coming out of a speech. The rest of the press would repeat that storyline – no matter what else important Clinton might have said – thus creating the surprisingly bland range of topics covered by news outlets.

This press laziness is the only thing I can find to explain the miserably poor coverage of iPad “input”. Following the Apple announcement, pundits formed a theme that “there’s no input to the iPad”. And that theme appears in nearly every article about the iPad.

Except, it’s not true. Consider all the input options:

…The on-screen keyboard is far better than the frivolously shallow news reports would suggest.
…Using a full size keyboard (dock or Bluetooth) is so effective you can write books on the iPad.
…There are many options for getting files to and from the iPad (email, iTunes, FTP, document sites, etc…).

Whats unusual is the approach to files. Apple turned files on their head. On a desktop or laptop, we seek out the file to open the application. On the iPad, the application keeps track of the files. So we open the App in order to get to our files.

Why? I don’t know – they didn’t consult me. But this shift delivers simplicity. Files don’t only live in the app. They get to the iPad through an iTunes file cache, through email, or downloaded from the web. From that point, they live in the app.

It works quite well once you get used to it. And it gets me thinking that a file driven system is pretty archaic. (How many times do you need to open Word files in Excel?)

The lack of a USB port seems to confuse techies. My guess is that adding a USB would add an entire level of complex structures to make files independent of programs. Not a good trade off when you already have simpler options.

Fortunately, the storyline hasn’t caused a problem for Apple yet (they’ve sold plenty). But I still think Apple should confront the issue.

How? First I’d put an iPad in its keyboard dock in each store so people can use it. When people use mine, it takes about three or four keystrokes before their eyes open wide in surprise. (“Its just like a computer!”)

And, Apple should work with press outlets to get the story right. They’re leaving an information void on the topic. Information voids usually fill with damaging information.

Lacking an Apple response, their competitors are using the press to great advantage. Bill Gate’s comments on the iPad last week brilliantly capitalized on this storyline. And with the predictability of cattle returning to the barn, the wire stories about Gate’s comments picked up his erroneous comments unchallenged.

Sadly, though, the technology press only rarely suffers for being wrong.

Copyright 2010 – Doug Garnett