Tag Archives: amazon

It’s an iPad mini, Not an iPad Shuffle

Reading the Twitter and App.net reactions to the mostly positive reviews of the iPad mini today, I’m left with the impression that many people wanted

  • $199 price point
  • Retina display
  • 10-hours of battery
  • aluminum case, and all the fit and finish you expect from Apple

And anyone who doesn’t criticize Apple for not having all of these is a shill.

But design is about compromise, remember?

There’s no physical way Apple could have kept its “legendary” battery life (Tim Cook’s word, not mine) with the mini without sacrificing the Retina screen. And there’s no way it would have that beautiful aluminum fit and finish for $200. So choices were made. And if you follow Apple at all, you know why they made the choices they did.

Now, you can say that you would have preferred the Retina display in a cheap plastic case, or that you could live with five hours of battery instead of ten. But you have to make choices yourself in your imaginary preferred device. No one can currently make a device with all four of those things.

That’s not to say that Apple doesn’t deserve to get dinged in a review a little for having a screen that’s sub par compared to its competition. But from what I’ve read, the mini has been getting that ding. Most reviewers, even those who tend to be Apple positive, are wishing the mini had Retina.

(I’ll agree that rationalizing, i.e. “most people don’t care about Retina” is silly. Of course they care. And they will notice. But I’m betting the mini will still win most of them over.)

Apple operates on the “all or nothing” principle when it comes to resolution. It’s quadruple the pixels, or it’s not. There’s no in-between resolutions, where none of your apps work right or everything is fuzzy. Obviously I’d rather have a Retina screen on my mini, as I think that would be my ideal iPad. And by next year, when that’s physically possible, thanks to more advancements in battery technology and power management in iOS, I’ll have that. But in the meantime, I absolutely think Apple made the right choice to go with non-Retina before sacrificing battery life or making it even more expensive. And I certainly wouldn’t want a screen with 1200 x 900, or some other in-between resolution that made my apps look like crap.

As far as price goes, I’m also hearing a lot of talk about how Apple could “crush” its competition if it just made the mini $200. Sure. It could crush it even faster if it made the mini $100. Or heck, why not give it away?

Take a look at Amazon’s latest earnings report if you want to know how the cheap tablet market is doing. I don’t think Apple needs to crush anything. Those cheap tablets are money pits. Wall Street may give Amazon a pass for losing money on everything they sell, but when Apple warns profit margins will be lower than their usual 35%, the stock takes a nose dive. I think Apple is right to wait it out until it can make a profitable tablet at that price.

Are people still seriously thinking Apple needs to get into the razor-thin margins game? Because that’s how Apple got to be the world’s largest company, right, by competing on price?

Didn’t we learn anything from Netbooks?

I was as surprised as everyone else when I saw that $329 starting price. But mostly because it’s such a goofy, Marketing un-friendly number. Once I thought about it for a minute, I figured, “Well, that must be the compromise that went along with the manufacturing process.” This is what Apple does. Rounded corners, when squared corners are cheaper. Aluminum, when plastic is cheaper. Glass, when a plastic screen is cheaper. They build a great product, then price it as cheap as they can, not the other way around.

Anyone who takes a look at an iPad mini and a Kindle Fire will immediately know why the mini is more expensive. And they’ll choose according to what suits them best. Apple is happy to let them make that choice. They don’t cater to cheapskates.

But what about the iPod? I can hear some arguing. What about it? It was several years before Apple made an iPod that was cheap enough to not leave the “price umbrella” under it, and that iPod didn’t have a screen.

I have no doubt the umbrella will be gone in a few years. But that will take time, technological advancement, and a lot more creative thinking. Remember, this is the iPad mini, not the iPad shuffle. That’ll come later. In the meantime, let the competitors lose money for a while. Market share is not remotely important compared to making profits and keeping your reputation for best-in-class products.

You can’t beat Amazon in a pricing war. Why would you pick that fight, knowing you’re going to lose?

Apple, Amazon, and the DOJ (Again)

Apple bashes Amazon and proposed ebook settlement — paidContent:

“In all, the Government met with at least fourteen Amazon employees—yet not once under oath. The Government required that Amazon turn over a mere 4,500 documents, a fraction of what was required of others.”

(Via. paidcontent.org)

Remember back in April, when I said the DOJ case against Apple regarding eBooks seemed like it was authored by Amazon? Yeah, looks like it just about was. 

And now they’re trying to force Apple into a settlement, though Apple wants to go to trial. So much for due process. 

There’s some seriously screwed up stuff going on lately with our justice system here in the U.S. 

Username/Password Needs to be Taken out to Back and Shot in the Head

How Apple and Amazon Security Flaws Led to My Epic Hacking | Gadget Lab | Wired.com: “In many ways, this was all my fault. My accounts were daisy-chained together. Getting into Amazon let my hackers get into my Apple ID account, which helped them get into Gmail, which gave them access to Twitter. Had I used two-factor authentication for my Google account, it’s possible that none of this would have happened, because their ultimate goal was always to take over my Twitter account and wreak havoc. Lulz.

Had I been regularly backing up the data on my MacBook, I wouldn’t have had to worry about losing more than a year’s worth of photos, covering the entire lifespan of my daughter, or documents and e-mails that I had stored in no other location.

Those security lapses are my fault, and I deeply, deeply regret them.”

(Via. Wired)

While it’s tempting to say he’s right here, that it really is his own dumb behavior that led to this, it’s also important to remember that this is a nerd with major street cred we’re talking about. Compared to the average computer user, this guy is way ahead of the curve when it comes to security. And he still got hacked. 

Worse yet, he didn’t get hacked by some brilliant but malicious programmer who figured out a secret path through the back door via sharp technical skills. The guy just called Amazon and Apple and was handed the keys to the kingdom. 

Remember that next time your customer support rep doesn’t believe you’re you, and won’t let you in without proper identification. 

The bottom line is that we have a broken system. Period. Tech companies (I’m looking at you Apple and Amazon) need to be innovating in this area more. The whole username/password thing is way past its expiration date. We’re storing our lives on these machines. We’re trusting companies with our most precious data and private information. We need a better way for the computer to know who it’s talking to. 

No matter how many times you tell people to turn on two-factor authentication, use better passwords with numbers, letters, and symbols, use different passwords for all your accounts, etc., it’s not going to happen. 90% of people are still using their dog’s name with a 1 or 2 tacked on the end. It’s human nature. 

So while I applaud Google for having a better authentication system than Apple on this one, it still puts the burden on the user, and thus is essentially useless. The vast majority of people, even if they were scared into turning two-factor on by this story, will turn it back off again after two weeks of being inconvenienced by it. 

In other words, don’t tell me I have to type a 16-character password every time I want to use my phone. Make a better phone that knows the difference between me and a stranger without me having to do anything. 

The thing that’s made Apple products better than everyone else’s over the last few decades is that they always put the user’s needs ahead of the designer or programmer. It’s time Apple stepped up and did that again, this time with an authentication system that works with near zero effort on the user’s part. Yes, that’s hard. Too bad. It’s the only way we’re going to fix this. 

And meanwhile, Apple, stop using the last four digits of a credit card number as proof of anything. Wow. Talk about bone-headed. That’s worse than the bank using your mother’s maiden name.

More on eBooks and the Justice Department

Amazon Low Prices Disguise a High Cost – NYTimes.com:

““It is breathtaking to stand back and look at this and believe that this is in the public interest,” he said. “The only rationale is e-book prices will go down, for how long? What happens when there is no one left to compete with them?””

(Via The New York Times.)

This article sums up my feelings about this weird eBook DOJ case. Sure, in the short term prices may go down, but once Amazon has 100% of the market, where will the prices go? The short-sightedness of this whole thing is jaw-dropping.

This case has nothing to do with preserving competition. The government is guaranteeing the opposite by giving the already de facto monopolist Amazon an even bigger upper hand. When I read the official complaint, my first gut reaction was that someone at Amazon had actually written it and handed it over to the DOJ to copy verbatim. I guess Amazon has stronger lobbyists than Apple and the book publishers do.

iBooks can’t have links to Amazon books – Duh

Apple rejects iBook with links to Amazon’s store:

Before anyone starts yelling about censorship, keep in mind that this is Apple’s playground, and it can take its ball home whenever it wants, no matter how inane the reason. But this reason seems particularly inane — Apple can’t really be worried about one link in a ebook promoting a competitor’s sales, right? Not to mention that the book in question was a hardcover copy, and unless I’m mistaken, wasn’t even sold on Apple’s iBooks store anyway.

(Via TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog)

Well, actually, it’s several links to Amazon’s store, not one. And I don’t find that an inane reason at all. I don’t remember ever going into a Target and buying a product there that gave me several tips on how to buy things at Wal Mart.

This argument is silly to me. It’s simply bad form to try and sell a product in one store that repeatedly refers customers to another competing store. End of story.

Apple doesn’t counter anyone. They lead; everyone else follows.

Spurred by the recently announced Amazon Kindle Fire and its $199 price, Apple is rumored to be exploring a new low-cost iPad for release in the first few months of 2012.

Analyst Brian White with Ticonderoga Securities has been touring China and Taiwan and meeting with component suppliers, where he has heard rumblings of a so-called “iPad mini” arriving next year. The “mini” name doesn’t necessarily refer to the size of the device, he said, but a lower entry-level price.

He said such a device is expected to arrive in the first few months of 2012, allowing Apple to tap into a “more price sensitive consumer segment,” and also fend off the Amazon Kindle Fire, the retailer’s first entrance into the touchscreen tablet market.

via AppleInsider

This sort of thing is so stupid I don’t even know where to start.

Or maybe I do. First and foremost, Apple doesn’t build new products because it’s “spurred” by someone else’s products. If there were a lower-cost iPad coming next year, it would have been in development for some time.

Knee-jerk reaction is what other companies do.

Second, rumors like this always assume that price is something that companies simply pluck out thin air, as if making things for less than you sell them weren’t important. Believe me, if Apple could make the current iPad cheaper without sacrificing quality, it would. But it can’t, so it won’t.

The Fire will sell quite well, I’m sure, but not because it’s any threat to the iPad.

Amazon can make cheap tablets until it’s blue in the face, because Amazon is fine with losing money on every tablet sold. They make it up on the content you buy. While Apple makes a small profit on the content, its main source of income has always been on the hardware itself. It can’t afford to lose money on cheap iPads in the hopes that you buy lots of iBooks and music. And it wouldn’t want to, because that would mean selling cheap crap, which is antithetical to everything Apple is.

So, maybe, maybe, we could see a small price drop on the entry level iPad next year. Maybe they’ll continue to sell the iPad 2 at a cheaper rate when they release the iPad 3, like they do with iPhones. But don’t expect a $199 iPad from Apple next year. It’s just not in the cards. And it doesn’t have to be, because Kindle Fire buyers aren’t going to take away any sales from potential iPad owners.

The only companies that will suffer from the Kindle Fire are all the other Android makers. (And suffer they will.)

Jeff Bezos on innovation – GeekWire

When you look at something like, go back in time when we started working on Kindle almost seven years ago….  There you just have to place a bet. If you place enough of those bets, and if you place them early enough, none of them are ever betting the company. By the time you are betting the company, it means you haven’t invented for too long.

If you invent frequently and are willing to fail, then you never get to that point where you really need to bet the whole company. AWS also started about six or seven years ago. We are planting more seeds right now, and it is too early to talk about them, but we are going to continue to plant seeds. And I can guarantee you that everything we do will not work. And, I am never concerned about that…. We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details…. We don’t give up on things easily. Our third-party seller business is an example of that. It took us three tries to get the third-party seller business to work. We didn’t give up.

But. if you get to a point where you look at it and you say look, we are continuing invest a lot of money in this, and it’s not working and we have a bunch of other good businesses, and this is a hypothetical scenario, and we are going to give up on this. On the day you decide to give up on it, what happens? Your operating margins go up because you stopped investing in something that wasn’t working. Is that really such a bad day?

Sometimes I think Bezos is one of only a handful of CEOs out there who are even close to Steve Jobs’ level of understanding when it comes to vision.

People aren’t wrong when they say a possible Amazon Tablet would be the one product to give the iPad a run for its money. It would certainly destroy every other Android/Palm/RIM/whatever out there. And while I don’t think it would “kill” the iPad, by any means, a tablet that comes from one of the world’s greatest retailers, that has an established set of media stores, and is being driven by someone with the mind of Bezos has a great chance of carving its own niche of success, at least.

The trick for Bezos will be establishing that differentiation. Why buy this instead of the iPad? Will it be cheaper? Will it have access to more content? The Kindle isn’t the most elegant piece of hardware on earth, but it’s selling very well, because it doesn’t try to compete with the iPad or iPod touch. It’s a great reader—nothing more. And it’s relatively cheap. So what will make the Amazon tablet special?

This is the product to watch out for over the next several months.

KERUFF, responding to Musically’s article on Amazon’s and Google’s online music ventures

Amazon & Google play into Apple’s hands with their early, incomplete music stores

Musically:

Apple likes to be late, and better. So by racing to market without licences, have Google and Amazon simply set their services up as the Creative Nomad jukeboxes of the cloud music age? Ironically, by launching without deals from labels, both companies may have given Apple the leverage it needs to strike the very licensing deals that will help its cloud service blow them out of the water.

I think Musically could be right. And there’s certainly no first mover advantage on the scale that Apple had with the iPad. One month here or there won’t make much difference. Especially as it strikes me that both Amazon and Google have released half baked products that will look pretty shoddy when Apple announces their service, probably in June.

I completely agree, and I’d add that the first mover advantage is even less of an issue in this case, because as of now streaming music lockers is still more of a nerd’s dream than anything the average person knows he or she wants yet.

Until the 4G/WiFi infrastructure improves, having digital music stored in the cloud is much more of a “nice to have” than a replacement for local storage. Especially where I live in San Francisco, the notion of having an iPod that can only get its music from the cloud is silly, at best. I’d be lucky to have 3G or wireless access 40% of the time when I’m away from home or work.

So Apple can certainly take its time here. I wouldn’t be surprised if streaming online music is only a small part of the “iCloud” product. And depending on how long the deal takes with the labels, it may even not be a part of the initial announcement. Amazon and Google sure did make negotiations easier for Apple, though.

Oops. Looks like Amazon didn’t bother with the lawyers.

The report cited a source “close to the discussions” between Amazon and the music labels as saying that “music labels were alerted of the plans last week,” and that Amazon only addressed “the issue of negotiating licenses” after the fact.

Amazon’s move was described as “somewhat stunning,” leaving some media industry members to view the service as illegal.

“I’ve never seen a company of their size make an announcement, launch a service and simultaneously say they’re trying to get licenses,” the source said, who was described as a music executive requesting anonymity.

Amazon appears to have jumped the gun in a bid to get ahead of Apple.

 

 

Soooooo, maybe it was Amazon rushing the product to market, rather than Apple. (See my earlier article from today.) I never would have guessed that Amazon would go ahead with this without cutting a deal first. Maybe they figure they’ll win in the court of public opinion.

About Amazon’s new CloudPlayer and CloudDrive

The CloudPlayer works through any web browser that supports Adobe Air.

Okay, you lost me on Adobe Air. Bad choice, Amazon. Write a native app, for crying out loud. It’s not that hard.

I do think this new service is a very wise play from Amazon. Reminds me of when Apple was reluctant to expand iTunes beyond music into video, and some other companies beat them to the punch, which forced Apple’s hand.

Apple likes to wait until conditions are just right for a new product. They waited a LONG time to get into cell phones and tablets. They probably want to wait for better infrastructure and 4G speeds for true “cloud” music services. But the problem is that they already OWN music, so they have to defend their territory.

When you force Apple to release products before they are quite ready, you end up with an Apple TV kind of situation, where the first two or three iterations are sort of cool, but not quite there yet. The availability of content is sparse; pricing is confusing. You get a so-so user experience. It’s the sort of thing where you can tell Steve would have preferred to spend a few more years on it, but he didn’t have a choice. The same thing happened to iWork.com. It looked like that space was going to be important, so Apple got involved in a half-assed sort of way. Really atypical, but it does happen once in a while.

So it’ll be interesting if this development from Amazon forces Apple’s hand on bringing online storage to the iTunes universe before it’s really ready. I think Amazon is smart to go after Apple in this space, considering that unlike every other company on earth, Amazon actually has a depth of retail presence and experience that rivals—if not exceeds—Apple’s own.

Or maybe Apple was smart enough to see this coming, and is already ready with a great service of its own. We’ll find out soon enough.

A company like Amazon can be more nimble with a service like this, because it is the underdog. The music labels are more than happy to grant Amazon online rights that it won’t grant to Apple, precisely because they want to see Steve Jobs knocked down a few pegs. So I imagine the lawyers involved in this are billing a lot of hours.

If this new Amazon service catches Apple off guard and becomes popular, it could also save Android from almost certain long-term obscurity. Unless Amazon is smart and makes its services available on more than just Android. (Hint: I think Bezos is smart enough to spread the love around to every platform imaginable. The Android exclusivity won’t last long.)

Make this a NATIVE Mac app, get it onto iOS (which will be tricky, but they’ll get it there eventually), and you’ll maybe even get MY attention. So long as Apple doesn’t come up with something better in the next few months, that is.