Tag Archives: apple

Chasing Accolades

As I listened to 14 different people tell me about their Apple Watch, I observed a pattern. Those whose job it was to think about the Apple Watch or who were early adopters who thought deeply about tech and the tech products they buy, were all much more critical of the watch. You could tell they evaluated it and thought about it deeply from every angle by their responses. Then I talked with teachers, firefighters, insurance agents, and those not in the tech industry and not hard-core techies. These groups of people couldn’t stop raving about the Apple Watch and how much they loved the product. It was almost as if the farther away people were from tech or the tech industry, the more they liked the Apple Watch.
(via Ben Bajarin for Techpinions)

This is a great lesson for people who make products of any kind. Stop trying to impress the pundits and the overly critical, and focus on the majority of people who actually use your product.

I’m not saying that pundits are always wrong or that getting rave reviews isn’t a good thing. But when that becomes the goal—to build something that will impress the tech elite, rather than everyday people—you can very easily end up with a product that goes nowhere. Because regular humans and people who spend all day thinking about technology often have different priorities.

The “best” product almost never wins.

As I said in my recent AltConference talk: Word of Mouth is still the ultimate form of marketing. Happy customers tell their friends and family, and pretty soon you have lots more happy customers.

Those happy customers are going to sell a lot of products for you. They are the people you want to impress. Figure out what they need and give it to them. Listen to them when they give you feedback.

Chasing all the awards and accolades is a potential distraction.

Throw the Southpaws a Bone

Apple has done such a remarkable job with accessibility in all of its software on iOS. It’s way past time that they addressed another group of individuals who have a hard time navigating their iPhones: the left-handed.

I’m picturing a simple switch, in the Settings app, where I can let my iPhone know that I’m a lefty. That one switch would automatically shift stock UI elements, such as table views, to have a left-handed bias.

Many apps feature a lefty table view navigation, where you can slide along the left side, instead of the right side, of the list to navigate quickly. But this is a custom control created by thoughtful individuals. It should be baked into UITableView.

It’s bad enough Apple won’t make me a phone that actually fits in my hand anymore. Making me reach across the oversized screen just to get to the bottom of a list quickly is just pouring salt in the wound.

I’m not suggesting that the whole interface get flipped horizontally. After all, speakers of Western languages still read left to right, regardless of handedness. I’m just thinking of the little things, the small UI details that are easier to reach on the right side that could easily be moved to the left. It seems Apple could make that happen quite easily, and millions of people would benefit.

Meet Spin

Spin is an original indie band, formed from the remnants of a cover band that I founded in college with my brother Matt decades ago. Neither Matt nor I are in what became Spin, but I like to think I had a little to do with the guys getting together. My other brother Hank is on lead guitar, and my high school friends Jim and Eric are on keyboards/vocals, and guitar/vocals respectively.

I take no responsibility for Lou, their drummer.[1]

I bring up Spin here on my blog, not only because they’re a cool group that you should check out. They have songs and albums out there you can purchase, and you can also find their music on streaming services such as Spotify, Rdio, etc. They’ve been gaining traction lately and have even sold some of their music for use in various video games and TV show soundtracks (more on that later).

If you’re a Stalker fan, you’ve probably recently heard their rather dark cover of Happy Together

The reason I bring them up is to demonstrate my thinking about the Apple Music free trial. How better to assess the effects this trial will have on indie musicians than to ask an actual group of indie musicians?

When the whole Taylor Swift love letter to Apple thing happened, I decided to ask my brother Hank what he thought about streaming services like Spotify and the new Apple music.

The brief resulting conversation didn’t surprise me, but you might find it illuminating.

Spin made a total of roughly $100 last year from streaming services, give or take. You read that right. $100. For the whole band. For their entire catalog. For the entire year.

Now, Dave Wiskus kindly did the math on what Taylor Swift was bound to lose from the three-month free trial of Apple Music, and he concluded that it would take eleven-and-a-half years for her to make up the revenue she’d likely lose in that three months.

Spin, on the other hand, can skip getting a beer after their next gig and be pretty much caught up on the $25 they’d lose in three months on Apple’s service.

I don’t question Taylor Swift’s motives in removing her latest album from Apple Music. It’s her music, and she’s in a position of power to make that strategic choice. But her claim that “This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt” strikes me as a bit hyperbolic, given what actual young songwriters actually get paid from any streaming service. Indies know that streaming is a bum deal, financially. Only a fool would expect Apple Music to be your ticket out of debt. And she knows that.

The guys from Spin don’t put music on streaming services hoping to make money. Selling your music to the general public is a losing proposition in 2015. Instead, they put their music out there so it can get discovered, to raise awareness, to gain future fans who might spend a little money down the road. Any service you’re not on is lost potential for finding new true fans.

Does that suck? You bet it does. Is that Apple’s fault? The music labels? Yeah, a bit.

But it’s also our fault. We like to talk about how all artists should be compensated for their art, but then we join Spotify and Apple music, rubbing our hands at the prospect of all the music we can eat for free (if we’re willing to listen to ads) or for $5 or $10 a month.

Taylor Swift, knowing full well how bad an idea it is to chastise the masses for not paying for music (see Lars Ulrich) turns her guns instead at the streaming companies, which now include Apple. Smart business move, absolutely. Lots of hearts and minds won. But is it a way to effect meaningful change in how artists get compensated? I doubt it.

Here’s the thing: It’s not like Eddy Cue is going to buy another Ferrari with all that money he’s not paying artists. There just isn’t that much money to go around in the first place with a streaming service. And it’s a long way around. Because remember, the folks at Spotify and Rdio and Apple need to get paid. The engineers, the accountants, the lawyers, the HR people, and on and on. They all need to divvy up your pittance, and rightfully so. And that’s before your own label employees, promoters, lawyers, etc. We can’t expect people to work for free, can we?

By the time it gets to the band, well, you know… There’s simply nothing left.

So if you oppose the three-month free trial from Apple, which is a step up from Spotify and Rdio, where you can listen for free indefinitely, then take a moment and ask yourself whether you should be opposed to streaming music services altogether. Because the economics of streaming are such that there is no way to make a successful service that actually pays artists.

Or else be in favor of streaming services as a promotional tool, and do your part to help out the bands by buying an actual album or two every month, in addition to the measly $10 you’re paying for the privilege of listening to whatever you damn well please 24 hours a day.

Everyone seems to want Apple to shell out the money to the bands for those three months. How about we do that? I’ve got $25 to give to Spin.

As I was about to post this article, Eddy Cue announced on Twitter that Apple will, in fact, pay artists for the free trial months. Sad to think that this red herring will be enough to placate all the complainers. It’s still a terrible deal for indie musicians.

But no doubt, everyone will shut up now, once they’ve congratulated Taylor Swift on winning a victory for the little people.

It’s all good as long as someone else pays, right?

But the indie bands are still in the same boat, getting paid squat and looking for alternative revenue streams. Like they always have.

I told my brother Hank that Taylor Swift is his new patron saint of indie musicians. He was amused. Not in a disrespectful way, but more in a “we’re all missing the point” sort of way.

If you want to help indie musicians, buy their albums. Go to their shows. Get the T-Shirt. Upvote them in every promotional nonsense contest they get dragged into. Be a fan. And tell your friends. Help indies get noticed by someone who has real money and a need for a good tune to place somewhere.

And then they might just sell another one of their tunes to run during the end credits of the next Avengers movie. Or maybe they’ll pen a song for Taylor Swift. There’s actually still good money in that sort of thing.


  1. They have no bass player. Just couldn’t find anyone worthy when I left, I guess.  ↩

Jony’s Long Goodbye

How could he hope to reinvigorate a workforce stunned and disoriented by the loss of their mercurial, touchy, moody but magnetic leader? The one man band had lost its one man.

But since Jobs’s death Apple’s fortunes have not gone into decline. In fact the growth graph has climbed ever more steeply. The figures are simply incredible.

(via The Telegraph)

Now, why would Stephen Fry start this article reminding us that Jobs leaving Apple wasn’t the end, that in fact the transition to Tim Cook turned out well for Apple?

Just as the February New Yorker article served to introduce us to Richard Howarth, and the Wired piece in April introduced us to Alan Dye[1], all three of these pieces have served as a preparation for the eventual retirement of Jony Ive from Apple. This is one, long, calculated PR move. And it’s being executed flawlessly.

And that shouldn’t surprise us. This is simply what a top-level executive leaving the world’s largest corporation looks like. A person such as Jony Ive can’t just retire from Apple one day. He or she must transition, over the course of a year or more, so as to cushion the impact on the stock price, public perception, etc.

Start by making it look like a “promotion.” Then spend the next several months talking up the accomplishments of his replacements. (I wouldn’t be surprised if we started seeing Howarth and Dye featured in upcoming design videos and/or appearing on stage at Apple keynotes.)

By the time Jony actually leaves Apple (in a year or two, most likely), we’ll all be relatively comfortable with the idea of Richard Howarth and Alan Dye running the design of the company. Just as the vigilant among us knew that Tim Cook was going to handle things just fine once Jobs was gone.

Will some part of that old Apple magic be gone without Jony? Of course. But this is inevitable. Sooner or later, the theory that a company’s culture can outlive its leaders needs to be tested. And tested. And tested yet again.[2]

Meanwhile Jony will spend the rest of his time at Apple extracting himself further and further from the products and diving into the bigger challenges of retail, work environment, and so on. His legacy. His long-term impact. Can you blame him? If you were Jony Ive, would you really want to spend the next six months working on yet another even thinner iPad?


  1. Credit goes to Ben Thompson for the Howarth/Dye insight, from this morning’s member’s-only daily update. If you’re not a member, you should consider it.  ↩

  2. If Apple is still humming along when none of the executive team members from the Jobs era are still around, then we’ll know that the company can truly endure. I suspect it will be.  ↩

Let iPad be iPad

Facing slowing growth for the first time since the iPad’s 2010 debut, Apple is working on several significant software and hardware updates to reinvigorate the tablet over the next year. Apple is developing a dual-app viewing mode, 12-inch iPads codenamed “J98″ and “J99,” as well as support for multi-user logins, according to sources briefed on the plans.

(via 9to5Mac)

Last year, with Universal Storyboards, Apple pushed iPad into being more iPhone-like. (Why build a true custom experience for your iPad app when you can just “stretch” your iPhone app to the full screen of the iPad?) The notion was that more iPhone-only developers would build universal apps if Apple made the process a bit easier. The result was a lot more universal apps, most of which are not better in any substantial way on iPad.

This year, it looks like dual-app viewing and multiple-account support will push iPad in a more Mac-like direction. “If we let people multitask, we’ll get fewer complaints that iPad isn’t a power user’s tool.” Well, yeah, but it’s still going to be an inferior experience to multitasking on a Mac, no matter what Apple does on that front.

I wish Apple would just let iPad be iPad.

At Bombing Brain, we’ve made a not-insignificant amount of money over the past five years developing tools for people who realize that iPad is simply better than a laptop or a phone at very specific, targeted tasks. If Apple would help drive the development of iPad to make it better at those things, I think the product could finally reach its full potential.

As long as we keep ping-ponging between iPhone and Mac, iPad will continue to be stuck in between them, never quite better than one or the other.

I’m not saying multiple account support and dual-app viewing would be a bad thing. They sound like good additions, if done right. But I do hope that Apple has a lot more in store for iPad this year than just making it a little more like using a Mac.