Six comments worth reading about iPad

Saturday morning is the best day to read more in depth analysis. I collected six articles that amused me, largely from the HBR blogs (one of the best source of food for thoughts, IMHO).

If you, like me, are fascinated by innovation and by the physicality of objects I suggest you to read Apple iPad’s Product Development Approach . It’s a brilliant lesson to learn for all companies out there building devices

Beyond the half-pound device’s elegant silhouette, interface, and operating system, the gadget is worth paying attention to for innovation lessons from Apple.

Many comments have given me the impression that the iPad is not clearly positioned. It’s clearly not a phone nor it’s a notebook/netbook. Strategically, the iPad opens a new market for Apple, one that may cannibalize its own products: if you already have an iMac/MacBook and an iPhone, would you buy also an iPad or sell the iPhone and get an iPod nano instead? As Scott Anthony says in Does the Apple iPad Make Strategic Sense?

The two things I admire most about the company are its ability to think holistically about business models (iPod + iTues, iPhone + the App store, iPad + iBookstore) and its willingness to keep innovating. Imagine how different it would have been if Apple stopped at the first generation iPod, or just rode the iPod for as long as it could. Its willingness to step out and enter into new categories is an important lesson for all companies.

The blurred positioning of iPad make it harder to identify a clear competitor. TechCrunch clearly identifies Kindle in Top 10 Reasons The Apple iPad Will Put Amazon’s Kindle Out of Business.

Apple has upped the game for Amazon. Jeff Bezos and his team better start a clean sheet of design if they want Kindle to catch up again and play as a leader with consumers.

For HBR the ultimate competitor is only maybe Kindle, but in The iPad Showdown: Apple Versus Comcast argues that Comcast may get some headache.

At twice the price, maybe the iPad is a Kindle Killer — maybe. But Kindle is a single-purpose device for reading, while iPad is a multi-purpose device for entertainment.[…]  The real face-off  […] is Apple versus Comcast — the largest cable provider in the United States, serving 24 million homes […] [T]he new device creates “anywhere, anytime” access to the broadband Web, including broadband video streams.

A colleague argued that tablet pc have existed for over 10 years, with many more features than the iPad. Looking at the facts, though, tablets never took off: too expensive and with poor user experience due to bad software and hardware. Another lesson about product development and radical innovation is in Apple’s Secret? It Tells Us What We Should Love:

This was validation of Apple’s peculiar innovation process: Insights do not move from users to Apple but the other way around. More than Apple listening to us, it’s us who listen to Apple. This contradicts the conventional management wisdom about innovation.

I learned about the iPad name from twitter while I was at the gym and I didn’t understand the jokes about the name until my american wife explained it to me. The comment The Day Apple Turned the Web into Junior High from HBR about naming is interesting.

Perhaps Apple underestimated the power of a viral joke, but it seems more likely that the company, thinking long-term, has so much well-founded faith in its products and its brand that it has no doubt the real iPad will eclipse the joke iPad in the minds of consumers as soon as it’s released.

I would add that the name has other meanings only for native English speakers, not for the rest of world.

Why that thing on Nexus One?

I can’t get my head around one feature of Google’s superphone: why did they put that scroll-click-button at the bottom of the phone? Shouldn’t the touch screen be enough to use the phone? Besides, being so close to the bottom edge, can it really be used? If anybody is still thinking that Google wants to become a hardware manufacturer, that detail alone shows how G still has lots of road to cover.

But I don’t think Google is going to compete directly with HTC, Samsung and all others. I agree with Fabrizio, Ars and HBR: Google is disrupting the mobile phone market in the USA introducing what us Europeans had forever: choice. In Europe we can choose the phone we prefer and use it with any carrier. In the USA carriers tend to make monopolistic agreements with phone manufacturers, so consumers that want a phone usually have only one choice of carrier. Think iPhone which is limited to AT&T in USA but in Italy you can buy it from three different carriers. For this Nexus One is like the iPhone: it’s a game changer. I think that other hardware manufacturers like Nokia could profit from Google’s move, too.

Cramming unnecessary features is not innovative

I’ve been waiting for many years for a cheap all-in-one desktop computer, something like an iMac that would look good in a home office without carrying the Apple-tax of an operating system I don’t like and the premium price of the Mac cult.

That’s why I’m speechless looking at the Asus Eee Top: touchscreen and only 15″ monitor?  Why? And most of all, who decided that people want to touch their monitors? Sure, we all have computer monitors full of fingerprints but everybody I know hates to notice them. Do Asus designers think that we’ll like to watch our movies and pictures from the distance of an arm and on a monitor full of nasty firngerprints? I’m not going to. In fact, Apple added a remote control to its iMac, not a touchscreen: you can enjoy your multimedia content from the distance, laying back on the chair or from the couch and without stressing your upper shoulder.

ergonomics of a touchscreen monitor
Doesn’t look comfortable, does it?

With these desktops Asus managment is missing another opportunity after failing the netbook disruption. On the Eee series they started well with a very innovative low tech yet effective model, but then they started cramming hardware features in it resulting in higher prices.  HP and Acer had to go on that segment, because it was getting too close to their market and now Asus has a tougher competition. If Asus focused on the software experience (like prof. Fuggetta keeps saying), with GNU/Linux and ‘cloud based’ services they would have done a better job for their investors. They would have also got rid of Microsoft, since Vista is such a failure.

How Apple will dramatically increase revenues

My architecture professors repeated ad infinitum that an image is worth a thousand words. Following is a pictures that clearly shows how Apple will dramatically increase its revenues in the next year:

MacBook internals (source: iFixIt.com)
MacBook internals (source: iFixIt.com)

It’s not (only) the cool design or the (un)cool software: it’s mainly the reduced (~60%) bill of material you see in the picture (compare it to an older iBook internals). And the 30% reduction in the packaging volume. The latter reduces complexity in costs of acquisition and management of the parts, plus the servicing costs after the sales. The former means 30% saving in the shipping costs.’  Brilliant.’  This is the kind of sustainable competitive advantage that MBA classes teach managers to aim for.’  I’m ready to bet will make Apple’s revenues skyrocket, even without increasing marketshare or total units shipped.

Microsoft is changing focus, will it change attitude?

I’ve placed a bet that Microsoft will change radically its business model when Gates will leave his chair to Ray Ozzie, so I was trying to get a clue from Ozzie’s speech at the MIX last week. I wasn’t too impressed by his keynote, though, it was too much in the old known ‘corporate style’, too much junk talking about the old products (still talking about zune? Office Live? Come on, that’s so old stuff). And about old strategies.

Even in the GigaOM Interview Ozzie reveals anything new. His comment:

The OS that we’re using today is kind of in the model of a ’70s or ’80s vintage workstation. It was designed for a LAN, it’s got this great display, and a mouse, and all this stuff, but it’s not inherently designed for the Internet.

repeats that Microsoft will focus on the web. And on social interaction through the web. Just like Google. There is nothing new: Microsoft is playing again being the second mover in the online market. With its financial power will try to crush the competition. Disappointing: there is nothing really new coming from there. I still hope that Ozzie will at least introduce respect for open standards.

Now I better put my hope for a revolutionary product in some nice startup, to have some fun.

Open Source? Microsoft’s split personality

I’m not sure that Bill Hilf’s declarations about Microsoft’s Open Source strategy give a complete picture of the corporate strategy in the near future to compete in a sector that radically changed since Windows came to light in the ’90s. I think that Microsoft is being disrupted and will have to split and go on two different paths. One will continue developing its flagship products (Windows and Office) the usual way. This path is the one that Ballmer and Mundie follow, I’d call it ‘Classic Microsoft’. We all know Classic Microsoft and I agree with Shaun Connoly’s (JBoss/RedHat employee) and Savio Rodrigues regarding its Open Source Strategy:

Microsoft has no plans on flipping any of its flagship products to open source. Period. […]
Microsoft will aggressively fight/compete with products (open source or closed source) that pose a threat to its core products.

It makes perfect business sense. The main problem with this path is that it can’t last forever as it’s being disrupted. A symptom is that Microsoft’s revenues grow slower than competing products: Microsoft growth is stable around 7%-8%, while Google sports two-digits growth and Apple almost goes off scale. Plus there are many signals of decreasing licensing costs under pressure from FLOSS (see Gartner’s report, for example).

Microsoft’s other path is far more exciting and it revolves around a main transition set to happen on July 2008. Microsoft Chief Software Architect (Bill Gates) has quit and has already appointed the successor, the visionary Ray Ozzie. Where is he and what is he doing down there? I couldn’t find many public sign of his activities after his last post on his blog. I heard rumors from Seattle that he is working silently with his group, waiting for gates to open and run free (bad pun 🙂 ). Fortune reports that “Ozzie’s assignment is to Webify everything” at Microsoft.

My guess is that Ozzie will lead Microsoft on the second path, the Disrupting Microsoft. On this path only speculations apply, but I bet that Disrupting Microsoft will be different: with a different strategy and a different approach to open source and the web revolutions than the one we are used to from Classic Microsoft. The Disrupting Microsoft will have to slowly take over Windows and Office, when they will be too tired (or expired) to sustain Microsoft’s hunger for revenues.

Realizing that Microsoft is being disrupted, Microsoft itself is creating its own subsidiary that will follow the disruption to eventually cannibalize Classic Microsoft (something Adobe should consider doing too). Bets are accepted, Ozzie will emerge from the salt mines next summer and we’ll see.