Who is Responsible for the iPod?

The input method – the way people interact with a product – is the most important product decision made.  Horace Dediu writes and makes a compelling case for this: “The Primary Cause for the shift of profits from Incumbents to Entrants has been the disruptive impact of a new input method.” Who do you think suggested the input method for the iPod?

Leander Kahney writing for Wired in October 2006, five years after the first iPod was introduced and five years before today:

The idea for the scroll wheel was suggested by Apple’s head of marketing, Phil Schiller, who in an early meeting said quite definitively, “The wheel is the right user interface for this product.”

Schiller also suggested that menus should scroll faster the longer the wheel is turned, a stroke of genius that distinguishes the iPod from the agony of competing players.

Apple’s head of marketing.  Schiller is what marketing guys should be.  The marketer’s job is to think of what makes sense to consumers.  How would a consumer use this?  What would make a consumer buy this?  How can we make users love this?  These are often the same questions the people developing the products are thinking about.  But marketers and product managers restrict their thinking.

Schiller clearly thinks about these questions more broadly than your average marketer.  The question to him isn’t “what campaign/TV spot/ad would make a consumer buy this?” it’s “what decisions should we make to get a consumer to buy this?”  More than ever before, it’s the product decisions that influence purchase.  Great marketers are consumer-oriented thinkers who think about the end-to-end consumer experience.  At one end of that experience is using the product itself.  I’m certainly not suggesting most marketers are great (or even decent) product managers, I’m suggesting they should be.  It’s their job to be.

Product management requires a deep passion and understanding of design (and technology in the common case of software products) that is far beyond today’s average marketer.  But in five years this passion and understanding will be required for every marketer.

Schiller was and still is way ahead of his time.  Apple has thrived by making all decisions – business, product and marketing decisions – by thinking like marketers: consumer-first, or better: consumer-only.  That’s how Steve Jobs thought.  More and more companies are following suit.

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Josh Topolsky Reviews the Galaxy Nexus on The Verge

Really like this new site that launched on November 1 – congrats to Josh Topolsky and everyone who’s making it happen. Especially my friend David Pierce.

My favorite part so far: they rate products based on design, not specs. I’m confident we’ll never see a spec comparison chart on The Verge. Funny, though: on the linked page try scrolling down to the “Highest Rated Products” section. It appears there’s a glitch causing every fifth product to be skipped when you hit the left-right scrolling arrows. It just so happens the first product skipped is the Galaxy Nexus, which they have 5th highest rated.

When you rate devices on the experience of using them rather than the specs, you get 4 of your top 6 products made by Apple. But it sounds like the Galaxy Nexus is a great phone by that measure too. Topolsky gives it a nice review:

Since day one, I’ve been waiting for an Android device that lived up to the promise of such a powerful OS. I think I can stop waiting now.

Only took 4.5 years to make Android a good OS. Remember: the Galaxy Nexus is still the only device that can run this software. Why do they even make all these other crap Android devices that can’t even run the latest software? Because Google’s goal is to get Andriod phones in people’s hands so they see Google ads, not to make great devices.

For those wondering, the latest version of iOS runs on just five devices (three iPhones and two iPads). But that includes every iOS device Apple has sold since July 2009. Even most Android devices sold this year can’t run their latest software (which sounds like the first version worth using).

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Create Something

Helen Walters, writing at Thought You Should See This, relaying insights from Roger Martin, dean of Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto:

The problem society faces, says Roger Martin, is that the best way to become rich is to trade value, not create value.

Trading value may be lucrative, but creating value through software can be tremendously lucrative too. Growing up I was often reminded I would work in a service economy. What I didn’t learn at the time was the role software would play in providing services.

It sounds almost silly to put it in these terms in 2011, but Internet-connected software products are services. Products like Facebook, Nike+, Siri, Square apps, etc. all provide a valuable service to their users. Developers and programmers make up a key organ in the service economy. The best part is software products are inexpensive to build and distribute but have the the potential to create as much value for the creator as trading value through equities or other investments. And the software is creating value for the user and society as well.

Here’s the advice Martin offers for creating value:

Focus on serving customers, not on maximizing shareholder value or on making money.

It may sound like that would get a CEO who does this would get fired, but the way you maximize shareholder value is not to think intently about making money. It’s to think intently about making great stuff. That’s what will make money, and thereby maximize shareholder value. Steve Jobs famously advocated laser-like focus on products people love instead of profits – and that may have been his most important insight in building his greatest creation. The most important thing he did after he returned to Apple in 1997? It wasn’t creating the iMac or the iPod. It was firing the whole board, which was a stipulation of his return as full-time CEO.

Any other board probably would have fired him for focusing on customers instead of profits.

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Write.

Fred Wilson, principal of Union Square Ventures on his blog AVC:

We wrote in business school, but I don’t recall a lot of effort being put into making us better writers. And for almost two decades in venture capital, writing meant memos and quarterly reports and not much more.

Then, at age 42, I started blogging. And I’ve been writing daily ever since. Something like 5,600 blog posts have been entered into my Typepad CMS. Almost all of them by me. I’m getting close to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours. My writing has improved immeasurably. But more importantly, I have learned to love writing. It’s creative. It’s a puzzle. How do I tell the story? How do I get my point across? How do I do it crisply and clearly? How do I end it on a strong note?

Communication skills are so important in life. The investment I’ve made in my communication skills over the past eight years is paying huge dividends for me now. I want to help my kids make the same investment, just much earlier in life. I know it will come in handy and I know it will be a great source of pleasure for them throughout their life.

My grandfather and namesake was an attorney at law and constantly reminded me to become a great writier, emphasizing that every business requires outstanding written communication. Now my girlfriend is a writer by profession and I’ve seen first hand how critical writing is in my work.

This is part of the reason I write here: because I need practice. Since I started I’ve noticed many writers aren’t very precise (or even accurate) and some aren’t even good storytellers. Writing, like programming and business strategy, requires both accuracy and story telling; precision and creativity; clarity and flow. That’s why I’ve come to love it more than I thought I would. So I’m planning to practice every day starting at 24 instead of 42.

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Why My Grandfather Just Got His First iPhone

It’s his first smartphone. Siri is the reason he got it. After a few days of use, he now interacts with Siri flawlessly but still struggles with simple tasks on the touch interface, like slide to answer calls and typing with the soft keyboard. The technology is nascent, but for the first time I saw that voice could be an effective input method for an everyday computing device – as in an alternative to the mouse, click-wheel and multitouch.

If you want to understand why I (and many others) are obsessed with Apple as if it’s a religion, listen to this podcast on disruptive interfaces from Horace Dediu, founder of Asymco. The company, Apple Inc., is what I (we) revere, respect and love – not just Apple products.

Horace Dediu has three main theses in the podcast:

(1) Disruptive input methods are what revolutionize industries
(2) Apple’s DNA allows it to disrupt industries (“pirate” projects)
(3) Data and knowledge provide an important foundation, but decisions are made on intuition

He makes compelling cases for all three – and he seems to think voice input has a serious chance to be the next disruptive input method for computing devices. Of the three popular interfaces for communicating with computers over the last 40 years, Apple introduced all of them to the mass consumer market: The mouse. The click-wheel. Multi-touch. We shouldn’t be surprised if Apple brings the next major interface to the masses either – and maybe they’ve already begun.

It’s been said many times before, but you really can’t understand how good Siri is until use it. Or at least until you see my grandfather use it.

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Speaking of Learning to Program

Fred Wilson, principal of great New York VC firm Union Square Ventures:

On Thursday night I gave a talk at NYU Poly and in the Q&A a young man asked me for advice for “those who aren’t technical”. I said he should try to get technical. The next morning I met with a bunch of Sloan Business School students doing a trek through NYC. A young woman asked me the same question. I gave her the same answer.

I don’t mean that everyone should become a software engineer. I do mean that everyone should understand software engineering (or whatever technical subject/industry you want to work in). I don’t speak French fluently. But when I go to France, I know enough French to speak it badly until the person on the receiving end changes the language to English.

Dennis Crowley claims to be a terrible programmer. And yet he and Naveen built the first version of Foursquare together. Their third team member was Harry and Harry’s first job was to rewrite all of Dennis’ code. Dennis is the kind of technical I’m talking about. Learn how to hack something together so that you can get people interested in your idea, your project, your startup. If you can do that, then you have a better chance of success.

I don’t always agree with Fred Wilson, but this is great.

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Stanford Offers iPhone App Development Course Free on iTunes U

I used Stanford’s first semester of iPhone App Development on iTunes U in 2008 and found it really useful. My one complaint: I had no background in programming and couldn’t find the prerequisites on iTunes.

Jordan Golson at MacRumors points out that everything you need to get from turning on a computer to robust iPhone App coding is now available:

The university notes that the two Stanford prerequisite courses, Programming Methodology [Link] and Programming Abstractions [Link], are also available on iTunes U.

iPhone Application Development is available free on iTunes [Link].

It’s a huge time investment to run through these three courses, but this free access to Stanford education is great. I don’t think you have to be a great engineer to change the world, but having a deep interest and understanding of software programming is the best thing you can do today if you’re interested in business.

CodeAcademy is another great free resource for learning the basics; it’s much easier to stick with but less comprehensive and applicable than the Stanford courses.

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MAD

Mutually. Assured. Destruction.

Bill Simmons breaks down the standoff between NBA owners and players:

The owners treated these negotiations as a natural extension of their business, only caring about their bottom line and nothing else. The players took the proceedings much more personally. After things fell apart on Monday — when the NBPA rejected David Stern’s “take it or leave it” ultimatum and decided to decertify, a confusing move (because of the timing) that almost certainly wrecked the 2011-12 season — agent Aaron Goodwin made a telling comment to the Washington Post’s Mike Wise.

“For years owners have treated players as if they are just their property,” Goodwin said, “fining them over how they dress, act, everything. This is the first time the players have the opportunity to say no.”

Simmons’ entire column is compelling. His conclusion:

Just know that there’s no side to take — it’s mutually assured destruction in its purest form.

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Steve Jobs on Life and Death

Steve Jobs in 1995, nine years before he was diagnosed with cancer:

I’ve always felt that death is the greatest invention of life. I’m sure that life evolved without death at first and found that without death, life didn’t work very well because it didn’t make room for the young. It didn’t know how the world was fifty years ago. It didn’t know how the world was twenty years ago. It saw it as it is today, without any preconceptions, and dreamed how it could be based on that. We’re not satisfied based on the accomplishment of the last thirty years. We’re dissatisfied because the current state didn’t live up to their ideals. Without death there would be very little progress.

A really interesting take on history and its value. One of my favorite insights from Steve Jobs.

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The Ideal MacBook

There are certain models of every Apple device that feel like the ideal – the ultimate – version of that product. The first iPod Nano, the stainless steal iMac, and the iPhone 4 are all examples of this. It seems like the 15″ Macbook Air (or whatever Apple names it) will be the ideal Mac notebook experience in that same way:

The best experience you can get on a notebook today is on a Macbook Air (11″ or 13″).  But we need even better battery-life and local storage.  The additional two inches of screen size provide room for additional batteries and allows Apple to price the device higher.  The higher price lets them put more local storage – I’m hoping fro 512 GB.

I have a strong feeling this will be the notebook many of us have been waiting for.

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What I Missed

I’ve been traveling.  And I missed a lot.

Apple launched iOS 5 and iCloud, the iPhone 4S went on sale, Netflix and HP both aborted plans for major business shifts, Google probably released a few different new versions of Android (perfect visual) that can’t run on most Android devices, RIM’s co-CEOs still exist, Microsoft made a pointless video demonstrating their disinterest in design and Apple released a new interface for interacting with machines.

But nothing really changed: Android is still fragmented, Google still doesn’t care about anything but selling ads, Microsoft will keep trying to sell mediocre software to businesses, RIM probably doesn’t need to be mentioned ever again, Netflix and HP will be fine, iPhones will keep selling by the millions and Siri will keep scaring the poop out of Google and Microsoft.

Steve Jobs is still no longer with us.  And that will change all of our lives more than anything that’s happened since he passed.

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Thoughts on iPhone 4S

This is the best phone ever made. It will become the fastest-selling consumer electronics device ever. The announcement exceeded my expectations.

Without question, the hardware improvements from 4 to 4S were more substantial than the improvements from 3G to 3GS and arguably more substantial than the 3GS to 4 update. Compared to the 3G to 3GS update, the speed improvements are greater, the camera improvements are comparable, the battery improvements are greater, and the networking improvements are better. But there were three key differences that seemed to put a damper on the 4S announcement this week:

  1. The announcement of the 3GS was accompanied by the unveiling of iOS 3, which brought many new software features to the device as well. This year, the iOS 5 software announcement and iPhone 4S hardware announcement were separate events.  It’s clear there is more potential for mobile software innovation than mobile hardware – and iOS 5 is indubitably the most meaningful iOS update ever.
  2. The form factor remained the same as the iPhone 4.  While some random case manufacturers may have expected otherwise, it should have been clear to the rest of us this would be the case.  And it was the right choice.  Besides incremental speed and camera updates, the iPhone hardware is functionally the same as it was on launch day in 2007.  The form factor has been updated twice – the largest benefit of which is the tangible representation of speed and software improvements that come with it.  Updated form factors drive excitement around product launches, but aren’t necessary to drive sales.  The average consumer is going to buy the iPhone – which ever version is the latest.  Apple geek consumers care about the experience of the device – which relies very little on form factor tweaks.  The 3GS substantially outsold the 3G, and the iPhone 4 is still the best selling phone in the world right now – 16 months after it was released.  There was no need to gratuitously generate extra excitement about improvements to the best-selling phone in the world, especially as there have been no substantial improvements to its competitors.
  3. Tim Cook, Phil Schiller and the other executives presenting clearly, and sadly, knew Steve’s passing was imminent.  Even from watching the event video you could tell something was different.  It wasn’t, as some ridiculous “journalists” wrote, Apple’s demise in the air.  It was Steve Jobs’.  The fate of Steve and Apple are no longer inextricably tied together – which is painful, heavy, and sad, but also encouraging and uplifting.

Most importantly, specific products aren’t intended to be revolutionary.  Apple is helping themselves and helping us by maintaining the same product form factor for two years.  They use this strategy across most of their products, which creates a more sustainable product release schedule for them and a reasonable upgrade schedule for us.

Apple’s updates to the current products won’t show us whether Apple still “has it” without Steve Jobs.  We must wait until next time Apple tries to revolutionize an industry to find that out – and that could still be years away.

UPDATE:
Some are claiming Steve left a four-year product roadmap for Apple.  I’m not convinced that roadmap includes entry into another new industry, but rather contains updates to the current product lines.

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Your First Great Apple TV App

AirPlay mirroring is easily my favorite announced iOS feature. Brad Nicholson for touchArcade, describing an update to the game Real Racing 2 for iPhone:

And that’s not all — iOS 5 is coming and so are a handful of features to Real Racing 2 that revolve around Airplay support. With the update, you’ll be able to wirelessly stream the game’s content to your TV. Also, if you’ve got friends with the game and an iPhone 4S or an iPad 2, you’ll be able to play with them in split-screen. “Party Play” mode will allow up to 4 players to compete on the same screen, provided the host has Apple’s new hotnesses.

Have fun doing that on your Samsung Blah Blah Blah using Android.

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iPhone Lineup

Two interesting notes:

  1. Battery life increases for talk time but decreases for standby time.  Weird.  
  2. Yup, Siri is iPhone 4S-only.  I’m sure the software could run on iPhone 4, but Apple made this strategic decision in order to sell more new phones.  Since Apple makes its money on hardware sales and much of their mobile innovation is becoming software-driven, maybe they’re feeling pressure to attach certain software features to specific hardware.  Will be interesting to see if this continues to happen.

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Apps for Apple TV

AirPlay mirroring will be available in iOS 5 next week, which for all intents and purposes means the App Store for Apple TV is now open. Developers can simply build an iOS app that’s intended to be used in conjunction with the Apple TV. I’d be surprised if there are even 10 people who have Apple TV but not iPhone or iPad.

I wonder, though, whether app developers will be able to block AirPlay mirroring from being used within their apps. The ability to wirelessly mirror your iPhone or iPad screen on an HDTV has exciting implications for a bunch of app categories like gaming and business, but would also seem to enable AirPlay in video apps that have intentionally left AirPlay out for strategic or legal reasons (like WatchESPN, Hulu Plus, etc).

If developers can’t block it, will this cause content providers (like NBC) to ban their distribution counterparts (like Hulu) from having iOS apps at all? Can’t imagine Apple would let that happen for too long.

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Income tax rate 50 years ago

The income tax rate on the top tax bracket in 1961 in the United States was 91%.  You read that correctly.  Of course this is a marginal tax rate, so you’d only pay 91% on any money you made over $400,000.*  A flat income tax would change this: a flat tax rate could require every American to pay less than 20% of their income and still increase Federal tax revenues.

But the U.S. doesn’t have a flat tax, and unfortunately won’t any time soon.  So please consider the marginal income tax rate structure and how it may affect your perception of tax rates.  People in the top tax bracket today contribute 35% of any money they make beyond the first $379,150. The Federal government takes no more than $25,000 of the first $100,000 any American makes each year, and this will remain true regardless of upcoming tax reform.

NOTE: remember that wealthier people make much of their money on capital gains, which are taxed at a completely different (recently far lower) rate.

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ifttt: if this then that

Set an action to trigger another action. Examples:

    1. You tweet, this service can automatically save that tweet to Evernote for you.
    2. It’s going to rain, this service can automatically text you.
    3. You favorite a tweet, this service can automatically save any links in that tweet to Instapaper.
    4. Tons more – the most popular “recipes” are listed here.

Fun and useful.  And the “recipes” feature is a smart way to promote the service.  Hopefully we see a brands creating and promoting recipes that make their content accessible wherever people want it.  Give ifttt a try.

New Heinz Ketchup Packets Hold 3x More Ketchup

Sarah Nassauer for WSJ:

Since a supply spat between Heinz and McDonald’s that arose during a 1973 tomato shortage, Heinz, the country’s largest ketchup producer, has been locked out of most McDonald’s U.S. locations. Though Heinz didn’t design the new packet to get back in McDonald’s good graces, “that would be a wonderful side benefit,” says Heinz’s Mr. Bennett. The only McDonald’s serving Heinz now are in Minneapolis and Heinz’s hometown of Pittsburgh, he says.

There seem to be a lot of these no-longer-relevant historical “spats” between companies that, if overcome, could be an enormous windfall for one (or both) of the businesses.

The 3x larger-by-volume packets: a welcome update for my favorite condiment. Heinz finally took my advice (February 3, 2011).

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Google’s +1 button is coming to display ads

Google’s Inside Adwords blog:

For example, take Elaine, who sees an ad for discount flights. She +1’s the ad, thinking her friends might value similar deals. Now when Elaine’s friends and contacts are logged into Google and see the discount flight ad on any of the millions of GDN partner websites, they’ll see Elaine’s picture across the bottom of the ad with a note saying she +1’d it.

Interesting that ads will show users who have +1’d the specific ad rather than the brand. This causes the social context to kick in only if your connections have seen a specific ad. We know social context (putting the names and photos of your friends who like the brand that’s advertising into their ad units) increases Facebook ad performance tremendously. It’s surprising that Google launched this before brand pages exist on Google+, which would enable them to capture that performance lift through the friends of everyone who has +1’d the brand.

Most Facebook ads on the Facebook homepage are sold on a cost-per-impression basis, but if Google sells these display ads on a cost-per-click basis the social context performance lift could be a tremendous revenue-generator for them. Social context is also a key benefit that only Facebook can offer advertisers right now. If ads with social targeting and social context can be run through Google (across the web), there’s no reason for advertisers to limit their ads to run on only one (albeit high traffic) website.

Hopefully Facebook is enjoying their impressive ad revenue growth this year. It may not last for long.

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Government Good

The great Rick Webb, on his new project called Government Good:

I believe that the government can do some good from time to time. I believe that the public conversation has lost this. I believe that so many people believe the government is broken that it is in danger of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This isn’t a policy blog, this isn’t a political party or platform. It’s an exploration and reminder that the government can do some good.

This will be interesting, regardless of your political stripes.

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Let’s hope Netflix is ready soon

Reed Hastings, Co-founder and CEO, Netflix:

For the past five years, my greatest fear at Netflix has been that we wouldn’t make the leap from success in DVDs to success in streaming.

I like Reed Hastings.  But this line worried me right off the bat – hopefully this doesn’t indicate he makes decisions based on fear rather than vision.

Companies rarely die from moving too fast, and they frequently die from moving too slowly.

When Netflix is evolving rapidly, however, I need to be extra-communicative. This is the key thing I got wrong.

In hindsight, I slid into arrogance based upon past success. We have done very well for a long time by steadily improving our service, without doing much CEO communication. Inside Netflix I say, “Actions speak louder than words,” and we should just keep improving our service.

But now I see that given the huge changes we have been recently making, I should have personally given a full justification to our members of why we are separating DVD and streaming, and charging for both. It wouldn’t have changed the price increase, but it would have been the right thing to do.

Communication was a problem, but not the problem.  The problem was launching a product that wasn’t ready – and Reed Hastings knows it.  That’s what he means by “we should just keep improving our service.” Netflix’s streaming service alone didn’t (and still doesn’t) deliver on the promise of enabling subscribers to easily enjoy movies and TV shows.  When Netflix divided its business into two products by pricing DVDs and streaming separately, they were suddenly asking customers to pay for a product that wasn’t worth the price.  There is no question that streaming is the future of Netflix’s business, and adjusting the pricing model to move their business forward and move their customers to a new product was smart.  But the product wasn’t ready – it was still a just a feature of their original product.

So we realized that streaming and DVD by mail are becoming two quite different businesses, with very different cost structures, different benefits that need to be marketed differently, and we need to let each grow and operate independently. It’s hard for me to write this after over 10 years of mailing DVDs with pride, but we think it is necessary and best: In a few weeks, we will rename our DVD by mail service to “Qwikster”.

The way to communicate distinct offerings to a large customer base who doesn’t know or care who Reed Hastings is, is to create a brand.  We could question the name choice (why make the name rhyme with the second largest movies website, Flixster, instead of an extension of your current brand, “Qwikflix”?). We can question the decision to rename the old product instead of the new one (up for debate).  We can even question the decision to make Qwikster a separate company rather than a just new product brand (Qwikster.com reads “Qwikster, a Netflix Company” and the company has a CEO). But once they separated DVDs and streaming into two products by attaching individual prices, creating separate brands was the right move.

This transition will be difficult for Netflix/Qwikter, largely due to a trend that’s become common over the past decade and a half: singularity of company and product brand.  Many Internet companies have only one core product: their website (see Amazon, Facebook, Google, Netflix, etc). When this happen, the company’s product often ends up carrying the same name as their company.  This makes new product launches and transitions difficult to initiate because many new offerings should fall under your company brand, but should’t fall under your product brand.

When you launch new stuff, it has to either be a new feature in an existing product or a completely separate product itself.  Consumers don’t understand anything in between. Netflix found their streaming service stuck in “no man’s land” when they announced an individual price for it without providing an individual brand.  It became a feature masquerading as a product. By separating the DVD product and calling it Qwikster, thereby giving the name Netflix to the streaming product alone, “Netflix” is still a feature madquerading as a product but it’s clearer the company is dedicated to making it a productnoRor “Netflix” (the streaming product) to deserve its own name and pricing, it must be worth its price.

It comes down to this: when Reed Hastings and Netflix realized their DVDs-by-mail service and their streaming service had to become distinct businesses, the first step should’ve been to ensure each product was strong enough to support itself.  When they gave streaming its own pricing and membership, they were asking people to pay for a feature, for the price of a product. Netflix will eventually develop their streaming feature into a killer standalone product by providing a sufficient breadth of content, but it was a mistake to separate pricing and naming before the product was ready.

Netflix tried to transition their customers to a new product too early – not because customers weren’t ready, but because the product itself wasn’t ready.  Unfortunately it still isn’t.  Let’s hope Netflix is ready soon.

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What’s your plan?

WSJ:

Sprint Nextel Corp. will begin selling the new version of the Apple iPhone in mid-October, people familiar with the matter said, filling a huge hole in the No. 3 U.S. carrier’s lineup and giving Apple Inc. another sales channel for its popular gadget.

The only question remaining is whether Sprint will continue offering unlimited smartphone data and messaging plans from $79.99. If so, it’s a great option for anyone who missed getting grandfathered into an unlimited data plan with AT&T or Verizon.

Unlimited data was vital to the iPhone’s initial success in 2007. At the time, smartphones (read: Blackberrys) were mostly corporate devices and didn’t automatically come with unlimited data. When the iPhone came out, people could tell their friends “every single iPhone comes with unlimited access to the Internet and web”. This was key in getting the average feature-phone-toting consumer to understand the value of the iPhone and to feel comfortable using all of its capabilities.

I remember using my last feature-phone and constantly fearing extra charges from accidentally tapping the AT&T mobile web button. It was important for Apple to completely eradicate that thought process as quickly as possible.

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The Irreplaceable Man

John Gruber:

How do you replace the irreplaceable man? Like we’re seeing. An open-ended medical leave, where he retains the CEO title. A continuation of strong new products, including a major improvement to the iPad, the device that is upending the entire computer industry. The ceding of day-to-day operations and leadership to Tim Cook, his right-hand man and chosen successor. Ever-higher profiles during public product announcements of top product-focused lieutenants like Phil Schiller, Scott Forstall, and Eddy Cue.

The simple answer to “How do you replace the irreplaceable man?” is “you don’t”. Fortunately, Apple knows that. A person who so intimately and deeply understands simplicity and elegance of design, and possibilities of technology and how to appeal to the human psyche cannot and should not be replaced. This is why Apple would never fill Steve Jobs’ position with Jack Dorsey or Scott Forstall. Doing so would indicate Apple trying to approximate Steve’s presence as closely as possible, which could only lead to disappointment in failing to duplicate him exactly. Instead, Apple has elevated the man who has long enabled Apple’s vision to come to life but will not try to replace Steve Jobs, only succeed him.

Apple makes its profits selling hardware and Apple devices are their most powerful branding tool. For the past 13 years at Apple, and even in his IBM and Compaq days, no one has been better at making great hardware than Tim Cook. Apple is in the right hands.

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Unfortunately, that day has come

Steve Jobs:

To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:

I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.

Steve

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Go “Explore” Foursquare Lists

foursquare blog:

Want to plan a trip to Paris? Create a blank list and share it with your friends who know the city best. They can load it up with all their best suggestions. Think your buddy will love your list of best food trucks in Los Angeles? It’s simple to share it with him.

When we launched Explore (our recommendation system), it was all about helping you discover new things to do in the real world. Lists are all about discovery and exploration, too.

foursquare gets it – they know how to solicit and synthesize social data.  Their “Explore” algorithm is hands-down the best social recommendation engine in the world, making recommendations based on the check-ins and tips left by you, your friends and the broader foursquare community.  Now there’s even more valuable social data flowing into that engine: lists of your favorite places, your friends’ favorite places and ultimately, everyone’s favorite places.  And even independent of the “Explore” recommendations, the foursquare Lists product is a beautiful new way to tap into the knowledge of your social network to find places to go and things to do.

The key trend here is toward synthesizing the knowledge in your social network into useful information you can tap into it whenever you want or need.  Social media has been dominated by an obsession with real-time information (your streams, Newsfeeds, etc) for a long time.  But the power and future of social is in providing useful ways for people to tap into social data whenever they want to discover or decide on new places to go, products to buy, links to click, etc.  This is no secret, but besides foursquare, no one’s been able to build a system that synthesizes social data into a useful format for these recommendations.

Even the two kings of algorithmic recommendations are trying to gather and synthesize social data to make better recommendations: Google by adding +1s to search and Amazon by adding product recommendations based on Facebook data.  But neither company has a system in place that actually provides useful social recommendations.  Meanwhile, foursquare – a two-year-old startup that launched with a single-featured niche product, now has a world-class social recommendation system built, being used every day and constantly improving.  But we all know that “the winners in the [location aware app] space will likely be trusted brands, not some ‘VC-backed, NYC and Austin centric startup.‘”

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Quotes from “other” Android hardware partners

“We welcome today’s news, which demonstrates Google’s deep commitment to defending Android, its partners, and the ecosystem.”
– J.K. Shin
President, Samsung, Mobile Communications Division

“I welcome Google‘s commitment to defending Android and its partners.”
– Bert Nordberg
President & CEO, Sony Ericsson

“We welcome the news of today‘s acquisition, which demonstrates that Google is deeply committed to defending Android, its partners, and the entire ecosystem.”
– Peter Chou
CEO, HTC Corp.

“We welcome Google‘s commitment to defending Android and its partners.”
– Jong-Seok Park, Ph.D
President & CEO, LG Electronics Mobile Communications Company

The resemblance between these is, of course, merely coincidental, and has nothing to do with Google using the same copywriter for all of them.  You’d agree to publish these glowing reviews too if your business relied on a high volume mobile sales and your current OS alternatives to Android were Windows Phone 7 (and Bada if you’re Samsung), each with smartphone marketshare under 2%.

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