So Many Miss the Point

With the passing of Steve Jobs this week juxtaposed against the announcement and release of the new iPhone 4S, the technology media have been atwitter with their views of Apple's success or failure to continue their recent successes. In reading a wide range of such writing, it strikes me that most miss the point entirely. The reason is ironically the same reason that Apple is so successful: it's really difficult to understand people and what they want. Over the past few years I have spent substantial time studying direct response marketing (such as the marketing done by companies who take out those one-page ads for subglasses or the Internet marketing that offers you a free report for handing over your email address). One of the primary tenants of direct response marketing is this: it doesn't matter what you want or what you think about those who make up your market. All the matters is what they actually want. Figure that out and you'll be successful. In fact, your success will be in direct proportion to the accuracy of your understanding. Most technology writers and those who live their lives consumed with technology miss entirely the preferences of the vast majority of people. That's why Apple is successful. It's also why I have migrated exclusively to Apple products.

The bottom line: most people just want stuff that works. They don't want to customize it more than putting their own wallpaper on the screen. They don't want to hack into it or understand how it works. They want to use it, get their activities done, and keep living their lives.

Apple products do this really well. In fact, Siri---the new Apple iPhone 4S's mechanism for voice interaction---is the opposite of what most geeks say is needed: it will create less interaction with the screen rather than more.

Today, John Gruber of Daring Fireball wrote an article specifically about the iPhone 4S and everything the pundits are saying Apple got wrong. I agree 100% with what he says. I expect the iPhone 4S to be the most popular iPhone ever much to the shock of those who think the screen needs to be bigger or that it needs to have a replaceable battery or LTE networking.

It doesn't. It's a great upgrade. I'll have mine in a week and will be sure to let you know what I think after I've had some time with it.

What do you think?

The iPad 2 Cometh

Last week I contacted a local Apple store for the third time since the launch of the iPad 2. "I don't suppose," I began as I reached the store's business desk, "You have an iPad 2s?" After she asked what I was seeking (a 64GB AT&T version), she told me that she didn't have what I wanted, although they did have some iPad 2s (primarily Verizon and WiFi-only, it seems). She also asked if she could put my business into their system. I answered in the affirmative and let it go, figuring I'd keep my eyes open and maybe check back in a few weeks.

That all changed the next day.

I received a call from the Apple Store in the morning asking for my credit card information. During that call, her colleague asked, "When can you come get your iPad 2?"

"What???!"

20 minutes later, I walked out of the store with my new black iPad 2 64GB AT&T, a tan leather Smart Cover, and a few accessories. I've been using it since I sync'd it so it would have all of my apps, incuuding the WordPress app I'm using to write this post.

While I will review the iPad 2 in an upcoming post, right now I'll just say this: Mark Sigal is right. With the benefits of the Apple Stores and Apple's profit margin, it will be extremely difficult for Motorola or Samsung to make inroads into the Apple market.

...and that's a very big deal.

Steve Jobs is Right (Again)

Yesterday, Steve Jobs directly addressed the YouTube videos, press reports, and bloggers who have been reporting on signal strength loss with the new iPhone 4 (I'll address the iPhone 4 in a focused post early next week). He was 100% right in what he said, and I'm appalled by the response from both the mainstream media and the tech bloggers--both of whom I expect to know better and behave with better integrity. So, what is he right about?

He's right that:

  1. The press and many others can't stand it when a person or company performs well and consistently. They tear others down in an effort to look good. What do you call people who behave that way towards others?
  2. Every wireless device is effected by being close to a bag of salt water like a human body.
  3. Apple made it's biggest mistake by having the spot that's most effected by the touch of a hand be marked by the black line between the two antennas.

You know from reading this blog that I think success is to be celebrated, not destroyed, so you can imagine how I feel about the ridiculous attacks on Apple and Jobs by the press and bloggers. But, that's how they sell ads, I guess. What it means for you is the same as it does for most so-called news outlets: take it with a gigantic grain of salt!

What you may not know about me is that my engineering background is in analog electrical engineering. When everyone else in my class in the MSU Engineering College was focused on digital systems, I was working on antennas, transmission lines, and cellular radio technologies. Recently I have returned to work in that area of engineering (primarily with 4G networks), and I can claim far more expertise than the riffraff who have been writing about "Antennagate." As a result, starting with the announcement of the iPhone 4 (in fact, from the photos and dubious article published by Gizmodo of the iPhone 4 before the announcement) I expected that the less-knowledgable would grab onto the external antenna as a bad idea.

But, it was a good idea. And Jobs is right: every wireless device is impacted by proximity to a human. Unfortunately, the FCC creates tests that don't do a reliable job of representing real-world use scenarios. And to add to that, the manufacturers have to comply with the FCC requirement often to the detriment of performance.

Lastly, completely unintentionally, Apple happened to mark the weak spot with the black band at the bottom of the iPhone 4. With the design of the antenna and that obvious black line, curious amateur engineers would bridge the two antennas with their hands to see what happened. What they found was that the device's signal was negatively impacted.

Of course, it's not for the reason that they think. It's not the bridging of the two antennas. If it was, turning off the signals to the second antenna (which is Bluetooth, GPS reception, and WiFi) would eliminate the issue. But, that's not what happens, because that's not the real issue.

I'll post my specific thoughts about the iPhone 4 for business use early in the week next week. In the meantime it is vitally important to understand that most of the people writing about this situation have absolutely no idea what they are talking about, are more concerned with controversy and page views than truth, and do not look at devices as tools but rather as collections of features.

None of which is helpful to you as a person looking for a tool for your business. More about the iPhone and business next week. In the meantime, post your thoughts in the comments...

Here are a few posts from other places on the iPhone 4, so-called "Antennagate," and more rational commentary:

Inside Apple’s Actual Distortion Field: Giant Chambers, Fake Heads, And Black Cloaks

Radio engineer: Consumer Reports iPhone 4 testing flawed (u)

FaceTime and Why Apple’s Massive Integration Advantage is Just Beginning

Total Recall Or Total Bull? Some Perspective On The iPhone 4 Antenna Frenzy

The Anandtech iPhone 4 Antenna Review

The iPhone 4 for Business?

You may have heard or read something about the new Apple iPhone 4. Well, let's be real... Yes, I'm sure that you have. Apple had a very large launch of their newest phone, with 1.4M sold in the first weekend (3 million in the first 3 weeks), and, as often happens in the work of the press that is supported by viewers and page views: They jump on the success of a quality company.

On Friday, Apple addressed the negative press that they have received in the first 22 days of the iPhone 4's availability. Even though they have sold an average of a million units every week, the press has capitalized on reports of signal interference and loss that have been reported and posted to the Internet.

What do I think about the iPhone 4?

Simply put, if you are in the market for a smartphone and are OK with AT&T as your provider, there is no better alternative for a business person. Here's why:

  1. The iPhone 4 offers the most comprehensive set of business and productivity apps available
  2. The iPhone 4 screen makes it much easier to read and process information... especially for aging eyes!
  3. The iPhone 4 offers the full Internet, with all the important business sites making their video available on it without requiring Flash. Frankly, if a site won't allow you to see their videos on your iPhone, they don't deserve your business!
  4. The iPhone 4 camera is an outstanding communication system for business, from whiteboards to product photos and video demos.
  5. Email, calendar sharing, contact synchronization, and full support for multiple Exchange accounts work seamlessly.
  6. The iPhone 4 remains a device you can use without training and without a manual.

In short, for a piece of technology that you can take out of the box and begin to use to experience productivity, you cannot beat the iPhone 4. It makes it even better that you can take it to a nearby Apple Store at any time with questions, issues, or training, should you want it.

Buy one and move on to your next challenge.