Category Archives: apple

Why Apple is giving away software for free

Free hugs

Free is an unusual price to put on a piece of enormously complex desktop software like an office suite or an OS. Especially when sales of that software currently earn you hundreds of millions a year. Yet that’s was Apple’s surprising move this week, to drop the price of OSX and their productivity suite to zero.

The easy answer is – well, they make a lot of money from hardware already, PCs are becoming more like devices/appliances anyway, why not through in the software as part of the whole stack. Also given the ever shrinking prices and margins of consumer hardware, Apple needs to do something to keep up their consistently high ASPs on notebooks and desktops.

But for strategy wonks, there a few more interesting ways to read this move:

  1. You could read it as powerful competitive move to undercut Microsoft’s primary business model (which is still per-machine OS and office licenses). Microsoft’s model makes less and less sense in a cloud, multidevice and integrated product world. This is Apple trying to kick MSFT further into obsolescence and compete in a way that MSFT can’t.
  2. You could read this a competitive response to Google, who already offer free OSes and web-based productivity suite (google drive) with a constant stream of free upgrades. It’s only a matter of time before Google’s office suite and chrome book OS is widely-enough considered ‘good enough’ to start triggering bottom-up disruption. So you could say Apple had no choice but to give up revenue and has been forced to compete on Google’s terms.
  3. Lastly, from an ecosystem perspective you could look at the advantages and operational savings related to having all (or almost all) your users using the latest version of your stack. MSFT and Google ecosystems both suffer from heavy fragmentation due to many people stuck on old versions of OS/products. Apple is moving to a model where they can rapidly move users to the latest and greatest versions. This reduces their own support costs, their developers’ costs and increases the value of the ecosystem in the eyes of developers.

see also: this post is essentially a repost of a comment I left on asymco. Horce’s post there is worth a read – The value of zero-priced software

Upvotes on that comment and a couple other interesting moves by apple lately have inspired me to blog again and write a few more posts I’ve been noodling. There’s a few other implications of Apple’s recent announcements that tech press seems to have missed out on. Stay tuned.


Track of the day: Get Free by Major Lazer, because you probably haven’t been listening to enough Major Lazer today. I mean, how would that be possible?

What’s In My Backpack

A snapshot in time of my current glass pancake stack.

One iPad 1st gen, one iPhone 4th gen for iOs demos and prototyping. One Android tablet (Nexus 7) and phone (HTC One X) for demos and prototyping. One old Samsung Infuse Android work phone I hadn’t got rid of yet. Now I’m using the HTC. One primary work PC. One personal Macbook Air. One personal LTE iPad also functions as personal hotspot. Assorted cables, chargers, dongles, NFC tags, and assorted doohickeys. Car keys. Pen and goddamn paper. Cause you know what? Brilliant as the rest of the device is, 5 years after Apple’s iPhone killed the mobile stylus dead, writing & drawing notes with your fingers on glass like digital cavemen still sucks.

This post inspired by Steve Wozniack, who I had the rather unexpected pleasure of meeting the other day at a rock show, and his incredible backpack.

And by how wonderfully quaint and archaic these now-shiny things will look if I can remember to come back to this post in 10 years or more.

Wish I had a shot of my backpack of 2002, full of palm pilots or pocket pcs, some brick of a nokia phone, and maybe an mp3 diskman.

But Woz had it figured out. When I met him he showed me his nixie watch. Made of awesome cathod tubes technology from the 1950s. Long live #deadmedia

Apple related sentence of the day

In response to Apple become the world’s largest consumer of semiconductors (computer chips).

Apple, which already has a tendency to leapfrog competitors like a showboating amphibian, will overtake Samsung as a consumer of chips, Isuppli explained, as the fruit themed gadget flogger continues to order shedloads of them for its shiny offspring, the Ipad and Iphone.

LINK: Apple will gorge on semiconductors

See also all articles related to “fruit-themed toy maker…

How today’s weak iPod update speaks to Apple’s manufacturing problems

Attention, it has come to my awareness that I am mostly wrong about this post. The 32 and 64GB version of the iTouch are not so weak, they are only lacking the camera. Instead of dwelling on these facts, which would only distract from a good conspiracy theory, I urge you instead to enjoy instead this excellent picture of two wolves eating each other’s head:

wolves-eating-head
Anyone else surprised and a little underwhelmed by the apple “It’s just rock and roll but we like it” event today? For a music update, the nano got a vaguely bizarre video camera update as apple’s answer to the flip video. An answer to a question to a question I’m not sure who was asking.

While the most obvious device strongly rumored, and begging for a camera the iPod touch got nothing. Nothing except some minor and overdue price and capacity adjustments catching up to the continuing fall in flash memory prices.

No camera for the iPod Touch and, more significantly, no 2x the speed upgrade either like the iPhone received earlier this year. Instead the iPod continues to labour with a cpu architecture now three years old. Less than ideal for a supposed gaming platform and supposed wunderkind pocket web computer.

And as for any kind of augmented reality applications or fun games incorporating realtime video or picture taking, you can forget about those too.

Why would apple miss this boat?

Well my guess is that it’s not intentional. Look no further than the huge backlog on iPhone3GS deliver. As an anecdote, my girlfriend Michele ordered hers online back in July and it has yet to show up. Sounds to me like apple is continuing to suffer some serious manufacturing or chip-yield issues, my guess with the cpu or one of the other key logicboard chips like the graphics chip that both the 3GS and any would-be 3-series iPod would be built off of.

It’s not uncommon for a new chip or a chip built on a new silicon process to have yield (number of working chips per wafer) or binsplits (number of usable chips that will run at the desired speed/power requirements). And the new ARM 11 cpu and the new GPU are both new chips AND being fabbed on a new smaller silicon process.

If they are having yield problems it makes sense that the already launched 3GS is eating up all the chips that Apple can get their hands on.

It’s hard to believe that apple would have intentionally let the 3GS shortages carry on this long and it looks like an upgraded iPod touch is a casualty of Apples struggles to ship enough iphones.

UPDATE: correction – the two more expensive versions of the iTouch do have the new processor. perhaps the problem could be related to rumored issues with the camera module itself?

DRM is the lock, this is the lock-in. Early frustrations with AppleTV markII

What you can (and can’t do) with iTunes and Apple TV rentals

commented:

“I bought Robocop last night and was excited to watch it when all of the sudden iTunes crashed and poof, no ‘Robocop’ when I reopened iTunes. I guess I could call Apple and get a second chance to download it but at this point I’m too depressed.”

“DRM just makes the whole “rules” thing so tedious.”

“I have a Mac Mini essentially working as an AppleTV. Being locked out of HD content because it is not an actual AppleTV is rather annoying.”

“My head is spinning… back to BitTorrent.”

“why can’t life be simpler?”

Oh it can, it could have been much, much simpler. What the music industry has figured out already: drm-free downloads that Just Work wherever and however we want to use them, I can has it RIGHT NOW from bittorrent, or I can be happy to buy it for a reasonable price straight from an online retailer I know and trust – if such a format was only for sale.

They may think they are, but the movie studios are not even competing with the downloaders yet.

The apple TV mark2, is the best product we’ve seen yet for protected digital video content. After it fails, the studios will finally go the way the music industry went.

Top 10 Immediate problems between me and my MacBook Air

  1. the 1.8″ ipod-model Hard drive inside is going to be SLOW. The $1000 SSD option is crazy.
  2. no ethernet port
  3. only 1 (one, uno, single) USB port
  4. no mobile broadband modem, not even an expansion slot for one (how is this “Air”?)
  5. no removable/swappable battery
  6. good ram quantity out of the box but not (?) upgradeable in the future?
  7. Did you know? by Q3 of this year, Wimax will come standard on Intel Centrino chipsets
  8. 802.11n isn’t actually a finalized/approved standard yet
  9. SSD’s are bleeding-edge-new right now but prices will be dropping like a stone
  10. Apple does an update/refresh to almost all macbook models every 6-8 months.

sigh. the thing is basically an iphone with a keyboard stuck to it. But with less wireless.

11. It sure looks pretty though.

12. Maybe it’s worth it?

UPDATE:Anandtech has an excellent and very thorough review of the Mac Book Air, including the first truly objective benchmarks of the SSD harddrive option swapped in and out of the same notebook. If I could summarize the review for you, as you might have guessed:

The MBA is very good at what it does, there’s just a bunch of things that it doesn’t.

Scoble meanwhile notices “the smiles as people pick it up for the first time

If Steve Jobs voodoo hypnotizes me into buying a new macbook that runs on air AND a new Rogers iPhone, on the same day, I’m going to be pissed.

Macworld is tomorrow. This is when this year’s new Apple stuff gets announced. And, as usual, the fanbois are completely a-flutter with techno-salacious hype and bluster. Not only is a mac ultraportable on rumour but also [could it be true?] a Rogers iPhone too.
And, if not, some third product, like the future of all human happyness distilled to some impossibly cute white and silver box, shipping now, only $499.

It just so happens unfortunately that I actually need a new portable, and, my trusty but rather ancient Nokia is in need of an upgrade (and, let’s be honest, it was in my hand last saturday but I haven’t seen it for a week).

However, if there’s one universal about macworld, it’s that for each Apple product that is any good, the pre-hype and over-frothing speculation is at LEAST twice as much, so maybe, in the end, my poor Visa come off only half so bad. What are the chances?

The Other problem with iPhone pricing in Canada

We all know about Canadian carrier’s traditionally egregious mobile rates. Well an encouraging story in the Globe today suggests that Apple itself may force Roger’s hand when/if/finally our local GSM giant comes to offer the svelte device in Canada. Word is apple will insist that Rogers offer the iPhone with some sort/any of data plan to the device at least a little more useful than a mobile tea coaster for your Tim Hortons steeped.

HOWEVER the one remaining pricing problem that Rogers could themselves get screwed with is the price of the device itself.

When we last looked, Apple’s stores in Canada still had not updated their Canadian prices to reflect parity with the US dollar. And since then that crazy looney has gone up again (hitting 1.08 today). Meaning apple kit that was 10-12% overpriced in Canada is now 20% overpriced and if you count that you might get away without paying GST if you pick one up south of the border… apple stuff is now about 25% too high in Canada. That’s nuts.

In the US, iPhones are 399. How ready are you to pay a hundred bucks extra in Canada?

(Of course a hundred bucks is just a hundred bucks, the situation is a lot worse if you were itching to buy a macbook pro, or 30″ cinema display or something – like DON’T)

Leopard’s new dock bumps top

OSX Leopard Gets "Inspired" by Bumptop
Video of the new doc in the upcoming MacOS Leopard. I’ve never really liked the dock in OSX. It’s too smug. And I’ve always felt it offers crappy visual feedback on what applications and files are currently open. Expose is excellent way to do exactly this with a single click. BUT I’d like to point out that that the much-maligned Windows taskbar provides highly efficient visual feedback – with zero clicks.

So a redesigned dock, maybe enough to finally get me off my butt and switch? maybe. But if “enhanced 3d reflections!” is the best productivity enhancement they can offer I’d be worried. Aren’t you getting tired of reflections?.

Reflections aren’t the only things that’s new however. Do the new stackable and fanabale “collections” remind you of anything? Poor Anand, some of Leopard is straight out the BumpTop’s demo sensation of 2006. This is the trouble of trying to build a company out of a set of cool features. Especially cool features that are also self-revealing to your would-be customers or competitors*.

*I’m going to assume royalties aren’t being involved here. Then again, has anyone seen this before BumpTop?

Hold on to your dollars

The Canadian Dollar reached parity with the U.S. Greenback yesterday. In on honour of this auspicious day, I thought I’d see how translates for far for tech consumers out there. Comparing prices at Apple.ca and Apple.com. Remember 1CAD = 1USD.

  CAD USD Premium
iPod Touch 329 299 10.0%
iPod Nano 169 149 13.4%
MacBook 1249 1099 13.6%
MacBookPro 2199 1999 10.0%
iMac 1399 1199 7%
iPhone *sigh* 399 Infinity

UPDATE: Given the recent strength in the Loonie has as much to do with a free-falling Dollar, you might imagine that Apple will be as apt to raise their US prices on future products rather than drop prices in Canada. So head south and bargain-shop while you can?

As Lars suggest, keep an eye on the greasy Big Mac to get a sense of how/if cross-border prices will converge.