Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The cloud : freedom or enslavement ?

Enslaved to ?

Cloud companies (Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Android and others). They own you and your personal information if you are a person.

If you are an organization/company some/all of your key processes depend on your cloud provider(s) performance. The more you use it, the more you depend on it and ... the more it costs.

They can (and they will) change the contract anytime without your consent...

Freedom from ?

  • legacy companies that produce(d) legacy PC and legacy proprietary software like Microsoft, Adobe, Oracle, etc.

  • a specific device and operating system or browser (you can access your data from any-device anywhere in the world if ... you are connected on the Internet). Beauty of standardization !

  • the expertise needed to understand and manage your IT. Everyone is a cloud expert these days (hint : the true experts work in the field with real servers, real OS and ... a real understanding of IT).

Any thought on this ? What does the cloud free you from ? Are you enslaved by the cloud ?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

iPad mini : copycat / end of innovation for Apple ?

The Myth of Innovation

Innovation does not occurs alone.  There is no "epiphany" and no "Eureka" moment. There is no lone inventor that revolutionize an industry. All this is a myth as was Steve Jobs and Apple mystical innovation aura.

Please refer to the excellent book by Scott Berkun : The Myth Of Innovation if you want detailed proof. In order for an innovation to succeed, it has to be perceived as original and, like war, the winner is rewriting history to produce a nice and convincing narrative. Winning, these days, means being the dominant brand in your category. Sometimes it can be extravagant (Facebook), sometimes it can look like a religion (Apple, Open Source, etc.).

Our brain is cabled to like simplistic and logical stories that explains otherwise very complex systems : we thrive simplicity and we don't like complex subjects that are in shade of grays. We want simple solutions to complex problems and, more than anything, we want to be convinced that ... we are right !

Marketers know it very well and use this each time they interact with a potential customer. They create for us a nice magical story that we can relate to (that our simple brain _want_ to believe) and integrate into our library of (simple) knowledge. If it works well, we will buy their product. If it work very well, we will be convinced that their service or product offering is unique. It is the only product/service that can satisfy us : others are false gods, they don't innovate, they can only copy our brand and, as such, they can not satisfy us.

Don't make me wrong : Steve Jobs was a genius. A pure marketing and financial one. He created a distribution platform (iTunes) and various readers (iPod, iPhone, iMac, iPad, iMini, etc.) that were used to sell content. As a pure intermediary between the consumer and the producer (music, movies, TV, apps, etc.) he was able to secure contracts where Apple will cash 30% of the whole sale. This is genius and great entrepreneurship !

The iPad mini : the first reactive move from Apple (in recent history)

I don't doubt the iPad mini is a great product. They all are. However, I really believe this will mark a turning point. I have use a 7 inch tablet for years (samsung galaxy IIRC) and for month a Nexus 7 from ASUS/Google. Amazon has produce its kindle for month.

In short : Apple competition already have taken the market by storm. And Apple has been forced to react.


Interesting change. Of course, massive afficionados, tech-media and mass-media will be the first one to stress that "the others" don't target "exactly the same market" that "they have superior characteristics" (RAM, CPU, etc.) but ... we can expect to have a better experience on the mini (well, the fact is those authors did'nt even test it!). Of course, the "Retina display" is not present but ... that's OK. Remember, it target a "different market".

Apple : big bang of big crunch ?

All in all I really think this is a tipping point for Apple : what is the advantage of their most recent products ?

For the first time, even tech-media and mass-media started to look around and were forced to compare the latest version (iPhone5, ipad mini) to the competition. And in each case, the customer benefit was not ... clear. In each case, we were back to very weak differentiation factors (CPU, resolution, size [7.9 inch is a great innovation, it is way better than ... 7 inch. Really ?]).

For previous product launch, Apple always introduce real value for their customers. For their last two products it was not the case. None of them were really disruptive or "innovating" as we like to label things. They were incremental improvement and were driven by market and shareholders pressure instead of the desire to produce a great innovation.

I really believe that Apple produces both the iPad mini and the iPhone5 because of extrinsic motivation namely shareholder pressure and expectation. They yield to external pressure instead of internal need to do the best product and to innovate. They started to become mainstream and to produce regular product.

Of course, mainstreaming is not what your customer want, especially the Apple customers. They are paying a premium for something premium. They are paying a premium for each bit of data, for each piece of software and for each piece of content (remember the 30% ?).


The open ecosystem of Android/Linux dominate officially the smartphone and tablet market. Even for a single manufacturer, Samsung is taking the lead out of Apple (number of unit, not yet sales or profit). Android is the new PC while Apple looks more and more like an Amiga or ... an Apple II. More integrated (only one company) and maybe superior for this reason but with no capacity whatsoever to target all the markets that Android targets right now (rugged, secure, low end, high end, embedded in a running treadmill, 5 inch, 7 inch, 8 inch, etc.)).

With these two new product (iPhone5 and iPad mini), Apple looses its mojo, mainly because it yields to external pressure (shareholders). Apple _had_ to present new products in order to reach its target and fuel its expected growth. For the first time, even Apple-convinced customers have to look at a detailed technical specification instead of enjoying a "unique experience". Nothing unique in these two releases...

This could be the beginning of the end for Apple because, its huge market capitalization is based on the premises of future growth. It inflated very fast and, like most bubble, it could deflate even faster especially given the current financial crisis and mad expectations of the surviving investors.

All in all, I really think that open ecosystems have way better chance of success because they can adapt and create various products, including for "niche" market (please see "the long tail" by Chris Anderson for more on this) while a mainstream and proprietary vendor will always be challenged by competitors on his market but also by a myriad of smaller competitor that address very specific needs and markets.

Open ecosystem fuels innovation because the entry cost is way lower : trial and errors happens at a much faster pace and, nobody being "in control", it increase competitions as new challengers can rise very fast (Samsung is the current leader but you can expect LG, ASUS, Huawei and others to ... innovate at a furious pace to reach the summit). This benefit the customer that has more choice and pay a lower price for the same (or even better!) service.