iPad growth curve: I have run out of superlatives

Lovely visualisation by Horace Dediu @asymco

It’s hard to appreciate how popular the iPad is until you see it compared to its peers. In the same time frame, the iPad has completely obliterated the amazing success of the iPod and the fantastic success of the iPhone. At this point, I have run out of superlatives.

ePubs and iBooks and whether we care about the EULA.

I took a couple of days to digest the iBooks Author news – to see what the fuss was about and form my own opinions in a timely fashion. I even took time to hoover in all of the opinion on the industry which, on the side of the creators, seems largely positive and on the side of the publishers, seems largely negative.

iBooks Author enables normal folk to create some amazing content. It enables the embedding of HTML widgets, the inclusion of presentation decks, 3D models, pictures, text – in fact – everything you’d want in a book or a magazine, and previously had to pay for an individual app. But one issue, these extra features won’t work in any competing ePub reader because they’re exclusive to iBooks.

From Nameless Horror: iBooks Author Rage

Apple claim no ownership of the product (there’s the standard “we reserve the right to reject and/or pull your book from the store” but that’s no different to any other e-store or bricks ‘n mortar outlet; you don’t have a right to be sold). Your copyright is unaffected. There is nothing whatsoever (so far as I can see) stopping you from taking the same content, assembling a different epub edition in a different program, of which there are plenty (though I’ve not found one that handles this level of designed-for-touch-device interaction and prettiness quite so easily

Obviously some folk are up in arms. Ed Bott, particularly, calls Apple “evil” and “greedy” but I’m failing to understand why he’s so incensed. Apple supports ePub formats, they continue to make the best reader of this cross-platform format on any platform.

All we’re waiting for is someone to create “ePub Author”.

So, two things.

  1. Why didn’t Apple create ePub Author? (and why are people upset about this?)
  2. Why hasn’t anyone created ePub Author? (and why are people not upset about this?)

The world hasn’t had much success in getting open standards out there. I mean, HTML is a standard and look at the mess we’ve had to endure for the last twenty years. And yes, the W3C can rail all they want about the proprietary extensions that make “iBooks” differ from “Epub” but do we have to think about why no-one has made an ePub Author app that doesn’t suck? You can get ePubs out of InDesign and out of Pages but if you want great results, you’re hand-coding the bits and pieces. And that’s not going to make anyone happy.

The big issue for some seems to be the EULA which demands a level of control over the output of the software. That is, they give you a tool for free to create great iBooks, which you can give away for free or sell for less the $15 on the store they’ll set up for you. This not only undercuts a shedload of publishers but also sets a precedent for the pricing. If $15 is the top price, eBooks just got a hell of a lot more affordable. That’s gotta be good for the market and, if Apple is only taking 30% of cover, it’s a lot better for the author as well. Speaking from experience here.

Some folk have compared this to, say, Microsoft demanding control of the output of Microsoft Word which would be a valid comparison if Apple had a monopoly share of the operating systems, a monopoly share of the word processing market, charged several hundred quid for iBooks Author and pushed the iBooks format as a standard across all devices, platforms and organisations. Which, of course, it doesn’t. On any level.

Some people pointed out that Apple has a monopoly share of the tablet market. Which, again, I’d have to say they don’t. They just have a large share of the profits and a pretty good share of shipments. But there were 87-odd tablets announced at CES in 2011 and I’m sure that some of them are selling, somewhere to someone.

Some folk are determined to blame Apple for breaking their expectations that the company would release an amazing ePub editor. Not only that – but that would allow folk to build sparkly ePubs on a Mac using a free tool, glittering with Apple Awesome Sauce and sell them for any price on Android. In any sane version of the world, this does not work. Apple has no interest in promoting Android – they’re much more likely to promote Windows Phone 7 than Android, truth be told. And they’ve no interest in promoting you and your product unless it coincides with their own aims: making the Mac, the iPad and the iPhone the world leaders in great products.

You want to make great ePubs and sell them anywhere? Apple still provides probably the best ePub reader on any platform, for free, to about 300 million customers on iOS. Customers who don’t mind paying for content. And you can deploy on Android and wherever else has an ePub reader. It’s a standard so there must be millions of them. All you have to do is hand-roll the ePubs yourself. Stop stop whinging and get stuck in.

But for the average punter? iBooks just works. And the iBooks available through iBooks Author (though there doesn’t seem to be a solution for iPhone) will be fine considering the number of iPads out there. As a consumer of eBook formats, iBooks delivers – as does Kindle. I don’t recall the outcry when Kindle didn’t support the ePub standard?

There are predators in the water

Apple has released another advertisement for the iPad which again takes us away from the “DUAL CORE”, “1 GB RAM” or showing people skipping (?!!!??!?!)

Apple are, of course, focusing on the apps. Apps for everything. I just read a thread on a sailing forum about whether to bring a laptop or an iPad as an onboard computing tool and the overwhelming replies were about the iPad. Only one respondent recommended a laptop and only one recommended an Android tablet. It is all about the apps.

Apple has successfully managed to avoid competitor comparisons. The closest we’ve seen has been the recent “Not an iPhone” series which divides the world into two sections: iPhone and Not iPhone.

This is essentially how the tablet market will play out. Apple will continue to buy up huge amounts of components and manufacturing for their huge shipments while competitors will be competing not only for marketshare and mindshare but for components and manufacturing – and not just against Apple but against every other manufacturer. I read today of a new Indian-sourced Honeycomb tablet on the market. The competitor for that tablet is the PlayBook, the Web OS tablet offering, the other Android tablets. Those are the predators in the water.

I don’t have a good animal kingdom simile here but it’s a bit like a Great White Shark in the water with a few hundred Piranhas. The Piranhas would love to eat the Shark but they can’t. They can only eat the scraps the Shark leaves and if one of their number gets hurt or shows weakness, they eat him too.

Lest we forget, Apple’s “old” iPod has still yet to be unseated as the music player of choice. Maybe music is old hat now but you have to imagine that it’s still a money maker for the Cupertino giant. Apple wasn’t a giant in 2001 when the iPod was released and all of their hungry, predatory competitors failed to destroy them. Instead they let them build an ecosystem, an entire new OS branch, a software store and still, ten years later, nothing has managed to destroy the iPod. Except maybe the iPod touch.

So what makes the pundits think that the now, after Apple reporting unprecedented growth for umpteen quarters, they’re going to just disappear?

What market is next for ‘i’ treatment?

Does anyone remember what the mobile market was like before the iPhone?

Kontra, author of the counternotions blog does.

Remembrance of Things Past
So for a more reasoned perspective, let us take a breath and remember what the world was like before Apple introduced the iPhone:

  1. Carriers ruled the industry with an iron fist
  2. To access carriers’ networks handset makers capitulated everything
  3. Carriers dictated phone designs, features, apps, prices, marketing, advertising and branding
  4. Phones were reduced to cheap, disposable lures for carriers’ service contracts
  5. There was no revenue sharing between carriers and manufacturers
  6. There was no notion of phone networks becoming dumb pipes anytime soon
  7. Affordable, unlimited data plans as standard were unheard of
  8. A phone that would entice people to switch networks by the millions was a pipe dream
  9. Mobile devices were phones first and last, not usable handheld computers
  10. Even the smartest phones didn’t have seamless WiFi integration
  11. Without Visual Voice Mail, messages couldn’t be managed non-linearly
  12. There were no manufacturer owned and operated on-the-phone application stores as the sole source
  13. An on-the-phone store having 65,000 apps downloaded nearly 2 billion times was not on anyone’s radar screen
  14. Low-cost, high-volume app pricing strategy with a 70/30 split didn’t exist
  15. Robust one-click in-app transactions were unknown
  16. There was no efficient, large scale, consistent and lucrative mobile app market for developers large and small
  17. Buttons, keys, joysticks, sliders…anything but the screen was the focus of phones
  18. Phones didn’t come with huge 3.5″ touch screens
  19. Pervasive multitouch, gesture-based UI was science fiction
  20. Actually usable, multi-language, multitouch virtual keyboards on phones didn’t exist
  21. Integrated sensors like accelerometers and proximity detectors had no place in phones
  22. Phones could never compete in 3D/gaming with dedicated portable consoles
  23. iPod-class audio/video players on mobiles didn’t exist
  24. No phone had ever offered a desktop-like web browser experience
  25. Sophisticated SDKs and phones were strangers to each other

If you remember what the MP3 music and player market was like before iPod?

  • Dozens of models with awful interfaces (I had a Thomson Lyra)
  • Half a dozen lame ways of loading your music (I had a Thomson Lyra)
  • Slow slow slow loading of music over serial (I had a Thomson Lyra)
  • Tiny amounts of storage in tiny devices (I had a Thomson Lyra)
  • Large amounts of storage in big clunky devices (I ‘m looking at you Archos)
  • Cross encoding into proprietary music formats (I had a Thomson Lyra)
  • Battery life counted in minutes (I had a Thomson Lyra)
  • Shoddy plastics, serial ports (I had a Thomson Lyra)
  • Expensive subscription models for proprietary tat.
  • One device eligible for use with bought music (I had a Thomson Lyra)
  • Zero music portability (I had a Thomson Lyra)
  • And the list goes on. (Did I mention I had a Thomson Lyra)

So Apple revolutionised this market with the iPod, just as they have recently done the same with the mobile market. What market should they change next?

The Tablet market, no?

Getting the media into my head.

I only listen to one podcast at the moment and working through their back catalogue takes some time (I’m currently at the end of 2006 to give you an idea). Each of their episodes is around 1 hour long and the journey to work takes about 25 minutes so I am grinding my way through them at around one episode per work day. It’ll take me the next two months just to get to 2008 on their list. Seems daunting.

I mostly listen while driving as it has the right amount of ‘automatic behaviours’ so that my mind can listen to what is being said. I find that when I’m in the office I can only really listen to music in the background and not podcasts otherwise I can’t take anything in. Perhaps this is the problem men have with multi-tasking hitting me after all – and I thought I was immune 🙂

I also can’t listen when I’m at home due to distractions, family wanting to talk to me and the desire to do something more constructive with my time – like write or pore over these programming books until something sticks in my head.

I’m not sure I have there bandwidth to take anything new on.

The Third Party Application Market on Phones and PDAs

On my Newton, I downloaded maybe 20 apps. I bought two over the wire. I even bought one in a retail package.

On my Palm vX, I bought two apps. A Paris City Guide and a VT100 Terminal app.

On my other phones and devices between then and now I’ve downloaded two apps. One was a Telnet/SSH client for my SonyEricsson K800i which was so bad that I never used it and certainly never bought it.

The other was yesterday when I bought and downloaded Sonic the Hedgehog for my 5G iPod (the one I have donated to the kids, secure in a iFrogz Tadpole wrap).

I’m beginning to think that, based on my experience, the third party application market on Phones and PDAs might be a bit of a sham. I’ve spent hundreds of pounds on software for my Mac so I’m not averse to spending a bit of cash when something catches my eye.

The logic remains. I’ve only bought software for 3 devices. My Newton, my Palm vX and my iPod. Not one purchase for any of my phones in the past.

I think this is what will make the big difference in the PDA market. I think we’ll see an explosion of sales for the iPhone in third party applications even with the premium Apple will demand for signing.

Microsoft reviews the iPhone: “a lousy iPod”

Is it a qualification or essential criteria to be an idiot if you work in the higher echelons of Microsoft?

From the NYTimes, J. Allard, chief of Microsoft’s competing Zune unit whines about the iPhone:

It’s a lousy iPod. You can’t skip a track without looking at it. You can’t go running with the thing. It is the first consumer product that has done browsing [on a cellphone] extremely well.

Actually J, if you double-click the little headphone switch on the iPhone, it forwards one track. You can do this with one hand. And no eyes.

I’d heard the one about not running with scissors but….can’t run with the iPhone?

Microsoft brings out two music players by themselves and they think they can comment? Apple has FIVE. Shuffle, Nano, Classic, Touch, iPhone. You’d have to be Golgafringian to not find one that fits your specific niche.

Wireless carriers kept Microsoft from making good phone software.

Er, right. Who stopped Microsoft from making good desktop software?

The fact is that there was nothing to copy. Microsoft did well with a GUI eventually by copying Apple. They build Windows mobile by copying themselves. Of course it was going to be a disaster. Don’t believe me? What do you get if you put a turd in a photocopier?

This is a plain cop-out.

We didn’t create the Zune because we were dying to get into the hardware business and take inventory risk. We felt we had to do it.

Because you’d tried killing the iPod with the “PlaysForSure” brand and that didn’t work. So you made a handheld that wasn’t compatible with “PlaysForSure” and screwed over your old partners.

See. That’s what happens when you base your lifeblood on Redmond. They screwed Creative, Napster, Yahoo, Real and dozens of other “partners” who bought the party line. Did they honestly think it would play out any differently? When Microsoft enters your market, best thing to do is change markets.

I think it’s funny that they’re not denying the possibility of entering the phone market with more than just software. Wanna bet?

Make hay while the sun shines, guys.

Microsoft has still declined to release the Zune outside the US. That’s because there’s no way anyone outside the US would actually buy it.

Windows was incredible. We got to create most of the magic and take none of the financial risk.

Are we meant to ADMIRE you for this? Going back to the earlier statement of why you couldn’t make good phone software? Who was stopping you from making Windows good? Was it simply that you didn’t have to because there were a million idiots who’d buy it anyway?

Playing all of you for fools.

Remember this is J Allard. Don’t know him?

One of these pictures was taken before he got to work on the cool stuff. Wanna bet they used Windows Live Search for “image consultant”.