Why Apple won’t make an iPhone for the masses

Don’t go looking in the detailed cost breakdowns.  Sure, Apple has plenty of profit margin to shave off the iPhone.  They could sell one for $150 and still make a profit better than most.  But it is not in the market share figures either.   And it isn’t some complicated marketing reason, anything about a premium brand and the Apple aura.  The reason that Apple doesn’t go downmarket in price to attract a greater market share is actually much more simple:

They can’t suppport it.

If you have ever played the Mac vs PC game, there are a few trump cards.  Mac users always (rightly) claim superior design and good looks.  PC users however often ask their graphic designer opponent something closer to home:  “…and what OS does the computer you are doing your company’s accounts run?”  Outside the US and UK the answer is usually Windows.  “What company makes the OS on your medium sized companies’ servers?”   That won’t be Apple either.  In fact I have yet to find any compelling proof that even Apple Inc itself runs any heavy duty work of its own on machines made by Apple.  (If you have evidence to the contrary, please drop a comment at the end of this article.)

Apple’s famous ecosystem doesn’t run on Apple servers.  While Google leads the planet in data center design and software economies, while they pioneer efficient energy usage and blazing speed in every transaction, Apple is very very far behind.  And then some.   This is a company that couldn’t even support it’s own emailing system properly, not even for die hard fans was it good enough.  Apple buys capacity from others.  This is a company that basically rebrands other people’s technology, they have no idea how to design a system as elegant in it’s massive scale as Amazon’s server infrastructure.  Others are breaking new groung in improving databases and every aspect of computer transactions while Apple plays around buying patents and suing.

So how exactly would Apple support us if the entire planet started using iPhones and iPads?  While they are all just playing games and – literally – twiddling their thumbs on their touch screens, things hold up.  If they all started looking for serious infrastructure support, if they started actually trying to work online concurrently, the system would crash and the lawsuits would start.  Apple would have to announce a partnership with someone like Google or Amazon to scale up quickly.

We can all find bones to pick with Microsoft but this is a company that has made sure that roughly 90% of the planet’s personal computers and a lot of its servers actually work and exchange software, files and information for the past two decades pretty well.  I can take the accounting software I used on MS Dos, stick it in the latest PC off the shelf and run it.  It will even support an amazing selection of the planet’s hardware and accessories.

So don’t hold your breath.  If Apple wants to take market share, I look forward to hearing about it’s robust infrastructure first.  Doing business in regions where most people won’t actually use anything “smart” online on their smartphoen doesn’t cut it.  Unless Tim Cook just goes ahead anyway and admits it:  “we don’t make the fastest or safest browser, we don’t even control Apple computer hardware ourselves really, heck, we in fact we outsource all our infrastructure.  Get a life!  Apple isn’t about superior technology, it is about the user experience.”

Business Society

Let’s make a website and hide the fact that we are Greek

It is a great website.  The English is correct.  The vibe is right.  The concept isn’t ground breaking but on the right path.  So why should it hide the fact that it is Greek?  There is no “about us”.  No physical adress.  If you look hard, in the blog section, there is mention of a “name” and a brief, very vague bio.  And based on this information they want me to shell out 3-4 thousand euro?

It is a very common chorus in Greece these days.  Everyone starts a business conversation with the mantra “forget the Greek market” followed by some idea of  how to sell abroad.  Which is nearly always half baked.  Getting a truly global angle isn’t easy.  I had written some time ago about how the traditional Greek family business should emulate the German model.  Thinking it and doing it are two very different things.  The current crisis in Greece will take at least a generation to get over.  There has to be a generation of people that grow up and decide what to do in the world with no other option than an international market.

Meanwhile the ministry of tourism and the prime minister debate rebranding Greece as “Hellas”.  As if they can.

Using the internet to try out a business idea is a valid strategy.  Some are really good.  Nice branding, great website, good vibe,  content that works for Google…  But a real brand has a real home.  Be Greek and be proud.  You’re not going to convince anyone to buy otherwise and it will end up as yet another big Greek Ego exercise.  Which is great if somebody else is paying the bill.

They are not.


Note: The initial post contained reference to a website which I incorrectly claimed had no Greek address ;   it actually does have Greek information.   I just didn’t see it, must have been the position.  The gist of the article is valid, I just removed the specific reference.

Business Technology

Software features the industry forgot

Everyone in the software industry knows how fickle users can be.  One wants it this way, one the other.  Everyone thinks that the interface or the features they need at this moment are what is most important.  Almost nobody really knows everything that the software can do, yet opinions are all over the place.   Somewhere there is a company guru (if you haven’t fired him) that knows the ins and outs, that has met many users, that has seen crazy applications.  But most of the time, everyone works the software in the “wrong” way.  You are clicking six times when you could automate it down to two.  “If you download the latest version and learn how to use that new menu properly….”

But of course, users don’t care.  They just want to get their jobs done.  Quickly and easily.  Without having to learn new things.  So even saturated product segments can be shaken up.   Here are two examples:

Media Player.   Settled matter isn’t it?  Windows Media Player, Quicktime, VLC…what more can we add to this simple software?   Here is one simple feature that would get me installing at the drop of a hat:  instant delete.  I get given loads of MP3 files.  Or I experiment with new types of music.   As I listen to a song I either like it (keeper) or don’t (delete).  I want one button to do it.  No, I don’t want to stick tags, or stars or rate it to delete later.  I want to send it to the Underworld of music not worth listening to ever again.  I listened for 5, 10 or 30 seconds and I don’t want to waste any more time with it.  Sure, the main use is for people downloading illegally.   Or with friends that download illegally.   But if that is how I like to occasionally listen to the Top40 (I usually weed that down to 3-4 songs that are bearable) that is the software I want.

A similar example would be photo management.  Here more companies seem to see the sense in a new interface paradigm.   I shoot huge files with my digital camera, even if it is not in RAW.  And then I want to do something with them.  So I have to resize them, edit them individually, stick together whichever pics were meant as a panorama, hide the faces of any friends or relatives that don’t want to be on the internet, watermark them… it is a lot of work.  Get some technology to do this automatically in “good enough” way please.  Locally, on my hard disk.  Most of the planet doesn’t enjoy broadband speeds and even if you do, uploading everything at full resolution isn’t usually the way to go.   Sure I could write macro commands….macro what?  We are in the age of simplicity.  Users are twiddling their thumbs at phones and tablets.  Just get it done.  If you wan’t to stick it on the back of Google Instant Upload or Facebook’s latest attempt at convincing me to trust them with all my pictures, fine.

These features may seem minor to a seasoned software developer.  It is a fad, you are just one user, you can do it in a million different ways already with other software, it isn’t really our main focus….etc.  But even I, the man who keeps his work computer carefully maintained for top speed and as uncluttered as possible, would probably install a new software to get them done.    User interface isn’t the thing anymore.  I am looking for a digital slave.