Nichmarket

Thoughts on Web

Glass

The Google Glass project, in the form of glasses, does not appeal to me just yet. Wearing dorky-looking glasses everywhere is not for me at this stage. I have no doubt, that in a few years, Google Glass(es) will be indistinguishable from regular specs and will then become more attractive as a product to consumers.

However, there may be some more directly accessible markets for Glass, than just “glasses”. The intersections between Glass displays, voice inputs (such as Siri or Google Voice) as well as audio outputs provide fertile ground for interaction and computing development.

Windscreens - Millions of people commute everyday around the world. The windscreen is, for many people, their second most used screen. Trains, planes and automobiles could all benefit from having contextual and relevant heads-up displays with interactive data for the vehicle drivers. Google Glass + Maps + Voice most notably. Motorsports are hugely popular and would be a primary target for this technology, as well as a powerful tool to widely market the product.

(Note: I am not suggesting we watch videos and play games on these screens. But rather, that mapping, stats and dashboard displays get integrated into the windscreen.)

Goggles - Snowboard/ski goggles. Scuba goggles. Motorcycle goggles/helmets, and so forth. The built in cameras and heads up display possibilities for goggles like this are plentiful. It stands to reason that sporting activities, which often make use of goggles of various kinds, provide a solid and willing market for this technology. More so, at this stage, than the general consumer market. The success of the GoPro range of cameras show that addressing the sporting market directly is a viable route.

Medical - Doctors might be another market ripe for a glasses-based interactive model. Heads up displays with voice controls might prove to be very useful for surgeons and doctors as they would be able to access relevant information as it is needed without stopping their current activity. The glasses could also be used to record photographic/video proof and audio observations for medical records. 

Keyboard and mouse interaction provided the backbone for computing interactions for years. Touchscreens, have been hugely disruptive, and are now the new interactive model of choice. As such, it stands to reason that the next wave of disruption will again be on the back of a new interaction model. Having a screen, that is not necessarily a computer screen, with voice controls provides space for development and expansion of computing into non-traditional computing markets such as directly addressing the sporting market. The fact that glass + voice allows, a hands-free model, which neither keyboard/mouse or touch can give, provides potential.

With sports becoming increasingly stats obsessed, inherently visual, live and watched primarily through video. This is an opportunity for Google to move into this space. In both the broadcast sense, as it would bring the viewer into the player’s world. It would provide the player, or competitor with information they have not previously had access to. Wearable computing has its most practical and marketable application in sport along with the recording, broadcasting and statistical wealth it provides. Google has shown that mapping, stats, search and video are some of it’s primary strengths. Glass provides direct access to a willing market that is currently not occupied by competitors of Google’s stature and seemingly aligns with their strengths. Sports is also the darling of advertising, which is Google’s primary business model.   

One thing though - please, no ads while I am driving or snowboarding!

Windows 9?

Windows 8. Consumers may bite. Companies, larger ones at least, will tend to wait for Windows 9. That is, if there is a Windows 9…

(For argument’s sake - say Windows 8 tanks and Windows 9 takes years to come to market. What happens to Microsoft in a post-PC world, where the PCs don’t even have Windows?)

Mass production

RIP Sparrow. And all the indie software that has gone before it.

There are many people complaining online that Sparrow’s developers “sold out” and now various people cannot expect anymore from their beloved email client. There have been thoughtful pieces by the likes of Marco Arment, Matt Gemmel and Nilay Patel. I would however, like to take another stab at it. 

Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft et al are the mass producers of the tech world. The story of the indie developer is the story of the independent farmer or the independent store. Jack Pixel makes his money selling his app to customers. Apple makes its money selling hardware. This means Apple’s app can be be given away for free. Google’s bread is buttered by advertising, so Google also offers it for free. So every Tom, Dick and Harry chooses Apple and Google’s apps over Jack’s. Jack does not make enough money, so he goes to work at Google so he can actually make money doing something he enjoys rather than fight the market.

Mass production by massive companies allows economy of scale to take root and the Goliath of the industry is able to replicate and root out smaller players and attract market share by their “good enough”, (usually) lower price offerings. When you buy something from a chain store, you buy it cheaper, but not necessarily better. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying anything about the aforementioned tech companies quality of product. I am just saying that large companies have created an unrealistic expectation of what something costs to the customer. That price is then what the customer gets used to and then it is tough for indie developers to maintain a business at a higher price on the basis of smaller scale, with less resources and fewer users than a large behemoth can. 

So really, the problem is with the production line. Indie developers need to be able to charge for the value the software is really worth. Not what large tech companies provide it for. And customers need to be willing to shell out for it.

To my mind it is a similar scenario to the choice you make when you go eat a burger. Do I go to the independent burger joint where they make homestyle burgers that taste like burgers should and pay more for it? Or do I stop by McDonald’s? 

The sad answer is that most people, the majority of the market, will go to McDonald’s. 

McDonald’s makes heaps of cash. Indy Joe’s Burger Joint probably makes enough to get by and Joe keeps going because he covers his costs, enjoys the lifestlye and would not change it for the cash he would make selling Happy Meals. 

Great Expectations

There have been quite a few posts online indicating that people are disappointed that Apple did not announce an iPhone 5 yesterday. So what?

The iPhone 4 is the best selling smartphone in the market, followed by the iPhone 3GS. Those phones are now under $100 and free respectively. Apple is going to sell a ton of them. Nevermind how many of the iPhone 4S they will sell.  

As for fanboys, tech enthusiasts and investors being disappointed. Get real. The new iPhone has great specs, is improved in every way possible AND it has iOS 5. So what if the phone doesn’t have a new shape?
A new shape would only have housed the same specs and OS had it been announced yesterday.

Like John Gruber says of Apple:

"It’s a slow and steady process of continuous iterative improvement"

And the iPhone 4S is another one of those improvements.

The only expectations that have not been managed are those of the tech news and blogs industry. They make a living off feeding the rumour mill, writing speculative tripe and pushing expectation to boiling point. No doubt, had an iPhone 5 been announced, they would have started the speculation and rumours about what is coming in the iPhone 6 immediately (and then be disappointed when it is not announced). 

Chances are, Apple is going to sell more phones than ever before.

Update: Chances are… looking good

Touching on Adobe

There seems to be good news coming from Adobe MAX 2011 with the announcements of new acquisitions and new applications. However, I have a few thoughts regarding this. 

Now that Adobe has Touch apps, what price are they going to be sold for?

Adobe makes its money by selling hugely expensive Creative Suite licenses to users. In an increasingly mobile and post-pc world, where users pay far less for applications. How does Adobe’s business model adapt from selling licenses worth hundreds/thousands of dollars to selling apps that cost a couple bucks? *

Adobe’s flagship product, Flash, is in decline (Flex/Air along with it)

I am sure Flash will still have it’s place, such as in online gaming sites and visually spectacular websites, but increasingly it will become a niche product. This means, as always, that Photoshop will remain the bread and butter of the company, and InDesign and Illustrator will prop it up. Dreamweaver is bloated and sub-standard and most coders have already moved elsewhere. Fireworks is interesting, but I know very few people that have ever used it. Of course Premiere still lies in the background, but even though Final Cut copped a lot of flack for the last version, I doubt Premiere has picked up the slack. As for Adobe’s other products…please. 

And what of Creative Suite?

This brings the Creative Suite pricing back into question, Photoshop is a widely used application and will remain so. But Flash/Flex is increasingly niche and un-attractive to the mainstream. InDesign is print only. Premiere is video only, but not the go-to product. And the still in prototype HTML5 animation suite, Adobe Edge is still an unknown quantity. So this leaves the question, where is Adobe’s cash coming from?

Photoshop is the one “must have” application they have. Followed by Illustrator, which many can do without. So now Adobe are looking at selling a weakened and increasingly diversified Creative Suite. Or selling individual products bundled with Photoshop instead of selling Creative Suites.  And they are selling their apps at mobile app prices. (Granted, I doubt Photoshop Touch would be seriously considered as a replacement for Photoshop by any serious users.)

Users may still be happy to shell out for large CS license, but the further Adobe applications decline, the less user will want to pay for applications they do not use, or can substitute with cheaper alternatives. 

Head in the clouds

Moving into the cloud, is a good idea. But with Google, Amazon, iCloud and Dropbox commanding most of user’s attention and storage space. Where is the attraction to users? And more importantly, where is the benefit to Adobe’s bottom line?
From what I understand, iCloud is not going to be a money-spinner for Apple. Amazon basically gives it’s storage away and Google makes it’s money from advertising, not storage. Dropbox is the only one out of those that makes it’s money from the cloud. 

Another thought is, is this CreativeCloud going to be powered by Flash/Air? If so, Adobe are truly still resisting change since that will continue to force Adobe users to install FlashPlayer in their browsers, and who knows how they will connect from iOS and Metro devices. 

And lastly, while Adobe rules the roost with Photoshop. They still provide horrible web experiences as highlighted by Jeffrey Zeldman in his humorous post on trying to download Photoshop. 

*Note: I don’t know what Adobe will charge for these new apps, but if current apps are anything to go by. They aren’t going to be anywhere near what they have traditionally charged. 

Brilliant and unexpected

Mashable reports that Facebook’s new advertising strategy is brilliant and unexpected. 

Hmm… Brilliant. Yes. Unexpected. No.

The fact that they are continually trying to improve their advertising platform is most definitely expected. 

How else is Facebook going to make money? 

The brilliance is that the new brand pages and metric systems are not the advertising strategy. The real advertising strategy is getting everyone on Facebook to share more information about themselves and their habits. That way, Facebook can more accurately pinpoint users that might actually buy the advertisers’ products.

Basically, the brilliant part is getting Facebook users to adhere to Zuckerberg’s “Law of Sharing”.

Gamechanger

Yahoo! and ABC News have struck a deal according to GigaOm. Ben Sherwood, president of ABC News calls it a “gamechanger”. 

Please explain to me what is gamechanging about a deal to provide web-only video content? That’s like a print publication saying that a “paywall” is inventive. 

By this web-only video content, do they mean “stuff we don’t want to put on TV”?
In the article it is noted:

"Diane Sawyer, the anchor for World News Tonight, said she was excited about the opportunities the deal provides to channel some of the reporting that doesn’t show up on ABC News”

- Emphasis added

And while we are on the topic, anyone that uses the word “gamechanger” should be fired on the spot.

Note: Matthew Ingram has a few things to say about this over at GigaOm.

An alternative

Amazon’s new Kindle Fire is the first real ‘alternative’ to the iPad. Thus far, it is the only other tablet out there that answers “Yes” to the question. “Would I seriously consider buying this?”

Note: The irony of it is that even though the answer may be ‘Yes’. You can’t even ask the question (yet) if you are outside of the USA. 

Not quite the mother of all Apple competitors

Cult of Mac posted an article saying that, with Facebook’s new media partnerships and sharing options, Facebook is now - the mother of all Apple competitors. 

I disagree. Until Facebook produces some best selling hardware, how exactly is Facebook competing with Apple? People connect to Facebook VIA Apple products. 

True, as a media platform it brings Facebook in competition with Apple’s media platform. But Apple’s business is not media, it is selling hardware. Looking at it that way, one should say Facebook is now directly in competition with Google - for advertising spend. But again, until Facebook puts a device in the user’s hands, Apple will still benefit from Facebook’s popularity. 

What the media partnerships do, is increase Facebook’s competition with Google. The more information Facebook has about your media habits, the more attractive Facebook becomes to advertisers and companies pushing their own media platforms.

Note: The article also mentions that -

"Apple’s success in the last 10 years has all been about changing how people create and consume media and content".

This is true, but Apple does not do this to sell more media. That is a side effect. Apple does this to sell more products by differentiating itself from competitors and giving consumers a compelling reason to buy their products. By delivering a new and unique experience. 

Double dipping

You can no longer sign up for Spotify using an email account. You have to use or create a Facebook account. So basically, they want you to pay for a service that is being paid for by advertisers. Double dipping? Seems to me like Spotify wants to have their cake and eat it too. While I don’t like this, we can expect this trend to continue…

Spotify is selling their customers out full time now. Facebook is paid for by advertisers buying our information and habits. There is no way I would pay for a service AND be served ads. Like Jack White sang: “You can’t be a pimp and prostitute too.”