Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Meg, HP, and Phones

Recall the concern when HP first screwed up PCs?  No, it wasn't in 2011 versus Lenovo, or 2002 vs Dell and should HP buy Compaq, or in 1996 for the great Platt/Roelandts vs Hackborn shootout, or 1990 vs. Dell, or 1986 vs Compaq or even 1984 vs the Mac, it goes back to the HP 85 from Corvallis.  Nonetheless, the key thing is that HP persisted, and eventually found a winning combo.

Wining, that is, if you figure that a $50B revenue line annually with some profit has been a good idea.

The key thing for many people all along the continuum was HOW CAN HP BE A COMPUTER COMPANY LEADER if it doesn't have a leading PC.

Echoes of that argument surface perennially now with Apple owning the smart Phone market and the iPad market.  "We must have one" is the mantra from Meg on down.

BUT, recall my post of 4/13/13 where I quoted Meg being quoted in England, saying:
Second, re mobile devices, Meg bristled a bit, and said, first of all, we're a factor now in multi-purpose laptop/tablets (e.g. the top comes off and it becomes a tablet -- see my blog last week re the Ultra Envy II), and 'we're a factor in tablets with our new Android Slate 7 (I must have missed the market splash on this one somehow).  But the new news is that "while we're intent on having a smart phone, we haven't yet figured out how to do that without being a 'me-too' player" which contradicts her statements a few weeks ago at the SF analyst briefings.  Good for her for 'fessing up, and great to hear that she doesn't intend to play 'me-too' just to be 'in the space'.

Here's the issue.  Yesterday Apple announced two new iPhones.  Neither was noteworthy; in fact, most reviews initially were tepid.  And the drumbeats for months now have said, Apple's lost its mojo, with Jobs dead and Cook asleep.   But HP didn't announce a phone.  And in Wired, one astute journalist saw something in the Apple announcements that I find significant.  In fact, VERY SIGNIFICANT.  And HP could have led with these kinds of innovations and gotten back in the fray.  They've had all of this technology for a very long time.  They don't however seem any longer to have the mojo, do they?

To wit, here are Vanhemert's first two (of four) points, with my emphasis in BLUE, and my observations in RED:

4 Big Ideas in the New iPhones That No One’s Talking About

Yesterday, Apple had its annual iPhone bonanza. On one hand, it was the biggest announcement since the original iPhone. Today, for the first time ever, there are two iPhones. At the same time, though, the event held few surprises. The colorful iPhone 5C had been unveiled prematurely by a flurry of leaks, and the iPhone 5S, with its gold flavor and fingerprint sensor, had been similarly sniffed out. Still, in the finer points and features of these new products, Apple is laying the groundwork for its future as a company–and, potentially, the future of mobile computing. Here’s what we’re reading in the tea leaves.

The Power to Personalize

The iPhone 5C, a phone which Jony Ive called “beautifully, unapologetically plastic,” was assumed to be a foray into cheaper territory–a defensive move against the lower priced Android handsets that have been gaining ground worldwide. But to understand the iPhone 5C purely as an cheap play, or one for the international market, is all wrong. What the device is, really, is a bold step by Apple into the world of fashion, customizability, and personal preference. For years, your decision when you picked an iPhone had been limited to black and white. Now, you’ve got five options to pick from.
But that’s just the start. The iPhone 5C’s weird swiss cheese case, with a grid of circles carved out on the back so you can see the candy-coated hardware underneath, is an even more unambiguous sign of how important Apple thinks personalization is at this point....
One of Android’s big draws, especially in the first few years of the smartphone era, was the customizability of its software. But kids don’t care about ROMs and launchers. They care about colors and expression. With the iPhone 5C, Apple’s tapping into the allure of outward, broadcasted preference–something that the Android ecosystem, though diverse in its SKUs, still doesn’t really offer. This time next year, the iPhone 5c is going to be the phone coveted by everyone age 13 to 23.

Recall that the Apple II, originally for Geeks at the Homebrew Club, sold seven million into K-12 schools, changing forever the ability of American kids to get comfortable with, and then skilled at, software a half-generation ahead of the rest of the world.  And kids, plus artistes, gave the Mac its major cachet.
To see what a departure the case really is, it’s worth looking at it in the context of Apple’s past storage endeavors. The iPhone 4′s bumper was colorful, sure, but its design was informed purely by functionality–the insulating rubber ring was a direct response to concerns about signal loss when gripping the iPhone 4′s antenna band. The iPad’s ingenious magnetic cover added a dose of color and preference too–but more than spunk, the draw was again functionality: it kept your screen a little bit cleaner and safer and let you stand the iPad up in bed while you were watching Netflix.
The holes on the iPhone 5C’s case, on the other hand, have zero functional purpose. They’re purely aesthetic. And in that light, you can see them as a sort of admission on the part of Apple. Jony Ive’s fanatical attention to detail, in a way, painted the iPhone into a monochrome corner. Maybe the iPhone 5 did really represent some sort of end of the road for smartphone design–at least in the current understanding of those devices. Maybe it had reached an iterative dead end, leaving no outward surface left for Ive to work his magic. Maybe they’d chamfered all they could chamfer. There’s a chance that they’ll start over with the iPhone 6, chucking everything out the window and coming back with some wild curvaceous glass shoehorn, but in the meantime, the iPhone 5C is a clear signpost to the places where Apple thinks smartphones are still worth getting excited about: personality, color, and customization. In other words: fun.

A More Harmonious Gadget

The iPhone 5C is noteworthy for another reason: reconnecting the design language of Apple’s mobile hardware and software. The disconnect between the soul and body of the iPhone, up until this new, cheaper one, has been profound. Game Center’s ham-handed skeuomorphism was silly enough on its own, but viewed in the context of its space-age aluminum container, it was positively jarring. The iPhone 5C and iOS 7, on the other hand, are a perfect match. As Ive says in the product video, the new iPhone “dramatically blurs the boundary” between the hardware and the software. The phones even come pre-loaded with wallpaper matching the color of the device itself.

What it amounts to is the most harmonious marriage between Apple software and Apple hardware since the Bondi Blue iMac and the lickable baubles of OS X. And that’s totally by design–though it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Whereas before we had Jony Ive taking us to the moon and Scott Forstall taking us to the craps table, now Ive’s responsible for the user experience through and through. Apple’s always had a leg up on competitors thanks to the fact that they’ve made their hardware and software. The iPhone 5C is the first time in a while it’s actually looked like it.
This is the hallmark of the original MacIntosh.  Built famously around XeroxPARC's GUI (graphical User Interface) with the novel WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get), it combined 'intutive' icons and their invoked actions, along with the 'amazing' ability to print just what you saw on screen.
It took Microsoft -- the leading SW company of its day, a mere six years to copy this, poorly.  And in the process, eventually we've all come to expect such behavior from our machines.   It's lost in antiquity that it also took HP New Wave for Microsoft to copy, and HP Motif to make Windows 3.1 icons '3D' which was the acceptance criteria that finally made Windows viable.
As Vanhemert points out, until Jove 'got control' of the SW and HW 'integration' this was not happening in the iPhone world.  Pity.  Thank goodness it is now addressed

1 comment:

Walter Underwood said...

It is odd that people consider these announcements to be defensive. I think they are a dominance play. Apple is already making almost all the money in mobile phones. These phones leverage that to grab more of the space.

The 5C will sell hugely and take a bit out of the mid-range Android phones. That will leave Android with low-end customers, who don't spend money on software. That could be a death spiral for Android apps.

The 5S has enough horsepower to power the fingerprint reader and also to run encrypted VPN full time. That will put a stake in other phones for business use.