Old Stuff To Make This Blog Look Less Virginal

Luke Hayman

Luke Hayman, a partner in the international design services firm Pentagram, was asked recently to discuss how Apple’s forthcoming iPad would change the world of magazines. Hayman, a graduate of London’s Central St. Martin’s School of Art (where my daughter Laura also studied) is a brilliant design strategist whose work is evident in the fresh new looks he has given to such magazines as Time, New York, Travel + Leisure, Consumer Reports, The Atlantic, and many others. I certainly wouldn’t challenge Luke Hayman’s expertise in magazine design. But I do question his thinking on how consumer technology – and the iPad in particular — will “revolutionize the way we read magazines.”

“Combining the rich visual content of a print publication, the ever-changing immediacy of a website, and the portability of an e-book reader, the iPad … will, in fact, revolutionize the way we read magazines,” Pentagram opines.

We? As in “…revolutionize the way WE read magazines”? The version of the iPad that allows the gee-whiz immediacy and connectivity that Pentagram extols will cost $829 plus monthly data fees, well above the threshold of a mass-market consumer technology device. And then there’s the question of demographics. Hayman points to the Amazon Kindle as evidence that technology can change a person’s reading habits. But the average age of a Kindle buyer is 49, based on responses to the “Average Kindle Owner’s Age” forum on Amazon. My 91-year-old father and ageless mother-in-law are both avid Kindle users. This is not the young, hipster demographic that most magazine publishers covet, except perhaps for AARP. No doubt a multipurpose, iPod-based tablet computer from Apple will have a younger audience than the Amazon Kindle. But will that younger audience take time out from music, videogames and social networking to read digital magazines? I’m not convinced. Read the rest of this entry »

More intimate than a laptop

February 1st, 2010

Now that the initial frenzy over the Apple iPad has subsided a bit, let’s take a swipe at what the new device means for consumers.

Based on my all-too-brief hands-on experience with an iPad prototype immediately following the introduction last week – Apple made 40 of its estimated 50 working prototypes available for fondling– it was apparent that all the razzle dazzle was premature. The iPad is very much a “one dot uh-oh” product that will need to ripen considerably in the 60 to 90 days before it goes on sale.

When I got back home to Palo Alto a couple of hours after last Wednesday’s announcement, I walked past the Apple Store on University Avenue expecting to see it festooned with iPad banners and posters. Instead, the posters were all about the iPod Touch, a product that made its debut in September 2007. It was as if the iPad did not exist. And in a very real sense, the iPad doesn’t exist. Yet.

One expects to be carpet-bombed by advertising after a major Apple product introduction. Apple’s marketing machine, orchestrated by Senior Vice President and Red Sox fan Philip W. Schiller, is so finely tuned that one can walk into an Apple product announcement with only vague clues as to what is to come, and walk out two hours later to see dazzling new advertisements plastered on the sides of buildings and on passing city buses and just about everywhere one looks. The effect on those emerging from an Apple event is that somehow the world has changed in those two hours they were inside, changed in a happy way that makes you want to dance, and that Apple, by showing us how to “think different,” has made our lives a little bit better or easier or just more fun.

No doubt the main reason the iPad effectively vanished after the big announcement is that the Federal Communications Commission hasn’t yet approved it for sale. Apple can’t legally sell one until the FCC certifies that the WiFi and 3G transceivers in the iPads won’t interfere with police radios or cause airliners to crash or wreak other electromagnetic mayhem. Apparently Apple can’t even take pre-orders on the iPad.

There’s no reason to think the FCC won’t approve the iPad; it just takes a month or so. Apple didn’t want to apply for certification in advance because the details of the filing would be public record, and the media and blogosphere would start ripping and slobbering. Apple would lose the element of surprise, which is worth millions of dollars in free launch-day publicity.

But I suspect another reason is also in play: The iPad is not ready for prime time, and vice versa. Read the rest of this entry »

The Apple iPad, Take 1.0

January 28th, 2010

Plans to real-time blog from the Apple event yesterday were thwarted by several hundred other journalists who were trying to live-blog from the same room at the same time. By the time Steve Jobs took the stage, the wireless network was as frozen as the bullet scenes in The Matrix. So I turned to AT&T (no, really) to Tweet from my iPhone.
After the smoke cleared, I filed the following to WYNC in New York City, where a lot of big media companies were wondering how the iPad would save them. (Spoiler alert: Sorry, folks, you’re still screwed.)

SAN FRANCISCO, CA January 27, 2010 —After months of fevered rumor and speculation, Apple today unveiled a surprisingly inexpensive new mobile product that fits halfway between the popular iPhone smartphone and the company’s MacBook laptops. The Apple iPad will go on sale starting in 60 to 90 days at prices ranging from $499 to $829.

The iPad is a flat, 10-inch, color touch-screen computer that resembles a larger version of Apple’s iPhone. Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, said the iPad is the best device yet for such tasks as web-browsing, e-mail, sharing photos, watching videos, enjoying music, playing games and reading electronic books. Analysts and reporters attending the announcement today stopped short of fully endorsing Mr. Jobs’s praise of the iPad, but many said their lack of rapturous adoration of the machine was at least partially the result of the unrestrained media hype that preceded its introduction.

To read the rest of the post, follow this: http://www.wnyc.org/news/articles/149066

Finally, an End to the Hype

January 27th, 2010

Me, I’m waiting for the personal hovercraft.

It is now officially Wednesday, January 27, 2010, on the Pacific coast, which means the secret new product from Apple will be unveiled TODAY. Would this day never come? At last, an end to all the blogged-and-tweeted speculation about the rumored Apple iPad, or iSlate, or iTablet, or iAyiyi, or whatever the heck they’re going to call it. I haven’t been this weary of an unannounced product in almost a decade. Yes, I’m going to be in the audience when the iPad-Whatever is unveiled, and I’ll love every minute of the spectacle, but as for “it” saving journalism and killing the Kindle and revolutionizing television … eh. Please, let’s not get carried away. It’s a gizmo.

Flashback: Remember IT? Remember Ginger? The leaks started in 2000. Steve Jobs invested in it and reportedly said “IT” was more important than the personal computer. Jobs predicted that John Hennessy, the president of Stanford University and himself a brilliant engineer, would “shit his pants” when he saw “IT.” John Doerr, managing partner of the premier Silicon Valley venture capital partnership Kleiner Perkins, said the company that made “IT” would hit $1 billion in sales faster than any company in history. (Fortunately for him, both literally and figuratively, his subsequent investment in Google fulfilled the pledge.) Dean Kamen, the brilliant and successful inventor, said cities would be redesigned around “IT.” Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, said there would be no need to advertise “IT” because it would be impossible to keep up with demand.

“IT” turned out to be the Segway Personal Transporter. Mall cops and nerds and parking meter readers ride them. Shriners from Oklahoma ride them in parades as the 21st century upgrade on midget clown cars. It turns out that not only did cities NOT redesign the roads for Segways, but in many cases banned them from sidewalks.

If the pre-announcement rumors are close to target, the iPad-Whatever will be a thin, lightweight, color touch-screen computer about halfway in size between the iPod and the Read the rest of this entry »

Ruminations on the iPad

January 21st, 2010

The Internet punishes inefficiency. Internet companies that devise clever ways to compete against inefficient business models have the potential to transform their industries. Dell proved the point in personal computers. Amazon knocked the cover off bookselling and shuttered more than a few retail storefronts. Apple’s iTunes upended the music retail industry. Craigslist clobbered the newspaper classified adverting business. There are scores of other examples.

Of course there are also lots of theoretically efficient Internet businesses that flop for one reason or another, typically related to recto-cranial inversion. But in general if you can identify an inefficient market, devise a more efficient Internet-based alternative, assemble a killer management team and execute a sufficiently capitalized business plan, entire industries will fall at your feet.

Which brings us to the forthcoming iPad, widely believed to be the star of the lovefest Apple will convene next Wednesday in San Francisco. The device itself may or may not be typically Apple elegant. What really matters is the back end. Just as the iPod and the iPhone achieved greatness mainly because of iTunes and the iTunes App Store — the iPhone sure as hell didn’t succeed because of AT&T — the forthcoming iPad will be judged by how well its back-end services address the glaring inefficiencies in the media and entertainment businesses. Read the rest of this entry »

Martin Luther King

January 18th, 2010

… “You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, it is rather strange and paradoxical to find us consciously breaking laws. One may well ask, “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: there are just laws, and there are unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “An unjust law is no law at all.”

“… We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany during that time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal. If I lived in a Communist country today where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I believe I would openly advocate disobeying these anti-religious laws …”

Excerpts from “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” August 1963

Full text in The Atlantic:

Under Construction

January 10th, 2010

Pardon the mess. After using other blogging clients and hosts over the past few years I’m switching to WordPress as part of a project at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, where I spend most of my time. This site will eventually evolve into a three-level blog incorporating my interests in technology, the environment, and the future of journalism. For the time being it is a sandbox for testing new features and designs.