Tag: Apple

What did Apple do wrong with U2 album?

What did Apple do wrong with U2 album?

horse mouth photoI have read a few complaints about Apple giving away the U2 album Songs of Innocence. I don’t understand the outrage. I had ignored the ruckus until I read an article in one of my favorite blogs, Successful Workplace.

What did Apple do to incur this outrage? All the company did was give away an album that was going to be widely popular anyway. But instead people have come out against Apple for their generosity.

You may not love U2, but a lot of people do. Apple spent a reported $100 million dollars to give a gift to a lot of people.

Some are upset that Apple chose the new U2 album instead a new album by some other band that was struggling and trying to make ends meet. I am sorry, but these people that are complaining must surely be Democrats – complaining because they didn’t get to choose the free gift. In some cases, it is the bands themselves that are are yelling, “Unfair!” They feel jilted simply because they did not get paid a check that they didn’t deserve. If Apple had put some obscure band on my phone, I would be very frustrated since they would then be pushing their weird choices on many people.

Instead, they chose the new U2 album. U2 is arguably, the most widely purchased and honored band on the planet that is still actively making new music and drawing huge crowds. Sure, I would have loved it if they gave me a new cool album by Rolling Stones or The Beatles but the last I checked those bands aren’t putting out great music anymore.

The other major sin from Apple is they have created a service that allows convenience to consumers. They created the ability to have your music downloaded to your device whenever it becomes available. This is a great feature of the iTunes music service. It means that when you purchase a newly released album in advance of its release date, that album is downloaded to your device. This is true even if someone (like Apple) purchases the new album (like the new U2 album) for you. You can easily turn this feature off if you don’t like the convenience, but the number of downloads implies that the users wanted this to happen or didn’t understand their phone well enough to turn the feature off.

What happened to the days when people said thank you when given a gift? It used to be that if somebody gave you something you didn’t complain. My mother taught me that even if the gift was not perfect, I should be thankful for the thought. So Apple has given a gift that cost them millions of dollars. Now people are complaining about that gift.

I have a better suggestion. Why don’t we just say, “Thank you.” If you don’t like the gift of the new U2 album, don’t whine and complain about it. Delete it and get on with your life.

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. The new U2 album is free. If you don’t like the album, don’t listen to it, and listen to something else.


As I have explained, the U2 album should be considered a gift. That is exactly how Apple describes it in their ad they just sent out via email.

U2 from iTunes is a gift


Photo by tanakawho

When will paper books be dead?

When will paper books be dead?

A decade ago, I was traveling with one of the founders of the company that I worked for at the time, Timm Martin, and we arrived at the discussion of electronic books (ebooks). I said that I thought ebooks were the wave of the future and I wished that I could figure out how to start a company that was a part of that change. Timm, who was the technology visionary of our company,  seemed to cautiously agree with me at the time and I think we both worried that the portable platform had yet to be created that made that prediction a certainty, at least in the near term.

Now with products like the Kindle and the iPad (and the several others that have come on to the market that will likely fail), we have either arrived at or have become very close to the age of the digital book. It seems quite unlikely that the cost of the ebook reader will go dramatically higher over time. It is more likely that the cost of a good quality ebook-reader will drop below $100. The price maybe goes to under $50 if the ebook reader can be successfully locked into one type of proprietary book format that locks the reader to one type of store (so that the store can subsidize the cost of the reader in return for future book sales). Of course, many authors do now sell their work as ebooks as they are easier to produce and much cheaper. Some authors even sell digital downloads from their websites by using FastSpring’s e-commerce platform.

Crunchgear recently ran an article with the prediction of the end of paper book.  It is a good article and worth reading.

Here are my predictions:

  • within 5 years most (more that 51%) students will not be required to buy paper based books at their college.
  • within 5 years I give it 50/50 odds that ebooks with an ISBN number exceed the sale of paper based books with an ISBN.
  • within 10 years, I give it 90/10 odds (meaning I would take a 10:1 bet)

The risk in my argument is there may be a rush to non-proprietary standards. Unlike the music industry where it was quite easy to take a CD and convert it to a musical file (and thus was born MP3s and Napster), it is quite difficult to convert your paper based book to an electronic version. So the strength of a non-proprietary standard is not in place. This means it is in the interests of the book industry to lock everyone to their proprietary standard and give away the reader so that they can control the sales of books. I think that Bezos says he gets 10 ebooks from every Kindle, if he can make the math work to get enough ebooks per Kindle to offset the cost down to $50 then he would be fool to not do that.

The recent dropping of the price of the Kindle are a perfect example of giving away the reader to sell more books. Jeff should hire a bunch of marketing guys from Gillette so that he can learn about razors and razor blades. The low cost of the razor is offset with the refill of that razor. He could also hire some folks from HP/Brother/Lexmark as their printer market is also driven the same way.

If the standards become ubiquitous, it is difficult for the books to offset the cost of the reader. The manufacturer of the reader must sell the reader for greater than the cost of manufacturing.  This is not true of the book readers on the market today. Nearly all book readers on the market today can open only one store’s books and therefore there is a symbiotic relationship between the success of the store and the success of the device.

The flip side could also be true. I could see Steve Jobs doing the reverse tactic that may be even more effective. Jobs is in the business of selling computers (although that is arguable considering the amount of money that the iTunes store makes on music). With books, he has the ability to change the argument since there are no ebook MP3 equivalents. He could say, “Buy my reader (iPad) and I will give you 20 ebooks for free out of this limited list of 250 ebooks.” If I was an author and Steve came to me and said, “Let me have your ebook for $1 royalty and I will make it one of the 250,” I would jump at the opportunity. For Steve, this would be a cost of $20 but for the buyer of the iPad, this would be a benefit of $200 to the user. I am not sure that Bezos can make the same deal since his real job is to sell books, not to sell Kindles (which is why his Kindle software sits on so many other platforms). Bezos wants to make the reader proprietary so that he personally can sell more books and his competitors like Barnes & Noble can’t compete with him on selling books.

Steve Jobs should be pushing for the creation of standards and he should be giving away his ebook format to anyone that wants to use it.  Then, he can beat his fellow reader manufacturers and making an insanely great reader – something that his company is uniquely setup to accomplish.

Interestingly, the publishers of books have more to fear from Amazon then they do from Apple (unlike the music publishers). Amazon is sitting at a perfect point to lock up a commanding portion of the market and dictate terms to the publishers. Apple on the other hand will have a much more difficult time in doing to the book market what it did to the music market (by making the iPod the King Kong of music players). While the iPad has the ability to be the commanding presence in the emerging tablet market, it is not nearly as well positioned to be the commanding presence in the book market. There are rumors of an upcoming iPod Touch that is an inch or so larger than the current format so that product may be the horse to ride in the dominance of the ebook marketplace.

For a lover of reading and company strategy, the next 5 years are going to be very interesting. Will my prediction come true? Eventually, I am certain of this, it is really the timing that is in question. I am also certain that my ability to start a company that would ride this wave is probably gone. It will now be fought by multi-billion dollar corporations like Apple, Amazon and the various book publishers.

BTW, if you want to know more about Timm Martin, the founder of the company that I referred to above, check out his blogs on technology at DevTopics and CSharp411.

PS to Steve Jobs: Steve, if you are reading this article and are willing to include a book that I write in each iPad and pay me a buck for that book, please call me!  I will have the book written within a month!!  Heck, I might even get it done for 50 cents!

More problems with the new iPhone 4

More problems with the new iPhone 4

I can attest to occasionally experiencing this problem. It is rather intermittent for me and I can mostly control the problem by not moving the phone from my ear during the conversation.

This is a little frustrating. I get the antenna being affected by my hand but this proximity sensor problem is just bad engineering (either software or hardware).

My new iPhone4 – me too!

My new iPhone4 – me too!

My thoughts on my new iPhone 4. I just received it yesterday from FedEx (it was fun watching the FedEx package being tracked from China through Hong Kong through Anchorage through Indianapolis and then to Loveland, OH where it was routed to me). I received it one day ahead of Apple’s expected revised delivery date.

I say “revised” because AT&T and Apple screwed up and missed my first delivery date.  The unit was supposed to ship on July 2 but they updated their date on July 3 to say that it was going to ship a week or so later. I was upset and I called Apple – the very polite and professional rep apologized but couldn’t change the ship date. He did give me a bumper as a consolation gift – good thing too as it turns out.

Like others on the web, I can easily see a degradation of the signal by holding the phone with my left hand.

I wanted to create a video of my experience. Unfortunately, I now understand why most of the videos on the web are so poor – it is really hard to record this experience due to the relatively small signal strength indicator, the very reflective screen, and the fact that you have to physically hold the phone in order to see the problem – you can’t just lay it on a table.

So this post turns into me saying “me too” which, I acknowledge, is pretty boring.

I have slightly larger than normal hands. I also used to be an athlete and my hands are very strong. Due to this, it is quite likely the pad of my hand below my thumb, is larger than most people.  According to the site, we live in INTERESTING TIMES (thanks for the image), this muscle group is the Adductor pollicis, Flexor pollicis brevis, and Abductor pollicis brevis.

When I hold the phone in my right hand, the signal strength is full bars. When I switch the phone to my left hand (still standing in exactly the same place), the number of bars drops over the course of about 5-10 seconds. It drops to virtually be flat line.

I don’t need to hold it tightly, the phenomenon happens in a very lose grip. In fact, my grip can be so loose that if I rotate my hand, the phone will fall out (I did this over a sofa to prove it to myself). I know that other bloggers have suggested that you need to hold it with a death grip, “Kung Fu” grip, or in an awkward Twister style contortion. This appears to be implying that it is inconvenient to hold the phone in the offending way. This is not the case for me, it is a casual grip in the most natural holding position possible. I am assuming that this difference could be the size of the pad of my hand, as I said above.

I have no idea if this will cause a dropped call.  I haven’t had the phone long enough for this to be truly tested.

I know that Apple says this is a software bug. This is pure spin and, forgive my vulgarity, it is pure bullshit. Even if the code was misrepresenting the signal strength in the bars, it is still changing that representation with the position of my hand. This means that it is not software related by environmental.

So, am I so upset that I am returning the phone?  No! It is still the best phone on the market and definitely the best phone on the AT&T network (I am forced to be on this lousy network due a corporate contract with my employer). I will probably have to enclose the phone in some kind of case, something that I have not done for the previous phones that I have owned. I don’t like cases as they exaggerate the size of the phone in my pocket.  I will try to find the thinnest case that I can find.

The iPhone 4 is a dramatic step forward in usability and speed compared to my old iPhone 3G. It is wicked fast and responds to my touches and swipes with a level of fluidity that I would never have expected. It is simply a joy to use.

Members of my family own the various Android phones. They currently are envious of my new iPhone 4 and if the iPhone 4 was available on the Verizon network, they both would trade in their Android phones for a new iPhone 4.

I know that Apple is holding a press conference tomorrow and supposedly this issue will be discussed.  I await their honesty with baited breath! My opinion of Apple for perpetuating this spin has dropped considerably. They should have owned up to it already and I am disappointed that they tried to play the spin game. I can almost guarantee that there were some engineers at Apple that knew that the ‘software bug’ ploy was bullshit (there are news reports that this may be true).  If I can come to the conclusion in 3 minutes of testing, surely they could have come to the same conclusion after a day or two of testing.

While I couldn’t do a video of my own, CNET did one that was pretty consistent with what I was trying to do. They have better production tools than I own. The only difference is that I wanted to hold the phone with my left hand, show the degradation, and then switch it to my right hand to show it pop back up.  They say in their video that it takes a minute – my testing shows about 5-10 seconds.

I just saw this on the Wall Street Journal:

Apple engineers were aware of the risks associated with the iPhone 4’s new antenna design as early as a year ago, but Steve Jobs liked the design it so much that Apple went ahead with its development, said a person familiar with the matter.

The company kept such a shroud of secrecy over the new phone’s development that the device didn’t get the kind of real-world testing that would have exposed such problems in phones by other manufacturers, said people familiar with the matter.

Apple’s iPhone 4 has been dogged by reports of antenna-reception problems since its launch last month.


The Apple is spinning

The Apple is spinning

Apple has recently put out an open letter explaining that they have made a mistake in calculating the signal strength bars on their hit product, the iPhone (all versions up to the latest iPhone 4). I am glad that they Apple code developers have stumbled on this bug and are producing a fix. We all know that there are a few more software bugs in every product, so it is no surprise that Apple has a bug in this portion of their code.

But, is that really the fix? No.

All wireless devices need antennas.  If you are as old as I am, there is a chance that your first mobile phone was a “bag phone” or a “car installed phone”. These phones were massive and required a car or, at least, a briefcase to carry them around. The towers were so far dispersed that you needed a BIG antenna that was putting out mega-wattage to reach them. Putting that antenna up to your head would almost certainly turn your brain to scrambled eggs in a couple of weeks or so. These monsters were also analog and all you could do was talk on them (no texting – how in the world did we survive?).

Technology continued and the infrastructure improved. More towers and better communication technology developed. Analog turned to digital and everything got smaller. Also, people got tired of that stupid stick coming out of the top of their phone so the designers put the stick inside the phone (and not on top).  However, there is one thing that didn’t change – the physics of transmitting energy through the air still requires an antenna. The unfortunate thing is that the bigger the antenna (within reason) the better reception that you get. So Apple did good by putting the antenna into a metal strip that surrounds the phone.

If you are old enough, you may remember “rabbit ears” on your TV set. My job as a young brother was to stand beside the TV and hold the rabbit ears in the perfect pose so that my big brother (who would beat me up if I didn’t comply) could watch ABC’s “Wide World of Sports”. My body touching the antenna improved or hurt the reception of the TV based on where I touched it and how I stood. I stood in some pretty awkward positions in order to avoid my brother’s wrath.

So, when you hold any mobile phone with the antenna carefully hidden inside, your sweaty hands and your big old head are affecting that antenna to some degree. With the iPhone 4, you are making physical contact with that antenna so you are more likely to affect the signal – that is simply physics.

Apple is changing their software so you will be less aware of the issue and stop your damn complaining. They aren’t fixing the root cause; they just don’t want you to be aware of the problem anymore. This is the nature of spin – nothing really changes but your “perception” of the problem is different. If you don’t like it, take the phone back and buy an Android (which has the same problem just not as noticeable).

The issue is even more aggravated because the iPhone is only available on AT&T’s lousy network. Any time you screw with that signal, you will have problems. Since you so rarely have a good signal from AT&T, losing a little bit because you have sweaty hands and are touching the phone in it’s “special parts” just adds frustration. Apple would solve a lot of these problems by just signing a deal with Verizon.

Find a hobby before you upgrade your iPhone to iOS4

Find a hobby before you upgrade your iPhone to iOS4

I just upgraded my iPhone 3G to the new OS today. I must admit that the new features (especially the ability to group apps together) is quite nice. I wish I could take advantage of the backgrounds but that doesn’t work for a 3G phone.

The biggest complaint on the entire process is that it took FOREVER to do the upgrade.  It took over 4 hours to do the backups, reflash the ROMs, and then re-sync the apps, movies and songs back to my phone

My biggest advice to anyone that is going to do this upgrade soon – take your time.  Plug it in, get it started, and then go do something else for several hours.