Posts

  • Apple's Astonishing Profit in Context

    Statista posted a note comparing Apple’s net profit in 2012 across its various industry competitors:

    Apple's Astonishing Profit in Context

    How huge these numbers really are becomes more evident when compared to the results of Apple’s competition:

    • From October 2011 through September 2012, the combined net profit of Microsoft, Google, eBay, Yahoo, Facebook and Amazon was $34.4 billion. Apple alone made $7 billion more.

    • In the same period, Dell, Asus, Intel, Acer, IBM, Lenovo and HP, i.e. virtually the entire PC industry, made $19.3 billion or less than half of Apple’s profit.

    Simply mind-blowing.

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  • China's Great Shame

    Yang Jisheng writing for the NYTimes Opinion:

    Thirty-six million people in China, including my uncle, who raised me like a father, starved to death between 1958 and 1962, during the man-made calamity known as the Great Famine. … The toll was more than twice the number of fallen in World War I, and about six times the number of Ukrainians starved by Stalin in 1932-33 or the number of Jews murdered by Hitler during World War II.

    There’s a tendency for the PRC to denounce foreign aggression and claim that the PRC people are suppressed. But think about it, who are the biggest suppressors of the PRC people?

    After 50 years, the famine still cannot be freely discussed in the place where it happened. … Communist leaders established a vast system of slavery in the name of liberating mankind. It was promoted as the “road to paradise,” but in fact it was a road to perdition.

    Simply disgusting. The Nanjing Massacre pales in comparison to this.

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  • Samsung-Apple UK Judgement

    Recently, Apple lost a design infringement case against Samsung and was ordered by the UK courts to post a notice on their site and media regarding Samsung’s non-infringement, including the following paragraph:

    On 9th July 2012 the High Court of Justice of England and Wales ruled that Samsung Electronic (UK) Limited’s Galaxy Tablet Computer, namely the Galaxy Tab 10.1, Tab 8.9 and Tab 7.7 do not infringe Apple’s registered design No. 0000181607-0001. A copy of the full judgment of the High court is available on the following link www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Patents/2012/1882.html.

    Apple duly complied with a link on its site.

    Not only did Apple include what the courts wanted them to as above, they went further and quoted from the case:

    In the ruling, the judge made several important points comparing the designs of the Apple and Samsung products:

    “The extreme simplicity of the Apple design is striking. Overall it has undecorated flat surfaces with a plate of glass on the front all the way out to a very thin rim and a blank back. There is a crisp edge around the rim and a combination of curves, both at the corners and the sides. The design looks like an object the informed user would want to pick up and hold. It is an understated, smooth and simple product. It is a cool design.”

    “The informed user’s overall impression of each of the Samsung Galaxy Tablets is the following. From the front they belong to the family which includes the Apple design; but the Samsung products are very thin, almost insubstantial members of that family with unusual details on the back. They do not have the same understated and extreme simplicity which is possessed by the Apple design. They are not as cool.”

    Turns a “not as cool” statement into a marketing copy; I think it’s simply brilliant and humorous.

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  • Revolutionary User Interfaces

    About 10 months ago, Horace Dediu wrote about Revolutionary User Interfaces (RUI) and how these newly invented RUIs went on to disrupt their respective industries.

    In 1985, the first RUI by Apple was the ‘Mouse’. It brought about the Personal Computer revolution with the Macintosh, which ushered in the era of graphical UI-based personal computing; back in those days, personal computers were still largely based on the command-line interface. It’s only later in 1992 that IBM PC-compatible clones running Microsoft DOS and Windows 3.1. The introduction of the mouse changed the whole personal computing landscape forever.

    The second RUI that was launched and popularised would now be known as the ‘Click Wheel’. It made the iPod, the now-dominant music player, the easiest to use. The iPod, through its interface, changed consumer expectations of how a music jukebox would function. Thumbing up and down menus of music via buttons felt archaic and inefficient; the click wheel made travelling through playlists intuitive.

    The third RUI that Apple popularised is ‘Multi-touch’. Ever since introduced in 2007, finger-powered UI has taken over the smartphones landscape. I still remember watching Steve Jobs introduce the iPhone. When he flicked and scrolled through his list of contacts on his phone, the audience were ecstatic and amazed. RIM, the blackberry maker, was adamant that physical keyboards are still the way to go.

    With every RUI introduced, disruption follows. Dediu sums it up nicely:

    Each new input method led to not just a disruption but new platforms and new business models. Each new “sling” victimized a set of historic companies. Mainframe and minicomputers, consumer electronics giants and now telecoms.

    Just like David’s sling, these technologies are not powerful in and of themselves, but rather, the way they are used makes them unpredictably sinister. The context of using capacitive touch on a handheld device rather than on a table-top makes it disruptive. Coupling it with high-speed mobile networks and powerful but efficient microprocessors made it into a force.

    Multi-touch was 2007. Five years has passed, is the next RUI already here?

    Dediu did suspect and wonder if ‘Siri’ was the next RUI. I agreed with his suspicions. Launched in October 2011 on the iPhone 4S, Siri is introduced as a voice-powered intelligent personal assistant.

    That was what I thought in October 2011.

    Just today, Kara Swisher at All Things D reported that Apple has hired Amazon executive William Stasior to head its Siri department.

    First, some background on why this is significant. Prior to being hired by Apple, William Stasior ran Amazon A9—it powers Amazon’s search and product recommendation intelligence. For a search expert to be hired to head Siri, maybe Siri isn’t just an assistant to begin with.

    Google probably saw the potential (or threat) that Siri was and released Google Now in July 2012 for its Android Jelly Bean (4.1). As an improved response to Siri, Google Now is predictive, contextually-aware, in addition to being a voice-powered assistant.

    While Apple is really new to the area of data mining and organisation—Google’s forte for the past 10+ years—I can’t say that Apple pioneered this RUI, nor would it be at its potential at its current form. However, I’m absolutely sure that Apple is in a very good position to push this technology into all of its hardware products, something that Google has very little and diminishing access to.

    Two major markets that are open to Apple’s disruption are entertainment and services for the living room and automobiles.

    I believe that the “Apple TV” in its eventual successful form will have Siri power a large part of its UI. To control our living rooms, the Mouse, the Click Wheel (remote controls), and Multi-touch are largely limiting and inadequate. Google TV has shown us how unpopular these input-methods are. Siri, with our voices, will become the controlling interface for these technologies that provide entertainment and services, throughout the household.

    As for automobiles, I’ve seen how awful the UIs are in those in-car entertainment systems. How can anyone navigate through throngs of menus via a Mouse (pointing device) or Multi-touch (touchscreen)? We need to keep our eyes on the road, not on distracting screens. For this reason I believe, Apple has introduced ‘Siri Eyes Free’ during 2012 WWDC. I’m confident that this is the first step in the direction where our voices can control entertainment, navigation, and systems in our automobiles.

    Microsoft also has been pushing its technology into cars, but I believe Apple’s strategy will prevail. Products in their individual silos aren’t very useful and are unlikely to be successful. It is only with integration when the magic happens.

    When you take into account of Apple’s huge integrated media and hardware ecosystem, you actually see a huge potential. iCloud ties all these unconnected parts into one single coherent system. Microsoft on the other hand currently falls-short of this aspect with its fragmented online identity system and incoherent media properties (Live, Xbox, Zune, Windows 8, Windows Phone, etc).

    Putting it altogether, there will be major disruption to hardware makers and software makers, buoyed by Apple’s cohesive ecosystem, together with Siri. So that would be the forth RUI.

    Oh and the fifth RUI?

    No, it’ll not be NFC. I suspect it will be Passbook—where location-based events meet contact-less commerce.

    I can’t wait to see all this become reality in my lifetime.

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