Apple acquired today a one-man startup called SnappyLabs for an undisclosed amount.
The startup makes just one product: A 99-cent iPhone app called SnappyCam.
Apple hasn’t said why they acquired SnappyLabs, and probably won’t say. But such an acquisition would make sense as both an aqui-hire of founder and sole employee John Papandriopoulos (pictured), who has a PhD in electrical engineering, and also an IP purchase of the amazing thing that Papandriopoulos built.
Here’s what Apple bought and why it makes perfect sense that they bought it.
Apple, Google and Microsoft all want to be your phone company. But with both competitors’ communication offerings in disarray, Apple has an opportunity to offer the best, most elegant and integrated communication platform.
All they have to do is keep moving in their current direction, make a couple of key rumors come true and keep Steve Jobs’ promise about FaceTime.
Apple flipped a switch this week and enabled customers at 254 U.S. Apple Stores to get spammed with micro-location based promotional nagging.
The new system, called iBeacon, is a low cost, low-energy way to achieve actionable “indoor GPS” in which “beacons” use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) signals to figure out exactly where you are and send messages relevant to that specific location.
But Apple Stores are probably the least-compelling iBeacon scenario I can think of.
Your typical Apple store is a glass box, a single room with a door in the front, a Genius Bar in the back and tables and shelves in the middle. It’s impossible to get lost in a regular Apple Store and trivially easy for customers to find any of the tiny number of products for sale. Also: Apple doesn’t do in-store promotional discounts except for one day a year (Black Friday).
Right now, you participate in the Apple Store iBeacon system by launching the Apple Store app (which I imagine most iPhone owners don’t know exists) and changing your iPhone’s settings to use iBeacon (which most iPhone owners don’t know how to do) and granting permission to get in-store promotions (which most iPhone owners probably have no interest in).
Once all that happens, iBeacon interrupts you to nag you about trading in your old iPhone, and offers help like Microsoft’s Clippy when you’re looking at a specific section of the store: “I see you are looking at iPads? Would you like to know more about the iPad?” (I made up the wording, but the intent of some iBeacon messages is identical to that.)
As a result, iBeacon in Apple Stores mostly annoys. I can think of a hundred scenarios where iBeacon could be incredibly great. But the greatest of these: My house.
Architecture hasn’t really ever been considered too important in the brick and mortar-averse tech industry. It wasn’t all that long ago that digital utopians proclaimed physical geography dead altogether, with a vocal minority apparently pleased to leave the actual world behind them and embrace the cyberspace of William Gibson’s Neuromancer.
It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that the technological breakthroughs of Silicon Valley have advanced almost inversely to the region’s architecture. In a brave new world of lush rolling hills and the always impressive San Francisco Bay, the most that the majority of companies have managed to come up with are drab industrial parks filled with two-story, cubicle-lined buildings.
The smartphone industry is dominated by two companies: Apple and Samsung. Absurdly, Canaccord Genuity recently reported that Apple and Samsung earn 109% of mobile industry profits.
(That impossible percentage results when the losses of competitors are factored in.)
Specifically, the research firm estimates that Apple earns 56% of industry profits and Samsung 53%. (Apple is actually further ahead of Samsung in profits than these numbers show, because some companies count tablet profits and others don’t.)
BlackBerry makes -4% of the profits (that’s negative four percent), Motorola -3%, and Nokia, LG and HTC each had -1%.
They’re weird numbers that don’t add up. But the point is that once again we learn that Apple and Samsung are making nearly all the money, some companies are making zero money and other companies are losing money.
But one of the dominant companies — Samsung — has a creepy approach to business, which is that they steal, cheat and lie apparently because the penalties of being unethical are far less than the rewards.
In the past three years, Apple has dared to be dull.
During Apple’s best years, between 2007 and 2010, Apple introduced the first iPhone and the first iPad, two world-changing products that now define the company (and bring in most of its revenue). These products, along with their touch interfaces and apps stores, were a shock to the industry.
That’s great, Apple. But what have you done for me lately?
Here’s one theory about how Apple works: The company finds a horrible content consumption experience. They figure out how the experience can be made wonderful. They work on the products until they’re ready, both from product quality and price perspectives. Then they ship it and spend the next few years refining and perfecting the original vision.
If that oversimplification about how Apple works is accurate, then Apple isn’t really in full control of when its groundbreaking new products ship. They have to wait for technology, such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), or for various industries to come around to making a critical mass of content deals.
In the past three years, every Apple announcement has been preceded by speculation and rumor that Apple would at long last announce an iWatch, an iTV set and other products that would signal a radical new product category for Apple. And every announcement ended in disappointment. Every announcement was about refinement of old products, rather than bold launches of new products.
Will Apple ever enter new markets again, including the ones perennially rumored?
I say they will. The fact that they haven’t shipped the long-rumored iWatch or iTV, for example, makes perfect sense from a readiness perspective.
In fact, I think the next three years will be twice as awesome as the iPhone-iPad years, in the sense that Apple will break into four new businesses. Why? Because the technology and content deals will fall into place during this time.