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.
Cloud computing giant Marc Benioff has praised hailed Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s new head of retail and online sales, as the “future Apple CEO.” Referring to her in a Tuesday tweet as “the most important hire Tim Cook has ever made”, Benioff’s toasting of Ahrendts has left analysts asking whether it is simply a show of support for Burberry’s outgoing CEO — or evidence that Benioff knows more than he is letting on, following disappointing fourth quarter numbers for Apple.
CNNMoney has hit out at Apple by saying that it should momentarily forget about its position as an acclaimed product manufacturer and instead “focus on its mediocre software.”
While acknowledging that Apple builds some of the most coveted laptops, tablets, and smartphones around, writer Adrian Covert nevertheless singled out the company’s suite of software applications as the “one dark cloud” which looms over Apple. Although apps like iPhoto, Pages, iCal and Mail are functional enough, Covert claims, better alternatives exist, while iTunes and defunct social network Ping are varying degrees of broken.
The term “planned obsolescence” has achieved negative connotations, but it originally referred to a long-standing tradition of changing designs to sell more products.
It was coined by the car industry in the 1930s to refer to annual model updates. Over the years, however, the term has taken on a darker meaning. But planned obsolescence is a good thing. It’s the driving force behind much innovation.
This morning, New York Times reporter Catherine Rampell accused Apple of breaking her old iPhone 4 with the iOS7 update, which made it unbearably slow. “It seemed like Apple was sending me a not-so-subtle message to upgrade,” she wrote in a piece entitled, Why Apple Wants to Bust Your iPhone.
According to Rampell, Apple is feeling the heat from Samsung, HTC and others, and is resorting to sabotaging older iPhones with a software update and force users to upgrade their hardware.
Updates on the French and German versions of Amazon.com suggest a new, replacement Apple TV coming the day after this week’s Apple announcement — just in time for Christmas.
The prospect of a shiny new Apple TV product makes everyone think of a radical new Apple TV box with crazy new user interface options, or an actual Apple TV set, both of which people have been predicting for years.
And then that Scrooge MG Siegler comes along to say he’s hearing that the Big Apple TV Update has been delayed, and that maybe there will be a minor update to the existing product.
Whether something grander has been delayed or not, I think TV will be the most interesting product at the Tuesday announcement — not because of hardware, but because of a new software interface and new deals I think Apple will announce.
For years, home automation has been the exclusive province of the very rich or extremely technical.
Companies you’ve probably never heard of, such as AMX, Control4, Crestron, Elan, HomeLogic, Colorado vNet, Vantage and Zenpanion have provided the platforms and many of the fundamental products, while integrators took care of the installation and service for many people.
Or, very dedicated and technical DIY enthusiasts have cobbled together their own ingenious solutions.
Recently, the major phone carriers have gotten into the act, and rumors suggest Google, Apple, Microsoft and other consumer electronics companies are working on home automation.
The reason everybody’s jumping is that home automation is in the process of making a transition from “hardly anybody” to “pretty much everybody.” So everybody wants a piece of what will definitely be a massive new industry.
In five years, the majority of homes in the United States are likely to have significant home automation happening in their homes — voice-controlled thermostats, Bluetooth-unlocking door locks, lights on self-learning timers, automated pet feeders, doorbells that ring your phone rather than a bell in the house and much more.