Feb 032019

Apple’s stockprice has taken a bit of a tumble just recently, prompted by a statement from them indicating that they’ve made a bit of a mess of the iPhone releases and they’re not selling as many as they expected.

Foolish scaremongers are predicting the demise of Apple. Over a few bad quarters? That’s just ridiculous.

If anything (and you fancy a gamble), now is probably a good time to buy shares in Apple, because they are not going away any time soon. And they will probably come up with an answer to what they are doing wrong.

So what are they doing wrong?

Too Few Products

It may seem a bit strange to say considering just how many different iPhones you can buy, but what I am really talking about here are product types rather than individual variations. After all whether you are buying an iPhone X, XS, XS Max, or XR, you’re still buying an iPhone.

Just take a look at the Apple web site navigation bar :-

Each of those (with the possible exception of a particular keen Mac user of the “Mac” group, and of course “Music”) is a product that a person is only likely to have one of.

And keeping the number of products you sell small makes you more vulnerable to the occasional “miss”. Which with the best planning in the world will happen from time to time.

Just imagine what is missing :-

  1. The Apple HiFi
  2. The Apple alarm clock.
  3. The Apple home/small office network server.
  4. The Apple power-line ethernet adaptor.
  5. The Apple WiFi access point.
  6. The Apple air pollution monitor/smoke detector.

And that’s just a few items thought up by an individual on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Don’t Ignore The Fringe Fanatics

For many years, Apple survived by making products well suited to the audio/visual creator community. And yet looking through the Mac line-up, there is nothing there suited to the real power user.

And yet Apple has fans who still want to run macOS – either compromising on their needs by getting an iMac Pro (usually with huge piles of non-Apple external disks) or by getting an ordinary PC and running macOS on it.

Give them what they want, and no a promise to release a proper Mac Pro “someday” isn’t sufficient.

There may not be a great deal of profit in it, but a small profit is better than none. And catering to power users may well have a greater effect than you suppose – they are or can be influencers. Imagine every photographer, videographer, and sound engineer saying “Forget about Windows; get yourself a Mac”.

Because that’s what they used to say.

Too Expensive

If you ask anyone if they would like more features, the answer is almost always yes, but they can become more reluctant if you ask them to pay a little more money for those features.

And if you ask them to pay more for features they are not interested in, they’ll rapidly lose interest if money is tight and their old phone is ‘good enough’.

And that is what has happened, the latest iPhone has more and better features than any previous iPhone but the price has crept up. For many (including the affluent “middle-class”) it has become a significant purchase rather than something that can be paid off with 2-4 months of minor inconvenience.

Follow The Path
Dec 182014

Today I happened to come across a story about a priest who uses a signal blocker to stop phones from shrieking, bleeping, or blurting during church services. Very possibly illegal, although it’s quite understandable.

After all a church service is just like a theatrical performance and the distraction of phones is likely to put people off. We need more quiet at times – such as in the theatre, church, the quiet carriage in a train, or even a meeting room.

But a signal blocker is going too far – if there is an emergency, we need to be able to use our phones. And asking people does not work – there are always a few people who won’t bother to silence their phones. Not necessarily because they don’t care, but sometimes simply because they don’t think of it.

Rather than blocking phones, we need to tell phones to silent themselves automatically.

And it could be quite easy to do. In quiet zones, simply broadcast a well accepted SSID (“QUIETPLACE” perhaps?) and configure phones to automatically mute themselves when they see such an SSID. It would require support from phone manufacturers as most of us wouldn’t bother if we have to set something up – or even just install an App to do it, but it’s certainly possible.

Oct 062012

Now that all the fuss over the new iPhone5 has calmed down a bit, it is time to take a look at the iPhone5. Okay, so what fuss was there amongst anybody other than the die-hard Apple fans who would buy any iPhone5 without considering whether or not it was carved out of a pile of petrified rhino bile? Well of course there was the media crowd jumping up and down in excitement at the prospect of an expenses paid trip to somewhere exotic.

But not many others.

It isn’t as if the iPhone5 were a bad phone; when you come down to it, it is a sensible upgrade from the iPhone4S. The key new features are :-

  • Most “exciting” of all (which is itself a bad sign) is the new dock connector which effectively makes all previous iPhone add-ons redundant. Understandably this has annoyed many people, but it had to be done sooner or later. After all the old connector was nearly 10 years old which is positively geriatric in the technology world.
  • The processor was a little bit faster, and there is a little bit more memory.
  • The screen is “bigger” … or rather taller. Nice enough I suppose, although it is hardly a Galaxy SIII or a Galaxy Note (1 or 2).
  • Apple have realised that there are a few people outside North America who might want to use 4G network speeds, and so their LTE support covers more frequency bands. Although despite having three variants of the iPhone5 which cover different frequency bands, they still cannot offer LTE in all markets. And of course having three different phones not only makes manufacturing more costly, but prevents customers roaming so easily as they could do with the iPhone4S.
  • The new phone is thinner and lighter than the old iPhones, although those who have encountered problems with the aluminium case getting scratched may prefer the old weight of the stainless steel case which was more robust in this sense.
  • And of course the iPhone5 now uses the even fiddlier nano-SIM.

Ignoring the software side of things, this all looks a little depressing. All very sensible, but one person’s sensible is another person’s resting upon your laurels. And if you keep that up, sooner or later someone comes along and tips you into a muddy ditch.

Just ask Nokia.

Oct 042011

So it has been announced at last. The iPhone 4S, which is more or less an iPhone 4 with some fiddling – a faster processor, an improved antenna, and a software update that gives it a feature that Android has had for a while. That is voice control.

Undoubtedly it will all be done in a very slick way – that is the Apple way, but is it enough ?

Well it all depends on what you mean by “enough”. It will undoubtedly sell – both to the Apple fans who worship anything Apple produces whatever the merits, but will it sell enough to keep Apple’s current level of influence in the mobile smartphone sector ? After all, Steve Jobs has now left and everyone is wondering how the new Apple will maintain it’s leadership in the smartphone and slate market.

Well the iPhone 4S is nice, but so is my iPhone 4. But it is hardly a major improvement – yes it’s faster; probably a lot faster. And the antenna improvement will please those who managed to tickle the antenna problem on the iPhone 4 (I could only do so by going through ridiculous contortions).

It’s a perfectly reasonable mid-life facelift, but it’s a touch late for a mid-life facelift, although admittedly a bit early for a whole new phone. Oh! Sure Apple will claim that the internals are completely different, but it’s still an improved iPhone 4 rather than an iPhone 5. Although it’s unreasonable, Apple’s problem here is that the iPhone 4S looks a little boring and in a post-Jobs era, they need to convince people that they are still able to release exciting products. And this isn’t it.

The big problem I see from my personal perspective is that there is no option for an iPhone with a big screen (and no I don’t mean an iPad!). If you look at the oodles of choice you can find in the Android phone market, you will find examples of premium smartphones with larger screens than the iPhone. Such as the Samsung Galaxy S II with a 4.3″ screen, and that is not even the largest smartphone screen you can find (although it may well be the best).

Sure not everyone wants a large screen on their smartphone, but I do and Android gives me that choice. And plenty of other choices – 3D screens, physical keyboards, etc. And no being chained up in Apple’s walled garden!

So yes, sorry Apple but it’s a bit of a yawn event. Try again with a proper iPhone 5 with a large (for a smartphone) screen.

Mar 282011

Today I hear the Apple iPhone has been bitten by yet another bug causing alarms to go off at the wrong time. This is hardly the first time that Apple has had a problem with it’s IOS Clock application. And every time Apple rushes out a “fix” that supposedly stops the problem.

It’s now blatantly obvious that Apple is rushing out “workarounds” and not spending any time on proper fixes here. I mean come on guys, a software clock is hardly rocket science. You shouldn’t be having multiple related problems like this.

What is almost certainly happening here, is that Apple management are accepting quick fixes from the engineers, but ignoring their requests to spend more resources on properly fixing the application. Odd as it may seem, the Clock application was probably originally written by one of Apple’s least experienced engineers – it is the kind of application farmed off to the new guy who has just arrived from University.

Now that is usually fine – Notes works well enough – but in some cases you end up with an application that is riddled with inexplicable bugs and Clock’s time related bugs are inexplicable in the sense that Clock should be using APIs to do this which are ancient and robust in the extreme. This sort of problem is commonly found in the kind of code that is overly complex, inscrutable, and makes far too little use of APIs.

What Apple’s engineers have probably done is ask for time to ‘refactor’ the code. What this means is basically :-

  1. Ripping out code that implements functions that have been implemented in a library somewhere. Novice programmers often write code that implements a function that has already been written. The programmers writing the library function usually have a greater incentive to get their code right.
  2. Ripping out and replacing the worst of the inscrutable code.
  3. Shuffling around and improving the documentation.

Unfortunately when an engineer mentions the word “refactor”, poor managers think “unproductive” (or in the worst case don’t understand and don’t ask). You wouldn’t have thought that Apple was riddled with poor managers in charge of their software engineers, but perhaps they are. This is a really bad sign for Apple (and Apple customers) – all of their products rely on good software engineering, and if they can’t get a Clock application right, you have to wonder how soon the rest of their code will collapse around our ears.

Apple – it’s time to do something serious. The Clock is ticking …