Number One

Mark your calendars:  The iPhone is coming to Verizon on January 11, 2011

Image from Mac News Network (

January 11, 2011 Verizon Event Invitation (image hosted by Mac News Network -

Just last night, I was visiting with a close friend and lamenting the fact that it didn’t look like Apple was going to be releasing the iPhone for Verizon on January 11th, the most perfect day possible for such an announcement.  He was sitting by his computer, and happened to look at his browser, and said, “oh, wait… there’s news here on the CBS web site about a Verizon announcement next Tuesday.”  That was it!  It appears that no mention of this news was published (anywhere) until markets closed in New York on Friday; unusual for Apple who normally gives reporters at least a full weeks notice for such (premiere) press events.

I pulled open my laptop, and started searching through my Apple news bookmarks to read more details.  The press was already in a feeding frenzy!

There were so many reasons why Apple should pick this day, it should have been obvious to everyone in the tech press.  But as early as the start of CES in Vegas earlier this week, there was no rumor buzz.  Then, a glimmer of speculation started when Verizon announced that they would hold a press conference on Thursday (Jan 6) at CES.  But all they announced were some Android phones and 4G network rollouts.  That should have excited everyone, but it wasn’t the announcement that everyone was waiting for, so it didn’t generate the fanfare one might normally expect.

So, why should this have been obvious?

Number 1: Apple is bringing the number one phone to the number one US cell phone network.  On January 11th, 2011 at 11am.  Could the use of the digit “1” be any more obvious?!  This is a one-time-only marketing opportunity, and Apple couldn’t miss it.

Number 2: Apple has virtually stopped going to trade shows, from MacWorld to Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (CES).  They are big enough to create their own media events, and they don’t mind up-staging other events.  The timing of an event like this just days after CES makes perfect sense by this measure.

Number 3: The tech press has been reporting this eventuality for months; detailing shipments of CDMA chipsets to Apple last fall and countless other rumors that the iPhone was coming to Verizon soon.  Some recent rumors suggested Valentines Day.

Number 4: The exclusive deal with AT&T couldn’t last forever.  Apple wasn’t going to wait until November 11th later this year to hit the ultimate 11/11/11 trifecta.  Instead, they are picking the “first” month of the year to be on the number one network with the number one phone.  It seems so obvious.

Number 5: Competition from Android is driving this as well.  Android is the best thing that has happened to the modern smartphone marketplace.  Feature comparisons exist everywhere, and both camps have their supporters and detractors.  As a result of the sheer volume of Android phones from multiple vendors continues to increase, and as consumers continue upgrading to smart phones, Apple will not have the “number one phone” forever even though they do now (see link for November 2010 charts and graphs).  That doesn’t mean the iPhone isn’t a great phone; rather it means that they will soon lose the marketing hyperbole that they can use this month.

Also keep in mind that the Verizon excitement (and related technology) is a mostly USA phenomenon only.  Most of the rest of the world uses the same GSM network technology used by AT&T, and that will drive the majority of iPhone sales. The CDMA technology used by Verizon in the USA is used in very few other countries, so the sales spike for Apple will be largely limited to US shipments.

How many Verizon iPhones will be sold?  Deutsche Bank Telecom Services analyst Brett Feldman estimates “that Verizon will add roughly 15M iPhones in 2011 with 6M cannibalized from AT&T.”

I guess the only surprise in this is that Verizon is making the announcement instead of Apple.  I’m guessing that this is a move by Apple to placate their original vendor, AT&T.

As for me, I’m probably sticking with AT&T.  The network is only going to get better once they lose 10-20% of their smart phone users to Verizon.  In 17 months with AT&T, I’ve only had two dropped calls.  And my local signal strength from AT&T exceeds what I had with Verizon before I switched to the iPhone in July 2009.  Unless Verizon offers unlimited data plans at much lower prices than AT&T and actually tries to heat up the cell phone marketplace by sparking rate competition or matching Sprint’s package price points, I’ll be waiting until the iPhone 5 comes out this summer to decide when and with whom I should upgrade.  My 3GS with no front-facing camera continues to work just fine for me!

FaceTime is ChinTime

Apple launched its 4th generation iPhone today.  Another carefully orchestrated product launch by Apple, for sure.  Reportedly there were 600,000 pre-orders last week before Apple cut people off – an excellent way to create news headlines about the demand for your product.  Add in a few news stories covering the lines forming early this week in front of the Apple Stores composed of the Mac faithful who have nothing better to do with their time than to camp out so they can be among the first people to buy one at 7am today.

I waited until after work today to stop by an Apple Store to check out the new phone.  Even if they sold out all the phones (which my local store confirmed to be the case), they would still have the display units available to try out.  And, in short summary, the phone does live up to its billing.  All the advertised features work as advertised.  The screen sharpness is stunning.  The phone feels great in your hand.  It’s fast, and works just like you would expect.  Very nice job, Apple.

Except for one thing.  The front facing camera is a joke.  When Steve Jobs announced the phone earlier this month at the World Wide Developer’s Conference (WWDC), he saved his famous “one more thing” cliffhanger to announce “FaceTime” – the ability to place face-to-face phone calls with your friends who also have the new iPhone 4 model.  Today, the Apple Store had 2 phones set up to easily demonstrate this.  And, the demonstration confirmed for me exactly what I thought – it is lots of marketing hype.

So, tell me – where do you normally hold an iPhone or any other cell phone you might use for texting?  If you are like me, it is at the end of your arms about 12-18 inches from your face.  But you are looking down at it, not directly straight ahead. Your arms (from elbow to wrist) are parallel with the ground.  You aren’t raising your hands up to the height of your face to look at the phone.

Did you ever think about what that front facing camera view would be showing?  Hint – it is your chin.  The most unappealing viewpoint for most people.  Add to that fact that this is a small wide-angle lens, and you’ll get some extra image distortion thrown in for good measure.  That makes you look even less appealing to the person you are calling.  Of course, there are some people who will look good no matter what angle the camera is looking at them.  But the majority of us aren’t going to look that great.  If you look at Apple’s advertisement of this feature, you’ll find models who are looking directly at the camera – the only way to get this angle is to hold the phone with your hands at eye-level.  Let me know how heavy your arms feel after a few minutes of this!

Trust me – the typical camera angle people will use for this feature is not flattering.  It is a novel Apple-only feature today, which gives Apple something to brag about and claim market leadership.  But it will likely become a novelty rather than a mainstream feature for cell phones in its current implementation.  However, if Apple were to integrate it with the iChat application for iMacs and laptops, so we can chat from anywhere at anytime, then the whole market may open up for face-to-face calling.  But I’m guessing it will not rise above being a novelty, even if AT&T lets the imagery pass on its 3G network some day…  Because even then, it’s added bandwidth may count against your monthly allotment, so you’ll end up paying for a feature to look at your friend’s chin.  Wonderful.

Make a Photo Book

Freddy "Sez" at Yankee Stadium

Freddy "Sez" @ Yankee Stadium

Digital pictures.  We are all taking them these days.  And what are we doing with them? If you are like me, you are collecting them.  And lots of them. Now that the incremental price of each additional photo you snap is approaching zero cost, you are taking more and more photos.  And they are going no where.  Except for your hard drive, where they are piling up.  In this blog post, I’m going to suggest that you create photo books to save and archive your photos.  At the end of this post, I’ll point you to a comprehensive overview of 12 different book printing services recently referenced by LifeHacker.

In the old days when we used film, we would take a half-dozen photos at a birthday party, making sure everyone posed nicely for the camera with the birthday cake.  Now, the sky is the limit.  We are taking candid photos of all the fun throughout the party with our cameras and cell phones. There are photos everywhere!  We send them in email to each other, or via a MMS message.  But how many are we printing anymore?  Hint:  not very many… When was the last time you shared a set of printed photos with your family or friends?  Rather, we are creating huge digital archives of our lives that tenuously exist as nothing more than a tiny magnetic charge stored on a set of spinning platters inside our hard drives…  And we place more trust in these hard drives than we do our cars (where we at least have periodic maintenance!).  Guess what?  Hard drives don’t last forever either…

So, what better place than here to make sure I remind you to back up your hard drive.   Once or twice, at least.  You should burn them to CDs or DVDs, or use an external hard drive.  And store those backups in different locations.  Maybe you’ll want to buy an additional small hard drive and store it off-site with a family member or friend. Or choose an online storage location like Carbonite, BackBlaze, or Mozy to name a few.  Don’t trust your hard drive not to fail.  It will.  They don’t last forever.  Neither do your computers.

For more than five years, my friends have heard me describe the first decade of this century as the one that will be known in the future for being the one where good intentioned parents will have to explain to their children that they don’t have any of those cute newborn baby pictures because of a hard drive crash where they lost all their photos.  Or any other photos from the life events that we record in photographic format — weddings, reunions, birthday parties, vacations, etc.  And, as we begin this decade, I don’t see mass adoptions of backup strategies, yet I hear about hard drive crashes and malware infections all the time.  It may turn out that a whole generation of family photos are lost before we are either backing up our photos religiously, or before there is a convenient (read: transparent) way to back up our digital lives.

So, backup those files!  Do it for the children.  They’ll be happy one day.  Trust me.

Now, back to the topic at hand.  If you talk to your local photo shop owner about how many photos they are printing these days, you are likely going to hear a story about a decline in business.  My local store has broadened their offerings and now include custom framing and an in-house portrait business.  My local Rite Aid drugstore has a sophisticated one-hour photo printing system in one corner, and I’ve never seen it running.  My local Walgreens has one too, but they let me upload my photos from home.  Plus they often have weekly coupon codes you can find online for extra savings. Guess where I get my photos printed?  It’s 2010 after all, we should be able to expect this, especially since there are countless online companies ready to mail me printed photos for about ten cents each.  This is the perfect solution when I choose to make a few prints to share with my family and friends. As you might expect, there is never a line there when I go to pick up my photos.  And these photos are always ready in under an hour — it’s as if they are waiting for someone to order some prints.  Probably because they are.  The bins behind the counter that hold photos for pickup are nearly empty and there has never been any confusion finding my order.

And, I’m not going to help matters for my local photo printers with this blog post…

Rather, I’m going to suggest a new way to archive those favorite photos.  Create photo books.  Plain and simple.  Photo books allow you to tell your story with your photos, and preserve your best and favorite photos forever.  Since they are in a book, it is something you can share with your family and friends.  And, if they really like it, you can print a second copy for them.  Or give books as gifts.  And, guess what?  There are a number of companies who specialize in printing photo books for ordinary people like you and me.  You don’t have to be a wedding photographer or own a photography studio to get high quality books printed with your photos inside.  And, you don’t have to be a graphic designer to create your very own book.  All you need to get started are your own digital photos, a few hours of time, and a credit card.

So, let’s say that you took 1,000 pictures last year.  You may have taken them at a few birthday parties, maybe a wedding, at the arrival of a new child, a vacation, a family reunion, and you probably even took a handful while spending good times with friends.  Plus, I’m sure you have some other family events, social group events, or things you do for a hobby.  No matter what the subjects are for your photos, they tell your own personal story.  You might choose to create a theme book to document a great time you would like to remember forever, or you might choose to create yearbooks that cover everything that happened in your life during the past year.  And, what better way to document the story of your life than to publish it in a book.  Now, I’m not talking about writing a book to sell on Amazon.  Of course you could do that if you think someone outside your family and friends would care to read your story, but odds are good that few others would care.

Examples of Photobooks by Apple

Ideas from Apple for Mother's Day photo books

What format should your photo books take?  The options are only limited by your imagination.  And, the companies who print these books even have options for you if you’re not very creative.  You’ll have options for different sizes, different papers, hard or soft covers, etc.  And then you get to choose the subject, topic, or theme for your book.

What about your old photos and negatives?  Well, there are options for that also.  You’ll have to scan your negatives or prints before you can begin to create your new book. There are two options for you here — buy your own scanner and learn how to do this, or send your negatives/prints to a service where experts will do this for you.  For me, I’ll be doing both.  My most precious photos aren’t leaving my house; so I’ll be scanning them myself.  But my other photos and negatives are going to be shipped out, because my time is worth something!  I haven’t done this yet, but I plan to try Scan Cafe first.

So, you might be asking yourself, how much is this book going to cost me?  Well, the answer is simple.  They start at around $20-$30.  And the price goes up from there depending on how many pages you include, what kinds of paper you choose, and what kind of cover you select for your book.

Shoebox full of photosRemember when you used to use film?  Suppose you were taking 500 photos each year.  Out of all those photos, how many would you say are your favorites, or you best shots?  Maybe 50 or 100?  In the days when we all used film, if you took 500 photos in a year, that would be about 20 rolls of film. At $5 per roll to buy, and about $10 to print, you would have spent $300 to capture & print those photos.  That works out to $3 for each of your 100 favorites!  Where are those photos now?  In a shoebox stored in the attic?  Or in an album?  Are they telling a story?  Or are they collecting dust? Mine are…  Compared to what we used to pay for photo printing, these photo books are a bargain.

Jason Dunn's Photo Book Collection

Jason Dunn's Photo Book Collection

Last week, LifeHacker featured an article about making photo books in a blog post written by Jason Dunn. Jason has done his own personal test of 12 different book printing services.  He created the same book at each of these services, and he has written the ultimate 15 page blog post to describe his project, his test methodology, and his results.  He even includes YouTube videos to show you the results of the work from each vendor.  That’s right — 12 videos describing in 2-6+ minutes each the results he got from each company.  This level of detail in his 15,000+ word review earns the fabled “GrumpyHerb Seal of Approval” because of his attention to detail and exhaustive search to do the best possible job and then share it with us.  My only disappointment with his review is that he did not try out the book service offered by Apple via their iPhoto and Aperture programs.  And, there are probably more companies that he didn’t try – but the fact that he did such a comprehensive review of 12 vendors more than makes up for this omission.

This is what has convinced me to make photo books with my digital photos.  The price for a book or two for all my photos from last year, along with the ability to share the book, keep it on my bookshelf, and easily review the story of my life at some time in the future make this decision easy for me.  Besides, just like backing up your data, there is a good reason to make photo books – Do it for the children!  They’ll be happy one day.  Trust me.

iPad Launch Day

The iPad displays the home page of the GrumpyHerb blog.

iPad display showing this blog in Safari.

I made my way to an Apple Store on Saturday, and did not come home with an iPad.  And it wasn’t because they didn’t have them in stock.  Rather, when I got there at 3pm, they were displaying several “stacks” of them behind the Genius Bar.  And, I couldn’t find an employee who would even discuss how many the store received, how many they sold, or even how many reserved iPads weren’t picked up before the 3pm cutoff.  So, for all I knew, they had stacks of them in the back storage room.  Employees were easy to spot: they wore blue shirts advertising the iPad with this slogan, taken from Apple’s web page: “A magical and revolutionary product at an unbelievable price.”

By 3pm, the line was only a memory.  But the store was full of people using the iPad, and indeed, there were happy customers leaving with new iPads.  This store had 28 units on display for customers and potential customers to play with.  And, for the time I was there (over an hour), each of them was being fully used.  The staff was friendly and knowledgeable.

I used nearly every feature available on the iPad, from configuration settings to the pre-installed applications.  The Apple apps and the full screen apps demonstrate why the iPad is so much more than a glorified iPod Touch or iPhone.  Keynote looked amazing.  Pages was set up to let you move images around and watch the text flow.  It was just as fast as advertised.  Numbers will take some getting used to; I don’t see it being used for big, hairy spreadsheets given the screen size.  But the presentation did look as nice as the iWork version.  Other full size apps I played with include the new MLB (baseball) app, which was really nice since games were “in play” during the afternoon as I was using it.  The eTrade app demonstrated how nice it is to have lots of data on the screen at once; vs. swapping between smaller iPhone screens.  Reuters News app also looked nice.

I didn’t spend much time surfing YouTube or looking for Flash content, so the lack of Flash never got in my way.

I didn’t have any reason to try to do two things at once, so the lack of multi-tasking never bothered me.  Of course, I did have the iPod play music in the background as I did other tasks.  It works just like the iPhone in this regard.

The model I used was a 16gig model.  In the stats page, it showed 14gig available total, and they had 5 gig of content installed.  This included the apps, 250+ songs, and 800+ photos.  The photo display was stunning.  Smooth and fast.  Just as advertised.

Two disappointments for me: 1)  the new New York Times app was not installed, so there was no way to interact with the fancy new program that Steve tempted us with back in January. 2) The (Google) Maps app couldn’t connect to the server.  The Apple employee I spoke with acknowledged this, and even tried switching wi-fi networks for me.  It still didn’t work.  However, the app had cached versions of the Eifel Tower, so I could pretend I was Steve during his demo and pan in and out on the satellite view.  It worked just as fast for me as it did for him.  But it would have been so much cooler to test it on my home address and see if it was still as snappy…  I’m grumpy, but not cynical, so I won’t try to assign blame for the unavailable server.

Overall, it was a fun product to use.  It worked as advertised, nothing more and nothing less.  I think Apple delivered exactly what they promised.  And, by having over 2,000 new iPad apps ready to sell in the iTunes store, they’ve got enough content for new owners to begin enjoying their new purchase.  Why didn’t I buy one?  Because I have an iPhone and a MacBook already, and there isn’t yet a compelling app or collection of apps I can’t live without on the iPad.  $500 for a book reader is too much for me.  $500 to have a fancy view of MLB games is too much for me.  I have the iWork family pack on the laptop and desktop already.  But, I envision a future when there are over a dozen nice apps I’d use over the course of a week, plus nation-wide newspapers, magazines, and catalogs available on the iPad.  Then the device will start to have some appeal for me.  It’s at version one and less than a day old!  Give it time, I think it’s going to be around for a while.  Not to mention what good competition in the marketplace will do to make it better.

iPad: Segway or segue?

Home Screen of the Apple iPad

iPad Home Screen

Apple has set the date for their next big event.  It will be this Saturday, April 3rd, 2010.  That is the day they start selling what many believe will be a revolutionary shift in how people use computing devices and access not only the Internet, but all of their media.  Certainly Apple believes this.  To be sure, the introduction of the Apple iPad isn’t the first time a tidal shift was expected in how our lives would change.  Remember the Segway Human Transporter?  Inventor Dean Kaman predicted his device would change how we moved around cities, and that everyone would be using these personal transport devices.  That was in December 2001.  Indeed, they are still being sold, but the adoption was far less than universal, with reports indicating that just over 50,000 have been sold.  Now we see them in use in many niche markets: law enforcement in shopping malls, tours around the Nation’s Capitol, and as a novelty ride at Disney’s Epcot Center.  Will the iPad be the next Segway, or will it be a segue into the next era of personal computers?

Clearly, Steve Jobs and Apple believe that the iPad will be a segue, defined by the Random House Dictionary as “any smooth, uninterrupted transition from one thing to another.”  During the product launch in January 2010, Steve Jobs presented the case for Apple being a mobile devices company, illustrating the gap between smartphones and laptops with a listing of things a mobile device user is most likely to do: Browsing, Email, Photos, Video, Music, Games, and eBooks (shown between the 7 and 8 minute point of the video):

“If there’s going to be a third category of device, it’s going to have to be better at these kinds of tasks than a laptop or a smartphone.  Otherwise, it has no reason for being.  Now, some people have thought that’s netbook.  The problem is that netbooks aren’t better at anything.  They’re slow, they have low quality displays, and they run clunky old PC software.  They’re not better than a laptop at anything; they’re just cheaper.”

It was at that moment that he defined the niche market that the iPad is designed to reach.  Later in the speech, he pointed out (and demonstrated) that the iPad interface works just like the iPhone and the iPod Touch, of which they’ve already sold over 75 million units (1 hour, 29 minutes into launch video) – these users already know how easy it is to use this interface; and have already discovered that no special training will be necessary for any new user to begin using the iPad within minutes of unboxing.

At the launch, Steve Job’s announced that the iPad would be available in 60 days.  Apple traditionally holds their launch parties at 6pm on a Friday, as they have done in the past for various versions of their operating system and the iPhone.  The choice of a Saturday is quite telling about the audience they want to reach.  Friday nights are known for happy hours, family movie nights, and first dates.  Most everyone chooses a Friday night as time to wind down after a full work or school week.  But Saturday is a new day!  The weekend!  Instead of keeping stores open til midnight for a 6 hour launch party and competing with traditional Friday night activities, their stores will open at 9am on Saturday for everyone to come in, look it over, and possibly even buy a new iPad.  The key word there is everyone.  Everyone gets out on the weekend, whether to run errands, take the family shopping, or get together with friends.  Now we have something else to do that day.  And, by announcing this date early in March, they gave us all a month to plan for how we will spend part of that day.  And, the fun lasts all weekend!

You can imagine Apple Store employees in matching colored t-shirts with a clever slogan, and some stores may even give away an iPad to a lucky visitor.  But, come early if you want to be among the first people to get your hands on one — launch days have been known to be the reason lines form overnight in front of the store. Not everyone can fit in the store at once, so be ready to stand on-line with like-minded folks who want to touch and hold this latest creation out of Cupertino.  I’ve been in these lines before for the launch of Macintosh products — they are a mix of die-hard Apple fans (users) and the merely curious.  But mostly fans.  I predict that the folks in the iPad line will be a broader mix of people, especially given the widespread adoption of the iPhone that has introduced the public to what a touch-screen computer can be.

And, just like a Friday night launch, the stock market is closed, so there won’t be any crazy immediate market reactions if supply can’t meet demand, or if it exceeds demands.  Ditto if there are any problems with the roll-out or unexpected system crashes — Apple has a chance to make a press release before the market bell rings at 9:30am EDT on Monday.  Just last week, Apple announced their battery replacement program for the iPad; dodging any post-purchase consumer complaints about what to do when their sealed battery no longer holds a charge.

But this product launch is not without lots of press reports extolling the pros and cons of the iPad.  A simple Google or Bing search will lead you to many articles that will tell you what is great and what is wrong with the iPad.  Likewise, those sites will give you all the technical details — I’m not about to repeat all that here.  There are even several articles and blog posts comparing the iPad to the Segway and the Apple Newton (Also, I discovered that I guess you have to write your blog post early after a news announcement if you want to be the first person to mention the Segway or Newton in your review; oh well!).  I’m going to assume you’ve probably already read those reports and technical details if you were interested.  Therefore, I’m going to comment on a few of the discussions I’ve read, and make a few of my own observations.

iPad Safari Web Browser

iPad Safari Web Browser

iPad — What’s in a Name?

At the iPad announcement, countless reporters in the tech community and even regional media bemoaned the name, made petty jokes, and questioned why Apple would pick such a name.  To me, it was obvious why Apple picked this name.  Of course, the first part of the name was in-line with their lower case “i” branding of iPod and iMac for consumer products.  But the choice of “Pad” aligns perfectly with what you would use a “pad” for – taking notes and writing letters.  Today I take a pad of paper to meetings to record my notes on.  Some peers do this on their laptops now; and even fewer use a Microsoft Windows-based tablet with stylus to take notes.  In another related application, how may pads of Post-It brand sticky-pad notes have you used in your life?  Did you ever use that pad of paper on the night stand in a hotel room?  Once a letter is penned on pad of paper, the sheet of paper would be dispatched, posted, or folded up for later use.  And the next sheet would be ready for use. When I was in college, my mother wrote me weekly letters from a pad of paper.  Today, once I write a letter, I will most likely send it electronically instead of putting a stamp on it.  Between this and electronic banking (which you’ll also be able to do on an iPad), the US Postal System has less mail to move, and is looking to five days of delivery verses six.  Times change as every decade passes, and the way we interact with each other changes to match the technology available (just think, we don’t ride horses to work anymore, we don’t use much film anymore today either, and I’d bet that few people send and receive paper letters anymore).  Get it?  We have been using pads in our lives for a long time…

Names including notepads, notebooks, and netbooks have already been defined by others in the marketplace.  Two other suggested names for Apple’s device would include slate or tablet.  But it’s not a slate, which conjures up images of heavy old blackboards, or even the smaller slates used for notes in century-old school houses.  A slate let you take notes and is reusable, but offers no way to transfer your information easily to someone else without showing it to them.  It’s also not a tablet, which conjures up images of Moses and the 10 commandments – permanent images chiseled in stone; not even re-usable!  Instead, Apple called it the iPad.  A PAD!  Get over it, everyone!

Where is the market?

As I pointed out earlier, Apple is targeting a market segment at a place between laptop computers and smartphones, banking on Steve Job’s claim to be the largest mobile product company.  But I think the early adopters will be either the Apple fans who buy one of every new product out of Cupertino, or early adopter gadget-loving folks who can’t wait to try new technology.  But the stores will be full of curious and interested folks on Saturday who just want to see it and touch it.  They’ll be the second wave of buyers, who wait to find just the right mix of applications they would use it for (even if that means waiting for “version 2” in a year or two which might include the coveted front-facing camera).  But it’s likely that Apple already knows this, and will be counting on these two groups to be the product evangelists in communities throughout America.  You can be sure that if you are an early buyer, and you are using one in public, that strangers will come up to you and ask questions to satisfy their curiosity.

Other likely market segments that will buy the iPad early include book readers, college students, and Verizon customers who like the notion of “apps” but wouldn’t switch to the AT&T iPhone.  Plus, as new iPad-sized apps become available, more people will discover something that makes the iPad useful to them.  Add in a few “there’s an app for that” TV commercials featuring the iPad, and Apple will continue to attract buyers until the 2nd wave of buyers show up for version two (probably in a year, based on Apple iPhone release history).  Plus, in a year, the production costs will go down enough to include a camera and maybe even more memory at no additional cost.  Just study any iPod “size and features” timeline, and you’ll see that these iPad feature upgrades are inevitable in the future.

I see a market segment that hasn’t been talked about much in the media, and that includes people like my parents and grandmother.  They won’t be the first people to buy the iPad, but once they start seeing not only their children and grandchildren using them, but also their peers — then look out!  This demographic didn’t grow up with computers, but have started to adopt them over the past decade to use the web and to communicate with their families who did.  As a result, the things they would use a computing device for are exactly the same things that the iPad excels at — email, web browsing, reading books, and keeping up with their families on sites like Facebook.  Could the iPad become the “recipe manager” that people envisioned way back when Apple introduced the Apple ][ three decades ago?!  Add in a social network-enabled recipe manager, and you just might have something…  Plus, I already can see that my father would enjoy the MLB app that was demonstrated during the keynote.  Just imagine what other apps will be developed that might cater to the retirement-age market segment!

Another use case that hasn’t seen much attention is the user groups who would use the telephone network enabled versions.  Some might say that unless you have a super fast 3G network that you are crippled; but I would disagree.  Network communication over the AT&T Edge network is sufficiently fast enough for email and most all web browsing activities.  Indeed, if your life requires YouTube videos and streaming media downloads, then yes, you’ll need 3G or wi-fi to satisfy your requirements.  But for many others, the cell phone plan will be all they need.  And therein lies the best part!  For a mere $15 per month, an iPad user who does mostly email, web browsing, and book reading will be perfectly situated — and, they won’t need to pay monthly land-based broadband fees which typically cost $40-$50 per month.  And, if they need more bandwidth, the $30 per month plan will accommodate them — still cheaper than most broadband plans.  Plus, they can travel with their iPad, and use it wherever they want (of course, there needs to be cell phone service available and a way to charge it).  And, here is the best part — in this use case, if they don’t have any other computers at home (like my grandmother), they don’t need to maintain a wireless router, anti-virus patches, or calls to the grandkids for computer support.  This group will enjoy some of the least expensive Internet access in America along with trouble-free network access — something to make many of us tech-savvy users with $50-per-month broadband plans envious for sure!

But, there is a group of potential users who will not likely buy one.  This group includes the power-users who wanted a full copy of the Mac OS with command line interface options available to them in the iPad form factor.  They were disappointed when the iPad launched, because it wouldn’t feature the full-sized operating system options that they could imagine. But, from a marketing perspective, I imagine someone at Apple would remind this group that they do sell some really nice laptop computers with these features.  It’s certainly clear that “one size doesn’t fit all” with the iPad.  If Apple was to build a product that does everything for every possible user, it would likely weigh more, have half the battery life, and cost more.  Successful marketing happens when creative products intersect with a large group of people who are willing to beat a path to your door.  Even though this group aren’t going to beat a path to Apple’s stores on Saturday, I think Apple is fairly confident that there is a group who will.

Apple has optimized the iPad for their targeted market segment between smartphones and laptops. It’s more than an iPhone and less than a laptop – on purpose. They’ve chosen to use their touch-based version of OS-X already in use on the iPod Touch and iPhone for a good reason — there are already 75 million users who know how to use it.  Between those users, and those who watch the guided tours posted on their web site this week, potential buyers will be able to start using it right away.  Plus an external keyboard or mouse is not required.  Neither is a stylus that can get lost.  Rather, they are using a stylus you’ll have with you all the time — your finger!

iPad App Store

iPad App Store

Unsung feature

The photo frame!  How many have bought photo frames in the past two years since they became popular and affordable?  Imagine that when you aren’t using your iPad (no matter how much you are in love with it, you probably won’t use it 24 hours a day), that it can sit in its charging cradle and become a photo frame for you.  It’s design is as attractive as any photo frame on the market, and it’s likely that a whole new set of apps will be developed to serve as photo frames.  The more advanced photo frames, such as those by Kodak, eStarling, and HP (eStarling Touch Connect, Kodak EasyShare W820, HP DreamScreen), offer not only photos, but wi-fi connections that bring in emailed media, Flickr photos, and other internet-based features.  Well, guess what?  The iPad should be able to do all of this while it is resting.  If not yet, then there soon will be an app for that!  And, oh, so much more that it can do when it’s not at rest!

Book Reading

It looks like the Kindle vs. iPad “game is on” if you are looking for a portable book reading solution.  Amazon has recently been showing television advertisements for the Kindle, and advertising how the Kindle features free 3G wireless connections.  Of course, that is a good deal if all you plan to do is read books on your device.  Certainly, there is a market for that, as Amazon has already been able to demonstrate (they just don’t seem to want to share sales figures, though).  But I think the market for the iPad will be one where book reading is not your primary reason for buying a $499 device.  Rather, you’ll be able to do so much more!

Facts: Just the FAQs

I’ve found one web page that has aggregated facts and rumors in the form of a FAQ, and they have clearly indicated what is real and what is speculation.  That page comes from Macintouch, a daily news blog for all things Apple. Here is a link to their Comprehensive Apple iPad FAQ.

Why no camera?

I think the answer to this one is quite obvious – because they didn’t have to.  This is a version one product, and there will be plenty of time to include new features and capabilities in the future.  It has so many capabilities and it will find users in so many niche markets that don’t require a camera.  One day they will include a camera, perhaps in version two in a year or two — just about the right time to add memory, a faster processor, and another set of amazing applications. And, just like most gadgets sold today, there will always be an upgraded version to entice even the early adopters to sell their previous version (on a site like eBay or Gazelle) and buy a new one.

But I think there is another answer to this as well.  Economics.  I can envision that someone (probably a full department) at Apple runs their economic analysis on spreadsheets that would cover at least a pair of 30 inch monitors.  And this is where they set profit margins vs. piece part OEM prices on any product they are preparing to sell.  So, if they want a 50% profit margin, they can decide what components can still be included in the shipping product to meet this goal.  And, as they designed version one of the iPad, the cost of the camera, if even just $5 extra in parts, broke the planned margin.  Years ago, I spoke with an economist from MIT, and she told me that most large companies hire economists to forecast pricing models and ultimately set retail prices.  For example, she said that it was clear that Microsoft used this model for pricing their Office Suite packages, such that the suite price was just a little more than the cost of two individual components.  Indeed, those of us who are not economists (like me), might think that we know how to do this.  But this economist insured me that corporate America is one of the primary locations where freshly minted college economics graduates are hired to help companies establish marketable price points for their products.

About a month ago, the Apple repair shop Mission:Repair reported (with photos) on their blog that the replacement frames for the iPad included a space for a camera, and that the replacement camera used for the unibody MacBooks was a perfect fit.  The tech press picked up on this, and immediately speculated that the iPad would be getting a camera in the future.  I was reminded of what I learned in college about the design of the IBM 360 (IBM press release from 1964; Wikipedia entry).  They built a single platform that could be sold to several different users, each at a different price point.  However, the hardware was the same in each system, and a service technician would configure a set of internal jumpers to activate higher speeds and capacities.  The benefit to IBM was that they built it on one assembly line, and they could meet user needs in multiple markets.  We see this today with the many versions of Windows available to address different user requirements — and we can be sure that Microsoft doesn’t have a different code base for each version.  Rather, they compile each edition with carefully set compiler flags to include the proper set of code in each version.  For this reason, it is not at all surprising that the frame includes a cutout area specifically for a camera.  If you were an economist, why would you make multiple frame styles?

What about Flash?

I think the answer to this one has to do with how Apple perceives their market based on nearly 3 years of iPhone and iPod Touch usage.  Those users have done fine without Flash, and it doesn’t seem to be a go/no-go decision point for the majority of potential buyers.  Sure, there are reports that Flash is processor intensive, and would end up slowing down these devices.  Apple might want to tell you that they don’t want to use Flash because it is a proprietary technology that they don’t or can’t control. However, that argument won’t hold up long given that Apple has prided itself for a long time on their proprietary systems and choice to not license their systems to other hardware manufacturers (at least not since Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 and shut down the Macintosh clones by companies like Power Computing, UMAX, and DayStar).

Apple controls the experience

Relative to technologies included or not included in the iPad, I think it comes down to one thing: Apple owns and controls their technology.  If you like it and want to use it, you will have to use it according to how they want you to use it.  In 1999, Apple introduced their new blue and white G3 desktop computers without floppy drives.  The tech press nearly declared it heresy!  How could Apple do that?  How will I live without a floppy drive?  Well, guess what?  Just about everyone I know has not used a floppy disk in years.  I’m sure the horse buggy manufacturers were outraged with Henry Ford a century ago, too.  Likewise, now Apple hasn’t built in extra ports for memory cards or a USB interface on the iPad.  Rather, you’ll have to buy an external connector if you want that.  And, Apple is likely going to limit what USB devices can plug into it – so far, they’ve only promised digital camera connectivity.  Sometimes, a company has to be bold about the actions it takes.  And the success of the touch interface for Apple certainly emboldens them as they introduce the iPad with the features we’ve seen advertised.


Segway or segue?  I think the iPad is definitely the segue.  It is not a reincarnated Newton, nor is it just a big iPod Touch or big iPhone.  It is going to bring in a new class of Internet-connected devices, hopefully with lots of competition that will serve to make everyone’s devices in this product space better.  Apple gets to leverage its successful iTunes store, and will likely have the lead in this category for some time.  However, that doesn’t mean that a competitor won’t create a better product one day.  For example, it will be exciting to see what becomes of Google’s Android operating system over the next five years.  Likewise, it will be interesting to see what open standards evolve that let these devices to interact and exchange data as this market grows.

We have already seen reported estimates from CNN that first day pre-orders eclipsed 120,000 units; which already tops the number of Segways ever sold.  But, at $500 compared to $5,000, that should have been expected.  This is where I go out on a limb and make a prediction — Yes, I think that the first version of the iPad will be successful.  Despite the complaints and dissension you may have read in any number of reviews, I think that after 3 years, we will see people using all 3 categories of mobile devices that Steve described: smartphones, tablets, and laptops.  Will iPads and tablet-like devices dominate the other two categories?  No, I doubt it.  Will it change the number of smartphones that are sold?  No, I doubt it.  Will it become an attractive alternative to a laptop device for users who don’t need all the complexity available on a laptop?  Yes.  Will it dent the laptop market?  Perhaps, but just a little.  Since there will always be new users entering the computing marketplace (even if you just count the next generation of children), there will always be an increase in the number of all 3 types of units sold.  The iPad will offer a new option to serve an emerging market segment for mobile devices, and time will tell how companies develop creative uses for this device that we haven’t yet imagined.  The mere fact that there are now over 140,000 applications available in the iTunes App Store should be an indicator of the level of creativity in this world.  The “cost of entry” is low, and always welcomes new ideas.  Of course, you can’t be too creative, because Apple is still playing gatekeeper here, the tech media is taking note — but that is a topic for another day.

Over its lifetime, Apple has demonstrated that it is possible to remain a vibrant and viable computer company with a market share under 10% — this should serve as inspiration to any startup that can create the next “must have” gadget.  All you need is a good idea!  And some capable marketing folks wouldn’t hurt either!

Footnote: Will GrumpyHerb be buying one?

Maybe someday.  I currently have an iPhone and a laptop, so I have both ends of Apple’s wireless device spectrum covered.  When I see some “must have” apps that only work on the iPad, I will begin to consider one.  Or if I decide to develop an app.  Or if some irrational techno-lust for a new gadget overtakes me…  It is easy to get excited after watching those guided tours on the Apple web site and listening to podcasts like MacBreak on the TWiT network and Scott Bourne’s PadPundit!

But, just like any new technology item, the base price of $499 is just the starting place.  To be as useful as I can imagine it being, the real cost of entry will be much higher no matter which model you buy. I will likely need a protective carrying case ($30), a USB adapter ($30), a VGA adapter ($30) a screen protector ($20), and a cool Apple BlueTooth keyboard ($70).  Add in a few apps (such as Apple’s Pages or Keynote for $10 each), and you are closing in on $200 real fast.  So I’m now at $700 for the least expensive device before sales taxes…  Because my iPhone has Internet access for those places where I’m not connected to my wi-fi network, I probably won’t buy the 3G-enabled version when and if the time ever comes.  However, you can bet that I’ll be inside an Apple store on April 3rd, or as close to that date as possible!

Hello world!

Welcome to Herb’s new blog.  Herb really isn’t grumpy.  He just has high expectations of himself and others.  Doing something halfway is just as good as not doing it.