The Apple iPad: Push or Pull?

January 27, 2010

When we evaluate new technology I believe that the key equation is “push or pull.” It is the rare new technology product released to the public where the reaction is an immediate: “I want that.” I suppose Facebook and Twitter are recent examples of “I want that” being a very common refrain. It certainly didn’t hurt that they were free. Microsoft pushed Vista for years without much success. Windows 7 is being pulled by consumers and businesses in record numbers.

Many new products need to be pushed hard onto the public, with the vendor hoping that it will catch on, “cross the chasm,” and thereafter an eager public will pull the product close, egged on by great reviews and great word-of-mouth.

In the case of Apple’s new iPad, was the public looking for something that met an unfulfilled technological requirement, or just hoping that Apple would provide a newfangled “must have” device?

I imagine that most (myself included) were looking for the latter. Did Apple fulfill that promise? I think not.

As Steve Jobs clearly stated in the hyped-filled product intro, he too recognizes that Apple’s task is to offer a must-have product. Jobs positioned the iPad as a pioneer in a new genre of computing, somewhere between a laptop and a smartphone. “The bar is pretty high,” he made clear. “It has to be far better at doing some key things.”

With the exception of a large and beautiful (albeit LCD) screen, we are apparently being offered a very large iPhone, without built-in telephonic features.

We can now access iBooks, a late and thus far weak entry to the eBooks foray (albeit in color).

The pricing is better than expected, although if you sign up for the whole package, the price does exceed $1,000 in year one (and most consumers will be drawn to get all the storage available as well as 3G).

Is Steve Jobs delivering on our needs or hopes? David Pogue points out in today’s New York Times, “My main message to fanboys is this: it’s too early to draw any conclusions. Apple hasn’t given the thing to any reviewers yet, there are no iPad-only apps yet (there will be), the e-bookstore hasn’t gone online yet, and so on. So hyperventilating is not yet the appropriate reaction.”

As a general observation Pogue makes a good point.

Based on the rumors of what the Apple tablet would offer I planned to buy one. Having looked fairly closely at the iPad, I’ve put my credit card back in my wallet.

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Where Steve Jobs Says that Apple is Positioned

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New iPad is a Large iPhone

…except that you can’t use it as a phone (not out of the box, at any rate).

The iPhone Gains Weight; Becomes Deaf

The iPhone Gains Weight; Becomes Deaf

And it’s not really a computer, because it runs on the iPhone OS. So yes, as Steve Jobs pointed out, there are currently 140,000 applications for that OS, but most of them are better described as “applets” rather than “applications” because they do so little (as makes sense when trying to work on a small phone). Jobs introduced several developers working on either expanding their existing applets for the iPad or developing new ones. Most were games. Apple has re-crafted its own iWorks for the iPad, which provides a modicum of mature computer-like functionality, but with OS X out of sight, the real Mac and Windows applications will also remain out of sight, unless some expensive development work gets underway to convert existing apps to the iPhone OS, assuming that would be possible.

The reaction from the press and public has been mixed thus far. Those who feel Apple can do no wrong feel, for the most part, that Apple has done no wrong, and many think it a home run. Those of us who, while admiring Steve Jobs, consider him still as human, not deity, suspect he’s well short of a home run on iPad V1.

More to follow…

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More News About the Life of Print

January 26, 2010

“The McGraw-Hill Companies reported a 43.2% increase in fourth quarter EPS,” says today’s press release.(Log-in may be required).

The big gains were in McGraw-Hill Education at 2.6% and in Financial Services at 10.6%.

“Information & Media” declined by 11.4%; you’ll have to dig deeper than I have to figure that one out.

The major message I’m receiving is that a very old media company is weathering the storm with some aplomb.

Good for them.

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The Potential of a Renewed Economic Crisis

January 17, 2010

I cheerfully admit to being a short-term economic pessimist, and a long term optimist.

But I have been appalled recently to read the all-too-numerous accounts that happy days are (for sure, probably, or at least nearly) here again.

My question is: What if they’re not?

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I believe that there is a tremendous amount of data that supports a far more grim short-to-mid-term economic prognosis. I do not deny that this is but one of three likely scenarios, from the very chipper, to the slightly melancholic, to the rather depressed. But to ignore the many facts that suggest at worst a double-dip recession or slightly less onerous, a long period of insignificant economic growth, cannot be ignored. And so I’m in the midst of revising my section on Current Economics.

Tonight I laid out my thesis in that section of the site. In the days ahead I’ll fill in the detail. The future of publishing is not just tied to the web, but also very much to the broader economic climate.

I know that we all want to look on the bright side of life. But this potential dark challenge is too large to ignore.

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Adobe Drives Another Stake Through the Heart of Print

No press release was issued by Adobe, but a few press outlets caught the story. I found it the other day in PrintAction‘s weekly enewsletter. Clive Chan, PrintAction‘s associate editor, tells me that he picked up the story from Macworld UK.

Further searching brings me to a blog entry from January 4, 2010 by the excellent journalist Cary Sherburne at PrintCEO.com. She had received notification from Adobe’s PR agency of the news, and it’s from her report that emerges the obsequious statement, “the print segment continues to be important (to Adobe).” Yes, and what a great way to share the love.

Adobe has no release on its site, but if you go to the Print Service Provider page on Adobe.com, you’ll be tersely informed: “The Adobe Partner Connection Print Service Provider Program has been discontinued. If you have any questions, please contact the Partner Programs Helpdesk (log-in required).”

Sherburne’s column produced 18 comments. Several were of the “oh well” variety, but more typical is:

The discontinuing of the program is a trend in marginalizing print. They dropped the printed Adobe Magazine, brought it back for a short term in electronic form. That too is gone. Seminars at trade shows, especially when new software was rolled out, was eliminated well before Seybold folded. The ASP logo gave the potential client some assurance of competence.

And:

For Adobe to do this now, in this economy, is a stab in the back, since it was really the printing industry (that) helped get Adobe on the map. If it wasn’t for printers, graphic artists and prepress, Adobe wouldn’t be where it is today. So thanks Adobe for shooting us when we are down….This is the thanks we get for supporting Adobe all these years.

And finally:

I’m shocked to have to find out about it online as opposed to a letter from Adobe to its members. Is our loyalty of so little importance that we don’t even rate that? I have personally pushed Adobe InDesign over QuarkXPress to my customers for years in part because I felt Adobe was sensitive to the needs of print providers while Quark took a ‘here it is take it or leave it’ attitude….Watch out Adobe, snubbing customer loyalty is how Quark lost the top spot!

That last comment is I believe apropos and reveals what I can only imagine is Adobe’s thinking:

1. Adobe InDesign has essentially vanquished QuarkPress. Yes, there are quite a few legacy QuarkXPress customers, but Adobe wins the vast majority of new installations.

2. Print is an ever-declining source of revenue for Adobe, while as I’ve often noted, Adobe has a very clear strategy for moving forward on the web. No, Adobe is not abandoning print, it has merely dropped quite a few rungs down the ladder in Adobe’s list of priorities.

3. Don’t cry for me, print! I don’t blame Adobe for recognizing the reality of print’s rapid decline and placing its corporate priorities where it must. I just wish it would indeed recognize in some tangible way that these folks that it is tossing overboard did indeed help to launch the company into the enormous success that it has become. Of course eventually we have to pull the patient off life-support, but it can be done with dignity.

4. Adobe’s claim that membership was dropping and the cost to Adobe was becoming too high somehow doesn’t ring properly for a profitable $5 billion company that does manage to offer numerous other support programs, many directed towards web-related technologies (although there is a support program for the multiple media Creative Suite).

Enough of this. I rest my case.

Update: On January 20th Quark very wisely stepped into the breach, announcing,  “In continued support of the print community, Quark announced today special offers that allow eligible printers to join Quark output provider programs at no cost. Adobe Service Network (ASN) members, current QuarkAlliance members, and printers interested in Quark Promote are invited to take advantage of complimentary QuarkAlliance and Quark Promote memberships. Membership benefits can include priority technical support, a free copy of QuarkXPress 8, increased market visibility, and potential revenue opportunities….”

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