Steve Jobs, Salesman Extraordinaire and the iPad 2

March 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Last week, the world witnessed the launch of Apple’s second generation tablet device, the iPad2. What it also saw was one of the best presentations yet from their CEO and arguably the greatest salesman of this generation, Steven P. Jobs. If you want to save the trouble of reading the post, you are welcome to view the presentation here. Jobs unveiled a modest upgrade to the immensely popular iPad in his inimitable style that has been copied by many but mastered by none.

Prior to the event, there was speculation if Jobs would be present given his recent health issues. But surprising many, Jobs took stage at the Yerba Buena Center in downtown San Francisco to launch iPad2. Some have questioned[1][2] if the upgrades iPad2 has offered over iPad could have really been part of the first generation of the product and if the specs are comparable to the current and upcoming slew of Android tablets. But the way Jobs masterfully presented the product to the world, there is little doubt that this iteration will be as wildly successful if not better than the first generation of the product. Joshua Topolsky has a well written Editorial at Engadget explaining just why so. Avid Apple enthusiast John Gruber of Daring Fireball fame has a nice article that actually goes beyond his love for Apple and presents a valid case for why Apple will succeed with the iPad 2.

I wanted to dwell for a few lines on the presentation itself which was brilliant. Starting with the appearance of Jobs and the masterfully edited iPad montage and simple yet assertive slides on how much more popular the iPad was, compared to the competition, it was just fantastically done. Friends have referred me in the past to a wonderful blog titled Presentation Zen and the associated books[Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery][Presentation Zen Design: Simple Design Principles and Techniques to Enhance Your Presentations][The Naked Presenter: Delivering Powerful Presentations With or Without Slides (Voices That Matter)] from its author, Garr Reynolds that lets us present much like Jobs. Reynolds in facts writes quite a bit about Jobs as seen here and here. The books are great but not everyone who has read these books and others[The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience] can present like Jobs and we all know that. Jobs, in my opinion is a one of a kind innovator and salesman. This video from the author of the Presentation Secrets book captures the gist of Job’s presentation greatness and how we can emulate it. We are truly privileged to see the man in action in our lifetimes. Remember, the tablet is something most of us really don’t need. Between the superphones of today and our laptops/desktops, there is really not that big a void the iPad fills. But it is to Apple and Jobs credit that they have convinced over 20 million people and counting, that they need the iPad. And with the launch of the iPad2, they will only conquer more such millions. And the launch presentation set the ball rolling just about perfectly!

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Motorola’s pricing strategy

February 8, 2011 § 1 Comment

A few weeks ago, Motorola had on its hands, two certifiably hyped up and much wanted devices- the Atrix 4G superphone launching on AT&T and the Xoom tablet launching on Verizon. What was known was that the devices had some of the best technical specs in their respective fledgling categories and also boasted the Motorola stamp of quality- one that has good street cred with the success of the Droid platform. Also in tow was their excellent experience in crafting cool Android products. In all, a win-win. Coinciding with the split of the company and the launch of Motorola Mobility (NASDAQ: MMI), this was to be a rebirth of the iconic Motorola brand with a new identity.

What has followed is a very puzzling pricing strategy that threatens to kill all the buzz surrounding these products (if the Internet forums are to be believed). The Atrix was supposed to be ATT and Motorola’s champion against iPhone on Verizon. And from a product stand point, it still is. But from a cost standpoint, it has the possibility of falling short of its lofty goals. The phone has been priced at $199 on a 2 year contract but the Atrix accessories which include a cool laptop dock and an entertainment dock have both been priced significantly out of a normal person’s reach.  The dock costs $300 when bought along with the phone (total $500) and $500 if bought separately. To note, a brand new iPad costs $500 in comparison. The entertainment dock comes with a wireless keyboard and a mouse for $200. Full pricing details are available here. To me, it seems like the pricing does not reflect that of its competition and does not capitalize on the uniqueness of its accessories. If there is a hidden secret sauce here, I am missing it. The Atrix looks like one of the coolest devices to be launched this year, one I was seriously considering upgrading to. At this price point, I am not sure if I can afford it.

The Xoom tablet was officially launched to the American public with a Superbowl ad that reminded us of the iconic Apple 1984 ad, just that Apple was “The Man” this time around. Earlier in the month, Google and Motorola had previewed the tablet and the new Android Honeycomb OS that will power it. People (and yours truly) were really excited for the tablet. It looked and played cool. And then came the hammer that the Xoom would cost $800. Yep, the first genuine iPad competitor (ignoring the Samsung Galaxy tab which was running an Android version designed for smartphones)  will cost almost twice as much. Yes, I agree that the $800 Xoom has inbuilt 3G which the $499 iPad does not. But people tend to compare apples to oranges all the time. And the barrier of entry is much higher for the Xoom than the iPad. In addition, the VZ data plans for tablets are pretty expensive (not that any tablet 3G plan is cheap). All in all, the Xoom is going to have a tough time matching the iPad sales numbers which is a pity considering that it looks and feels like a fantastic product- comparable if not better than the iPad.

I am no business executive or finance maven but in my humble opinion, Motorola should have launched a WiFi only SKU comparable in price to the iPad. The WAN version should have been priced closer to the iPad 3G price ($630) although Apple has immense pricing flexibility due to their purchase volumes ( I should someday write a post on Apple’s excellent supply chain management). The Atrix accessories should have been much cheaper. If you think the laptop dock to be really a screen with a connector and 15 inch LCD screens costing less than $80 in the market (cheaper with more volume) pricing it at $300 or worse still $500 puts it out of the reach of very many people. Until this changes, Motorola has lost a surefire customer in me for the Atrix and a possible customer for the Xoom.

I didn’t think there would be a day where the “premium” Apple products are also the most affordable ones in their segment. To be clear, I am not blaming Motorola for all this. It is probably a mixture of costs, strategy and also carrier constraints which are driving the pricing but it is something that is worth a revisit. For my sake if not anyone else 😦

Update: To validate the barrier for entry point, HP/Palm just announced the TouchPad tablet with webOS and the first model to ship will be Wi-Fi only. Well played HP/Palm. Very smart business move. More on the TouchPad here and here. I will write a separate blog post on this topic soon.

The Android Revolution is being televised

May 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Yes, this is one of the million articles on Android following a great Google IO Conference with a bunch of cool announcements. But no, I am not a opportunist to cash in on the android hype machine. I truly believe the OS is out to change the handheld device spectrum and this post is all about that. We will go over some of the cool IO announcements, but the trigger point for this post is not that but this and this. Pandigital, an also ran in the low price digital frame industry with questionable support (I know!) and even more questionable features just announced a competitor to the iPad. Yep, you read that right. A few years ago, this might be almost foolhardy. David of unknown origin going against a really big Goliath. But Pandigital now has something up its arsenal that gives it legitimacy, Android. And herein lies the revolution.

With the support of a behemoth like Google, Android is enabling manufacturers all and sundry to now be able to compete in the smartphone industry and also the ancillary industries such as e-book readers, tablets, netbooks and what not. This coupled with the surging popularity of Android based smartphones (thanks also to the lack of iPhone with any other carrier but ATT), there is a groundswell movement of all things Android.

Google TV is another Android foray into realms unknown and unconquered. How popular it gets remains to be seen but it is undeniable that Google is putting its best foot forward with an interesting array of partners. Oh, and did I mention the Google TV ads?

The “Do no evil” mantra of Google coupled with the inherent openness of the platform is enabling device vendors to pick and choose their variant of the OS- be it the core with their own skin [htc sense][motoblur] or the entire experience [nexusone]. It is so flexible, that Moto could pack in a different LBS provider on its Android device and it was fine. Imagine that with Apple or Microsoft. Remember how long it took before the first legitimate browser outside of Safari made its way into the iPhone. Apple has its reasons to be closed and rightfully so. But in the same vein, it helps Google to continue its perceived altruistic (time will tell the real motivation – mobile ads and control of the mobile eco-system)foray into the mobile space.

For now, anyone looking to get into the mobile eco-system, look no further than the Android.

Tablet wars

May 12, 2010 § 1 Comment

The iPad is about to have some serious competition. In the marketplace today, the iPad is numero uno when it comes to a must have tablet computer. That might soon change if Google, HP, Lenovo and a myriad of competitors have their way. It is public knowledge that Google is working on a tablet that runs one of its Chromium/Android OS. This much was revealed a few weeks back here. There is even a cool video with a mockup of a tablet running the OS. Fast forward to today where there is tremendous anticipation for an iPhone that runs on Verizon. For everyone complaining about ATT’s network being an impediment to using the iPhone, this was going to be the Holy Grail. Engadget dug up the ATT-iPhone contract details that confirmed that the exclusivity expired not in 2010 as many had predicted but in 2012. This implied that Verizon would have to wait to get the iPhone.

In the meantime, the Verizon – Google partnership on the Droid handsets is flourishing. All the Android devices on Verizon are selling extremely well and are proving to be a cash cow to Verizon. All of a sudden, for haters of ATT network, there is a lot of smartphone love with The Big Red. So it was no surprise when WSJ and Bloomberg leaked information yesterday of a collaboration between Verizon and Google to bring the Google tablet on their network. This makes sense in a lot of ways. Google gets to continue its oneupmanship battle with Apple. Verizon gets to call a tablet its own and the consumer has choice in the tablet segment.TechCrunch breaks this equation down here.

Eventually HP will get into the tablet business with a webOS based Hurricane tablet. Microsoft is already in the tablet business to retain its competitive edge in the OS segment. So a bevy of vendors will tote out Win7 tablets in the coming months. The Lenovo U1 IdeaPad met with good initial response when unveiled at CES. It remains to be seen if it ends up as a meaningful competitor. The iPad will now have to fight it out with multiple tablets featuring different OS’s each with its pros and cons. It will also have to keep upping the ante on the e-Reader front against the Kindle, Nook and the upcoming Kobo from Borders.

For the consumer, it is a win-win. Competition as always forces innovation and price wars. It also means there is an alternative. Bring on the tablets!

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