Apple’s Shot Across Microsoft’s Bow

Apple Has Their Sights Directly on Microsoft

Apple Has Their Sights Directly on Microsoft

During Apple’s media event on September 10th in which they introduced the new iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S, Apple CEO Tim Cook also announced something that has not received a whole lot of media attention. However, this announcement while seemingly small, may actually have the biggest impact on the near-term future of the technology industry.

I’ve written before how Microsoft is in a tough situation in the mobile device market. They are a distant third-place to Apple’s iOS-based devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) and the variety of Google Android-based devices. However, unlike the now fourth-place BlackBerry, Microsoft has a strong cashflow due to their existing PC Windows operating system and PC Microsoft Office sales. They have time to try to mount a respectable mobile platform, while BlackBerry is for all intents and purposes dead. The problem for Microsoft is that these cash cows won’t last forever. The PC era is over and Microsoft needs to develop a strong position in the mobile device market sooner than later if they want to remain a significant player in the technology industry.

In an attempt to leverage their strength in the PC market to give them a springboard into the mobile device market, Microsoft has withheld Office from the iOS and Android platforms (even though a rumored iOS version of Office was ready in early 2012). Microsoft is betting that by only offering Microsoft-branded Office on Microsoft-based mobile devices this will lure droves of users away from the other platforms into the Microsoft fold. As I’ve written, this is basically betting the farm for Microsoft because they longer they withhold Office from other mobile platforms (specifically the iPad), the more likely users will realize life without Microsoft Office is just fine. Once users no longer have an attachment to Microsoft Office, the most viable cashflow stream for Microsoft dries up and the company itself will be in big trouble.

The announcement on September 10th that was mostly ignored is that Apple will give away their iWork suite of office productivity apps to all new iOS devices. If it isn’t already obvious to you, this is a significant challenge to Microsoft. First, Apple is basically saying to Microsoft, “screw you, we don’t need your Office on our platform”. Second, Apple is basically daring Microsoft to bring Office to iOS ASAP. Apple knows that if Microsoft brings Office to iOS at any point soon, it will basically kill Microsoft’s best chance of gaining a foothold with Windows in the mobile device market. But now that Apple is giving away the iWork suite on all new iOS devices, it puts the squeeze on Microsoft to have an offering on iOS devices before Apple’s office productivity software becomes the de-facto standard on the leading mobile platform.

Apple has just put Microsoft in-between a rock and a hard place. Apple is basically forcing Microsoft to make a tough decision: save Microsoft Office and possibly the entire company but sacrifice Windows – or continue to bet the entire company and possibly lose everything. But by giving away iWork for free, Apple may have already sealed Microsoft’s fate. It will be extremely difficult for Microsoft to compete with free when it comes to Office, even if they do bring it to iOS quickly. But that may be their only option and Apple seems to know it.

“Lost” Steve Jobs Mouse Recovered

At about 2:40 Mountain Time, the mouse that Steve Jobs used during his 1983 IDCA speech was recovered from the Aspen Time Tube. I can not share any pictures yet, but here are some pictures from the conference program that year.

“Lost” Steve Jobs Time Capsule in Aspen Recovered

This is picturesque Apsen, Colorado. I can't share pictures of the dig site yet due to agreement with the production of the show Diggers. Stay tuned!

This is picturesque Apsen, Colorado. I can’t share pictures of the dig site yet due to agreement with the production of the show Diggers. Stay tuned!

As many of my readers may remember, last year I posted The “Lost” Steve Jobs Speech of 1983. I then followed up with another article detailing how a time capsule was buried with the mouse Steve Jobs used during that speech. The “Aspen Time Tube”, as it was called, was intended to be recovered in the year 2000. I wrote that I thought it would be great if the time capsule could be recovered in 2013, the 30th anniversary of the IDCA conference where Steve Jobs gave the 1983 speech. Nothing much came of this until April of this year when I was contacted by a producer of the show Diggers that airs on the National Geographic channel. Long story short, this set into motion a series of events that is culminating now, as I am in Apsen participating in the recovery of the Aspen Time Tube. I can not share much information due to confidentiality agreements with the production, but at this point I can report that the Time Tube itself has been unearthed. Next up is recovering the contents, which include the Lisa mouse that Steve Jobs gave for placement in the Time Tube. I will report as soon as I have my hands on the mouse, so stay tuned!

My Review of Jobs, Starring Ashton Kutcher

JobsmovieNo, I’m not “that guy” who goes out and sees a movie when it is released at midnight or anything … but yes, I did see the movie Jobs on the first day it was released. But it was mostly that the timing was right for me to take in an afternoon matinee. And besides, as a technology consultant and technology historian, I wanted to make sure to see the movie before I started getting a lot of questions – at least that is my story and I’m sticking to it!

Obviously I’m not a professional movie critic, but I know what I like, so you’re going to get my take on the movie from my personal perspective and that of someone who knows the history of the personal computer era.

The first scene was telling – I knew immediately what was going to happen simply from the introductory title scene – “Apple Town Hall Meeting 2001”. I knew this was going to be the iPod introduction. What else could it be? I am very familiar with the actual event, which I remember mostly because looking back now the event was very small and relatively low-key as compared to later Apple events. Given its historical significance, the event is now larger than life, but the reality is that the actual stage and auditorium was pretty tiny. When I saw the scene develop, I wasn’t sure at times if I was watching the movie or some of the actual footage from the event. It looked that accurate. I hoped the rest of the movie would be as historically accurate, and for the most part, I believe it was.

I’ve already read some reviews that criticize some of the details of the film as being inaccurate. But for the most part, those details are very minor, and probably only noticeable to serious geeks. And sure, some of the scenes were dramatized, but by and large I felt the movie gave a very accurate high-level portrayal of the events that shaped the life of Steve Jobs, the history of Apple Computer during his tenures, and to a lesser degree the early history of the personal computer era. Ashton Kutcher did an amazing job of nailing the mannerisms, voice, and general persona of Steve Jobs. At times I completely lost myself in the movie, not recognizing that the person I was watching on screen wasn’t Jobs himself.

For me personally, I really appreciated the scene at the first annual West Coast Computer Faire of 1977, where the Apple II was introduced. Many historians call this event the birth of the personal computer industry, as the Apple II is credited with igniting the personal computer revolution. But the scene also showed the Commodore PET computer, which was one of the three significant personal computers that were introduced in 1977. Along with the Radio Shack TRS-80 computer,  Apple and Commodore defined personal computing during the earliest stages of the era, before IBM and then Microsoft rose to dominance.

The only fault I could find with the movie was that there simply wasn’t enough of it. My wife is a technology layperson, relatively speaking, and wasn’t very familiar with the details of Steve Jobs’ life or the history of the personal computer era. After watching the movie, she said that she wanted to know more about how Steve Jobs matured, especially in the time where Steve Jobs wasn’t at Apple. I couldn’t agree more. The film literally spends 30 seconds bridging those twelve years, never mentioning Pixar, and only mentioning NeXT to segue Jobs’ return to Apple. This time period in Jobs’ life is absolutely critical, as he matures both as a person and a business leader. But it’s hard to fault the film for this. It was already a two-hour movie and I know that most movie audiences get squeamish at anything longer that 90 minutes. My wife mentioned that it would have needed to be a mini-series to cover his entire life. Perhaps, but I would not have minded a three-hour movie that filled in some more gaps and gave a more complete picture.

Overall, even if the movie feels like a “cliff notes” version of Steve Jobs’ life, I still think it is a worthwhile movie. For most people who know very little about Apple prior to 2001, I think this is a great introductory look at the man that made Apple and quite literally changed the world. Sure, it’s not 100% accurate and it is a little thin on details at times, but it serves its purpose, at least from my viewpoint. I hope it helps more people understand the passion and drive that Steve Jobs had and how his influence shaped our technology, no matter if it is an Apple product or not. Ultimately the technology industry that he helped define and drive forward has influenced our society so greatly, that we all would do well to study his life as we study the life of other great people in history.

A Different Way to Think About Freemium

free-managed-services.jpgOftentimes, I find that entrepreneurship and liberty are inexorably intertwined. Sometimes, even the terminology used seems to hint at this unalienable truth. A shout out to Amanda at for bringing up a discussion about the freemium business model. I’ve recently discovered her online and I must say her writing reads as if they are thoughts coming from my own mind. Check her out if you haven’t already.

I won’t go into too much detail about the freemium model or argue the merits. Lots of other people have done that. But core to the model is the idea that information is given away for free, in order to develop a following and establish oneself as a category authority.

Of course, “free” as in pricing is different than “free” as in liberty. Yet for many, the belief that information should be free covers both cost and availability. This is one place where entrepreneurship and liberty intersect.

Certainly I believe that the free flow of information is the greatest gift the Internet has given us. The decision to get paid for information I leave up to each individual. But in the age of the Internet, consider the following. Those who set information free are viewed in higher regard. Perhaps one day we will look at the liberation of information as a turning point in human history.

I Think It’s Microsoft Who’s Frustrated

Confused Bill GatesBill Gates did a recent interview on CNBC, proclaiming that iPad users are frustrated. According to Bill Gates, “They can’t type. They can’t create documents. They don’t have Microsoft Office there.” To put it mildly, this is an “interesting” statement from someone who at one time was the face of the technology industry. Save for the fact that he is doing his best to save the company he founded, it appears that Mr. Gates has lost his touch on the reality of the technology market. Just for fun, let’s take apart his statements.

iPad users can’t type? Obviously the fact that the iPad doesn’t come with a built-in keyboard is not the issue here. We all know this. Bill Gates seems to think that if a device doesn’t come with a keyboard, then there must be no way to add one. Besides the Apple Wireless Keyboard option, there are hundreds of third-party keyboards that work with the iPad. It’s not like iPad users can’t use a keyboard, as they obviously have many options to choose from. You would think a technology company figurehead like Bill Gates would know this teensy-tiny detail. Additionally, his statement is highly peculiar considering that the Surface RT base model DOES NOT include a keyboard (although one would be hard-pressed to know this from all the flashy Surface RT ads with keyboards clicking and clacking all over the place). Is Bill Gates really that out of touch, or is he simply towing the company marketing line, no matter how dumb it is?

iPad users can’t create documents? I believe that if a salesperson wants to look somewhat competent when comparing and contrasting their own products against their competitions’ offerings, they must have at least some experience with their competitors’ products. Maybe Bill Gates has never really used an iPad. Then I could almost forgive him for making this statement. However, he is Bill Gates, so I can not cut the guy any slack. Seriously? Besides Apple’s $9.99 “Pages” app, there are many third-party choices for creating “documents” on an iPad. My 9-year old daughter could have told him that. Perhaps she should be Microsoft’s Chairman?

But maybe he meant Microsoft Office “documents”, which in typical Microsoft fashion, they must believe there are no other formats for word processing files. At least his third statement accurately describes the situation. True, Microsoft Office is not available on Apple’s iPad. But Bill Gates says this as if it is some sort of inherent flaw with the iPad. That is an extraordinary statement considering that the ONLY reason iPad users don’t have Microsoft Office is because Microsoft hasn’t released it for the platform. Well frickin’ DUH! Seriously, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. I’m done with this because it feels like I’m picking on an senile old man.

The bigger problem Microsoft must deal with is that besides Windows 8, they’ve pinned their future on a 57-year old technology: the computer keyboard. They must have missed the memo that a lack of keyboard on mobile devices is a feature, not a problem. If it were seriously a problem, would the iPad continue to set sales records? Perhaps people don’t really want a physical keyboard on their mobile devices. Mobile devices become just a little less mobile when they have a hunk of plastic hanging from them.

According to a report from IDC for the first quarter of 2013, Microsoft shipped only 900,000 units of their Surface line of tablets, which include both both the Surface RT and Surface Pro devices. Compare this to 19.5 million Apple iPads shipped, which beat expectations. That’s about 20 times as many iPads shipped than Microsoft devices. Consider as well that Microsoft’s users are so unhappy with Windows 8 that Microsoft just announced a reversal of their Windows 8 strategy. It doesn’t sound to me like users are frustrated with the iPad. Rather, perhaps it is Microsoft who is feeling the frustration.

Microsoft needs to come to grips with the reality of the market if they are to save their own skin. For all it is worth, Microsoft Office is still a huge cash cow for Microsoft. However, they are missing out on a huge revenue stream by keeping Office away from the iOS platform. It was obvious what Microsoft’s strategy was last year when a rumored version of Microsoft Office for the iPad mysteriously vanished. Microsoft probably realized that if users could get Microsoft Office on other platforms, there would be very little incentive for users to purchase a Microsoft mobile device. They were trying to leverage the dominance of their office software (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) to help bolster Windows 8/RT acceptance in the mobile device market. At the very least they were trying not to crush Windows’ chances. But this strategy is extremely risky. The longer they wait to deploy Microsoft Office to other platforms, the longer people have to get used to the idea of not needing Microsoft Office. For now Microsoft Office is still a force in the office productivity software market. But as users have begun to exodus Microsoft Windows, it won’t take much more for users to exodus Microsoft Office as well.

Microsoft is gambling everything on Windows 8 and they are using Microsoft Office as collateral. If they double-down on this strategy, they stand to lose everything.

Geeks and Their Advice

Not all geeks are like Chuck.

Not all geeks are like Chuck. However, I actually do know Kung-Fu.*

I recently read an article, The Geek shall inherit the Earth, which basically states that non-technical people would be wise to follow the advice of those with technology knowledge. As a technology consultant, I obviously agree that people should seek the counsel of those who have more experience or a better knowledge of something they are not as proficient in. But the reality is that in today’s technology market, people need to be careful whom they are getting their advice from. There is a big difference between a technology “geek” and a trustworthy technology consultant.

In the past, yes, “geeks” were largely responsible for the technical education of the “rest of us”. And I say this as a fellow geek, that time has passed. That was the Old World of Technology, where technology knowledge and decisions flowed from the top-down. That was the era of trickle-down technology, where usually big business and organizations set the direction of technology. The big IT departments were the ones who standardized the technology for their organizations, decided what the employees would use, and ultimately most people in the home would use what they had at work. And honestly, this was not optimal for individuals and small business.

We have now entered the New World of Technology. Consumers and small business owners by and large are no longer waiting for technology to trickle-down to them (and those that do are writing their own epitaphs). Empowered by user-friendly devices and cloud computing, they are making their own technology decisions. Top-down has been replaced with bottom-up. IT departments are no longer dictating end-user technology; they are in fact now being told by their users what they are expected to support (to the great consternation of many in IT). Users are no longer sheep and the geek is no longer the shepherd. This is a good thing, if not a truly great thing.

The danger with geeks offering advice is that too often they only view technology from their perspective, which is a perspective quite unlike that which most people have. As we geeks know, life is a lot different when you have a deep understanding of technology. Tech seems a lot less scary and we are able to do things with technology that most people wouldn’t have the first clue of. However, that viewpoint changes our priority on what features and benefits are important when it comes to technology.

Where we geeks often put a premium on technological specifications such as gigahertz or the number and type of ports a device has, the average mainstream technology user out there could care less about those things. They just want things that work and empower them. We as geeks care to a great degree about the tool itself. Most people don’t care about the tool. They care about what the tool can do for them. We geeks don’t mind some technical glitches or awkward user interfaces. We are comfortable enough with technology where we can just work around little problems. Average users don’t want the tool getting in the way of getting things done. They feel defeated when glitches pop up or are stymied with awkward user interfaces.

For these reasons, it is no wonder many who consider themselves technology savvy are truly shocked and surprised at Apple’s success. Geeks just don’t get the allure of the easy-to-use Apple products and services. And that is exactly why geeks shouldn’t be offering their advice and recommendations to average, non-technical users. Until they finally do get why Apple products have captured the mainstream of society, what they value in technology – and what they would personally use and recommend – in most cases just isn’t relevant to the rest of the world.

It frustrates me to no end when my clients inform me they purchased some Android phone because that is what the sales person at the cell phone store or Best Buy recommended for them. Or because their nephew has one and told them it was “the best”. That’s a geek making a geek recommendation and you are not a geek! Sure, I’ll make more money from them because evidence has shown they’re going to have more technical issues with their Android phone than if they had purchased an iPhone. But I really would rather have clients who are happy with their technology and are looking to do more with it instead of clients who call me because they are frustrated with their technology and need it fixed.

The key difference between a “geek” and a trustworthy technology professional is that trustworthy professional can take their knowledge and give good advice to technology “laypeople”, who almost certainly use technology in a totally different way than they do personally. It takes quite a bit of acumen, for example, to recommend an iPhone to someone who is getting their first smartphone, when you personally prefer an Android phone. You must first come to grips with how the other person uses technology and their comfort level with it, and then match what will give them (not you) the best user experience.

So please, if you are a geek and are asked by a non-geek for a technology recommendation, don’t give them the same advice that you would give a fellow geek. As the old saying goes, if you can’t say something nice, then say nothing at all. When it comes to the New World of Technology, offering Old World advice simply isn’t nice and saying nothing at all would be much appreciated.

* Technically I am a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, which is a Korean martial art. Kung Fu is a traditional Chinese martial art, which I’ve never actually trained in, but I have done my own studying on. Either way, Chuck’s famous phrase was “I know Kung-Fu”, which was the same thing that Neo from The Matrix said. So it just wouldn’t have been the same to say “I know Tae Kwon Do”. And it’s my blog and I can do what I want to so there.

Life is Hard; Android is Harder

angry androidIt continues to amaze me what a mess the Android platform is. Take two articles from last month: Android, too complex for its own good and Is Android too hard for the average user to figure out? Both articles highlight points I’ve been making all along about the failings of the Android platform from a user experience perspective.

Take the Nexus 7, arguably the best tablet currently available for the price. When first introduced just a short while ago, Google made a big deal about how the Jelly Bean version of Android finally ran as smoothly as the competition.

What’s interesting about this statement is the fact that Google made a big deal of how this latest version of Android finally runs as smoothly as the competition, which almost certainly means as smoothly as Apple’s iOS. It would seem to me that “running smoothly” is a pretty big deal and should have been something that was done right in version 1.0, not version 4.1. But hey, “running smoothly” is just a little user interface detail. It’s just “polish”. What users really care about is gigahertz, how many ports a device has, and other arcane technical details, right? Wrong.

Regardless of what Android fans say about how technically superior their new favorite Android phone-of-the-month is, the bottom line is that user experience is *everything*. If it had taken Apple 4 versions to get the iPhone “running smoothly”, do we think we would still be talking about an iPhone today? There is a reason that the iPhone spread like wildfire. It was because the average, everyday person finally had a technical device that they could use without the help of a geek. The iPhone just worked and it empowered the user as no device ever had before. It wasn’t because of technical specifications or heavy advertising. It was entirely because of user experience, of which the user interface is the largest part of.

The other large part of user experience is reliability. Unfortunately, the Android platform is no where near as reliable as Apple’s iOS platform. The following is just one example:

That only lasted a few months as Google pushed an update to the Nexus 7 that broke the smooth operation affecting all aspects of the tablet’s performance. Scrolling is herky-jerky in all apps and for general system operation. The biggest improvement in Android since its inception has been broken by Google.

If Google can’t even keep Android reliable on their own Google-branded device, what chance do any of their OEM partners have? Evidence shows they aren’t doing so hot. Again, if Apple had issues with reliability on the scale that Android has had, do we really think there would still be an iPhone to be talking about?

If Android is dominant with respect to market share, why did Apple’s iOS-powered devices wipe the floor with Android when it came to Thanksgiving and Black Friday online shopping?

For all the boasting by Google and Android fans that Android has a larger smartphone marketshare than the iOS, they can’t answer the question as to why the iOS beats Android when it comes to usage metrics, such as web browsing share, app developer profitability, and most recently, holiday shopping figures. Why the discrepancies? For all the claimed marketshare numbers, why does it seem that iOS is the only platform that people actually use? There really is no great mystery to me why Android is a lame-duck platform, and it now finally seems others are catching on.

I think it comes down to one rather simple but key difference between the two platforms. iOS is easier to use than Android. Or, flipping that around, Android is too hard for the average user to figure out.

Can it really be that simple? Does it really boil down to the fact that iPhones and iPads are just so much easier to use than the plethora of Android devices out there? Of course, most technology “experts” would never believe that user experience could play such a factor, but then most of those experts still think they are in the Old World of Technology. In the New World of Technology, ease-of-use absolutely plays a critical factor in technology usage. Now that average people are heavy technology users, it is not shocking they gravitate to easy-to-use technologies, while still ignoring difficult ones. The trouble with most technology pundits (and technology companies) is that they don’t realize just how fine a line technology walks between being easy or being difficult for the average user. The fact that Android is a lame-duck platform should open their eyes to this fact, but don’t hold your breath.

Apple has spent a lot of time and money creating commercials that show its products being used to solve real-world problems. As short and as simple as these ads may be, they give owners — and potential owners — an idea of what the iPhone or iPad can do. That might seem extremely basic, but it gets people to explore the potential of their iDevice.

Compare this to ads I’ve seen for Android hardware, which seem to focus on the device itself rather that what it can do for the owner.

Well, duh. The Android market is dominated by hardware manufacturers trying to differentiate their products from the multitude of other Android copycats. What else can they differentiate on if not hardware specs? Of course, as I’ve said many times, most people don’t care about hardware specs. They care about user experience. As long as Apple is the only company that is truly committed to complete user experience – in hardware, software, and ecosystem – Android will continue to be too hard for the average user.

When It Comes to Smartphones and Women, Size DOES Matter

Size Does Matter

Fellow guys, I need to let you in on a little secret. When it comes to smartphones and women, I’m sorry to say, size does matter – but it’s not how you think.

We’re being constantly inundated by commercials from iPhone competitors bragging how big their screens are. One would almost think they were watching an Enzyte commercial from how much they gush over how big they are compared to the iPhone. Or that those other phones have a certain type of … umm … envy. The problem is that most people don’t care. Especially women. In fact, large phones can actually be a turn-off to women. Why? Two very simple reasons.

First, large phones are harder to transport. They don’t fit as easily in pockets, they are more cumbersome on hip clips, and they don’t fit as well in purses. But more importantly, women simply have smaller hands! Big phones are harder to hold and use when you have small hands. Pay attention to the people who think big screen phones are desirable. I’m willing to bet that 1) most of those people are “techies” and 2) aside from the rare geek-chick (with large hands?), they are almost all men.

I remember one of the complaints I heard about the iPhone when it first came out was that it was too big! Yes, this complaint was primarily from women, who had gotten used to the slim flip phones of the pre-iPhone era. Now that women for the most part are used to the size of the iPhone, I’ve heard from several women that they don’t want anything larger than an iPhone. I even had a client return a Samsung Galaxy S III because using the phone hurt her hands. Granted, she says she has slight arthritis, but it just goes to show that large phones aren’t necessarily better.

Some people may be assuming that if women like smaller phones, men probably like bigger phones so it just washes out. The reality is the influence women have on the smartphone market is disproportional. To this point, I already wrote that the secret to the explosion of the iPhone and the New World of Technology is women. Because it seems that iPhone competitors are ignoring women, they continue marketing to the wrong demographic! They still market their phones like they are “built by geeks for geeks”. That may have worked in the Old World of Technology but in the New World, it is the average consumer who is calling the shots – and a huge segment of that market is women.

So my advice to the iPhone competitors is to quit bragging about the size of their junk and start paying attention to the things that most people, especially women, actually care about. Things like ease of use, reliability, and overall user experience. Because it really doesn’t matter how big it is if she won’t play with it. And you can take that to the bank.

Samsung, Puh-leeze!

One Does Not Simply Bump Phones To Send A Playlist

Boromir is not pleased with Samsung

Samsung has been saturating the airwaves with their commercials making fun of iPhone owners and touting their “S Beam” feature where data can be transferred between phones by touching them. Plenty has been said about how Samsung’s commercials may be offending their potential customers who currently own or want iPhones, so I won’t rehash that. Instead I’d like to point out how Samsung is touting certain features as new and exciting when they are actually worn-out relics from the past.

The commercial that is getting the most airplay shows two people transferring a “playlist” by touching their phones together. Seems simple enough and sort of a neat thing to do. Of course, the fine print shows that the S Beam feature must be configured ahead of time before the touching feature will work. Suddenly touching phones isn’t so easy anymore. Plus, the S Beam feature only works with other Samsung Galaxy S III phones. So it’s not likely that people will even get the opportunity to use it all that much. And let’s not get started on the unanswered security questions regarding NFC technology.

But even ignoring those deficiencies, the whole touching of phones idea just seems backwards to me. We live in the New World of Technology. These devices are phones, for crying out loud! We have virtually ubiquitous Internet access and a plethora of cloud services. The days of needing to physically transfer data went out with the floppy disk! We have far more need to transfer data when we’re apart than while in physical proximity of each other. It’s perfectly fine to have the S Beam option, but to tout it as some amazing new feature – “The Next Big Thing” – is ridiculous!

Similarly, Samsung is also running commercials for their Galaxy Note 10.1 showing off the use of a stylus as “The New Way”. Stylus use is a throwback to early tablets, PDAs, and smartphones. It’s hardly “The New Way”. In fact, consumers have pretty much eschewed the stylus as an unnecessary accessory, something that has to be kept track of and prone to loss. If Samsung is hinging the success of their product on the fact that it uses a stylus, they’d better find a “new way” themselves.

Now let’s talk about something that is actually important to mobile device owners. The Galaxy S III was released in late May and Google released Android operating system 4.1, Jelly Bean, on July 9th. Samsung must have (or should have) known that Google was preparing an OS release that would be available near the introduction of their new flagship phone. They should have been preparing to support Jelly Bean on the Galaxy S III the whole time. However, it wasn’t until October 17th that Samsung announced the Galaxy S III phones would receive the upgrade to Jelly Bean. It took over 3 months for Samsung to officially acknowledge that it would even offer an upgrade for its flagship phone – an upgrade that was made available by Google just 6 weeks after the phone was released. Even then, it was only an acknowledgement that the update would be available “in the coming months” and “the specific timing and update method will be announced by each carrier partner.” Whether this was due to some sort of technical complexity surrounding the Android upgrade process, or that Samsung simply didn’t prioritize this upgrade, it doesn’t speak well of Samsung. Either they are incompetent or lackadaisical … or both.

The bottom line is that Samsung Galaxy S III owners are still waiting for “The Next Big Thing” to arrive on their phones, possibly waiting a total of 6 months or more until Samsung and the carriers get around to releasing an Android OS upgrade.

I tend to think that the ability to bump phones is much less important than say:

  • owning a phone that isn’t virtually obsolete the day it is purchased
  • waiting over 3 months to know if it will stay obsolete
  • waiting about 6 months after an upgrade is available to finally receive it

All this because it takes 3 different companies to coordinate the “specific timing and upgrade method” before an OS upgrade can be released. This is a major problem with the Android platform, but of course you never hear it mentioned in the slick Samsung ads. Compare this situation to Apple, where in just a little over a month of release, iOS 6 was installed on 200 million devices. Regardless of carrier, iOS device owners knew if their device was supported for an upgrade well ahead of time and those who could upgrade were able to do so on the first day of its release. It also appears not many customers care that none of those 200 millions devices came with a stylus, by the way.

So for all the chest-beating Samsung is doing on the airwaves about the little whiz-bang technical tricks their devices can do, they still don’t get the big picture. Phone bumping and styli are relics of the Old World of Technology and most people just don’t care, no matter how many commercials you run.