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My Apple Tablet Predictions

January 25, 2010 1 comment

A quick list of my predictions for Apple’s event later this week:

  • Tablet device with following specs:
    • Apple will not provide CPU or RAM specs as it will consider such specs unimportant (no need to confuse consumers)
    • 10″ display with multi-touch
    • Storage will be flash-based – 64 to 128 GB
    • It will have built-in front-facing camera
    • A new Tablet OS V1.0 will be introduced which will be different front iPhone and Macs (based on OS X, much like iPhone OS)
    • It will have a store (like the App Store) which will sell content such as books, magazines and newspapers in addition to media, apps and games
    • It will be a stand-alone device (in that it will not require a sync with a PC/Mac for content like the iPhone does)
    • It will offer its own version of iLife which will include tablet editions of iTunes and iPhoto
    • 5-Hour Real-Use Battery life (although they might advertise 7 or 8)
    • Built-in Wifi (N)
    • 3G Cell Service capable for both GSM and CDMA networks, but they will not announce the carrier yet (no need until launch)
    • $699 Unsubsidized price or $399 with 3G service + $39/mo
  • The tablet will have keyboard, mouse as well as external display support, but will ship with none of them
  • They will show off the Tablet SDK and invite developers to launch apps and media content for it
  • Launch of device will be in April to June timeframe
  • No mention of anything iPhone related (no iPhone 4.0, Verizon, etc.)

And it will be an awesome device to work with OnTime V10’s new Scrum Planning Board.

What do you think?

Categories: Business Tags: , , ,

Dell’s $1,304 Premium over Mac Pro

June 20, 2008 11 comments

If you’re following along with my blog, you know that I recently came to the conclusion that even Windows developers would be smart to pickup a Mac as their next developer machine. In that article, I made the argument that even if buying a Mac has a $500 premium, it would still be a non-issue and choosing a Mac would be the wiser choice. Taking my own advice, I just upgraded Axosoft Developer machines to Mac Pros, without doing any comparison shopping.

Today, I decided to see how much I would have saved for each developer if I had chosen similar Dell machines. Of course, I wouldn’t have cared what my savings would be, because part of the incentive to buy Mac Pros was to provide our dev team with the flexibility to develop anything for any platform. But to my huge surprise, buying a comparable Dell had a $1,304 premium!!! Take a look for yourself:

Dell Dual-Proc XEON Workstation

As you can see from the images above, the Dell price without tax is $4,153 while Apple’s price is $2,849. 

Who is Dell joking here? Now to be fair, there are 2 differences in configurations:

  • The Dell System bus is 1,333 Mhz vs. Mac Pro’s 1,600 Mhz bus
  • The Dell Memory is 667 Mhz vs. Mac Pro’s 800 Mhz

That’s right! The Mac Pro has even a better configuration and costs $1,300 less. Upgrade pricing was equally insane. While Apple charged $200 for a 2nd 500GB drive, Dell’s price for that same upgrade was $339.

So now taking the Dell premium into consideration, the faster Mac Pro, better style and looks, the easier component access and ability to run OS X, is there any reason to stick with Dell?

Why Every Developer’s Next PC Will be a Mac

June 18, 2008 24 comments

Every Developer\'s Next PC will be a MacIf you’re a developer, your next machine will be a Mac. Here’s why:

  1. iPhone Development can only be done on a Mac.

What, were you expecting a #2? No need! #1 is sufficient reason. “But what if I don’t plan to develop for the iPhone?” you ask. It’s called hedging your bets. The fact is you don’t know if you’ll want to develop for the iPhone in the future. The general tech community consensus is that mobile is the future. Having a mobile version of the apps you write (whether games or client/server database applications) is a smart move. In fact, your customers might start demanding mobile versions of your software soon and if they have iPhones they’ll start demanding them much sooner than later.

iPhone has a good chance of becoming the standard platform for Smart Phones. Even if it doesn’t become the standard, it will have a commanding share that cannot be ignored. The fact is, you can’t develop native iPhone apps on anything but a Mac. The world’s best Dell, HP or IBM won’t help – even if they miraculously become the better PC to buy.

Until now, lots of Windows users bought Macs because they were the best PC to run Windows. But what if another hardware vendor creates a better PC? The idea was that this group of Windows Mac users would switch back. But not anymore. Now, for a Windows developer, it would be smarter to pick up a Mac even if a better alternative for running Windows existed. Buying a Mac ensures that you can develop software on ANY platform: Windows, Linux, Unix, OS X and iPhone. Even if you don’t care about OS X, chances are you’ll care about iPhone users soon. iPhone seals the deal on buying a Mac. It’s good to be in Apple’s shoes right now.

Some of you are undoubtedly thinking “most people wouldn’t pay the $X premium for a Mac vs. a Dell machine.” Some will argue going to Macs will cost 20% or 30% more. Wouldn’t most organizations want to save 20 or 30% on their hardware costs?

This line of thinking couldn’t be more flawed. Consider the total cost of a developer during an average 2-year replacement-span of typical hardware:

  • Salary: $60,000 (low) x 2 years = $120,000
  • Benefits (Taxes, Bonus, Vacation, Insurance, etc.) at 20% (low) of salary: $24,000
  • Other Costs (Space, Desk, utilities, etc.) at 10% (low) of salary: $12,000
  • Typical Developer PC: $2,000

So the total cost of a relatively inexpensive developer for 2 years is at least $158,000 and these are extremely conservative numbers. I’m using a small salary to illustrate that even on the low-end of the salary spectrum, the $X premium of a Mac is meaningless.

So what is the extra cost of a Mac vs. a PC? Even if you have to pay a $500 premium for a Mac (Not True – See Update), we’re talking about 0.3% more than the 2-year cost of a developer.

So the question is, what organization would limit their ability to develop on quite possibly the world’s #1 mobile platform for a savings of 0.3%? The answer is “an organization that doesn’t think!”

Updated (6/20 4:55pm):

It turns out Dells now have a premium over Macs. Look at the comparison.

Categories: Team, Tools Tags: , , , , , ,

Google Android vs. iPhone: It’s 1984 All Over Again

June 2, 2008 16 comments

Android vs. iPhoneBack in 1984, Apple was on top of the computing world with top-notch sexy hardware and it partnered with Microsoft for some top-notch [not so] sexy practical software. It was a winning combination for both Apple and Microsoft. Microsoft’s strategy in 1984 was hardware agnostic making its software available on any popular platform. Apple’s strategy in 1984 was holistic. We’ll call the period between 1984 and 2000, Round 1.

In Round 1, it turned out that Microsoft’s strategy was the clear-cut winner. By being hardware agnostic, hardware vendors competed with one-another to drive down the price of hardware much faster than anyone could have imagined. Clone prices fell so fast and so much lower than the price of a Macintosh that it simply became impractical to own a Mac. Software vendors also took note and quickly the non-Mac-PC became the standard. Apple nearly died.

2007 set off Round 2. This time around it’s in the cell phone business. Once again, Apple is on top of the Cell Phone game with top-notch sexy hardware and it has partnered with Google this time for some top-notch [not so] sexy practical software (think Google Maps, YouTube and other web-based Google Apps for the iPhone). Once again, it’s a winning partnership for both Apple and Google. And Once again, Google’s strategy is exactly the same to that of Microsoft in 1984: stay hardware agnostic. Apple’s strategy is also identical to its own strategy back in 1984: stay holistic. Round 2 has begun.

The similarities are eery. In 1984, while Microsoft was building the most popular application software on the Mac, it had begun a similar hardware-agnostic operating system (Windows) on its own. In 2007, while Google has some of the most popular application software on iPhone, it has begun a similar hardware agnostic Cell-Phone operating system (Android) on its own. Apple’s strategy has not changed a single bit. It refuses to license its operating system or any other technology while it continues to want more and more control over the entirety of the experience. The iPhone in 2007 has set off a brand new race much like the original Macintosh did in 1984. Interestingly, 24 years later, the strategies are still identical on both sides.  

So will Round 2 end in the same way with Google’s Android prevailing due to exceptionally cheap phones that are sure to emerge using Android? Maybe not. There is one key difference between Round 1 & Round 2: Steve Jobs. Steve didn’t get to finish fighting the strategy that he helped establish for Apple in Round 1. He left Apple in 1985. So there’s no telling how things would have turned out. The fact that Apple lost round 1 may have taught everyone a lesson and it might falsely embolden Google to think Microsoft’s winning strategy was the better strategy. After all, Google’s chief, Eric Schmit, has been learning from (and losing to) Microsoft for 20+ years. Eric is now using Microsoft’s own strategy to successfully beat them. Google is the new Microsoft.

But this time around Steve is much smarter than he was in 1984. So smart in fact, that he’s resurrected Round 1 from the dead and may still pull off a win (the Mac is coming back). It’s possible that Steve & Apple’s holistic approach will still be the winning approach for Round 1, assuming you extend round 1 to at least 2015. But in Round 2 Apple’s chances are a lot better. Everybody is at the beginning of the race. There are no clear winners and just like in 1984, Apple has a major lead. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

I’m curious to know your thoughts on:

  • Who you think will win Round 2: will it be Google with its Android or Apple with its iPhone? 
  • Is Round 1 over in your view or will the Mac eventually beat out Windows-based PCs in market share?
  • Is Microsoft even a player in Round 2? (I would never recommend a current Windows-Mobile phone to my worst enemy – so do they even stand a chance?)
Leave a comment with your views.

iPhone Desktop: Unleash the Leopard in Your Pocket. $299.

April 3, 2008 17 comments

Disruptive technologies are those technologies that brew up independently under the radar until all of a sudden they take over well established mainstream industries.

And, here’s my take on the biggest disruptive technology currently sitting under our noses, err…in our pockets: The Apple iPhone, and it’s potential to replace the traditional desktop / laptop computer. Imagine this:

What is the iPhone Desktop?

iPhone Desktop Specs The iPhone Desktop is essentially a dock / workstation for the iPhone. Pop your iPhone into the side-loading slot, and your iPhone goes into Desktop mode. The workstation becomes YOUR computer, whether you are using one at home, the office, or casually borrowing one at Starbucks, the library, or the airport.

Wherever you are, it’s YOUR computer.

At home and at the office, you can take advantage of USB storage, syncing only the essentials to your physical iPhone unit. For improved security, you may wish to keep some files on your .Mac account’s virtual storage and only walk around with music, pictures and videos in your pocket.

Incoming Call? No Problem!

So what happens when you are docked and receive a call? Just like the iPhone, the call takes over your screen and gives you the option to answer the call. However, advances will be made, and you will be able to optionally accept eligible calls (i.e. calls placed from other iPhones, iChat, or something similar) with video enabled. iPhone Desktop’s built-in iSight camera and microphone will be used to facilitate the phone call, in lieu of a USB or Bluetook headset.

Just in case it’s not perfectly clear, let me state this in the simplest terms possible:

The iPhone is not a phone, it’s a PC (or, it’s a Mac, if you prefer).

This is precisely what makes the iPhone a disruptive technology. It’s got OS X under the hood, and there’s no reason to believe Apple has fully exploited this tremendous advantage it has over other phones and portable devices.

Unlike its Windows Mobile counterparts, Apple builds the software AND the hardware, which means it is orders of magnitude more nimble when it comes to integrating the two into a solid device that can deliver unbeatable user-experience. When Apple wants to add a feature, whether to the hardware or software — they can just do it. They don’t have to wait for the next release of the software, or for hardware partners to come on board. They can just do it.

iPhone Desktop Pricing

The “Complete PC” part is what I want to emphasize, but let’s not leave out the fact that it includes a phone and an iPod media center, too. It lives in your pocket, and when it makes sense, it takes on the form of a desktop PC. Just add a bluetooth keyboard and mouse, and you’re still under $850 for a beautifully sleak, ultra portable computing experience.

But the real beauty of this (for Apple) is that the PC industry will continue to ignore the iPhone…until it’s too late. And, as an added bonus (for Apple), cell phone competitors will continue to treat the iPhone as just another phone…until it’s too late.

Apple’s 30+ years of hardware and software integration puts them eons ahead of their competitors in both industries. For years, Apple was derided for not opening up its platform to cloning. To many, their strategy was considered closed, limiting, and seemed short-sighted. Yet, now their persistence and accumulated hardware / software experience is obviously their greatest advantage.

The iPhone combined with the iPhone Desktop Dock represents a truly “Personal” Computer with capabilities sufficient for more than half of PC users today. Complete with web-browsing, email, casual games, YouTube and iTunes! The average PC user doesn’t need much else — remember “web-browsing” today means Google Apps and CRM, too.

With iPhone Desktop’s ability to connect external USB-based hard-drives, storage expandability is a non-issue, and, at just $698 for a complete system, it’s one of the world’s least expensive, most portable, well-equipped PCs.

Nothing else would even come close, actually.

Before you dismiss this by saying, the iPhone isn’t powerful enough to substitute for a PC, consider Apple’s tremendous leaps toward miniaturization: the iPod Nano and the MacBook Air. Do you honestly doubt they will be incapable of shrinking a Mac down to the size of an iPhone?

So What Does All of this Mean?

  1. Taking into account the doubling of CPU processing power approximately every 18 months, and the doubling of affordable flash storage approximately every 10 months, an iPhone 3 years from now will be about as fast as a MacBook Air, and it will come with nearly 200 Gigabytes of storage.
  2. If you’re a player in the computer industry (say, you make bug tracking software like my company Axosoft), you’d better take notice! Even if I’m wrong about all of the above, and I don’t believe I am, change is coming. Today’s Desktop PCs’ and laptops’ days are numbered. People (your customers) will want their computers and the Internet with them all of the time, and even lugging around a 3lb MacBook Air will be considered cumbersome.
  3. Microsoft’s Silverlight engineers had better pay close attention to Mac OS compatibility, especially on the iPhone. A number of ISVs and IT departments will rely on Silverlight to help keep their software relevant.
  4. In addition to the iPhone Desktop (or whatever they end up calling it), Apple will produce a more portable docking station alla today’s laptops. So, you can you choose to carry your docking station with you. It’ll be a 1- to 2-lb slim device, perhaps a clamshell design, that you can also slide your iPhone into. You’ll want to take with you when you write that Great American Novel, beach side or at the park.
  5. Within 3 years the debate will begin: should iPhone sales be counted as Mac computer sales? Within 5 years they will, and Apple will be number 1 in computer sales with nearly a 50% market share. As a corollary to that statement, Mac OS X (or Mac OS 11?) will be the number 1 operating system, in terms of new units sold.
  6. Apple will create a more robust .Mac service, allowing group accounts (whether personal or business) to take advantage of iPhone collaboration features and group syncing. Also, expect to be able to operate any full Mac computer you have at home or the office with “Back to My Mac” and grab any files you need using your iPhone or iPhone Desktop. Other remote desktop options will give you access to the Windows and Linux worlds, as well. At $99 per year per iPhone, .Mac will generate significant revenues for Apple.
  7. The next generation of iPhones will usher in the era of video conference calls. Voice calls will not go away, and will likely remain the most popular form of phone conversation. A “Conference Call” etiquette will emerge, including the expectation of conference calls occurring mostly by appointment and impromptu calls defaulting to voice. What teenagers will do with this feature…let’s not go there, but parents beware.
  8. Unless Apple plays its cards totally above board and learns how to build close relationships with partners, it will build a close relationship with the Department of Justice’s antitrust group within 10 years. If this happens, the distraction could be a prelude to the next disruptive technology, which will eventually replace the iPhone.
  9. iPhone security will become a notable segment of the IT security industry. More work will be done toward remotely disabling lost or stolen iPhones, GPS tracking will be added, and the current iPhone slider will be replaced with a fingerprint scanner. In 5 years, leaving your iPhone in a Taxi Cab will suck even more than it does today, because the device will be a more integral part of your life — but you’ll be able to recover from the loss easier and with less fear of data and/or identity theft.
  10. The hospitality industry will recognize customers’ demands, and provide docking stations in restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, and wherever else it makes sense.
  11. Laptops and Desktop PCs won’t go away for a long time, but their market share will shrink dramatically. Games, 3-D rendering, faster compilers, and beefier servers will continue to push the hardware limits and processing power of CPUs and video cards. Niche markets.
  12. John C. Dvorak will be proved wrong yet again.

For More on the iPhone Desktop…

Angelo Coppola (Axosoft’s Marketing Director) spent a day participating in this thought experiment with me, and he published a behind the scenes article in his blog at Axosoft’s community site. The article (along with the image of the iPhone Desktop’s many Photoshop layers scattered all over the place) is worth a look.

Categories: Business Tags: , , ,

The Scorecard: Apple, Dell, Google and Microsoft

January 21, 2008 13 comments

Last week I attended MacWorld for the very first time. I was the only attendee running Windows Vista on a Dell notebook. I had to avoid Jobs just so I didn’t get kicked out of the event. If he’s quick to tell a fan how rude they are for requesting a picture, imagine what he would have told me if he would have seen me with a Dell!

The Jobs Keynote was absolutely awesome. One of my favorite announcements was the major upgrade to Apple TV with HD Movie rentals. To me, this completely eliminates the need for either HD-DVD or Blu-Ray. The MacBook Air was also a phenomenal product. Unbelievably thin!

But the MacWorld event was far from perfect. In fact, when compared to Microsoft events it was the worst event I had ever attended. I have been to quite a few Microsoft events including PDC, TechNet, Mix, WWPC and several internal events and I had never seen anything as poorly organized as the MacWorld event. Everything from the MacWorld web site, to event guides, schedules, registration, food and staff was the worst I had ever seen. Considering how insanely great Apple products are, I was expecting an Apple-like quality to the event, which did not exist. The event was so amateur in flow and feel that a typical Microsoft event attendee would have guessed this was the first event of its kind. Even then, it would have been inexcusable.

That triggered me to think about a scorecard for four of the main tech companies in our industry: Apple, Microsoft, Dell and Google. Each of these companies is exceptional at something, but none of them are great at all. Without any scientific data to back my claims, here is how I would personally rate the best company in each category:

Apple, Dell, Google and Microsoft

Operating Systems – Apple’s Tiger and Leopard both outshine Vista for a number of reasons: performance, overall system responsiveness, included user apps, system stability and better search. As an operating system, Apple’s OS X is clearly better than Vista.

Notebooks – If Apple’s notebook designs, magnetic power cords, slot load DVDs, weight or ultra small size had not won you over, the fact that each of Apple’s notebooks outperform the others in their class should get you to notice. The MacBook Pro was named the fastest Windows notebook reviewed by PC Magazine! There’s no question Apple makes the best Notebooks.

Desktops – Although Apple’s desktop offerings are somewhat limited with the iMac, Mac Mini and Mac Pro, there aren’t comparable systems that come close in packaging, size and performance in any of the categories. Dell’s XPS All-in-one is a blatant copy of the iMac. It’s too little too late.

Servers – Dell’s server line still outshines Apple in filling the variety of needs as well as beating Apple on price and the badly needed services for high-availability.

Hardware Variety – Dell is the hands down winner in providing the largest variety of hardware. Ironically, this could be a double-edged sword for them making it much more difficult to improve a product line that contains hundreds of products vs. just dozens.

Hardware Configurability – Again, Dell comes out ahead of Apple on configurability, but once again, this is a double edged sword. While it’s great that Dell offers 10 different video cards, the lack of focus ensures a hit or miss when it comes to drivers.

Product Aesthetics – I don’t need to comment on this one. Most companies couldn’t spell Aesthetics until Jobs came back to Apple.

Web Applications – Google is the clear winner when it comes to web applications for a variety of reasons: super fast pages, no clutter, ads that you don’t mind, always available and free. Microsoft’s MSN and other web offerings have always fallen short on all of those criteria.

Developer Tools – There’s no question that Microsoft takes the cake on this one. The Visual Studio product line has been a slam dunk winner with developers, thanks in large part to Scott Guthrie. Scott is one of the only remaining executives at Microsoft who gets it, but the rest of the world is catching up fast and Scott is fighting an uphill battle with the rest of gang at Microsoft.

Developer/Partner Programs – Microsoft again clearly has the better developer and partner programs with Empower ISV, Certified and Gold partnerships. They also have a longer history of being relatively nice to partners when compared with Apple (or even Oracle). Even Steve Jobs admitted that Microsoft has always been better at partnering that Apple. The shaky iTunes partnerships are a great example of Apple failing to keep even large partners happy.

Conferences & Events – If you’ve ever been to a Microsoft event, you know that registration is fast, organization of class schedules and web site management of individual schedules rocks and the abundance of food, drinks and snacks are nearly overboard. By contrast, I have nothing good to say about the MacWorld logistics and with the exception of the MacWorld keynote, the rest of the contents are on par.

Innovation – Apple is the most innovative large company in existence today. They are the only company that doesn’t shy away from building everything that goes into their products, both hardware and software. Google and Microsoft have stuck with software while Dell has stuck with hardware and even with the focus, none of them have done a great job.

Customer Service – This was a tough one. Microsoft and Google are clear losers in this regard. For me, the race was between Apple and Dell. On the consumer side, Apple wins hands down because Dell has outsourced its support to an incompetent company. On the business side, if you have the right account, Dell win beats Apple, but since Dell only wins IF you happen to be a valued customer, I had to give it to Apple.

Customer Comes First – Microsoft is the only company that puts customers first at all cost. They clearly listen to their customers and they react fast. None of the other companies come even close. Google and Apple are too closed from the outside to put customers first and in Apple’s case, they have clearly shown they don’t mind slapping a few customers here and there. Dell does a decent job as witnessed from the variety of computer lines they offer.

Return Policy – Dell takes the prize on return policies. No hassle, 30 day returns. In contrast, if you take a brand new computer back to an Apple store that you bought earlier that day, they’ll want to charge you a 10% restocking fee. Not cool.

Warranty Policy – Again, Dell’s warranty is significantly better and they actually send you replacement parts to fix your computer. Apple expects customers to send back their machines. Please!

Corporate Transparency – Microsoft is by far the most transparent of the companies with the most employee bloggers and for the most part, they are free to say what they want. Microsoft even has dedicated staff that participate in user forums, help user groups and other communities around their products. None of the others come even remotely close.

Employee Accessibility – Again, Microsoft’s employees are the most accessible. They are the most likely to return an email, escalate an issue or even take your phone call.

Passion – The measure for a company’s passion has to come from the users of their products. Clearly Apple has the most passionate users who often would be willing to part with a limb than with their Apple products.

Environment – This was a tough call. With Google actively promoting green technologies, using solar power for 30% of their electrical needs and subsidizing the purchase of hybrid cars for their employees, I could have easily called it a tie with Apple. However, I decided Apple has a much more difficult job of being environmentally friendly and they have taken a very proactive approach to the issue with their products, designs, packaging and even an environmental activist on their board (Al Gore).

Overall – If I could just own 1 product from any of the above companies, my decision would only be amongst Apple products. Nobody else would even get a consideration. It’s an easy choice to pick Apple as the overall winner amongst tech companies who are doing [most] things right.

So if you’re wondering why I still walk around with a Dell notebook, the answer is I was waiting for MacWorld to make sure I purchase the right product. My MacBook Pro is on its way.

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