So the new M7 coprocessor got us to thinking, seems like an awful lot of architecture for such a specific purpose, motion tracking.
We also couldn't help but notice that there was no "one more thing" (the market noticed too, last look AAPL was down > 5%). It got us to thinking, there must be more to this, there's a few folks out there thinking the same thing. We do think there is a strong possibility this is more geared towards Apple's possible new wearable gadget, iWatch. Then that got us to thinking, Apple really needed to pull a rabbit out of it's hat for this latest announcement. The market was looking for reassurance that Apple still had "it". This would've have been a perfect opportunity to pull a "one last thing". People would have pee'd their pants in the town hall and the would be riding high right now.
That made us wonder why the iWatch wasn't announced. Was it because the Samsung Gear was fairly panned? Part of that poor reception is that it was not backwards compatible and could only work with one model of phone? Is it because Apple is still unsure of a wearable market? One thing is sure, at some point Apple is going to have to take a leap of faith to get investors and consumer's interest and confidence back.
So here's a story of marketing might versus a prevailing trend. Apple is bucking against the trend to move everything to the cloud and I mean everything. Popular cloud implementation moves not just data to the cloud but also functionality. From Google docs for authoring to Pandora for music consumption. You don't just put stuff in the cloud, you use stuff in the cloud. You take advantage of the platform independence that the cloud provides you. You don't need to lug around your computer to edit your document in Google docs, you can do it from your Dad's computer at his house, your wife's iPhone, or your workstation at the office. Apple takes a hybrid approach by integrating cloud served data to their proprietary platform and apps. The question is, will this work? Can they so infiltrate a consumer's electronic appliance world so that you will always be an arm's length away from your cloud data via an Apple product? I kinda doubt it, there are circumstances that even the most dedicated Apple Fanboy will not be able to access their data via their personal Apple product even if they wanted to. Say they work at an office that is PC only, what's a fanboy to do?
It's easy to see Apple's motivation to use iCloud to drive sales of their hardware but the question is is it compelling enough? They are really fighting a powerful trend (and common sense). I am one of those folks that think's 2007 Steve Jobs was correct in seeing most people will be using web apps with their iPhone over installed apps. There's no reason why content providers will choose to create app binaries for each platform over a single implementation as a web app once connectivity has become fast and ubiquitous. That won't happen for a few more years, the cell networks are still to creaky to support the kind of reliable connection people will require for reliable access to their web apps and data. But if Apple can convert many of its active users to iCloud that's worth around $1.2 billion dollars in revenue! So even if they buck the trend for a year or two, that's serious money.
What are your thoughts?
This is just a short post based on my anecdotal experience with the wireless connection strength with my Macbook Pro 17". The connection strength drops off dramatically if you have the display lid closed vs open. This is especially apparent if you are at an extended range from your wireless router. I experienced drop-offs equivalent to ~25Mb/s open vs ~7Mb/s closed. What was interesting was it didn't matter how I oriented the closed Macbook. I assumed that if I prompt up the Macbook so that the closed lid was approximately the same orientation as it would be opened, that I would get the same download speeds, nope. The orientation didn't matter, just the fact that it was closed vs open.
So my word of advice is if you connect to an external display and usually keep your Macbook Pro closed, keep it open for better download speeds.
So Ben Zotto suggested having a little get together of some local San Francisco iOS and mobile app developers just to shoot-the-breeze. Super idea! Yesterday was our first soiree at Elixer in the Mission and it was great. What was so great about it? First off, it was a bunch of really nice folks who have a passion for what they're doing. Secondly it was nice to talk to folks in the same industry and share our experiences. Creates a sort of fellowship and puts your own experience into context. What you really find is that we're all kinda in the same boat going through the same growing pains and having similar goals. I think the first big shared goal is being driven by the product and the engineering. Whether it's the programmer or the designer, everyone wants to do high quality work that they can stand behind. Being able to indulge ourselves by producing quality work is what makes the job interesting.
Who was there? Well, Ben of course, recent Minneapolis transplants ("you betcha!") Nate and Nikki of Read It Later, Jeannie who runs product for Smule, and Kalani and Karl from Smudgeproof (awesome name for an iOS company).
Most of us left our corporate lives behind because we wanted to have the flexibility to work on projects that we could really drive both the design and the technology. The iOS and mobile projects are really perfect for that, most of these projects have a short(ish) development cycle and the scope can easily be handled by a team of 1 or 2 talented software engineers and an excellent designer. By the time your ADD starts kicking in, you're done with the project!
One thing that I was bouncing around in my head after this get together was I had the feeling that there are A LOT of small development shops with small teams of 2-10 folks. I think the reason there's so much productivity and creativity in this space right now is with this distributed model of software publishing (lots of individual shops cranking out apps) you have a lot of people driven by passion and flexibility. Rather then large companies with large bureaucracies with managers and marketeers who feel the need to have a finger in everything and making "small" changes that have big impacts. You have small streamlined groups with a fairly flat organization who help craft a project from beginning UX design through development, testing, and launch. Basically no BS that derail projects and crush moral. I may be a little naive but that's my experience so far. Now I'm not saying this is a perfect world, you have clients and all their issues and expectations--but that's for another blog entry.
A Cautionary Tale:
Just had a great meeting with Ben Zotto of Penultimate fame--hyperpopular iPad app that's always in the top 10. Our discussion ranged from short-term strategies for both our companies and our products, to the more casual topic of what to see in Argentina. One thing that is clear after this meeting is he's a quality person of substance. He's also looking for a good rock-star developer to help him out and help his company grow. So if you want to work for a promising company with a stand-up boss, give him a shout-out.
While we had fun hashing out ideas for each other's products, what was really interesting is talking about our business models and where to take them and how to grow gracefully. There are a couple decisions that you have to grapple with fairly early on and that's whether you try to boot-strap your way through growth or to seek funding to push you to the next level. They represent two modes that really play off your personality. That is do you stay in your comfort zone or do you go engines on full? What's clear is that the risks are far greater if you go the boot-strap route, it takes capital to attract that super talent that our industry relies on. Your chances of success are much greater if you can secure funding. This article by Mark Davis really digs into the pros and cons of both.
When you get to this cross-road you get hit with your first existential crisis. What type of firm do you want to run? Do you want to run a large business that cranks out volume or do you want to be a small personalized boutique that concentrates on customer relationships, quality products, and sustained relationships. There's a lot more risk in the later, but greater personal rewards.
Another thing that struck me was a sense that we were each trying build something bigger then just our individual products. It was almost like there was a meta goal of trying bring to fruition our ideal company, seeing the company as an extension of our values. "The play's the thing!" We want to build companies that are virtuous. We want to treat people well, give people opportunities, chances for growth, actualization, driven by quality and craftsmanship. I personally see companies as social institutions that have roll in society for good. They shouldn't just take, they are obliged to provide to the society from which they benefit. Provide to the people from which their profits are derived. It's more fun to think about creating a great institution that thrives in every sense, then a hollow endeavor that's just there to skim a little capital out of the economic ecosystem and put it in my pocket.