Why was Apple's prediction on iPads so wrong?

Apple has announced it is selling far more iPads than it expected and is delaying the worldwide launch by a month.

I am seeing this problem in US too. There are lines in stores (when I went back to buy a third iPad I had to wait in line). The demand is nuts for iPads.

So why did Apple guess its prediction so wrong? Several reasons:

1. They didn’t realize just how many apps would ship on day one and how good the quality of those apps would be.
2. Even the app developers never had their hands on iPads (I talked with several developers, even at “hot” companies like Evernote, while waiting in line, and they had to develop their apps without even seeing an iPad) so the marketplace couldn’t tell them before it shipped just how hot this would be.
3. The focus groups that Apple talked with didn’t hype it up enough with the people studying the groups. This is because they, themselves, didn’t have the apps (the iPad without apps is pretty lame, actually).
4. They didn’t realize how fast skeptics would be convinced. I’ve seen this myself. My son was very skeptical before it came out, saying he didn’t want one. The minute he put his hands on it he started changing his mind and within five minutes of using it said “I was wrong.”

This is one of those dangers that Apple has: predicting demand is really tough when your market really can’t see the complete product before it ships.

On the other hand, this is a very positive sign for Apple. It means that the iPad is moving outside of the “Apple faithful” very quickly, which I have also observed in the stores. The people I met buying iPads a few days later from the opening were quite different than those of us waiting in line.

Apple has a runaway hit. Bummer for those of you waiting for yours.

UPDATE: on the other hand, lots of people are skeptical, including ZDNet.

The Seesmic Squeeze: how a company responds to market changes in Twitter's ecosystem

Take a pile of carbon and apply enough heat and pressure and you’ll get diamonds. Of course you might just not get it right and will end up with a pile of ash.

If you talk with Loic Le Meur, CEO of Seesmic, he tells a story of feeling squeezed, just like a batch of carbon. Squeezed by the press, like Techcrunch, who said that Le Meur is in denial of the storm brewing over the Twitter ecosystem after Twitter announced it will compete with the client partners it so famously enabled.

Squeezed by Twitter who didn’t give him warning that it would soon compete with him and the other client developers. I’ve heard more than one story lately of meetings with Ev Williams and the Twitter team to show them Twitter clients and gotten nothing but praise in return. A little “hey, you might think about taking your company in another direction” would have been nice.

Even today, one of Twitter’s investors, Chris Sacca, is saying to “stay the course” to developers like Loic Le Meur, even though when I talk with developers they say the whole ecosystem has changed overnight.

Squeezed by even Apple who has famously put new rules in place for app developers and has shipped the iPad, which needs new development, and a new OS SDK, which will need new development. Seesmic is very late in getting its iPhone client done (he showed me how work is progressing on that front and I get now why Seesmic is taking its time there, Loic might really come out brilliantly because his client didn’t ship before Twitter changed directions so now Loic can steer Seesmic into a new, calmer, part of the sea while other client developers like Twitterriffic, Echofon, and TweetDeck will find it more difficult to change directions to avoid the head-on competition with Twitter.

He told me he’s getting notes from friends, investors, competitors, family, and others asking how things are going. Heck, even I am showing up with my camera trying to find out if there’s a deadpool victim here.

One interesting thing I’ve learned about great entrepreneurs: they get up from a sucker punch and jump right back into the fight. Loic didn’t disappoint here, watch the video and you’ll see he has a new version of Seesmic Desktop shipping this week that takes Seesmic in an entirely new direction: a multi-service platform of his own. At minute 25 in the video Loic takes on the concerns laid out in the industry by Techcrunch.

What did Seesmic do with its desktop client platform?

1. Dumped Adobe technology and went with Microsoft Silverlight. Why? “We needed plugins,” Le Meur says, which are needed to build a platform that would enable a new microblogging client platform to be built.

2. Dumped Twitter. If you look at Seesmic Desktop now you can run that without even having Twitter as part of it. So, a developer could use the new client to interact only with Facebook (which is also a plugin). Add the Twitter plugin and you have a Twitter client, but it’s not required.

3. Opened up search to non-Twitter search engines. Now you can do searches on a variety of search partners, including the newly announced TweetUp, which has an interesting way to sell ads and is sharing revenues with partners like Seesmic.

4. Built a skinning platform. Does CocaCola need its own client? Well, now Seesmic can offer that. So far Twitter hasn’t been able to ship a totally skinnable Twitter and Twitter sure won’t be very likely to build a client that serves Facebook, Linked In, and tons of others the way Seesmic’s new desktop is.

5. Built in Ping.fm, which lets users wean themselves off of Twitter. Write one microblog in Seesmic desktop and you can decide to publish it on a bunch of different services, including Twitter.

There are a few other things too that Seesmic has done with its new platform, but it’s clear that Loic has been thinking about how to diversify off of being only Twitter-centric, and this is how I believe all the Twitter client developers must move, or face dramatically lower valuations than they were expecting.

Anyway, put it all together and Seesmic is responding very well to being squeezed.

How about the other companies in Twitter’s ecosystem? We find out later today as we attend the Twitter Chirp conference. You can watch that on Justin.tv, by the way. See you there!

Is 2011 like 1994 for Apple, Twitter, Facebook, and the Web?

Fact: In 1994 I thought Apple was going to own it all. By 1999 most magazines thought it was dead.
Fact: In 1992 Pointcast shipped. By 1999 it was dead.
Fact: In 1994 Microsoft was beta testing a system called “Blackbird.” They killed it before shipping it. It was designed to compete with Pointcast and AOL, both walled garden approaches.

What changed the course of all these technologies?

Developers and content producers.

I remember Pointcast well. I uninstalled it within weeks of trying it. It was seen back then in the same light as the iPad is today. “Cool.” “Revolutionary.” “Fun.” “Going to save publishing.”

Lots of people thought it was killed by lack of low-cost Internet (their business just didn’t work back then. Remember, back then we were paying to use CompuServe and Prodigy and AOL to connect to the Internet. Compare to now when I get free Internet from businesses I use. Just yesterday I was using wifi in an oil-change place in Silicon Valley).

No, what killed Pointcast was its lack of openness. At least that’s why I uninstalled it.

It was beautiful. Just like Time Magazine is on the iPad.

But it pissed me off. Everytime I’d read an article in it I’d try to tell someone else about it. I couldn’t. There weren’t any permalinks and the baaaahhhhssstttaaaarrrrdddddssss were so greedy that they made it impossible to copy and paste text from it.

Sure seems a lot like Time Magazine does on the iPad.

Guess what? I’ve already uninstalled that and the Wall Street Journal and New York Times apps are next. They suck. They suck the same way that Pointcast did. Greedy baaaahhhhssssttttaaaarrrrdddddsssss who don’t want me to tell anyone else about their awesome content. Well, it sure is pretty. Gag.

So why haven’t I returned my iPad if its major content partners behave just like Pointcast’s did? Because, well, the iPad does so much more and has a Web browser that hasn’t yet been limited like Pointcast’s content displays were (and Time’s and WSJs). My fight is not with the iPad, but with the old-school media publishers. Luckily there’s other ways to get their content (get the Skygrid app, it’s most excellent) too. So, they can look pretty and collect money from people who don’t realize just how limiting these apps are (Time did get my $5, but not anymore).

What did Pointcast in (content publisher greed) isn’t what did Apple in, though. No, that was all about the closed arrogant system that Apple had built. It turned off developers by the droves.

Not that Apple was all that wrong. They were trying to protect users from ugly apps. They saw the Macintosh as “art” while Bill Gates had no such delusions. Bill told developers “build” and even gave them a tool that looked like a modern Hypercard: Visual Basic. Apple in the meantime killed Hypercard because it enabled normal people to build really ugly and wacky apps.

What did Steve Jobs do yesterday? Told the normal people “you will NOT build apps on my beautiful machine.”

Now WHY would he do such a thing? Well, for one thing it might Steve trying to return the favor Adobe paid Apple when Adobe didn’t support OSX.

Nah. Steve has bigger visions than that. Here’s my theory: Steve knows that apps are lockin. They lock users into a platform. Heck, so far I’ve spent $200 on apps for my iPad. So, now, if a competitor comes along (say from Google) they have to convince me that their machine is worth more than $200 more to get me to switch.

But what apps are really getting people to buy? Well, Appsfire has been tracking the most popular iPhone apps and you’ll see that just a small number generate most of the revenue (and, more importantly, PR attention) for Apple.

So, what does Apple need? Is it more apps? No way. At 130,000 apps Apple already has enough apps to keep a sizeable lead for years over its competitors like Google’s Android OS.

No, what Apple needs is better quality apps. So, does Apple care about templated apps or ones developed in Flash or some other cross-device language/system? No way.

In fact, if anything, Apple does NOT want developers to develop apps for other hardware at all, or if it must, it wants the apps on other platforms to suck and suck visibly. Just like today. Tweetie (which was just purchased by Twitter, more on that in a second) is a LOT better than Seesmic or Twitroid on Android. Steve Jobs LOVES when that happens because it keeps you locked into the iPhone and iPad.

So, how does Steve Jobs make sure that the best developers work on iPhone and don’t work on building systems that make it easy to port apps from iPhone to Android or Microsoft’s new Windows Mobile 7, or to Nokia or to RIM’s Blackberry (which is VERY hard to develop for)?

Well, easy, make it against the rules!

This pisses everyone off, because they thought that they would be able to hire one development team to build for all platforms, but now they’ll have to build two development teams: one for the iPhone and one for everything else.

This guarantees that apps will suck on everything else, but will be fast and special on iPhone. Why? Because, well, if you hire a developer who can do Objective-C that developer is generally going to be a lot more talented than someone who can only do Flash. That developer will come up with some cool new features that the Flash or .NET versions won’t have (or, even worse, can’t have because those systems must compile to a lowest-common-denominator).

Steve Jobs wins this game. Why? Because he — unlike in 1994 — controls the developers.

Will that change? Only if enough of the world’s top developers vote against their own self interest and develop for other platforms. We already have an example of one: Joe Hewitt, who is the guy who wrote the Facebook app for iPhone. He said he isn’t building apps for the iPhone anymore. Already on the iPad there’s one HUGE app that isn’t there: Facebook’s.

Until at least 20 other of the top 100 iPad/iPhone developers join him this won’t matter and Steve Jobs has control. Will others join Joe?


So now Twitter is showing its own version of causing trouble with developers in order to move to the next level. What did Twitter do? In the past few days they’ve released a Blackberry client and bought iPhone developer Tweetie and said they intend to rerelease Tweetie for free under the Twitter brand.

This was like a bomb going off in the Twitter developer community as developers like Seesmic and Tweetdeck realized they had a new competitor: Twitter itself. How unplatform like!

But what really is going on is Twitter is about to unleash SuperTweets (well, OK, Twitter will probably call them something else, but the effect is the same). What are SuperTweets? A new metadata display surface that goes along with Tweets so a new form of advertising can be born.

This is why Twitter needed to do its own clients to ensure that SuperTweets would be seen by enough of its users to make them valuable and also to ensure that other client developers got on board. Tweetie is now a stick that Twitter can use to get everyone else in line, just like Mark Suster says Salesforce did after acquiring Koral: explain the new opportunities that SuperTweets (or whatever they will be called) will bring to all developers.

Now it’ll be interesting to see what Seesmic does in reaction to the beating they seem like they are taking (ala on Techcrunch too!).

Personally I see a great way for Seesmic to come out on top: add curation features. If Seesmic had that I’d switch to it instantly and start building exclusive content for its real time system that it could then push to its own clients and sell advertising for. That’s how it’ll dig out of its hole, but not sure that Loic is able to see this. He’s about to announce a new platform that gets VERY close, though, so it wouldn’t require much more work.

Seesmic has a major chance to make everyone else look like Pointcast. Dave Winer shines the light on the situation. I sure need curation features, will be interesting to see who delivers them first.


The question I’m hearing over and over as I visit entrepreneurs is “how open is Facebook going to get?”

I am hearing rumblings that Facebook is about to explode its own bomb at its F8 conference: one that makes everyone realize just how serious Facebook is about becoming the connective tissue of Web services and sites. I don’t think we’ll hear the real leaks until after Twitter’s Chirp conference is done (Twitter’s conference is this week, Facebook’s is next).

Anyway, all these words are about one thing: there’s a fight between closed systems and open systems going on right now, just like there was between Pointcast and Blackbird and AOL one one side in the 1990s and the Web on the other. We know now that the Web won.

Will it win again?

Confessions of a Tablet PC salesperson

NEC Tablet PC circa 2002

Few people remember that I sold Tablet PCs for NEC (here’s some details on that early thin tablet). We had a Tablet back in 2002 that:

1. Was 1/4-inch thick.
2. Supported multitasking.
3. Ran full Windows XP OS.
4. Supported Flash.
5. Had replaceable batteries.

So, why didn’t it sell? Well, it did sell. We sold out every month. Problem was that NEC could only make a few thousand a month for the US market and they never put the advertising/marketing dollars behind it.

But it had some really deep flaws.

1. It didn’t feel good after using it. Sorry, but Windows XP sucked for Tablet usage, especially now that we have iPads to compare it to. Apps didn’t feel like they were made for Tablet (most weren’t). To use it you needed to use a stylus. Lose it and the thing became pretty unusable. It also got warm so if you used it for a while it was uncomfortable to hold.
2. Batteries only lasted two hours. Compare to my iPad, which lasts 10 or more (I still haven’t depleted a battery fully on the thing).
3. It cost $2,000.
4. The wifi wasn’t all that reliable and not many places even had wifi, so walking around with it wasn’t all that useful.

I compare my experiences with that to the iPad and we’ve just come so far in a few years. The iPad is a sheer joy to use compared to that early NEC Tablet (which WAS revolutionary for its time!) Plus I can buy four of them for what one NEC cost.

It’s sad that Bill Gates tried to get Microsoft to deliver the Tablet PC vision but Microsoft mostly failed where Apple has largely succeeded. Some because the market is more ready for a Tablet PC today (we have wifi in a lot of places now, and 3G coverage is getting there). Some because technology has evolved (battery life is dramatically better than back then and lighter too). Some because prices have come down.

It is interesting to look back at gadgets just a few years ago and see how far we’ve come.

The 4 a.m. Chatroulette feature and the epic battle between "consume only" Apps and Participatory Web (why I'm not worried about iPad like @JeffJarvis)

Last Friday night I was sitting on a street corner in Palo Alto. Why was I there? To hang out with the geeks and to get the latest shiny object that Steve Jobs and team had spent that same night stocking the store shelves with.

But while waiting in line someone said “did you know the guy who started Chatroulette is here?”

While thoughts of some guy showing his penis on a street corner did go through my head, I wanted to meet Andrey Ternovskiy. Why? It’s not every day you meet a 17-year-old high school student from Moscow who launches a web service and three months later has 20 million unique visitors a month (he showed me his Google Analytics, they are what every entrepreneur dreams of having happen).

So I sat next to him. I think I had to kick a potential investor out of his seat to do that. Seriously Andrey had two investors hanging out with him all night long. I quickly figured out that he was using a version of Chatroulette I had never seen. It had a nicer layout and had a new feature: he was playing chess with someone else in the world. No penises, either.

But then he freaked me out and up popped a code screen, he made some changes, then went back to testing. “What are you doing?” I asked. “I’m testing a feature.”

“Do you mind if I record you?”

“No.”If you are on an iPad you can’t use the Flash player that I just embedded of my interview, but every CinchCast I do (Cinch is an app I use on my iPhone and iPads that lets me record and distribute to you audio recordings) also has an MP3 file that does work on iPad, here’s the one of the interview I did with Andrey while waiting in line.

“I want to get some feedback,” he said.

And with that we need to move our focus from Andrey to Eric Ries. What is Eric known for? Coming up with a methodology called “Lean Startups” where he puts forth some crazy ideas like you should ship 50 times a day and you should, gasp, listen to feedback.

I have a feeling Eric and Andrey would understand each other quite well. To really understand the Lean Startup methodology, I went and had a long talk with Eric, who is one of the most revolutionary thinkers I’ve had the pleasure of talking with. The conversation was so interesting it went an hour and I had to break it into two pieces just to upload it.

Revolutionary thinking that so few companies use.

But now let’s get to the epic battle part and my reactions to Jeff Jarvis who is worried that the iPad will destroy the world. I have now had a few days to use my iPad and I’m not worried.

Oh, and Jeff you’re wrong. Mostly.

See, when Jeff plays with his iPad he sees a pretty girl that doesn’t add much depth to his life.

I don’t like the metaphor. It too much reminds me of Chatroulette so let’s get away from girls and boys.

I much prefer how Dave Winer gives us a verdict against the iPad based on the comparison with other computers in his life.

If I look at the iPad the way Dave does I see all of its contradictions and shortcomings. I grok where he’s coming from.

But I don’t at the iPad as a replacement for my computers. It was something I would leave in my family room and not use very often. Sort of like a book or a magazine that I might pick up when I’m bored.

This is why the world that Jeff Jarvis is predicting won’t come around.

The iPad doesn’t kill the laptop.

“So, Scoble, why haven’t you put your iPad down since getting it?”

First that’s not really true, my son stole my iPad to read a book on it tonight so I was left watching TV and poking at my iPhone. Also, I’m using a Dell laptop to type this post out, mostly cause I can type a lot faster which lets me write boring long posts easier (maybe I should write on the iPad, it’ll encourage me to be, um, shorter with my ramblings).

I see this epic battle playing out between the old school of Time and New York Times and other mass media, who want you to look at their content and read their ads and not do much else, and the new world of Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz, and all the rest of the content-creation, participatory, and collaborative web services.

I haven’t put it down, though, because it has already totally changed how I view the world of media. I think the Time Magazine “look at me, I’m pretty and well thought out” view isn’t going to win, but deserves space right next to the rough-and-tumble world of blogging, Flickr’ing, Twittering, and Facebooking.

It’s Time’s fault that they haven’t made their new interface conversational. I just won’t talk about it as often as if they had thought this through a little more and stopped working so hard on making it so damn pretty. To me I remember another service that made everything pretty: Pointcast. It failed. So will this new style of “pretty.” But the iPad is an awesome way to use Twitter. So it will remain in my hands.

So, what trends are we seeing already?

First, people keep asking me what Twitter app I like on the iPad (I’m still arguing it out in my mind, give me a week, but you can’t go wrong with Twitterrific).
Second, games are TOTALLY participatory and are selling very well.
Third, apps like Smule’s Magic Piano are at the top of the charts and you can participate with people in a new way on that app.
Fourth, the app that pleased the crowds today in San Francisco wasn’t the Time Magazine app, but was the Geometry Wars game.
Fifth, when I was looking for a flight to Omaha what did I reach for? Kayak’s new app which is freaking awesome.
Sixth, what is at the top of the charts right now? Pages. Numbers. Keynote. All work related apps.

If Jeff Jarvis is right people will get frustrated and will return their iPads in droves.

Hint: they aren’t and they won’t.

This is a device that will drive us nuts and will thrill us at the same time.

What else has come along recently that’s done that?

How about Facebook? How about Twitter? (What worse tool for writing can you imagine than one that limits you to 140 characters yet it keeps getting more and more popular).

Anyway, I’m rambling and I haven’t done what Eric Ries advocates: I haven’t shipped a new feature (a new blog) in a while and I haven’t listened to your feedback. Off to do that now.