Monthly Archives: June 2011

Weekend bitchmeme: the three people Steve Jobs should fire (can someone else exploit these?)

It’s a weekend, and that means it’s time for a bitchmeme.

It’s not often that I call for someone to be fired, but, well, when it comes to Apple I have been giving that company more than its fair share of cash lately and there are some things that it’s done that totally piss me off. Here’s three. If I was Steve Jobs I would be ashamed and would make these three people pay:

Apple's worst design decision of past five years. New iMac and Cinema displays don't line up!

1. Whoever designed the new 27-inch iMac and the new 27-inch Cinema display should be fired. Why? They don’t line up! Is it too much to ask that two monitors from the same company should line up perfectly when placed on a desk? Keep in mind these are both brand new products, both purchased in the past week.

2. Whoever designed the new Airplay on iPads should be fired. Before we get into why, first let’s cover what Airplay does since so few of you use it. If you are using, say, the TED app on your iPad and you say to yourself “gee, I’d like to watch this video on my big screen” you can use Airplay to do exactly that (if you have an Apple TV). This is the coolest new feature introduced to my world this year. By far. So you think I’d be totally praising the person who did it, right? No way. This is Apple and if something isn’t done perfectly heads must roll. So, what’s wrong? Well, easy. If you use the TED app and push airplay it indeed starts playing on your big screen. One MAJOR F***ED UP PROBLEM: you can’t minimize the TED app. You can’t even watch a different video. This isn’t a problem with the TED app either, it’s a problem with Airplay (same thing is wrong with other apps that use Airplay like Squrrl or ShowYou).

3. Whoever decided that the new Final Cut Pro wouldn’t have multi-camera support should be fired. Listen, anyone who does pro videos uses multiple cameras. We do over at http://building43.com. Whoever decided that Final Cut Pro could ship without multiple camera support decided to ship an incomplete product (and my producer says it’s not the only feature missing from it). Why didn’t you just call this iMoviePlus or something instead of pissing all over the Final Cut Pro brand and users?

Anyway, it’s so rarely that Apple just does things badly, but there’s three cases where heads must roll. At least if Steve Jobs wants to send a message to the others left at Apple that they better not ship crap on his watch.

What do you say Steve?

UPDATE: I’m wondering if someone else can exploit these mistakes. Certainly Android could exploit the Airplay problem, if it had a clue. But the monitor problem? I wonder if HP or Dell had a clue about how to exploit these problems? As for Final Cut Pro, my producer, Rocky Barbanica, is already switching to other editing products. He’s partial to Adobe Premier so far, so maybe Adobe or Avid will get a ton of business because Apple just signaled to pros that it doesn’t care about them anymore.

UPDATE #2: writing this article has caused a LOT of pushback. Here’s some samples:

Neven Mrgan Tweeted: Hey @Scobleizer, that post about employees Apple should fire is idiotic, mean, and ignorant. Shame on you.
AgentKyle Tweeted: Wow. @scobleizer just posted the most asshole article I’ve seen in a long time.
Chronic tweeted: one person Rackspace should fire: @Scobleizer

I’ll keep updating with more updates.

Why mobile users and developers should care about what Matt Murphy thinks

If you use an iPhone or an Android-based mobile phone you probably are using an app that Matt Murphy has invested in. Who is he? He’s the managing partner of the iFund at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Yesterday they celebrated the third anniversary of the fund. His team has seen 5,000 pitches and funded 25, including companies like Flipboard, Shopkick, Pelago, ngmoco, etc. In 2010 fund companies had 100 million downloads. Techcrunch has other stats they shared with the press yesterday.

But why should users care? Because what Matt and his team invests in decides whether platforms rise or falls.

Some things he shared in an interview (you can listen to the entire thing) with the press (Reuters, Wall Street Journal, AllThingsD, and other journalistic organizations were in the room asking questions) are:

1. They aren’t likely to start an Android-focused fund anytime soon. He says that their companies are mostly on both iOS and Android, but that iOS is monetizing 5-10x more than Android (and Android is monetizing MUCH more than the other platforms). “If you’re an app that’s heavy on the monetization side you want to go where the monetization is,” explaining why he’s still so bullish on iOS.
2. There’s one company in the fund that was Android only. That’s Work Smart Labs, which has six million users on Android (coming next week to iOS) and I have a separate interview with co-founder Artem Petakov.
3. They aren’t investing in app discovery companies like Chomp. “I worry that those aren’t a good experience…Discovery should be a lot simpler than that.” Hint: he sees Apple improving the app store a lot soon and he’s counting on viral mechanisms that Twitter and Facebook integration will supply later this year.
4. Does he know something about Facebook that we don’t? He kept talking about Facebook integration into iOS.
5. He doesn’t believe yet in Windows Phone 7 and the fund’s companies are mostly taking a “wait and see” approach. That said, one of my favorite iOS apps, Foodspotting, just shipped a WP7 app today. You can be sure that Matt will watch their results closely and may update his stance within a few months.

So, what does this mean for users? Well, Matt is continuing to fund innovative companies. KPCB team members told me off camera that they are seeing the same things I am: that most of the great apps are being built on iOS first, then ported to Android.

Some challenges that the companies are talking about are that many users aren’t loading many apps, and they are working to build viral mechanisms into apps so that users on Twitter and Facebook feel impelled to download those apps and join in (let’s just call that the Instagram model of getting users). They also are looking forward to further integration with Apple TV in the future (Cooliris is one of the companies they funded and its CEO told me last night that they are really diving deeply into iOS 5 and are excited by some of the AirPlay features (which let you shove any kind of media over to other devices, mostly Apple TV right now).

Anyway, it’s not everyday you get to hear from someone who has such a big impact on the mobile market. Glad I could share it with you.

Foodspotting and Yelp has new restaurant-finding and review competition: Chewsy

One of the best examples of how mobile devices are changing our lives is Foodspotting (my account is here). What does this do? It lets you see photos of meals taken near you as a way to find new restaurants. I find it more compelling than Yelp or Google as a way to find new restaurants to try. It also is a good way to capture your own meals as a historical record of what you eat.

Now a new company, Chewsy, comes along that says “well, Foodspotting is pretty cool, but it’s missing some things.” Here you can hear co-founders Chaitanya Sareen and Trevin Chow explain what Chewsy does. First, it’s only on iOS for the moment (they are planning on coming to other platforms) and they just released a new version this morning, that makes Chewsy much more social than it was previously.

The biggest difference from Foodspotting you’ll notice about Chewsy is that it has reviews on the photos, which helps you communicate with your friends whether a dish actually was good or not or totally sucked. These reviews were written by other Chewsy members. One problem: many towns don’t have many photos or reviews. It shows the chicken and egg problem many app developers face and why I still find I start up Foodspotting more times than Chewsy, but Chewsy is improving as more people try it and put reviews in.

Anyway, these two apps are changing how I find restaurants and it’s great to see competition so that both are pushed to add new features to make dining out even better for all of us.

Is Nanosys’ awesome new screen technology gonna be in iPad 3? I hope so. Wow.

When Nanosys CEO Jason Hartlove pulled two iPads out of his bag and turned them on one looked like when I first saw my first Kodachrome slide while the other looked muddy and crappy in comparison (I pulled out my own iPad and saw my screen looked muddy and crappy in comparison too). The new one was clear, beautiful, stunning, with richer colors than I had ever seen on a screen before.

“Is that the new retina display?” I immediately asked him.

“No, it is not a higher resolution display.” My eyes were telling me otherwise.

“What the f*** is going on here then?” I asked him. He calmly explained what Nanosys did and why they own 400 patents on what they were showing me, which they call Quantum Dot Enhanced Film (QDEF™) . 400!

This technology is so important Economist magazine just wrote about it (and they don’t write about startups very often). Even better, it’s designed AND made in the USA! For once Silicon Valley is seeming like Silicon Valley again.

Unfortunately you can’t really see the difference in the screen very well. Why? Because you are watching this video on an old crappy Dell, or a Macintosh, or an old-style iPad.

When Nanosys starts shipping its screen technology later this year our lives will change forever.

Every screen in your life will look dull and lifeless compared to a screen with Nanosys technology in it.

Now, let’s go through the business advantages:

1. Does not take more battery life.
2. Does not increase cost.
3. Does not require a new display architecture to push out more pixels or a GPU that is four times as fast to support more pixels.
4. They can make craploads of it.
5. They have patents up the yingyang so are gonna be the only game in town for a while.
6. This company is real and funded by the best VCs in the business. They also just won best new display technology at the Society for Information Display conference a couple of weeks ago.

If you watch one video of mine, watch this one. It’s awesome tech and I can’t wait to have it in all my screens. Unfortunately we gotta wait for Steve Jobs to bet on it big time.

I can just see the iPad 3 launch. We all know Apple is going to put in a double-pixel display (my sources have been talking about that for months now) but when you see this technology you’ll know just why the next displays are so freaking good on colors, too.

Vacation brain food

One thing I try to do on vacation is “tune up my brain.” Bill Gates taught me this because he’d take a stack of books on vacation and read them. On my vacation, just concluded, I read most of Inside the Plex, by Steven Levy. A book about Google. It is an awesome book and I wish I had Steven’s talent. Since I don’t, though, I needed to tune up my brain and see what I could learn by hanging out with some awesomely smart people.

First I visited Stephen Jones. He’s a famous restaurant designer. I always love talking with him because he thinks about materials and light and how people entertain themselves in a whole new light. This conversation didn’t disappoint as he talks about China and a variety of topics.

Then I visited Dan Meis. He’s a world-famous architect who designs sports stadiums around the world. You’ll know his work if you see a baseball game in Seattle’s Safeco Field or a basketball game at Los Angeles’ Staples Center. I always am inspired by how big he thinks, which is why I started the conversation asking about something small he designed lately. Of course he switched the topic to discussing what he’s working on now: a soccer stadium for a future World Cup in Qatar.

The next week I visited Vizio (you already saw that visit in a previous post) to learn more about 3D, then visited Oakley to learn more about the latest in 3D glasses (hint: they are selling far better than they expected, I learned from execs there, which shows that 3D TV is indeed taking off, just not with the tech press). While there I got a good look at a new custom printing technology they built, which shows how custom products can be in the future.

If you were watching my wife’s Facebook feed you’d know that we got lots of beach time, along with time at LegoLand and Disneyland too. Great times and my brain is buzzing with new ideas to bring back to my work at Rackspace.

Has the tech industry forgotten users? We are in an insider bubble

You know when I read David Heinemeier Hansson write that all he needs is 10 apps I believe we’ve all lost our minds. Then I look at Techmeme and see all the insider baseball and nothing about real users and I realize we have indeed lost our minds.

See, people keep talking about a bubble. What they usually mean is “oh, my gosh Color got $41 million and LinkedIn stock is nuts.” Wrong bubble to worry about, though.

The real bubble is we’ve stopped understanding users.

See, this is why I took the family out of the valley on vacation. We visited Disneyland and Legoland. I watched how people used their phones. Apps rule.

Not everyone is ignoring users, though. I talk every day with developers who study user behavior.

For instance, AppStoreHQ studied its users and found that apps do indeed matter.

Turns out that if you STUDY THE DATA which DHH didn’t do, you learn that the long tail of apps is very important. Here’s some findings:

“Well, these users actually installed 20,100 distinct apps! Seen another way, among these 5,000 users, on average, they each had over 4 apps of which they were they only user. Out of the 20,100 apps, over 19,000 were installed by fewer than 250 users (5% of the sampled users).”

To continue the trend, GigaOm reports that apps are used more than the Web. Maybe this is why DHH is so anti-app. After all, his whole career is based on building websites and technology to build such (he was the guy who invented Ruby on Rails).

Nielsen says that DHH is wrong by 4x. They report that the average iPhone user has 48 apps loaded. “Heavy” users, like me, have 300 or more.

See, I met a lot of average people at Disneyland. I noticed that most of them were carrying Smartphones. iPhones and Android and RIM, etc. When you talk to these “normal people” they are VERY app centric. Many had the various apps for helping navigate lines at Disneyland or Legoland on their phones. And even if they didn’t have apps loaded, they were quite aware that some phones have lots of apps, while others don’t.

Over and over I understood why people buy certain phones over others. They don’t want to appear stupid. Even if they aren’t going to use many apps themselves. They want to have a phone that has lots of app potential.

I saw this on the retail counter at my camera store in the 1980s. I sold lots of Nikon cameras because that’s what the pros used at the time. Of course only 1% of my customers would ever use pro features of a camera, but they wanted to have the ABILITY to use those pro features. They often avoided “idiot cameras” which only had automatic features.

Or, look at car industry. Do you aspire to own a Toyota Corolla or Prius? Most people don’t. They’d rather have a big block Mustang or an Audi R8 which can do 200 mph. Thing is you’ll get a ticket on 280 for doing more than 80mph, so for most people this extra horsepower is wasted.

But humans don’t want to appear to be idiots. Which is why they won’t buy a system that only has a few apps available and is why the Nokia phones are DOA in most places in the world (I’d argue all places, because we’re all so connected on Twitter and Facebook now).

That all said, look at Realtor.com. They make a great app for tablets and mobile phones to help you buy a home. Of course they are going to support all platforms. Why? Because there’s enough economic activity to make that important for them.

Get the CTO of Move.com off camera, though, and he starts admitting he uses an iPhone and iPad and that their best work is done on the best two platforms. Note that he didn’t show me a Nokia or a Windows Phone 7 device in the video demo.

Over and over when I meet with developers I see this scenario play out. Developers are actively betting on Android and iOS and not much else.

Will users bet against the developers? My career experience says no.

By the way, for your iPhone I’ve made a list of my must have apps. I have more than 100, not 10. Anyone who uses only 10 apps is very weird, since they use 1/4 as many as the average user. DHH, get with the program!