Daily Archives: June 22, 2011

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!