Why 2 Million Apple Fans Ignored Reason And Bought An iPhone 5 Anyway

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Even though I recommended that most people not buy Apple’s just-launched iPhone 5 last week, I’m the last one to be surprised that my sage advice was largely ignored. Apple just announced that 2 million people pre-ordered its latest and greatest smartphone in the first 24 hours. I fully expected the new iPhone to be enormously popular because, well, Apple’s major products almost always are.

I still stand by my advice, however, despite the record pre-orders. I continue to think that most people who own a smartphone purchases in the last year or two have no overriding reason to buy a new one so soon, and some good reasons not to. Nonetheless, it’s worth asking why so many people did anyway–and why a third of Americans want one:

1) People didn’t read my post. Hey, I fully understand that I am no Walt Mossberg or David Pogue.

2) The iPhone 5 is the right decision for a certain portion of smartphone buyers–easily millions in a market of hundreds of millions of them. As I wrote before, if you have a phone that’s more than a couple of years old, technology advances mean it’s about time to get a new one, and the iPhone 5 is a great choice, if not the only good one.

3) The new iPhone is a clear advance over the iPhone 4S, even if it’s not a revolutionary advance. It has high-speed 4G data capability, its screen is larger, and it’s noticeably lighter. All good.

4) Media hype. The dirty little secret of tech media is that anything written on Apple gets a lot of readership, even if it’s not positive–though it was hard to be too awfully negative on the iPhone 5. Sure, the Samsung Galaxy S III and other smartphones have more bells and whistles, but not enough more to really shame the iPhone 5, and the S III has its own shortcomings as well. And so that mostly positive iPhone coverage drove more interest in the new Apple phone, and record pre-orders. Nothing new here, but this dynamic undeniably gives Apple products a leg up on every other rival.

5) People don’t always buy in an economically rational way. If you’ve got a 4S with an unlimited data plan, you’ll be spending on a new device and paying more for data to boot if you buy the iPhone 5–a device that for all its improvements probably won’t change your life, your productivity, or your mobile communications or entertainment very much. Nothing new here either, but I still contend that many of the tens of millions of people who will snap up the iPhone 5 in coming months will fit this profile. And that’s not counting idiots who can’t tell the difference between iPhone models.

6) I’m actually an idiot, so why would anyone take my advice anyway? OK, I don’t believe that, but clearly a lot of commenters on my previous post do, so I feel obligated to mention the possibility that I don’t know what I’m talking about. Besides, I wanted to provide one answer that would satisfy all those rabid Apple fanboys.

About these ads

Experts Trump Friends (And Facebook) For Advice On Buying Tech Products

Problem for Facebook and Twitter?

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

To hear Facebook tell it, its Sponsored Stories, which let marketers tap people’s comments or “likes” of products to create an ad for their friends, are the future of advertising. And they’re apparently doing quite well for the social network.

But when it comes to technology products in particular, which account for more than a fifth of online advertising, friends, social networks, and even any kind of advertising all rank well below articles by experts in the field when it comes to consumers researching what to buy. That’s according to a recent survey by tech blog network NetShelter Technology Media, for which audience tracker Crowd Science polled more than 1,000 people on 74 tech blogs such as 9to5Mac, Crackberry.com, and MacRumors.

Some tidbits from the survey:

* 85% of respondents said the most useful and influential online content when they’re considering buying tech products are articles, reviews, blog posts, and videos by experts. That’s far more than 35% who cited brand content, 33% who trust family and friends, and just 6% who are most influenced by advertising.

* 70% of people said they don’t turn to Facebook, Twitter, or other social media when they want to buy a tech product. Only 9% consult a Facebook brand page, 4% consider brand “likes,” and 8% pay attention to likes or recommendations from Facebook friends.

* Email is the preferred way 69% of people like to share articles and reviews, while 37% use Facebook, 15% use Twitter, and 20% use LinkedIn. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

What Are Those Twitter Founders Up To Now? Still Not So Obvious

Biz Stone and Evan Williams, co-founders of Tw...

Biz Stone and Evan Williams (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

With Twitter apparently on a path to profits, or at least revenues, two of its cofounders are now on to other things.  Biz Stone’s and Evan Williams’ new company is Obvious, whose motto on its spare website is “We do various things.” A bit more specifically (but not much), Obvious’ goal is to “build systems that help people work together to make the world a better place.” Its first effort, called Medium, might be viewed as Twitter 2.0, seeking to figure out what to do with the firehose of information Twitter has helped create.

In a “fireside chat” with Hunter Walk, a Google director of product management working at YouTube, at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco today, Stone and Williams fleshed out their vision, admitted they didn’t get everything right at Twitter, and offered advice on how to build Internet companies today:

Q: You don’t still work at Twitter, right?

Williams: I’m on the board, but we don’t work at Twitter.

Q: It’s not an incubator, not an investment fund, and you’re building Medium. So what is Obvious?

Stone: It’s an excuse for me and Ev to work together. Really cool, good stuff comes from an organic atmosphere of working on things. We do whatever it takes to help people and projects philosophically aligned with us succeed.

We have marketing capabilities, design and engineering prowess, and money, and we deploy them wherever it makes sense.

A: Now you are older and wiser and wealthier, and parents. How does that change how you run a company?

Williams: I tried to be a ski bum when I left Twitter, but it didn’t work. We’re driven to do interesting things in the world. We decided to let it evolve as the products evolve, figure it out organically as we go. That’s satisfying. It’s a hell of a lot more fun than skiing every day.

Q: The first product you’ve come out with is Medium.

Williams: We came out with a preview, not a real product yet, a few weeks ago. We have a team of engineers working on it every day.

Medium is essentially a publishing platform, along the lines of what we’ve done before, with Xanga and Blogger. We’ve been obsessed with the democratization of media on the Internet. We just thought there’s still more stuff to do.

Q: Only a select few can publish on Medium. Why?

Williams: We want to help high-quality content succeed and get attention. Not everybody can write. It’s not to limit who can publish. It just happens to be we launched in private beta. It’s hard to throw open the doors in closed beta. It’s definitely not the ethos of Medium to be closed in any way.

Stone: We learned a few things about opening up the doors….

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

Why You Shouldn’t Buy Apple’s New iPhone 5

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

We’re just hours away from what will certainly be one of the most massive hypefests of the year: the introduction of Apple’s newest iPhone. Even without the benefit of Steve Jobs to add that extra touch of magic reality distortion to the proceedings in San Francisco, the entire tech world will see a plunge in productivity for several hours starting at 10 a.m. Pacific while they watch and chew over the launch of what is all but now confirmed to be called the iPhone 5.

* Update: Catch Forbes’ liveblog of the event here. And here’s Apple’s own announcement.

No doubt Apple will sell a ton of the new iPhones. Indeed, though I find this hard to believe, iPhone sales could even add a big boost to this year’s Gross Domestic Product. Diehard Apple fans, and there are millions upon millions of them, won’t be able to resist lining up at Apple stores the night before they become available to be among the first to buy the latest and greatest iPhone.

But you shouldn’t be one of them. Here’s why I think most of you–not all, but most–would be better off not buying the new iPhone:

* It probably won’t be revolutionary. I know–blasphemy! The many leaks of what the new one will look like and the way it will work indicate the new iPhone will, of course, be thinner and faster and sport a bigger screen. So what else is new?

And think about the last time. The iPhone 4S had Siri, the voice assistant that was supposed to revolutionize the way we interact with devices and, oh, by the way, kill Google search. It did neither (though ask me again in a few years, as Siri no doubt steadily improves).

Anyway, let’s face it, smartphones in their current incarnation may not get much better fundamentally. As Steve Shankland at CNET recently pointed out, we’re in an era of incremental refinement more than revolutionary change. At some point, Apple may well come up with yet another product that actually resets the standard for computing and communication devices. But by all reports, the new iPhone isn’t that product. Simply put, you don’t need to own this phone.

* There’s always a risk that something won’t work quite right on the new model, leaving you with buyer’s remorse. Apple’s better than most at avoiding this sort of thing. But remember that faulty antenna in the iPhone 4 two years ago? Update: One word: Maps.

* The older iPhones are still great. Even though some reviewers criticized Apple for touting a machine that didn’t provide many advances, such as a larger screen, the iPhone 4S last year still was widely seen as the best iPhone yet, and still the best overall on the market.

* You will get several of the benefits of the new iPhone just by installing iOS 6–for free. No big screen, no fast LTE data, of course–two biggies, to be sure. But you won’t be left with lagging services like you do with many Android phones that can’t upgrade to the latest OS.

* The older iPhones are also cheap–or free! For one thing, used iPhones are flooding the market as people get ready to buy the new one. Last month, Sprint Nextel and even Apple itself discounted the iPhone 4S, and it doesn’t stretch the imagination to think that when the new model appears, prices for older iPhones will fall across the board. When the iPhone 4S came out, the iPhone 4′s price fell to just $100 and the 3G model was (and still is) free with at AT&T contract. If the pattern holds, doesn’t a free iPhone 4 sound pretty sweet?

* Update: Yes, it does sound sweet. The new iPhones will cost from $199 to $399 depending on the amount of memory, but the 4S will fall to $99. And the 4? With a two-year contract, it will indeed be free.

* If you go with an older model, you can also save bigtime on service plan costs. If you go with a prepaid carrier such as Virgin Mobile or Cricket, you have to pay more for the phone, but over a couple of years, their lower-cost data plans save hundreds of dollars. It’s not clear whether similar deals will be offered with the new iPhone, but it appears unlikely at the outset–so your only way to get those savings is to go with an older model.

* You may have fewer unlimited-data plan options with the new iPhone. Verizon and AT&T have ended their unlimited-data plans, so that’s not new. But on existing phones and contracts, they’re grandfathered in, a significant reason to think twice about an iPhone purchase that would require you to switch carriers. Sprint may offer an unlimited-data plan, but that means switching carriers if you’re not already on it.

* There are–yes–other smartphones out there. Android phones such as Samsung’s Galaxy S III, and even some Windows 8 phones such as Nokia’s Lumia 920, get rave reviews. …

Read the complete, Apple fanboy-inciting post at The New Persuaders.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg: We Burned Two Years Betting On Mobile Web Vs. Apps

English: Mark Zuckerberg, Founder & CEO of Fac...

Photo: Wikipedia

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t said much, if anything, publicly since the No. 1 social network went public in May. But oh, how much has changed since that day. Not only did the IPO fall flat, but Facebook is now dogged by slower growth perhaps partly due to its late start on mobile advertising.

Today, Zuckerberg went public himself at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco. Clearly the big “get” for the conference, Zuckerberg was in his element at the conference, which is aimed at tech startups and the software developers creating them. In a wide-ranging and surprisingly revealing interview with TechCrunch founder Mike Arrington, who has since become a venture capitalist, Zuckerberg said Facebook lost two years betting on mobile Web technology instead of native iPhone apps but said he thinks mobile will be even bigger than the Web for Facebook in terms of advertising.

Investors liked what they heard. Facebook shares rose 3.6% in after-hours trading, breaking $20 a share, on top of a 3.3% rise on Tuesday before his talk.

Here’s the interview, edited slightly for clarity and my inability to catch every single word the fast-talking Zuckerberg utters:

Q: You went public on May 18 and the stock has lost roughly half its value.

A: Just get right into it!

Q: Would you have done anything differently on the IPO?

A: The performance of the stock has obviously been disappointing. But the commitment we made was to fulfill this mission to make the world more open and connected.

The key will be how we do with mobile. A lot of stuff has changed in six months since we’ve been in the quiet period.

Literally six months ago, we didn’t run a single ad on mobile. So people can underestimate how good mobile can be for us. It’s the main thing that’s fundamentally misunderstood. For one, there’s just more mobile users–5 billion people have cellphones in the world. Second, they’re spending more time on it. We’re already seeing people more likely to be daily active users on mobile. And those stats are before the new iOS app. And third, we can have better advertising on mobile, make more money.

Q: You make money to build great services rather than build services to make money. Do you really mean that?

A: We are a mission-driven company. In order to do this, we have to build a great team. And in order to do that, you need people to know they can make a bunch of money. So we need a business model to make a lot of money.

Building a mission and building a business go hand in hand. The primary thing that excites me is the mission. But we have always had a healthy understanding that we need to do both.

Q: What about the stock causing morale problems?

A: Well, it doesn’t help. But first, Facebook has not been an uncontroversial company in the past. So people are fairly used to the press saying good things about us and bad things about us.

What really motivates people at Facebook is building something that’s worthwhile, that they’re going to be proud to show to friends and family.

We also haven’t done much on equity to incentivize people. The way we do compensation is we translate the amount of compensation we give you into shares. [So employees get more shares if the stock price is down, thus similar compensation, thus the stock price doesn't mean as much as it might appear.]

Q: I’ve been rough on the company on mobile products.

A: We were very self-critical too.

Q: Is mobile a strength or weakness for Facebook?

A: There are more users, they spend more time on Facebook, and we’re going to make more money on mobile ads. There are huge things we can do to move the needle. Mobile is a lot closer to TV than [to] the desktop. We’ve had right-hand-column ads and it’s been great, a multi-billion-dollar business.

But on mobile, we can’t do that. It’s clearly going to have to be different. We’re seeing some great mobile ad products being developed. There’s a huge opportunity. The question is getting there.

Clearly we’ve had a bunch of missteps there. The biggest mistake we made as a company was betting too much on HTML5, because it’s just not there yet. We went for this approach, an internal framework called Faceweb. We just couldn’t translate it to mobile with the quality we wanted.

We had to start over and rewrite everything to be native. We burned two years. It may turn out it was one of the biggest if not the biggest strategic mistake we made.

Two years ago, we decided to bet completely on HTML5. We believed that because it used the same technology as the desktop, we thought it could improve. But it wasn’t good enough. We realized the only way we could get there was to go native.

Q: Did you realize the previous Facebook mobile app sucked?

A: Yeah, it was not where we wanted it to be. We just decided to ship the same features as before, but faster. But in parallel, other teams have been building new features. Over the coming weeks and months, we can expect to see a lot of the cool stuff. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

Benchmark VC Matt Cohler: Mobile Ads Will Be Even Better Than Web Ads

Image representing Matt Cohler as depicted in ...

Image by Facebook via CrunchBase

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Despite rising doubts about whether mobile advertising will ever amount to much, Benchmark Capital partner Matt Cohler says he’s more jazzed than ever about the prospects.

In an interview with TechCrunch founder Mike Arrington at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference this morning in San Francisco, the former vice president of product management at Facebook said he has made zero investments this year, though he wasn’t entirely clear why except to say he made more than the usual number last year. But he said he’s looking actively for opportunities in “mobile marketplaces,” as well as products and services that use the smartphone as a “remote control for your life.” Here’s what else he had to say, in edited form:

Q: You haven’t made any investments lately. Why?

A: I haven’t made any investments this year. Last year I made more than a typical venture investor would.

It wasn’t a single specific decision. We’re at an interesting moment in time where aspects of various platforms are starting to shift. But I’ll do it if the time is right.

Q: Do you regret not making some investments?

A: I’m sure I passed on some things that will probably be successful.

Q: You criticized Groupon awhile ago when it was hot. That looks pretty smart two years later. But you have invested in a deals site in Brazil.

A: I think daily deals are a good idea. Any ad people view as content is a good ad, and that’s true for daily-deal ads too. But I’m not sure it’s smart to build a company around that one thing. Groupon has some interesting assets. The question is what can it do with them? …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

No ‘Pinterest For Cats’: Google Ventures’ Kevin Rose Shoos Away Copycat Startups

Worlds Collide Onboard the S.S. Jeremiah O’Bri...

Photo: Wikipedia

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Few people have seen the ups and downs of startups more up close and personally than Kevin Rose, partner at Google Ventures and cofounder of Digg, the social news site that could have been Reddit but faded and is now trying for a comeback under new owner Betaworks. In an interview at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference this morning in San Francisco, Rose talked about his relatively new role as a venture capitalist.

Among the highlights: He said that he has helped speed up the way Google makes investments, that Google isn’t trying to lowball startups on valuations, and that he’s avoiding copycat startups (um, not to be too impolite, but like those dozens of companies in the conference’s demo hall?). Here’s what else he’s thinking about today, sometimes paraphrased:

Q: How has it been as a full-time venture capitalist?

A: I was doing angel investing for three or so years before joining Google Ventures. It was always a part-time thing, a casual investment every month or so. Now I’m seeing 10 or 15 companies a week. I always like seeing cool new ideas.

Q: Is it hard keeping them all straight?

A: Absolutely. I’m terrible at names.

Q: What’s up with the apparent drama between Y Combinator and Google Ventures, where the former accused the latter of lowballing startups on valuation?

A: We’re absolutely not going out there and trying to lowball companies. Some companies are worth $15 million and others are worth $6 million or $8 million. I’m closing three YC deals, all three we took the terms straight up. Another one, we just saw too much risk, so we didn’t do the deal.

Q: A couple of companies I talked to said the due-diligence process is longer with Google Ventures.

A: I don’t know that we’re more strict about that. I took $200,000 from GV for my last startup, Milk. The diligence process was a little longer. But I’ve been working personally on streamlining that. We do $5 million to $10 million that absolutely take good due diligence, when you’re investing that much. I think we’re in a great place now.

I have nothing bad to say about Y Combinator. I’m investing in several of their companies. Nobody’s mad at anyone.

Q: What YC companies have you invested in?

A: We just closed on BufferBox, kiosks for people to get packages at, like Wal-Mart stores.

Q: Are there certain kinds of companies you like?

A: I’d be lying if I said I have this grand vision. When I see a company that’s really doing something disruptive, that gets my interest. I don’t want to do a Pinterest for cats. I’m more of a surgical investor. The only way to do that is to pare down the total number of deals you do. I may do 10-12 deals a year, but they’re companies I really believe in. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

Cease Fire! Google Debuts YouTube App For Apple’s iPhone–With Ads

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

So much for that thermonuclear war.

When Apple removed its YouTube app from its App Store last month, a lot of folks assumed it was one more battleground in an escalating war between it and Google. That seemed like the wrong narrative at the time, and today, it appears there wasn’t much to the supposed skirmish after all. Google has just introduced its own YouTube app for Apple’s iOS devices, specifically the iPhone and the iPod Touch. It’s available in the App Store this morning.

That means that the YouTube app, the previous version of which was created by Apple, no longer will be a default app on the devices, so people will have to manually install it. But given how popular YouTube is, millions of people no doubt will. And the upside is that the app is faster, has features such as an easier guide to channels, and allows you to share videos more easily on Facebook, Google+, and elsewhere.

Most of all, you can now watch tens of thousands more videos, in particular music videos like Taylor Swift’s above. That’s because the new app, unlike the old one, can run ads. The inability to run ads on the old one was a reason many content providers didn’t let them be viewed on the app.

More to the point for Google, this means it can now earn some serious coin from mobile visitors. That’s crucial as mobile devices become the default way people are reaching content on the Web. Google says a quarter of YouTube views, more than a billion a day, are from mobile devices.

There’s no iPad app yet, which seems like a serious shortcoming. Google says it will have one in “coming months,” but obviously sooner would be better, especially with the iPad Mini due out by next month.

Of course, Google and Apple have plenty else to fight about, from patents to mobile operating systems. So don’t expect to see Larry and Tim hugging onstage or anything. But they won’t be fighting over this particular issue anymore.

Reid Hoffman: Social Networking Isn’t Over Yet–And Neither Is Facebook

Reid Hoffman

Photo: Wikipedia

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Reid Hoffman is one of the most prolific angel investors in tech startups from Facebook and Zynga to Airbnb and Zipcar. It’s a talent he transferred to more traditional venture capital in 2009 when he joined Greylock Partners. He’s also a cofounder and executive chairman of LinkedIn.

In a “fireside chat” at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco today with TechCrunch founder Mike Arrington, who has since joined the VC world as well with his own CrunchFund, Hoffman proffered comments on everything from Facebook’s struggles to Twitter’s battles with developers. Here, paraphrased at times, is what he had to say:

Q: You are exceptionally wealthy. What changes?

A: There is a bunch of weird things. I had had a long-term plan to be affiliated with universities, like teaching. Overnight all those changed to donor relationships. Also, I would never have imagined I would fly in a private plane by myself, and now I have. It has its advantages.

Q: You wrote a book [The Startup of You]. How’s it doing?

A: It’s sold 120,000. In the consumer Internet space, we’re used to much higher numbers. I don’t think we’ve created a movement yet.

Q: You were one of the very first investors in Facebook.

A: $37,500 at a $5 million valuation. [That means he made 3,000 times his investment, or $111 million.)

Q: So you did very well. What do you think of Facebook’s stock now?

A: I’m a big believer in Facebook’s long-term position. The real question is how it plays out over the next year or so. People’s hand-wringing about not making money on mobile is an innovation problem that is not that hard to solve.

Q: Did Facebook screw up its IPO or was it inevitable it played out that way?

A: In some ways, it was inevitable. You had unprecedented demand, and you couldn’t know NASDAQ servers would go down. We at LinkedIn were criticized for leaving too much money on the table. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

Uber-Entrepreneur Jack Dorsey To Startups: Don’t Just Disrupt, Start A Revolution

Image representing Jack Dorsey as depicted in ...

Image via CrunchBase

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Jack Dorsey is a latter-day legend among entrepreneurs, and no wonder. Not only did he help found Twitter, where he serves as executive chairman and head of product development, but he’s also founder and CEO of Square, which is trying to foment a revolution in payments by allowing people to use their mobile devices as wallets.

Revolution, in fact, not simply disruption of the existing way of doing things, was Dorsey’s main message in a keynote talk this morning at TechCrunch Disrupt, a startup tech conference in San Francisco. “We need to change the name of this conference,” he told thousands of attendees hanging on his every word. Here’s a sampling of what he had to say, mostly aimed at dashing precious beliefs of entrepreneurs:

I never wanted to be an entrepreneur. I never woke up one morning and thought I need to get a ticket to San Francisco. I actually wanted to be Bruce Lee.

Actually I wanted to be a sailor, to explore the world. I wanted to be a tailor, to build things myself that I could share with other. I wanted to be an artist, specificallly a surrealist.

Along the way, I realized life really happens at intersections. Literally for me. I was fascinated by cities.

I thought about founders–in particular the Founding Fathers of the United States. They realized they wouldn’t get everything right at the start. There would not be one founding moment but many. A lot of the ideas they had at the time were wrong (slavery, for example, or women’s suffrage).

So there’s a massive amount of energy spent on the founding moment. At Twitter, not so. Companies have multiple founding moments. I consider CEO Dick Costolo a founder. He’s really reconsidered everything and made the company better. Same at Square with its COO. Same at Starbucks with Howard Schultz, who was not a founder. Marissa Mayer, not a founder of Google or Yahoo, but with the drive and smarts to create another founding moment at Yahoo.

So a founder is not a job, it’s a role. An idea that can change the course of the company can come from anywhere.

Science fiction writer William Gibson said the future has already arrived, it’s just not evenly distributed yet. Our job is to distribute the future that is already here. We need to make sure it spreads all over the world, as quickly as possible, and with the right values.

We have the change the name of this conference. What we really want is not disruption, but revolution. It pushes people to do the right thing. It doesn’t always have to be loud or violent. It’s just as powerful in its stillness.

So the key is how we recognize disruption. We want to distribute the future more quickly. We don’t want to just disrupt things and move them around. We want purpose. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 81 other followers