Sorry, Retailers–Cyber Monday’s Days Are Numbered

Two cliches in one ad!

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Not long after Cyber Monday was invented in 2005 as an online alternative to Black Friday, I called it a “marketing myth” because it was actually not even close to a top holiday shopping day.

Then a funny thing happened–Cyber Monday, created by the National Retail Foundation’s Shop.org online unit, became a self-fulfilling prophecy as retailers jumped on the term and began offering special sales that day after the Thanksgiving holiday. By the following year, it had turned into a real phenomenon, at least for many retailers, and last year it became the heaviest shopping day ever to date. It might even happen again this year.

But now, even as many retailers have made Cyber Monday sales a stock part of their holiday strategy, I’m betting its days are numbered. Why?

* Early sales. Smart retailers noticed that before Cyber Monday, at least (and perhaps still), the period leading up to the big day actually were even more active shopping days. And in their never-ending attempt to get a step ahead of rivals, many retailers ran not just pre-Cyber Monday sales, but pre-Black Friday sales as early as the evening before Thanksgiving. Apparently they worked. They almost certainly will cannibalize Cyber Monday sales. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

Would You Buy An Apple Television?

AppleTV interface includes video, music, photo...

Apple TV interface includes video, music, photographs, and other Internet content (Photo: Wikipedia)

I’ve been intrigued lately by the idea of Apple making a TV. Not that Apple TV streaming-media hockey puck that Apple still calls a “hobby,” but a real television set. It’s something that every Apple fan, investor, and analyst seems to be expecting, or at least hoping for, because, well, who else is better positioned to fix the mess that is television programming today than Apple?

But what do people really want in a next-generation television? I’m hoping I can get some guidance from you–meaning real people who might buy the thing. So I’ve got a few short questions for anybody’s who’s interested:

* Would you buy an Apple television?

* If so, why? What would you like to see it do that current HDTVs don’t have?

* More specifically, is there anything that annoys you about the way television viewing works today? The current cable TV packages, program guides, remote controls, lack of current shows available online, anything else?

Feel free to comment here, of course, but I’d be especially interested in a brief conversation by phone or email with anyone who has an idea of what they’d like to see in an Apple television. So if you don’t mind spending a few minutes on the phone this week, email me at robert.hof@gmail.com with contact info and I’ll get in touch. Thanks!

Will The iPad Mini Kill Off All Of Apple’s Other Tablets?

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

When Apple’s iPad mini debuted on Oct. 23, reviews were generally positive but a bit muted: What, no Retina display? And why is it so expensive?

But now, after a week or two of playing with it, some of the most prominent reviewers of Apple gear are never going back. Never going back, that is, to their bigger iPads.

From SplatF’s Dan Frommer:

My take after spending a bunch of the weekend with the iPad mini: This is the real iPad… The best thing about the iPad mini is its weight — it’s almost effortless to use, and that’s a big difference. … I feel more confident holding the iPad mini, which means I’m more likely to use it in more places — the whole point of an iPad.

From The Verge’s Joshua Topolsky:

There’s no tablet in this size range that’s as beautifully constructed, works as flawlessly, or has such an incredible software selection. … The iPad mini hasn’t wrapped up the “cheapest tablet” market by any stretch of the imagination. But the “best small tablet” market? Consider it captured.

From Daring Fireball’s John Gruber:

If the Mini had a retina display, I’d switch from the iPad 3 in a heartbeat. As it stands, I’m going to switch anyway. Going non-retina is a particularly bitter pill for me, but I like the iPad Mini’s size and weight so much that I’m going to swallow it.

From The Wirecutter’s Seamus Bellamy and Brian Lam:

The iPad mini is the best tablet to get and lets be honest, it’s way better than the full sized iPad for nearly everyone. I’d even go so far as to say that the full sized iPad is plain obscene after using the mini. … This isn’t just jive talk. I put my iPad on ebay (pls. bid but not too high because you should really buy a mini) and ordered a fully loaded iPad mini for myself.

I understand their attitudes completely. I don’t own an iPad (yet), but I have checked out both pretty extensively. I also have been trying out both Samsung’s full-size Galaxy tablet and Google’s Nexus 7 seven-inch tablet for several months. They’re not as slick as the iPads, but they suffice to provide a sense of the difference between the two models.

And the difference in user experience is huge, even more than you’d think from the difference in weight and size. Once I started using the Nexus 7, I virtually stopped using the Galaxy, largely because the Nexus 7 is so much easier to use. It’s easier to hold in one hand and way easier to transport without fear of dropping it. It slips into a laptop bag or even a jacket pocket easily enough that you don’t have to think twice about taking it outside the house. The iPad mini will enjoy all those advantages as well.

Taken together, the experts’ and my experiences with the smaller tablets makes me wonder if the full-sized iPads will soon be extinct. OK, not extinct but perhaps an endangered species. Already, it appears, they’re headed for eBay.

Honestly, I don’t believe people will completely stop buying the larger iPads. One look at that gorgeous Retina display, and it’s all over for no small number of people. Plus, watching videos on anything but your chest in bed is a bit cramped on a smaller tablet. And full-sized iPads, already increasingly replacements for laptop personal computers, likely will continue to benefit from that switch.

But it’s considerably less cramped on the iPad mini thanks to its larger display area compared with seven-inch rivals. And when Apple comes out with an iPad mini with a Retina display? Could be lights out for the bigger iPads.

Apple seems smart enough to figure out how to make plenty of money on, well, whatever it produces, so I’m sure it will make a lot of money on iPad minis. And even if the iPad mini cannibalizes the full-size iPads to some extent, it’s better for Apple to do the cannibalizing rather than watch rivals simply take the business away.

But a lower price is a lower price. So it will be interesting to see if that lower price on iPad minis will prompt enough more people to go for an Apple tablet to make up for any lost sales of much more expensive big iPads. Given bearish investors lately, not to mention people wondering if the company has peaked, Apple had better hope so.

Google’s Android Crushes Apple’s iOS In Smartphone Shipments–But Does It Matter?

Source: IDC

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Just four years after its debut, Google’s Android mobile operating software now claims 75% of mobile units shipped, according to a new report from market researcher IDC.

In the third quarter, according to IDC, some 136 million Android handsets shipped, almost double the 71 million shipped in last year’s third quarter. Devices using Apple’s iOS grew by a far lower 57%, to 26.9 million handsets, for a surprisingly low 15% market share. Don’t even ask about Blackberry or Windows Mobile. It’s a two-horse race for now.

Some folks wonder if this trend is heading toward a rerun of the Windows PC vs. the Mac. Maybe, and it’s got to be something that worries Apple CEO Tim Cook, who hardly wants to be the guy who let the mobile revolution get away.

But in the short to medium-term, it’s doubtful this is a killer for Apple. Why?

For one, Apple’s share was probably especially low in the last quarter because the eagerly awaited iPhone 5 didn’t ship until September, very late in the quarter. Add in new iPad models just introduced, in a holiday quarter when Apple devices are probably still the gift people would prefer to give over Android gadgets, and it’s hard to imagine that Apple won’t see some rebound in the fourth quarter. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

What Storm? Google Keeps Apple War Hot With New Tablets And A Phone

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

After Hurricane Sandy forced Google to cancel an event planned in New York today to show off new Android devices, it’s launching them anyway–keeping the search giant in pitched competition with Apple.

Google introduced two new sets of tablets, in addition to a new version of its intelligent personal assistant Google Now:

* A Nexus 7 seven-inch tablet with 16 GB of memory, double the previous low-end memory, for $199, the same price, and a 32 GB model for $249.  A new version of the Nexus 7 with a cellular connection and 32 GB for $299.

* The Nexus 4 smartphone, developed with Korea’s LG. As expected, it has a 4.2-inch display, as well as wireless charging so you don’t have to plug it into a power adapter. It’s $299, on sale starting Nov. 13.

* The Nexus 10 tablet, developed with Samsung, that adds a new full-size tablet to Google’s lineup. Available Nov. 14, it costs $399 for a 16 GB model and $499 for a 32 GB model.

The smaller tablets are intended to counter last week’s announcement by Apple of the iPad mini, its don’t-call-it-a-seven-inch tablet. Apple itself has clearly felt the new heat of competition, so while the iPad mini will likely sell well during the holiday season, Google’s new devices–along with Amazon.com’s Kindle Fire tablets, which Amazon says are selling well, and perhaps even Microsoft’s Surface tablet–help make it a real contest.

Apple CEO Tim Cook Is Blowing Smoke When He Dismisses Rival 7-Inch Tablets

Apple Introduces iPad Mini... and some new com...

Apple’s iPad mini

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

As a company that way more often than not comes out with superior products, Apple rarely appears defensive. Today was an exception.

On Apple’s fourth-quarter earnings call, CEO Tim Cook took repeated potshots at small tablets of the kind that–yes–Apple itself just debuted. The iPad mini is clearly aimed at blunting the appeal of seven-inch tablets such as Google’s Nexus 7 and Amazon.com’s Kindle Fire.

While I think Cook is probably right that the iPad will continue to dominate tablets, and even that it continues to make the best ones, his overenthusiastic criticism of seven-inch tablets struck me as surprisingly defensive. Saying Apple didn’t set out to build a “small, cheap tablet,” he called the competitors “compromised” products. “We would never make a seven-inch tablet,” he sniffed.

Why not? Because they’re too small, he said. The iPad mini is almost an inch larger, which means a 30% larger screen and 50% larger viewing area. I’ll grant that that is noticeable, and appealing.

But c’mon. These are all tablets you can hold in one hand, and acting as if the iPad mini is something utterly unique–“in a whole different league,” as he put it–comes off more than a bit desperate. Apple is clearly playing catch-up here, and trying to position the iPad mini as nothing like the Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire only serves to make us realize that Apple actually does feel threatened by these devices that beat it to what has turned out to be a real market. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

Why Didn’t Apple Sell More iPads In Q4?

Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

In a fiscal fourth quarter that slightly missed profit expectations, Apple reported one figure that looks especially worrisome: It sold only 14 million iPads.

You’re thinking, of course, are you crazy? Fourteen million, up 26% from a year ago ($7.5 billion worth of them), is a problem? Yes–because it’s at least 1 million below expectations already reduced by analysts who figured that if 100 million iPads were sold so far, as Apple announced at the iPad mini event, their 17.5 million fourth-quarter estimate was too high.

Update: After rising a fraction of 1% in initial after-hours trading, Apple’s shares moved up and down before flattening after the analyst call started. Shares had fallen 1% today, to $609.54.

There are a number of possible reasons iPad sales fell even shorter than expected. Here are some, pending comments on the analyst call currently underway, during which I’ll be updating this post–and there are a lot of questions on iPads:

* Cannibalization: This is the concern raised by some analysts: People who couldn’t quite justify $400 and up for a regular iPad were waiting for the iPad mini, which starts at $329. No one really knows how many people did this, but it seems likely some did. Update: Apple CEO Tim Cook essentially confirmed not cannibalization but delayed purchases thanks to iPad mini rumors.

* Shortages: When the iPad mini came out with a minimum price of $329, analysts wondered why it wasn’t closer to the other seven-inch tablets from Google and Amazon.com, whose base prices range from $159 to $199. It turns out that some components for the device are in short supply, so it didn’t make sense to price them lower and create demand Apple couldn’t fulfill. But perhaps the shortages affected current iPads as well?

* Consumer saturation: Well, I doubt it, since lower price points, the undeniable appeal of tablets to consumers, and the fact that  a lot of people still don’t have them all mean the iPad probably isn’t limited by demand. But it’s something to think about, given that 100 million have been sold already, very quickly.

And the most interesting possibility:

* Competition: Could Google’s Nexus 7, Amazon.com’s Kindle Fire, and other, full-size Android and Windows tablets finally hitting iPad sales? The market research numbers show millions of those devices have sold, so it’s a distinct possibility, especially ahead of the lower-cost iPad mini.

They’re still far below iPad sales. But it doesn’t take an Apple Genius to see that the arrival of at least decent rival tablets could be presenting real competition for the first time. That’s perhaps the most worrisome possibility if only because it seems the most likely–if not in the last quarter, at least in future quarters.

Here’s more from the analyst call: Apple is saying that it exceeded its own expectations for iPad sales. So assuming it’s not blowing smoke, maybe analysts just got ahead of themselves. Also, Apple says it had 3.4 million iPads in channel inventory in the quarter, or its target four weeks of inventory, so that’s potentially a factor in sales numbers. …

Read the complete post, with more from Tim Cook on the analyst call, at The New Persuaders.

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