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!

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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.

7 Great Places Online To Track Hurricane Sandy

Google Crisis Map of Hurricane SandyFrom my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Assuming you’ve got power or even a cell phone signal by now, media and tech companies and tweeters galore are providing instant insight into where Hurricane Sandy is heading. Here are a few that go well beyond the reporter-in-the-rain TV coverage:

* Weather Channel livestream: The cable channel that no doubt will be seeing ratings skyrocket is running a livestream on YouTube of the latest news and frequent warnings about what to do (stay home!).

* New York Times live updates: The newspaper is posting live updates mostly on official news, along with an interactive map of evacuation zones.

* Wall Street Journal liveblog: The paper’s continuously updated blog has a wealth of information, including on-the-scene reporting of how folks are coping with the storm.

* Twitter: The hashtag #sandy brings up a (forgive me) flood of tweets related to the storm. Oddly enough, it’s not a trending topic, though “East Coast” and “FEMA” are. And not surprisingly, some people are finding ways to make a joke out of potential tragedy. A tweeter named @HurricaneSandy tweeted: YOU THINK I’M BAD? SEE WHAT HAPPENS IF MITT ROMNEY GETS ELECTED. Still, as in many crises, Twitter remains the place to get the latest, on-the-scene, unvarnished news. …

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.

Facebook’s Mobile App Install Ads Get Moving

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Exhortations to install apps are likely a significant chunk of Facebook’s advertising revenues, and now they’re poised to become an even bigger factor in the social network’s future. Today, two months after offering app install ads for mobile devices to a select group of app developers and their marketing partners, Facebook opened up the ads to anyone.

These ads appear right in people’s mobile news feeds, providing prime placement for games and other apps in Apple’s App Store for iPhones and iPads and Google’s Play store for Android devices. Not surprisingly, Facebook says in a blog post that mobile app install ads are already working:

In early results, beta partners like Kabam, Fab, TinyCo and Big Fish were able to reach a more relevant audience and efficiently drive installs. For example, TinyCo saw 50% higher CTRs and significantly higher conversion rates compared to their current mobile channels, as well as a significant increase in player engagement.

A select subset of Preferred Marketing Developers (PMDs) has been testing mobile app install ads and saw similarly positive results. For example, Nanigans’ clients efficiently achieved 8-10x the reach compared to other mobile ad buys. Ad Parlor saw consistent CTR’s from news feed of 1-2% from engaged users looking for iPhone and Android games that their friends were playing.

No doubt those numbers will come down as the novelty factor in any new ad or feature wears off. Still, even a fraction of those results would still be valuable to advertisers.

That’s assuming–and this is a fair assumption given Facebook’s wariness about ad overload–that the company doesn’t go over the top and overload people’s mobile news feeds with the ads. Avoiding overload is especially important for these ads because unlike many of Facebook’s marquee ads, they don’t have a social component, meaning they appear strictly in response to developers paying for them, not because a friend liked an app.

Too many of these ads that don’t have the appeal of a friend’s connection, and the dreaded banner blindness is likely to set in.

There also more coming to improve these ads, according to Facebook engineer Vijaye Raji:

In coming months, we’ll continue to make updates that improve the user experience and the performance of mobile app install ads. For example, you may be able to customize your ad unit based on your audience, ensure that your ads are only shown to people who have not installed your app on iOS or Android devices, and allow people to start installing your app without leaving Facebook.

Mobile Ad Spending Doubles in 2012’s First Half

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Mobile ads drove a 14% rise in online advertising revenues, to $17 billion, in the first half of 2012, according to a report out this morning from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

According to the IAB’s latest half-year report (full pdf here), mobile ad revenue jumped 95%, to $1.2 billion, or or 7% of total online ad revenues. That’s up from 4% a year ago. The reason is fairly obvious, and something every company from Facebook to Google is struggling with: People are increasingly accessing online service through smartphones and tablets, thanks to the popularity of the iPhone, the iPad, and Android devices, and advertisers are following them there.

The 14% rise pales next to a 23% rise a year ago, though the IAB attributes last year’s jump to a recovery from the recession. Online ad spending continues to far outpace overall advertising spending, which rose less than 1%, according to both Nielsen and Kantar Media. Television remains the one relatively bright spot in traditional media, though its growth also remains far behind digital. Cable saw a 4% increase, to $10.9 billion, and broadcast rose 3.3%, to $11.1 billion.

Performance-based ads, those seeking to elicit an immediate purchase or other action, remain dominant, and even gained ground over more brand-oriented ads. Chief among these ads are search ads, which despite their 48% share of overall online ad revenues continued to gain as a category in the first half, rising 19% to reach $8.1 billion. That means search giant Google, which reports its third-quarter earnings a week from today, still reigns supreme in online ads.

Display ads rose only 4%, to $5.6 billion, reducing its share of overall online ads from 36% to 33%. Although the IAB didn’t mention it, no doubt part of the relatively slow growth is due to the rise of more efficient (that is, lower-priced) banner ads placed via real-time bidding through ad exchanges.

“Brand dollars are moving online, but at a slightly slower pace than the last two half-year reports,” Sherrill Mane, the IAB’s senior VP research analytics and measurement, said in a conference call this morning. That’s a problem, indeed perhaps evidence of a problem, for companies such as Facebook that are depending on brand marketers moving television and magazine ads online. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

The Real Reason We Can’t Stop Talking About Steve Jobs

Why do we remain so obsessed with Steve Jobs a year after his untimely death?

Sure, a large part is that Jobs was a business legend who built what is now one of the most valuable companies in the world, thanks to innovative, appealing products ranging from Apple‘s Mac and iPod to the iPhone and the iPad. And he was a design whiz, a master marketer, a uniquely demanding leader, a disruptor of industry after industry, a visionary, a dreamer–any of which would warrant close attention during his life.

If he hadn’t been any of those things, and hadn’t done everything he did, we certainly wouldn’t be paying so much attention to him–least of all a year after he succumbed to the ravages of pancreatic cancer. But he’s hardly the only phenomenally accomplished CEO or company founder. So it seems doubtful that’s why many of us, from the press to Apple customers even to people who don’t use Apple products, seem so interested in the man.

I think the biggest reason we can’t hear enough is simply because, like too few other CEOs, he came across as a genuine human being–complete with all the foibles and faults that today’s corporations so often manage to scrub clean from their leaders’ images. (You can certainly argue that he was a jerk, but that this was not hidden in the least is what I mean when I say “genuine.” You knew what you were getting with Jobs.) And this is despite Jobs’s and Apple’s own hermetically sealed environment when it comes to media coverage.

Jobs was fanatical about secrecy for his company’s doings, but his outsized personality defied any attempt to keep a lid on stories of how he operated as a leader, a friend, or even a subject of a random encounter. Plus, he was an inveterate storyteller himself, someone who seemed constitutionally unable to keep himself under wraps. It’s a lesson to business leaders that, while you have to deliver the goods, it also helps your company to show that you’re not just a talking head.

And so on this day when so many people are looking back at Jobs, his legacy and his life, here are a few places to indulge another look at the legend and the man:

* Longtime tech writer and Forbes staffer Connie Guglielmo’s magazine piece on Untold Stories About Steve Jobs.

* In an accompanying piece with videos, friends and colleagues reminiscenses about Jobs.

* A collection of stories on Quora, some from well-known tech figures as well as others who had personal contact with him.

* My own Five Small Stories About Steve Jobs from a year ago.

Read the rest of the list of story collections at The New Persuaders.

How Steve Jobs’ Laughable Early Apple Ads Evolved Into Today’s Marketing Marvels

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

To look at Apple’s classic advertisements, from the stark, bold “Think Different” campaign to the playful “Get a Mac” series to those minimalist silhouetted iPod ads, you’d never guess that early Apple ads were so–not to put too fine a point on it–awful.

On the one-year anniversary of Apple cofounder Steve Jobs’ untimely death, we scrounged up a baker’s dozen of early Apple ads in the accompanying photo gallery for your amusement and edification. They’re print ads in particular, since it was pretty early days to be advertising computers on television. Still, most them wouldn’t be recognizable as Apple ads if not for the name and early logos.

They weren’t especially worse than other computer ads at the time. Maybe they were even marginally better. But they were anything but special, let alone cool.

What’s interesting is not just that Apple’s early ads look so depressingly conventional. It’s that a few of them revealed flashes of Jobs’ future marvels of marketing. Once Jobs got past the initial “speeds and feeds” marketing imperative during a time when Apple was really just one, albeit prominent, competitor in a sea of pre-Windows, pre-Mac personal computer makers, he began to develop an eye for brand marketing that few companies in technology or any other industry have since surpassed.

Take a close look at these early ads, and you can see that Apple’s evolution to the pinnacle of brand marketing happened not in a straight line, but in a sort of punctuated equilibrium that parallels the gradual maturing of computing itself. At first, PCs were for hobbyists interested in performance and features, and the ads reflected that. But as the machines began to sell into the millions, Apple’s ads began to emphasize how they were “the computer for the rest of us,” as the first Macintosh ads called them.

That first one for the Apple-1 in 1976, rivetingly entitled “A Balance of Features,” was appallingly amateurish. The ad, released only a few months after Jobs and Steve Wozniak showed the prototype at the Homebrew Computer Club in SiliconValley and incorporated their company, was stuffed full of technical features in a way that’s unimaginable today. For instance, the ad touted the ability to attach a keyboard and monitor to allow “the efficient entry and examination of programs in hexidecimal notation.” Who knew?

There was even a misspelling in the first line, a sign that Jobs’ famous perfectionism hadn’t quite kicked in yet. …

Read the complete post, including a photo gallery of the ads, at The New Persuaders.

Apple’s New iOS 6 Ad Tracking Feature Is ‘Broken,’ Says One Source

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

With the new iOS 6 operating software released with the launch of the iPhone 5 last Friday, Apple introduced a new version of a feature that allows advertisers to track phones to serve targeted ads. But it seems that for people who updated their iPhones via wireless networks, Apple’s new Advertising Identifier is not working.

That’s a big deal for advertisers, for which iPhones and iPads are a rich channel for mobile marketing. Without being able to identify users–or more accurately, their phones–they can’t track whether those ads produced a sale or other “conversion” such as an app installation. And they may not to spend a lot on iOS ads until they can do that again. “It’s crucial for the advertising market,” says Ravi Kamran, CEO of the apps marketing platform Trademob, which discovered the problem. “It drives the whole ecosystem.”

Apple’s new Advertising Identifier, which replaced a Unique Device Identifier widely seen as flawed from a privacy perspective, shows numerical IDs that are entirely zeroes instead of the usual unique sequence of numbers. In an interview, Kamran said the problem affects only those phones updated via WiFi, not via iTunes on a computer or via Xcode that Apple software developers use, but that’s a lot of people.

For the time being, advertisers will have to depend on third-party identifiers such as Open Device Identification Number, Kamran says. IPhone and iPad users who don’t like being tracked may be perfectly happy the Advertising Identifier doesn’t work. But the new identifier also offered a way to opt out of tracking, so ultimately a working Apple identifier is probably desirable for all concerned.

I’ve contacted Apple on whether it’s aware of the issue and what it may do about it and will update this post if and when I hear back.

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