Nearly a month after placing the order, my iPad 3G+Wi-Fi finally shipped today. I was frantically hooked to the Macrumors forums following an extended thread which had details about other fanboy’s experiences, but mine took way too longer than everyone else’s. At one point, I had given up on the hope as no money had been debited from my bank accounts as well. I was desperate and after three calls to Apple Customer Service, finally was able to track it. Turns out, Apple only blocks the payment on the card until the products are ready to be shipped. Also, the Apple cases and the docks along with the Camera connector kit was delaying the shipping of an iPad.
It finally did arrive, except for the Camera Connector Kit. First impressions are…it’s incredible. One of the best gadgets I have ever had!!!!
I wasn’t expecting iPad to be unavailable for such extended periods of time. I assumed that I could land one home by visiting the flagship store on Regent Street. Now, given that I was away in Munich for the Bank Holiday weekend since the launch, I should have ordered the pad online. Now, it’s neither available instore, nor available online, which is kind of frustrating. I have ordered one anyway, which has an expected ship date of 15 June. Hope it’s earlier than that. My next post on this blog will be via my shiny new iPad 3G + Wireless.
Apple’s much hyped media event “It’s only Rock & Roll” failed to spring any surprises. A thin, frail-looking Steve Jobs quietly strolled back to his normal self. IPod Nanos were updated as expected with new features including cameras and radio (!?!). IPod Touch doubled its maximum storage (64GB). IPod Shuffles are more colourful and have voiceover functionality. ITunes 9 was launched with an enhanced interface and some cool new features such as Genius, Home Sharing, iPhone App management etc. iPhone OS 3.1 was launched with the extended genius functionality. The Apple store too was updated with the availability of Cocktail and Pre-cut ringtones (I would rather buy a song than a ringtone). The biggest disappointment however, is the missing camera on iPod Touch and the unavailability of Beatles tracks on iTunes. Apple countered iPod Touch, by projecting it as a handheld gaming console with some interesting games (Assassins Creed 2, Madden 10 etc) being developed solely for them. Most importantly, there were price cuts across the entire iPod range. So does Apple continue to reign the roost?
A couple of days prior to the event, while skimming through news websites, I noticed a very obscure but potentially daunting article on how Apple’s iPhone is not spelling success for mobile network operators. The article was based on a research conducted by Strand Consult, a Danish Consulting firm, which for long claims to have predicted the failures of businesses where industry watchers had predicted otherwise. Intrigued by this revelation, I requested for a free copy of this comprehensive report.
A Squeeze on Shareholder Value
The report is extremely insightful, interesting and dispels all myths surrounding the iPhone. I have an affliction towards Apple’s superiorly creative offerings, which upon arrival shifts the market power and I am inclined to believe that Apple’s radical designs spell profits. Rightly so, given Apple’s super strong annual growth. However, iPhone is the first product where Apple has had to rely on external sales channels in the form of network operators to reach out to customers. Given the hysteria surrounding the initial launch of the 1st generation iPhone, helped by the company’s notoriously secretive approach to product development, iPhone was bound to be a success even before its launch. Apple consolidated the initial reception by entering into exclusive contracts with a handful of networks in mature markets. The networks on the other hand, were keen to differentiate from competition by being associated with Apple, which as a brand stands for being trendy, cool and sophisticated. So why does Strand Consult think that Apple doesn’t enhance shareholder value to the networks it is associated with?
Ever since, I have first held my mobile phone, there has been plenty of talk in the technology circles on how convergence of technologies will define the future of the mobile phone market. We have seen bursts of innovation showing glimpses of what convergence could achieve with a slew of new handsets being launched over the years with newer technologies. Cameras, MP3 Players, TV & Gaming on Mobile, eBooks etc. Except for Cameras and MP3 players, none of the other technologies have stuck on as they fail to deliver what they promise. In fact, until the iPhone, even the Cameras and MP3 players on mobile phones weren’t nearly good. The iPhone definitely is an industrial design which has turned the mobile market upside down.
But, it is not an invention which is new, but rather, a reinvention of a mobile phone with pre-existing technology. The only difference being the product performance features of the mobile phone which is being utilised to its optimum capabilities. For example, Touch Screen is not a new concept. I clearly remember a mobile phone which I owned five and half years ago, a Motorola A925 on Three network. It had everything an iPhone has now. It was a 3G phone, touch Screen, no separate keypad, it had video calling, camera, MP3 capabilities with an added memory card etc. Even the much talked Apps aren’t new. There were companies offering third party apps for mobile phones. Apple just rehashed the existing technology in a better way to give a superior product, in the process creating additional platforms to monetise self. Like I noted in one of my earlier posts, this has been the case with every product it has developed so far, be it Macs, iPods or iPhones. But all of these products have been tremendously successful.
Going by Strand Consult’s report, iPhone sales haven’t been as dramatic as they seem for many reasons. Firstly, the product was launched to a select few countries and network operators when it launched. AT&T in the US, O2 in the UK, T-Mobile in Germany & orange in France representing a fraction of the market it serves to today. iPhone is now available in over a 100 markets and Apple has non-exclusive deals with multiple network operators, meaning customers have a choice to choose the network. Clearly, Apple’s comparative year on year growth is not an ideal representation given the expansion in markets. Secondly, the devout Apple consumer is usually one who is techno-savvy and seen as an early adapter. Given the contracts which the networks have in place to own an iPhone, it’s only the 1st Generation iPhone owners who are choosing 3GS. The 2nd generation customers have a few months to run out of their contracts and cost associated with early exit from their contracts deters them from adopting to the 3GS. New consumers embracing Apple is far and few as the market is flooded with iPhone look alikes with almost every mobile manufacturer offering wide, touch screen mobiles with similar functionalities.
Also, Strand notes that despite iPhone’s initial exclusivity deals, networks haven’t seen an increase in marketshare and the high subsidies they have to offer to consumers, makes it difficult for them to cash in on other services. Unlimited Data, inclusive minutes and texts etc mean that there is no other value added resourced a network can offer the consumer at an additional cost, other than roaming which doesn’t rake in the desired moolah. With Apple widening it’s market reach by making the iPhone available through multiple networks, exclusive networks stand to loose further. In fact, Apple’s contract with O2 runs out in September, following which the iPhone is expected to be available with other UK networks, although O2 claims that it has renegotiated the contract.
I believe and attribute this to clever marketing by Apple. It has kept the company-consumer dialogue going while suppressing the delivery medium (networks in this case). Apple consumers are more connected to the company than the network. They interact with Apple more frequently than they do with their networks and in someway have developed a relationship which overrides their relationship with the operator. The efficiency and authenticity of the Apple brand stands taller than the service.
When the iPhone was due to be launched, networks clamoured for exclusivity and as a part of the bargain agreed on subsidies by giving up their part of the bargain. Now with their contracts running out they are still where they were with no bargaining power, while Apple has a larger base to choose from. Also, not to ignore the fact that Apple’s still charting an enormous positive growth irrespective of relational markets. Ultimately, what matters for a business is to be successful which can be measured by shareholder value and Apple has consistently achieved this with a number of channels. Be it an iPhone or a Macbook. However, this is a big dilemma for networks as they all want to be a part of something which hasn’t proven to offer much value. Operators have to radically realign their strategies if they were to compete in Apple space and Strand offers some valid arguments on this.
Still in India…trying to juggle with so many different things mentally and physically. Squeezing in nearly 10 hours a day working remotely for AF and a new five week project, spending some time at our new abode as well as trying to catch up with friends and relatives.
Renewal of my passport is being unduly delayed despite numerous letters, faxes and phone calls.
Unlikely. There are many other likely contenders for Apple‘s final goodbye to Macworld Expo. A number of rumours as well as expectations from enthusiasts on what Apple could announce have being doing the rounds for the past few weeks, including some really weird and outrageous ones.
Personally, I have mixed emotions about Apple’s participation at Macworld. I am a recent adapter to Apple’s products and although I was aware of Apple’s presence at Macworld, I was a tad bit ignorant about the fact that new products are announced in every event. I have only realised the importance of these events to Mac enthusiasts after my last Apple purchase.
I got my first 5th generation, uninsured white 30 GB iPod in August 2006 which was stolen from right under my nose after 11 months of life. Within a week of loosing it I replaced it with another iPod and a month after my purchase, Apple restocked the entire range of iPods with a newer version. Then in December 2007 I bought an iPod Touch which was upgraded with new features in February 2008. In October 2008, I treated myself to a Macbook Pro, only to see a newer Mac come out a few weeks later. I have been keen on buying an iPhone for a while now, but I had decided to hang on with my otherwise brilliant Blackberry Pearl until the Macworld Expo. Just when I was adapting to the Apple Community, Apple decides to bunk Macworld.
Strategically, the reasons Apple’s decision to move away from Macworld Expo could be various. While Steve Jobs’ health has often been rumoured as one, I would like to believe that trade shows simply do not fit into Apple’s future vision. Also, it has always affected the company’s sales during the peak Christmas period, with a vast number of consumers staying away from Christmas purchases with an expectation of an announcement of improved Apple products during the event. The company has a loyal customer base and the social influence of its customers is unmatched in comparison to any other product in any niche. As per the company’s own statement, it is reaching out to customers in more ways than ever before and probably doesn’t need trade shows to strengthen its brand. Apple is a financially sound company with large cash reserves and has done exceedingly well even under the current economic conditions world over.
However, given the turbulent and dynamic environment, it needs to reassess it’s strategies and I guess by pulling out of Macworld is one of the many decisions the company had to make. As an event, Macworld, supported by customary keynote by Steve Jobs, offered an incredible opportunity for third party developers and vendors to showcase their products and Apple’s decision seems to be severe blow to their prospects.
Also, it is a huge disappointment for thousands of Apple fans who have faithfully clocked in hundreds to thousands of miles for the event with high expectations. Coming back to Apple’s final participation in Macworld 2009, the company has confirmed that Phillip Schiller, Senior Vice President of Marketing will be stepping into Steve Jobs’ shoes for the keynote. So would this mean that there are no likely announcements for new products? There could be two ways about this. Either there is no product or there is something as a parting gift for all Apple disciples. If it is the latter, which of Apple’s products are on line for an upgrade? A couple of my personal choices are listed below based on rumours circulating in the web world.
The first of the biggest rumours hitting technology publication sites and blogs on the webworld is Apple’s purported entry into the low cost mobile industry with the launch of a 4GB Apple iPhone. It could well turn out to be a killer move for Apple as it could end up selling a lot more mobile phones than any of the industry leaders. Despite Nokia, Motorola, Samsung & Sony Ericsson’s iPhone like phones, they all tend to be in expensive brackets, which has to bought with a contract to offset the costs. A 4 GB iPhone could give iPhone access to the lucrative PrePay mobile phones market.
My personal favourite is a Product (Red) branded iPhone. (Red) is an initiative by U2 front man Bono and activist Bobby Shriver, to raise money for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. If announced, I might even forego my existing contract with Vodafone and move over to O2. Product (Red), despite it’s criticisms, for the campaign has cost nearly five times more than what it has raised so far, it appeals to me for its vision as well as it’s value as a brand.
Either that, or a 32 GB iPhone with HD capabilities. If announced, that’ll surely rock the event. Clearly, Apple already has a 32 GB iPod touch which is based on a similar NAND flash based memory used in iPhone. However, iPod Touch uses two units of 16 GB rather than a single unit used in iPhone, making the iPod Touch slightly bulkier than the iPhone. However, in the recent days, Toshiba, Samsung and other companies have released 32GB single unit NAND memories, which fits in easily into an iPhone. Technically, a 32GB iPhone is not far off. Just a matter of how long it would take for Apple to come out with one. I am sure to go either on a (red) iPhone or a 32 GB iPhone. It would be an incredible bonus if Apple launchs a 32 GB Product (Red) iphone.
As a parting note, the legacy of Apple brand continues to grow (literally) in uncharted territories. A Japanese farmer has grown a new kind of Fuji apples with Apple and iPod logos inscribed on them, by using stickers to shield the sunlight. More about that here and there’s a picture of Apple branded apples below (Courtesy: Gizmodo).
Apple‘s approach to product innovation, marketing & branding is legendary. Despite having a minimalistic presence in the advertising Arena, the company evokes sufficient interest from people who matter the most, customers. Apple’s customers are usually early adopters and if you give a high quality, well designed product to early adopters, then you can certainly expect others to follow them, which has always played a central role in Apple’s success. It has done a wonderful job of creating an Apple culture, where people are waiting to take cues from the company and advertise repeatedly through the simplest forms of advertising – social marketing, in other words word-of-mouth.
For me I believe, social marketing is the most successful way to reach out to your audience. Even before a product’s purported launch, there are whispers in the market, prompting people to speculate about it, write and even review without getting their hands on to the product. There has always been speculations on every generation of iPods Apple has launched, there had been plenty of talk about an Apple phone, years before the iPhone was launched, and of course people have anticipated newer versions of each of Apple’s products, be it a G4, Macbook, iMac, Mini or even indigeous add ons such as the Time Machine and the Apple TV. On top of this, it also offers an incredible operating system and some clever applications such as the iTunes. The latest buzz among apple disciples is the launch of a new product code named “brick”. What exactly brick is, nobody knows for certain. But it has garnered significant marketing attention world wide, with bloggers making various conjectures about the product, which includes a newer version of Macbook, an all new Apple TV and even an updated Mac Mini. Some blogs even claim that Brick is a Dual Screen foldable Net Book.
A leading Apple community on the web quoting an unnamed resource has reported that “Brick” is not a product, but a radical new manufacturing process, which apparently will carve out the newer versions of Macbooks and Macbook Pros from a single aluminum block. However, Apple has put an end to all speculation by launching improved thinner version of Macbooks with faster graphics processors and an iPhone like all glass trackpad and an extended battery life. Of course the lower part of the new Apple chassis is made from single aluminum blocks. Whatever the product, it has created enough buzz already. People are certain to queue up in stores either to get their hands on to Apple’s new offering or to catch a glimpse of it.
So what is the secret of Apple’s success? The company has always relied on extending the customers digital lifestyle by offering products which reinvents the way people look at those products. Above all, the company’s business strategies are based on creating products as a support system to its core rather than exploding the market with a wide spectrum reinforcing the company’s brand perceptions. For a technology intensive industry in which Apple participates, keeping a fresh image is absolutely imperative as products evolve constantly. The Apple brand is leveraged in such a way that it can expand from computers to music players and phones because they are known for “thinking different” and therefore setting an expectation of originality. Consumers don’t just buy an Apple product; they buy the idea of what Apple stands for. It is a known fact over the years that much of the success of products or services derives from the effect consumers have on one another’s decisions. Apart from anticipating what features individual consumers might find desirable, Apple has adopted strategies that take social influence into account. Macbooks, IPods & iPhones have managed to get more exposure among average consumers, which could be attributed to social influence and these average consumers are more likely to consider other Apple products, which further enhances the brand image and values associated with the product. Unlike other companies, Apple has always created products which are add ons to its core product. An iPod or an iPhone needs iTunes, Apple TV needs needs an iPod, and of course for the related applications to work, you need an operating system and Apple again stands out with its offering. To run the operating system, you need hardware and for that you have a sleek range of iMacs, Macbooks and Minis.
Consider this, not many would have thought that iTunes would be product on its own. It is an application, which many would have believed was developed to support the iPod range of MP3 players. But today, it is a market place contributing handsomely to Apple’s profit share. The strategy here is simple. Sell an iPod worth £200 which holds 30, 000 songs and sell songs on iTunes for 79 pence. Ideally (If there’s no piracy) to fill up the 30000 capacity iPod you would need £23000 worth of songs and as of September 2007, 150 million iPods in different capacities have been sold worldwide. Consider the average iPod sold is of a 5GB capacity and do the numbers taking into account people buying music from other sources and downloading pirated music from the internet. Although conventional wisdom states that Apple is loosing money on iTunes which it is making up by selling iPods, at a 30 % margin on every song sold, the profits are still enormous. Not to forget that it is expected to increase its market share to 85 % this year. Here’s a company, which believes in designing and developing superior products with innovative industrial design and and markets it with a similar level of creativity to profit from it. It is an ideal example of marketing success.
The prospect of balmy, sunny days around the corner makes April one of the exciting months of the year. But there’s another reason which adds to my excitement, for in April every year it’s time to renew my mobile phone contract. I have been with Vodafone for three years now and was contemplating leaving Vodafone for exciting offers on O2 or Tmobile. I am after a Blackberry Pearl 8110 with the Blackberry Internet Solution™ and the added functionality of a GPS. Not that I drive, but a GPS is quite handy even while walking point to point (Sounds funny using GPS for Pedestrians, it’s more of a “it’s there, try it” thing). And of course, a Blackberry is no good without the Emails and Internet.
After much thought and deliberation, I rang Vodafone last week to find out about my options of owning a Pearl with the same network. Vodafone doesn’t advertise Blackberry Pearl for individual users…I wonder why!? As Pearl is one of the hottest selling Blackberry devices. However, for business users, they do have attractive tariff. After speaking to their customer services, I was quite convinced that Tmobile is a better option until I stumbled upon the offers by O2. Both the networks offer decent tariff for a Blackberry along with the voice and data plan. I finally decided to call it quits with Vodafone and informed them of leaving and requested for my PAC code. I was assured that the PAC code would be sent within 4-5 days. To my surprise, instead of the PAC code, I got a call from Vodafone retentions department with an offer which not only matched the other two networks but also bettered them. But the only hitch, no GPS subscription with Vodafone as it costs an additional fee!
Vodafone certainly offers free GPS Subsription for Blackberry customers, but I was told that they have stopped including this as a package from the day before they called me. A big lie! Just checked their site this morning on the GPS is still free for 12 months. In any case, Vodafone is offering the GPS service in association with Telmap and it’s possible to buy this service for a one off £39.99 Annual Fee or a £4.99 monthly fee. Sounds good! I took the bait and the device should be delivered anytime soon.
Also, today is the day I complete exactly one year as a Marketing Analyst at ArenaFlowers.com. A year has passed so quickly!
It is amazing how many thoughts and ideas emerge in a forum discussion offering interesting insights into many aspects of a particular topic. I find forums quite useful for many everyday issues I come across where I lack the necessary knowledge or approach to get out of it. Recently, I was gifted a Bose Triport headphones to go with my iPod and though it is an incredible product with brilliant noise amplifying abilities, it does have a major setback. Bose ships these earphones with three pairs of detachable eartips. No matter how careful you are, you end up loosing these eartips very quickly…at least I did. The earphones never stick to your ears and most Triport users are constantly seen holding the earphones closer to their ears to ensure it doesn’t fall off. It is extremely frustrating and you never get to enjoy the music peacefully. And within two weeks of receiving this as a gift, I had lost all my eartips. And the Bose earphone is designed in such a way that you cannot use it without the eartips. How annoying!?!?!
Anyway, my quest to find replace ear tips lead me to find other Bose users who have experienced similar difficulties. Most of these customers have vented their frustrations on forums and I not only found a good number tips from where to get them but also that I could order the eartips directly from Bose free of charge. And of course I found all these on forums. Basically, forums are a great way to connect with like minded people and it makes perfect sense for businesses to host a forum to interact with customers.
The dearth of online forums and message boards in the florist industry is a bit surprising considering that its such a huge market. Of course forums and message boards do not belong to the same age as blogging, social bookmarking and networking, as they are the predecessors of the existing mediums. But forums are great resources where a community of like minded individuals share there knowledge and ideas. Also, it provides a firm base for businesses such as ours to build customer relationships. However, starting and managing a forum is an arduous and time consuming task. Nevertheless, we are convinced that we should be starting a forum to connect with our customers and suppliers. Thanks to Bose’s problematic headphones!
If any of you are experiencing similar issues with Bose Triport Headphones, call their Customer Services on 0800-085-9021. It’s been a few weeks since I complained and am yet to receive mine. I contacted them last week to check the status and was told that they have run out of stock until end of April. Though the headphones are good, I would give a big Thumbs Down for the product unless they come out with an enhanced version. Sad that many of us owning the older versions feel cheated. Sennheiser has better ones!
After much deliberation, I finally laid my hands on to Apple’s newest offering, although it stays with me only for a few days. I really would have loved to own the iPod Touch, but Apple announcing the launch one month after I had replaced my stolen White 30 Gig iPod with Black one (There goes the 30 day refund policy) ensures that I hold on to it for a while. Nonetheless, I have the iPod Touch for the next few days before it flies out with Nandu to reach the safe hands of Ashu, who undoubtedly would be delighted with this new gadget instead of a regular iPod.
In the recent years, Apple has leapfrogged it’s nearest competitors by introducing socially influential uber cool gadgets which has changed general perception of digital music. Honestly, a few years back, before the introduction of iPod, I considered MP3 music as pirated music as I had never seen a legitimate store selling compressed music in digital formats. iPod arrived and conquered the digital music world’s changing myths, owing much to the fact of delivering content using it’s proprietary iTunes software.
Although there are numerous portable music players available in the market, which are as intuitive, user friendly and colourful as iPods (Players such as Zune, Creative etc), iPod seems to have helped capture people’s imagination in a much wider market. The evolution of the iPod Range from the 1st generation to the all new iPhone has been equally sleek and innovative. Since its arrival as the 1st generation music player, iPod has slimmed and shed weight while adding numerous intuitive features. Any new product by Apple is sure to create a buzz and this is evident with iPod Touch and the iPhone.
The iPod Touch is more of a stripped down version of an iPhone, albeit it’s dazzling interface and innovative design makes it a killer among all the iPod products. In terms of exterior, it is the usual smudge prone chrome and glass exterior, now a common feature among all iPods, which ensures that the player definitely needs a protective film. However, the oddity of the iPod Touch is in the black top corner plastic casing, which looks unimpressive with the Chrome plated finish on the back. For a company of Apple’s standards, which relies heavily on design, the casing is a bit incomprehensible. On the top left edge of the player is power button to activate/deactivate the player and a button below the touch screen interface to call the menu on screen. The touch screen navigation is the USP of iPod Touch and with the large screen makes it worthy enough for crispy video, pictures and browsing through the added Wi-Fi compatibility.
Like all other iPod products, the iPod touch comes with minimal accessories, laid out behind a black plastic cradle on which the iPod touch is packed in a flimsy plastic film neatly packaged in an attractive box. The box also packs a user guide, a USB cable, a cleaning cloth, a dock adaptor, two Apple stickers, and a pair of the now popular iPod earphones, along with a small bit of plastic which acts as a viewing stand for the player.
I had very little time to sync my iTunes to the iPod Touch, but I assume it is bit of an ordeal as my library has more than 15GB of songs as against the paltry 8GB iPOD. When I tried syncing this morning, it only copied recently purchased songs and failed to show my library under the syncing options to select and add songs. I guess, it needs a bit of investigation in this regard. Anyway, I will explore this in detail this weekend.
Sounds like an absurd title until you hear it completely. Not surprisingly, this is an ad campaign for Nokia’s new gadget killer, Nokia N95, one of my recent additions. To begin with, I am a gadget freak. I love all newly introduced technological marvels and go out of my way to gain possession of whatever is affordable. For the last seven years, ever since I started using a mobile phone back in India, I have been a proud owner of number of phones, including a Nokia 8850, 6820, 3110i, 9500, N70, Motorola A925, Samsung N620 and E720. But none of these phones have excited me as much as the N95.
I had been waiting for the phone since Christmas and was quite pleased to see it being launched in the UK during the Long Easter Weekend in April. I called my network immediately and managed to negotiate a decent deal, without a hefty deposit on a twelve month contract (For a N95, that is a real bargain). Around that time, I was in the process of changing jobs and I requested my network to deliver the phone to my new work place. The first day of my new job, I was more excited about receiving the phone than I was for my new job.
The Courier man walked straight to my table and delivered the package. I spent the rest of the day at work, giving regular furtive glances to my yet unpacked phone and at close, I hurried home with the parcel. Once I reached home, I unpacked it and out came the incredible THING…it sure is not one THING…its MANY!