When I read the claim that some one million iPhones were missing, I had to wonder what some of these alleged tech and financial pundits were thinking. They seemed to be utterly ignorant of how things worked in the real world, particularly when it comes to the proliferation of unlocked iPhones, which can be found throughout the civilized world. Then again, maybe it’s easier to suggest that Apple can’t sell the product, and dealers are filled with unsold stock.
Actually, that would seem to apply more aptly to the Xbox 360, although that’s something you don’t read very much about. Well, on The Tech Night Owl LIVE this week, we covered the search for those alleged missing iPhones with cutting-edge commentator Daniel Eran Dilger of Roughly Drafted Magazine. His answers, based on careful research, are illuminating if you’ve been curious about what’s really going on.
Now that tax season is forthcoming, you also heard from Intuit’s Scott Gulbransen, product manager for TurboTax. The newest Mac edition, by the way, has some features exclusive to the platform and represents renewed emphasis by Intuit.
Denis Motova joined me in our “Tech Junkies” segment to talk about car and phone navigation systems and whether it’s just easier to use a map. As far as I’m concerned — and call me an old fogy if you want — I have no problems living with maps, and I’ve survived for years getting around in small towns and large cities that way. And think of all the money I’ve saved.
For a realistic look at the state of iPhone and Mac security, we brought onboard noted security researcher Rich Mogull.
During this conversation, Birnes will provide new information on his collaboration with the late Philip Corso, and the controversy over the so-called “deathbed confession” about the Roswell crash from the late Walter Haut.
Coming February 10 (Rescheduled): Anthropologist C. Scott Littleton, Ph.D. discusses the “Battle of Los Angeles” UFO case of 1942, plus UFOs and the paranormal in Japan and similar incredible events throughout human history.
After the first Mac came out in 1984, some believe that Apple, by dint of a series of blatant blunders, failed to take advantage of its opportunity to own the personal computing landscape for a generation and beyond. To some extent, I agree, particularly during the dark days of the 1990s, before Steve Jobs returned. Then, it seemed as if the company couldn’t do anything right when it came to properly marketing their products.
I still recall all those unsold Performas getting dust at the local Circuit City store.
At the same time, Microsoft gained dominance not as a result of having superior products, but simply because they know how to play the spin game big time and make people believe they they could do no wrong. Of course, when Windows 95 arrived, it wasn’t all that bad, and a growing number of tech pundits claimed that Microsoft had actually reached parity with the Mac.
Regardless of the truth of such assertions, and I thoroughly disagreed after working with both, Apple fast became the beleaguered company, the one doomed to fail eventually. Indeed, things were so bad in 1996, you could almost believe that the doomsayers were spot on, and that Apple was indeed on life support.
In retrospect, you have to congratulate the executives who decided to buy NeXT and bring Steve Jobs back to Apple. I don’t think they were stupid enough not to expect Jobs to stage a palace coup eventually, but that was, in retrospect, a good thing.
Segue to 2008 where Microsoft is, in some respects, becoming a little beleaguered itself. Sure they’re making record profits from their operating systems and applications, but trying to move beyond their core products has proven extremely difficult.
Their inability to gain traction in search and online ads is the key reason why they are making that huge play for Yahoo, which I discuss in more detail in the next article.
Certainly, stuffing the channel with unsold Xbox 360s isn’t the way to become a game machine powerhouse, and they aren’t doing so well with digital music players either. In fact, as the success of the iPhone and iPod touch clearly demonstrate, that particular product category is morphing into a new mobile platform. That’s something Microsoft has yet to understand.
If Yahoo goes for Microsoft’s offer, you can bet the latter’s attention is going to be focused on something other than personal computer operating systems for a long while. Besides, Vista’s successor is still several years away.
So the time is ripe for Apple to continue to market the hell out of Macs and gain significant market share. It’s still in the single digits worldwide, of course, but there’s plenty of room to expand, and lots of people who are totally disgusted with Windows and are ready to take the great leap across the tracks to something far better.
Apple’s ubiquitous Mac versus PC ads continue to hammer away at Vista’s shortcomings in a gently amusing way. The MacBook Air is also getting a fair amount of TV exposure in those clever new ads that will also sell lots and lots of manila envelopes, no doubt.
The focus here remains on the consumer, not the business person. So, of course, some tech writers will claim that Apple is frittering away significant possibilities of getting more play in the enterprise. But they fail to realize that the people who own those businesses are also consumers, and when they buy a new Mac and perhaps an iPhone, they are going to be tempted to go to the IT departments and suggest that they support Apple’s gear too. When the directive comes from the top, the IT people aren’t going to say no, and Apple knows this full well.
But can they do more to boost market share big time with Microsoft looking elsewhere? Would a larger ad budget help? What about more print ads to supplement the heavy-duty broadcast buys?
More to the point, what about the products themselves? Is there something Apple might be missing to fill out its Mac and “mobile platform” lines to increase sales even further?
Certainly the iPod line is expansive, and, regardless of your budget, you’ll find an affordable model. But when it comes to Macs, Apple’s half-hearted approach to selling the Mac mini is its only foray into the sub-$1,000 desktop category. True, there isn’t a whole lot of profit to be made in that market space, but surely enough cheap PCs are moved at the Wal-Mart stores to provide strong temptation.
I really think that Apple ought to do more to sell the Mac mini, but there is also a serious need for a costlier, more powerful model that would be situated between the mini and the Mac Pro. Again, we return to my vision of the headless iMac. Sure, some of you might suggest this is just another niche market that isn’t ripe for the picking. But what about the MacBook Air? Sure, it’s a blatant fashion statement, but the number of died-in-the-wool road warriors who will buy them despite the well-known trade-offs is certainly far lower than those who’d prefer the regular MacBook or MacBook Pro.
Now that Apple has delivered a thin and light note-book, wouldn’t a mid-priced desktop Mac be the next logical item on the agenda? I don’t see there would be much in the way of development costs here, since it’s just an extension of the existing iMac hardware. I actually think that they’d sell more product, even if they lose a few iMac and Mac Pro sales along the way.
In the end, it would provide superior coverage of the desktop segment, and provide far fewer arguments for people to stick with Windows.
What do you think, gentle reader?
The news that Microsoft has made an unsolicited bid for Yahoo came only partly as a surprise to me. Microsoft has had little success penetrating the world of online advertising and searching, and Yahoo seems to be on the skids, with plans afoot to shed some 1,000 workers.
Indeed, neither company has had any great success overtaking the strength of the market leader, Google. Sure, Google didn’t earn quite as much as analysts projected this past quarter, but you cannot always fault a company because the analyst tea leaves failed to reveal the truth.
The fact is that, even when you combine the market penetration of Microsoft and Yahoo, Google is still way, way ahead when it comes to the world of online searching. So what made Steve Ballmer and the rest of the crew at Microsoft offer a huge wad of cash and stock to acquire Yahoo
In short, the answer is failure. Microsoft has tried to make it in the online world since the 1990s, when they introduced MSN to compete with AOL. Of course, that’s when AOL was flying high, and Microsoft was regarded as the untouchable superstar of the personal computing world.
How times have changed. MSN never realized its potential as an ISP powerhouse, although the name survives. AOL, flush with dot-com play money, bought Time Warner, considered to be one of the worst mergers in modern history. Thank heavens, Time Warner came to their senses and reasserted control when the bubble burst.
But you have to wonder what Microsoft is thinking here. No merger of this sort can be done seamlessly. Even if most of the employees will be retained in the new company, assuming they want to stay onboard, it will be a huge task to somehow merge these lumbering online giants, with no guarantee of success. Besides, Microsoft has never acquired a company of that size, and questions of true synergy have yet to be resolved.
As a practical matter, if Microsoft poured that much money into its own online efforts, wouldn’t it fare somewhat better? Just wondering.
But here’s a reality check: Yahoo didn’t just bend over and bow down to Microsoft. This is an uninvited offer. Call it a hostile takeover if you will, and Yahoo has already said they plan to take their own sweet time deciding how to deal with the situation. That can mean a delay of days or weeks, at the very least.
At the same time, it’s quite possible there will be other suitors, including Rupert Murdock’s News Corporation. Yahoo may have choices, or, in the end, decide to go it alone and try their best to rebuild their business.
In the end, even if Yahoo does agree to join the Microsoft fold, there will be intense investigations from the U.S. and European Union before a decision is made whether to approve the deal. In the intervening months, Google will have plenty of time to decide how to handle its new competition.
During this period, Microsoft and Yahoo will be tarnished companies, since the future direction and potential for success will be troubling unknowns. I rather suspect that their online advertising revenue is apt to suffer in light of these uncertainties, which will only help Google further expand its lead.
Even if the merger succeeds, Microsoft and Yahoo will not leave the starting gate as the sum of their parts, but at a substantially lesser figure. The road they travel in their quest to gain market share against Google may prove more difficult than ever.
THE FINAL WORD
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