Odyssey

May 31, 2011

A long time ago, back in 1987, a man called John Sculley, published a book called ‘Odyssey. Pepsi to Apple. A journey of adventure, ideas and the future’. Apple’s ceo at the time explained in his book why Steve Jobs had hired him and why Steve left.

On page 403 John Sculley tried to look into the future:

‘A future-generation Macintosh, which we should have early in the twenty-first century, might well be a wonderful fantasy machine called the Knowledge Navigator, a discoverer of worlds, a tool as galvanizing as the printing press. Individuals could use it to drive through libraries, museums, databases, or institutional archives. This tool wouldn’t just take you to the doorstep of these great resources as sophisticated computers do now; it would invite you deep inside its secrets, interpreting and explaining -converting vast quantities of information into personalized and understandable knowledge.’

Some people at the company came up with a video. They were inspired by the Dynabook concept, created by Alan Kay in 1968. The Knowledge Navigator looked like this:

The video can be found here.

John left and Steve came back.

And now we all have and/or want an ipod, iphone and iPad.

It indeed has been an epic voyage, as the word odyssey came to refer to.


The Price is Right

April 16, 2011

Before iPad was launched I started to think about the sort of ibooks that might form an extra attraction for possible ireaders. As my wife came up with the idea that iPad would become something to put on a table, I thought the old fashioned coffee table books would be a nice starting point. In every home I come, I see nice designed and well published books lying on coffee tables: 1 +1 = 3, right?

So I started touring publishers of books covering the arts, photography, design, architecture, history. I was rather stunned to notice these conversations turned out to be flashbacks.

I reexperienced earlier conversations during the rise of web 1.0 with record company management people.

There was, as we now are used to notice, ‘no real sense of urgency’. Of course it could be explained by the fact that all of these publishers were based in a very small country, called The Netherlands, but one would expect these professionals at least to be familiair with concepts like ‘desintermediation’, ‘e-books’, ‘Google’ or ‘ecommerce’. To my surprise they were not. And if they were, they were convinced that it would take years to develop and mature.

This year I started talks with museums to publish ibooks ourselves, without the publishers, since they were the ones that would be desintermediated. In preparation of making a shortlist for ibooks, I came upon art books, already available on iphone, iPad and iTouch. The price for a neat little handy booklet on Van Gogh was $ 1.99.  At least 50 or so well known painters were published as well for the same price.

This brings me to my point. As The Daily set the price for a daily on the iPad, this publisher set the price for nice, neat, little ibooks on painters.

Publishers and for that matter museums will have a very, very hard time to beat this price.

But for consumers, all over the world, the price sure is right.


Gold Rush

April 14, 2011

My last post has been a while.

Again.

This time I wanted to take some time and think.

I was overwhelmed by the introduction of the Harry Potter newspaper, as Rupert Murdoch used to call it. Not because this bold move was unexpected, but because of the pricing strategy. A dollar a week is hard to beat. The Daily cornered the market. Who will enter next?

Market acceptance does not seem to be very positive. It’s hard to find trustworthy data and my first impressions are therefore just that and nothing more. But the general idea points towards the conclusion that The Daily is not a huge hit. Yet, one has to add.

However.

The price is still very, very hard to beat.

By claiming land on this new frontier in the Media Wild West, competitors are hindered or even prohibited to join the Gold Rush.

I’m afraid.


Game, Set and Match?

February 4, 2011

The Daily is a bold move in two ways.

First and foremost it’s price and the strategy behind it. Less than a dollar a week. Nobody expected this to happen. A dollar per issue was the general expectation. This price defines the game for tablet publishing and will be hard to ignore, because consumers will come to see it as the de facto standard. Mr. Murdoch just put another wall on his content, one might say.

The Daily is iPad only. My guess is that web access will dry up, at least after the two weeks of free trials. How this will play out, is hard to predict.

One can argue that this move is just one in a series of well planned and executed movements to work towards a model for paid content. Mr. Murdoch spoke many times on the unsustainable position of publishers when they keep giving away their product for free. And, at least in my humble opinion, right so. High Quality Content is difficult to produce and the makers of  creative works should be compensated.

But one can also argue that the web community will  find ways to hack the content anyway or that news is freely available on the web and therefore there is no need at all for paid dailies. And then there is the broad discussion on the nature of the web (open or closed) and even the predictions on the death of the web. Apps rule, so to speak.

We will see. The user will decide.

One very important rule in launching a new product or service, however comes to my mind. A client of mine always used to tell his people that a new thing has to be faster, better, easier and cheaper than the existing offerings. Seen from this perspective I think it will be Game, Set and Match.


Another Wake Up Call Today?

February 2, 2011

Well, it has been a little over a year that iPad was launched. Anticipated as the starting point for new and turbulent times, it certainly played out that way. The most optimistic forecast was it would sell some 3.000.000 units. It sold 5 times as much. Publishers of magazines and newspapers heralded the multi touch device in advance as the perfect moment for the introduction of paid content. Everyone rushed in, as always.

What observations did I make this year?

First of all, I would like to point out that iPad is only the first of many tablets. That’s a no brainer. There is no room for orders of microchips, screens or components  in the factories in Asia where these things are being made.  I expect many more multi millions of tablets rolling out of these factories the next few years.

The computer started to move away from the desk a while back with the laptop, the web book and the smartphone, but now it is definitely removed from it. The machine is in the living room, on the dining table, the couch and in the bedroom. On the lap, in your hands and even, I noticed, on the road. This has implications for usage, and therefore the design of information and content strategies. Most publishers and designers have not even started thinking about this shift. Let alone what it will mean.

After the initial hype, as always a central element in our industry, we, the people looked at the magazines produced for iPad and were not impressed. OK, you buy the first one, sure. But the second and third? Why should I pay for something new, that’s not new? It’s just a 1 – 1 copy of the paper thing!

The amount of apps sold is declining at enormous speed!

Advertisers pronto payed premium prices to reach the young, affluent and hip. But that’s over. Who is using this and how many exactly? Why pay more to these magazine companies?

Publishers discovered that producing content for iPad multiplied the cost of producing content or at least doubled the amount of time spent by their creative department. To ask for extra budgets in these still troubling economic times is not a very sound starting point for boardroom discussions.

And then there’s this small and often overlooked ‘problem’ of the middle man. The most stupifying thing of the last few months is the discovery and outcry by publishers that Apple wants to be compensated. I mean, think before you jump! Did you really expect this innovative company with this very clear vision on how to enter markets that have been sleeping and ignoring All Things Digital, to help you for nothing? Talk about myopia. Amazing.

Apple looked at markets, ready for innovation and full of sleeping  incumbents, before and took over in a split second. I mean, how could one make a dime in music with mp3, torrents, p2p, copycats? How could anyone think of entering the market for cellphones?

The key is probably that you have to be an outsider to come up with fresh thinking. Insiders look at this teutonic shift from their existing frames.

Apple knows that Content is King again. Look at what’s happening in social with al these people pointing towards and distributing remarkable content snippets! That’s why Apple named Flipboard as the most impressive app, I think.

Apple knows very well what is is doing. They have done it before. They will do it again. Someone like Mr. Murdoch understands this BTW. 

I must say I am eager to find out what his Harry Potter newspaper will do in the market. It is expected to launch today.


Open or closed?

October 19, 2010

Last week the semi closed system of facebook seemed not that closed, because other people besides your friends can follow you, at least if and when they pay.  Another major blunder. When will it stop and who will it stop? When the Wall Street Journal is investing huge amounts of time and effort to dig into your operation, I would certainly call it a very serious wakeup call.

GOOG, as always telling us they don’t want to be evil, published some nice figures. Revenue in Q2 was up 23% to 7,29b$. Profits were up 32% to 2,17b$.  More astounding than these figures is the simple fact that 1/3 is pure profit. No wonder they don’t know what to do with that pile of money! 

But the same week a study showed that GOOG in fact still is a one trick poney.

That can not be said of Apple. They presented another great performance in their last fiscal Q. Revenues 20,34b$ and profits 4,31b$. That’s 21% pure profit, but then again, they actually make and ship things.

Steve Jobs had a good time, claiming that the much debated issue of the battle between empires based on open or closed approaches really is not an issue at all. The real question should be what the customer wants.


The man behind it

October 11, 2010

One of the reasons iPad is such a succes, is the man behind it. Steve Jobs is one of my favourite people to watch and study, since I laid my hands on my first Mac in 1986. That time I became convinced that something special was going on. I mean, to come up with such a brilliant concept and to be able to execute and implement that concept had to imply pure genius.

One of the most impressing demonstrations of his personality is his 2005 Stanford Commencement Adress.

The words have been circulating the web ever since. Now they can be watched and heard as well.