Friday, 14 September 2012

The iPhone 5: Where has Apple's 'famous' innovation gone?

Apple, rightly or wrongly, is famed for being a wonderful innovator; a company that is at the forefront of technological advancement. I can't help feel like that innovation seems to have deserted them recently, with the launch of the highly-anticipated iPhone 5 being testament to this.

The recent big announcement in short has produced an almost identical iPhone (yes its a bit bigger, thinner etc), some more iPod touches which are again far from revolutionary, and some new iPod Nanos which have circular icons instead of square (and that's pretty much it...). In fact arguably the most revolutionary announcement was the headphones, which have been changed and do look good, and apparently sound good. It all echoes the release of the iPhone 4S, and the 'New iPad' with many consumers responding with a resounding "Is that it?".

Features-wise the iPhone 5 is 4G capable yet without a hardware change O2 and Vodaphone users won't be able to access 4G speeds. The new camera now includes panoramic mode (which has been available on most Android handsets for about 2 years) and an option to capture photos during video (just blatantly ripping off HTC). Now, I don't want to turn this into an Apple-bashing but Apple immediately attacks other companies (mainly Android) for 'stealing' Apple features and too often gets away with doing the reverse. Thinner, lighter blah blah blah. It's simply another tweaked upgrade to squeeze money from the consumer. This is highlighted by the new accessories. So to charge the new iPhone you need this new 'Lightening adapter'. Great, it looks nice, but it'll cost a bomb. Just unnecessary. The prices STARTING at $649 (!!) for the 16GB version and ending up at a ridiculous $849 for the 64GB edition. (Yes, that is $200 more for 48GB storage... Go figure...).

(Spot the difference)

Now before you start saying "oh you just hate Apple" - I'm the first to admit I'm not the biggest fan of Apple but I would've liked to see Apple do what they did in 2007 and revolutionise the Smartphone market but they just haven't in this case. Success for any tech company forces other to up their game and continues technological advancement.
Is it time for Apple to acknowledge that they are now playing catch-up to Android devices? If not, then they will be doing in the very near future. Many may deny this, and they will probably come up with a convincing argument but it has reached the stage where the line "because it's Apple" does not cut the mustard. After all the criticism of Microsoft and Nokia becoming complacent in the tech world; have Apple done the same? I wrote previously about the importance of the iPhone 5 to Apple and it appears that they've fallen into the trap I was concerned they would do. Apple are better than this, just as Microsoft and Nokia were back in 2000. As Adam Leach, analyst for Ovum, correctly summarises -

“Without the continued innovation which we are accustomed to with Apple, the company risks losing consumer appeal. The iPhone re-defined the Smartphone category in 2007 but it cannot reply on past success to guarantee its future or rely on litigation to keep its competitors at bay.”

I would almost go as far as saying that Apple is cheating consumers into splashing even more money on a product, and indeed series of products, that are far from revolutionary. With that in mind, In my opinion, you would be far better off going for an iPhone 4S or even an iPhone 4 which have now been massively reduced in price. Get something for free/a small amount instead of spending £520+ on what is effectively the same product (just bigger, thinner blah blah blah...)

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic in particular. Debating this topic with people is always fun and I certainly have my view and am open to hearing the thoughts of others.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Windows 8: The Saviour of the Old Guard - Microsoft and Nokia?

Nokia has just announced the next in the line of its original and slick Lumia series, (this time operating the full Windows 8 instead of the similar Windows RT) - the 820 and the 920, and wow, do they look good. (Well in my opinion anyway!)

But regardless of how much the critics rave about the UX and Win RT OS the sales are still uninspiring. Perhaps it a similar problem that many companies suffer from; that you have to experience, and live with the product before you can be convinced, and then perhaps you will be a convert for life? If this is the case then Nokia and Microsoft are well placed to enforce this. But can they combine, with Windows 8, to reign once more in tech fashion, innovation and popularity? The Nokia launch of the next Lumia phones precedes Microsoft's upcoming release of the widely anticipated release of Windows 8. This is a significant period for both companies and what is fascinating is the similarities in the paths taken by both companies. It simply highlights the dangers in complacency, especially in the tech world. I believe Apple have also fallen into this trap in a way. It is a very difficult trap to avoid. Why try and fix something that isn't broken? And by the time you realise it is broken, someone else is ready to topple you as market leader. With Windows 8, Microsoft has undertaken the mother of all transformations.

As can be seen - the block-style UX that is used on Windows RT can be used on a machine running Windows 8, but there is also the option to revert to the familiar UX Microsoft is famed for, simply looking sleeker, and glossier. There is a commitment from Microsoft to use this new UX and they clearly trust that the consumer will eventually revert to this thinking. By linking all platforms; the hugely successful XBOX, PC, Windows Phones and the upcoming 'Slate' with Windows 8, Microsoft is trying to dominate all aspects of tech life in your home, and although they've been late to the party I wouldn't bet against them. Microsoft lost it before. Very little denying that. The company fell into the very same trap of complacency that Nokia did. Both companies were comfortable market leaders having saturated their respective markets. In this position, as aptly demonstrated by this example, it is necessary to continue to dictate by controlling the market. This means continuing to innovate. Microsoft and Nokia missed this. Microsoft missed the fashion wave with computing, and Nokia missed the smartphone wave. Both mistakes cost each company greatly.

But what does the future hold? Well Microsoft are in the fortunate position of continuing to hold a market share with the Windows platform on PC. The shift to Win8 is dramatic, as dramatic as the technology world has seen from a major player but I admire this gamble. Microsoft have recognised (late, il grant you that) that the platform was tired and in need to rejuvenation. So kudos for that. Will it work? It certainly won't be an overnight shift but I believe it will work. Whilst many tech bloggers, reporters etc have found an easy target for ridicule in Nokia and Microsoft, we're still talking about giants of the technology world. The power Microsoft have at their disposal is still hugely significant. With over 700,000,000 PCs in operation and Windows 7 having recently taken over as the most used OS, there is the market still for Microsoft. Not only this, those priced out of the Apple market (with computers that is A LOT of people) will be looking towards Microsoft and the new Windows 8 platform. This will help adoption rates early on.
     Nokia face a different, more treacherous path. Win8 on the Nokia Lumia series is a joy to use. But will consumers give it a chance? Nokia have taken the correct steps by following the HTC 'less is more' route. Their recent release will no doubt be overshadowed by the hype of the New iPhone (or whatever they try and call it) and to a lesser extent - the Galaxy Note II. Does that matter? Perhaps the timing was well judged by getting in just before the hype becomes unbearable but at the moment especially, Nokia cannot attract the clamour that Apple can produce. I like their forward thinking though, and being a fan of social media I recommend you check out which is another interesting investment.

Either way, these two juggernaughts have found strong partners in each other, and it will take time plus a lot of effort but they will get there. By combining, familiarising the public with a new Windows, the adoption will snowball and it won't be long before Microsoft and Nokia are fighting back on a positive sales incline once more.

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