Steve Jobs

This did make me laugh!

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I am an Apple fan – anyone who reads this blog will be aware of that already. I do however like any tech – if its clever and works I don’t mind who makes it. My first entry to ‘gizmos’ was British – Psion PDA’s, they were fantastic and at the time world leaders, sadly time moves on….. and Apple make the best tech currently.

I have looked at the new Microsoft entry20130106-094322.jpg to the tablet market – the surface – it looks OK but the only time I have managed to actually get my hands on one in a store (John Lewis in Nottingham), it didn’t want to work properly! The much vaunted keyboard / cover didn’t seem to work very well at all – now this was probably a one-off, but how many not working iPad’s have you come across in a similar situation?

So I suppose the attached press clipping didn’t come as a great surprise to me – someone breaks into the Microsoft campus and steals Apple gear only! This does sadden me as Apple need some competition to keep them sharp, currently this is only coming from Samsung it would appear. Perhaps Microsoft will eventually move back into a ‘good place’, it just doesn’t feel likely at this time.

Street View is back!

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photo2You would have had to have been on a deserted island not to have seen the details of the Apple Maps debacle in recent months. Apple sent Google packing – they had previously had a close relationship with them over many things in iOS (the iPhone operating system). But, in IOS 6 they finally got rid of Google maps with its amazing detail and street view and replaced it with their own Map App – which was (and is) rather poor by their standards (actually by anyones standards!).

Heads have rolled at Apple and they have made a public apology about the Maps – a rare event from Apple. There is talk about them buying TomTom who provide the data to enable a faster solving of issues – time will tell.

But now we have Google Maps back on iOS (iPhone at least) in the form of a new app – and it looks great (much as it did before – but better).

It will be interesting to see what Apples response will be – the pressure is on!

Possibly predictable – but interesting!

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I have had various comments about how numerous my ‘Apple’ blogs are from people I know, I make no apology – although it would be nice to get the same effect as my colleague Tim Garratt and his Jaguar blog! I still believe that the retail world can learn a lot from Apple and how they run their stores and staff them – they are universally seen as ‘the way to do it’, but recent data further supports that by showing just how efficient they are at selling!

Apple Stores are the possibly the envy of every other retailer on the planet. From their wonderful design to the constant stream of customers, they are all but universally a success. But, how much better do Apple Stores do than the competition? According to a new American study (and one assumes this would be the same the World over), they bring in twice as much in sales per square foot as anyone else in the market.

The research by RetailSales shows that Apple top the list of chain store productivity, pulling in $6,050 in sales per square foot of store. Tiffany the jewellery store come in second place, at $3,017.

The numbers were generated it appears simply by taking the brick-and-mortar sales numbers from the companies, and splitting it among the square footage of store space they occupy.

Apple is the only tech company to break the top ten, a section otherwise dominated by luxury and clothing products. Interestingly there are plenty of other retail chains that sell more than Apple on a per store basis, they just tend to be physically much, much larger. Apple stores are also often in very prime retail locations – so the rents are likely to reflect the footfall. So the data is not as clear as it first looks – but it makes a nice story…..

This isn’t how it should be!

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20121106-205827.jpgSince Apple launched iOS6 the press has been full of the problems people have been having with the Maps app – until iOS6 was launched the maps (and aerial images in particular), on iPhone and iPad were provided by Google, and they were superb. At work we have all used the maps to great effect – finding properties, and getting an idea of the surrounding area was so easy. It was without doubt one of the ‘killer’ apps on the iPhone.

20121106-205852.jpgSo the change to the current poorer mapping was a great disappointment, it also caused heads to roll at Apple, so they are obviously aware they have screwed up – but are they improving it?

Well today I looked at the aerial photos on my iPhone for the first time for ages (I stopped when I upgraded to iOS6) – and they were good again – almost to Google standards!

I was so surprised that I told colleagues at work. But, and here is the weird thing – on getting home I decided to show my wife (sad I know) on an iPad, but they were as poor as before! I checked on my iPhone and they were still good. And yes, both devices are running the latest OS, so it appears that Apple are running two versions of the map data (the aerial pictures are different – see the screen shots here) – now that is so ‘un-apple’ and perhaps shows why they have changed things at Apple headquarters.

Now all I need is good aerial coverage in maps on my iPad – will Jonny Ives sort this now he also has responsibility for software at Apple – here’s hoping!

An uncharacteristic slip?

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I am an Apple fan – no one would dispute that, and I would always describe their customer care and retail experience as second to none. however, I have finally caught them out – not in a big way – but they have finally made a mistake!

I have an old MacBook at home, one of the black early Intel chip ones. It is lovely, runs like a dream (far faster on Snow Leopard than my much younger Windows 7 laptop) and it is a family favourite now. It was the reason for my recent dealings with Apple.

My step daughter is the lucky owner of a new MacBook Pro on account of her A level results and imminent move to Loughborough University (well done Star). Setting this up and playing with it set me hankering after Lion on my MacBook (it won’t run Mountain Lion). Now upgrading should be easy, just visit the Mac App store and download it, except for the fact that Apple have removed Lion and replaced it with Mountain Lion.

I am sure I am not the only person who didn’t upgrade when they could have, so how was I to progress this? My initial call was to Jigsaw24 in Nottingham who were really helpful (thanks John) and confirmed that there was no way they could get me a copy of Lion, but that they would raise a case with Apple for me so that I could try to get it.

And this is where I finally get to catch out Apple! The case setup by Jigsaw24 worked and I was able to order a copy of Lion – I was told it was a download version so I would get two emails (just like the current Mountain Lion update) – but no emails arrived apart from an invoice and a ‘how did we do’ customer service email. This was strange I thought, so I left it 24 hours just incase it was an issue with mail. Still nothing!

So a call back to Apple care, who were again amazingly helpful, was made from which it transpired that I was being sent a disc copy of Lion. Strange because to the best of my knowledge it was always download only! This is not a problem, I will get my software, and being on a disc actually suites me (it’s an age thing).

This is not the end tot he story – two days later I actually received the download emails as originally informed – so it was a download after all!

But it feels good to have finally found just a tiny error in the Apple system – they must be human after all!

Apple retail – how it should be done!

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I am increasingly becoming a grumpy old man – I make no apology for this, it comes to us all – and this is my time!

I have been known to be somewhat critical of retailers, it always annoys me when you go into a shop to buy something fairly substantial (expensive) and you know more about the product than the salesman! Car dealers are the worst example, but it is a general theme across retailing in my view.

There is one major exception though – Apple – they have completely nailed the shopping experience. Walk into one of their stores anywhere in the world and you will have a pleasant experience. The staff are friendly, helpful and not at all pushy. The last two items I have purchased from Apple stores have both been equally pleasant experiences – despite there being the best part of £1000 difference in price between them.

So why can Apple get it so right and other fail so badly? It may be that Apple demand knowledge of their staff, I don’t know, but their awareness of the product certainly enables them to converse intelligently with their customers – which is half the battle!

So a fantastic experience at Apple in Leicestershire High Cross Centre, which will ensure my return in future.

Apple, Samsung and Microsoft

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I read a very interesting article last week explaining why Microsoft were where they are today and why they have failed to make the most of numerous technological leads that they appear to have had over the years. The gist of the article is that it is down to the way the company is run – it has become far too committee based, the geeks aren’t allowed to develop things.

Now Apple on the other hand have a very different ethos – Sir Jonny Ives has recently said that they don’t aim to make money – just the best of anything – if that is then successful, and makes money, that is a bonus.

However, my concern is that Apple may be going the way of Microsoft. Money talks and Microsoft used to be able to buy their way out of trouble – that is not an issue for them at the moment and the once most valuable company in the world is now far from being this (it’s now Apple).

Apple have always been litigious, their current ‘spat’ with Samsung is the latest in a long line of court cases. And the ruling that Samsung should pay them $1bn in damages just seems too crazy to be right. I accept that protecting your designs and technology is important but this just appears bizarre! I particularly liked part of Samsung’s response to the ruling;

“it is unfortunate that patent law can be manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners”.

I just hope that Apple don’t get to the point that they take their eye off the development ball to sue people.

What I have seen leaked about the new iPhone looks good – but is it really going to be so much better than the current Samsung’s? What I have seen of them suggests that they may well be ahead of Apple already! Are Apple taking their eye off the ball already?

It’s good to talk….

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You may recall the BT advert from a few years ago that tried to get us all to use our telephones to talk to each other – it was apparently ‘good to talk’. Time moves on and it now seems that it isn’t and we are more likely to text each other than speak!

According to Ofcom while 58% of people communicated via texts on a daily basis in 2011, only 47% made a daily mobile call, the shift away from traditional ways of keeping in touch being led by young people aged 16-24 (no surprise if you have your own teenager).

The report confirms that on average UK consumer now send 50 texts per week while fewer calls are being made on both fixed and mobile phones (certainly our home phone is more of a decoration now).

However for the first time, there was a fall in the volume of mobile calls – by just over 1% – in 2011, while landline calls were down by 10% and overall time spent on the phone fell by 5% in 2011.

This change in behaviour is believed to be down to greater ownership of internet-connected devices – smartphones like the iPhone;

  • 39% of adults now own a smart phone, a 12% increase on 2010.
  • 42% of these now say their smart phone is the most important device for accessing the internet, with a similar percentage regularly using social networking sites and 51% using e-mail.
  • The average consumer spends 90 minutes a week accessing social networking sites and email.
  • Tablet ownership is also on the rise, with 11% owning such a device, up from 2% last year.
  • According to Ofcom, tablets are most often used in the home as a “snacking version” of the home PC.

So probably no surprises here, but a confirmation that the smart phone is beginning to play a very important part in all our lives – and is perhaps going to kill off the basic telephone before too long. It is also sad that people now prefer not to talk to each other. Is this the start of something more insidious in our behaviour?

It’s official – iPad is cool!

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I have to say that this made me laugh – the constant war that is being waged between Apple and Samsung (and others, but Samsung are ‘public enemy No.1) does get rather wearing. It always revolves around some form of patent or design argument and nearly always gets sorted by the transfer of money one way or the other.

Obviously the one on the left is cool………..

Apples recent attempts to stop the new Samsung S3 phone from being sold says it all – Apple are worried and feel they have a real competitor at last! Having said that I don’t believe that the Android OS is as good as iOS and consequently it will never fully replace iOS, but it isn’t bad!

The recent case relating to the Samsung Galaxy tab is what amused me – Apple claimed that the Tab was a copy of the iPad and should therefore be banned from sale. Quite how you can have a patent or copyright on a genre of equipment is beyond me – but I thought the way the judge handled it was just perfect;

He said that the Samsung wasn’t cool like the iPad – so consequently could not be a copy. In effect both sides win – Apple are confirmed as having a cool product, but Samsung can still sell theirs because it isn’t cool!

Frankly brilliant – that judge should (and probably did) feel extremely smug!

Five years on – still a market leader?

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Amazingly it is five years ago that Apple changed the way we all interact with our phones. Yes there were smartphones before the iPhone, and they were very capable things – I used various Windows-based units and they could run lots of program’s much like the iPhone does – but the similarity ends there.

20120701-101954.jpgThe iPhone brought with it an idiot proof interface – having and using a smartphone was no longer the preserve of the ‘geek’ or ‘techy’. The beauty of the iPhone OS is that it just works – sounds really obvious to us all now, but those familiar with the old Windows mobile OS’s will remember the constant need for reboots or the crashes! Also the user interface was just plain clunky compared to Apples iOS!

So in five years the iPhone has made huge progress in its market place and is now able to offer the majority of the functionality that the old smartphones offered (but in a far more user-friendly manner). It has also been ‘copied’ by Google’s Android OS, this is a very capable system and now has some very capable hardware to run it on – and this is where I am going with this blog. Apple need the next iPhone to be very, very good. They are now constantly in the courts with Samsung trying to stop their phones being sold – and that can only be because they fear them!

From my recent trial of the new Samsung S3 I can see why, it is very good. The screen is larger than the iPhone 4, it is thinner, lighter and a much nicer shape (I am not a fan off the square sided 4 if I am honest, (I loved the 3GS).

So, much as I love my iPhone I am worried that if Apple don’t produce an awesome iPhone next time around they will lose the lead in the smartphone market which would be a very sad turn of events. So here’s hoping for a good one!