So it seems like Apple won't change the basic value chain for mobile phones after all. By moving back to a straight, up-front subsidy from the carriers, rather than a services revenue sharing arrangement, Apple is saying the iPhone is going to play by the same rules as everybody else. What this also indicates is that, in case there was any doubt, the iPhone:
- Is definitely in a platform war
- Will be a hub for Apple services and software -- at the expense of carrier services.
Nokia's already strongly headed in both those directions. Will RIM and Microsoft go beyond platforms? Google will, assuming it ever actually gets into this market...
Finally, with a keynote today, the speculation ended on what would and wouldn't appear in the new iPhone. Lots of press on this topic today, but I'm going to focus on a couple of the highlights for me coming out of the event.
The price point of $199. Wow. A few years ago, only about one-fifth of cell phone owners were willing to pay more than $100 for a cell phone. That percentage has been creeping up year over year. Use of social networks, better browsers and faster network speeds (among other factors) have created an appetite for devices with QWERTY keyboards. Consumers are willing to pay more. Moreover, compared to the prices announced last year, this seems like a bargain. This new price point is a lot more easy to rationalize than the one last year - last year Apple spoke to the notion of phone + portable media player + portable browsing device, etc.
... all of it added up, and it made several hundred dollars seem like a bargain. Consumers didn't "buy" the story. The $199 price point is a real cell phone price that will be attractive to a lot of consumers. Still missing a great camera, but hitting the target on price and making some of it's competitors look expensive.
MobileMe - this was the portion of the announcement that I was most excited about. To date, Apple has been one of the few companies (perhaps only) pulling together the content pieces (photos, videos, music) that increase the switching cost to consumers. When it comes to cell phones, consumers aren't that brand loyal - at least here in the US in the land of subsidies. Content, however, increases the switching costs - iTunes and iPhoto - combine content and UI familiarity to build a loyal base of customers.
One of the pieces that's been missing at least from Apple's portfolio has been a strong social networking play. It's fantastic to have the sync features across all of my devices. We know consumers want to buy content once, create playlists once, pay for access once, etc. and then be able to access from any device. Apple sets a high bar here that has been challenging to replicate at least with media. (Their "nod" to MS on "Outlook for the rest of us" acknowledges that) Consumers also want to be able to share.
I was so surprised to see Mark Zuckerberg's face on a NY Times "blogging heads" feature titled "McCain In Disarray?"
I didn't know that he was supporting a candidate in this election... or maybe he has something to say about the effectiveness of the candidates' engagement with online communities ... ?
No. It turns out that the "BloggingHeads" debate is actually between Chris Hayes of The Nation, and Matthew Continetti of The Weekly Standard (his face is on the right). I guess it's just a blooper by the New York Times photo department.
I'm a guy who's pretty comfortable with product placement, and pretty hard on bloated news organizations. But I'm a little anxious about this story in the NY Times on promoting a hot new toy -- Bakugan Battle Brawlers -- via old fashioned roadshows. The story comes complete with photos and video supplied by the toy company. Ironically, the company's called Spin Master.
In other countries, Apple has consistently pursued a policy of partnering exclusively with the largest carrier. Why didn't Apple do this in Japan? There's some speculation that Apple's deal with Softbank might not be exclusive - They might just be using Softbank to gain leverage in negotiations with NTT DoCoMo. (And, who knows, maybe Apple could then offer the 3G iPhone through DoCoMo later this year?)
I get the feeling that it's not such a sophisticated decision. My "gut" tells me that it may simply be a pragmatic move to get the Apple iPhone into Japanese consumers' hands without further delay.
When I look at registration forms on web sites, I often have a hard time selecting the right options from drop down menus...
Today, I registered as a "member of the Adobe community" -- On the form, I was a little surprised that to see that I could select "Analyst" under title. That's rare... I also noticed that I could select "End User."
Does anyone in any company in any country in the world have the title "End User"?
Imagine visiting a company that employed people with the title "End Users":
I was watching the Stanley Cup Finals last night. There was a really good mix of ads from Verizon. (I have Tivo, but I slowed down to watch these ads). They were promoting NHL video content during an NHL game. They were promoting goals scored, highlights, etc. The ads featured the phones. Verizon also did their traditional network quality ads, but they mixed in a few promoting the video service. It seemed to be really smart marketing in that they a) were focused on an audience interested in the content and b) that they presented a use case for watching video on the cell phone - watching the goals and highlights or seeing updates during the game. The small screen in this case would complement the larger screen rather than substitute. This kind of marketing should help drive consumer interest.
Saw another story today (see Fierce) on MediaFLO/Verizon/AT&T and the upcoming U.S. Open. "Live" coverage - great idea.
Just had a nice briefing with Gigya, one of the largest widget platforms out there. They are getting a lot of traction by allowing their widget makers to offer online users an advertising widget as a companion to their own widget. Advertisers get the opportunity to be seen across MySpace, Facebook and others with one buy. It's a voluntary download on the user's part. Surprisingly, campaigns typically will get tens to hundreds of thousands of downloads. Gigya says that the download rate is so good that advertisers buy on a "cost per install" rate and end up paying a decent but not obscene amount - $1 to $2 CPI. They also track the rate of interactions, which have been 11 percent on some recent campaigns.
Liza Hausman of Gigya has three words of advice for advertisers when it comes to designing a popular widget: simple, shiny, and shareable.
Professional journalists blogging is often a good idea. Fresher, faster takes, with some personality added, and the chance for a "conversation." (Though not here, bigod.) However, venerable trade journals trying desperately to remain relevant in the 21st Century to reach a younger audience online should be a little choosy about how they apply the technique. Check out this comment:
I'm with B. Younger, this is hardly news to anyone with a life. The 26 to 40 year-old demographic is reading this blog, btw, and I think you just lost their attention.
If Variety e-in-c Peter Bart was just being ironic - or practicing the time-honored tradition of "any excuse to run a sexy photo" - well, he needs a gag writer.