The Quiet iPad
(First published on 3/22/17 on 5ish Links, my newsletter — more)
Yesterday, Apple ever-so-quietly rolled out a new iPad. Some of the hot takes I saw online noted that this may mean doom for the iPad or Apple or both. Of course.
But why on Earth would Apple want to create a bunch of pomp and circumstance for what they unveiled yesterday? It’s simply a slightly upgraded and cheaper core iPad. It seems directly aimed at schools and organizations that don’t need the state of the art. Apple does pomp and circumstance for state of the art, not ho-hum (albeit, probably smart) upgrades to the bottom of the line.
So where are those other iPads? The sexy new ones? Unclear. Could come next month. Could come next fall. There would seem to be far too much smoke around them for there not to be a fire there. And, presumably, such upgrades would warrant an event of some kind.
I get the Apple Watch hate (though I still find it largely silly when put in perspective). It’s simply not a great device. But the iPad is a great device. And it’s an insanely great business. Bigger than most businesses, in fact! Yes, the growth is gone, but only because it started out of the gate like no other device before it. And unlike phones, it’s a device that you rarely need to upgrade. Which is also a testament to how well-made the iPad is, by the way.
Even in its “depressed” state, Apple continues to sell nearly 3x the number of iPads as they do Macs each quarter. And we continue to inch closer to an iPad being able to replace a Mac entirely for many people. Still my dream, one day…
Just as the British had earlier switched from coffee to tea (substituting one caffeinated drink in a cup for another), Americans switched from the Gros Michel banana to the Cavendish. The advertising was so good that the new banana, the Cavendish, was even more successful commercially than had been its predecessor, the Gros Michel. Bolstering the Cavendish’s sales was the shift of American populations to cities, where the connection between what consumers bought and what grew well locally had been severed. Sales of the Cavendish banana were strong, and they continue to be.
It is with very few exceptions the only kind of banana you find in stores outside the regions where bananas grow. Its success fuels the economies of whole countries. It is the biggest export of Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, and Belize and the second most valuable export for Colombia, Guatemala, and Honduras. If you were born after 1950, you are unlikely to have ever purchased any banana other than the Cavendish clone — other than what is now the world’s largest organism.
I don’t know about you, but I had no idea about any of this. And now because of the lack of diversity in bananas, we run the risk of losing them… It is, quite literally, bananas. 🍌
Decades’ worth of studies show that whenever cities add roads, new drivers simply fill them up. This isn’t because of new development or population growth — although that’s part of the story — but because of a vicious cycle in which new roads bring new demand that no amount of further roads can satisfy.
This has been studied at rush hour, studied on individual freeway projects and studied with large data sets that encompass nearly every road in the United States. With remarkable consistency, the research finds the same thing: Whenever a road is built or an older road is widened, more people decide to drive more. Build more or widen further, and even more people decide to drive. Repeat to infinity.
Latent demand that can never be satisfied without fundamental changes to the way we get around… Though I’m not sure the proposal here — taxing people driving in cities during peak times — is the right answer long-term, it could help (as it does in cities in Europe, for example) short-term.
In the fiscal year starting April 2017, assemblers under contract with Nintendo are now planning to manufacture 16 million or more Switches, up from an initial plan for eight million, said people briefed on the plans. Even after accounting for inventory, that suggests Nintendo believes it can sell significantly more than 10 million units during the 12-month period, they said, beating expectations of many analysts.
Great news for Nintendo. Of course, as with the NES Classic, it would seem that Nintendo badly underestimated demand once again. It’s one of those good problems to have — unless you underestimate so badly that by the time you’re able to fulfill demand, demand is waning…
Couple this with the fact that Nintendo obviously very badly overestimated demand for the last console, the Wii U. And the fact that they badly mis-priced Super Mario Run. And you have to wonder if the people running Nintendo actually do know what their users want. Or if they’re just throwing some stuff out there to see what sticks.
You can do that with great IP. For a while, anyway. If a few things fail to stick in a row… Anyway, still waiting to get my Switch!
It is easy to be impressed by what Mr Nadella has achieved in only three years. But it is far from certain that his technology bets will play out as planned. To run a computing cloud profitably you need hyper-efficient operations; something that Amazon, in contrast to Microsoft, has grown up with. Although Microsoft has expertise in AI, others, such as Google and IBM, got a far earlier start. Nor is designing integrated devices part of Microsoft’s DNA in the way it is for Apple. Augmented reality is an extremely promising field but HoloLens may turn out to be no more than an expensive toy for developers.
The narrative has been that Nadella has turned the ship around from the whirlpool Steve Ballmer was leading it into. But, as The Economist notes, the jury is still very much out as to just how “turned around” Microsoft really is now. Yes, it’s a decidedly more friendly and seemingly more innovative company once again, but that comes at the expense of the cash cows Ballmer milked to great effect for so long.
The end result may be a decidedly smaller Microsoft (in terms of both revenues/profits and presumably, headcount) as they move from one of the world’s most lucrative businesses, packaged software, to far more competitive, expensive, and unproven ones.
That’s not a bad thing necessarily. It’s just a very different company, and one that will have to have different metrics for success. Because apples-to-apples (pun sort of intended) comparisons to the legacy businesses of Microsoft probably won’t look too great, I imagine…
Cecilia Kang on the case of Kurt Eichenwald, a well-known journalist who has epilepsy, and had his illness attacked online by a tweet with a GIF:
The unusual case has shown how online tools can be deployed as weapons capable of physical harm. The F.B.I. and the Dallas police led the investigation into Mr. Rivello, and the police said he sent the strobe light knowing that it was likely to lead Mr. Eichenwald, who has publicly discussed his epilepsy, into a seizure.
Steven Lieberman, Mr. Eichenwald’s lawyer, has argued that the use of the strobe light in a GIF, or moving graphic, was akin to sending an explosive or poison in the mail.
What an insanely terrifying form of digital terrorism.
San Francisco once plotted to annex every municipality, more or less, within a 20-mile radius.
Great profile of (my friend) Gabe Rivera and his company Techmeme — a site which has been my main go-to for tech news for over a decade now.
This entire thing is pretty perfect.
(First published on 3/22/17 on 5ish Links, my newsletter)