Friday, January 29, 2010

Tony Kornheiser on grandchildren: "I don't think I'm going to be the great grandfather that other people have become."

My feeling is: just give 'em (the grandchildren) some money and let them do what they want to do. 'Cause if I'm still active enough to do what I want to do, why would I want to do it with them?

A New York Times review of the iPad

Until I saw the demo, I wondered why you'd want an iPad instead of a laptop. After all, the price is about the same...
Now, though, it looks like Apple really has created something new. Criticisms of "Like a laptop" and "a big iPod Touch" don't really do justice to the possibilities.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Our present economy, explained in a way that most of us can understand

That is if you don't find rap any more confusing than economic theory. Hayek and Keynes kinda make the whole East-Coast/West-Coast rap thing seem pretty trivial.

Tyler Cowen's reaction to the iPad

My theory is that Apple wants to capture a chunk of the revenue in this nation's enormous textbook market -- high school, college, whatever. Why lug all those books around? The superior Apple graphics, colors, and fonts will support all of the textbook features which Kindle botches and destroys. Apple takes a chunk of the market revenue, of course, plus they sell the iPads and some AT&T contracts. There are lots of schoolkids in the world.

and later

The story here is one of new markets, not cannibalization or even competition.

Read the full content at Marginal Revolution.

On the iPad, a reaction by The New Republic

A reaction by The New Republic, shared via NPR, written by Nicholas Carr:

The PC era ended yesterday morning at ten o'clock Pacific time, when Steve Jobs stepped onto a San Francisco stage to unveil the iPad, Apple's version of a tablet computer. Tablets have been kicking around for a decade, but consumers have always shunned them. And for good reason: They've been nerdy-looking smudge-magnets, limited by their cumbersome shape and their lack of a keyboard. Tablets were a solution to a problem no one had...

Read the entire text here

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Arby's and the iPad

Today I grabbed lunch from Arby's. Not healthy food, for sure, but food I like in certain circumstances. They have a unique product in their roast beef sandwich and although the market share of roast beef sandwiches is probably a small portion of fast food sales, I imagine the typical Arby's consumer is fairly faithful. What I realized, however, is that I don't purchase the sandwich when I choose Arby's. I purchase the sauces.

I don't suppose that the Horsey Sauce and Arby's Sauce are exceptionally remarkable--one is a mayonnaise-horseradish blend and the other a mild barbecue sauce--but I certainly would not choose the Arby's product without them. Maybe that choice seems a bit superficial, but I think that's an interesting circumstance and I imagine we make choices like this on a surprisingly regular basis. I was thinking through this and tried to consider which products I may have purchased for similar reasons and I come with two similar examples that appear to be opposite: the iPod and the iPhone.

The iPod is certainly one of the most successful consumer electronic devices of the past 20 years, but I'm not sure anyone buys the iPod because they're wowed by a superior product. Certainly, there are some great advantages to the iPod as a piece of hardware, but it seems that we buy the iPod because it functions with iTunes. Ironically, iTunes is free. iTunes is also rather simple and doesn't appear at face value to be worth purchasing an expensive piece of hardware to coordinate your music and video, but turn that question around and answer for yourself: would you buy an iPod if it would not work with iTunes? Certainly there are competitor products that (without iTunes) are superior or at least equally viable.

The iPhone is probably the most successful electronic device ever (or I expect it will become such), however it seems to have achieved success in the opposite manner. It seems that the device drives the complimentary products. Some of the functions and applications of the iPhone make it an entirely desirable device, but I don't think I would ever buy an iPhone simply because I can download games or use the address book in a certain manner. I may choose to buy an iPhone over another smartphone because of an option like these, but I'm not jumping from a standard mobile device to the iPhone for this reason. Then again, the iPhone stands out in part because you must buy the device to get the complimentary software. Maybe this distinction is not as great as it may seem; maybe I'm imagining it all.

Now to the iPad, which Apple has today released. The discussion in the coming weeks will be whether anything comes from this product as a "third device" or whether it flops as many electronic devices certainly have. What exactly will the iPad do? Why should I want to purchase an iPad?

Well, Apple has unveiled this product and what do we think? From the New York Times live blogging of the event:

You get the feeling that the iPad is creating and killing categories at the same time. It is a remarkably ambitious project in terms of all the things — photos, games, video and e-mail — that it is attempting to grab market share in.

One of the weird things about the presentation is how it is really all about the software. The gadget itself is transparent, a window into software. There is really only a single mechanical button on the device, the “on” button. The rest is all fingers interacting directly with software.

This makes sense for Apple. We don't need another electronic device. The iPad will fail if it's an electronic device only. We don't need a new end product. We've got enough expensive crap already and we don't need any more expensive crap. What we need is a new medium. We need something to replace newsprint. We need to know that what we do and how we do it are insufficient. We need to be shown how insufficient our methods have become and we need to be shown how satisfactory are the new methods this product allows. We need to want what we've forgotten to want. If the iPad shows us that, it will be revolutionary and entirely successful.

Want to read your books in a better way? A better way than the Kindle? Apple has called out Amazon to a duel, and this will be interesting, but that's not the only purpose for the iPad. I don't think it can stand on that foot only. Will it be a new gaming platform? Will Nintendo (DS) and Sony (PSP) be called to the duel? Can you dock this in your car and navigate to your destination? Will Garmin be called to the duel?

But Apple isn't simply dueling with the iPad. Apple is also partnering. What will be the future of print media? We won't likely see newsprint editions of the New York Times in 10 years. We also won't see it on Amazon's Kindle. Will we all be reading our newspapers on iPads and similar devices in 2020? Maybe.

I'll watch and see what happens and see if any of the options have that certain flavor that tells me there is no other way to satisfy my desire. Horsey Sauce anyone?