Updates – Revisiting Past Topics

Update columns are the crutch of columnists, both on and off-line.

Update columns are the crutch of columnists, both on and off-line.

A column of updates is every columnist’s favorite crutch when ideas aren’t flowing and blogging is no different. But of  course, I am doing an update column because I think that some of the previous topics I’ve written about earlier are worth updating, not because I’m suffering from a lack of ideas.

Mobile Phone Industry updates– AT&T signed up a record 3.2 million iPhone subsrcibers in the 3rd quarter of 2009. Much of that growth was driven by the new iPhone 3GS. So I may have been wrong in my earlier assessment that AT&T is not taking full advantage of the rare opportunity that the iPhone is giving them, but I think the jury is still out. As for their network issues, AT&T is trying to fix some of the very valid complaints about data performance with new deployments of  HSPA 7.2 equipment in select cities. This may help mitigate some of  the complaints about data issues but unfortunately those deployments aren’t in the Northeast corridor where I’ve found AT&T’s service especially spotty.

Verizon has decided to aim directly at the iPhone with their Google/Motorola Andriod phones with a series of ads using a similar design and tone of the iPhone ads but instead calling attention to what the iPhone doesn’t do – the ads are called iDon’t. I’m not sure if they are entirely accurate or fair but they definitely don’t pull any punches. Take a look at them youself. We’ll see how sales go now that device is out. I think Motorola has as much riding on this device, if not more, than Verizon does. Motorola is in the midst of a prolonged slump in the handset space and has been desperately trying to repeat the success of the Razr. The device looks to be better than the Moto Q ever was.

Palm Pre – the Pre is out, its interesting but it appears to be a case of too little too late. Palm will most likely be gone in another 18-24 months. They just don’t have the buzz or the application ecosystem to compete against the strength of the iPhone, the power of Google’s Andriod platform which is growing nor even the breadth of the Windows Mobile platform, as weak as that is. Plus Sprint couldn’t have been Palm’s first choice for an exclusive carrier.

iPhone Update– The Apple iPhone application ecosystem is growing ever larger and more powerful with the iPhone App store now exceeding 100,000 apps.  The most popular download on  iTunes University  is a 20-part lecture series from Stanford on application programming for the iPhone. I downloaded it myself and I’m trying to reengage those programming gears buried deep in my brain. It’s slow going for now, but learning about the Cocoa architecture is pretty interesting. I doubt I’ll be retiring early on the proceeds of my App Store revenue any time soon but other people are doing very well developing software solely for the iPhone. And given the ease of developing applications for the iPhone many businesses are starting to develop custom software for their workforce to increase end-user productivity.

Plus many schools are now requiring iPhones or iPod Touch’s for their incoming freshmen – among them my alma mater and the world’s oldest, and best, journalism school – The University of Missouri. The iPod Touch or iPhone will act as the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent. Before too long all of those users of iPods, iPhones and iTunes will seriously begin to consider Apple Macs as their laptop of choice. Sure they cost more but they are better designed than most hardware out there and the OS is arguably more elegant than Windows 7, and definitely far superior to the Windows XP or Windows Vista machine they are currently using.

This cartoon from Mashable and Hubspot sums up what some seeing social media devolving into.

This cartoon from Mashable and Hubspot sums up what some seeing social media devolving into.

Social Media Update –

Facebook keeps changing their interface driving users crazy. The whole Live Feed vs News Feed fiasco is pretty irritating for a lot of users. The buzz I hear from my friends, family and classmates is “why do they keep making it harder for us to use? Just when you learn the new interface they change it again.”  Given the range of ages of Facebook users – everyone from kids to their great-grandparents – it looks like Facebook could take some lessons from Apple on user-interface design.

Twitter, and Facebook for that matter, have essentially stopped growing at any significant rate according to Compete. That is their month-over-month growth has stalled, but annual growth over the last 12 months for Twitter has been over 660% and Facebook has grown over 200%. Pretty darn impressive, but for the last three months there has been no growth to speak of and every story about Twitter mentions its phenomenal growth, as well as the obvious lack of a revenue model. Now that the growth appears to be plateauing only time will tell if Twitter will start to shed users like MySpace and Bebo or be tossed onto the scrapheap of formerly cool web destinations along with Geocities before it starts to pay back its investors.

Computer Purchases– Although netbooks are interesting, It looks like Santa could be bringing a MacBook or MacBook Pro into our house. Over the last few weeks I’ve been doing a lot of research into Apple. Not just into the investing numbers, which are really extraordinary with a 34% CAGR since 2004, but also into the products and integration of Apple into corporate Windows networks.

IT for the longest time has focused on homogeneity in their corporate networks with the few reluctant islands of diversity mostly represented by Apple or Linux. And those Apple workstations were typically isolated islands of creativity located mostly in the marketing department. But with OS X  and the switch to Intel hardware there has been a sea change in the ease with which Apple’s OS X server Open Directory infrastructure can integrate with MS Active Directory.

Apple is already delivering hockey stick growth rates in iPhone sales but soon so will they in laptop sales.

Apple is already delivering hockey stick growth rates in iPhone sales but soon so will they in laptop sales.

This ease of integration coupled with Parallels or VMWare’s Fusion virtualization software means there is no reason that Macs can’t begin to assume a larger role in both corporate and educational networks given the extraordinary levels of customer satisfaction user of Macs profess. When the 88 people in my Babson MBA class started our Fast Track MBA program we had one Mac user, when we finished two years later we had 12. Not a large overall number, but an astounding growth rate especially among a group of formerly dedicated PC users in an environment – Business School – not known for being especially Mac friendly.

I think Apple will grow to own at least 25% market share of the Personal Computer market, both laptops and desktops, by 2013. You may think that is optimistic, but they’ve doubled market share from 4% to almost 9% in only five years and millions of people already use their iPods and Apple now has over 275 retail stores in the US. Plus there are several research reports claiming  that over 40% of incoming freshman on college campuses are using Apple Mac’s. That usage rate coupled with fierce brand loyalty means MS will have to compete even harder in future just to maintain market share. And I’m not sure Windows 7 is good enough to convince people to stay with Microsoft.

If, or should I say when, the long rumored Apple Tablet/netbook/coolest gadget ever is delivered I think this will drive still more people to switch to Apple’s products who may not have given Macs a thought since Mac OS 8.5. We’ll see what happens. Many Apple naysayers predicted the iPhone would be a dismal failure pointing to the Newton as proof that Apple makes mistakes. My thought is Apple swings for the fences – and both their batting average and their slugging percentage are pretty high.

What do you think? Will Apple continue to capture marketshare? What will happen with Twitter? Are you on AT&T? Are you happy, or not, with AT&T?  Are there other topics that you want to to revisit. Let me know what’s on your mind. -t

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