Entering the evolution phase of mobile + product leaks – fearless leader = less exciting talks

Some are disappointed in the iPhone 5 announcements today. There were no surprises. No “one more thing” of the Tim Cook era.

This isn’t to say that solid progress wasn’t made, but it shows what a different time we are in.

There are the calls of “see! Steve isn’t there any more! Apple is doomed!” That is hogwash, and we need to put this all in perspective:

1. They will sell a boat load of devices

Ask someone who wasn’t happy about the event “are you going to get one?” and see what they say. Every Apple user that I have asked has said yes. The device in your pocket has become indespensble. I don’t want to get all Jonny Ive on you, but it is very personal indeed. Making something that you touch and use constantly even a little better can be “worth it.”

2. The iPhone 5 has fierce competition, including iPhone 4S!

What is Windows 8’s biggest competition? Windows XP (and other old versions). This is the nature of a more mature market. The first iPhone competed with feature phones and Blackberry devices! It was a revolution in mobile in that it brought the full Web to your pocket (and the other items that Steve mentioned… such as unifying music and the phone itself).

There was still much room to improve. We got the biggest feature of all in “apps”, which is still the biggest reason to be an iOS user. We got faster connectivity. We got amazing displays.

Fast forward to today though, and you see much more niche features. Going from the iPhone 4S display to the 5’s will be fantastic, but not in the same league as moving from a RAZR to an iPhone. We also have the real competition of the Android ecosystem.

I am sitting on a plane right now and the flight attendent is telling me how she switched from iOS to Android and a Galaxy S3. She was thinking of switching back to the iPhone 5 but after hearing the news she doesn’t want to. I asked why and she said:

– I want my music and apps free (perception of cheap cheap cheap on Android)
– I prefer the S3 screen (size and quality… note she has never actually seen the 5’s screen 😉
– I prefer Google Now to Siri
– I prefer apps such as Gmail, Google Maps and driving directions, and others.

It is interesting to get a few into the perceptions. Android is doing very well indeed and is a force. I would argue that Google is innovating faster than Apple in many ways, especially on the “services” side (e.g. Google Now) and that favors Google. We are at a point where hardware is getting better but software is huge, and we are going from simple algorythms to truly complex (it is hard to get Google Now right!)

Where do we go from here? What were you hoping for? For me I would love to see leaps in the areas of:

– NFC-ish. Google Wallet is awful. I have yet to see it work, and Apple has an obvious play here.
– Inputs: Haptics, better software input (SwiftKey, Swype, etc)
– Siri that works
– Airplay that really works
– Decent stereo speakers
– The fold out displays 🙂
– Camera that works in low light

Game on.

Was the strategy wrong, or the execution? Web vs. Native at Facebook

Folks love black and white. It is so much easier to make choices that way, and it is interesting to see people jump onto “see the Web sucks!” after Mark Zuckerberg’s interview yesterday.

Although everyone has jumped on the HTML5 comment (being the biggest mistake the company has made), there were a few other interesting comments made:

– The fact that the Facebook mWeb site has more usage than iOS and Android combined (read: the Web [reach] is still very important as an experience).

– The fact that the latest iOS application has doubled engagement (double the stories). It is pretty amazing to see a product as large as Facebook get rebooted in this way. The app looked pretty much the same (a few UX touches, but pretty minimal) before and after.

So obviously, HTML5 sucks and native rocks.

Not so fast. Let’s look at what we know from the history of the Facebook app.

Joe Hewitt single-handedly created the first version as a native application. It was lauded with praise. He created the Three20 project which had a bunch of the infrastructure that he created as he made the application. Not only were their useful components, but also some homage to CSS 🙂

Once Joe moved on to other projects, new engineers came in to enhance the iOS application and it didn’t go well. The app degraded in quality and people started to complain.

I have *no idea*, but I could imagine a mobile team forming and saying “hey, this 320 stuff is complex…. and we want to move really fast…. and it doesn’t fit in well with our architecture…. and this HTML5 thing is hot…. and we have a lot of Web devs (some of the best in the world)…. so let’s switch to that?”

Unfortunately, the “HTML5″version was not well received (even if it had more features, and if folks liked the switch to the left menu style) due to performance problems. I hated the app. It would tell me I had 3 notifications, and then when I tap to see, it shows me 2. It was always wrong, and always slow.

The cross platform strategy may have been wrong, or maybe execution was part of the deal? Having stacks of WebViews was awful. The networking was wack. Many wonder if the implementation was at least part of the problem. I have to think that it was part of the problem.

The other part was the platform itself. UIWebView sucks, and let’s not get started on the Android WebView. The platforms are not incented to fix many of the issues, so maybe the strategy was wrong due to that.

I actually like the strategy they have employed now. All out native for the experience with a “+Web” strategy. One of the real “cons” with native is that you can’t change UI presentation easily. You need to know what you want to change. What if a new type of content+action appears in the news feed… and the app doesn’t know how to display it. At this point the Web can backfill the rendering.

A hybrid native+Web strategy. That is what we employ too.

I think it is always important to remember that:
– We don’t know everything that has happened
– There is a difference between a failure due to the strategy, versus poor execution.

We’re in this together vs. You’re on your own

I really enjoyed Bill Clinton’s speech. It is refreshing to have some content and policy in a speech isn’t it?

A Republican friend said something that I found very interesting. He thought that Democrats are hypocritical when they talk about how people vote against their own interest when they vote Republican.

Why would a poor chap in the South vote for a few rich folk to get tax breaks? In America there is a feeling of “one day I will be that rich guy! That is the American Dream!” This is foolish indeed. We have plenty. We have enough to give you that dream today.

The hypocritical remark related to that fact that if you are a rich Democrat, you ALSO are voting against your interest. Surely you are crazy to not give yourself the tax hike!

This kind of thinking makes sense with a Republican mindset of “me”. If you have the mindset of “us”, then it isn’t voting against yourself at all. We are all connected, and together we can create much more growth for all.

Our planet is small, and we are certainly all in this together. Let’s make it count.