Tag Archives: TechCrunch

Deeper iPad Intel: To Buy Or Not To Buy

SCap_ 2010-04-06_75Now that the dust has settled a bit on the iPad launch (unlike that from the Icelandic volcano which is keeping me in Europe for a few days longer than planned), it is time for a round-up of initial impressions.

And while everyone has predictably been falling all over themselves to get in a lot of general reporting about the debut, yours truly has been busy curating the less obvious, in order to get to the bottom of the question – to buy or not to buy…

The Form Factor Issue

After testing out the iPad at the Apple Store in Austin for about 20 minutes, and then again the following Monday at BestBuy for nearly 2 hours, I have to concur with the commentators that said it was a bit on the heavy side.

Not so much in the sense of the weight itself, but in the sense of being distributed in slightly too large of a form factor (kind of like overly large furniture making moving of it more awkward even if the item isn’t that heavy).

Not once did I think that that there wasn’t enough shown on the 9.7″ screen. Instead, it was almost too much. And watching various commentators such as Scoble et al. on the review by The Gillmor Gang wield theirs for the camera, they looked a bit too large as well. Wield is the right word for it come to think of it.

I said in January after the announcement that I had wished for the iPad to be “one size smaller”, about paperback size. Slightly smaller screen, less bezel instead, to keep it at about 4 x times iPhone size, rather than 6 x. If it had to be slightly thicker to fit batteries and other entrails, then so be it. No one seems quite as obsessed with (device) thinness as Steve Jobs come to think of it.

We’ll see if one of the other tablets planned for Android/Chrome OS or Windows will take advantage of this smaller form factor. [UPDATE: Looks like Dell is going to, with 5″ and 7″ screen versions of its Streak tablet. 5″ seems a bit too small given that the current largest smartphones are already nearing 4.5 inch screens.]

Think about it like this: A 10″ screen held at 2 feet equates to a 50″ screen at 10 feet! (This is why no one thinks that hard about the little screens in the airplane seat backs being too small to watch many hours of movies on long flights.)

Right now I have my laptop on my lap, with the 15″ screen about 2 feet away. The iPad would have to be held with your arms fully out-stretched to create the same distance. At about 1/2 – 2/3 of that distance, the current iPad screen size will actually be the same (at 2/3) or even bigger than that (at 1/2 distance). I really think a 7-8″ diagonal screen would be completely sufficient.

And make the tablets much easier to wield…

The keyboard issue

There are several aspects to this:

Continue reading Deeper iPad Intel: To Buy Or Not To Buy

Key excerpt on Decoy Pricing from: “TechCrunch: The Subplots Of The iPad”

TechCrunch writes in The Subplots Of The iPad Blockbuster:

As I laid out a few weeks ago, it seems pretty likely that it was Apple that leaked much of the information to The Wall Street Journal about the tablet device prior to its launch — including the bogus $1,000 price from “analysts.” Later, a former Apple employee corroborated this.

Why would they do this? It’s simple. As I said at the time, if they plant the idea in peoples’ minds that a product will be $1,000, then release it for significantly cheaper, it’s a huge win for Apple. So when Jobs announced the entry-level iPad would be $499 yesterday, it was an absolute home run.

I have said for a good while that Apple is purposefully leaking "information" (mixed with misinformation) in just the right doses and intervals to keep the launch mania pot stewing, ending in a rolling boil crescendo right at launch.

(See: The Apple Tablet And Planned Insanity and as early as 8/08: Apple’s "Magician" Archetype Branding Revisited: Good News – Bad News .)

Now when it comes to seeding these price point speculations, they added yet another twist I’ve previously reported on: Decoy Offers or Decoy Pricing.

What it boils down to is that since all price perceptions are relative to a given context (ALL meaning arises in context by the way), if you can create a context where the price point at which you eventually offer something appears low, you will sell a lot more.

To quote my prior post:

Dan Ariely’s excellent "Predictably Irrational" talks about such contextual "decoy offers" that can boost sales for the item the seller really wants people to buy. As an example he uses a past offer by british business magazine The Economist:

It had listed $59 for on-line access only, $125 for print-only, and $125 for print & Web combo subscriptions, and had thereby significantly boosted the number of the expensive combo subscriptions sold (vs. test offers that omitted the seemingly non-sensical $125 print-only option)!

Obviously Apple just took things a step further: Since the Decoy Offer is not expected to be taken by anyone, it really doesn’t matter if you ever really formally write it up anywhere. Just introduce a high price point via a leak and nurture it (by not disputing the rumors) for a while, then triumphantly announce that the thing is actually going to cost HALF that.

If there had been no context of the prior (seeded) expectations, then the announcement of the entry-level iPad costing $499 would have been only referenced against other things in the consumer’s/prospect’s (that includes you!) mind:

Prices for other electronics items, other computers, other Apple products, asf. And the comparison may not have been favorable, or, a wash (no signal one way or the other).

Instead it was compared to a price point that for many months had already been talked about by all and sundry as reasonable, maybe high, yes, but definitely in the realm of the possible.

The expectation that the iPad was going to be a rather expensive and substantive device became more and more firmly established in people’s minds everyday this way. Now if you announce it at HALF, everybody’s knee-jerk reaction becomes: "This is a bargain!"

One more thing that Apple pulled off here is to establish the low $499 entry-level price as an ANCHOR price to pull this stunt off. Even though most people will spend substantially more for the iPad they really want, with 3G wireless and not just Wifi, and with more memory storage.

I doubt apple expects to ship too many of the $499 iPads. In essence, they created yet another decoy offer!

Writes TheNextWeb in I Call It The iLetdown – Why The iPad Missed The Mark And Blew Its Big Day:

Getting right into it, the lowest price for the iPad point is a mirage. A non-expandable device that has a total of 16 gigabytes of storage? Assuming a usable 15 gigabytes of space, I can fit less than a third of my music onto the device. Excellent. And zero percent of my photos. And videos. And apps, of course. So to say that Apple has created a mass market tablet for $500 is a little disingenuous.

So really what we have here is a Double Decoy, so to speak…

Twitter Tries To Change Retweets, Doesn’t Get The Social In Social Media

A passage from Twitter CEO Evan Williams’ post why the new, formalized Retweet function "works the way it does" shows lack of depth and clarity in Twitter’s thinking about the significance of trying to replace the "Retweet" (RT) forwarding convention, something that arose organically from its community without any assistance by the company whatsoever:

The attribution problem: In order to get rid of the attribution confusion, in your timeline we show the avatar and username of the original author of the tweet—with the person who retweeted it (whom you actually follow) in the metadata underneath. The decision is that this:

…is a better presentation than this:

No fault of @AleciaHuck’s but the first is simply easier to read, and it gives proper credit to @badbanana. Even if you know @AleciaHuck, there’s no benefit to having her picture in there.


So here is the big problem: That last half sentence (my BOLD highlight) shows complete ignorance of the way that Twitter works as a social engine and calculus.

Twitter users, whether consciously or not, are with each tweet putting a little bit of previously accrued social capital they have with their "followers" (Twitter users that are subscribed to them) on the line. So the act of forwarding another, often third party user’s tweet is significant in that it is a form of a micro-endorsement for this user that their followers are themselves typically not even subscribed to.

If the text of the forwarded tweet or (in many cases) the link to further content that it contains is ill received, the retweeting user in some sense is held accountable by their followers. At best, only a little bit of "social capital" is deducted, at worst, some will unfollow completely.

The user has put their stamp of approval on the retweeted content, and if it contained a link, it is largely expected that by extension the content at the end of that link was read and approved of as well.

(There are some exceptions to this when the news contained in a tweet is considered "breaking" enough so that the timeliness criterion overrides the need for checking out all of the content at the end of a link first. But, as most Twitter users have discovered before, the risk of forwarding something that turns out to be of questionable quality or outright bogus or even harmful goes up exponentially. "Blind" retweeting of links should be avoided.)

So, because of this micro-endorsement element, a Retweet has always gone well beyond a mere surfacing mechanism. Social media statistician Dan Zarrella in a prescient post a few months ago warned that the proposed RT formalization would do away with this form of social proof inherent in the RT convention ("Using the orig­i­nal poster’s pic & name in my time­line destroys any social proof the ReTweeter may have lent the Tweet.").

Known Avatar = Benefit

Back to the example given in the excerpt, there is in fact a GREAT benefit inherent in the picture/avatar of a user you have been following for any length of time: It is known to you, it is far less of a stranger all things being equal.

You have imbued it in your mind, by way of repetition (active Twitter users may be seeing the profile pictures/avatars of other active followed/friended users hundreds or even many thousands of times), with some trust and social capital.

It has been pointed out by multiple people that the surprise of seeing a "stranger’s" avatar in one’s Twitter inbound stream is downright shocking to some people, so strong is the identification with known people one has been following.

This has been one of the 1st rules of Twitter: You see only who you elect to see (i.e. follow).

If the avatar is now switched out to show that of the original author of the forwarded tweet, this trust is gone, unless the recipients (your followers) also happened to be following that same user. But even if they were, you, the Retweeter, are now cut out of the equation!

The social capital you put on the line is now not really rewarded anymore by having you be clearly associated with the surfacing of the information for the benefit of your followers. This can, especially over time, have several unintended consequences:

Continue reading Twitter Tries To Change Retweets, Doesn’t Get The Social In Social Media

Social Media Lessons: Controversy Erupts Surrounding Facebook’s “Twitterization” Redesign

Yet another controversy has erupted around Facebook (the recent Terms of Service PR disaster having barely scabbed over) in the last few days, this time around the redesign of the Facebook user "Home" page (the profile page was redesigned last year), which is adding a real-time feed more along the lines of micro-blogging service Twitter.

While I personally am all for that change, having been an ardent Twitter user since early last year, there has been plenty of backlash from Facebook users about the extent of these changes. And all of the usual suspects of the blogosphere are weighing in, with heavy-weights like TechCrunch’s Mike Arrington and Robert Scoble siding with Facebook’s right to basically do what it wants with the free service it provides.

Even going so far as arguing that listening to your customer too much can be counterproductive. Here is a quote from Mike Arrington’s piece "No! Never Surrender To Your Users, Facebook.":

In an interview last year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg talked with me about how users are willing to accept change over time, and that Facebook would continue to push things along. Suddenly, though, they surrender because a few users have a belly ache over a redesign.

If they wanted to make these changes anyway, they shouldn’t have titled their blog post “Responding to Your Feedback.” They should have just continued to ignore the ranting, and announced further changes. Showing that you’re listening to feedback just invites more of it.

Someday, if they’re not careful, someone is going to do to Facebook what Facebook did to MySpace, who in turn did it to Friendster. Making users happy is a suckers game. Pushing the envelope is what makes you a winner.

While I can see their point to a degree, social media represent a whole new ballgame in many ways, which it makes it harder to predict what will happen. While these “A camel is a horse designed by committee" ideas may have validity in the realm of physical product design (Scoble is using a quote from a mentor about the problems with crowd-sourcing the design of a Porsche), I would hold that things may not be so straight-forward in the digital/social media realm:

1) Facebook already had several cases where it needed to retreat in shame from changes to the Facebook platform, the biggest among them the Beacon activity-tracking system that caused such privacy concerns and general outrage among Facebook users that it had to basically be abandoned.

More recently, the above-mentioned Facebook Terms of Service (TOS) debate around changes that appeared to give Facebook almost complete, irrevocable control over a users data and images even PAST the closing of an account, brought forth a similat swift user community response, and backing off by Facebook (for now to the original TOS, with supposedly a crowd-sourced version being on the way).

So with this partial retreat by Facebook, incidentally again due to privacy concerns, they’re really batting 0 for 3. One would think that they would be wising up on the PR front by now. And so much for "Zuckerberg never backs down"…

2) Much of this is not really surprising since Facebook’s users are perfectly empowered through Facebook’s platform:

Continue reading Social Media Lessons: Controversy Erupts Surrounding Facebook’s “Twitterization” Redesign

Is Advertising Failing On The Internet?

Techcrunch.com today featured a guest post by Eric Clemons, Professor of Operations and Information Management at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania entitled "Why Advertising Is Failing On The Internet".

In the lengthy post he argues his "basic premise […] that the internet is not replacing advertising but shattering it", which due to its sweeping nature definitely warrants further examination. The post as of right now has generated well over 200 comments, on a Sunday, so it obviously hit a nerve.

Among other things, Professor Clemons makes the following points about advertising both online or via traditional broadcast media:


Consumers do not trust advertising. Dan Ariely has demonstrated that messages attributed to a commercial source have much lower credibility and much lower impact on the perception of product quality than the same message attributed to a rating service. Forrester Research has completed studies that show that advertising and company sponsored blogs are the least-trusted source of information on products and services, while recommendations from friends and online reviews from customers are the highest.

Consumers do not want to view advertising. Think of watching network TV news and remember that the commercials on all the major networks are as closely synchronized as possible.  Why?  If network executives believed we all wanted to see the ads they would be staggered, so that users could channel surf to view the ads; ads are synchronized so that users cannot channel surf to avoid the ads.

And mostly consumers do not need advertising. My own research suggests that consumers behave as if they get much of their information about product offerings from the internet, through independent professional rating sites like dpreview.com or community content rating services like Ratebeer.com or TripAdvisor.

While I would agree with all three points made, and would count them among important caveats for anyone choosing to advertise for anything in this day and age, I disagree with Professor Clemons’ basic premise. Here’s why:

I would argue that none of the major "Old Media" players online (or for that matter none of the "New Media" either) are anywhere close to having efficiently monetized their page views. Everyone is still clumsily fumbling around when it comes to intelligent targeting of ads, both as to offer theme, as well as to offer pricing.

(Or rather mostly lack thereof, as when trying to employ Madison Avenue "image advertising" without any clear offer being made. Which, if it ever worked on TV, etc., certainly isn’t working online. In fact, online it may increasingly create a negative image of a company/brand/product as "someone" who just doesn’t get it).

This is astonishing, when all it really takes is some common sense about selling people stuff that makes sense in the CONTEXT of what they were already doing.

First, let’s get clear on the fact that an article or opinion piece in e.g. the New York Times provides a lot more pointers as to readers’ state of mind/interest than most Google queries ever could (as do Web videos posted on such sites), so the failure to target properly is in part simply a form of laziness.

Continue reading Is Advertising Failing On The Internet?

Micro-hoo: TechCrunch Interview with Citi Analyst – more proof it’s a bad idea

I am not usually in the habit of creating posts with large scale quotations, but in this case, the information that was revealed, but buried in a longish interview (too long for most people’s itchy, "RSS Feed" attention spans :) is so important, and so validates what I’ve been saying for several weeks now, that I am going to break my own rule.

This is from an interview by TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington with Citi Bank analyst Mark Mahaney in regard to the proposed Microsoft-Yahoo deal:

MA: […] I heard that they commissioned an outside study sometime last year [that] suggested that they would have 85% plus increases in cash flow from outsourcing search to Google. […] I think you said that they would go from 4 cents to potentially up to 9 cents per search — is that right? Sort of, 40-90 dollar RPMs on searches?


MM: […] they actually said that they thought they — they didn’t name Google but it was obviously Google — that the difference in the monetization gap was 60 to 70%. That’s the first time we’d heard or seen Yahoo sign off on this specific gap.

No wonder that Yahoo has been flirting with outsourcing at least some of their paid search ads to Google: It’s instant money in the bank, to the tune of potentially 25-50% higher TOTAL cash flow! (TechCrunch rightly pointed this last one out, but omitted the underlying cause in their write-up.)

I came to a similar conclusion re:"the monetization gap" a week or so ago, just by looking at the respective search shares reported by ComScore, as well as the Q1 earnings numbers by Google and Yahoo.

Obviously, the numbers reported by Mahaney from an in depth study (that was apparently commissioned by Yahoo itself!) are much more authoritative. And to me, they therefore are the true bombshell out of this interview, though Google Q1 earnings were obviously enough of a bombshell to send their stock up over $100 in a few days.

Now beyond this very key admission, the further question obviously is how this portends for the proposed buyout of Yahoo by Microsoft. And here again Mahaney is pulling no punches,  and comes to a conclusion very similar to what I wrote here. Even though the TechCrunch summary of the interview again inexplicably omits his dire predictions.

Continue reading Micro-hoo: TechCrunch Interview with Citi Analyst – more proof it’s a bad idea