Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Apple retail is unfriendly, almost hostile now

I saw this article on MacRumors: http://www.macrumors.com/2012/08/28/apple-retails-emphasis-on-profits-continues-tied-to-operational-perspective-of-cook-and-browett/

The last time I visited an Apple store in a mall, it felt uncomfortable.  It was tremendously crowded and the employees seemed to force smiles.  Software availability was at a minimum, and there were so many iDevices that there wasn't much room for traditional computers.

The first time I visited an Apple store was just after September 11, 2001.  Apple opened a retail store in Tampa's International Plaza near the airport.  A couple of friends lived northwest of there and I drove from the Orlando area to get them and go to the store together.  When we started to walk toward the mall, we stopped for a moment and realized the silence.  It was eerie.  There wasn't much activity other than people going to the new mall but all air travel had been suspended, and next to an airport, you'd expect to hear planes occasionally.

Finding the Apple store, there was a queue/line to enter.  I felt like one of the fanatics being there early enough to see the store open for the first time.  (I have a love-hate relationship with Apple, so it was strange.  I love their hardware designs, especially internally, but I'm always frustrated with their operating systems and lack of fixes.)  Being with friends, one of whom sold Apple equipment, I was interested to see how they would react.

As the store opened, the staff were cheering, and handing out t-shirts in tubes.  I was immediately reminded of The Gap clothing store, where I never shopped.  (Mind you, I've shopped at Old Navy and Banana Republic.)  The equipment was out on (fake) wood tables lining the walls, while there were two huge rows of software centrally located.  Given that Mac-related software was almost impossible to find at the time, this was as close to heaven as it came for a Mac user.  Of course, everything was at full retail pricing, even though you could occasionally find software elsewhere at a discount.

The store was pleasant and Apple made sure that employees kept you comfortable.  I remember mentioning that they should serve cappuccino and biscuits.  It had that kind of a feel.

I'll jump forward to 2006, to a store in the Los Angeles/Orange County area.  The previous year, I bought a PowerBook, and the company was making the transition to Intel processors when I was there at the store.  I was looking at a MacBook and its unusual keyboard.  (If you ever saw an iBook with most of its keys missing, you'll understand why they changed the keyboard.) A staffer started talking to me, and asked how I was, and if I was interested, and as soon as I got through the name "PowerBook", he turned and walked away.  How rude!  Considering the article, this was far earlier than 2009, when they were revising the store and its policies.

In 2007, as the iPhone became the holy grail and fandom, I became less and less settled with the fanatics.  I noticed that Apple were feeling similarly, banning some Mac-related website authors from their media events.  Having been at the Genius Bar in one of the Orlando area stores, I was practically assaulted by an iPhone owner who put the phone within 6 inches of my face, telling me how beautiful it was.  He could hardly catch his breath, he was so excited.

it seems with every new iDevice release, Apple has become a distant relative, even though I had a second generation iPod touch and now have an iPhone 4S to replace it.  My current computer is a mid-2009 MacBook on 10.6.8.  I'd like to update it, but they'll put that !@#$ Mountain Lion on it and it's not what I want.

In any case, I don't look forward to visits to the Apple store, especially if I have problems with the iPhone.  I did this once already.  (Seriously, Apple, if the phone's operating system can't clean up after itself, why should I do it manually?  This stinks like Multi-Finder and setting memory allocations.)  The probably is finding Apple equipment otherwise, although some Best Buy and fewer Target stores have Apple equipment available.  However, you don't have to deal with the fanatics and in Best Buy, you'll probably find more software available, since Apple has pushed everything (but Adobe software) to their online store.

It's just not fun or interesting now, and maybe Tim Cook and Peter Oppenheimer will see that and realize that profit > customer is not the correct relationship.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Samsung lost to Apple in various ways but...

I don't agree with lawsuits, in general.  I think there are better ways to resolve situations, unless the two sides just can't meet in the middle.  What's happened here should have been clear: Samsung copied Apple user interface elements and animation to replicate Apple's device experience.

Does it matter?  I'm just not certain.  I think it's annoying that they would copy.  My Samsung SPH-A900/Blade was a copy of a Motorola RAZR, and the name was obviously a rip-off.  If Motorola had patented the design, would they have been in court to stop Samsung?  Probably.

In fact, HandSpring/Palm, Nokia, and Motorola all had designs and design elements lifted by Samsung and added to Samsung's devices.  For that alone, Samsung should be sitting alone in the corner thinking about what they had done, just as school children who copy are set aside.

This is where I differ from the jury.  I don't see $1.05 billion in damages.  They should each pay their court-related costs and shut up.

As much as I don't like Samsung and I like Apple equipment (but not their legal department), both companies act like spoiled children and should be punished accordingly.  We need a global government to address these situations.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Google Nexus 7 tablet impressions

A few weeks ago, around the 8th or 9th of July, I had the ticket in my hand to buy one of these.  Sam's Club had the 16 GB tablets and I took the last ticket for a walk.

US$249.99 seems a deal for a powerful tablet with a 1280x800 display, even if it doesn't have a card slot for external storage.  The 8 GB is too expensive at its current price, as it doesn't have enough storage available to the user.

I tried one of these on Friday at another Sam's Club and I was impressed.  Unlike previous tablets with Android, it had good hardware and good software, apparently.  It made me feel that it wasn't rushed to market, although some reports would suggest physical problems.

I still don't really care for the long and thin shape, but it was heavy enough that it might stay in my hand, even if it did feel a bit awkward.  When Apple's 7.85 inch tablet arrives, it's in for a big test against the Nexus 7.  Will the extra visual space make a difference?  7.85 inches for a tablet sounds a good size to me.  Given recent revelations about the shape of the next iPhone, will the smaller iPad have a long and thin shape, as well?

Since I've got an iPhone 4S, I don't feel a particular need to have an iPad.  If all things are (fairly) equal, I think I'd end up with a Nexus 7.  If Apple does some extraordinary magic, I'll be surprised.  Since the iPhone 4, the iPod touch has been less wonderful than it had been in the past.  Sure, they upgraded it and enhanced it, but less so than iPhone whereas, it had been the other way prior to that generation, with better speeds and more storage.

Apple, of course, still has over 60 % of the tablet market, and hasn't deployed it in every country imaginable, nor have they deployed their app store, which definitely helps sell the product.

Google itself has brought something to market that's very desirable, through ASUS.

Samsung, the copier

Years ago, I bought a Samsung phone, the SPH-A900 otherwise known as Blade.  That name may make you think that it had something to do with the Motorola RAZR.  It was in many aspects, a copy.

The phone was rather broken, software-wise.  It didn't work well as a phone, but became my first 3G data modem, where the power-hungry display didn't kill the extended life battery I bought at extra cost.  Where I couldn't get 3 hours in typical phone/internet use, I would get around 6 hours of modem use.

I'd always hoped that Samsung would come to their senses and provide good software updates, but what they provided made the phone worse and the people at the Sprint store, weren't able to take the phone back to an earlier level of firmware, though they charged me for it.

At that time, multiple people I knew were angry about their !@#$ Samsung phones, each one a bit more vehement, it seemed.

I'd see the phones at the store, wondering why they looked like other phones in the store made by other companies.  If Samsung was a big player, why did they copy?

I thought back to Mazda's 1974 RX-3, which looked like AMC's Hornet hatchback or the 1975 Toyota Corolla SR 5 hatchback that looked like a 1970 Ford Mustang.  Pontiac made a habit of driving excitement by copying BMW.

I look at Apple's Macintosh and Digital Research's GEM from the mid-1980s.  They both used elements that had been presented in the Xerox Alto machine.  Of course, Apple hired Bill Atkinson and Susan Kare to do some of this work.  Many people from Xerox' Palo Alto Research Center went elsewhere to market their ideas when Xerox would not.

In art, taking inspiration from the greats is a given.  You learn from those who did something wonderful, and you create something of your own that is also quite wonderful, hopefully.  If you copy it, they call you a forger.

I'm unclear as to how Samsung has copied HandSpring/Palm, Nokia, and Motorola designs and no one noticed all this time.  Had those four companies filed design patents, would Samsung be in the business now?

I'm not saying that you should patent a rectangle, a simple button, or other unremarkable details; however, there is a point where the imitation is no longer flattering.

What saved HandSpring/Palm, Nokia, and Motorola in the old days was the Samsung was so terribly bad at software.  They couldn't care less about the software because they would have new phones to sell in the next 6 months.  Now that Android is their main base software, they care even less, but Google help a lot to keep customers able to use their phones.

It was sadly amusing this week when Susan Kare admitted to the court that she had inadvertently picked up a Samsung product, thinking that it was an iPhone.  The Samsung attorneys wanted her to describe in detail the differences, but the point was made.  Most people would never notice the differences.

I look at what HTC, LG, Nokia, Motorola and others are doing and their designs are unique.  Why can't Samsung do their own designs?  Mind you, I don't agree with Apple filing lawsuits but Samsung should do their own work, not copy others.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Instagram and something other than mobile phones

I saw a comment on a @getolympus post today.  The person was making a point about Olympus using Instagram to post photos relating to their users.

There are a huge number of iOS and Android users who have nothing else but mobile phones and some are quite good at capturing the moment.  Some even capture good photos that could be categorised as art.  I can envision the sneers at this time.  Great photographers can work with any equipment and produce good photos.  There are those who are too timid of stepping out on their own who must stay with a dSLR or rangefinder camera to produce their photos.  I count the majority of Canikon users among them.  After all, that's how they came to follow the followers.  However, I can imagine Ansel Adams picking up an iPhone and taking the time to make good photos.

It's not difficult to believe.  Digital technology has come a very long way since I first picked up a digital camera in 1997.  When I first decided to join the movement away from film in 2004, it still wasn't very good and the Canon 20D and Nikon D200 were not very good.  Now, they're really not good.  You say that I wouldn't want to make a poster with a photo from an iPhone 4S or Galaxy SIII?  You're right, but additionally, I wouldn't want to make a poster from 20D or D200 shots either.

The world doesn't care about huge shots and high resolution.  The world is more interested in sharing and that's where Instagram has made its mark.  Since it's been acquired by Facebook, who knows how its nature will change.

I've taken a number of my old shots and uploaded them to my phone and then, to Instagram.  They still look good but in such a smaller size.  At that size, you still notice a clarity from the lenses that my iPhone 4S just can't give.  I thought about adding the Schneider 2 lens and case kit, but at almost $200, that's a bit too dear, and could go toward dSLR equipment or a mirror-less system camera purchase.

The social implications of Instagram are as massive as they are with Twitter.  On the Popular page, you can see like-driven photos within a grid.  Perhaps unfortunately, One Direction and Justin Bieber seem to be getting most of the attention, just like on Twitter.  Providing something silly that people like can vault that image to the top and get you fans, even if it's not your image.

Yes, even if it's not your image--people tend to use images of others to catapult themselves upward.  Of course, you can report violations, but are they heard?  Does any social media service pay attention to violations?  I haven't seem much reaction.

While Instagram is important to a few, it could be gone in a few years, but it certainly signals a maturing of sharing media.