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Do John Battelle. Irrepreensível.

Way back in the day, before all this Interweb stuff made news, we had a computer hardware and software industry that was both exciting and predictable. I was a cub reporter in those days, covering an upstart company (Apple) as it did battle with two dug-in monopolists: IBM in hardware, and Microsoft in software. IBM was clearly on its way down (losing share to legions of hardware upstarts in Asia and the US), but Microsoft was an obvious – and seemingly unbeatable – winner.

Underdog Apple had a cult following (I was part of it), and its products were clearly better, but it didn’t seem to matter. Quality wasn’t winning, and as a young journalist that fact irritated me. But that’s only an orthogonal part of the story I want to tell today.

Back in the late 1980s, Steve Jobs wasn’t running Apple, but his DNA was very clearly still in the company (for those who don’t obsessively follow Apple, Jobs and Woz founded the company, then Steve’s board brought in John Sculley to run it in 1983. Sculley then fired Jobs from any operational role. Jobs returned to Apple’s helm in 1997.) Apple in the 80s and 90s was secretive, paranoid, full of extraordinary talent, and convinced it was being unfairly treated by Microsoft.

In the main, Apple’s fears were pretty well founded. And there was perhaps no greater battlefield to prove those fears than the battle for the hearts and minds of software developers. (Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has never really forgotten this lesson).

In the 1980s and 90s, developers were the most important class of value creator in the digital economy – they were the entrepreneurs and marketers leveraging the new platforms of Apple and Windows, building new businesses out of thin air. Borland, Oracle, Lotus, Intuit – I could list scores, if not hundreds, of successful developers from that time. Many still exist today.

As a reporter, developers were often my best sources, because Apple and Microsoft would show them early versions of hardware and operating systems. Developers would then talk to me about those new products, and I’d get my scoops. That was how the information ecosystem worked, and everyone knew it. Developers had a ton of power – they made the products which drove sales on the Windows and Apple platforms, and if they felt slighted, they could always go to the press and apply pressure as needed.

Fast forward to now, and substitute the Internet platforms of today (the open HTML web, Apple’s iOS, Facebook’s Platform, Android, and to a lesser extent Twitter and Google’s Chrome) for the ones of my fading yesteryear. How do they stack up?

Not so well, I’m afraid. While the early Internet was a paradise for a certain kind of developer – anyone who knew HTML and could figure out a way to create value on the nascent web – what’s emerged in the past five years of the new mobile web is not a very promising foundation for the creation of lasting value. I’m speaking, in the main, about the “app economy” – a fractured ecosystem lacking a strong economic and technological true north.

Of course, Apple’s current cult of followers would argue that there *is* a True North: iOS. But I’m not seeing great new companies born on Apple’s platform, as they were back 20 years ago. Angry Birds aside, am I missing something here?

One could argue Facebook is such a platform, and declare Zynga proof that great companies have been created thanks to Facebook’s platform. But last time I checked, Zynga was one company, not scores of them.

Android is Google’s answer (as is Chrome, to a confusing extent), but so far, Android seems to be taking the same route as iOS in economic terms – make an app, hope for a hit, where a hit is defined in tens of thousands of dollars in revenue (not exactly a business). And Twitter still has work to do before it becomes a true platform for economic value creation (though promising signs are in the air).

The HTML or open web is still the best and most robust platform for development of true value, to my mind. And hundreds, if not thousands, of developers and entrepreneurs have succeeded by leveraging it. But it lacks what that early Apple and Windows ecosystem had: a true software business, one that provided differentiating value such that consumers (and enterprises) would pay significant dollars to use that software. This may sound counterintuitive for an advertising-driven entrepreneur such as myself to state, but it’s time we had a robust paid software ecosystem on the web. There’s certainly room for both.

I think it’s coming. The table is set, so to speak. As consumers we’re getting used to paying for apps on our phones and tablets. And as consumers, we’re getting frustrated with the lack of value most of those apps provide us. As with Windows back in the day, quality isn’t winning right now. On the web, we’re wanting more robust solutions to problems that are only beginning to surface – I’d pay five bucks a month to someone if they’d solve my social presence problem, for example: I just can’t keep up with Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Tumblr, StumbleUpon, and newer services like Percolate. I’d probably also pay for someone to solve the deals space for me – it’s too confusing and I know I am missing out on serious savings. Same for music and media (an area of early and promising development), professional services of many stripes, and on and on.

But for such a quality software ecosystem to unfold, we need, as developers, a clearer sense of a platform roadmap, and some certainty as to what portions of the economic pie are open for competition. This is particularly true for the consumer space (enterprise is used to paying for value, and is already doing so at places like Salesforce and LinkedIn). Clearly, you shouldn’t develop a photo app for Twitter, or a music or communications solution for Facebook. And you’d simply be crazy to create a contacts manager for Apple products, even if the one they have is godawful once you pass about 1000 records.

Or would you be? Perhaps the solution is to create at a level above all of these services – software that lives above the level of a single platform, so to speak. Software in the cloud (passe as it might be, Mr. Benioff).

Isn’t that what the web is supposed to be? Isn’t that the promise of the cloud?

It is, but for that to work, all those platforms have to be willing to share data and APIs. I’m not holding my breath for that to happen in the next few years. But happen it will, I predict, because happen it must. Change will be forced downward, from consumers back into the platforms that, for now, are mostly closed to value creation. Mark my words….I hope they’re right.

‘Product’ will be reinvented, just as music and media were reinvented by iTunes and blogs: there is a world appearing in between the big guys and the little hobbyists. The middle is getting filled in.”

If you look 50 years ago, or 100 years ago, the technology in our homes was the offcuts of the military, or of factories, of industry. Look at computers, which came in equal parts from the need to calculate ballistics in the world wars, and from Silicon Valley, which was at the heart of Cold War investment into space and rocketry. Or mobile phones, which came from battlefield communications. Or even dishwashers and washing machines, which were spin-offs of technology originated in factories.”

“Now you look, [and] the bleeding edge of technology in the home originates from consumer use. The iPhone is better than anything the military ever made. Toys are a great place to look for the latest technology. And even computers, which used to be driven by office use and mainframes, are now led by the nose by technology in personal tablets and laptops, used for games and consuming media. So we’ve flipped from the industrial to the domestic.”

“Although Apple has done enormously well on this flip — that is, the iPhone and iPad — I don’t believe this change has been fully understood or fully taken advantage of. We’re surrounded by these behemoths of mass consumption, mass production, mass media — and they’re all artifacts of an age of economies of scale, and margins measured in fractions of scents, and advertising at grand scales. These industrial assumptions no longer hold, and all kinds of new opportunities are opening up. So for me, I’m thinking about the home, and about short-run manufacture, and about robots, and about technology used by small social groups like families. How do we visualise and design for all of this? It’s all good fun.”

Via GigaOm

Apple is now more profitable than Microsoft.

The Borg earned $5.23 billion in the last three months, nearly $800 million less than Apple’s quarterly haul of $6 billion, the Redmond, Washington software giant announced Thursday.

Microsoft reported a solid quarter, with a 31 percent increase in profit. But in an over-bought market, investors pushed the stock down nearly two percent in after-hours trading.

Aí embaixo tem alguns trechos de um dos posts mais fodas que eu já li, uma verdadeira aula magna sobre negócios. Na verdade é uma baita análise sobre a RIM, responsável pelo blackberry e que se encontra em uma bela sinuca de bico, apesar de faturar astronômicos 15 bilhões por ano. Mas a melhor parte é quando o cara fala sobre seu antigo trabalho na Apple para explicar a situação da RIM.

When I worked at Apple, I spent a lot of time studying failed computer platforms. I thought that if we understood the failures, we might be able to prevent the same thing from happening to us.

I looked at everything from videogame companies to the early PC pioneers (companies like Commodore and Atari), and I found an interesting pattern in their financial results. The early symptoms of decline in a computing platform were very subtle, and easy for a business executive to rationalize away. By the time the symptoms became obvious, it was usually too late to do anything about them.

The symptoms to watch closely are small declines in two metrics: the rate of growth of sales, and gross profit per unit sold (gross margins). Here’s why:

Every computing platform has a natural pool of customers. Some people need or want the platform, and some people don’t. Your product spreads through its pool of customers via the traditional “diffusion” process — early enthusiasts first, late adopters at the end.

It’s relatively easy to get good revenue from the early adopters. They seek out innovations like yours, and are willing to pay top dollar for it. As the market for a computer system matures, the early adopters get used up, and the company starts selling to middle adopters who are more price-sensitive. In response to this, the company cuts prices, which results in a big jump in sales. Total revenue goes up, and usually overall profits as well. Everybody in the company feels good.

Time passes, and that middle portion of the market gets consumed. Eventually demand growth starts to drop, and you make another price cut. Sales go up again, sometimes a lot. With revenue rising, you and your investors talk proudly about the benefits of reaching the “mainstream” market.

What you don’t realize at this point is that you’re not “reaching the mainstream,” you’re actually consuming the late adopters. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to tell when you’re selling to the late adopters. They don’t wear signs. Companies tend to assume that because the adoption curve is drawn as a smooth-sided bell, your demand will tail off at the end as gradually as it built up in the beginning. But that isn’t how it works. At the start, you are slowly building up momentum from a base of nothing. That takes years. But by the time you saturate the market you have built up huge sales momentum. You have a strong brand, you have advertising, you have a big distribution channel. You’ll gulp through the late adopters really rapidly. The result is that sales continue to grow until they drop suddenly, like a sprinter running off the edge of a cliff.

Until you get close to the end, your revenue keeps rising, enabling you to tell yourself that the business is still in good shape. But eventually you reach the dregs of the market, and sales will flatten out, or maybe even start to drop. You cut prices again, but this time they don’t increase demand because there are no latent customers left. All the cuts do is reduce further the revenue you get from selling upgrades to your installed base. The combination of price cuts and declining sales produces a surprisingly rapid drop in revenue and profits. If you want to make a profit (which your investors demand), your only choice is to make massive cuts in expenses. Those cuts usually end up eliminating the risky new product ideas that are your only hope of re-igniting demand.

At Apple I called this the platform “death spiral” because once you get into it, the expense cuts and sales declines reinforce each other. It’s almost impossible to reverse the process, unless you’re Steve Jobs and you get very lucky.

The best way to survive is to stay away from the cliff edge in the first place. But that means you need to be hyper-attentive to small changes in sales growth and gross margins.

Via Mobile Opportunity

Acho que já temos um vencedor:

According to SAI’s Matt Rosoff, citing IDC estimates, the global PC market is about 100 million units a quarter.

That means that, in its third quarter of existence, Apple’s iPads already have ~7% of the global PC market.

Now let’s fast forward a few years.

At this rate, in a few years, iPads will account for, say 25%, of the global PC market–especially after Apple works the price down to $199 and every middle-class household has a couple of them just lying around. And Android-based tablets will probably account for another huge chunk of the market.

With that much of the global personal computing market running on something other than Windows, the rest of Microsoft’s monopoly control of the desktop and desktop apps will collapse. Windows will become just another platform.

Via Business Insider

A Fast Company fez um questionamento interessante: o iPhone é inovação de uma empresa americana, e portanto deveria beneficiar a economia americana. Mas então porque diabos o sucesso da Apple contribui em U$ 1.9 bilhões para o déficit daquele país?

That figure comes from a working paper by researchers at the Asian Development Bank Institute in Tokyo, and was spotted by Mother Jones. A paltry minority of the components of the iPhone are actually made in the U.S.–equivalent to only 6 percent of the phone’s $179 wholesale cost. The great bulk of the parts are made by Japanese, German, and Korean companies; they’re then funneled through China, where they’re assembled at Foxconn, and sent out at an inflated price.

According to the study authors, Yuqing Xing and Neal Detert: “Global production networks and highly specialized production processes apparently reverse trade patterns: developing countries such as the PRC [People’s Republic of China] export high-tech goods—like the iPhone—while industrialized countries such as the US import the high-tech goods they themselves invented.”

É muito louco como o sucesso das empresas mais inovadoras pode ser uma ameaça às contas de um país com essa globalização desenfreada. E o que falar do Brasil, que a essa altura do campeonato está se industrializando e cada vez mais distante de se valer dessa onda?

Uma parte da matéria (que lembra muito um post do Umair Haque) argumenta que a Apple vai ter que se mexer:

The authors offer a scenario in which Apple suddenly decides not to pursue profit maximization, dumps the oft-criticized Foxconn, and decides to pursue a model of corporate responsibility and patriotic we’re-in-it-togetherness. It’s true that U.S. workers fetch about 10 times as much as Chinese workers, and the manufacturing costs would rise to $68 per phone from about $6.50 per phone. But if Apple sold the phones at an average of $500 (already the asking price for some models), they say, it would still clear a 50% profit margin.

“If all iPhones were assembled in the US, the $1.9 billion trade deficit in iPhone trade with PRC would not exist,” reckon the authors. “Moreover, 11.4 million units of iPhone sold in the non-US market in 2009 would add $5.7 billion to US exports.”

Via UoD

Por isso q eu me amarro no Tomi Ahonen, a minha bússola no mercado mobile.

And I should mention the App Stores. While all the silly hype globally in mobile is about apps – I have been repeating and repeating and repeating, that it is a trivial – trivial – sized non-business (today). It may – it may – become meaningful somewhere years down the line. We heard from Apple – the leader in app stores – earlier this year, that the total earned by the Apple iPhone App Store last year was under a billion dollars.

A billion out of what, over 200,000 actual apps that exist in the App Store? A billion may seem like a “big number” to those who don’t understand mobile, but hey, Crazy Frog the ringing tone – yes just one – one – ringing tone – sold half a billion dollars – in paid downloads to mobile phone users – in one year – three years before Apple even opened up its app store. Put that into your iPhone app and think again. What is the bestselling category on the iPhone – games. What is the bestselling game? Angry Birds. Sold what, 4 million copies. This is the best game on the ‘amazing’ App Store. But we mentioned on this blog years ago, that Artificial Life’s side-line product (their main business is TV-mobile interactive services like SMS TV games etc) – a mobile Java game called ‘V-Girl’ the Virtual Girlfriend on your phone – sold 4 million copies. Paid downloads and paid customers to mobile phones, not smartphones, globally, years before Angry Birds. 4 million is nothing amazing to the mobile industry. Its a nice number yes, but what is the record-breaking achievement in the tiny sandbox called iPhone, is trivial to the big world of mobile.

The total global mobile phone app market last year was worth 5 billion dollars (said Chetan Sharma Consulting). Most of that was not consumer-oriented app store applications. No, most of that was enterprise/corporate solutions to integrate IT apps like SAP and Oracle to mobile. Then the comparison – SMS text messaging alone is worth 100 Billion dollars. Mobile data is worth 250 Billion dollars. App Stores are less than meaningful (today). Yes, from small things, big things can grow. But the hysteria about app stores is totally ridiculous today.

Frase de Nathan Eagle, do MIT, na PopTech 2010.

Nathan Eagle, professor assistente do MIT, fez uma das apresentações mais interessantes. Começou provocando a platéia ao afirmar que, na realidade, o celular é uma tecnologia dos países em desenvolvimento. Regiões como África, por exemplo, estão usando e aproveitando bem mais a potencialidade da tecnologia móvel do que os chamados países desenvolvidos.

Em regiões em desenvolvimento, a telefonia móvel tem um impacto bem maior na vida das pessoas. Além do celular ser uma das principais (às vezes, única) porta de entrada para a internet, você precisa ter um telefone móvel para efetivamente fazer parte do sistema, ser um cidadão.

Praticamente quase tudo é feito por meio do celular – transações bancárias, contato com autoridades, compras e, o mais importante, a conquista de novos empregos. Segundo o professor assistente do MIT, trabalhadores braçais na África, se organizam, ficam informados e conseguem empregos por meio de SMS.

Essa importância da tecnologia móvel nos países em desenvolvimento se reflete nos números. Para cada usuário de celular nos países desenvolvidos, existem 4 nos países em desenvolvimento.

Eis um projeto fodástico do Nathan:

Eagle é o criador da txteagle, projeto que tem a ambição de permitir que as pessoas ganhem dinheiro ou créditos realizando atividades por meio do celular, na dinâmica de crowdsourcing. Essas atividades vão desde a tradução de textos até a colocação de tags em vídeos.

Se você quiser entender o título, sugiro Jan Chipchase e Tomi Ahonen.

O texto aí de cima é do Tiago Dória, cujo post sobre a PopTech 2010 ainda tem uma frase foda sobre serendipidade e o excesso de filtros:

Segundo Pariser, a web precisa de mais ruído. Todos esses sistemas que captam uma enorme quantidade de dados sobre a navegação, para mostrar resultados mais relevantes para a gente, são falhos em mostrar a diversidade da vida.

Following the announcement of Nintendo’s 3DS, new version of its popular a handheld games console that boasts 3D visuals without the need for special glasses, response among the tech press has suggested that we could have a “game-changer” on our hands.

“Nintendo had its Apple moment today” declared Forbes.com, “the 3DS looks simply amazing.” Describing the device as a “clear evolutionary step past the DS”, Engadget felt that Nintendo’s offering provided “something in a handheld that will take years to really catch on with our big people consoles in the living room.”

Gizmodo sees a new benchmark being set for all handhelds: “Just as Nintendo changed the industry with the imperfect but watershed Wiimote, they’ve undeniably done the same with the 3DS. Holding a 3D display without any stupid glasses is what we’ll all be doing soon, whether we buy the 3DS or not.”

Kotaku reserved special praise for the device’s 3D camera: “The ability to take a picture in 3D and then view it in 3D seconds later may sound like a gimmick. But it’s the sort of gimmick that will require a hunt for your socks afterward. It’s astounding.”

É interessantíssimo acompanhar a movimentação da Nintendo no mercado de videgame, com o Wii e agora com 3d. Belíssima aula de estratégia.