May 282009

You’ve all heard of the strategy of being a “loss leader” in a market; but M$ is looking to perpetuate its title of “loss follower” in its consumer product offerings.   Witness Microsoft’s latest flotilla of capital destined to do dance of the porcelin swirl: the Zune HD.

zune hd Hey. That design almost doesn’t look half bad. Wait a minute. Haven’t I seen this somewhere before?

zune hd cropapple-iphone-back Oh, that’s right. Jesus, M$. Could you even try?

Consistent with Microsoft’s previous duplication policies, they’ve taken the most aesthetically pleasing aspects of the design and fucked them in the ear.  In this case, we have visible screws (must be for that replaceable battery) and hard-angled bevels.

Companies with less capital than the average European nation would have tanked under the weight of the original debacle.   But Redmond is not content to sit on its laurels: they will not rest until they’ve diverted at least tens of sales that would’ve otherwise gone to superior products.

May 252009

According to the Charlotte Observer, Apple and the state of North Carolina are negotiating a whopper of a tax break should Apple decide to locate a massive server farm there.  Of particular interest to me was this quote:

“Though the Apple site is initially expected to employ fewer than 100 full-time workers, legislators said the potential prize was so juicy it justified changing the state’s corporate tax formula to benefit a single company.”  Juicy is defined as a $1 billion investment by Apple within 9 years of start-up.

And why would Apple need a facility of that scale?  Well, there’s always a chance they’ve been peeking at my personal spank-bank

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May 222009

Advertising Age is claiming that “Microsoft (is) Winning in Value Perception”, citing a BrandIndex daily survey of 5,000 people asked “whether they believe they get a get good value for their money” as related to Microsoft and Apple offerings.  The survey, which according to the BrandIndex chart included with the article, rates value on a scale from -100 to 100 and has run since the beginning of 2009.  Apple’s score of 70 in “late winter” (actually more like March 1 to my eye) is now languishing at 12.4, while Microsoft’s score has soared from 0 to 46.  Wow!  Because this is Advertising Age, and not Margin of Error Quarterly, the explanation must be the “Bargain Hunter” ad campaign.

Mmmk.  Couple of questions for the folks at BrandIndex:

-You survey 5,000 people every day about perceived value?  The same 5,000 people?  Because your findings really wouldn’t as mean much if the exact same 5,000 people weren’t asked every day the survey was conducted.

-“Value” is one metric you track, according to your chart.  I also see Mindshare, Buzz, Impression, Quality, Reputation and Satisfaction listed as metrics.  You’re sure “value” means the same thing to all those 5,000 people (and I’m sure it is the same 5,000 that are asked about quality, right?)?  I could easily see that those surveyed would equate “value” with “cheap”, given that “value” and “quality” have overlapping definitions.  Did Apple’s “quality” perception go up and M$’s go down?

As far as I’m concerned, the worst case scenario represented by this survey is that more people regard Microsoft as less expensive as a result of the “Bargain Hunters” campaign.  As we’ve known for a while, the margins on “less expensive” are pretty shitty.

Update: I received an email from a gentleman at BrandIndex last night who explained that the “value” and “quality” metrics are polled individually and that they feel “it is better to ask our questions from independent samples”, which I take to mean they ask only one question each day of their 5,000 respondents.   Also, they are not the same 5,000 people “(b)ecause (the sample) is representative, we do not have to interview the same 5,000 people each day”.  Maybe that is the only feasible way to conduct the survey, but I would contend that getting responses from different people may just as easily reflect different existing opinions they have about the brand, not the fact that their opinion about the brand had changed.

May 212009
Timothy Leary's dead. No, no, no, no, He's outside looking in.

Timothy Leary's dead. No, no, no, no, He's outside looking in.

Scott Moritz is one of Jim Cramer’s merry band of stock manipulators over at   Either that or he’s really‚ really bad at his job – especially when it comes to Apple. I actually think sound investment advice would be “Do the opposite of what this toolbox says”.

Scott’s latest gem, available in both words and talkie form, is here.

Warning: if you click on the video, in addition to the content and tone of the interview‚ the JJ Abrams camera work may snap you into a three state killing spree.

May 212009

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Apple does not respond to market trends by introducing “me too” entries. If there is something of value to be extracted from a market, Apple takes it and packages it into products that have a more intuitive UI, a better industrial design and consequently higher margins.

When MP3 music players were first introduced, Apple didn’t shove some ham-fisted music player out the door.  It thought a lot about how to navigate content, came up with the idea for the clickwheel, and made it the joystick of a UI.  The iPod Classics and Nanos still use this combination and the UI is also at the core of Front Row and the Apple TV.  With the hardware‚ we also got iTunes – the eventual portal to the iTunes Music Store.

Cell phones had been on the market for over two decades before Apple decided to enter it. It did so after carefully considering what was good (almost nothing) and what sucked (nearly everything) about cell phones.  From those musings, we not only got a revolutionary UI and a new model in carrier relationships, we also got advancements in SDK and app propagation.  The point is Apple didn’t compete in markets by conforming to them.  It redefined them through a marriage of form and UI,  backed by other Apple services.

This is why, when red-faced analysts jump up and down screaming about Apple losing out on millions of potential customers by not introducing a netbook, Apple is content to quietly utter “fuck you” through their smiles.

People have been proposing what Apple’s response will be to the netbook craze for at least the past 8 months. Every time Apple acquires, hires or delivers a keynote, speculation runs rampant. I think Apple will introduce a product that will be perceived as a “response” to the netbook‚ but I believe it will be a very different animal.

Continue reading »

May 202009

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Every time Apple reports earnings‚ every analyst on the Cupertino beat weighs in with their idea for how Steve should spend his now $30 billion pile of cash.  Most suggest acquisitions of some kind.  The ideas range from the unimaginative to the straight-up retarded (unless someone could explain how you print money with Twitter).  Because I have a blog and a way to upload content‚ I too have an opinion.  Let me frame it for you based on a dream I have for myself and a number of moves Apple has made that would allow this to happen. Continue reading »

May 042009

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EnderleDoucheApple is a company that brings out the worst in some people.  Whether they be fanboy-bashers or CEOs of bloated software juggernauts, there’s something about Steve’s condescending little smirk that drives people absolutely batshit.  I get it.  I really do.  For most of these individuals, the knowledge that I work with a superior OS is satisfaction enough.  But for a select few, the magnitude of their assholery cannot be dismissed by that melodic C Major chord.  These are the members of Douchebag Row.  This series is designed to honor those who, through word and/or deed, have distinguished themselves as something more than mere assholes.

Let’s begin, shall we? Continue reading »

May 012009

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durrr.001Microsoft revealed the 3rd ad in its “Bargain Hunter” series and in the great tradition of awesome cinematic 3rd installments, this commercial delivers.
Meet Sheila.  Sheila is an artist, a filmmaker.  She needs to find a performance machine;  “…something that’s going to be able to cut video” (notice the ‘term of art’ usage).  She has $2,000 or less to accomplish this.  She chooses…some shitty HP.
Now granted, her reasoning for not choosing the sub-$2,000 Apple offering is sound: it’s limited by a paltry 2 GB of stock RAM and…well, that’s it.

I’ve refrained from commenting on Microsoft’s recent campaign not only because I’m lazy, but also because Redmond’s been doing a pretty good job making themselves look like assholes.  After seeing the 3rd installment of Bargain Hunters, and having cringed through the Mohave and the Seinfeld Experiments, I can offer but one theory to explain Microsoft’s approach to advertising:

Microsoft thinks consumers are fucking retarded. Continue reading »

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