After over a year of analyst frothing, Apple announced the next step in its transformation of consumer electronics devices. The 2 predictable results of Apple’s announcement – the immediate sell-off of Apple stock and the collective feigned disinterest of Windoz apologists across the country – belies the truth. This is a device that will change the way people will interact with content. So you can click through to dumbasses like Thurrott or Dvorak as they lather themselves up over missing non-features like no buttons for games or no stylus, or you can take the word of someone who claims to know 1% as much, but is much more frequently right. Future’s here people.
So as many denial-riddled pundits yawn at SJ’s claim that “this is the most important thing I’ve ever worked on” (which would include the iMac, the iPod and the iPhone, to name a few), several other businesses are making messes in their shorts – and not the euphoric kind of mess. So now that the iPad’s here, who wins and who loses? Here’s Part 1 of a quick round-up, starting with the losers.
When Apple made it clear that they had no interest porting Flash to the iPhone, many analysts shrugged it off as an anomaly. I mean: Flash is ubiquitous on the web and Apple always did weird shit like this. Besides, Adobe was working its plow improving a stripped down version of Flash that would sip battery power like a hummingbird and play super nice with mobile browsers. Just wait for the next version…or the next one. Anyway, even if Apple never adopted Flash and grabbed 50% of the smartphone market, it was only a small percentage of the entire mobile device market. There were still plenty of people to maintain Adobe’s Flash as the de facto runtime on the web, right?
Well the iPhone and now the iPad won’t support it. And Google doesn’t care much for it either. And now Firefox is switching off plug-ins by default for its RC3 Maemo mobile browser, in essence because Flash is a hog. HTML5 support is picking up. And up. Technorati everywhere are going on record as plainly stating that Flash is a dog and HTML5 is the wave of the future. Adobe’s response to the threat: Flash is everywhere. Sound familiar? Keep throwing up your Bang Bros. references to the ubiquity of Flash, guys. Jig’s up. Might not happen this year, but it’s happening: you’re fucked.
Poor Jeff Bezos. After all that work getting the eInk technology to perfectly mirror a dead form of media interaction, Apple has to come out with a device that does 20 times as much and a ridiculously competitive price point. That whimpering you hear is no longer the effect Kindle is having on the eBook market; it’s now coming from the CEO’s office. First he’s going to get to see sales of his devices freeze (not that we ever knew how many they sold) and then he’ll get to see his margins – if there ever were any – crash through the floor.
But there’s hope! Amazon just acquired Touchco, a maker of multitouch panels, so a touch version of the Kindle is surely on its way. Because didn’t Apple get multitouch by acquiring Fingerworks? You just plug that shit right into your business model and – BAM! iPad competitor! Right? Right?
Guys, seriously: kick the clown shoes under the bed. A minor feature of one of Apple’s products just buried you.
The Windoz Ecosystem
Granted, no one expects Redmond to respond to the iPad with anything that anyone would rather use (except maybe Paul Thurrortt). But in typical Microsoft fashion, they’ll make a lot of noise about it and respond with something underwhelming. It won’t be the Courier, because the Courier is a bullshit cloud of vapor that smells exactly like Cairo, Longhorn, etc. The only people who’ve made money off the Courier are the people working for the design firm who did the rendering for this non-device. HP, who had the distinguished honor of having their tablet device fondled my Steve Ballmer’s sweaty mitts onstage at CES, is one known entry. Lenovo is another. M$ will respond not with some innovative take on slate computing, but with some bastardization of Windows 7. It will be a customized assemblage of some commodity PC giblets made to look like an iPad to a drunk 6 year old. Because M$ has been playing the me-too game with Apple for at least the last 15 years, and because the cash they spew into this space will have little – if any – return, M$ is clearly in the loser’s column, which should shock no one. Their unfortunate hardware partners, who really don’t have much of a choice, will be dragged right down with them.
Google’s a loser on 2 fronts. First, as the always-brilliant Daniel Eran Dilger points out, the Google model of advertising is much more compelling on desktop and laptop devices (if you can use the word “compelling” to describe the experience of getting targeted ads dumped on your browsing experience). On devices like the iPhone, the probability of people clicking on an ad is much lower. People don’t want to rabbit-trail ads on mobile devices; they want access to the content they’re looking for. Apple’s iPad, while allowing for a greater surface to browse the web like a laptop, still sticks with the iPhone’s touch model, which one would think would continue to discourage ad clicks. More people using iPads to browse the web means fewer people using laptops and desktops. The value of Google to advertisers drops. Some content providers may even prefer to go to a subscription model instead of trying (and almost always failing – or producing content like 99% of the toiletries that dominate tech websites) to get advertising to support their online presences. Apple does subscription models pretty well. Less business for Google
The second front is Google’s suggestion that they’re going to compete with the iPad with a port of Chrome to a tablet device. Maybe Google will shop their tablet-ready versions of the OS to some device-makers before branding their own device, something I’m sure mobile device makers and carriers loved when they did it with Android and the Nexus One. Funny thing is: this business keeps falling for the “Lucy/Charlie Brown field goal” trick perfected by Microsoft. Google’s insistence on continuing to invest money in making inferior OS ports that compete with Apple products lands them smack in the middle of Failsberg.
Next up: the Winners