Tag Archives: Apple

The Apple Watch Is Just Another Example of Apple’s “Smart” Marketing Funnel

By now, you have probably heard at least some of the details regarding Apple’s new smartwatch.  I’ll mention a few of the highlights below.

1. Its battery life is 18 hours.

In comparison to some Android smartwatches, that’s actually an improvement.  However, when it comes to some notable smartwatches, including Pebble, that’s actually unremarkable.  There are some smartwatches on the market that can go as long as 7 DAYS between charges; Apple’s only comes in at 3/4 DAY, which means that you will have to charge every night at least.  Keep in mind too that that 18-hour mark is likely its maximum; the actual time will vary depending on your activity and will likely be less than the stated 18 hours.

As you would expect, Apple touted the features of the Watch in an attempt to mitigate any disappointment that may have been felt by the fact that the stated time of the battery life was just 18 hours.  Tim Cook stated that the “Apple Watch is the most advanced time piece ever created.”

2. The starting pricing tiers for the three types (Sport, Watch, and “Edition”) are $349, $549, and $10,000(!)

I think many equally wondered what the top-tier pricing would be for the “Edition” version, and I think some were amazed that Apple would go that high, thinking Apple would sell at a lower price than $10,000.  Of course, Apple is trying to market it as a luxury jewelry item, a major reason why they’ve promoted it in two Vogue magazines (U.S. and China), including a recent 12-page ad in the U.S. version.  Combined with the materials used to construct the watches (especially the Edition version, which has 18-karat gold) and a high profit margin, that’s why Apple is charging the amount that it is.

It still remains to be seen if the luxury market will open up its arms and wallets to the Apple Watch, being that this is new territory for Apple, never mind the fact the smartwatch industry has not taken off as many experts thought it would.

This September 9, 2014 New Yorker article, “Does Anyone Want a Smartwatch?“, shows the issues surrounding smartwatch makers to this point, and I think Apple will come across similar issues, especially when it comes to whether people actually feel they NEED one.  Yes, there will be devoted Apple fans who will want to get one just as they did the iPhone and iPad, but as that article mentions, those items replaced something before them and did it better.  The question is, “What is the smartwatch replacing?”

Some people don’t wear watches of any type, while others wear a $9.99-$29.99 timepiece that they like, think it goes well with their attire, and tells time (what a concept! :-).  These timepieces can easily last 5-10 years or longer (I’ve had watches work even beyond 10 years, and that can be without changing the cell battery; if I change the cell battery, I’ve had some watches work 15-20 years without an issue).

This brings me to my point about Apple’s “smart” marketing funnel once again being at play with its Apple Watch, and why getting 5-10 years or beyond of use with this current Apple Watch may be a period of time that never occurs due to the way Apple and virtually all tech companies operate.

If you’ve followed along with Apple products in recent history, you know that an iPhone or iPad model is released every year (give or take a few months).  It will often have the latest specs (or close to it) at the time it is released, then it quickly becomes outdated, just as virtually all technology does.  Apple will then release the next updated model with updated specs.  You’ve seen this with its smartphone: iPhone 5, iPhone 5c & 5s, iPhone 6 & 6 Plus; you’ve seen this with its tablet: iPad 4, iPad Air, iPad Air 2; you’ve seen this with its mini tablet: iPad mini, iPad mini 2, iPad mini 3.

In the not-too-distant past, many Apple fans were determined to get every updated version, just because every model seemed so new and innovative.  However, as time has gone on, I know of many Apple users who don’t get every version of the iPhone, not seeing the need to update because the newest model wasn’t that much different from the one they were currently using.  In addition, people were more willing to upgrade when their 2-year contracts run out, thus leading to them often skipping one model upgrade, at least.

The iPad has been similar, being that the technology upgrades weren’t that much different from the previous version, especially over the past few years.  Plus, in the iPad’s case, the full-size tablet has started to witness declining sales due to the smaller-sized tablet (iPad Mini line) and, most recently, the phablet-sized smartphone (iPhone 6 Plus).

Still, even with Apple users skipping some updates, they still were willing to upgrade their products, and in many cases, they had to.  Some of the newest iOS operating updates and/or current apps don’t work or work as well with older hardware versions (that have older operating systems or memory limitations- those who own an iPad 2 like me know this, especially when it comes to updating to iOS 8, which can take up over 25% of a 16GB iPad 2).  Thus, it was necessary to upgrade your hardware in order to continue receiving the benefits and conveniences of that technology.  This is true of Apple (as it is pretty much of every technology company).

Apple has also integrated this into its smartwatch as well, and that could be a potential deterrent for those who expect their timepieces to last a long time (i.e. 10 years or more).

On Apple’s part, it’s smart marketing because, this will encourage (and even force) users to upgrade their timepieces in order to continue gaining the benefits and convenience from the Apple Watch.  Apps that are used on the Apple Watch will likely need an updated operating system (either the most current or close to it) in order to continue functioning properly and giving the Apple Watch its greatest value.  Those who want to keep their Apple Watch version for a long period of time (say, 5+ years or more) likely won’t be able to upgrade the iOS operating system after a while either due to technology incompatibilities, lack of storage space, or some other reason (much like the issues with the iPad 2 and even with the iPad 3 and iPad 4).

Thus, I suspect that after two to three years (maybe five years, max), the current Apple Watch won’t be able to handle the iOS updates and/or the updated apps needed to give the Apple Watch its greatest functionality.  Thus, users will be faced with one of two choices- either purchase the newest (or at least newer) version of the Apple Watch or stop using the Apple Watch altogether.  For diehard Apple fans who like the watch and have grown accustomed to its features and conveniences, that may be nearly impossible to do.

Thus, Apple has employed its marketing funnel again in order to get Apple Watch users to become paying customers AND remain paying customers (and that doesn’t even include utilizing iTunes and Apple Pay, two more ways to keep these customers as RECURRING paying customers).  That is really what you want to see in a successful business- the ability to get AND KEEP paying customers in your funnel- that’s how you can make residual income long term, which is why Apple is doing so well in terms of revenues and stock price, as well as why it has so much cash on hand.

Therefore, if you really want to learn about marketing strategy and employ that into your own business and your own marketing methods, pay close attention to Apple’s product development and launch strategies – you can learn a great deal of how to set up your own product development cycles and marketing strategies in order to get customers to pay you and to keep paying you over a long period of time, while boosting and promoting your brand in the process.

 

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Why Apple Should Delay The Apple Watch- Updated- Better, But Still A Wait and See

I’m writing this updated post to my Apple Watch post yesterday due to the fact that there are reportedly two main updates to the Apple Watch prior to the event on Monday that were just revealed today:

1. The Apple Watch will reportedly have better battery life than was reported before, supposedly up to 5 hours with fairly moderate app use (via this 9to5Mac article).

2. The Apple Watch WILL be able to monitor heart rate (beats per minute) via its Heart Rate Glance (via the same 9to5Mac article).

Both of these bode well for Apple Watch’s immediate success, particularly #2.  That is because this should help to make the Apple Watch more appealing to millennials and for them to see it as being valuable enough and useful enough to where they’ll want to buy it sooner rather than later.

Thus, I do think the prospects for Apple Watch’s immediate sales are better with these developments and previously unannounced capabilities, though I still think there is enough uncertainty there in regards to battery life (how much do specific apps drain the battery, for instance), limited apps, limited capabilities, lack of general enthusiasm in the smartwatch industry, and phone users who are not Apple users (Android, Windows, etc.) that it will likely cause the Apple Watch to not quite have the impact some are predicting when it comes to the smartwatch industry.

Will the Apple Watch do enough to move the smartwatch industry and the wearables industry in general? Over time, and with better advancements and capabilities, it’s possible, but I still don’t think this first rendition will move the industry as much as some are expecting.  As I said yesterday, there will be Apple fans who will go out and “have to have it” right away either because they want to be part of the “in” crowd or because they want to be one of the first who had the very first Apple Watch, but I still think that expectations might be out-of-whack, even with these two positive developments for the Apple Watch.

There are still questions on how popular wearables, particularly smartwatches, will become overall- it still comes down to how useful these devices will be, especially in regards to the relatively high cost (especially with the Apple Watch).  The health monitoring will especially be the key, particularly when it comes to the Apple Watch (as I said yesterday, don’t expect the Apple Watch to replace your iPhone- Apple can’t afford that, so that’s not happening, certainly not in the foreseeable future)- if that health monitoring feature is useful enough, that may be the biggest key for the Apple Watch and for the smartwatch industry in general to take off and become as part of mainstream society as the smartphone and tablet (or is that “phablet”?) has become.

Why Apple Should Delay The Apple Watch

As you probably know, Apple is planning to unveil its Apple Watch to the world this coming Monday, March 9.  This will be the final version that will ship in April.  Via the Wall Street Journal, at an event earlier this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook said, “… one of the biggest surprises people are going to have when they start using it is the breadth of what it will do.”

The Breadth of What The Apple Watch Can Do? Or What It Can’t Do?

However, there have been several developments since that statement that seem to indicate that the Apple Watch is underwhelming tech experts and the public at large, thus hinting that the public may not be so amazed at what it can do, but MORE AMAZED at what it CAN’T do.

1. Apple Watch will not have advanced tracking of health signs (via PCMag article), including ability to measure blood pressure, heart activity, or stress levels.

2. Apple Watch apps will be extremely limited, especially in the early going, because Apple wants a successful launch and wants to preserve battery life of the device (via Business Insider article).

3. Speaking of battery life, even with the limited apps and their capabilities, the battery life of the Apple Watch may only provide up to 3.5 hours of app usage between charges, and just 2.5 hours if you are constantly checking sports scores, stock quotes, or social media accounts (via PCMag article).

All of those limitations, and the starting price for the Apple Watch will reportedly be $349?! Why am I not surprised that most are less than impressed or are concerned about the longevity of the Apple Watch?

Here’s what the Apple Watch will reportedly be able to do when it’s released in April:

1. Provides quick, easy-to-read notifications from your iPhone.

2. Enables you to make mcommerce purchases right from your Apple Watch.

3. Tracks your daily activity (such as how many steps you take, but as mentioned, no advanced health metrics, including blood pressure).

Who Is The Apple Watch For?

Most Apple experts and tech insiders are even confused over what market Apple is going after and what problem it will solve with the Apple Watch (via this Business Insider article).

This is probably why there was great debate within Apple itself to even create and release a smartwatch, as it does not seem everyone is in agreement with CEO Tim Cook, Head of Design Jony Ive, and Apple executive Bob Mansfield on the success and longevity of the Apple Watch.

As that last Business Insider article mentioned, this is an important product launch for Apple due to the fact that it’s the first new product line for Apple since the iPad five years ago, as well as the first new product line since the death of co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs.

Thus, it makes sense for Apple to proceed cautiously in terms of what the Apple Watch can do right off the bat.  However, the fact that Cook mentioned that “people will be amazed by the breadth of what it can do” seems to be at odds with that cautious approach, being that it implies that the Apple Watch will impress in terms of its features.  That is especially true when you consider that other smartwatches have those advanced health tracking capabilities the Apple Watch will lack at a much smaller price point.

This is all the more reason why I really think Apple should have held back the launch of the Apple Watch.  Of course, that’s likely not going to happen, being that the event is just four days away, but it will be amazing if the Apple Watch can really be the hit it is expected to be at this stage.

Let’s look at why the Apple Watch COULD be a hit at this point:

1. Apple made what I consider a smart marketing move (but with a caveat I mention below) to have it appear in Vogue in an effort to have it appeal to affluents (via this Recode article).  This was after it appeared on two notable models, Liu Wen and Candace Swanepoel, in both Vogue China and Self Magazine, respectively.

2. It is the first wearable product created and marketed by Apple, which is synonymous with tech.

3. It is an Apple product.

While the third reason is a cited reason by many Apple Watch supporters who think it will be a hit, it may take more than Apple’s noted reputation to ensure its smartwatch will be an actual hit and stand out from the increasingly crowded smartwatch market.

Let’s look at the many concerns of why the Apple Watch may not be a hit in the smartwatch industry, and why it might not even have that long of a life:

1. I mentioned that it was a smart move by Apple to have its watch appear in Vogue in an effort to get affluents interested in it and see it as a “must-have” item.  However, this also shows what might be Apple Watch’s greatest weakness: What is Apple Watch’s target market?

Personally, it seems to me that Apple is trying to target everyone who is the owner of an iPhone and get him/her to buy the Apple Watch.  This approach, what seems to be the “let’s throw everything against the wall and see what sticks” marketing approach, rarely ever works to great success.  Even a company like Apple has to have a solid marketing approach in order for its products to be successful, and, truthfully, the marketing for this product seems haphazard and all-over-the-place.

What was originally being marketed as a “product that will amaze people on the breadth of what it can do” (i.e. the mainstream crowd) and that will have great health tracking abilities (i.e. the millennial crowd, especially), now is being marketed in a very prestigious magazine in two different countries to appeal to the affluents.

Granted, there are three different versions of this watch: Classic, Sport, and Luxury, but I have serious questions on the “need” for this product.  As I mentioned in my post, “The Lack Of Perceived Value: The Missing Link in Smartwatches” what will a smartwatch do that a smartphone can’t do? Why would the mainstream public want this item when the smartwatch does nothing more (and far less, actually) than a smartphone can do?

This is the major reason why the smartwatch industry hasn’t taken off as many experts thought it would, and based on the lack of features and the higher cost of the Apple Watch, I can’t see where Apple’s entry is going to have more success either.

Yes, some of the diehard Apple fans will probably buy it because it’s Apple.  Yes, some affluents may have to get the Luxury version to show that they have the “latest and greatest device” from Apple.

But, it’s not likely that the Apple Watch will be deemed a “success” or a “mover” in the smartwatch industry if it’s just some members of those two groups, as it doesn’t seem there are a great majority in either category that are convinced they must have that Apple Watch.

2. Most of the mainstream public is not fond of the price point (especially when an iPhone is anything but inexpensive, costing $300+ to $400+ to start), nor are convinced they need it (especially without the advanced tracking features, a key importance to millennials in particular).

3. As for the affluents, I think many are not convinced that Apple is elite or chic enough when it comes to the watch industry for them to just buy the Apple Watch immediately when it is up for purchase.  This is why, though, Apple was smart to introduce the Watch to the affluent group by advertising in Vogue in both the United States and China, to at least give themselves the chance to gain more of this market.

Still, the lack of groundbreaking features, the high price point, and the uncertainty of how affluents will perceive the Apple Watch all indicate that the Watch will likely fall below expectations rather than meet or exceed them.

Apple’s History Suggests You May Be Better Off Waiting To Buy The Apple Watch

Plus, a few things about Apple’s history that indicate why waiting may be a good idea if you are considering purchasing the Apple Watch:

1. The Apple Watch will likely never be able to handle phone calls on its own (something I mentioned in my “Missing Link in Smartwatches” post); to do so would take away from iPhone sales, something Apple can’t afford, as it’s the one product line that is really doing well for them. The iPad line has fallen for four consecutive quarters now, and while Macs are holding their own and even growing slightly of late, it’s not expected that that trend will continue, especially since Macs can’t double as tablets due to the lack of touchscreens.

2. Speaking of lack of touchscreens, Apple has a tendency to never have its products multi-task.  In other words, Apple will not (or rarely) add another feature to a product that will hurt another product line.  This is a major reason why Apple was against increasing the size of the iPhone for so long; to do so would hurt the iPad line, and trends suggest that part of the reason why large tablet sales are falling off is because of the presence of phablets, something Apple only got into with its recent iPhone 6 Plus model, a few years after other smartphone manufacturers (including Samsung, HTC, Google, and others) had released phablets.  Having their Mac laptops have touchscreens and become hybrids like Windows’ PCs would have also hurt iPad sales, a major reason (in my opinion) that they were (and are still against) having their Mac laptops become hybrids.

(And, Windows hybrids are becoming more plentiful on the market because there IS a demand for them- this again shows that Apple has a tendency to keep their product lines separate from each other when it comes to features so they don’t eat into the respective revenue lines from each product line, even when there is a demand for such a “hybrid” product).

3. Based on #2, if the Apple Watch stays around long enough, chances are strong that the Apple Watch will only be able to do the advanced health tracking features in a future Apple Watch model.  It seems unlikely that they would add the necessary software and apps for it to be able to track those features on this specific model, as the hardware doesn’t seem able to withstand many apps running at the same time.  Thus, it would seem likely that Apple would create a newer, more robust Apple Watch within the next six to twelve months (just as they do with their iPhones and iPads) that is more energy-efficient and more capable of tracking advanced health statistics.  Thus, that means the consumer would need to shell out ANOTHER $350+ to get the Apple Watch he/she thought he/she would be getting with THIS Apple Watch version.

It remains to be seen if I’m right on #3, but the history of Apple product launches, releases, and cycles would suggest that that is the path Apple is going to take with the Apple Watch.  Thus, getting the Apple Watch now when it is largely devoid of the main selling points the public was waiting for would only be for those who want to say, “I was one of the first few to own the very first Apple Watch.”  In other words, it would be a status symbol, which would be fine and enough for some affluents to purchase, but probably not enough for other affluents.  The same would hold true for the mainstream population: The most diehard Apple fans that camp out for hours and days at a time might be willing to go for it (though, as I’ve said before, the Apple Watch would not do what the iPhone does, so maybe they won’t even be willing to camp out for the Apple Watch), but the vast majority would probably not be convinced to shell out enough money that would purchase the next iPhone model with a 2-year agreement on a smartwatch that really can’t match other smartwatches in the industry when it comes to advanced health tracking features or even apps.

Why I Would Have Waited To Release The Apple Watch And Why I Think This Model Will Underwhelm And Even Disappoint Analysts And The Public

Thus, if I were Apple, I would have delayed this product launch until later this year or even early 2016 to ensure that the watch had long battery life, had the ability to measure and track advanced health metrics (one of the main selling features that was either mentioned or strongly rumored to have), and had a more defined target market in terms of what problems or issues it would solve.

Yes, it’s a common practice to deliver a product that is short on features in order to gain traction in a marketplace and to get feedback to make improvements for future releases (this happens often in the digital software industry), but those added features are usually offered for free or at reduced cost to customers who help to iron out those “bugs” and provide that feedback for added features that are missing.  As mentioned above, based on Apple’s history, it’s more likely Apple will present an upgraded Apple Watch within six to twelve months from now with those features (provided the Apple Watch gains enough traction in the marketplace to achieve longevity to necessitate a more advanced version in the first place), features that were either mentioned or strongly hinted at when the Apple Watch was first presented and promoted.  In essence, a person would have to purchase the Apple Watch twice if he/she purchases the Watch now in order to get the Watch he/she thought he/she would be getting based on the publicity surrounding the product when it was first announced.

In addition, I am not convinced about the clarity of Apple Watch’s target market. While the Apple brand name carries a lot of weight and has a lot of fanfare and publicity behind it, when the product itself is relatively expensive to much of the population and doesn’t provide a defined solution or benefit to most of the population, the odds are against it that it will be considered a “hit” or a “mover” in the smartwatch industry.

It’s possible Apple could create a smartwatch that could do that, but from what I have heard, read, and seen, this Apple Watch is likely NOT that revolutionary smartwatch experts and the public expect to see from a noted tech company like Apple.  That is why I think this Apple Watch will likely underwhelm and “surprise” us by the breadth of what it CANNOT do rather than by what it can do- thus, I think it may “surprise” some on how much it underachieves compared to Apple’s previous product launches, including the iPhone and the iPad.

Feel free to leave your thoughts on Apple, its upcoming Apple Watch,  and if you’re eagerly anticipating it or not below.

 

 

Why Apple Has Gotten Rotten In The Tech Industry (Part 5- Apple’s Future)

This is Part 5, the Final Part of the Series “Why Apple Has Gotten Rotten In The Tech Industry.”

To read the other four parts in this series:

Part 1 (Google)

Part 2 (Samsung)

Part 3 (Amazon)

Part 4 (Other Competitors and Challenges)

Having gone through the challenges that Apple is facing from equally capable companies such as Google, Samsung, Amazon, and Pebble on several fronts, including the smartphone, tablet, and smartwatch categories, what does the future hold for Apple?

As was mentioned earlier in this series, expecting Apple to widen the gap to where they were far ahead of their competitors is unrealistic; those days are gone.  For Apple fans and investors, one must accept this fact: the rest of the industry has caught up, and in some ways, the rest of the industry is outdoing Apple in the tech industry, especially in terms of innovation.

Does this mean that Apple is finished in terms of being a profitable company in the tech sector?  No; Apple just needs to raise its game when it comes to innovation, both in the tech industry and beyond.  The good news is that there are rumors of them doing just that.

There are more rumors by the day that Apple is looking to connect its impending iWatch to the health industry.  As this 9to5Mac article points out, specifically, it’s the mobile healthcare industry that Apple is targeting.  That would certainly explain why Apple has taken a long time to release its iWatch, and it is an industry that the other main tech companies have not targeted.  That, alone, should appease Apple fans and investors, as this could be the impetus Apple needs to get some of its value back closer to its all-time high of $700+ (currently under $550 as of the time of this blog post).

Reportedly, the new iOS 8 operating system will include an application called “Healthbook” that will enable the iWatch to monitor one’s fitness (weight lost, calories burned, steps taken, etc.) and one’s health (heart rate, blood pressure, hydration levels, etc.).

While that is exciting, there are still some hurdles to take care of.  As this CiteWorld article points out, Apple is entering a different playing field that is more tightly regulated in virtually every country than either the music or entertainment industry.  Thus, Apple will not be able to easily and quickly differentiate themselves from other competitors in the field as they did for a long time in the tech field.

In addition, Apple likely would have to gain the proper clearance from such regulatory organizations as the FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services in order to be able to market the iWatch as a medical device.  Note that this is just at the U.S. Federal level; many states and some cities have their own regulatory rules when it comes to health devices.  This doesn’t even take into account the European Union and other regulatory bodies in the countries of Europe and Asia.

Thus, the iWatch’s ability to penetrate the health industry is far from a done deal, and any roadblock could seriously hinder or even derail the full plans for the iWatch to disrupt the health industry and give Apple some much needed momentum for the company.

Apple introduced iRadio in June 2013 after years of rumors that Apple was going to get into the online radio market.  Many were predicting that Pandora, whom many considered to be the online radio leader, would suffer irreparable damage as a result, possibly leading to its collapse.

However, despite iRadio being in existence for over six months now, Pandora, as well as Spotify, are still kicking out the tunes.  In fact, Google also got into the act with its All Access Streaming Music service.  While iRadio added a nice feature to iOS7, it really didn’t distinguish itself from the other services, and in fact lacked features that Google All Access and Spotify provide – the ability to stream virtually any song any time the user wishes.  Surprisingly, iRadio is cheaper than Pandora (the most similar service to iRadio) – $24.99/year versus $36/year.  Of course, there are free versions in both, supported by ads.

This is another example of where Apple took a long time to develop a product, finally deliver it, but not distinguish itself from its competitors.  When it comes to Internet radio, it’s likely that most still think of Pandora or Spotify before Apple or Google (I know I do – and I use my iPad every day, but have only had iRadio on two times total in the last few months), showing the importance of being a first or early mover in the market.

At one time, most stock analysts and fans thought that Apple was the model company when it comes to tech, but that is no longer the case.

Ben Reitzes, analyst at Barclays, just downgraded Apple to “equal weight” from “overweight.”  That’s significant because, he has had Apple as “overweight” for 10 YEARS. Yes, 10 YEARS! As he states in this Benzinga article, he believes that iPhones will become more costly to make due to such new features as Sapphire glass, curved glass, and new batteries.  This will lessen Apple’s margins on its flagship smartphone product, thus leading to less profitability.  Reitzes doesn’t believe that AppleTVs or smartwatches will help to raise Apple’s valuation either.

This type of judgment on Apple is something that has not been seen in quite some time.  Even when Apple’s stock was dropping like a rock in 2013, most analysts brushed it off and thought that Apple would immediately come back in terms of value.  I know some analysts were even predicting that Apple would rise to $800, even $1000+ during 2014.

While that may still be possible, current evidence would suggest otherwise, as Apple is currently trading above $520, down about $1 (2.2%) on the day as of the time this post is written (about 12:15 PM ET on Monday, February 24, 2014).  While it has gained from the $385.10, the low it hit on April 19, 2013, it’s also a good margin away from the recent high of $575.14 on December 5, 2013, never mind the fact that Apple hasn’t been above $600 for over a year now.

Thus, more people are starting to realize that Apple is facing a much tougher tech environment, and Apple has been slow to adapt.  Every time Apple has more negative news about it or a positive development about a competitor surfaces, it does more damage to Apple than in the past.

Add in the fact that Apple has admitted that it has a “bug” that fails to encrypt sensitive data on iOS and Macs, and this just further intensifies the black cloud hanging over Apple.  This type of bug sounds more typical of Microsoft and Windows, yet the former tech leader is experiencing such a “bug” and is still working to resolve it on Macs (they have issued an iOS patch for iPhones and iPads).  Worse than that, as this Reuters article reveals, this bug has been present for months, but has only been identified very recently.  Thus, many Mac users may have inadvertently exposed their sensitive data on public WiFi without even knowing it until now.

This is another reason why Apple is being looked down upon, especially amongst the younger generation; Apple is not the most transparent company in terms of its operation, a quality that younger generations look more for than older generations do.  That is one problem Apple is facing.

Another problem Apple is facing is one that I mentioned earlier in this series: More and more people are looking at paying less for their technology.  This is likely to hold true in China, which is why most don’t think Apple will ever lead in market share there (they were up 1% in Q4 2013, a total of 7% market share, good for fifth place, 12% behind market leader Samsung – source).

Whereas at one time people thought that Apple was THE only choice in getting quality tech, even at higher prices, the competition has shown that that is no longer the case.  Add in the fact that the competition’s tech is cheaper, and it’s not surprising that other companies have more market share in places such as China, Android dominates the world (and leads in the U.S.), and times don’t look that bright for Apple right now.

So, what can Apple do about this downtrend?

Two things:

1. They need to be more adaptive to the competition – they can’t take as long in coming out with new products.  I pointed out both the delays in producing the iRadio and in the smartwatch.  Just as the iRadio didn’t do a whole lot for Apple or that much against its competition, I don’t expect the smartwatch to do much either, even if it is targeted more toward the health sector.  As mentioned earlier in this post, Apple has many governmental hurdles and restrictions to deal with before the smartwatch can even become a medical device reality, and that’s across many government levels.

2. Apple also must be more innovative in its product line.  While the health industry is one that its competitors aren’t in (yet), the delays aren’t helping Apple’s cause to be more innovative in the health industry.  As for its other products, the iRadio wasn’t that innovative, as noted above, and new models of the iPhone and iPad aren’t innovative enough anymore to outdo or even match its competitors.

Further proof that Apple has to pick up its “tech” game to make a comeback: I just seen in the latest Best Buy weekly flyer that Samsung has released its new, larger tablet, the Samsung Galaxy Note PRO 12.2.  Apple has plans to release a 13″ iPad, but that won’t be until later this year or 2015, again leading to them being behind the ball when it comes to innovation.  Apple does plan to target more of the enterprise industry than the main consumer industry, but the innovation behind such an idea has again been taken away from Apple thanks to Samsung coming out with such a product first.

In essence, Apple must improve the innovation in its product lines and its ability to get them to the market quickly (preferably first).  It is no longer good enough for them to just release a product and have everyone look upon Apple positively; it must now react to competition that wasn’t really present even a few years ago, and certainly not five years ago.  This is the only way, in my opinion, that Apple will start to gain value in the eyes of its fans and investors again.  Apple isn’t going away in the tech industry, but it’s no longer the tech leader, and it won’t be again either without it being more innovative and being more efficient in getting its technology out to the market before its competitors do.

I hope you enjoyed this series.  Feel free to post your comments below.  I will keep an eye on Apple and the tech industry in the coming months, delivering a few posts here and there.  If you have questions or would like to see an expansion of this series, looking at another specific aspect of Apple and/or the tech industry, feel free to leave a comment below.  Thanks!

Why Apple Has Gotten Rotten In The Tech Industry – Part 4 (Other Competitors & Challenges)

This is Part 4 of the 5-Part Series, “Why Apple Has Gotten Rotten In The Tech Industry” – Other Competitors and Challenges.

To read Part 1 (Google)

To read Part 2 (Samsung)

To read Part 3 (Amazon)

As has been discussed in the three posts above, Apple is facing stiffer competition on many different technological fronts from companies such as Google, Samsung, and Amazon.  This is especially true when it comes to the smartphone and tablet market, where Apple made waves years ago with the original iPhone and iPad.

The problem is that Apple hasn’t been very innovative since that point.  Yes, they’ve updated the iPhone and iPad numerous times, some revisions with nice enhancements (such as the iPad 2), but the revisions of late have been of the “ho-hum” variety, which hasn’t impressed customers or investors.  In fact, I know more Apple fans often wait a version or two to upgrade, knowing some who are still on iPhone 4s who haven’t upgraded to the iPhone 5 or iPhone 5s (or 5c).  In the past, it was quite common for Apple fans who would go grab every new version, but with the prices and the constant “rebooting” of the iPhone every year, but few notable upgrades, most Apple fans think they can wait a version or two before upgrading.  This is another notable shift in how people are viewing Apple.

Many people, including noted CNBC commentator Jim Cramer, think that Apple must be more innovative – this is because the technology field has become much more competitive and that the main rivals for Apple have caught up and even surpassed them in technology, as I’ve noted in earlier posts of this series.

Some are excited by the fact that Apple is purported to be introducing a new smartwatch this year, a type of watch that can be programmed in order to answer calls on your smartphone, hold those calls, surf the Internet, and more.  While it’s certainly different for Apple to be doing that, what some might even call “innovative,” personally, I think it will take much more than that for Apple to really regain some momentum in the tech industry.

“Why?” you ask.

Well, for starters, Apple was rumored to be releasing a smartwatch last year, but that obviously didn’t happen.  In the past, that might have been acceptable, but as I said above, the competition has become much better at matching and outdoing Apple in technology.  Samsung already released the “Galaxy Gear,” a type of smartwatch that works with their Samsung smartphones (though it’s purported to work with other Android phones as well).  Now, the “Galaxy Gear” didn’t come out to the most favorable reviews, which is why Samsung plans to release a second version of the “Galaxy Gear” in 2014.  Early indications seem to suggest that Samsung may release that second version before Apple even releases its initial smartwatch.  This certainly doesn’t help Apple’s image of being an innovator of technology when one of its main rivals will likely come out with a second version before Apple even comes out with a first.

However, the bigger problem for Apple in the growing smartwatch industry is not so much Samsung, but by a relatively new company that came out with a smartwatch that has received rave reviews: Pebble.  Pebble Technology developed this smartwatch thanks to the help of the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, and began shipping the Pebble Smartwatch in January 2013, over a year ago.  This competitor is not going away anytime soon; besides the fact that most would consider it the leader in the smartwatch industry, apps are being developed for it.  In fact, it can communicate with both Apple and Android phones via many different third-party apps.

Thus, Apple (and Samsung, for that matter) has its work cut out for it.  Therefore, I don’t think releasing a smartwatch, no matter how favorable the reviews are, is really going to give the company the impetus of being the tech leader again.  Certainly, it may raise its standing a bit, could even boost the valuation of the company for a short period of time, but as for that “grand slam” that’s going to put it back out in front of the competition, that’s highly unlikely.  At best, it may put itself up there with Pebble and show that it, too, can come up with a solid smartwatch on its first try (something Samsung largely was unable to do), but as for being out in front in the smartwatch industry, that honor has to go to the rising upstart, Pebble.

Other avenues for Apple seem to have a bit more promise for the company in terms of it being considered an innovator again.  Two, in particular, come to mind: Its “iBeacon” technology, and rumors of entering the health-monitoring industry.  The latter is pretty interesting, and we’ll explore this in Part 5.  I bring up the former here because, while it is interesting in its own right, there’s one hurdle that could torpedo much of the momentum from such a technology.

The “iBeacon” technology is one of the technologies that retailers hope to use to learn more about their customer while in-store, and then use that information to provide relevant ads and offers on their mobile devices (usually smartphones) while they’re in certain areas of the store.  So, for instance, if you’re in a Target store near the clothing area, you may get a special offer for a new pair of jeans.  If you’re in a local grocery store and you’re nearing the frozen food section, you might get a special offer for Van de Kamp fish sticks, etc.  Essentially, it relies on push notifications when a person is in a specific area of a store. It runs on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), also known as Bluetooth Smart.  Certainly, this technology shows a lot of promise for retailers to provide real-time marketing offers to their customers while they are in-store.  And, to my knowledge, Apple is the first one to offer such a technology.

The problem that I think will torpedo much of the momentum from this technology was highlighted in this Mobile Marketer article from February 11.  There is an upcoming Federal Trade Commission workshop on geolocation to address such technologies as the iBeacon, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and others that can track customers while in-store in an effort to learn more about what areas of the store they visit and stay in most often and provide relevant offers based on what’s near-by to them.

The problem comes in where some privacy advocacy groups are claiming that too much information is being revealed because of this technology.  One privacy advocacy group even claims that some marketers are even tracking in-store users in order to make stocking decisions based on income and/or race.  If true, obviously, this will cause the FTC to “raise an eyebrow” and greatly hinder the information that retailers can gather from this technology, thus negating much of the benefits retailers can get from it, and torpedoing much of the benefits for Apple.

Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA certainly did not help Apple when it came to the iBeacon.  Nor did the recent revelation that Nordstrom was tracking its customers’ every movement (without their knowledge) when they used the company’s Wi-Fi in-store networks.  Nordstrom immediately stopped that practice when it was revealed, thus putting an onus on the collection of too much data.

Thus, it would seem likely that the information the iBeacon system can collect will be limited in scope.  While it may still help retailers to some extent, the chances of that information being regulated is likely, and this will limit how much positive benefit Apple will receive from such a technology.  Whereas the iBeacon could have been a saving grace for Apple in terms of it regaining much of its former “tech leader” status, the fact that the technology will likely be limited and regulated due to privacy concerns and even racial/ethnic issues, the iBeacon technology will likely only benefit Apple slightly in terms of innovation and ingenuity.

So, again, Apple’s best efforts will likely not provide the “grand slam” it really needs to get back out in front of its competitors in the tech industry.  Can Apple even get back out in front of them?  And, if they can, what would do it?  These questions we will explore in the fifth and final part of this series, “Why Apple Has Gotten Rotten In The Tech Industry.”  That post will appear early next week – keep an eye out for it.

“Apple’s Gotten Rotten In Tech” Series Will Continue This Week

I hope all of you are well!

My apologies for not continuing the “Apple’s Gotten Rotten In Tech” series last week – I had some business to attend to that couldn’t wait.  However, I have learned more interesting things about Apple just over the last week where the wait will hopefully be worth it.

To refresh your memory, here is Part 1 (Google) and Part 2 (Samsung).

In fact, I am planning on making this at least a five-part series (for now – I may revisit this topic periodically over time).

As mentioned before,

Part 3 will be how Amazon has made life harder for Apple.

Part 4 will be how Apple’s efforts have fallen short in regards to the increasing tech competition.

Part 5 will be a continuation of Part 4, since there is a lot of information to cover, including some new information I have learned just over the last week.

Tentatively, I will attempt to post Part 3 either Wednesday or Thursday of this week, Part 4 either Thursday or Friday of this week, and Part 5 Monday or Tuesday of next week.

Therefore, I hope you’ll keep an eye out for this continuing series; again, I apologize for the delay and hope the wait is worth it.

Why Apple Has Gotten Rotten In The Tech Industry (Part 2: Samsung)

Editor’s Note: Barring a schedule change, Parts 3 (Amazon) and 4 (Apple itself) of this series will appear on this blog next week.

Today, we will take a look at how Samsung has done damage to Apple’s image as the tech leader. You can see how Google has done damage to Apple via Part 1 of this series.

Samsung has been one of the most prominent manufacturers of smartphones and tablets when it comes to the Android operating system.  Samsung has created the Galaxy S series of smartphones to rival Apple’s iPhones.  The Galaxy S3 and S4 smartphones have received strong reviews, though some were disappointed that the S4 didn’t do more to upgrade on the S3’s impressive features.

However, Samsung’s technology has greatly caught up with the iPhone, and in some ways, has surpassed it.  For instance, Samsung includes a 13-megapixel camera with its smartphone, whereas Apple’s iPhone 5s’s camera only has an 8-megapixel camera (just as the iPhone 4s and 5 have), just as the Galaxy S3 does.  Samsung has jumped ahead of Apple in this regard, likely because more and more people are taking pictures with their smartphones, even more so than using them for voice calling.

There’s more features that show that Samsung has overtaken Apple as an innovative of technology.  The Galaxy S4 has two other impressive features that overshadow the iPhone 5s’s technology.  One is the size of the screen: The Galaxy S4 has a 5-inch screen, whereas the iPhone 5s (like its immediate predecessors) only has a 4-inch screen.  Even more than that, the Galaxy S4 introduced the ability to control the touchscreen via the user’s eyes or hand gestures, known as “Air View” and “Air Gesture,” respectively.  Thus, it’s not even necessary to touch the touchscreen in order to control the on-screen display, something that iPhones don’t have at this point.  It’s important to point out that the S4 was released on March 13, 2013, whereas Apple released the iPhone 5s on September 20, 2013, six months later!

Samsung has another line of smartphones that is also doing damage to Apple’s reputation as the tech leader.  The Galaxy Note series is one of the most prominent types of smartphones that is commonly referred to as the “phablet” class.  This name is a combination of “phone” and “tablet,” largely due in part to the size of the screen and the ability of that screen to accept motions from a stylus (a type of electronic pen).  Whereas most smartphones have screen under 5 inches in diameter, the Galaxy Note has consistently been over 5 inches, with the latest version, the Note 3, coming in at a large 5.7 inches. The Galaxy Note 3 was released in September/October 2013, about the same time as the iPhone 5s.

While Apple got rave reviews for its Retina display, it falls short of the Galaxy S4 and Note 3 in terms of pixels, as the iPhone 5s only has 1136-by-640-pixel resolution at 326 ppi, while the S4 has 1920 x 1080 Pixel, 441 ppi and the Note 3 also has 1920 x 1080 Pixel display.

Plus, Samsung’s phones provide the user with the ability of replacing the batteries (whereas Apple’s aren’t removable without service support from Apple technicians), batteries that provide even more talk time than Apple’s iPhones.   Surf times are about the same for both companies, though Apple does win out in LTE with 10 hours versus Samsung’s 8 hours.

In fact, Apple is falling behind in the smartphone industry in terms of popularity, as reported by Mashable.  While Apple did increase the number of iPhones it sold by 13% in 2013, Samsung increased the number of smartphone sales by 43%.  The overall smartphone market grew by 38.4%, thus showing that Apple’s demand is slowing down compared to its competitors, largely because it is not seen as “cool” or “innovative” compared to its competition.

In fact, Apple is following in the footsteps of Samsung in the following regard.  Reports are surfacing that the iPhone 6 will have a 5-inch screen, the first iPhone to have greater than a 4-inch display.  As mentioned above, Samsung has already achieved 5+” status with both its S4 and its Galaxy Note 2 and 3 “phablet” phones.  Again, Apple is not being innovative enough to keep up with the “Joneses,” and is now starting to follow them, further showing why many investors and analysts are looking down upon the stock, which is currently under $500 as I write this post.

One other area where Samsung has outmaneuvered Apple is in the “wearable tech” industry.  Many people have talked about “smartwatches,” which is a watch device that allows you to receive notifications that your smartphone is receiving a call, as well as enabling you to accept that call.  You can also adjust various settings on your phone via this device, as well as surf directly on the device via its roughly 1.5″-2.0″ screen.

Samsung has already released the “Galaxy Gear” to combat the industry leader in the field (no, not Apple, but Pebble, a company I’ll discuss more in Part 4 of this series).  This was released on September 4, 2013.  The reviews on the Galaxy Gear were less than favorable by many, especially to Pebble’s smartwatch, but the fact that Samsung has already dived into the wearable tech industry shows that Samsung is more in tune with the development and speed of the technological industry than Apple.  In fact, word has it that Samsung is about to release the “Galaxy Gear 2,” an updated version of its smartwatch, to go with its new Samsung Galaxy S5 (and potentially other Samsung smartphones).  No date has been mentioned of when these two devices will be available, but probably a safe bet that they will appear sometime in 2014.

Apple had excelled in the development and speed of the technological industry when it released the iPhone and iPad, but it has failed to maintain that standard.  There are continuing rumors that it will release an iWatch in 2014, but at this rate, it might be after Samsung releases its second smartwatch.  Apple is using 64-bit processor technology in its iPhone 5s, whereas it seems that Samsung will stick with 32-bit technology in its new S5 smartphone, so that is one area where Apple is leading in technological innovation, but those moments have been few and far between for Apple over the last few years.

In Part 3 of this series, we’ll look at how Amazon is outmaneuvering Apple in the tech industry.  Watch for that. In the meantime, let me know via the comments below if you are a Samsung or Apple user, if you have used one and switched to the other, and what you like/don’t like about either Samsung or Apple.  Also, let me know if you think Apple’s best days are behind it or if there are brighter times ahead for the tech giant, and why you think or don’t think so.  Thank you for reading, and have a great day.

Why Apple Has Gotten Rotten In The Tech Industry (Part 1: Google)

You may be asking yourself, “What’s wrong with Apple?”  If you’ve been following the stock market, you’ll have heard a lot of commentary on what’s wrong with Apple and why its stock price is now barely over $500.  It dropped 8% yesterday, and it has fallen about another .25% or so in pre-market trading today.  Recall that this was the stock in 2012 that hit $700 and had analysts questioning whether it would hit $1,000, long before Google ever would.

Of course, we know that Google is well over $1,000 (it’s actually over $1,100), and it has been over the $1,000 mark since about the midway point of 2013.  And, in addition to the stock market, Google is one of the key reasons why Apple has gotten rotten when it comes to the tech industry, and has done it in two main ways.

1. Google’s Android operating system, the main operating system competitor to Apple’s iOS operating system.

2. Google’s Nexus line of products, including the Nexus 4, 5, 7, and 10.

Regarding the Android operating system, it’s on virtually every major phone and tablet that doesn’t run iOS, Windows, or Blackberry (the latter two are bit players in the mobile industry, with BlackBerry teetering on the point of collapse, while Windows hasn’t gained enough traction to put a real dent in either Android or iOS).  That means that Android is on virtually every smartphone and tablet made by the following companies:

– Google (co-created the Nexus 10 tablet with Samsung)

– Samsung (besides its own line of phones and tablets, also co-created the Nexus 10 tablet with Google)

– LG (in addition to its own line of phones and tablets, it was also the manufacturer of Google’s Nexus 4 and 5 smartphones)

– HTC

– Asus (manufacturer of Google’s Nexus 7 tablets – both versions)

– Etc.

In fact, Android has 81.3% of the global smartphone market, far more than Apple.  In most markets, Android smartphones make up over 50% of sales in those markets.  Yes, that includes the U.S. as well.  Apple still gets plenty of fanfare in the U.S., especially when they release a new version of the iPhone or iPad, but it’s far from the only game in town anymore when it comes to quality smartphones and tablets.

As for tablets, in Q2 2013, Android tablets doubled the pace of Apple tablets, as reported by Mashable.  In Q2 2012, the two operating systems were about 50/50, but in Q2 2013, it was Android with 67% of the tablet market, versus 28.3% of the tablet market for Apple.

Thus, Google has been pulling ahead in both smartphones and tablets for quite some time; this is NOT a recent phenomenon.

In addition, Google’s Nexus series has been turning the tide for the Android operating system against the iPhone.  The Nexus 4 came out to very solid reviews (the only real knocks were the lack of LTE and a relatively average camera), and the Nexus 5 (having LTE and a better camera) is coming out to even better reviews.  Even some Apple fans on various retail sites have said that they’d either consider replacing their iPhone with a Nexus phone, or have already done so.  That was unheard of just a few short years ago, further emphasizing the fact that Apple has lost the innovative edge, while Google and others have caught up to the iPhone in terms of technological usefulness and ease.

The Nexus smartphones are making inroads against the iPhone for several reasons. One reason is the lower cost without a contract ($349 for 16GB version and $399 for 32GB version) versus $199 subsidized on a 2-year contract from main providers AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint.  T-Mobile was finally added as a mobile provider for iPhones, and they do offer the option of paying for the phone upfront, but expect to pay about $610 for the 16GB version and $710 for the 32GB version.

That major difference in price used to not matter to many people, but that is becoming less and less the case, as Android smartphones, particularly those made by Google, Samsung, and LG, have caught up to Apple’s iPhone in terms of technology.  In some ways, they have even surpassed it.  Google’s Nexus phones are quite responsive in terms of their processors and in their touchscreens, similar to Apple’s iPhones.  This is why more Apple users have or are considering losing their iPhones for good for Android smartphones.

In fact, being on Twitter everyday @jchengery, I have noticed an interesting trend of more people taking up Android phones as their phone of choice.  One notable celebrity who is an Android user is Donald Trump.  I’ve noticed other people who were iPhone users in the past, but have recently switched to Android. One such example is CNBC Tech Reporter Seema Mody.

There are rumors that Apple will release an iPhone 6 later in 2014.  Some reports even suggest that it will have charging capabilities without wires.  Well, that’s great for Apple fans, but that’s not a new innovation for the industry.  Another main reason why Google Nexus phones have been making inroads against iPhones is because of Qi.  This wireless charger, for Google’s Nexus 4 and Nexus 10, was released in 2012; then, an updated pad for its Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 was released in 2013.  More and more people are wanting wireless technology due to the fact that they can connect to the Internet virtually anywhere; thus, they want the ability to charge their phone anywhere, even without an outlet nearby.

In fairness to Apple, they did come up with the fingerprint scanner on their latest iPhone, the iPhone 5s.  However, there were some issues of it not working easily for all people.  Plus, it disappointed users somewhat because it didn’t allow them to swipe their fingers to purchase items on the iTunes and App Stores, a feature many were looking forward to.  The main reason that wasn’t included in the iPhone 5s is mostly because it was a test feature that was only intended to unlock the phone for the user. While the scanner created much buzz during the debut of the iPhone 5s, the staying power of that buzz fell away pretty quickly, thus not giving Apple the boost it needed to stem the tide by Google and others in the tech field.

All of the aforementioned circumstances form part of the reason why there is such a disparity in the respective stock prices, with Google being over $1,100, while Apple is just over $500.  Many analysts and even loyal Apple supporters are clamoring for new, innovative products to revolutionize the industry, much like the iPhone and iPad did.  However, that’s been the major problem for Apple: Since the original iPad debuted on April 3, 2010, there have been no new products from Apple, and very few technological innovations, virtually none on the order of the iPhone and iPad.  They made some modifications to the iPad, some of which were very ingenious and innovative, especially with the iPad 2, but Apple has been in the rut of releasing a new iPhone (or two, in the case of 2013) and iPad each year, and nothing else, a pattern that is wearing thin with analysts and many Apple fans.

Google has made similar inroads against Apple’s iPad as well.  Google’s Nexus 7 FHD tablet (2nd generation version) has received rave reviews for its speediness thanks to its Android 4.4 operating system (codename: “Kit Kat”), its lower price ($229 for 16GB version, $269 for 32GB version, and $349 for 32GB LTE version), its high-resolution screen, and its form factor.   The prices are considerably lower than the Apple iPad Mini Retina (the latest version of the Apple iPad Mini), as the equivalents cost $399, $499, and $629 respectively. In addition, Google allowed you to choose any carrier you wished so long as you could use a micro-SIM card, whereas you had to enter into a contract with any of the four main carriers to have an Apple iPad Mini Retina with LTE capability.

In fact, there were rumors that Apple wasn’t even going to release a new iPad and iPad mini at the end of 2013, partly because there were some material shortages at their main Foxconn headquarters in China, thus delaying the manufacturing of new iPads and iPad Minis.  I believe that Apple had no choice but to do so because both Google and Amazon had headstarts into the 2013 holiday season with their latest tablets, both of which received rave reviews, and thus, Apple had to act.  The new iPad Air and iPad Mini Retina received good reviews, though some questioned why Apple didn’t become the first major tech provider to equip its wireless devices with the ability to utilize the new wireless ac protocol, which is reported to be between three to four times faster than wireless n.

This was a missed opportunity for Apple, as they could have set a new standard in wireless devices.  Additionally, if the iPad Air and iPad Mini Retina aren’t updated with new versions until late 2014 or even early 2015, it’s likely that their competitors (Google, Amazon, Samsung, etc.) will have wireless ac capabilities in their phones and tablets before then.  Plus, the fact that ac is backwards-compatible with wireless n and g made this a real no-brainer for Apple, yet it was a feature they did not act on.  This is further proof that Apple has lost its technological edge and is no longer the tech leader it was just a few short years ago.

One other area where Google has caught up to Apple is in the TV industry.  There have been many rumors that Apple is negotiating with major broadcast networks to provide channels such as HBO, Showtime, and others over an Apple TV device.  So far, that has not come to pass – it can stream Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and others, but nothing beyond that.  Even if Apple can get programming from major cable providers, it’s debatable how much of an effect that will have on Apple’s valuation, since the broadcasting industry is already a well-populated, well-established field.

Google has taken advantage of this lack of cable programming by introducing Chromecast, a USB device that plugs into your HDTV and allows you to wirelessly stream YouTube and virtually any website that is in Google’s Chrome browser on your HDTV.  In addition, it’s only $35 (even less at some places) to gain many of the same capabilities that Apple TV provides, yet the Apple TV costs $99.

Again, Google duplicates Apple’s abilities at a fraction of the cost.  The fact that much of the population is taking price into greater consideration when choosing their wireless devices favors Google and Android (including Amazon, Samsung, LG, Asus, and others).  Apple’s premium brand is losing power and influence in the industry, which is all the more reason why its stock valuation has fallen considerably from the $700+ it was at in 2012.

Thus, Google continues to make up ground on Apple, further showing that Apple has gotten rotten in the tech industry, especially when it comes to innovation and remaining the tech leader, which it no longer is.  At best, it’s near the top, still in the hunt, but it’s no longer alone up there, and in many ways, it’s fallen behind Google, Samsung, Amazon, and others.

The next post in this series will focus on how Apple has fallen behind Samsung in terms of tech innovation. Watch for it. In the meantime, let me know what you think of the battle between Apple and Google in the tech industry, what products you prefer, and what products you’d like to see from either or both companies in the future in the comments below.

Why I think Apple’s new 12.9″ iPad may be more than just for the educational market

If you have not heard, Apple is rumored to be working on a new 12.9″ iPad for the educational market. This new iPad is to be released in October 2014 according to PCMag.com.  Samsung is also planning on 12- and 13-inch devices for that market as well.

That (Samsung planning on introducing similar devices) is one reason why Apple is doing it.  The other main reason, I think, is because Apple is trying to create a new trend, just as they did with the iPhone and iPad, something that their recent products (the recent iPhone and iPad versions) and planned products (the Apple TV and the rumored iWatch) really aren’t doing or probably are going to be able to do. (I’ll explain why I think none of those aforementioned products will help Apple have a big 2014, if it has a big 2014, in a future post).

I think Apple is looking to do three things with this new iPad:

1. Try to establish a strong presence in the educational market, as the rumor says.

2. Try to take a bigger bite out of the laptop/notebook market, which would really do damage to Microsoft.

3. Try to counter the Microsoft Surface tablets, especially the Pro 2.

I say #2 because most of the laptops and notebooks that are still being produced run on Windows.  Yes, Apple has MacBooks, MacBook Pros, etc., but Apple sees the future just as much as the other companies (including Microsoft) see it: There will come a point in the near future where the traditional notebook/laptop is just a chapter in a school textbook (or tablet book in all likelihood, since traditional textbooks will probably be a thing of the past in the coming decade or two).  So, all makers of notebooks/laptops, including Apple, will no longer have that as a viable product line and income stream.  However, Microsoft is still the predominant operating system for notebooks, so this would really take a big bite out of them than it would for Apple.

Apple (as is Samsung) is trying to accelerate the demise of the laptop/notebook by creating a larger portable tablet that can be carried around and used.  Yes, it might be for the educational market at first, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple (and Samsung) both put larger tablets on the overall market if the “test” in the educational market works out well.  More on the challenges facing this below.

As for saying #3, I think Apple and Samsung are both trying to come up with larger tablets that can do more “work.”  Many of the complaints toward such devices as the iPad, Google Nexus 7, and Kindle Fire HD and HDX is that they are not very intuitive to do such tasks as creating documents and publishing them.  Even writing simple emails is pretty challenging.  Microsoft has, arguably, been the best at that because of the Microsoft Office Suite, something that the Microsoft Surface tablets can offer, whereas the other tablets cannot.

There’s office apps available at the App Store, Google Play, and the Appstore For Android on Amazon, but none of them really match the intuitiveness and functionality of Microsoft Office.  My thinking is that Apple and Samsung are attempting to provide larger tablets that have greater processing power (which the Microsoft Surface tablets have) and greater storage capacity (Microsoft Office does take up quite a bit of room on those Surface tablets) to counter those Surface tablets both in terms of functionality and capability.

Provided this is true, and these tablets will be for the overall market in the future, the challenges that Apple and Samsung will face with the production of these tablets:

1. Can they make the tablets light enough so that you don’t feel like they are weighing you down and are a bear to carry?

2. Can they make the tablets powerful enough to handle applications (equivalent or comparable to such applications as Microsoft Office) easily that a laptop would be able to do with ease and that you would use in school or work settings?

3. Can they come up with a viable alternative office suite to Microsoft Office, or at least, come up with an agreement with Microsoft to provide Microsoft Office on their tablets? (Samsung could, being that they already have a working relationship with Microsoft for their notebooks, but the same can’t be said for Apple, Google, or Amazon).

4. Can they enable the tablets to remain cool enough so that the tablets are not only comfortable to carry while performing these applications, but also ensure that the tablets remain in good working order and not overheat? (Some Microsoft Surface Pro users who have provided reviews have complained of the tablets getting quite warm and even overheating from time to time).

These are the questions that Apple and Samsung will have to deal with as they create these new, larger, and presumably, more powerful tablets.  While the educational market may be the initial staging ground for these tablets, I suspect that these larger tablets will hit the overall market in the not-too-distant future, probably either in 2015 or 2016, as both want to establish the future of the tablet as the only real “computer” you need and not any type of laptop or laptop-tablet hybrid that are still prevalent in retail and online retail outlets today.