Sunday, May 30, 2010

Is crippling Hotmail the only response Microsoft has for iPad?

In a previous post I examined the seemingly awkward posture of Microsoft in not responding to the need for a Microsoft Word-class word processor on the iPad. Today, I am just wondering if the "once-was" giant has dug in even deeper into a seeming iPad resentment.

You may have seen this Boston Globe interview of Bill Gates on the iPad. It nearly made me puke. This guy was my hero, you know, until that day. You can go see it here. I really don't know what is going on with Microsoft. This company once had their shares trading at $120. Today, it's scarcely $26. So, it's not like I am the only one who is restive about how this company is run. Perhaps, I am the only one not doing enough about it. I have believed in Microsoft for so long that I am not willing to face the possibility that glares me in the face. I still have my meagre RRSP savings in there, un-divested! I know! And my core competencies are built around Microsoft technologies.

It was disappointing for me to find, at least as an investor that Microsoft would not produce any Office product for the iPad at launch. Little did I know that that would not be the worst. My sister, Deborah Ilechukwu was arriving Edmonton from Abuja-Frankfurt, but was not on the expected airplane. I went to Hotmail online on my iPad because I needed to search my mail into a few weeks back to pull the record locator so that the airline could help me with info on Debo's whereabouts. I had gone to Hotmail when the iPad just arrived and it worked just fine. To my deepest chagrin, I realized that the iPad browser was now being redirected to use some crippled web page designed for the dumbest phone browsers. It supported no search, it was obtuse in every way. There was no option to display the full page, as most serious sites would offer you. I dug around and found a month-old story: Microsoft claimed that Hotmail would not work well on iPad browser and is trying to fix the problem. In the meantime, they would redirect iPad to mobile phone UIs.
I am really beginning to feel that I am backing the wrong horse here. When an animal is too obese to respond to brush fire, it usually gets roasted in it. If you had 3 months to respond to the iPad and you are still trying to even understand what that is, six months after, I think some rot needs being cleaned out in there. Three months should have been enough to even rewrite the entire Hotmail. This is the only online email service I know that fails on the iPad.
I just hope Microsoft is not boycotting the iPad. Notice: the iPad is no Netscape, you know. The world has changed. You have rested on your fat behinds long enough with the confidence that no one can replace Windows. You fail to realize that no one is talking about replacing Windows any more. The automobile never replaced the hot air ballon as a means of transportation.
I hear all the desperate reorg going on at Microsoft mobile. I think you need a reorg even down to the bone. When you are morbidly obese to the point that you cannot respond to a flame held to your feet, 20 minutes of treadmill will not do it. You need a more invasive surgery for starters.

Location:190 St NW,Edmonton,Canada

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Kindle makes the iPad a great eBook reader

In a previous post, I applauded the business 'nimble' by which Amazon responded to the iPad challenge to the Kindle. No one would have guessed by how much the move would bump up Amazon's Kindle business.

People are basically simple. When you change your car, everyone understands that you changed the steering wheels too. So, when the iPad was invented, everyone screamed, "Kindle Killer". It was simple to understand it that way: The Kindle is a machine plus the books you buy with that machine, inseparable.

Anyway, how it now works out is that people buy an iPad for all the cool things it does. Then, they also get two free eBook readers: iBooks and Kindle for iPad. That's all it takes to discover that you have 2 equally amazing eBook readers on your iPad. Right away, you get all your existing Kindle book synced in and available. And that's a huge plus.

Then it comes time to get some new content into your reader. Reading books on the iPad is just such a pleasure but you need to get the book in there. Right now, iBooks is at a disadvantage for content, especially for trade books, textbooks, technical books, you know ... other than novels and autobiographies. Amazon has a great head start on all those.

As a test, just search for any book in your profession on iBookstore. Then repeat the search on's Kindle selection. Right now, I am reading a software book on my iPad and even though I tried buying it on iBookstore, I couldn't. I bought it from Kindle books for about $35.00.

And regardless where you buy it from, the pleasure of reading the eBook on your iPad is just the same kind of pleasure.

Location:190 St NW,Edmonton,Canada

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The effect of cost on the uptake of new ideas

Why is the email such a worldwide phenomenon? It is free, that's why! Is this lesson enough for cellular voice and data providers to take a hint and clean house? This article reviews how telephone companies have historically priced otherwise cool ideas first into disuse and then into obsolescence.

All last week, Apple released international pricing plans for the iPhone in 7 countries. Alongside this several cellular network companies released data plans to support the 3G iPad model. Most of these plans tried to closely mirror the AT&T pricing model previously announced by Apple way back in January: A contract-free, no-overage-charging, unlocked SIM monthly plan of $15.00 for 256MB and $30 for Unlimited. Of all these service plans, two of them raised the most furor. Worst was the Japan plan that tied the iPad to a single cellular network company, contrary to what obtains everywhere in the world. The next closest angst-stirring plan was the Rogers plan of Canada.

The Rogers Canada problem

Rogers customers were livid with rage all last week and actually took it out on the Rogers Customer Service Blog, the Redboard.
The following are the key concerns, ordered from the least to the most disturbing:
  • Rogers would not match the AT&T base plan, dollar per dollar even though there's dollar parity
  • Rogers would not offer the AT&T-type Unlimited plan, claiming that most persons don't need it anyway. They rather replaced that plan category with a 5GB plan.
  • Rogers aborted the "Add iPad to your existing data plan" plan. This plan would (for a one-time $20 fee), let you use some of your unused data from another data plan.

This last one was the one that really got people threatening to even abandon the Rogers networks altogether. First, they feel they are only using data that they already paid for; they are using it with a second machine they paid for in full; and it was actually published on the Apple site as a Rogers offering. I could give you my opinion on this specific issue but this article is not about that. But if it was, I'd suggest that Rogers should fire whoever their Spin Master is. You know what a Spin Master does, right? That's the guy that comes up with the nonsense they tell people when they do something awful. The only requirement is that the nonsense has to be logical. Now, the Rogers nonsense is not logical.
To the Unlimited plan, they spinned, "99.xx percent of our customers don't need it". I was like, "Ok genius, so what's the problem?". Why stop at 5GB then, after all 99.xx customers don't use 5GB either! Then, to the "Join iPad to your existing plan" plan they said the most stupendously retorted spin: It was an error! What? Typographical or strategic? Since when was it an error to just do the right thing?
Let me offer an alternate explanation: Last couple months, Rogers got a signal from Apple that the iPad should not be subjected to the telephone companies' typical pricing barriers to adoption. In response, Rogers started investigating how to join iPad to existing iPhone/Blackberry data plans (It's not like it's new, anyway, the 'Couples plan' joins two or more phones to the same voice plan. And the 'GSM home phone' plan joins multiple handsets to the same plan. Anyway, Rogers created the "Join iPad ..." plan based on verifiable due-diligence and proper research. Then, the day following international price announcement, "The Department of How-Much-Greed-Can-We-Get-Away-With discovers that no one else is offering this. And they go, how much money can we gouge from these suckers if we knock off that "Join iPhone thingy?". "Did you say, millions? That's it! Take it off and let's see if anyone complains ... just as we tried to take advantage of the iPhone, too". That's what I think happened. But like I said, this post is not about that.

People don't like you metering their lives: The email case study

Emailing is a way to send some documentary information from one person to another, practically instantly. It has taken over our lives in such a short time. Billions of this thing get exchanged daily. Pretty much in the order of magnitude of millions per minute!! How did it happen? It is free; The telephone company did not get it's hooks into it before the rest of the world knew about it. They did not get a chance to charge for it on a per character, per word, per cent, per page, per minute, per MB or per anything basis. The email was not metered. And it grew.
The email had an twin sibling: Text Messaging (SMS). It was born in the same era but was controlled by the telephone company. They charged you per message, up to a maximum number of characters. So, it did not take off. Not until lately, when you can now get a package of so many messages per month (often unlimited local text messaging) because it has to complete with emails that now come right into the phone.
SMS has an older sibling: TeleFax (FAX). It was controlled by the telephone company. They charged per minute. Earlier on, they even forced you to get another line for your fax, even though the two machines could co-exist on the same phone line. They no longer do today, but that practice is the order of the day. Every company has a phone line and a separate fax line. The FAX was an irreplaceable document transmittal technology (not irreplaceable anymore, though). It helped businesses to cut down post office delays. But on the personal consumer side: The FAX failed. Most humans on earth have never sent faxes from home.
FAX too has a much older pair of sibling: Telex/Telegram. It was controlled by the telephone company, it was metered by the character. Yes, you paid per character. And later, per word. A period was a word, a space between two words was a word. The Telegram was great but it is dead.
People don't like you metering their lives. Why is Facebook, twitter, or all those social networks so successful? They didn't meter people. They found business models that don't just naively draw blood from the primary consumer, so fast and so much that they would shrivel and die and the idea dying with them.

Why do they charge so much?

I once asked my Telco friend why they charged so much for the cellular phone. And he said, "Because we can. We treat it as a premium service. People pay for the social statement of having a mobile phone. It did't cost us more to provide it but we won't reduce the price for as long as they keep paying". I learned from him that cellular phone networks are cheaper to set up than land networks, and they are not more expensive to run. They made you pay more for cell phones because they figure that mobility is important to you. Take for instance, the "Rogers Home Phone". This service is based on the very same GSM service that you have on the cell phone handset. But they can price the Home phone service to be competitive with the Telus landline service. Second example: Nearly 10 years after US mobile phone companies offered international roaming as a base service on their voice calls, Canadian companies still make you pay roaming fees if you leave your little city to visit your farm 10 km away.Even in many developing countries, the cellular minute is a nationwide minute. And to perpetuate this practice, it appears that the competing companies have found a way to agree among one another on what and what they can compete on. When competiting parties agree among themselves in any sport, it's called 'fixing' and someone goes to jail for it. And we do have regulators. We really do.

How fast should you draw blood from a baby?

I have a vision for the iPad that is similar to the vision I had for the laptop. It is much easier to have your iPad with you all the time. It will give you much more on-demand access to your stuff. And you will not have to 'get home' before you can do something. I believe the WiFi-only model is just a test-the-water model. The full glory of the iPad can only be revealed when you can just turn it on and you have access to all you need. Trust me this thing is so boring to use when you have no connection to the rest of the world! And right now, only a 3G access gives you that kind of coverage. This baby will blossom and become the way to consume information in our world.
Unfortunately, 3G is controlled by the telephone company. Until a practical Wide Area Network (WAN) emerges that is not controlled by the phone company, their control is going to remain. The way their heads are wired, they would force you to get a new line even if you can share the same one, they will charge you per small unit, they will make you pay for being happy, for convenience, and just because they can. They will meter your usage until the vision is squeezed dry. Then, they will wait for the next idea to emerge. If this iPad vision must survive, the telephone company has got to take it's talons off, now!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

My iPad, one week after

One week after driving 17 hours in each direction from Edmonton to Seattle WA to buy an iPad, I thought you'd like to know how it's going for me.

About this time last week, I wrote to tell you guys that I finally got my iPad. I was in this hotel room in Seattle where my entire Edmonton crew was hanging out and refreshing from the first leg of the iPad adventure. I had gone along with every one: Idongesit, Victory, Samuela and Pete. Anyway, I was writing and telling you that this 32GB iPad 3G was finally in my hand and I was loving it. I will not spend much time telling you about all the first-looks and first impression stuff and is all over the Internet. I really agree with most of those balanced observations.

Buyer Remorse

First off, I've got to tell you this, and am sure you know about it as much as I do. Other than medication and basic food, there's hardly anything I buy that I get an attack of 'buyer remorse' over. It usually sets in after about 2 days of getting the item and having the initial excitement boil over. Well, I didn't have 'buyer remorse' after marrying my wife either, but let's not go there. Anyway, it's been a week and I don't have a tinge of that nagging "should I have?" thought. I am just so happy I got the iPad.

WiFi is great but 3G is important

Initially, I had thought to buy the WiFi-only option. But I'm so glad I changed my mind. This thing is specialized for consuming the Internet. Trust me. Most of the fun stuff you do with the iPad need some form of connection to the world outside of itself. So, if you can only do this where you have WiFi, it's like you're carrying a pseudo-cripped machine.
I can tell for sure because there's no iPad data plan in Canada yet (and am not about to cut my SIM card or Jailbreak this beauty). I've used a Jailbroken iPhone before (the 1st Gen) and till today, I can't upgrade it or anything. It's not fun. Anyway, if you have a choice, buy the 3G option. You'll thank me.

People at work

When I got back Monday, every one at work was like, "ahh!!" (the sound of sucking in so much air through a wide open mouth, wide open eyes and both arms reaching out to touch it). Everyone of my colleagues in the wing I worked loved the iPad. Some would not travel to Seattle for it, though, but they now understand why I would.

US Store, Canada Store

I am having fun with my schizophrenic iPad. One time, it's pointing to the Canada store (for most things movie and music), and another time, it's pointing to the US store for apps. And when it's confused about the store (because it pretends that the Canada app store does not exist), I just do the transaction on Mac iTunes and sync up to the iPad.

Little know Photo Viewer

I wonder why most people don't speak about this, but I consider it super cool! If you have pictures in your iPad, and the machine is locked, you get this pretty rose bud icon on the right hand side of the lock slider. Click it and you get access to your photos right away. You don't have to unlock the iPad to do this.

Kindle App complements iBooks

Who would have believed? The press made it an iPad vs Kindle war. But apparently, Apple and Amazon have made it (from a consumer's point of view), a symbiosis. There are books that the iBookStore don't yet have. There are many of them, especially trade books, like Computer books. In such cases, I'd just go over to the Kindle app (with it's brilliant screen) and just get the book from Amazon, and life just goes on.

Einstein's relativity: my iPhone shrunk

My iPhone now looks so small to read from. I can't even open the emails there. I just check who it is (when am out and about) and then, if it can wait, I wait and read it on the iPad. It's amazing how small the iPhone screen looks now.

What does the iPad replace

Honestly, the iPad takes a chip off everything. I kinda use everything else a bit less. And because I can take it everywhere, really everywhere, which you couldn't do with a laptop without looking out of place, the iPad has truly come to stay. Let's put it this way, you can't bring a laptop to thanksgiving dinner but you can bring an iPad. And while others are chatting about all the boring stuff or are retired to sleep, you won't have to tip-toe around grand-ma's old Windows 98 to check your email.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

I crossed the border for an iPad 3G

This is the first piece of business I am doing on my new, shiny iPad 3G. And thus ends the 3-4 months of breath holding.

Last night, my whole household, filled my wife's 8-seater (people + stroller + camping stuff) and drove 1440 km due south west from Edmonton to Linwood WA to buy an iPad 30GB 3G. We set off about 8 pm Edmonton time Friday and drove all night and morning, save 4 stops for gas & bio and one 45 min nap.

I got to Seattle at about noon (Edmonton time) Saturday (11am local time) and just walked into the Lynwood store and bought one. No lines, no protocol. I also bought a $50 US iTunes card so I could purchase the key apps I needed to buy from the US store (because they're not showing up in the Canada store yet: Pages, Keynote and Numbers). I think everyone needs them to be able to open attachments nicely, at least.

This is not really a review but I must tell you, the iPad is an amazing piece of computing device. If anyone tells you otherwise, it will be nice to find out why.

I barely had enough time to configure the iPad and sync up my music and initial app purchases before yeilding my body to the obligatory nudge of sleep about 4pm (local time). Idong and the children left and went shopping and the next time I stirred was about 9pm when they returned.

My configuration went quite smoothly (except for the store localization problems. iPad does not like that I bought some apps from the Canada store and others from the US store. This happens most when you need to do an app update. But I will keep navigating that minefield with caution.

My first impression: Something huge has just happened to personal computing! And it's not going back.

Something Apple should seriously give some thought is: How should we manage the Apple store across the countries? The kind of control that was brought to bear on the music store is not really necessary for the App store (I should think). So, purchases from multiple stores should sooner begin to learn to live together more transparently. This thing is a computer. It really is (in a catcher in-the-rye sort of way).

And, yes, I wrote this blog on the iPad.

UPDATE: I seem to solve the app localization issue by doing the updates in the mothership (computer itunes) and then syncing up to the iPad.