Apple’s humongous success has made it the most valuable tech company in the world. The market value of the former tech alpha dog, Microsoft, meanwhile, has shriveled.
But let’s keep things in perspective!
For all of its mind-blowing success, sales of Apple’s computing products are still just a fraction of Microsoft’s Windows 7 licenses.
As you can see in the chart below, since Microsoft launched Windows 7, Apple has sold ~150 million iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches, and Macs. Microsoft, meanwhile, has sold ~350 million Windows 7 licenses.
Let’s think about this. On the one hand, this chart asserts that Microsoft is a powerhouse in the desktop computing space. There’s no question there. What this chart also says, however, is that mobile OS products (like iOS) are becoming powerful in their own right. I would venture that iOS adoption will continue to rise as Apple integrates the powerful OS into their primary computer line. People will like it more, and businesses will begin to see incredible value in an easy-to-use, bulletproof OS for their road warriors.
Let’s see where this chart is in five years.
It’s no secret that I’m significantly against the junk that a lot of the carriers setting up to ultimately bleed consumers dry. The mobile space evolved rapidly and, like the banking system, carriers are seeing a great opportunity to sink their teeth into some of that sweet mobile meat. They’re actively working (behind the scenes for now) to create a situation that is incredibly anti-competitive and anti-consumer.
As the Internet evolves and becomes increasingly more mobile, we will undoubtedly begin to see carriers introduce “competitive” mobile internet plans, “tiered” pricing, “premium” services and/or access to certain services, etc. We aren’t seeing that right now because most people access their internet through terrestrial (land-based) wiring. Cable modems, DSL, and fiber are still the de facto standard, but imagine what the Internet landscape will look like next year. How about three years from now? Yeah. Mobile carriers want in on that, and they’ll lie and cheat their way into that system to do so.
So how does the consumer protect him or herself against this impending battle?
My solution, thus far, has been the trifecta of Google Voice, Apple, and another unlikely hero: TracFone
To understand my thought process on this, we’re going to have to take a little trip in the Wayback Machine. Here we go.
Not so very long ago, Apple unveiled, with the release of the iPhone 4, a technology (or protocol) it calls “FaceTime.” I predicted a little while ago that Apple will be using this technology as a way to skirt the carriers and get all their iOS devices to level where they are capable of “making a call” to other iOS devices. With a huge number of people around the world using the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad on a daily basis, it wouldn’t be far fetched to think that this can become a way for people to call each other and talk face to face (in case you haven’t noticed, we live in the future). I also predicted that they will be leveraging a rumored update to MobileMe that will essentially be the backbone of this new “service,” routing their FaceTime calls, allowing people to update their statuses so people know when they’re available or busy, etc. Now, the source link is outdated (I chalk that up to iPad 2 media insanity). We’re nearing the end of April and we haven’t heard so much as a peep from Apple. I still stand behind this idea, however.
People have asked me (as they always do), if I’m going to buy the next iPhone. This time, I don’t think so. I don’t think that the iPhone has the same value it did when it was first released, mostly because it comes with a pair of leg irons in the for of a service contract from either AT&T or Verizon. I wouldn’t touch either of those plans with a ten foot pole anymore. I believe that the iPod Touch is where it’s at right now. It does apps, does FaceTime, and any sort of Internet you can throw at it. It doesn’t come with a service contract, it’s thinner, lighter, and comes with higher storage capacity (not that you’ll need it with all this cloud stuff going on, but it’s good to have in case you would like to, oh, I don’t know, watch Star Wars.) If you look at my previous guide to get started with Google Voice, we can take it a step further.
Start there, contact me with any questions, and we’ll scaffold further over the course of the next week. For everyone with every possible phone need, there’s a plan that will work for a fraction of the cost you’re paying now, guaranteed.
One of my recent blog posts detailed the transition from a carrier-centric model of communicating to a user-centric model. This transition has been, for many people, difficult to understand and/or accomplish due to the ingrained carrier model that so many people are programmed to know. There are so many other ways to communicate, and people who embrace rapidly evolving technology will find themselves on the forefront of a new paradigm of that communication. It’s ridiculous that, in our world of super fast mobile broadband, we still pay carriers ridiculous fees for “minutes” that many of us never use.
The thing is, carriers know this. Carriers know that the future of communication looks more like what I’m doing on my own right now, and not like what they’re trying to push on everyone in American with their advertising wars. Sure, iPhones are great, but when your carrier is cutting your neck and hanging you upside-down over a bucket just so you can use the latest and greatest phone, you’ve got a problem. Phones should not have a “privilege tax” associated with them just because they can run apps.
In a recent discussion with a family member, the topic of “outrageous” pricing for data plans was mentioned. The family member in question pays around $40-50 monthly for a regional voice plan that includes far more minutes than he will ever use (obviously long-distance calls are extra). Up until recently, he did not have any means of communicating via SMS, and added on a $5/month messaging package. Recently, he wanted to upgrade his phone to something running the Android operating system so that he could browse the internet from his phone. He was taken aback, however, when the carrier representative told him that this phone required a $30/month data package. He was upset, but for the wrong reason.
“Can you believe it?” he asked me, “They wanted to charge me $30 a month for data! That’s crazy!”
“No,” I told him, “what’s crazy is that you’re paying $40-$50 each month for voice. I’m talking to you right now on a $25/month data plan. Talking.”
This took a little while to sink in. He didn’t quite get what I was saying, so I explained it to him.
Carriers charge their customers for voice airtime “minutes,” which are essentially packets of data that are prioritized over all other forms of communication in their cell towers. Each minute of talk time is like a reservation of the cell tower’s resources, requiring that the cell tower allocates a certain amount of its processing power and bandwidth to handle that single call. SMS messages consume such a tiny, infinitesimally small amount of that bandwidth that they have no impact whatsoever on the network. Other data (e.g. the Internet) is doled out as the cell tower allocates it. Carriers regularly cite all sorts of statistics regarding their mobile data usage, saying that it’s been increasing exponentially, uses more network backhaul than ever before and yadda yadda yadda. The true killer here is voice, and the shift to pure data will happen right under your nose. That being said, carriers will try to mask it all they can in order to charge you an arm and a leg for something that is not inherently different from anything else they offer.
4G, which is this buzzword that all sorts of carriers are throwing around now (some of whom don’t even have a true 4G network), is a data-only service right now. Data. 4G technology gives users more than enough bandwidth to be able to talk and browse the internet simultaneously. Heck, 4G networks have enough power to allow people to simultaneously video chat and and browse the internet simultaneously. I know, I’ve tried it, and they’re fast. A carrier could easily offer just a simple, flat-rate 4G internet plan for…say $40/month. For that, a person could talk, “text,” and browse the internet essentially without being limited by arbitrary caps to minutes, messages, or data consumption. Heck, we could even say $60/month could get you those privileges. “Wow, that’s cheap!” you might say. That’s right, it is, because those plans aren’t accompanied by the all-too-familiar “voice minutes” that we’re used to seeing now. All our voice is data right now, anyway, but carriers simply charge you differently for it.
Now, here’s the kicker. The carriers want to keep swindling you out of your money. They want to keep pulling every last dime they can out of you, and the way things are looking for mobile net neutrality, it looks like they’ll be able to. Recent laws that have been passed by Congress limit the amount of power the FCC has over mobile carriers, which essential allows them to charge you whatever they want for the “services” they offer. With the possible consolidation of T-Mobile under AT&T later this year (or early next year), this puts the American mobile consumer in dangerous territory. Verizon and AT&T will rule the air, and Sprint will carve out a niche (hopefully by offering real value in their services).
Ultimately, the mobile giants will find ways to squeeze extra money out of America by differentiating “voice” and “data.” This is insane, and you shouldn’t stand for it.
My next article will outline a plan to circumvent the impending storm, essentially to sandbag against a possible assault agains the mobile consumer space. This sounds crazy, I know, but it’s already happening. 4G will be the de facto standard very soon, and 5G will start to peek its head out from the horizon. What then? If Verizon and AT&T are doing this now, what will they do in five years? Ten? The future looks bleak, but stay tuned for ways to skirt the whole thing and save a pretty penny in the process.
One of the most recent and powerful innovations to develop in the mobile computing space has been the capacitative screen. First put into widespread use in the iPhone and later adopted by the mobile phone industry as a standard for mobile devices, the capacitative screen is amazing, but not without its drawbacks. Try tapping on something with the cap of a pen, or using the screen with gloves on, for instance, and you’ll be greeted with…nothing (unless you have those fancy gloves with capacitative pads on the fingers *jealous*).
This is a reaction to the early Tablet PCs, when the computer required what was called an “active” stylus. Active styli essentially have some sort of communication ability built into them (whether magnetic or otherwise) that tells the computer when the stylus is close and allows it to register input on the screen. The problem was that these devices were essentially useless unless they had their accompanying stylus. Lose that, and you’re left with what amounts to a fancy monitor.
The flip side to capacitative screens is that they respond (very well) to skin. While that’s great for your fingertip, it’s not so great for your wrist if you (like almost everyone on the planet) rest your wrist on a surface while writing. Go ahead and try it, chances are you do the same. People anchor their hands to their writing surface with their wrists. It’s just what we do. Try to do the same thing on the surface of an iPad, however, and you’ll be greeted with virtual ink all over the place. Some programs try to circumvent that problem by processing screen inputs to filter out unwanted “marks” on the page, but it isn’t perfect.
Witness, then, the triumphant return of the stylus.
There have been plenty of remarks about Apple’s magic tablet and its lack of a dedicated input stylus. Steve Jobs said clearly that he was against styli when he was first introducing iOS 4. What Steve wanted, was a simple start to a powerful operating system that didn’t require the user to learn “how” to use the stylus (the original styli for Tablet PCs were only semi-intuitive, mostly because users were forced to use an operating system that was never designed for that type of interaction). Steve wanted people to jump right in and start using the OS without requiring them to hunt for buttons with a stick. Fast forward a little while, and we start seeing that people actually do want a stylus, but not for the purpose Windows Mobile used it for. Now, people want to teach kids how to write. They want to teach kids how to draw, to create, and that’s difficult to do when all you’ve got is your finger.
Anyway, here’s a little tidbit:
The application, which proposed several different types of styli, such as a disk pivot and a powered conductive tip, for use with capacitive touch displays, was filed in July 2008, several years before the release of the iPad.
The pen paradox is that, for all the contention that has been fostered between multitouch and styli, the two can shine when used in tandem, assuming the user interface has been created with both in mind.
The crux of the argument is that people are interacting with a tablet using a tool they were born with (their hand), and they want to take the next evolutionary step: the writing utensil. Strangely enough, with this world of keyboards and texting, there is still something that people love about handwriting. I tend to wonder if the obsession with a natural handwriting is a waste of time. We keep chasing a writing system on these various tablets that replicates writing on paper…but why? Why should we be concerned with that at all?
I mean, fine, teach kids to write using a pen and paper, but why are we searching for a system of writing on an iPad, when typing is clearer, more efficient, and readily transferable to other media, as well? It doesn’t make sense to me, and it smacks of misunderstanding. If you need to jot a quick note, there are plenty of styli out there that will accomplish that for you (I use the Pogo Sketch), but for longer text, what is the advantage of writing over typing? I haven’t yet figured that out.
That isn’t to say that I don’t think that a stylus would have its value. Drawing is, without a doubt, easier with some sort of stylus. I imagine that CAD would be a natural fit, as well. The truth is that the real case for styli hasn’t been made yet. With all of the amazing talent out there and incredible ideas that the last two years have produced, I can’t wait to see the “killer app” that the stylus will enable.
Cutting the cord is now becoming a reality. Netflix is producing a TV show, YouTube is going live, and what do you want to bet that Hulu follows suit within the next two months? This trend is not going away, and the corporate maniacs who think that they can control how and when people get access to the media they want to watch or listen to are wrong.
They know it, they can’t fight it, but they will. In the process, they’ll cause damage to the infrastructure that is actually supporting them right now because of their greed. They don’t want to actually provide interesting things for people to watch or read, they just want to wrap it in an iron cage so people have to pay through the nose to get it, just like the diamond industry.