The confounding and persistent belief that hyper-growth can last

There are certain things I cannot comprehend.

Michael Jackson’s post-“Bad” album sales.

The success of “Two and a Half Men.”

The McRib.

But the most confounding thing of all is the notion that exponential growth can be sustained over a long period of time. Case in point: This Associated Press piece questions Apple’s ability to maintain unthinkable double-digit profits quarter after quarter:

Analysts said the warning suggested Apple can no longer sustain its growth without some completely new products. Its last revolutionary creation, the iPad, was launched in 2010. Co-founder Steve Jobs, who was the engine behind the creation of the iPod, iPhone and iPad, died in 2011.

So, people are concerned that Apple’s string of amazing product releases will — as all things do — end?

Of course it will end.

Meteoric growth relies on luck, context and rocket fuel. Sustainable growth relies on luck, context and solar panels.

I just don’t understand the go-go-go mindset. I suppose it’s exciting and interesting. But it’s not something you count on.

Smart App Banners in iOS, be gone

Apple introduced Smart App Banners so people using Safari in iOS can be informed / reminded / annoyed about an associated app produced by the host site or organization.

For example, you’ll see this thing if you land on a Wall Street Journal story:

Smart App Banner Wall Street Journal

It’s interesting the first time, tiresome the second, and anger-inducing the third.

And it doesn’t go away. Reload the page and it stays. Visit a different story on the same site, it’s still there.

If you visit a certain site regularly — as I do with ESPN — you’ll really hate these things.

Worse still, there doesn’t appear to be an easy way to disable Smart App Banners if you’re unwilling to Jailbreak your system.

These things are problematic for developers as well. Dion Almaer wrote up six simple functions that are missing from the current system. Most of his suggestions are of the be-nice-to-people variety:

I would like to declare “I don’t want to bug the users, so only show the message once a month”

That’s reasonable, and it’s a shame it has to be addressed at all.

Notable things: Josh Hamilton to the Angels; Death Star petition: Your move, White House; Google Maps returns to iOS

Josh Hamilton is going to Anaheim (Yes, Anaheim. I refuse to call them the Los Angeles Angels). When he arrives he’ll get $125 million over the next five years.

Two thoughts:

1. Thank God the Red Sox didn’t do this. Thank God.

2. Is the greater Los Angeles area sitting over a massive oil field? I know there’s a lot of TV money floating around that market, but the gush of cash from the Dodgers and Angels has made the Red Sox and Yankees look like tightwads.


Today’s installment of I Love The Internet (ILTI):

That’s not a moon! It’s an engine for job creation!

A petition to construct a Death Star has received the necessary signatures for official White House comment.

As of this writing, “Secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016” has 25,956 signatures.

(Via BuzzFeed.)


A few weeks ago I wondered if Apple would keep the Google Maps iOS app in approval purgatory, as it had done with another Google product.

Here’s my answer.

People are going on about how this is a big win for Google. And it is. But it’s also a win for iOS users. Now, we have a Google Maps app that’s got the one huge thing the pre-iOS 6 version was missing: voice-guided turn-by-turn directions.

So, let’s recap: Apple ditched Google Maps as the default, Tim Cook apologized, we all “suffered” with the Apple maps for a few months, then an improved Google Maps app appeared in the App Store.

I’ll take it.

Notable things: Stop showing violent promos for your violent shows during sports broadcasts; that’s a big baby; Apple needs to get on this TV thing, stat

I tend to avoid serious pop culture critiques because, good lord, we’re talking about television and movies and music and … it’s entertainment, people. You’re over thinking it.

But somehow this NPR essay, which certainly tiptoes along pretentiousness as some NPR things do, didn’t make me dry heave. I don’t necessarily agree with all of it — i.e. we really must do something about all the gore and violence in our “good” television shows — but it did get me thinking about a different type of gore and violence that sneaks in where it doesn’t belong.

I’m talking about the horrific commercials for the likes of “CSI” and “Criminal Minds” that air during sporting events.

Now, I can forgive an extended take of slimy entrails on “The Walking Dead” because: 1. That show is on cable late at night and 2. It’s a damn good drama that just happens to be set amidst a zombie apocalypse, so slimy entrails make sense from a contextual perspective.

More importantly: No one is showing those entrails when the network goes to commercial at the two-minute warning and my kids are in the room.

There is absolutely no reason — none — why CBS, NBC and Fox should be showing gunplay and violence and crime porn in their promos. Not during the day / early evening. Not when it’s entirely likely that sports fans with families are watching sports with their families.

Put another way: If I show my kids “The Walking Dead,” I’m the asshole. But if you sucker-punch my kids with violence and horror tucked within the promos for shows I would never show them, then you’re the asshole.

So knock it off.


What’s 6’5″ and 165 pounds?

A baby giraffe.


Tim Cook on televisions:

“When I go into my living room and turn on the TV, I feel like I have gone backwards in time by 20 to 30 years. It’s an area of intense interest. I can’t say more than that.”

Apple, you better get this right. The disruption is upon us, but we need a catalytic event (something like this) to spur a mutant leap in the television experience.

Notable things: Google Maps will reveal the state of Apple’s stubborn streak, me-too-itis, everyone was confused by Karl Rove

Google is in the late stages of developing a Maps app for iOS, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

I’m looking forward to having Google Maps back on my iOS devices, but I’m also intrigued by what’s to come.

Will Apple follow up its unusual apology with swift approval?

Or, will Apple’s disdain for Google keep the Maps app in approval purgatory?

Put another way: Is Tim Cook as stubborn as Steve Jobs?

I don’t think he is, but what happens next will go a long way toward answering that question.


The Google Maps / iOS story is notable for another reason: It shows the sad state of “me too!” that runs through the tech press. When a story like this hits Techmeme you know an onslaught of duplicate stories from other outlets will soon flood the Internet. Those second-wave pieces rarely offer anything substantial.


“What the? What is this?”

Roger Ailes had the same response as everyone else to Karl Rove’s election-night fit.

Today’s nugget of awesome: the iPad syncs EPUB files

I did something amazing today. I held out for nearly four hours before pre-ordering an iPad. Seriously. That’s a huge deal for me. I mean, I own the Apple Airport Extreme, okay? I’ve got an Apple TV and a…

iPad

I did something amazing today.

I held out for nearly four hours before pre-ordering an iPad. Seriously. That’s a huge deal for me. I mean, I own the Apple Airport Extreme, okay? I’ve got an Apple TV and a Mac Mini. My Apple fanboyism teeters on psychosis.

To reward me for my loyalty (and my recent herculean effort and inevitable cave-in), Apple continues to release details on the iPad that have nipped any lingering buyer’s remorse in the bud. For example, there’s this info delight that comes courtesy Wired’s Gadget Lab:

And for EPUB titles that are not offered through the iBooks store, you can manually add them to iTunes and then sync them to the iPad … That’s good news for iPad customers, because that means bookworms won’t be limited to the offerings in the iBooks store, which are based on partnerships that Apple inked with publishers.

This is a genius move on two fronts:

1. It makes the iPad semi-open. If you’ve already got EPUB files hanging around, you can port them to the iPad. And if you buy future EPUB-based books from smart publishers that support the format (ahem), you should be able to sync those titles with the device as well. The original iPod took off because it automatically worked with the pre-existing MP3 collections people had built up. Now, there aren’t that many people out there with EPUB stockpiles. I realize that. But if you do have those files, or you want to buy material outside the iBookstore down the road, you can read all that stuff on the iPad. Well played, Apple.

2. It puts Amazon in a bind because the Kindle doesn’t support EPUB by default. Now that the iPad does support the format natively, that makes the Kindle even more restrictive. Think about that. Apple — the poster child for a totalitarian product ecosystem — is making Amazon look like the bad guy.

I’m sure I’ll have plenty more to say about the iPad in coming days. Lord knows I can’t stop tweeting about it. But for now, I’ll revel in the anticipated joy the weekend of April 3-4 will bring: iPad on 4/3 and Red Sox opening night on 4/4.

Ebook pricing gets even more interesting: Apple’s model vs. Amazon’s subsidy

Tablets and devices will get all the coverage, but I believe ebook pricing is going to be 2010’s biggest issue for publishers. To illustrate … this New York Times piece explains how Apple’s $12.99-$14.99 range represents the outer limit…

iPad and Kindle

Tablets and devices will get all the coverage, but I believe ebook pricing is going to be 2010’s biggest issue for publishers.

To illustrate … this New York Times piece explains how Apple’s $12.99-$14.99 range represents the outer limit for iBooks pricing. Those price points aren’t set in stone. From the Times:

<blockquote

… Apple inserted provisions requiring publishers to discount e-book prices on best sellers — so that $12.99-to-$14.99 range was merely a ceiling; prices for some titles could be lower, even as low as Amazon’s $9.99. Essentially, Apple wants the flexibility to offer lower prices for the hottest books, those on one of the New York Times best-seller lists, which are heavily discounted in bookstores and on rival retail sites. So, for example, a book that started at $14.99 would drop to $12.99 or less once it hit the best-seller lists.

Sounds like Apple and Amazon are closer than we initially thought, right?

Nope. Not at all.

The single most important sentence in that Times article is buried at the very end:

Under the agreements with Apple, both the publishers and Apple should make money on each book sale. [Emphasis added.]

Ahh, there we go! Whether the price is $14.99, $12.99, $9.99 or $1.99, Apple will take its 30 percent. Set the price lower and sell more books? You betcha! Jack the price up and sell fewer? Absolutely!

What Apple won’t do is subsidize a price point.

God bless Apple’s anti-vaporware stance

Kudos to Joel Johnson for elegantly noting one of Apple’s most profound strengths: it doesn’t muck about in vaporware. From Gizmodo: The fact that Apple does not reveal prototypes but shipping products is the fundamental difference between their entire business…

Kudos to Joel Johnson for elegantly noting one of Apple’s most profound strengths: it doesn’t muck about in vaporware.

From Gizmodo:

The fact that Apple does not reveal prototypes but shipping products is the fundamental difference between their entire business strategy and that of the rest of the industry. It evokes a feeling of trust between Apple and consumers — that when Apple actually reveals a product, it’s something that they’re confident enough to support for years to come.

Put another way …

The Kindle is a big, shiny, distracting object

Hey book people: don’t be fooled by the Kindle. Amazon has no interest in hardware. That’s the conclusion Joe Wikert reaches in an excellent bit of analysis. I couldn’t agree more. The Kindle is a big, shiny object that’s distracting…

Hey book people: don’t be fooled by the Kindle. Amazon has no interest in hardware.

That’s the conclusion Joe Wikert reaches in an excellent bit of analysis. I couldn’t agree more. The Kindle is a big, shiny object that’s distracting everyone from Amazon’s more subversive (and smart) move: It’s trying to become the source of ebooks. It doesn’t want to own that market. It wants to rule it.

It’s entirely possible that Jeff Bezos and Co. originally sought to duplicate Apple’s iPod-iTunes model. But take a look at the evidence Joe presents: At some point in the last two years, Amazon realized it’s not Apple. The hardware gambit only works if you create something miraculous. The iPod and iPhone certainly qualify as technical marvels. Spend 30 seconds with an Apple product and you’ll come away deeply impressed. Spend 30 seconds with a Kindle and you’ll want your 30 seconds back.

Amazon just can’t cut it in the hardware game. I bet the higher-ups don’t particular care, either. This is a company that redefined retail efficiency. It’s masterful at satisfying consumer demand, more so than Apple or even the big daddy of the retail chain, Wal-Mart. Publishers need to realize — and the smart ones already do — that the Amazon threat doesn’t lie in a device. It’s in the distribution.