Apple Gets It

March 30, 2008

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Johnathan Zdziarski, blogger and author of iPhone Open Application Development (to be released book on how to hack your iPhone) was invited by Apple to speak at a conference held in a Cambridge Apple store, to talk about the history of hacking the iPhone and his thoughts on the device. Zdziarski was one of the first software engineers to hack the iPhone. Now, does this sound odd? One person wrote, “So for Apple to give Zdziarski the podium at an Apple retail location is a little like Steve Ballmer inviting Linus Torvalds to speak at a Windows product launch.”

So what does this got to do with Apple Getting It? Well, just the gesture of inviting Zdziarski to speak at the Software Development Kit (SDK) conference says a lot. Apple is finally not rebelling against change anymore, but beginning to embrace it. When the iPhone first came out, online open-source communities were trading hacks through third-party installer applications. Finally, a year later Apple understood the opportunity which could arise from creating it’s own SDK. By inviting Zdziarski and releasing it’s own SDK for iPhones, Apple is setting an example for other companies in the industry. It’s a lot easier to work with your customers to help them get what they want by giving them the tools to create their own customized product, then fight with them and give them the same old product. This just creates a hassle for both parties; the customer isn’t happy and the business isn’t profiting. It also gives a company’s development team a break, and creates many more product ideas and innovations that may never have been created without the help of SDK platforms.

Still iPhone’s SDK has its problems. It still doesn’t allow users to access low-level functions, like operate applications in the background and build certain types of objects, even though Apple insists it offers the same tools its programmers use to develop its software. But I’m sure hackers will come up with a way to fix that soon enough. Apple has however released a second version of their SDK, the Interface Builder, which is a visual editor that users can drag and drop items to create the user interface of their applications. Apparently this makes application creation a lot easier.

Oh and just a side note, remember how I wrote that post about the hacking contest for laptops (sure you do!) well it turns out the Macbook Air was the first one to be hacked.

Apple and Free Music?

March 20, 2008

As we all know, the free craze has been forcing companies to rethink their business tactics. To my surprise, Apple is thinking about it as well. Apple + free music = Are you kidding me?! I guess this will be an add on to Dave’s post..

But of course there is a catch. To receive unlimited free access to the music library, customers have to be willing to pay more for the iPod and iPod Phone playing and digital media storing devices. Apple has to wake up and smell the coffee. Some of the company’s rivals are experimenting with new ways to distribute online music, even if that means giving it away. So as of now, “Apple is negotiating with record labels over a deal to offer a monthly music subscription for the iPhone, as well as an unlimited music bundle for both the iPod and iPhone” according to a cited unnamed music industry source.

As of right now, the iPod shuffle starts at $49, and the iPhones start at $399. No one is really sure as to how much prices with jump but one can only imagine. Oddly enough, approximately 10 percent of Apple’s revenues are made through iTunes. In 2007, iTunes made a 2.7 billion dollar profit for Apple. According to The Financial Times, “Apple sold $8.3 billion in iPods last year, an 8 percent increase over the year before.”

I think that it would be in Apple’s best interest to make free music available to customers without jacking up prices. Then again, Apple has become the world’s second largest music retailer in the U.S. To my amazement, Walt-Mart Stores Inc is the world’s largest music retailer.

 

Apple is pushing to meet or exceed its current target of selling 10 million Iphones this year.  However, Apple COO believes that in order to reach that target, they would have to implement some new features as well as tweak the Iphones.

Analysts claim that it is wishful thinking on Apple’s part to realize their goal of 10million units this year.  However Apple has plans to realize this target.  Apple understands its lack of penetration into the enterprise user segment and has realized in order to achieve its sales target for the year – the only possible way is to attract enterprise users.   This has caused Apple to focus on their enterprise potential customers and would address two primary areas of concern in the enterprise arena:

  • Email – Email is harder to type on an Iphone and is not compatible with Microsoft Exchange. Blackberry is the favorite of enterprise users due to the above mentioned issue.
  • 3G – There are 3G phones out in the market however Apple’s Iphone still isn’t 3G.

In order to penetrate this segment of the market, Apple would have to resolve these issues as promptly as possible.  They have already started working on the 3G model and would be out around June.  As far as the enterprise email and Apps is concerned, Steve Jobs promised that the software update to be released in June would have all the necessary additions needed by enterprise users.  This list included:

  • Push email and Calendar items from the Company’s servers to the iphone
  • synchronize contact lists
  • Enforce securities policies – Wipe out data on an iphone remotely in case it is stolen.
  • Support for Microsoft Exchange – “To meet the demand, Apple licensed Microsoft’s ActiveSync protocol for connecting the iPhone’s e-mail client directly to an Exchange server. As a result, e-mail, calendaring and contact items can be pushed directly to the smartphone”, Steve Jobs stated.
  • Move user profiles into Iphone painlessly from Blackberry – Apples competitor in the enterprise sector.

Apple is currently testing its Iphone enterprise features with Nike and Disney to attract feedback from the users before its official release in June this year.

All these additions would make one less reason of not buying the iphone which is apparently loved by all, but due to lack of enterprise features, the Iphone didn’t penetrate that segment very well.

Apple also released a Software Development Kit’s beta edition for enterprise customers to be able to write custom applications suiting their needs for their Iphones.   All of this is to gain competitive advantage over RiM’s Blackberry which is the favorite among enterprise users currently.

Another glimpse of how fiercely Apple is targeting the enterprise segment – As quoted on Silicon Alley Insiders article titled Apple/Kleiner Iphone Apps Fund.

Valley-based VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers has earmarked 100 million to fund companies developing apps for Apple’s iPhone and iPod touch. Companies large and small are eligible, and the fund will focus on apps including “location based services, social networking, mCommerce, communication, and entertainment.” Sounds like… everything!

More reading on this IFund at KPCB article.

Apple would keep 30% of the revenue generated through the Iphone apps while the developers would keep the rest.

This move from Apple to allow developers to develop new Apps for the Iphone would be welcomed heavily.  However Apple would have to approve every application for the Iphone – which is sort of a setback.

By researching quite a bit on this topic, it is quite evident how Steve Jobs and his team believe that in order to reach their target sales, the enterprise users would prove to be the deciding factor.  With opening their platforms for developers, I believe Apple might just about reach that target!

Video of Microsoft CEO laughing at the Iphone:

Note in the beginning how Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer laughed at how the iphone did not appeal to business customers! Well Steve  – now what do you say?