Thoughts on Tech – Executives, Surfaces, and the Nexus

Thoughts on Tech is a new posting category that I’m going to start using to comment on things in the technology world. I feel like I have a pretty good eye for tech and can make pretty good predictions. I’ll use this format to make quick commentary and then check back later to see if I’m right. Here we go.

Executive Shakeup at Apple

Apple announced yesterday that two of its executives were leaving the company: head of retail John Browett and iOS chief Scott Forstall. The departure of John Browett is no surprise. He was hired about 7 months ago to fill in for the legendary Ron Johnson who is now CEO of JC Penny. Browett came from a Best Buy like chain in the UK and had a reputation for creating a horrible customer experience in order to increase profit margins. He attempted to do that at Apple by cutting staff at Apple Stores. Now he’s out. I don’t know why Apple ever hired him in the first place but it’s good that he’s gone. Hopefully they get someone in there who understands what Apple is all about.

The departure of Scott Forstall is more interesting. Forstall oversaw the development of the iOS, whose products now account for most of Apple’s revenue. It is rumored that Forstall had an abrasive character and did not get along with others at Apple. His responsibilities now fall under Johnathan Ive, Apple’s iconic product designer. This is a very interesting change as Ive, as far as I know, doesn’t have much experience with software. He can probably design a great UI but I wonder how he handles such issues as performance and security, two of the iOS platform’s strong points.

Windows 8 Tablets

Windows 8 was released 4 days ago and Microsoft announced today that they have already sold 4 million copies. That’s great. With Windows 8 Microsoft tried to kill two birds with one stone by releasing it as both a desktop and tablet operating system. I believe in building the right product for the right task and I don’t think that one operating system can run well on both a tablet and a desktop. It just won’t. The input methods are not the same. The use cases are not the same. But Microsoft didn’t ask me.

Microsoft’s first tablet, Surface, went on sale a few days ago and CEO Steve Ballmer mentioned today that there was “nothing interesting to report” about sales. Ouch. I’ve read a little bit about it, and while it is price competitive with the iPad, I don’t think it will sell that well. It has a unique UI, but I think people will purchase Android devices instead because they are cheaper. Surface doesn’t allow you to run standard Windows apps, a “plus” of the desktop/tablet Windows 8 design, and I don’t think existing iOS and Android users are going to dump all of their apps to try something new. Surface doesn’t have the name recognition to pull new users away from the existing platforms either. I don’t see the first surface tablet being very successful.

Windows Phone 8 

Windows Phone 8 phones should be coming out soon. Know anybody who has a Windows Phone? You probably won’t know too many more next year. Nokia made a terrible decision to hang the success of their entire company on Windows Phone alone. I have heard a bit about WP8 and it doesn’t seem impressive enough to shake up the phone industry in a sizable way.

Google Nexus 10

Google announced their first full-sized tablet, the Nexus 10, yesterday. The new 10” tablet includes a screen that is even more Retina than Apple’s (read: 300 ppi vs 260) and costs $100 less. It has the same amount of storage, similar cameras, weighs slightly less, and has stereo speakers. I’m sure Google is taking a hit on profit margins here (if there were any to begin with) but I’m sure it doesn’t mind selling the tablet as a loss leader. I think the Nexus 10 will pick up some price-conscious consumers, but I don’t see it dethroning the iPad. It does put more pressure on Apple. It will be interesting to see what/if it releases in March.

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