Additional Considerations for Gassée's Conclusion for Declining iPad Growth

To proclaim understanding of such a young tablet market is a fool's errand, but I think there are some additional considerations to be made beyond Gassée's article where he concludes that the iPad is a tease and it cannot fulfill the duties it promised to fulfill.

To evaluate the tablet, it is worthwhile to consider smartphones. Smartphones replaced their predecessors entirely, and with ease. It wasn't a "good enough" solution and the way we use phones didn't have to change. Sure we got all sorts of new ways to use phones, but the same old ability to make calls and send SMS usage was fundamentally still there. All of the things people needed to do, they could do.

The same cannot be said for tablets right now when you measure them as PC replacements. Tablets enable us to do a lot of work, a lot of the same work, and a lot of new work, but it doesn't allow us to do all of the work we can do on a PC. If there is even one critical task you must accomplish that isn't possible or realistic on a tablet, you suddenly need a computer. One tiny little thing can throw a wrench in the gears that easily. Sure a new piece of software with a unique way of interacting with or producing data to fulfill the same need is possible, but it might not be adopted at your company or it might have shortcomings.

So why this massive difference in how things turned out? For starters, the phone industry was an infant when smartphones replaced them. Okay not technically an infant but they never really added usage-changing features, for all intents and purposes people just needed their phones to make calls and send messages. The computer industry is a lot older and has some extremely entrenched workflows. It is much easier to dethrone something so young (dumb phones), especially if you (smartphones) are vastly superior in every single way. Computers aren't young, they aren't dumb, and they are absolutely critical in just about everyone's job, if not their life.

The other thing that complicates this discussion is that tablets are being framed as needing to replace traditional PCs to be successful. I think that is a misguided notion. There is certainly a lot of overlap between the two, but surely it isn't realistic to expect tablets to eliminate the PC industry. It isn't clear where this will all end up. Even though iPad sales growth is declining with no obvious explanation, the tablet market is nicely establishing itself in peoples' lives and won't be going away any time soon. 

(My thanks to Jordan Hendry for a thought provoking discussion that lead to this train of thought.)

UPDATE: Updated the title to reflect the tone of the article more, I'll leave the URL to keep links live.

What is the Next Interaction Model Breakthrough after Touchscreens?

The only undisputed champion of interaction models/devices since the mouse is the touchscreen. No contest. The trend and industry is trying, often too hard, to push the next frontier of interacting with devices toward voice. While I think voice interaction is crucial, I don't think it is being thought of in the right way yet.

There are inherent problems with voice. Natural language recognition isn't perfect, and likely won't be for a while. If the system has "keywords" you've failed before you shipped and the biggest concern of all is probably privacy. I'm not talking about Google or government knowing your every move type of privacy, I'm talking about old fashioned privacy. "Don't let the guy next to me know what I'm saying to my wife" privacy. There is a reason messaging is still king (cough, WhatsApp for $19 billion). Messaging is, and will be for the foreseeable future, a major player in how we communicate. Yes people will dictate messages, but often we're in public or a quiet place and just don't want to share what we're saying with everyone. Expect a piece on this soon, but let's leave it there for now.

So how do we advance to the next interaction model if it isn't voice? There is nothing left between us and our content; we are literally touching it. No more mouse or scroll wheel in the middle. To answer the question, you've got to change the perspective a little bit. 

I think the next interaction model is going to be proactive and intelligent technology. We have seen signs of it today, Google Now being the best example by far, but don't forget Android's (third party) context aware lock screens. These are just the start, but it is a sample. Your first thought is probably "that isn't an interaction model, I still touch the screen or use voice commands." That is true, for now. That changed perspective I was referring to is to accept that voice and touch are likely to be around for a very long time. They'll be a big part of this. This proactive technology isn't replacing touchscreens any time soon, but it will fundamentally change how we use technology. For the first time, the interaction will be a two way street. That is the interaction model breakthrough.

There are concerns and problems to be solved. We've gotten used to getting this type of thing for "free," but nothing is really free. If you aren't paying for the service, then you are the thing being sold. To achieve this level of proactive technology, the devices will have to know us very intimately. This means collecting data, a lot of data. For now that means privacy is diminished, but eventually that will (largely) come to pass. Encrypted devices send encrypted anonymous data to servers to process and analyze with anonymous (encrypted) results sent back. As with anything with technology, this can and will be hacked, but if the value is high enough people will allow it. They've moved all of their communication to free email and free (or free-ish) messaging haven't they?

It is tough to say what the solution will look like, but I anxiously await the day my technology drives the interaction with me and not always the other way around.

Path Launches Windows Phone App

Path is a simply wonderful social network. I connect with my close friends and family and we use the app to share more intimate moments that aren't appropriate for the public or large following of acquaintances. The app is beautifully designed on iOS, it is acceptable on Android, and now has finally launched for Windows.

Path has enjoyed noteworthy success, though is not, and will never be, the next Facebook or Twitter. The fact that it took them this long to launch on the Windows platform goes to show how much Windows is struggling in the smartphone realm. This isn't to say the platform isn't good, but it seems too be too little too late.

Internet of Things: The “Basket of Remotes” Problem

Jean-Louis Gassée has shed a similar light, but from a different angle, as my post from December 10th in follow up to the discussion on the Pragmatic podcast. This whole Internet of Things (IoT) realm is in its infancy, there is so much progress to be made here. 

He asks the question:

This is a great high level perspective on it. We didn't solve it in any complete sense, though we did start. My Harmony One is among my favorite pieces of technology that I own (post-setup-process). The problem is that it was expensive and the setup process was miserable (not super complicated, just unpleasant). The result is this not being a solution in the broad sense, but rather a nerd's solution.

Other people are trying to turn the smart phone or tablet into a remote control, and there hasn't been any development on this that leads me to believe it will ever work. To be clear, it will work as a Plan B remote, sure, but never Plan A. I use my iPhone to pause my Apple TV all the time, but only when my Harmony isn't in reach.

I think the IoT is at a phase that is one step before the Harmony One. There is no elegant solution yet, and the closest we get is unimaginably expensive (if you have an endless budget there are some options out there). The next stage will be the Harmony One where there is a good solution, but it costs too much and isn't going to be rapidly embraced by the average consumer. The big question is what happens after that. Does it get discontinued like the Harmony, or does someone finally crack the code and have a runaway success like the iPhone?

Tech Bloggers Giving CES the Apple Treatment

In this article by Mat Honan from Wired, he highlights a major problem with technology journalism today - people are bored with just about everything. These are just TVs, this is just another tablet, that iPhone is hardly any different from the last one... blah blah blah.

This year the CES coverage seemed to be more pessimistic than previous years. The latest iPhone release seemed to be received as more disappointing than previous years. The anti-Apple folks say that Apple has peaked and can't keep up their momentum without Steve Jobs. The rest of the tech bloggers think that CES has lost its shine. These aren't two separate things, there is one explanation - everyone has gotten used to insanely brilliant, beautiful, and incredible technology. Many believe it is bland and boring because we're surrounded by it.

Tech reporting today often sounds more like a spoiled rich kid complaining that the Mercedes his parents got him for his 16th birthday isn't the right color. It is a shame. Every time I pick up my phone, tablet, or laptop there is a moment of disbelief at how incredible the technology is. Not all reporting is this way, but enough of it is and those same "writers" have no shame in publishing nothing more than click-bait-crap.

This doesn't mean we can't be critical of new technology. We don't have to accept every new product as profound. Not every product will be a revolution, but embracing a steady clip of evolution is not settling.