An interview with Asymco’s Horace Dediu

Horace, you spent nearly a decade at Nokia, where you worked as a business development manager and industry analyst. Did you foresee their current, increasingly dire situation?

I did not see an explicit downfall. I anticipated difficult times ahead and a deep crisis. My view of what would happen was published as my first Asymco post.

 

What led you to start Asymco?

I started a consulting company which I hoped would generate leads through a blog. The blog became far more exciting than consulting and it became my primary focus after about one year. I had no ambition to write for a living or to be a “blogger”. I did not anticipate there would be any interest on the topic I wrote beyond a handful of people. In that regard, things played out as most start-ups do: what you end up doing is not anywhere near the target you aimed at.

 

Apple’s clearly one of your favorite topics. What about the company appeals to you?

Business education is predicated on storytelling, also known as the case method. Business management is not a discipline that has “axioms” defining basic truths, or if it does, they change frequently. Therefore business education (i.e. the MBA) is the equivalent of people teaching each other by telling stories around a campfire. The best stories get repeated more often and are better ‘teaching tools’. So it is with Apple. It’s a great medium for story telling because people can see the stories unfolding in real time or at least within their lifetimes. They are not about a distant past or an abstract industry. There is also a lot of passion around the brand, both positive and negative and so it leads to more attention.

 

You told Adam Lashinsky, author of “Inside Apple,” that you hope Apple is focused on killing the iPhone. Would you mind elaborating on that a bit?

If a company does not focus on self-disruption then it will cease to exist. The rate of disruption has been greatly increased in this century vs. any other period of time. Therefore it’s crucial that a company not only dedicates itself to finding a way to tear itself down but also to doing so as quickly as possible. I think Apple gets this. It may be the first major company to practice self-disruption with rigor. That is why I say I “hope” that they do so. Because if they do then we can all celebrate it and everyone else will do it as well leading to more rapid innovation and a better standard of life for all.

 

Are there things that you feel Apple could be doing better in the here and now?

Sure. There are many things to improve. Mostly I think they could come out with improvements to the iPhone more quickly. Maybe every six months rather than every year. The cycle time of innovation is faster than ever but it could be faster still.

 

In the tech industry, companies typically look about three years ahead with their roadmaps. For Apple, that means that despite Jobs’s absence, the company’s late founder will have had a hand in most of its products for years to come. When that changes, do you think innovation at Apple could suffer?

I think they have a strong chance to do well. There are many companies that prospered after the founder left. Think about Disney, Ford, Mercedes Benz, Beretta, Ferrari. Sometimes there are crises but sometimes the brand lives for many many decades. What matters is that the company uses processes and values that the founder leaves behind. This is true for many areas of human endeavor. We did not forget science after Newton died. The key is that the knowledge is codified and can be passed on.

 

Speaking of Jobs, he wasn’t happy that Google jumped into the smartphone market with Android, which he considered to be shamelessly derivative. But despite Android’s me-too origin, do you think Apple could learn anything from the operating system today?

Android is successful because it resonates well with the value chain in telecommunications. I don’t know yet if it resonates well without mobile operators where its open nature makes it equivalent to Linux which did not succeed. I see Android’s primary innovation to be rapid development time without regard to contracts (and hence to intellectual property). The protection from forking comes from continuous and rapid improvement. That may be a lesson in product cycle development but I don’t know if Apple can apply it since they are internally deeply interdependent with a long value chain. Apple is perfectly set up to introduce new innovations and Android is perfectly set up to rapidly follow. I don’t see Apple ever wanting to be a rapid follower or Google ever being a rapid category definer.

 

You recently talked a lot about Windows Phone, particularly the platform’s trouble gaining traction. Do you think its too late for Microsoft to become a major player in the mobile space?

Since the telecom market still has operators which can influence platforms, it may be that politically there is a chance. Without operators the market would evolve as a purely computing market which might favor a monopoly or duopoly. I don’t know whether this will happen in telecom anyway as the forces of computing disruption might overwhelm the political forces that would want to check or block change.

iOS 6 is scalable to 640 x 1136, the next iPhone’s rumored resolution

9to5Mac discovered Tuesday that iOS 6 has been built with a bigger iPhone in mind, reinforcing rumors that Apple’s next smartphone will sport a 4-inch screen.

Thanks to some tweaks to the iOS Simulator application that is included in the iOS development tools, we were able to run the simulator at the rumored next-generation iPhone display resolution of 640 x 1136. We did this running both the current public release of iOS 5.1 and the upcoming iOS 6.0 The iOS 5.1 simulator displayed the home screen with a stretched set of four rows of icons. On the other hand, iOS 6 displayed five complete rows – as our sources said Apple was testing for taller iPhone displays.

HP creating Mobility division to focus on consumer tablets

A year after it killed off the TouchPad, HP seems poised to reenter the consumer tablet market.

Todd Bradley, head of HP’s Printing and Personal Systems Group, announced in an internal memo the creation of a Mobility unit that will focus on “consumer tablets” and “additional segments and categories where we believe we can offer differentiated value to our customers.”

The company’s Mobility Global Business Unit will be led by Alberto Torres, who was in charge of MeeGo at Nokia before he left the phone maker last year. When Torres starts work at HP in early September, he’ll report directly to Todd Bradley.

Here’s Bradley’s memo in its entirety, courtesy of The Verge:

As the world’s largest PC and printing business, we make it matter for hundreds of millions of people each and every day. Today we are taking an important step to serve even more customers in new and exciting ways.

I am pleased to announce that we are creating a team dedicated to delivering the best mobility solutions in the industry. With this move, we are building on our commitment to re-invest in mobility via dedicated leadership, focused research and development, amazing new products and a growing suite of applications and services.

Our new Mobility Global Business Unit initially will focus on consumer tablets and will expand to additional segments and categories where we believe we can offer differentiated value to our customers. Our existing notebook teams, including our soon-to-be launched commercial tablet, will remain within the PC GBU under James Mouton at this time.

To lead the Mobility GBU, I am thrilled to announce that we have recruited a proven executive from the mobile-device industry. Alberto Torres, who most recently oversaw the MeeGo products and platform at Nokia as Executive Vice President, will join HP as Senior Vice President of Mobility, reporting to me.

I am excited to have Alberto join us. During his seven years at Nokia, he held a variety of critical leadership positions, including two years on the company’s Executive Board. In earlier roles at Nokia, Alberto ran the company’s premium brand, its accessory and CDMA businesses and corporate strategy. Prior to Nokia, he was a partner at McKinsey and Company, where he worked with industry leaders in mobile devices, consumer technologies, software and Internet services. A Ph.D in computer science from Stanford University, Alberto currently holds vice chairman roles with the firms Bang & Olufsen and Opera Software.
Alberto’s first order of business will be to accelerate our tablet strategy and begin to execute products against our consumer/SMB target. The exact structure of his team will follow that strategy.

Alberto’s start date will be September 3. Please join me in welcoming Alberto to HP and in supporting him and his team in their important work.

Regards,

Todd

Windows 8 users won’t be able to boot straight to desktop

Whether they like it or not, Windows 8 users will be subjected to Microsoft’s tiled start screen. ZDNet reported Monday that although test builds of the operating system allowed users to avoid Windows 8′s tiled interface by creating a shortcut to the desktop and scheduling it to activate immediately upon startup, the final version, released to manufacturing last week, blocks the feature.

Rafael Rivera, coauthor of the forthcoming Windows 8 Secrets, said he has verified that users cannot boot straight to the Desktop in Windows 8. With Windows 8 test builds, users could create shortcut that switches to the Windows 8 Desktop. Those who didn’t want to boot to the tiled Start screen could schedule this shortcut to be activated immediately after a user logged onto Windows 8.

Some other users were holding out hope that Microsoft would allow administrators to use Group Policy to allow users to circumvent the Metro startup screen. But Rivera told me he believes this also is blocked.

Former Mac designer tells court she had trouble telling Samsung’s phones apart from iPhone

The home screens of many of Samsung’s phones bear a striking and confusing resemblance to Apple’s patented user interface, according to Susan Kare, a designer who testified on Apple’s behalf in San Jose Tuesday.

After examining 11 different Samsung phones for similarities to Apple’s iPhone, Kare, who designed the icons for the first Macintosh, said, “I would usually think of myself as someone who is pretty granular at graphics, and I mistook one for the other. So I guess in addition to my formal analysis, I had the experience of being confused.

“The overall visual impression on all of these screens – compared each on by one – compared to the screenshot from the iPhone 3G, were confusingly similar,” she said.

Why you should never use Go Daddy again

I happened to be on Go Daddy’s site recently for something work-related, and while I was there, I quickly checked if a domain name that had just occurred to me was available for my side project. It was. Cool, I thought.

Then, three days later, I remembered the domain name and went into my Web host’s (not Go Daddy) control panel to register it. I got this message:

Error: xxxxxxxxx.com is already registered and is not available.

Oh, really, you assholes? A quick Whois search turned up this:

Registered through: GoDaddy.com, LLC (http://www.godaddy.com)

When I searched again for the domain name on Go Daddy, the site suggested I buy it through their “Domain buying service” and pay the associated charges. But I refuse to purchase the domain on principle. Go Daddy can go die.

I suppose there’s nothing “wrong” with this business practice of analyzing users’ interests and then buying up domain names before they can. It’s also partially my fault because I suspected something like this might happen. But regardless, I will never use Go Daddy’s services again. I’m going back to Domainr for future domain-hunting quests.

Best Buy founder Richard Schulze offers to buy company

Best Buy’s founder and former chairman, Richard Schulze, has offered to take the company private, and he’ll pay $24 to $26 a share, or about $8.5 billion, to do it, according to Bloomberg. Schulze’s offer is worth between 36 and 47 percent more than the company’s closing share price on Friday.

“I have been actively exploring all available options for my ownership stake,” Schulze said in a letter sent to the company’s board on Monday. “That exploration has reinforced my belief that bold and extensive changes are needed for Best Buy to return to market leadership and has led me to the conclusion that the company’s best chance for renewed success will be to implement these changes under a different ownership structure.”

As of June, Schulze had a 20 percent stake in Best Buy. Under his offer, Schulze would contribute $1 billion in equity from that stake, and the rest of the money would come from “premier private-equity firms with deep experience in retail who are interested in a possible acquisition of Best buy.”

Best Buy had about $1.7 billion in long-term debt as of May 5, according to Bloomberg.

Dish Network to introduce nationwide satellite broadband

Dish Network will soon introduce a nationwide broadband-Internet service using a recently launched satellite from sister company EchoStar, Bloomberg reported Thursday. The satellite, which was sent into orbit on July 5, reportedly supports download speeds of up to 15 megabits per second. But sources familiar with Dish’s plans said introductory packages will probably offer speeds closer to 5 megabits per second.

When Dish unveils the new service in late September or early October, it will mainly target subscribers in rural areas where cable broadband isn’t available, the sources told Bloomberg. Dish’s EchoStar satellite can handle about 2 million new users, they said.

Dish already offers satellite broadband, but the service is only available in certain parts of the U.S., including areas east of the Mississippi.

RIM CEO: We might license BB10 to other device makers

To keep up with companies like Samsung that can afford to churn out dozens of different phones each year, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins told The Telegraph Thursday that he’s considering licensing BB10 to other device makers.

“We don’t have the economy of scale to compete against the guys who crank out 60 handsets a year,” Heins said. “We have to differentiate and have a focused platform. To deliver BB10 we may need to look at licensing it to someone who can do this at a way better cost proposition than I can do it. There’s different options we could do that we’re currently investigating.”

In other words, HTC, Sony, and even Samsung might sell smartphones running RIM’s next operating system.

“You could think about us building a reference system, and then basically licensing that reference design, have others build the hardware around it – either it’s a BlackBerry or it’s something else being built on the BlackBerry platform,” said Heins. “We’re investigating this and it’s way too early to get into any details.

“We have to also model this from a finance perspective – that’s why we’re working with the financial advisers to see if we do this where would it take the company,” Heins continued. “Either we do it ourselves or we do it with a partner. But we will not abandon the subscriber base.”