The Japanese government requires that Apple withhold 20% of your profits from App Store sales unless you have filed forms demonstrating that you are a foreign company and taxable there instead. The forms are a bit complex and the process a bit cumbersome, but unless you complete it 20% of whatever you make in Japan is taken and not returned.
Google dominated search and online ads with a lot of great engineering and hard work, then they leveraged their search dominance and more great work to build a strong presence in webmail, maps, and many smaller categories.
Geeks like us commended them for how well they operated their business, seemingly (mostly) living up to their geeky, feel-good “Don’t be evil” motto1, “winning” by releasing (mostly) quality products that catered to our geeky preferences while gaining huge marketshare.
But social networking never worked well for them. The battles between social giants bought Google some time, but now, Facebook has established themselves into as strong of a position in social networking as Google holds in search and advertising. As Facebook extends its social dominance into more areas that may threaten Google’s profits and relevance, Google knows it has to fight back and is finally making a strong attempt. But, unlike when Microsoft realized it was late to the web over a decade ago, Google’s big attempt to invade social networking with their own Google+ product hasn’t worked.
It’s the first time that Google has largely failed against a threat of this magnitude.
It’s easy not to “be evil” when you’re ahead. But when you’re backed into a corner and your usual strategies aren’t working, it’s easy to get frustrated, scared, and angry, and throw previously held morals and standards out the window.
In the first version of Bullshit, I had misquoted the “Don’t be evil” motto as “Do no evil”, and a reader complained by email that I was being too strict. The difference between the two is subtle but important.
“Do no evil” is a much stronger statement: don’t do anything “evil”, whatever that means.
“Don’t be evil” allows a lot of wiggle room and equivocation. What does it mean to be evil? Can you still do evil here and there without being evil overall? Doing evil seems more concrete and easily verifiable by others, but being evil sounds like the kind of label you’d be able to escape if you only do evil occasionally, or if you think what you’re doing is justifiable. ↩
In this week’s podcast, Dan and I successfully avoided talking about development.
Instead, we talked about USB outlets and my experiences so far with my Nest thermostats. I haven’t officially reviewed the Nest yet because I wanted to spend more time with it, so consider this my stand-in review for now.
If you want to jump right to the Nest discussion, it starts at 26:40.
So, if tripling the size of the social network to 3,000,000,000 users is not going to be enough to justify its valuation with its current revenue per user, there is only one strategic direction for Facebook to go. It needs to generate more revenue per user. A lot more.
This is one of the problems with being so big that the world’s population is limiting your growth in a market that demands ever-increasing growth.
I often accidentally hit the wrong button in the iPhone music-playback control bar, because they’re too close together since the introduction of AirPlay:
When playing music, the behavior of these makes sense (for the most part), since it mimics the behavior of CD players:
When you’re listening to a podcast or audiobook — anything “bookmarkable” that remembers its playback position, rather than starting from the beginning each time it’s played — the behavior of the “Previous Track” button has a significant side effect:
If your finger slightly misses the “Play/Pause” button, probably the most commonly pressed button in this group when listening to podcasts or audiobooks, it is very likely that you’ll hit one of the buttons next to it.
Accidentally hitting the “Next Track” button is a minor annoyance, but its behavior is reasonable.
But the “Previous Track” button loses and resets my playback position, which is extremely frustrating and disruptive to listening. And there’s no “Undo”.
It’s a form of data loss: not in the traditional sense of needing to recreate a document, but because it requires me to take additional time to manually restore the correct state after the disruptive, non-undoable result of a very simple accidental action.
I know this is a tricky design problem, but my proposed solution is simple:1
Stop making the “Previous Track” button behave like it does on CD players, where tapping it first brings you to the beginning of the current track, and tapping it again within a short time goes to the previous track. Even on CD players, that was often annoying.
Instead, make it behave just like the “Next Track” button in reverse: always just seek to the previous track. If the previous track is bookmarkable, resume from its last-played position, and if not, play it from the beginning.
People who actually want to reset the playback position of a bookmarkable file before it’s finished, which is probably a very uncommon action, can simply drag the progress scrubber all the way to the left.
This is admittedly dodging the exacerbating factor that the buttons are too close together. But the position-losing behavior of “Previous Track” even annoys me when I’m using the iPhone remote-clicker or my car’s controls to change tracks. It’s primarily a problem with the universal behavior of “Previous Track”. ↩
Honeywell makes crappy, ugly thermostats. They’re the market leader, but they’ve been sitting on their asses, not doing much. So thermostat innovation and design has been pretty stagnant for years.
Nest’s is by far the most innovative thermostat we’ve seen for a long time, but it looks like they’re going to have a lot of problems with these Honeywell patents, which will probably impair (or, at worst, prevent) them from pushing this stagnant industry forward.
Remind me again how the patent system promotes innovation.
On the difficulties of running a booming startup while trying to maintain a family life:
Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange have been wildly successful, but I finally realized that success at the cost of my children is not success. It is failure.
Whatever startup you’re working on right now probably won’t exist in ten years. Probably not even in five. It’s important to maintain a perspective of what’s really going to matter, long-term, in your life.
Instapaper is one person and no funding. I work completely from home. I don’t even put an unhealthy amount of hours into it, and it’s very low-needs (and therefore, low-stress) to keep the service running. This is a lifestyle that I’m not willing to give up for the promise of taking VC money, hiring a bunch of people, making everything free, and hoping to cash out after a few years of nonstop “crunch mode” by selling it to a big company so they can ruin and “sunset” it a year later.
Most people can always point to a reason why it’s not a convenient time to have children, but my wife and I couldn’t think of a single one. We know that we will never have a better time than right now. So our first child is due in April.
I hope to maintain as healthy of a perspective as Jeff has.
Thanks to kooaba for sponsoring the Marco.org RSS feed this week:
kooaba Shortcut is a shortcut between real life and the Internet. Take a picture of what you are reading in a newspaper or magazine and instantly get connected to the digital version.
Using image-recognition technology, Shortcut recognizes what you’re reading. Once recognized, you can share the digital version of the pages via Facebook, Twitter, SMS, and email, or store them in Evernote. This works with over 1,000 newspapers and magazines worldwide. (See a list of publications.)
Shortcut also works with advertisements in newspapers and magazines, and billboards with the Shortcut icon. After taking a picture of such an ad, you gain access to extras such as coupons, sweepstakes, or store locators.
With Shortcut, you no longer need to type links into your phone, search Google for information, or cut out articles. Just take a picture instead!
It’s easy to set Path on fire for this, but accessing the iOS Address Book is essential to most “Find my friends on this service” features. Indeed, I use the Address Book for a similar feature in Instapaper as well. But there’s a big implementation difference between my method and Path’s.
The two Instapaper features that access the Address Book
Instapaper accesses the Address Book for two features:
The “Add ‘Read Later’ by Email” option in Settings, which creates a new Address Book contact with the customer’s special email-in address. This feature operates only on the device and does not send any information to the Instapaper servers. And the only reason it even reads the Address Book at all, rather than just writing to it, is to check for an existing copy of the “Read Later” contact so it doesn’t make a duplicate.
When searching for new friends in the Friends section, I offer a “Search Contacts” option. This sends (over SSL) a list of email addresses to an Instapaper server, which issues a single SELECT statement on the user database to find any matches. That’s it. The list of email addresses isn’t stored (the query isn’t even logged), and only email addresses are sent, not anybody’s name, phone number, address, or other information.
When implementing these features, I felt like iOS had given me far too much access to Address Book without forcing a user prompt. It felt a bit dirty. Even though I was only accessing the data when a customer explicitly asked me to, I wanted to look at only what I needed to and get out of there as quickly as possible. I never even considered storing the data server-side or looking at more than I needed to.
This, apparently, is not a common implementation courtesy.
We can’t prevent services with poor judgment or low ethical standards from doing creepy things with the data once it’s sent to them. We can’t even realistically use App Review to only permit access to the Address Book fields (email, name, phone, etc.) that are justifiable for any given app to access, because there are too many gray areas.
But Apple can, and should, assure users that no app can read their contact data without their knowledge and explicit permission. I don’t know why this hasn’t always been required, but it probably isn’t a good enough reason to justify the erosion of user trust in iOS apps that this could cause.
Apple needs to change the Address Book API to require user permission first, like Core Location and Push Notifications do. I don’t care how many applications break as a result. Not requiring user permission to date should be treated as a security hole and patched promptly.
The world is full of ideas that can be executed with 10 to 20 hours per week, let alone 40. The number of projects that are truly impossible unless you put in 80 or 120 hours per week are vanishingly small by comparison.
This is of course nothing new. We’ve been playing this bongo drum for years. But every time I see people crumble and quit from the crunch-mode pressure cooker, I think what a shame, it didn’t have to be like that.
His posts were the inspiration for Instapaper’s automatic Wikipedia popovers when you tap a Wikipedia link, since he copiously links to Wikipedia and I just had to know what he was talking about without leaving the page.1
And his new Psycho Science series on the blog is fantastic. This article (remember, this is a link post) got me reading about borosilicate versus tempered glass and inspecting our Pyrex all evening.
If you’re my kind of geek and have been reading on the internet for a long time, you should definitely be reading his site and blog (which aren’t the same, probably for legacy reasons).
Note to Instapaper competitors: Do not start reading Dan’s writing. ↩
Nate Anderson thoroughly disassembles RIAA CEO Cary Sherman’s New York Times op-ed, a blabbering, rage-filled diversion-fest so badly conceived and written that it makes me question the editorial standards of The New York Times.
Why would VEVO pirate content? Because it was easier than getting it legally. This is the actual root cause of piracy online. It’s not shady, masked individuals at swanky events commandeering computers to pirate for the hell of it. It’s VEVO employees. It’s everyone.
Dan Benjamin, my podcast co-host, asked me to record a special episode in John Siracusa’s Hypercritical time slot, since John couldn’t record this week. Those are big shoes to fill, so I said I’d only do it if Merlin joined us.
For instance, one of the chips inside the Lytro is a Marvell Avastar 88W8787, which has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities. The Lytro doesn’t currently offer any sort of wireless syncing abilities, so perhaps a future software update will enable those features, allowing for wireless photo transfer or perhaps remote control of the device via Bluetooth.
Wireless photo transfers would certainly help the Lytro’s appeal. Now that I’m accustomed to the iPhone with Photo Stream, having to transfer photos from a cutting-edge new consumer camera by plugging it in via USB seems clunky.
A lot of people have asked if I’ve ordered a Lytro camera to review here. It’s tempting, but I haven’t. There are a few red flags for me in their sample pictures (Flash is required to zoom or change focus).
They all feature roughly the same composition to show off the dynamic focusing: an object very close to the camera, and a background scene further away. But while the close-up subjects seem to have moderately acceptable sharpness, the further-away parts of the scene appear to have very poor sharpness and detail, even when focused. There also appears to be a lot more noise and chromatic abberation (purple edge fringing) than even a modern smartphone camera.
So it’s a cool new technology with a killer feature (and maybe more later with software updates), but is that enough to tolerate optics that look noticeably worse than the iPhone that you already have in your pocket?
It’s hard enough for many of us to justify anything between a smartphone and a DSLR today, but with a high-end compact, you could at least say that the photos are better quality than the phone’s. If the Lytro can’t produce better photos than the phone, it won’t matter that you can refocus them later.
MG Siegler on the awful world of most online reporting:
Most are stories written with little or no research done. They’re written as quickly as possible. The faster the better. Most are just rehashing information that spread by some other means. But that’s great, it means stories can be written without any burden beyond the writer having to read a little bit and type words fast. Many are written without the writer even having to think.
Have you ever been interviewed by a reporter or blogger for a story? How accurately did the final story represent the truth, or what you said?
I’ve learned that talking to the press is like talking to the police — ideally, don’t, since your interests conflict and there’s little to no potential upside for you — but I regularly forget or ignore this wisdom.
Like MG says, most reporters are under a lot of pressures that work against the quality and accuracy of their stories. I’ve found that reporters have usually already written the story, at least mentally, before they ask me for a quote, and they’ll bend, twist, and edit what I say to support their narrative. I’m simply a puppet to tell their story, whatever it is.
Usually, I can sniff out a bad story by the interview request, and I’ll just decline to comment. But sometimes I mistakenly accept a bad interview and give quotes that get distorted, and the resulting story can be pretty far from the truth.
I try to remember that whenever I read anything in the press about a subject for which I don’t have first-hand knowledge.
There’s certainly a set of people willing to spend $10,000 on a proposal. It’s likely there’s also a set of people who would propose with chain restaurant pizza. Still, it’s disheartening to think that the intersection of those two sets may not simply be zero.
There are “only 10 packages available”. I wonder how many they’ll sell.
From John Gruber’s review of Isaacson’s authorized biography of Steve Jobs:
Isaacson’s book may well be the defining resource for Jobs’s personal life — his childhood, his youth, his eccentricities, cruelty, temper, and emotional outbursts. But as regards Jobs’s work, Isaacson leaves the reader profoundly and tragically misinformed.
I mostly enjoyed the book, despite its flaws.
Like many people reading this, I was already familiar with most of Jobs’ recent work and some of his past highlights. What I expected from the book was a biography of Steve Jobs, the person. On that, it delivered reasonably well.
But the reason we care so much about this person is because of his work, so it’s a shame that the representation of his work in his biography has so many flaws.
Thanks to InVision for sponsoring the Marco.org RSS feed this week:
The UI prototyping phase of the design process is crucial to get right. It’s about figuring out how your product will work and ensuring everyone is aligned before moving into building.
InVision is a web-based prototyping tool that lets you paint an accurate and realistic picture that anyone can understand.
InVision is beautiful on mobile as well. Simply navigate to your project from your iOS or mobile device and experience a realistic picture of how the app will feel. “Save to Home Screen” on iOS for a full-screen experience.
I feel like no one else is saying this, and since I’ve not ever been one to hold back what’s on my mind I absolutely will — enough is enough. I’ve had it with incremental updates to Android smartphones every two weeks, I’ve had it with the super-sized ridiculousness, and I’ve had it with all of these marketing gimmicks. Just focus on a quality product, and you won’t have to release eight “flagship” models a year.
If even a BGR writer is saying this, I think we’ll look back on the last few months as the period when a trend even bigger than the Galaxy Note jumped the shark.
The recurring theme: Apple is fighting against cruft — inconsistencies and oddities that have accumulated over the years, which made sense at one point but no longer — like managing to-dos in iCal (because CalDAV was being used to sync them to a server) or notes in Mail (because IMAP was the syncing back-end). The changes and additions in Mountain Lion are in a consistent vein: making things simpler and more obvious, closer to how things should be rather than simply how they always have been.
Reminders in iCal (or BusyCal) are clunky at best, and Notes in Mail via IMAP are absolutely horrible. I’d love Mountain Lion even if the dedicated Notes and Reminders apps were the only new features.
(And if they’d fix the embarrassing reliability of Lion’s Preview.app.)
Jesse Thorn thinks a lot more highly of the Grado SR-60 headphones than I do:
They’re comfortable, and feature open construction, which means that you’ll be able to hear what’s going on around you in addition to your music. This is how your ears and brain were designed to process sound, and will improve your listening experience, not hinder it. Trust me.
Before I switched to closed Sennheisers for my primary headphones,1 I had a pair of SR-60s for so long that the earpads disintegrated, and I’d never call them “comfortable”. It’s not just me, either: this is a very common criticism of the SR-60 and SR-80. And their open-backed design renders them impractical or unusable in many situations.
The SR-60s always come up in entry-level awesome-sounding headphone recommendations because they do indeed sound amazing for the price. But they come with two huge practical caveats that should prevent reviewers from giving them a general-purpose, unqualified recommendation.
On Sennheiser, Jesse says: “Unlike Sennheiser, [Grado hasn’t] mass-marketed their once-quality products into extinction.” What does that mean? ↩
Apple announced that a future version of iOS will require user permission for Contacts access.1 I had previously suggested a dialog box similar to the permission dialog for location access, but a lot of people resisted that idea, saying that there are too many iOS permission dialogs already:
Twitter account (new in iOS 5)
If an app wants access to all of these, it usually barrages users with a stack of dialogs on its first launch. The barrage-of-dialogs approach, like Windows Vista’s security warnings, isn’t great: users get overwhelmed or annoyed and just start carelessly dismissing all of them without reading them.
The Android approach is different: apps display a list of the permissions they need on their Market pages, and then don’t prompt upon access. The idea is to allow people to decide whether they’re OK with an app’s access before installing it. This also has downsides:
People may not see or understand the permissions in the Market listings. Or they may just ignore them, since they’re too fine-grained and mostly irrelevant.
People may forget what permissions an app uses after they install it, so they may not realize what the app is accessing while it’s in use.
People may refuse to install an app because of a permission it lists, even if that permission is for an optional feature and the app would work perfectly well without it.
That last one would definitely hit me. If all permissions were listed in the App Store, Instapaper’s customers would be wondering why it “needs” location (optional automatic dark mode based on sunset times) or contacts access (optional email-in contact addition, optional find-friends feature). They might refuse to buy the app because they think it needs these features to work, when in reality they’re minor features that most customers will never use. Already, “Top In-App Purchases” has probably cost me some potential customers since they think the app is constantly going to be asking for more money (optional subscription, which I had to offer via IAP to get server-side search in the app).2
Neither iOS’ barrage of dialogs nor Android’s huge list of permissions in the Marketplace is a great solution.
Dialogs can be done well in many cases, avoiding the barrage. They’re only shown when the app requests access to the protected resources, and only the first time. Conscientious developers can usually avoid showing multiple dialogs in a row by only showing them when the data is needed — for instance, I don’t ask for location access unless (and until) a customer selects the automatic-dark-mode setting.3
Careful users can also make better decisions about whether to allow access when they’re prompted on demand. If I asked most careful people if Instapaper could have their location, they’d refuse, because there’s no obvious good reason. But if the app asks right when they enable a location-based setting from a screen that shows why it’s asking for their location, they can make a more educated decision. Similarly, if an app doesn’t seem to have a good reason when it asks for Contacts, a skeptical person can decline.
I like Rene Ritchie’s mockup of an app permissions sheet, which would consolidate these permissions into one panel in Settings for each app. (I believe Android already does this.) But since most people won’t know about it, I don’t think such a sheet can replace the dialogs — it can simply make the after-the-fact settings nicer.
Ultimately, I think Apple’s current implementation of dialogs on first access, then settings to revoke later, is the better, more understandable, less annoying solution with fewer negative side effects for users and developers. They just need to add another dialog and setting for Contacts access, and that’s probably exactly what they’ll do in iOS 6.
Some other local data, such as Calendar entries and your synced media library, is also available to apps today without asking the user for permission. I’d be fine if those required a dialog, too. But I’d argue that Contacts are more important to be kept secure, and as we’ve seen, more likely to be abused by unscrupulous or careless developers. ↩
At least Apple stopped requiring all apps that could access web pages to be rated 17+ for mature themes, profanity, nudity, sex, and drug use. I got a lot of emails from concerned customers about that. ↩
I also stop requesting location data once the device has given me the fastest, largest, least granular location (with an accuracy of within approximately 3 kilometers) because, since this is only used to calculate sunset times, I don’t need it to be any more accurate. ↩
To increase adoption, Apple should expand the current list of entitlements until it covers every reasonable behavior that users expect from Mac apps. A good test for this is any app that is currently available in the Mac App Store. Having been approved by Apple’s own reviewers, and purchased by Apple’s own customers, the merit of these apps should be considered implicit. If a Mac App Store app’s reasonable behavior cannot be achieved in the confines of the sandbox, it should be considered a sandboxing bug, and a new entitlement should be added.
The current list of sandboxing entitlements is pretty short, but Apple’s about to start requiring every app in the Mac App Store to fit within their constraints.
The App Store’s prior rules already kept out a lot of useful apps that need complete filesystem access, such as the excellent SuperDuper! backup tool. The sandboxing requirement will further restrict what can be in the Store.
Sandboxing is a great idea. But if too few developers can use it, most users will never be able to run a sandboxed-apps-only setup, removing much of the purpose of sandboxing in the first place.
And if Mac users perpetually remain accustomed to looking outside the App Store for robust software, it hinders everyone in the App Store ecosystem, including Apple.
John Gruber dissects The Washington Post’s dumb article claiming that Siri, specifically, is dramatically increasing data usage based on a study that only says:
iPhone 4S users are the “hungriest” data consumers, demanding twice as much data as iPhone 4 users and three times as much as iPhone 3G users.
Granted, this is an old argument by now, but most reports connecting high 4S data usage to presumed Siri usage missed what I thought was an obvious point: What else, besides Siri, is different about the iPhone 4S, especially if it might also explain the data-usage difference between the 3G and 4? (And, presumably, the 3GS?)
The camera, of course. Every iPhone after the 3G has shipped with a higher-resolution camera than its predecessor. People capture and share a lot of photos on their iPhones, so a very likely culprit for higher data usage, controlling for OS version and tethering abilities, is that the photos are simply much larger with each new iPhone.
At a previous job, the shared men’s bathroom for the floor was laid out like this:
(Please excuse my drawing skills.)
When we were done doing our business, this is the path we’d take:
Many people don’t like touching bathroom doorknobs after washing their hands. (Understandable.) But some of them dislike it so much that they’ll take their paper towel over to the door, turn the knob with it, and throw it on the floor while exiting.
By the end of the day, there would be paper towels all over the floor by the door.
One of the floor’s tenants attempted to solve this problem by posting passive-aggressive notes on the paper-towel dispenser.
The signs never worked. Instead, they just annoyed and angered people. Some people even threw more paper towels on the floor because they didn’t like the condescending way they were being instructed.
There was no chance the signs would ever work. The people who threw paper towels on the floor knew that it was “wrong”. Maybe their desire to avoid touching the doorknob was stronger than their desire to do the “right” thing every time. Or maybe they just didn’t give a damn about making the bathroom slightly worse for someone else to make it slightly better for themselves. Either way, a sign’s not going to solve the problem, because the problem isn’t that they didn’t know the right thing to do. They knew what they were doing, and for whatever reason, they didn’t care.
This problem wasn’t solved by the time I left that office. It probably still isn’t.
The pragmatic way to solve the problem would have been to adapt to what these people were going to do anyway: just put another trash can by the door.
They never tried that. They just kept posting more signs, because they were convinced that they were right.
This pattern is common. We often try to fight problems by yelling at them instead of accepting the reality of what people do, from controversial national legislation to passive-aggressive office signs. Such efforts usually fail, often with a lot of collateral damage, much like Prohibition and the ongoing “war” on “drugs”.
And, more recently (and with much less human damage), media piracy.
Big media publishers think they’re right to keep fighting piracy at any cost because they think it’s costing them a lot of potential sales.
It is, but not as many as they think, and not for the reasons they think.
The Oatmeal’s awesome comic illustrates the problem well: demand is rapidly increasing for accessing movies and TV shows outside of their traditional distribution channels, and rather than addressing this demand, the publishers are making it even harder to get their content legally in these contexts.
This is like trying to solve the paper-towel problem by moving the trash can even further away from the door.
Not all piracy represents lost sales: many pirates would never have paid, and would rather go without whatever they can’t easily pirate. That’s not a market worth worrying too much about, because there’s not much anyone can do to stop it, and any attempts to slow it down usually just limit, inconvenience, frustrate, and anger the paying customers.
But there are a lot of people who will pay to get content legally, even if it’s easy to pirate, when getting it legally is easier. (This is now the case, to a large extent, with music.)
The single least-attractive attribute of many of the people who download content illegally is their smug sense of entitlement. …
The world does not OWE you Season 1 of “Game Of Thrones” in the form you want it at the moment you want it at the price you want to pay for it. If it’s not available under 100% your terms, you have the free-and-clear option of not having it.
Andy’s right. But it’s not going to solve the problem.
Relying solely on yelling about what’s right isn’t a pragmatic approach for the media industry to take. And it’s not working. It’s unrealistic and naïve to expect everyone to do the “right” thing when the alternative is so much easier, faster, cheaper, and better for so many of them.
Maciej Ceglowski goes into detail about Pinboard’s business:
The combination of low startup costs and investor aversion means there are all kinds of opportunities lying around for a developer to run a profitable small business, provided he or she remembers to charge money.
2012 is going to be the year that we double down and make sure we’re winning in that space. …
…we’re going to do a better job at making people understand what ecosystem they’re buying into. …
There has to be an education process and developers have to do the work [of making their Android apps work well on tablets]. They’re already doing that work for other platforms. …
I’m hoping [Android developers] decide to put in the muscle and make their apps work great on tablets.
Most Android tablets have sold very poorly. The Kindle Fire and Nook Color are the only noticeable successes, but they bury (ancient) versions of Android under such custom, Google-less environments that people don’t even realize it’s running under the hood. And even these successes are being dramatically outsold by the iPad.
Excuse me, “other platforms.”
When Rubin says something like “2012 is going to be the year that we double down and make sure we’re winning in that space”, it sounds a bit off. What does it mean, exactly?
“Double down” sounds like Google hasn’t put as much effort as it could behind this. I don’t think this is the case: while they haven’t done very well so far, Google’s tablet efforts in 2011 didn’t seem half-assed.
The more curious phrase, to me, is “make sure we’re winning”. That sounds like they are winning, or they’re almost winning, their victory is almost a sure thing, and Rubin just needs to tweak a few small things to widen the gap between his winning platform and the also-rans. Obviously, such a perception isn’t supported by reality.
His other remarks about “education” and “hoping” sound like he believes that “other platforms” are winning because consumers just need to be “educated” about software ecosystems (good luck).1 He’s also “hoping” that “frugal” Android developers will ignore “market share” and start pouring effort into tablet-porting work that may not pay off.2
Generally, it sounds like Google is planning to will developers into creating robust tablet apps and tell consumers to buy their tablets, and they assume this is going to work well, despite similar efforts mostly failing in 2011. It’s magical thinking.
But I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt: maybe this was just PR-speak, or maybe this is just Rubin’s personality, and it doesn’t reflect the entire Android division’s actual efforts and beliefs.
Assuming that Google is firmly planted in reality,3 what are they actually going to do to meaningfully improve Android’s disappointing tablet sales and lack of much good tablet software?
More importantly, what can Google do?
With the realities of the tablet market (excuse me, “other platforms”), and with the existing Android hardware ecosystem and the software policies that let it get there, I don’t think I have a realistic, practical answer to suggest. I honestly have no idea what Google could meaningfully do about their tablet problems.
But I hope they internally believe that the problems are real, and they run more deeply than any amount of consumer or developer “education” can fix. They can’t just be willed away.
Blaming your failures on a lack of “education” is also a red flag: it suggests that you believe your product is absolutely better, and people are only buying a competitor’s because they’re irrational or ignorant. This prevents you from objectively seeing and potentially fixing the flaws in your own product. ↩
“Frugal” and “put in the muscle”: is Rubin implying that Android developers are cheap and lazy today because they aren’t developing apps for tablets that aren’t selling well? ↩
Honestly, this is becoming a less-sound assumption every day. ↩
TinyLetter is the simplest way to send email newsletters. Creating signup forms is a breeze, and TinyLetter even makes it easy to reply to your readers individually. It’s also free.
TinyLetter doesn’t have all the features most email services offer. It’s built for people, not business. Just compose compose your message, send it to your readers, and find out what they think. That’s all there is to it.