Tag Archives: iPhone

Pop goes the Apple

applebombIt almost sounds like a Monty Python skit except that it isn’t really funny.  Apple product users worldwide are reporting exploding and sparking iPhone and iPods in what’s becoming an all-too-familiar story over the past few years.

While there’s certainly serious potential for harm in a bursting electronics device, Apple ladles insult on top of injury by extending its legendary micromanaging approach to product returns.  Some customers are being told that they will need to sign very strict non-disclosure agreements in order to have their purchase refunded– a practice that is known to be illegal in many soveriegnties.

 To be fair, this is not entirely an Apple-only issue.  Dell, Sony and Nokia, among others, have had their turn in this spotlight as the rush to wring out more power and life from device batteries increasingly stresses the materials.  But Apple compounds the problem by making those batteries a semipermanent fixture that can’t be easily removed by consumers.

Apple spokespersons have circled the wagons and adopted the usual “not our fault” mantra, the sort of response one expects from a paranoid culture.  They’re blaming users instead of design flaws.  Not exactly the sort of public relations they need to employ as iPhone competition finally gets serious with devices like Nokia’s newly-announced N900.

Hey Apple: I have a much better idea.  Forget this hardwired battery approach; it just adds unnecessary risk and frustration.  Instead, design your products so that the stresses you cite as failure modes will eject the battery.  I don’t mean anything fancy, either– drop the iPhone, the impact opens the battery door and out plops the little guy.  It can’t be too hard… most of my other small devices manage this even without design intent!

I wonder how many lawsuits and/or EU fines it would take to fix this…

Can Nokia manage a second shot at the US market?

I’m going to interrupt the Cloudy Days for Data series again to muse this time about marketing…

I’ve been very pessimistic on Nokia’s future prospects in the United States but there’s no distinction in that stance; so has just about every other pundit.  It seems like every time Nokia had something novel to offer, whether it be new devices like the promising internet tablets or a potentially hot service like Ovi, the ball wound up fumbled… sometimes by design.

A large part of that design was the stubborn insistance on model numbers over names, despite the allure shown by competing products like the iPhone and Blackberry.  It’s been long known that this sort of branding resonates loudly with US citizens, so when Nokia portfolio manager Ira Frimere declares in a recent Computerworld article:

“I’ve learned it’s not what I like, but what my customer likes,” he said.

…I have to wonder when this epiphany occurred for him.  No offense meant to Mr. Frimere, but I recall numerous conversations in Nokia US offices over this subject and that was the one consistent theme behind them all.  It did not matter what Nokia executives thought; wrapping product branding and marketing strategies around customer needs and wants is paramount.  Marketing 101.

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Cloudy days for data, Part 1

Several years ago I was in a product data management role for a major US manufacturer, assessing our information management landscape and helping my boss develop a road map for bringing the 160-year-old company’s engineering systems and processes into the modern age.  What I discovered shocked me although I really should not have been surprised: the vast majority of our mission-critical business data was sequestered in spreadsheets and shared virally via emails.

This sort of working environment tends to spring up as a consequence of two conditions:

  1. Often the information management system(s) are lacking in necessary features, disconnected, difficult to utilize, poorly represented or even non-existant;
  2. People want to hold on to their stuff

Anecdotally, I found the latter to be the greater evil.  When information managers try to improve the first condition, they encounter resistance due to the second.  After all, information is power, and the gut feeling is that if we relenquish any control over it we lose apparent value.  So the people who could benefit most from fixing broken sharing systems often hurt themselves by actually becoming part of the problem.

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An alternate history for Nokia’s internet tablets

Many readers of this blog already know of my involvement with the launch of the Nokia N800 internet tablet.  I took a high personal interest in the product line that went beyond my normal duties, because I saw a great deal of potential for the devices and their technology.  That interest led me to constantly suggest ideas for software applications and use cases.  Unfortunately for me, there was a development agenda in place that allowed little room for additional exploration.  This agenda was deliberately conservative and is just now enabling maturity in the device family, four years after the first true Nokia Internet Tablet (the 770) was introduced.

But what if Nokia had taken a radically different approach?  That thought (along with musing over related possibilities) has been eating at me a lot lately as speculation around the next device grows.  So for sheer sake of a wishful, whimsical writing exercise, I decided to construct an alternate product timeline with the benefit of my own hindsight and opinions combined with a vast accumulation of user input.  Note that this is not intended to be reflective of reality!

So without further ado, let’s rewind a few years and play with the idea a bit (all hyperlinks are actual and not part of this fantasy)…

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The Case of the Phantom Tablet

In the past several years we’ve seen many companies offer up their vision of The Next Big Thing in personal computing.  The goal to get PCs increasingly portable is one admirable attempt but any drastic changes to the interface status quo tend to be met with consumer resistance.  Screens and keyboards can only get so small before they become cute but useless novelties.

One exception is netbooks, the currently most compelling segment of portable personal computing.  These little-brother laptops are rapidly cannibalizing more conventional computing platforms.  Their attributes of low cost and high portability combined with a reasonable attempt to maintain usable interface real estate has contributed to a truly impressive success story.

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