Tag Archives: Apple

Even Apple products deserve a beautiful name

The new Apple products are still very Apple and introduced to the market in an Apple way. Think different still counts.

Take Apple Photos. It is the replacement product for both the consumer and professional products iPhoto and Aperture. Apple Photos was received with criticism because of lacking functionality.

Exactly Apple!

Two existing products had to be replaced because they had to change. The fact that it will take time before the missing functionality is back is fine with Apple.

Power of the ecosystem

Then Apple Watch, the first real smart watch. Developers see opportunities through the power of the ecosystem. Again typical Apple, after all, as Jobs in 2004 said “the core technology [or consumer devices] is going to be software” and after iPod, iPhone and iPad that is also the case with Apple Watch.

And the latest addition is Apple Music, in which Apple took the old concept of Radio and give it a new look with Beats 1, the radio station that broadcasts live from different cities around the world.

The real big change

The real big change is that all these products are all brought directly under the Apple brand on the market: the strong Apple brand is followed by a descriptive name.

Apple is apparently abandoning the unique – recognizable – one word names such as Mac, iPhone and iPad for products.

This is in itself a logical “top-down” decision. In this way Apple Photos, Apple Watch and Apple Music all contribute immediately to the Apple brand.

However, if you look “bottom-up” I am convinced that when Apple had given all products unique names, such as iWatch, it would really contribute to the success of Apple. The success of iPod and iPhone were instrumental to the success of the Apple brand. You do not hear many people saying “I want an Apple”, but in stead your hear “I want an iPhone for my graduation”.

Unique names make it also easy to talk about your products. “I stream music from Beats on my iWatch” is much better than “I stream music using Apple Music on my Apple Watch”. Consider also the search query “how to edit photos in photos” which is weird in itself. In the result you find not only Apple Photos but also Google Photos. Or just search for “apple photos” and indeed you get photos of apples.

With beautiful brand-worthy products you make as a brand difference. With unique names you make it even easier to talk about them. And that is precisely the purpose of a brand!

The art of version numbers – II

Version numbers are everywhere… every piece of software,  many websites, photo camera firmware, well pretty much on anything that is software. Yet, in marketing we do not seem to get it right when communicating the meaning of version numbers to consumers.

For consumers this is rather annoying because in the end everybody can relate to numbers. 8 is perceived better than 7 and 7 is perceived better than 6. Even with sub numbers: version 5.2 is perceived better than version 5.1.

So, you might think: what is the problem? The problem comes in when we start adding the third sequence number: what is the difference for consumers between version 2.0 and 2.0.1?

I propose something very simple:

  • Version 2.0: the second version of a product, truly different/better from version 1.0
  • Version 2.1: the first iteration of version 2.0: new features are added, but it is not a complete overhaul. If it were a complete overhaul the version would be version 3.0.
  • Version 2.1.1: a bug fix release of version 2.1, there a no new features, it is just a better version of 2.1. If it would have new features it would be version 2.2.

So, let’s take a look how this works in practice with a couple of examples:

iOS software updates
These work great with the above principle: the last big upgrade was iOS 5, followed by release 5.0.1 which was a bug fixing release. This was followed by release 5.1, a feature release. All easy to understand!

Another division inside Apple follows a different approach with Final Cut Pro

Final Cut Pro
The latest release of Apple’s professional video editing software (version 10)  has not started of that well. Many of the Pro features like multi cam editing were missing in the first release. It did cost Apple lots of customers, who moved to Adobe products. Now months later Apple has made updates to its software. The latest release adds pretty much all the missing features from the first version. Yet… Apple calls this significant update version 10.0.3… For consumers just looking at the numbers: version 10 (10.), no significant updates (.0), some fixes (.3). In my view, marketing the product as version 10.3 would have clearly indicated the massive improvements to the product!

 

Version 10.0.3: significant or not so significant update?

Rather like this…

Version 10.3, this must be significant!

What do you say? Can we simplify versioning in communications?

 

How iA Writer is reintroducing the word processor category

Something amazing happened last May when a company called Information Architects  released the Mac version of iA Writer, “a digital writing tool that makes sure that all your thoughts go into the text instead of the program.”.

Why is this is amazing? Well, iA Writer just entered the word processor category traditionally dominated by Microsoft Word and Apple Pages. Both Word and Pages are of course expected to do… well… lot’s of word processing…!

A closer look at the propositions of Microsoft Word and Apple Pages reveals that while these products in a distant past might have been about word processing today they are clearly about something else.

When looking at the Microsoft Word website the browser bar still says “Word 2010 – Document and Word Processing Software – Office.com” but in reality the focus of Word today is more on desktop publishing, as Microsoft says Word is “More than words”.

“More than words” is made possible through 3 sub propositions, none of them about word processing:

There you have it… Word 2010… bye bye word processing, hello to desktop publishing!

Over at Apple with Pages the situation is very much the same. The promise of Pages is to be “both a streamlined word processor and an easy-to-use page layout tool. It allows you to be a writer one minute and a designer the next, always with a perfect document in the works.”

There is a bit more word processing going on here but the end conclusion is the same: bye bye word processing, hello to desktop publishing!

While Microsoft Word and Apple Pages have left the word processor category and are moving into the desktop publishing category the move made room for new entrants: hello iA Writer!

What is iA Writer doing? Well, it simply is a 100% word processor. “One of our goals was to create a writing app without settings. When opening Writer, all you can do is write. The only option you have is full screen and FocusMode. To increase the pleasure of writing is exactly what we intended when creating Writer. A better tool doesn’t make a better craftsman, but a good tool makes working a pleasure.”

All of this supported by three propositions:

Yes, iA Writer looks a lot like… a word processor:

iA Writer has 8 key features: 1. Auto markdown; 2. Professional Typography; 3. Spell Check; 4. Words & Character Count; 5. Reading Time; 6. Focus Mode; 7. Disappearing Bar; 8. iCloud compatible

Amazing isn’t it? A product build upon 8 key features to deliver … a product that is really optimized for writing. While most of the 8 key features look familiar and can be achieved in e.g. Word there are four things that make the product stand out and differentiate:

  1. It is a true word processor, the only thing it does is … word processing and everything is optimized for that.
  2. No additional features included:  the creators of iA Writer were able to resist and keep focus
  3. Typography, designed by “the best type, screen and graphic designers in the industry”. Of course it makes a difference to look at something beautiful when writing something even more beautiful
  4. Focus mode: this is the real differentiator: in Focus mode all the text fades out except for the sentence you are working on so you can, well… focus.

The result of delivering a focused product is pretty stunning: iA Writer is a top 10 app in the productivity category on the Apple App Store. Even more stunning since in this category the top 4 apps are Apple products, including Pages ranked 2.

Furthermore the consumer ratings are high: 4.5 stars with lots of raving reviews with titles like “an app I didn’t know I wanted”, “Professional Writers, Rejoice” and “Insanely gorgeous”.

So here you have it: when companies or products leave the category in which they originally entered it leaves space for new entrants, even in the word processor category that I never thought would be such an exciting category! How wrong I was!

iA Writer shows us that when you focus your product in a category occupied by “do it all” products you do get noticed and can reintroduce the category to consumers. Well done iA Writer!

Mac owners: get iA Writer on iTunes

Product naming going wrong, case: Apple Final Cut Pro X.

Since 2005 Apple has sold a professional video and audio production suite for OS X named Final Cut Studio. The core product inside this suite is Final Cut Pro, a video editing product. It has been around since 1999 and is used by many filmmakers.

A couple of weeks ago Apple launched the long-awaited successor of Final Cut Pro 7, called Final Cut Pro X.

Here is a test for all readers… by just looking at the name and without possibly any prior knowledge of Final Cut Pro…  what would you expect of Final Cut Pro X as a successor of Final Cut Pro 7 ?

Could it be: everything from version 7 and much much much more… including some super new innovations in video editing (why otherwise use the X in the name)? This expectation building was happening inside the community. To sum it up with two words, the expectation was nothing less than total awesomeness.

Apple however decided to do things differently. They build Final Cut Pro X from the ground up as a new product, leaving many features desired by the Final Cut Pro 7 audience out. To name a few: importing of video projects from version 7 to X does not work (hey? why do you call it still Final Cut Pro if it cannot handle Final Cut Pro files?), multicam editing (hey? isn’t this a Pro feature?) and many more.

Professional editors get even more the feeling that this is not a Pro product when they launch Final Cut Pro X for the first time. At that time a dialog is presented to import iMovie projects. iMovie is Apple’s entry video editing product that is part of iLife. Products considered to be used in the home environment, not by professionals…

As a result of all of this the product is rated really bad on the Apple Mac App Store. And note, consumers can only rate after they purchased the USD 299 product:

For any Apple product these are not normal ratings, far from it! So the question is could it be that the name positions the product wrong? I think partly it is. Let’s take a look:

  1. A name has a meaning. There is Photoshop CS3, CS4, CS5. A consumer expects all of these to be photoshop. The same applies for Final Cut Pro. Unfortunately Final Cut Pro X has little or nothing to do with the previous Final Cut Pro 7.
  2. Do not alienate your target audience. Clearly, for whatever reason Apple is not after the professional market and that is of course totally fine. But it is not smart to let your previous target audience believe you still make a great product for them. In stead, Apple could have simply named the product iMovie Pro as many have suggested on their product reviews on the Apple Mac App Store. That way it would have been clear to the professional market that they should switch to another brand, without letting them buy Final Cut Pro X and be double disappointed. At the same time not naming the product Final Cut Pro would show to the professional consumer that there now is a product beyond iMovie that is not as hard to use as Final Cut Pro was. Something Apple clearly wants to achieve.

Take a look at the two reviews below. These reviews were served first when searching for Final Cut Pro X on July 19.

The big questions: would all of this have been different if the product was called “iMovie Pro”?
… And by doing so would the one star ratings go away?
… Would the endless complaining about the Final Cut Pro X not being the same as Final Cut Pro 7 go away?
Ultimately: would the product have been positioned correctly by naming it properly?
Screenshot from July 19, click to enlarge

The ultimate media center setup with a Mac Mini and Plex – live 2013 in 2011 – step by step tutorial

Forget about the “TV-internet-apps” integration you have seen on CES last week! It is really all not there yet. If you want to have The Ultimate Media Center Setup then continue to read. Follow the instructions below and you will have a setup what probably is going to be common in 2013!

On a more serious note… lots of colleagues and friends have asked me about my media center setup.  As title of this website says “brands – mobile – technology” I am happy to share it here! Personally I find it an amazing setup:)

Plex Nine for OSX - Movie view

First: forget about Google TV and Apple TV. They are simply too limited in many ways: no local storage, locked in with file formats, not being able to see TV through the internet (for me the Dutch “missed a broadcast” is very important) unless there is a specific app for it on GoogleTV and more.

Second: forget about Popcorn or any of the other media tank products. Frankly this could have likely worked if it was not for the fact that I really wanted flexibility and no limitations. Limitations became apparent when thinking about viewing content from sites that run Silverlight plugins, opening a normal browser or simply adding a RAID drive to make the media center also the storage center in the house.

So in our Mac home the choice was the Mac Mini (PC homes should go for the Dell ZinoHD or similar). Here is the basic setup:

  • Mac Mini running Silverlight and a Flash player. Previous generations of Mac Mini with mini DVI instead of HDMI require this connector to connect to an AV receiver.
  • Plex app – Media Center application for OSX and iOS (free for OSX). This application is simply amazing! It is full-blown media center app with a fantastic user interface, metadata scanners for your movies/TV shows, and above all an amazing amount of plugins that allow you to watch internet content on your big screen (CNN, Hulu, many European channels…). Plex uses a Plex Media Server app that you can install on all your Macs at home. This way you can access e.g. iTunes or iPhoto content from your iMac in the study room through your MacMini on your TV. Plex is the best!
  • Preen app, a skin manager for Plex
  • Remote Buddy app, allows you to control many applications with the Apple remote or Logitech Harmony remotes. Best of all: you can (re)define all the keys on the remote to use functions inside programs!

With the above you get the basic setup. If you want more then read on.  See the video below for an overview of this Ultimate Media Center setup! The video was made by Nuno, the author of the Mini Harmony tutorial. More on that shortly.

Here is what you need to make it happen:

  • A Logitech Harmony remote control, preferably the Harmony One, but the Harmony 650 that I have works fine too.
  • To control everything with the Harmony as in the video above a bit of work is required… you will need to program Remote Buddy. To make it happen follow everything that is written in the Mini Harmony blog (start with episode 0). Unfortunately the author of the blog did not finish the tutorial so go over the Plex Forums to get the final episodes (direct link). Note note note: please read everything on the blog and the forum word by word, line by line. This does require some will and determination to make it happen… but once done… wow, the result is simply the best!
  • Icons for your Harmony remote. You can upload them to your Logitech using the software that came with your Logitech
  • VPN connection through e.g. Witopia or similar providers. This will make it possible get an IP address virtually all over the world.

You can make your setup even fancier by playing good old arcade games on your Mac with the big screen using the Xbox 360 Wireless controller. This is how you do it:

What you need is:

That’s it folks! Have fun with the Ultimate Setup! Happy 2013! 🙂

Did the processor speed of PCs and Mac finally stop being a key differentiator?

I have been reading with great interest a post from my friend and former colleague George Pneumaticos in which he is ranting about the fact that Apple brought out a new MacBook just two weeks after he purchased his.

It struck me when George was comparing his “old” MacBook with the new one: he compared design, the trackpad and display. No word about the slight increase in processor speed. True, it is only a slight increase but still. Similar feeling I got from a lot of the review sites that covered the new MacBook and the new iMacs: it was more about the esthetics than raw processor speed. This even though only a while back speed was the key differentiator.

What is happening here? Have we all realized that it does not really make a difference at all whether a browser loads up in 5 seconds versus 4.5 seconds? Have we realized that not everybody is a video editor and that therefore Mac Pro speed is not required in an iMac? Have we stopped playing 3D games that actually only can be played with processors not even on the market? Or have most of us simply switched from using primarily native apps that rely on processor speed and memory to browser based services?

This is an interesting moment in the PC/Mac industry and the big question is: what will be the next real differentiator?

And for those interested: the story of George seem to get a happy end!