A Jobs ‘less Apple?

January 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

Steve Jobs while presenting the iPad in San Fr...

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Recently Steve Jobs announced that he would be taking a medical leave with no possible return date.  He hands over the reigns of the company he founded, to Tim Cook the company’s COO whom he entrusted in the past during his absences.  The announcement came just a day before Apple was to release it’s quarterly numbers and only weeks prior to the much anticipated iPhone/Verizon launch.

Following his announcement After Hours trading was fast and furious.  Apple stock plummeted following Jobs’ announcement.  The next day following the close of the market Apple released their numbers and they did not disappoint.   Profits were 3.38B on 15.58B in revenue versus 2.26B on 11.88B a year ago.  Their balance sheet shows 39.8B in cash and 3.6B jump; which is the equivalent of the Gross National Product of Guatemala.  The next day the stock rebounded, albeit only slightly, as investors were still trying to envision a possible Jobs ‘less Apple.

Now that the dust has settled since Jobs’ announcement, it’s time to consider what possible impact his departure will have for both the short and long term.

Its already been proven that Tim Cook is more than capable to step in while Jobs is absent.  After all, he does have an existing pipeline of great product that he can continue to evolve and refine.  He and Jobs share similar visions for the evolution of their products.  However, Cook is not Steve Jobs.  Cook is supply chain logistics; while Jobs is product and marketing; they compliment one another well.  While Jobs prefers the stage; Cook prefers to be off-stage.   Cook is a company man and has demonstrated in the past he can tow the company line.

For the short term Apple seems to be in capable hands and has plenty of momentum to build on.   But who is going to create the magical tech products of Apple’s future?   Investors, Analysts and Techies are all trying to speculate what Jobs has planned (and you know he does).  What we know for sure is that whom ever leads the company has to be an innovator and visionary.

Leading that charge of innovators and visionaries would be Jonathan Ive, Apple’s resident industrial designer that has been credited for the design of the iPhone that led to the product design evolution of it’s existing products as well as new products (iPad). Ive is a visionary from a design and creative perspective not necessarily a business perspective.  It would be an interesting test putting Ive at the helm of Apple or possibly even creating an ‘Office of the CEO’ which would include both Ive and Cook as counterparts; working in concert to advance the Apple brand.  This exercise has been tried in the past and failed (Sears, Roebuck & Co).  Egos are simply too fragile and have their breaking points and in a company such as Apple I would imagine that breaking point would be swift.

Here’s a thought.  What about Mark Parker, CEO of Nike? Mark Parker is the third CEO of Nike since Phil Knight’s departure.  Parker is an innovator and visionary.  Parker has a stage presence and is a people person.  Parker is business savvy and has proven himself as a leader.  I doubt that Mark Parker would ever leave Nike (he’s got a good thing going) but wouldn’t this make for a great test.

The long term is still anyone’s guess, but one thing is for sure, the future of Apple is uncertain and maybe the only person that has a glimpse of it is Steve Jobs himself.


2011 Trends and Beyond

January 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

Charlie Bit My Finger – Harry and his little b...

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Change has been happening at a rapid pace as technology evolves and consumers become scarily accustomed to the changes and are increasingly adopting new technologies at a feaverish pace.  With this comes significant shifts in the advancements in digital technology and their uses – here are a few trends that I see becoming relevant through 2011 and beyond.

  • Social Media – will continue to evolve through the advancements and integration of location and photo based services made available through the mobile platform.
  • Social Marketing – YouTube will become a greater search engine force and will overtake Yahoo as the second largest search engine.  This will be due to the development of more dynamic content and will lead to greater integration on the web.
  • E-Mail – will establish itself as a relevant and dominate force in the marketing arena.  Although, it’s had it’s share of bad PR over the years – brands simply cannot abandon the medium just yet.
  • Local Advertising – will become stronger and more prevalent as location based apps continue it’s growth and capture the imagination and hearts of local businesses.
  • Social Networks – will be going niche.  We will see the rise of the Social Niche as users become more and more encouraged to join groups that speak to their interests with like minded people to connect with.
  • Tablet-Mania – will continue it’s romp.  The tablet will evolve quickly and become a close replacement for today’s casual lap top user.  The tablet will become a primary means to entertainment for many users as they embrace the new form factor.  For companies the tablet will be another form of engaging and wow’ing the consumer.
  • Optimization of all Form-Factors – this will be a key development in the area of Web Development.  As more and more users adopt new technologies (phone, tablet, e-readers, etc.) Developers are finding that their skill-sets have to include the understanding of how to leverage and optimize all form factors when creating a user experience.
  • Open Source Software – will continue to expand and collaboration between developers will become commonplace.  We will see that systems will develop under that watchful eye of many versus only a select few.
  • Mobile – becomes mainstream, if that hasn’t already happened.  Unlike other countries (South Korea to name one in particular) the US still lags behind in mobile usage as we have yet to untap the full potential of the mobile device.
  • KISS – keeping it simple will be the call to arms for many brands and designers.  Users want an engaging experience yet want it simple as well.  Forget all the bells and whistles if they simply do not add to the experience from a user perspective (the key here is User not Designer or Developer).   Apple led the way and other brands are following suit.
  • Social Good – will continue to escalate at a rapid clip.  Causes will explore the mobile arena as a new untapped avenue leading to contributions.  Corporations will integrate their efforts involving cause related marketing and Corporate Social Responsibility.  The opportunity to integrate and by in large expand the Social Good, is here.
  • E-Books – will drop in price significantly as the technology evolves and we see greater interactivity within the content and devices.  Publishers are going to be relevant, unlike the Newspaper industry, the smart ones are embracing the change and creating content that will be dynamic and engaging thrusting their industry into the technology age of book publishing.

What do you think are some key trends that we should be watching for in 2011 and beyond?

Restaurants uploading menus on iPads for diners

January 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

Au Bon Pain at Siam Square

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11:06 am ET 01/03/2011 – Associated Press Online

The bar is buzzing on a busy night at Chicago Cut steakhouse as regulars Keith and Peg Bragg sit at a high table scanning the wine list.

Within seconds, they have all bottles under $40 at their fingertips using an iPad supplied by their server.

“You can very quickly look through to see the price per bottle,” said Keith, a finance executive, as he scrolled through rows of selections. “You can read the wine tasting note, how long it has been aged.”

The upscale eatery on the northern bank of the Chicago River has invested in 40 iPads at about $700 each for wine selection. Since April, when Apple debuted the tablet, the device is now in use as a full menu at upscale restaurants, hamburger eateries and quick-service chains like Au Bon Pain. Restaurateurs said that’s just the beginning.

Chicago Cut partnered with a technology firm to create a custom app that looks like a virtual wine cellar. It lists the restaurant’s more than 750 wines, includes photos of bottles on wooden shelves and allows for searches based on variety, price or region of origin. Diners can also access information about a wine’s taste, composition and a Google map of the vineyard.

“Eventually the bottle is going to spin around and you can read the back label,” said Chicago Cut managing partner Matt Moore. In the future, programmers could add video or let customers e-mail themselves the name of a new favorite wine.

Moore’s partner, David Flom, said the iPads were a large investment, but they’re already showing returns.

“I’ve already seen an increase of wine per customer of 20 percent,” Flom said. “I can’t say that the iPad commanded 100 percent, but I can say it commanded a significant portion of that.”

Technology is becoming increasingly important to restaurants and tabletop ordering devices only stand to multiply, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president at the Chicago-based restaurant consulting firm Technomic.

“It’s cool and trendy and kids love it,” he said. “It paves the way for other opportunities with applications.”

Au Bon Pain uses iPads at six of its 220 locations, with plans to expand. Ed Frechette, the company’s vice president of marketing in Boston, said diners usually fill out pieces of paper with their orders at the cafes, but iPads have simplified the process.

“One of our employees has an iPad with a menu loaded in it and they’ll take your order,” Frechette said. “You still see a menu board with all the information on it. We have handheld laminated menus for a reference, but all the paper pads are gone.”

At 4Food in New York, where diners can build and name their own burgers, iPads are at eight kiosks with plans for as many as 30 devices, including Android and Blackberry platforms. Customers order and enter credit card information into the iPad to pay. Managing partner Adam Kidron said ordering food electronically will eventually be the norm.

“You’ve just got to imagine that this is something that won’t just be considered to be a discretionary behavior,” Kidron said. “It will be a necessary behavior.”

Chief executive Patrick Eldon, whose orderTALK Inc. helps set up online ordering for restaurants, said the real value of using iPads is to develop customer relationships. Digital surveys, collecting customer e-mails and offering frequent diner programs are all possible with the tablets, he said.

“It’s about getting to know your customer in a way that you can’t get to know them from the waiter or waitress,” Eldon said. “You now have incredibly valuable data about customers, how often they eat, what a particular customer likes to order.”

The tablets are arriving on the travel circuit, too. OTG Management has installed more than 200 iPads loaded with menus at gates in New York’sJohn F. Kennedy International Airport, allowing travelers to order salads and sandwiches while they wait for flights. A waiter brings the food and diners can pay via the iPad or in cash to the server.

“I think eventually a significant number of restaurants will just use iPads for their menus,” said OTG chief executive officer Rick Blatstein. “We’re starting out using hundreds of them and I expect it to be thousands in the future.”

Celebrity Cruises has 75 iPads loaded with restaurant menus aboard one of its ships.

Restaurants do face a few challenges. Tristano points out that restaurant owners must consider how to keep the tablets juiced up. At Chicago Cut, Flom said the iPads are loaded with tracking software to prevent theft. And there are customers who won’t want to use iPads.

Jay Clark, who headed the team at Shared Marketing Services Inc. that created Chicago Cut’s iPad program, said while he sees unlimited uses for the digital devices in restaurants, paper menus need to be available, too.

“If people are very tactile and they’re comfortable with a paper menu, they should be able to have it,” he said. “People have to be comfortable with technology.”

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