14
Nov 14

CurrentC vs. Apple Pay: the battle of greed vs. convenience

From the Pathetic Excuse Dept: You may have noticed that my normally sporadic posts have become increasingly sporadic. There is actually a reason. I’m in the final stages of a new book, and the manuscript deadline fast approaching. So it’s all-hands-on-deck time, and I only have two. Hope you’ll stick with me. And I hope you’ll like the result, coming spring 2015.

The more I read about the CurrentC consortium and its challenge to Apple Pay, the more I scratch my head.

Most critics of CurrentC (and there are plenty) are slamming it because of its technology, security or ease of use. However, what I find most disturbing is the obvious motivation for CurrentC — and the obvious end result if the consortium should realize their dreams.

The bottom line is that people can tell whether a company is acting in the customers’ interest or its own self-interest. Which isn’t good news for CurrentC.

Clearly, it all started when a light bulb went off in these retailers’ heads: “Why give credit card companies a cut of every sale? All combined, we’re giving those guys billions of dollars!”

By creating CurrentC, they would not only save truckloads of cash, they would gain new insights into customers’ buying habits, allowing them to shower people with targeted sales and coupons. Life would be sweet.

Of course, CurrentC is presented in a way that would have us believe it’s all to make our lives easier. But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, there is precious little about CurrentC that makes life easier for customers. It’s designed to benefit the retailers.

It requires more effort than Apple Pay, it latches directly onto our bank accounts, it requires us to surrender our social security numbers and it bypasses the fraud protection that comes with credit cards.

The retailers will profit in a huge way by no longer having to pay a percentage of their sales to the credit card companies. But — does anyone on earth believe they will pass those savings on to their customers?

Yeah, right.

CurrentC isn’t a savings plan for customers — it’s a new profit center for retailers, with a candy-colored shell to help it go down smoother.

But wait, you say! How can I possibly slam retailers for padding their bottom lines with CurrentC when I’m okay with Apple adding billions in profits via Apple Pay?

It’s easy.

In this world, one earns a profit by providing a valuable service. Apple Pay makes in-store purchases totally simple, and it doesn’t cost customers a dime. It’s the credit card companies who will foot the bill, because Apple Pay makes it easier for customers to use their cards. So everyone wins. Customers get a better experience, credit cards become more convenient and Apple makes a profit for making it all possible.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to enjoy watching this battle. Greed has always been a powerful force in our world. I think convenience is going to whoop its butt.


10
Oct 14

When in doubt, change the name

Way back in August, a story surfaced about a possible name change looming for Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

It’s been echoing in my head (a lot of room in here), because changing a product name isn’t something that happens very often.

Now that Internet Explorer has reached Version 11, it’s an interesting time to ask for a restart.

There are normally two reasons why a company would want to change an existing product name.

Sometimes, they simply have no choice. Circumstances demand it. In other situations, the name change might be a bit more “recreational.” That is, it’s not mandatory, but the marketing guys believe the new name will make it an easier sell.

Before we pass judgment on poor Internet Explorer, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and look a few classic name changes. More ▸


29
Sep 14

The joy of Apple-slamming

Now that the Bendgate uproar is subsiding (personally, I much prefer the name “Bendghazi”), I think it deserves a moment of calm reflection.

To me, the story isn’t that Apple created a sub-standard product. Because it didn’t.

The real story is that all these people were so quick to believe that Apple had screwed up in such a monumental way — and then joyfully helped blast this “news” into the public consciousness.

It all started with the notorious bending video.

Honestly, the first time I saw this, I thought it was pretty moronic. The guy’s hands are literally trembling from the force he exerts in his attempt to bend the thing.

I don’t doubt that one could bend an iPhone 6 Plus if he had a mind to. More ▸


17
Sep 14

Apple’s i prepares for retirement

At last week’s event, Tim Cook made it clear that Apple Pay and Apple Watch have an amazing future.

He made it equally clear that Apple’s little “i” has no future at all.

It’s difficult to draw any other conclusion, since iPay and iWatch would have fit so perfectly into Apple’s current naming scheme.

Hey, we all knew this day would come. The i had a long and fruitful life, but it’s time to start planning for the golden years.

The truth is, the idea of moving past the i had come up at various times inside Apple. In fact, I had a conversation with Steve Jobs on this very topic way back in 2006. More ▸


15
Sep 14

Samsung having iPhone 6 anxiety issues

Samsung, you rascal.

I thought you’d unloaded all your anti-iPhone 6 ammunition with that spate of bad ads a few days ago.

Yet here you are, trying another tack.

This time, rather than going with the unfunny comedy approach, you’re basically presenting your case to the jury. You had the big screen first and you can prove it.

Okay.

Unfortunately, you’re overlooking one little detail: nobody gives a hoot.

Most people care about the choices right in front of them. Today. They look at price, quality, design and reliability. Who came first isn’t exactly #1 on their priority list.

Of this you should be thankful.

Otherwise, iPhones would own 100% of the smartphone market. You’d also have some explaining to do about that nifty little fingerprint reader you recently added. More ▸


12
Sep 14

Samsung innovation: funny ads without humor

I take some heat for sometimes saying nice things about Samsung advertising.

When I do that, it’s strictly as an observer of marketing — certainly not as a fan of the company. The fact is, Samsung has scored points by making fun of the Apple culture, just as Apple did by poking fun at PCs in the famous Mac vs. PC campaign.

However, Samsung’s marketing efforts have been spotty at best. As much as it has benefited from good ads, it has soiled its own nest with ads that are embarrassingly amateurish.

Historically, the gap between Samsung’s advertising peaks and valleys has been so extreme, I have to believe the ads are either created by different teams in different countries, or by one team with multiple-personality issues.

Now we have a whole new batch of Samsung ads that poke fun at Apple. Or, I should say, attempt to poke fun at Apple. There is a serious shortage of fun in these spots, and they are unlikely to gain favor even amongst Samsung believers. More ▸


11
Sep 14

The iPhone/Watch event: errant observations

The iPhone/Watch news has been pretty well dissected at this point. But hey, there are always a few more nooks and crannies to explore. Here are my not-so-quick reactions.

Death by streaming

I spent the first 45 minutes in agony. I get why the streaming failed so miserably now — but for it to happen at this historical moment is truly unforgivable. A hundred lashes for those responsible.

Opening video

A+ for imaginative use of typography. C- for droning on with self-importance. This video would have been a nice opening for a WWDC, paying tribute to developers who think differently and change the world for the better. I just get squirmy when Apple heaps this kind of praise upon itself. Though I’m not a fan of the “people around the world using our stuff” ads and videos we’ve seen from Apple lately, something like that would have been far more suitable as a setup leading to the unveiling of new empowering devices. More ▸


29
Aug 14

iPhone and iWatch: a dual debut?

In a re/code article on Wednesday, John Paczkowski stated with conviction that iWatch will make its debut on September 9th, along with the new iPhone(s).

Within a day, there were a hundred stories reporting that bit of news — either citing John as the source or simply presenting it as fact. Computerworld actually ran the headline Apple makes Sept. 9 event official, hints at more than iPhone 6. Uh … not really. All Apple did was send out an invitation.

Now I happen to have a lot of respect for John, and he may well be right. Still, one can’t help but marvel at how quickly unverified stories spread.

Whether it’s true or not, this isn’t the kind of decision Apple makes lightly. It’s fun to imagine the two sides of the debate — do we launch these products in two separate events or combine them into one?

Since I wasn’t invited to the meeting, I’ll have this debate with myself. More ▸


22
Aug 14

Some curious Apple lapses

What’s wrong with this picture?

Those who love Apple are oftentimes its most finicky critics.

My theory is that these people expect perfection, so they feel compelled to point out the imperfections — large or small.

Oh, wow. I guess I’m now officially in that group.

Recently, I’ve noticed two lapses that seem out of character for Apple. Each is mystifying in its own way. More ▸


15
Aug 14

Microsoft’s new ads: beating a dead horse

Hail Microsoft, the King of PCs.

It’s easy to understand why the company clings to its “PCs forever” strategy, even after every major Windows PC maker has suffered slumping sales due to the tablet revolution.

It’s actually a form of corporate addiction. When you’ve built a huge global powerhouse based on one strategy, it’s hard to stop.

When trouble brews, the reaction can be reflexive: “let’s go with our strength.”

So now, in its three new ads for the Surface tablet, Microsoft once again goes with its “strength.”

While it previously fell short by comparing Surface to the iPad, it tries again by comparing Surface to the MacBook Air.

Because, as we all know, what the world really wants is a tablet that feels like a PC. Complete with keyboard and Office software. More ▸