13
Jan 14

Technology, religion, fanboys and Walt

Touchy, touchy.

Seems like former Wall Street Journal technology reviewer Walt Mossberg isn’t in the mood for aggressive comments these days.

In his first article at re/code, he “schools” those who are intolerant of others’ opinions and exhibit religious devotion to their chosen platform.

While Walt tries to be objective, two subtle clues hint at the source of his frustration.

One is the headline: It’s Not a Church, It’s Just an Apple Store. The other is his main visual: New York’s iconic Apple Store Fifth Avenue.

I don’t really mind that Walt makes Apple fans the poster children for his article. You have to get those clicks somehow.

Didn’t we cover this Apple-as-religion thing years ago at Scoopertino? (click to see)

And it’s not like this is anything new. Badly-mannered zealots have been among us, on every platform, for decades — just as they have been in politics. It’s actually more of a human thing than a technology thing.

What’s out of whack for me is Walt’s very first paragraph. For a guy whose life revolves around technology, he expresses a surprisingly cynical view of technology companies: More ▸


30
Dec 13

Samsung: victim of its own DNA

Oh, to be an electronics behemoth.

With its infrastructure and reach, Samsung has the power to build products in infinite categories and ship billions of products worldwide.

However, there is something very wrong with one particular strand in its corporate DNA. It’s the one labeled “marketing savvy.”

Here’s a company with a number of hit products in the mobile space and an advertising budget several times that of Apple. Yet, despite a few creative moments, something deep inside keeps pulling it back to advertising mediocrity.

See Exhibit A above. This is the newly released 2.5-minute piece being deservedly slammed as one of the worst commercials ever made. More ▸


20
Dec 13

Apple thinks different for Christmas

There’s a comforting predictability to the holidays. Decorations go up and the shopping countdown begins.

There’s a predictability to the holiday ads as well — most of which scream big sales and hot products.

What we don’t expect to see is an advertiser taking a risk. Which is why I find Apple’s 2013 holiday spot so interesting.

Ever see a company spend nearly half of its holiday commercial depicting the downside of its own product?

Apple has done just that — painting the picture of a kid seemingly more interested in the virtual world of his iPhone than the family around him. More ▸


05
Dec 13

JCPenney: forward to the past!

JCP has apparently taken down links to this spot. Click here to view on iSpot.tv.

Recently, I saw the above ad for JCPenney — the launch of its big new holiday campaign. Just days later, I saw an article entitled JCPenny On An Express Train To Oblivion.

That headline pretty well summed up my reaction to the commercial. It also got me thinking about JCP’s current course in context of its history.

So, for you marketing enthusiasts, here’s my JCP story. It’s loaded with the things we love about this business: drama, crushed dreams, out-of-control egos and unintentional comedy. More ▸


20
Nov 13

Apple & the art of blowing things up

Many cool things appeared at Apple’s most recent product unveiling: new iPads, Mac Pro, OS X Mavericks and more.

But then a number of things disappeared as well — like a long list of features in the iWork apps.

Depending on one’s willingness to drink the juice, reactions ranged from mild annoyance to utter disbelief. It was either an unavoidable step toward a better future or an unforgivable slap in the face.

But — if you squint your eyes a bit, you’ll actually see this development as one more reason to feel good about Apple.

Good grief Ken. Could you possibly be more of an apologist fanboy?

I knew you’d say that. Especially since I myself couldn’t resist grousing about the missing features in Pages just a couple of weeks ago. More ▸


28
Oct 13

Apple event: the week-after report

Rush to judgment? Nah. Not here. A week after Apple’s latest product unveiling, I’ve had time to let it stew.

I’ve also had time to play with the various bits of new software. Here are some random reactions to all of it:

Naysayers
Disaster! Apple didn’t revolutionize anything. True, but let us note that historically, Apple’s astronomical success has come from three places: its ability to revolutionize, its ability to improve upon the revolutions, and its ability to out-market its competitors. At this event, we got two out of three.

Opening video
As Tim Cook noted, this was a repeat from this summer’s WWDC. “It does such an incredible job talking about our values,” said he. While many love this video, I’m not a fan of it. To quote from Game of Thrones, “If you have to say you’re the king, you’re not a true king.” Apple has in the past communicated its values more clearly than any other company — simply by producing great products and great ads.

Craig Federighi
Damn, he’s good. Everyone at Apple is smart, but being likable is a very different matter. Of all the presenters, Craig wins in this measure hands-down. Did you notice that when Tim yielded the stage to Craig, the superlative count dropped precipitously? While Tim incessantly pounds words like “amazing” and “incredible,” Craig cuts way back. As they say in the speaking biz, he’s a natural. More ▸


22
Oct 13

Apple’s evil plot to invade our privacy

Last week a company named QuarksLab made news with its revelation that iMessage isn’t as secure as Apple claims.

It claims that although iMessage features “end-to-end encryption,” it is technically feasible for Apple to view messages if it ever wanted to.

Of course, this story radiated across the internet as quickly as any Apple-damaging story would. To the point where NBC News decided it was legitimate news.

Shocker: this isn’t a story at all. More ▸


21
Oct 13

iPhone 5s ad: Apple goes for the gold

Ah, relief. After a number of commercials all dedicated to the iPhone 5c, we finally have one for the iPhone 5s.

Some sites, such as The Verge, suggest that this shift might reflect reports that the iPhone 5c is not selling well and the iPhone 5s is a runaway hit.

However, that doesn’t exactly pass the common sense test.

If one of your two products needs a jumpstart, you beef up the advertising for it — not shift to a product you can’t keep in stock. I suspect the reason is much simpler: Apple has a new line of iPhones and wants to sell a bunch of them.

But forget marketing theory for the moment. What do we think of the ad?

Well, if you’re of the mind that Apple has become formulaic with its ads, there’s nothing here to dissuade you. Even by its title, iPhone 5s’s Metal Mastered (above) is a perfect replica of iPhone 5c’s Plastic Perfected. More ▸


08
Oct 13

Samsung’s crime against advertising

Bad enough that Samsung’s new Galaxy Gear smartwatch is being universally panned by reviewers.

Now the product’s launch commercial is getting the same treatment. Mostly because it’s a shameless copy of the very first iPhone commercial.

No argument here about the blatant nature of this rip-off. However, my problem is a more basic one:

The ad is crap.

Rule number one when you set out to copy someone else’s work: “Do it well.” In ignoring this rule, Samsung has set itself up for the double whammy — attacked for being unoriginal and creatively anemic. More ▸


07
Oct 13

A rare bit of Apple journalism

Three days ago, The New York Times published a terrific article about the making and unveiling of iPhone.

It’s mostly drawn from the experience of Andy Grignon, a senior manager involved in creating the first iPhone, but also contains quotes from Tony Fadell and others.

Two important things about this article:

First, it’s written by a real writer. Fred Vogelstein weaves a most interesting tale, which is likely to draw you in whether you love Apple or loathe it. It’s a refreshing change from what you read on a hundred blogs every day. (Ouch. I think I just insulted myself.)

Most important, Vogelstein’s article addresses the true nature of innovation in the technology business, with its neverending challenges and complexities. Anyone who believes that Apple relies more on borrowing than innovating will have an enlightening experience. More ▸