observatory


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. Continue reading →


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. Continue reading →


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. Continue reading →


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. Continue reading →


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. Continue reading →


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. Continue reading →


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. Continue reading →


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. Continue reading →


8
Aug 14

The Apple rainbow logo rides again

In case you missed it — a frame from the end of the “Stickers” ad

 

I have to say, I’m a bit surprised.

Given all the sites that regularly dissect Apple’s every move — major, minor, real or imagined — an earthquake in the Apple world has gone virtually unnoticed.

That ancient rainbow logo, last seen in mainstream advertising at least 13 years ago, has magically reappeared for yet another moment in the sun.

Well, maybe it’s more of a moment in the shade, as it does go by rather quickly. In fact, my informal unscientific poll shows that most ordinary viewers didn’t even notice it.

It comes at the end of the Stickers commercial, when the sign-off logo flickers between the contemporary black logo and the old rainbow logo.

Of course I am greatly exaggerating the importance of this unexpected-but-sweet little touch. But if you’re a student of Apple advertising, or just a casual fan, it’s a cool thing to note.

Continue reading →


24
Jul 14

Apple & Samsung: different takes on interim ads

In the last week, we’ve seen new commercials from both Apple and Samsung.

They’re for different product categories — laptop and phone — but they do have something in common. Both promote products that have been out for some time and have no new features to boast.

With MacBook Air, Apple is in a pretty comfortable place. The ultra-light notebook category isn’t nearly as combustible as the phone category, and MacBook Air isn’t particularly threatened. Sales are better than ever.

With the Galaxy S5, Samsung finds itself in a tougher spot. Decreasing sales have already let some air out of the Samsung balloon. Apple is on the rise again, and 95% of the buzz these days is about the looming iPhone 6.

With all that in mind, let’s look at how Apple and Samsung are stating their cases.

Stickers is a great example of a well-crafted, lovable ad that scores points despite a lack of any real news. Continue reading →