Apple Special Event – key outtakes

Key takeouts from the Apple special event with a little bit of analysis
 
Retail
First presentation by Angela Ahrendts. There is a question of why she hadn’t presented at previous keynotes.  My read on it is that that the revenue per square foot metric beloved of retail analysts will tumble. Apple seems to be taking the mall companies idea of shopping as entertainment and doing it for their individual stores.
Town hall – what they call the stores internally, bigger focus on engagement rather than transactions – is this an effort to try and recapture cool?
Store features
  • Plaza – public private spaces outside the store if possible, interesting implications on future store placements – probably less in malls
  • Forum – open plan internal space
  • Boardroom – private space focused on developer relations, was probably the most interesting push. Stores are being given a stronger push as embassies for developer relations. 
  • Creative Pro – Apple genius for the creative apps, probable mix of amateur and professional audiences addressed
  • Today at Apple – driven by Creative Pro staff to focus on creating more usuage of key offerings i.e. photo walks – think Nike Running Club. Also includes teacher outreach
  • Genius grove – the genius bar but with plants presumably to try and break up the overall store noise
  • Avenues  – wider aisles that products are on
Continued retail expansion in the US including Chicago – interesting that international expansion wasn’t mentioned. 
 
Apple Watch
  • 50% yearly growth – the series 2 fixed many of the hygiene factors wrong with the first version
  • 97% customer satisfaction – health seems to be driving this
Health features: focus on heart rate monitor and getting proactive about flagging elevated heart rate. Also focusing on heart rhythm changes as well.
 
watchOS 4 out September 19 available to all customers. Interesting that they didn’t drill into some of interesting features on watchOS 4 using Siri
 
Series 3 Apple Watch with cellular built in. Your Dick Tracy fantasies are alive. Apple thinks that people will leave their phones at home and bring their Apple Watch. They also see it as killing the iPod Nano with wireless music playback. I am yet to be convinced.
Apple added a barometric sensor; usage example was focused on health and fitness rather then locative apps. Not a great surprise given that these sensors have been in premium G-Shocks for a good while. 
 
Apple used specially designed lower power wifi and Bluetooth silicon. But no news about who is making the cellular modem. The SIM is embedded on the motherboard and presumably a software update? These changes could have interesting implications for future phones?
 
Interesting carrier partnerships, in particular all three of China’s mobile carriers, but only EE in the UK?
 
Apple TV
 
  • Apple TV now supports 4K, unsurprising hardware upgrade and includes high dynamic range – Apple is following the TV set industry’s lead
  • More interesting is the amount of content deals Apple has done with studios, in particular keeping the price point of 4K HDR content the same as was previously charged for HD content.
  • Interesting TV partnerships but no major UK TV stations only Mubi
  • Emphasis on easy access to sports on the Apple TV would wind up cable companies further
  • Apple TV was also positioned as the control interface for HomeKit smarthome products. There was no further  update on HomeKit in the presentation 
iPhone 8 incremental changes
 
  • Wireless charging with glass back. The steel and copper reinforcement of the glass is probably to help with the induction charging
  • Incremental improvements in picture quality. Bigger focus on AR including new sensors.
iPhone X
 
  • Positioned as future direction for iPhones. Biometric face ID is clever but has issues. I wonder how it will work with facial hair or weight gain – Apple claims that it will adapt. Apple also claims to be able to detect photos and masks. It’s also used for face tracking in AR applications with some SnapChat lens demos.
  • As with Touch ID, there is a PIN code if your face doesn’t work. I have found that Touch ID doesn’t work all the time so you need that PIN back up.
  • The notch at the top poses some UX / design issues and the industrial design implies case free usage which will be a step away from usual iPhone usage.
  • What isn’t immediately apparent to me is the user case for the iPhone X versus the iPhone 8 plus?
What was lacking in the iPhone presentation was a celebration of all in the changes in iOS 11 under the hood.
A11 – Bionic chip in the iPhone 8 and X
  • Includes new integrated GPU for machine learning and graphics. This explains why Imagination Technologies are in trouble
  • New image sensor processingThe A11 processor has a hardware neural network on the chip for the iPhone X – unsure if its also usable on the 8
Apple’s moves to embrace, co-opt Qi wireless charging and build a super-standard on top of it will likely wind up members like Qualcomm and Huawei. How much of this is down to user experience and how much is down to the desire to get Apple IP in the technology stack?
Apple is left with a large product line of iPhones: SE, 6 series, 7 series, 8 series and the X

Brandon Beck of Riot Games on eSports

Beck is the co-founder of Riot Games (best known for League of Legends) on the rise of eSports and what its future looks like.

Interesting that Riot are trying to give players a better base to build their careers, but how long is their professional life, when do they burn out?

Great interview with Adam Curtis

I’ve been watching a lot of Curtis’ work recently. HyperNormalisation, The Mayfair Set, The Trap, The Century of the Self, Bitter Lake and Pandora’s Box.

More information
Just Adam Curtis channel on YouTube – has curated many of his documentaries.

The September 11 post

15 years ago I worked agency side in Haymarket in London’s west end  for Edelman. It was a normal day, well as normal is it gets when you are in the middle of the dot com bust fallout.

My job meant working on communications programmes for the European subsidiaries of technology companies. This was to reflect a ‘business as usual’ face to their customers. This allowed the subsidiaries to keep their businesses largely intact so that they could be sold off to help bail out the financial hole that the parent company had made.

The businesses had grown on generous venture capital payments, share placements and bank loans. The dot com bust suddenly meant that there was a surplus of servers, network switches, bandwidth, commercial space and Herman Miller Aeron chairs.

Due to the nature of the business I worked closely with colleagues on the finance team because I spoke ‘geek’ and understood how screwed these clients happened to be.

The financial and corporate teams worked for a number of clients, notably Cantor Fitzgerald. They were to lose two thirds of their personnel by the end of the day.

It was early afternoon, when I realised that something was up. We had TVs around the agency that often weren’t on. This time they were all turned to Sky News, which was running the footage. After the troubles and bombings in Beirut, it wasn’t a complete surprise to see another landmark attack – at least at first.

Once the scale sunk in, then the realisation of how different the world was going to be started to dawn on me.

Thoughts on the Apple event of September 7

Style

  • The presentation was telling a hard story to an audience that were likely to be underwhelmed. Phil Schiller rather than Tim Cook carried the most difficult parts of the keynote.
  • The piano finish device was an obvious attempt to provide a style angle to the new iPhone and mask the aerial sections. However it is a class action waiting to happen as it will dull over time with micro-scratches
  • The story that the audience was told didn’t feel right. Lets talk about the headphone jack. The double camera only appears in the Plus, so the requirement for room isn’t a credible argument on its own, other vendors have managed to waterproof handsets with headphone jacks. I suspect that Apple isn’t sure that its backing the right horse. Its the least aggressive change they’ve made in a while. The inclusion of an adaptor shows that their user aggression still isn’t as high compared to when they got rid of: SCSI, Apple Desktop Bus (ADB), iPod 30 pin port (still pissed about that one), AppleTalk, floppy disks or optical disk playback and storage – I suspect that they are fearfully waiting to see what the pre-order numbers will be like and they should be. A straw poll of AdAge readers (core Apple user demographic) showed overwhelming disappointment
    AdAge readers on new iPhone
  • There is a lot of really nice features in iOS 10 – I’ve been using it for a while, why didn’t they make more of this and macOS Sierra?

Substance

  • Innovation in the smartphone category has flattened out. The iPhone 7 provides reasons for laggard iPhone users to upgrade, but nothing for 6 and 6S series users. There are few if any innovations for the likes of Huawei to ape in their new models
  • Innovation in smartwatches has plateaued. Apple is coalescing around fitness and dedicated products are much more cost effective for consumers. In China Xiaomi’s fitness band sells for about £15, for many consumers it would be enough. Fitbit is doing well – Apple’s wrist computer (alongside Samsung Gear etc) looks like a sledgehammer to crack a nut
  • Apple have done nothing to address the latent demand for new laptops amongst consumers (I am still happy with my 13″ Retina MacBook Pro). There was no replacement for the Cinema display (again, I am happy with my current set-up, but where is the pro-user love)
  • Apple abandoned its flirtation with luxury by discontinuing the gold Watch. They are still holding out to be viewed as stylish by doubling down with Hermes and a white ceramic device – it would work on the opposite wrist to a Chanel J12
  • It was curious that Apple moved away from talking about security and privacy; the collaborative document working using iWork which could be seen as a potential attack vector on to the desktop. The Air Pods that sync seamlessly with a device without visible security precautions.  iPhone security was addressed in the James Corden car karaoke skit at the beginning of the show rather than woven through the materials.
  • The speech about the app store was to try and bolster developer support, I suspect that services will shore up the Apple financial numbers over the next 12 months
  • The Nike branded Apple Watch was part of a broader move reposition the Apple Watch 2 as a fitness device.

Out and about: Independence Day: Resurgence

Independence Day was one of the benchmark blockbuster movies. It has cheesy Americana, Will Smith and an aerial dog fight that left my butt cheeks numb as my body had flinched to hold my body in the chair. The illusions on screen temporarily fooled my senses.

Twenty years later, Independence Day: Resurgence was bigger and darker. There was less of the knowing ironic humour. The film tried to take itself seriously. The CGI was impressive, but felt prosaic as we are more used to it now. Destroying London? Yawn.

For a film aiming to take advantage of 3D sales at the box office it offered precious little in terms of visual engagement.

The film did a better job at laying out its stall to take advantage of the Chinese market. A Chinese dairy brand was featured prominently as ‘Moon Milk’. The characters use video chat on QQ (a sister brand of Tencent’s WeChat) with its iconic penguin logo.  One of the film’s prominent stars is Angelababy a staple of Hong Kong and Chinese cinema who came to prominence as a model and promotional spokesperson.

I get why Chinese audiences will like the film, their ‘token’ characters fit in better than transplants sewn into Transformer films – and its apparently done well at the box office there.

The plot took some more twists and turns than the original, but it missed a crucial ingredient. I didn’t care if the characters lived for died, it all felt rather academic – for the future stars of tomorrow like Liam Hemsworth, that must terrify his representation. Hemsworth is a great actor in previous outings like Black Hat, but all of the cast feel flat due to poor character development.

The Brexit post (part 1)

Generally I find politics a bit too grubby and dirty for this blog and have only touched it when I absolutely, positively didn’t have a choice.

On June 23, 2016 the UK goes to the polls to vote on whether the country should stay in or leave the European Union.

Over the next few days I will be writing two posts (this is the first one). The first of which is about how it has all been presented. The second post will be a guide for my non-UK based friends on what the hell it all means.

Political marketing generally isn’t the most amazing work, though there have been iconic campaigns. Given the momentous decision ahead of voters you would think that there would be a creative advertising campaign.

The US has led the way in iconic political campaigns. My favourites being the ‘Daisy’ ad used by Lyndon B. Johnson against Barry Goldwater.

Ronald Reagan’s ‘It’s morning in America again’ which is curiously soothing yet exceptionally emotive

Barack Obama’s simple messages of ‘Hope’, ‘Change You Can Believe In’ and ‘Yes We Can’ together with a focus on repetition and reach brought out the vote in his favour.

The UK has come up with good campaigns too; the Saatchi brothers ‘Britain Isn’t Working’ that helped get Margaret Thatcher the first time around. Ironically the poster doesn’t contain real unemployed people, but 20 Conservative party members shot over and over again to create the ‘conga line’.
Labour isn't working
It is such an iconic poster that the Labour party still has to jump over the hurdle of proving it wrong 30 years after its publication.

By comparison Vote In’s adverts lack… creativity and any sort of emotion to pull the audience in. It is like they are selling machine parts to procurement professionals, not a life-changing decision.

Ryanair’s campaign discounted flights for expats to come back to the UK and vote to remain has more engaging creative. WTF.
ryanair

Vote Leave isn’t much better. Let’s start off with their domain strategy ‘voteleavetakecontrol.org’ – Google’s Adwords team must have been rubbing their hands with joy. For a campaign the ideal URL would have been voteleave.co.uk (which is a rick roll link) or brexit.com. According to redirect on brexit.com

www.Brexit.com & www.Brexit.co.uk were offered to the various national Out campaign groups for no charge.
After no contact was offered in response it is now up for sale.
£3500

School boy error. If you look at their content, they have managed to latch on to emotive themes, but the production values of the material look as it has been done by Dave in Doncaster who does wedding videos on the weekend.

And as we have less than a week to go to the polls the quality of the marketing isn’t likely to get any better.
Around London
In fact, the best piece of advertising for either side that I have seen was in Whitechapel. It is simple, snappy, emotive and likely done by an art student given the lack of declaration of campaign affiliation (i.e. a call to action to visit strongerin.co.uk or a claim that it was done on behalf of ‘Stronger In’ or ‘The In Campaign Limited’).

One last thought to ponder in this post

WPP in particular has a reputation for hiring marketing talent from political campaigns, and these people are sold on to clients as fresh thinkers and doers for their brands. Positive examples of this would be Obama campaign veterans Thomas Gensemer and Amy Gershkoff, or my old colleague Pat Ford who worked on Ronald Reagan’s campaign.

There will be marketers getting jobs with serious salaries on the back of this work and the designer of ‘Brits Don’t Quit’ will be working in an intern farm somewhere if they’re lucky. Life just isn’t fair.

More Information
Campaign on Labour Isn’t Working.
Ryanair’s EU referendum ad investigated by police | The Guardian – it might be illegal, but at least it has a pulse.
Thomas Gensemer LinkedIn profile
Amy Gershkoff LinkedIn profile
Patrick Ford LinkedIn profile

How the #PanamaPapers story broke online

The Panama Papers are 2.6 TB worth of documents provided to German paper Sueddeutsche Zeitung by an anonymous source in August 2015. The documents cover 40 years of work by a Panamanian corporate law firm Mossack Fonseca on behalf of clients around the world.

The documents detail corporate services provided to the rich and powerful around the world. The first stories from the data trove were published on April 3, 2016 with more expected by early May 2016.
Mentions by medium
Looking at social media listening services we can see how the story rolled out online.
Forums gave an early ‘canary in the coal mine’ for the story, but Twitter was a massive accelerant.
Mentions over time
Mentions over time
A secondary effect was the way the story cemented Edward Snowden’s place as a media brand specialising in privacy and transparency – he was the most retweeted commentator in the first 24 hours of the story being out there.
The story in one tweet
Understanding the retweeters
About me
More on Slideshare

Profiling social conversations at Mobile World Congress 2016

As a useful benchmark against how handset manufacturers performed (which I will look at later on), I decided to do some benchmark research into online conversations for Sunday around Mobile World Congress 2016. Using a social listening tool’s proprietary authority ranking to segment conversation participants.  All of the data came from Twitter, this isn’t perfect but it is the social platform that provides the best quality information for this kind of exercise. Posts tend to be immediate and easy to do.

I ended up with of 4,006 posts based on the bulk of a day’s postings. Of those posts, 2,120 identified their country or area of origin. The posts came from 53 identified countries.

I then broke the posts down into four sections and analysed the upper and lower quartile by authority ranking. I used the overall population numbers by country to see if it over-or-under indexed in either high or low influence. There were clear country patterns in terms of authority, these were not related to size or location. This was particularly interesting as the event is culture neutral.

Countries that would be traditionally associated with spam content due to internet behaviour norms and low wages actually ranked well for authority. This wasn’t a deficiency of the algorithm but reflected well managed social media accounts.

My 10 most popular (trafficked) blog posts of 2015

These are the ten most trafficked posts that I wrote in 2015, in reverse order:

Throwback gadget: Nokia N900 – I tried Nokia’s first Maemo-based phone. It was amazing how useless it was as one forgets how linked the modern smartphone is to web services. Despite these problems one could see the now lost potential of the phone.

Generational user experience effects – a meditation on user experience from the analogue era to the present

2015: just where is it all going? – I had a think about where digital and technology would go over the next 12 months or so. You can see how I did here.

Reflecting on Yahoo!’s Q2 2015 progress report on product prioritisation – by June this year, the product rationalisation that Yahoo! underwent provided ample opportunity to show that it’s core offering was collapsing in many international markets. Rather than it being a market wide condition, the data pointed to Yahoo! specific issues.

Traackr – beyond the buzzword event – a post about how a diverse range of organisations from Coca-Cola to a luxury jeweller were thinking about influencer marketing.

Throwback gadget: Made 2 Fade (by KAM) GM-25 Mk II phono pre-amp and mixer – a review of a mixer that has been lost in dance music culture history, yet was responsible for much of its popularity outside the super clubs.

That Jeremy Clarkson post (or lies, damn lies and sentiment analysis) – or why everyone from the mainstream media to PR Week got the story so wrong about Jeremy Clarkson’s departure from Top Gear.

An experiment on fake Twitter followers – I spent some of my hard-earned cash to see what difference if any buying fake followers had. I chose Twitter as a channel mainly because it would be easier to measure any impact, otherwise it could have just as easily been Facebook followers, Pinterest subscribers or Instagram followers. My overall conclusion on the fake follower business is that it almost purely about personal vanity rather than gaming a system.

O2O (online to offline) or what we can learn from the Chinese – East Asia is way ahead of marketers in the west in terms of multi-channel marketing particularly the integration of of online with offline aspects.

48 hours with the Apple Watch – hands down the most popular post of this year on my blog was my short experience living with the Apple Watch. I felt that it was a nicely designed, but un-Apple experience. It also convinced me that the use case for wearables wasn’t here yet.

The Microsoft event post

I’ve been in-and-out of meetings that prevented me from reflecting fully on the Microsoft Windows 10 event of October 7, 2015. Microsoft put a lot of content out there which is worthwhile picking through. I have put these items in the order that they occur to me rather than an order of importance.
Windows 10 : Everything You Need To Know About

Microsoft Windows 10 is designed to run on a wide range of devices, a by-product of this is that the PC on your desk maybe a phone connected to a screen and keyboard. Now this may not work for all applications, but it could be enough for browser-based needs. It also means that bring-your-own-device could move beyond having your email on your phone.

The Surface Pro 4

Whilst Microsoft has undergone a regime change since the launch of the original Surface, somethings haven’t changed. I think that the Surface Pro 4 represents a continued effort to decapitate the Microsoft PC eco-system. The targets in the frame are devices like:

  • Lenovo La Vie Z
  • Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro
  • H-P Spectre 13x 360
  • Dell XPS 13

All of these devices broadly fit into the 13 ultra notebook format that Apple plays in, but I think that the goal is to maximise Microsoft’s revenue share of the Windows eco-system. The hardware design hasn’t done the wider Microsoft brand any harm at all.

New Lumia devices

The 950 and 950XL put Microsoft in the game, at least from a hardware perspective with the Android eco-system, comparing favourably on hardware specifications with the likes of Huawei, LG and Samsung. What I found more interesting is the allusion in Microsoft’s own commentary of the event that the phones would face a gradual rollout in markets and Microsoft wouldn’t be rolling it out to all markets in Europe.  Don’t necessarily expect to see these handsets being rolled out in multi-national companies without an extensive availability and support network.

Whilst mobile network providers would like a third eco-system to reduce the power of Android and iPhone, there doesn’t seem to have been universal carrier acceptance of the devices. This maybe partly due to the tighter integration of Skype in the Windows 10 OS?

Xbox on Windows 10

Xbox need to bring more customers on board and having backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 games provides a more cost effective gaming experience thanks to eBay and other used console game exchanges. It also does beg the question about possible non-gaming or even enterprise use that could be made of the new Xbox (beyond running Linux on them).

Rolling out an OS so universal as Windows 10 is an interesting move. It presents some risks:

  • Compromised user experience due to different user contexts (gaming, business desktop computing, consumer PC usage, tablet experiences). A touch orientated interface on a laptop is sub-optimal for content creators who can touch type for example
  • Bloat due to the ‘Swiss Army knife’ requirements catering at a core level for different form factors and displays

More information
The Secret of iOS 7 | I, Cringely
Final 2014 prediction: the end of the PC as we knew it | I, Cringely
Thoughts on Microsoft Surface | renaissance chambara
Skype in Windows 10 Preview: Built into Windows 10 so you can do more with friends across devices | Big Blog (Skype owned blog)
Windows 10 Devices: a new chapter | Microsoft News

Ron Arad’s tablet design concept for LG

Ron Arad is more famous for his architecture and art than product design. I went along to see him speak at an event that is part of London Design Festival last week thanks to the China-Britain Cultural Exchange Association. Arad’s presentation felt largely unplanned as the curator of the talk asked him to jump around from project to project rather than a clear narrative being presented. Arad showed imagery or video that he then talked around.

During the presentation Arad showed off the design concept that he did for LG that pre-dated the iPad. It sounded at the event like he had started his thinking in 1997, but the sources I looked at online stated that this project was done in 2002 and the video copy I found on YouTube states that the copyright is 2003.


The video is quite prescient in a number of ways

  • The device was primarily about content consumption and messaging
  • He nailed the in-home use case, with the exception of realising that the iPad may be a communal shared device rather than belonging to an individual
  • It has a flat design interface (though this might be a limitation of their ability to create it on video and a spin on the circular LG logo)
  • The soft keyboard on screen
  • There is no stylus
    There was auto-rotation of the screen
  • It has no user serviceable parts (this was at the time when cellphones and laptops came with detachable batteries)
  • Inductive charging with a table rather than the small pad used by the like of the Microsoft/Nokia Lumia devices
  • The way the controls where superimposed on footage of the user working with the device is reminiscent of the way TV and films are now treating parts of a plot that involves messaging

There were a few things that it got wrong:

  • Arad clearly didn’t understand the significance of the iPod, so the device had an optical drive rather than side loaded video content
  • The device is really big, more like a laptop screen than a phablet, a la the iPad Mini or Galaxy Tab
  • The form factor was too thick, understandably so when they are trying to squeeze a battery and optical drive in the device, the thickness had a benefit in that the device was self-standing. Apple relied on covers and cases to provide the standing mechanism

More information
The Israeli designer who (almost) invented the iPad | Times of Israel
The Simple Way “Sherlock” Solved Hollywood’s Problem With Text Messaging | Fast Company

I like: Ritson vs Social Media

Mark Ritson’s critique of social real-time marketing is really good. Here he looks at the wider social media and takes an objective approach to it as part of the marketing mix rather than as a silver bullet.

Tim Cook at The White House Cybersecurity Summit

Whilst on the surface this is a puff piece for Apple, but Cook uses the Obama administration’s call to cooperate making life easier for the intelligence industrial complex get access to consumer data and lays out an opposing vision.

He basically kicked Washington DC in the teeth, other significant companies just decided to turn up with a significantly less senior representative to send the same message.