Archive for October, 2009

Nook fans the flame Amazon Kindled

I’m impressed.

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I’ve watched companies try to defend their outmoded business models with the Next Big Thing staring them right in the face.  It usually turns out badly.  The most personal of these for me is Kodak.

I grew up in Rochester, where they printed money at Kodak Park, a 7 mile long vertically integrated plant that made film.  My Dad’s group invented a better film process, and I can show you the building that exists because of that invention (unless they have imploded that building to reduce property tax).  Kodak also invented the Kodak Killer, the digital camera, in 1975.

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Instead of drinking this hemlock, they stayed the course.  Later, a close friend led development (in Japan) of the world’s first  consumer digital camera, the Kodak DC40 (and Apple QuickTake 100), introduced in 1994.

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It seemed obvious to him where things were headed, but Kodak missed it, and has been working to shift gears (transmission grinding sounds) for 15 years.  I know many who have suffered as a result.  Stock down 90% from 1994.  I do not think this will be Barnes & Noble’s fate.

B&N has been cheating death at the hands of Amazon by doing the old way really well.  Their stores are a pleasure.  But I think they saw an image of their ultimate demise on the screen of the Kindle.  So instead of installing fireplaces or offering free massages to shore up the store paradigm, they decided to make the best e-reader, period.  And credit to whomever set  the bar high for that product, because they have apparently hurdled it.  Many comparisons have already been written, focusing on features, standards, and content.  For my part, I would like to point out their Killer App, which is listed most of the way down the lengthy “Product Comparison” page.  Nook on left, Kindle on right:

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Try reader in store before buying! Physically.  In a comfortable place with books to compare and people to answer questions.  It’s genius.

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Think about what you know about adoption of new technology products.  The timing is perfect.  Kindle made a splash and spent big money to pioneer the category.  They sold a goodly number to bleeding-edge consumers, and are on version two.  Sony, Google, and others have validated the category.  Now the Majority Market, which has questions about readability, weight, quality, usability, and what the heck 3G is, can come and kick the tires at a store that knows books.  [This may be the fastest Chasm crossing ever.]  While there, they can’t open two browser windows and compare price, or choose 1-Click to buy.  They will even be able to come back in for help.  And they’ll probably notice a $100 photography book while they’re there.

We study the need to innovate your own business models out of existence, or be vanquished by the one who does.  This is a rare example of a company that sees the train coming, and runs to get on board, instead of just bracing for impact.  I hope B&N survives the leap.

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Apparently, branding still works

Mac volume was up 17% last quarter, while other PCs were up around 2%.  Total Apple profits up 47%.

There you go about Apple again, Craig.  Acer is also up strongly.

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Acer did take over the #2 worldwide unit share position, at 14%.   But Acer’s average selling price is low, and  prices are falling — laptop prices down 20% across the industry – so Acer’s margins are tight at 2%.  Volume gains are driving marked profit growth (percent increase in net income), but the law of small numbers applies.

C’mon, it’s bad all over, so of course margins are low;  Acer’s share capture puts them in the driver’s seat when things get better.

Acer’s 2% net income yields about 6% share of industry profit.  By my calculations, the average Acer PC generates $10 in net income, while Macs deliver around $120.  So Apple’s paltry 3.8% unit share captures 20%+ share of personal computer profits (iTunes, iPhone, etc. excluded).  Their shareholders like riding that bus.

Well, those same drooling sycophants Apple has tapped for decades must be propping them up.

Last quarter saw the highest number of Mac sales ever, with about half to new customers.  Mac average prices are UP (2-3X the average for a Windows PC), so they aren’t buying new Macophiles with low low price or free printers.

All this during the Great Recession.

They are only a player in the US…they control the OS…if not for iPod…

It is about the brand.

Much has been written on how this is done.  I can offer no new insight;  I’ll simply point out that branding is showing its worth under pressure.  While others cut, go low, and promote deals to survive the downturn, Apple widens the gap from competition with brand touchpoints —  beautifully simple design, cool but approachable personality, great buying and ownership experience.

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I spoke to a solar entrepreneur this week about the commoditization of that industry.  He said “I want my company to be the Apple of solar.”  Good idea.

* Data quoted or extrapolated from public IDC and NPD sources.  I suggest calculating for yourself if you intend to rely on the figures.

For the person who has everything?

My Christmas shopping worries are over.

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Actually, this brings up other worries.  These things, and others in the How On Earth category, would not exist but for consumer demand.  On the surface, it’s funny.  But at its foundations, it is tragic.

Naming algorithm discovered

Naming is difficult.

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I noticed an announcement that IBM has a cloud email service offering, at affordable per-seat prices.  IBM acquired Lotus years ago, and this seems a natural move for the Notes email app.  So what to call it?  They apparently got the Smarter Planet* people to do this mathematically.  I have reverse engineered the naming algorithm…

[new name] = ([IBM email subbrand 1], [IBM email subbrand 2]) *

([nemesis’ cloud cue], [universal coolness signal])

[new name] = (Lotus, Notes) * (Windows Live, [Apple’s “i”]+[anything])

[new name] = LotusLive iNotes

QED

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* Smarter Planet is a solid positioning campaign, in my opinion; credit to Ogilvy and John Kennedy.

Raising four girls

I love my girls, but I’m flummoxed by some of the conversations.  An actual exchange from this morning regarding bread/toast:
“WHY are there so many end pieces?”
“Well, there are exactly two in every loaf.”
“No, there are NOT!”

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