Starbucks in their Ipods

starbucks_nano

Yesterday’s keynote from Steve Jobs was, as usual, a great show, full of amazing new products and product innovation. The Nano got even smaller and got video, the shuffle got more memory, the standard iPod got a new name (“classic”) and more storage, the iPhone became a lot cheaper, and he launched the new iPod Touch, an iPhone without the phone bit.

Fascinating to watch and I wouldn’t like to be working at a competitor today, as Apple proves it is relentless in staying ahead of the game.

However, the bit at the end of the presentation was equally intriguing.  Steve Jobs gives up the stage to Starbucks’ founder and chairman Howard Shultz to explain in detail the companies’ new partnership.

Walk into a Starbucks (some time in 2008) with your iPhone or wifi-enabled iPod Touch and new button will turn up on the screen, a Starbucks button! This is so close to one of those Google April Fool’s jokes that it takes a second to realize that a) they’re serious b) what they’re talking has potentially huge impact.

Click (or rather tap, of course) on your new Starbucks button  and via free connection to the Starbucks network you can see what the currently playing song in the restaurant is (and the last ten tracks), and buy that track (from iTunes of course).

Both Apple and Starbucks have always understood the importance of experience design, and this points the way to a whole new generation of experiences that merge the boundaries between physical and electronic.

Shultz describes Starbucks as “a place to discover music”. So while HMV, Virgin et al are licking their wounds and shutting their stores, Starbucks and Apple marches in and takes what’s left of their market. How?, by making something of the experience.

How long before iTunes is the number one music store in the world (currently number 3 in the US)?

In case anyone missed it, Shultz punches home the point:

To build a great enduring company, you can’t embrace the status quo, you have to keep pushing for re-invention and self renewal, and no one has done that better than Apple.

On Safari

Blah, blah, blah… blazing performance. Scanning through Apple’s marketing material for the new PC version of Safari, I assumed that this was so much of the Jobs hyperbole around any of  its new products.

Admittedly iTunes does live up to many of the promises that were made of it, but it’s a little clunky and slow at times. And a browser, from Apple, surely they’ve got a lot of catching up to do? And, remember how everyone used to claim that Firefox was faster than IE, and maybe it is once you get it loaded, but unfortunately it took two minutes to fire it up.

Anyway, so I installed the public beta to give the tires a bit of a kicking. And there is only one word for it… Wow.

It’s like the first time you got to use a leased line or ADSL. There’s a real appreciable difference in speed which makes the whole experience more satisfying. It’s even quick on Windows Live Hotmail, which takes so long to load on IE that there’s a special loading screen.

Safari:

safari_pc

 IE:

ie_pc

Various opinion pieces question whether late entry into a mature market is wise strategy.

So, what’s the real strategy here? I suppose you could just say that Apple wants to be in front of PC users, to get the default home page but it seems like a lot of effort to go to for that purpose. Microsoft stopped development of IE on the mac, presumably because the reward didn’t justify the cost.

No I think it’s simpler than that and that it’s two things

  1. They want to reduce the mental cost of migration for the customer. If you’re already using iTunes, Safari and MS office (or perhaps Google online applications), exactly how much of a stretch is it to change the underlying OS? If the next generation of SaaS is going to be really hot, then the browser environment again must dominate
  2. They need a really good browser for the iPhone and one on which most sites work. How do you get developers to make sure their sites work on your browser? By making sure a reasonable proportion of users have it, and that means – for the moment at least – by getting it onto Windows.

And number 2 points at another startling conclusion. That the iPhone will be able to run all SaaS products as well as a desktop. Not like the cut down browsers in most of our phones, the iPhone will execute all the scripts and AJAX functionality to make site work asynchronously and without page refresh on a mobile phone.

Let the battle commence.

The Bill and Steve show

Gates and Jobs (read the body language!)

When it comes to technology innovation, it’s interesting to hear some people still talk about a “five-year plan”. After all, YouTube went from zero to £1.65bn in 18 months. Google only lost their beta tag 7 years ago. Paradigms can change literally overnight.

In this fascinating interview, Jobs and Gates reveal that they’ve not got a clear view five years out, although they both broadly are expecting hardware to continue to evolve in a fairly linear way. Gates is sticking to his software-only stance (noting the exception of the X-box, the new and very exciting surface computing – although I’m not sure why that couldn’t be a pure software play for Microsoft – , a new meeting conference hardware called round table, and of course the ill-fated Zune).

While Jobs is clearly still in the hardware+software mode, he sees software as the driver, simply noting that he will continue to make the “nice boxes”. He sees the ipod’s dominance for example as a result of great software. And indeed the majority of the criticism of the Zune has been software related, and that certainly would seem to be the biggest barrier to adoption.

Both believe that users will continue to have multiple devices. Basically this means a laptop (or tablet), a mobile phone (or “post pc” device as Jobs calls it, pesumably to make the iPhone even more significant) and home entertainment equipment which will include what’s been done with media centre but will also, surely, extend to include ubiquitous computing device like the Surfaces product mentioned above.

As well as 3D visual interfaces, which have not yet lived up to their promise, Gates identified other changes in input method as big driver. In fact he talked about several different input methods – the multi-touch approach that Jeff Haan has been on about for years and appears in Surfaces and on the iPhone; what I would call passive video input – again on Surfaces, this is cameras which map how devices relate to each other (well worth watching the demo for that), and possibly in whatever this conference tool is to identify who’s speaking or presenting; and finally a general nod in the direction of natural language input.

Jobs was very tight lipped about innovation although dropped a few hints about improving .mac, most likely in some sort of 2.0, SNS kind of direction. Hugh MacLeod also spots a vieled comment from Gates about re-entering the internet space with renewed vigour from Gates. I’d guess he’s refering the Live Services platform but who knows, perhaps there’s something else about to be launched. I wonder if Hugh knows more than he’s letting on.

Both men seemed suprisingly oblivious to the threat posed by SaaS to their desktop operating systems, with both citing a mix of local applications with cloud services in support.

Interestingly, Jobs also argued that a turning point for Apple’s corporate strategy was when they realised that their success was not contingent on Microsoft’s failure, although his attempt to characterise the “Mac vs PC” advertising as not attacking Microsoft was rather unsuccessful.