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May 23, 2018

Comments

Jim Glue

Seriously folks. Are you in your 20's? Have you not watched the PC industry? Yes, an entire industry can become moribound with little innovation as real "producers"/innovators are replaced by commodity assemblers that DON'T innovate. Compaq was innovative. Asus is not.

Now, Msft put their foot up the asses of the PC makers a couple years ago by coming out with their own PC's that actually had innovation (the Surface line). Before Msft could do this, they had to reinvent Windows to work with touch. Rough first attempt with Windows 8...pretty good follow up with Windows 10.

None of the PC manufacturer's took it upon themselves to advance the PC form. All they'd been doing was copying Apple's designs, putting out Macbook Air clones and running Windows....bloated with consumer unfriendly crapware.

All of which were a competitive response to the iPad.

This notion that all this innovation is going on in Android is a fevered dream, not a reality. Google advances Android....Qualcom advances ARM chips...and Samsung advances hardware. That's it.

Oh, this or that Chinese company can read the tea leaves and be first to add more memory or a second camera. But they never do a great job with it. Samsung has some good innovations but they don't help "Android", only Samsung.

The Essential phone had some nice innovations before they got out of the business. But again, "Android" didn't benefit. Nobody is making MotoMods except Motorola. These companies aren't able to add to the whole and let others build on top of it from there.

AOSP should have allowed a decent Google-free competitor by now, but it hasn't. They only people who use it are where Google is forbidden or refuses to do business. CyanogenMod failed even with a Msft money infusion.

Google is trying to innovate in AR, but a very small percentage of Android phones will ever be able to run it. Apple puts out ARKit and instantly has the worlds biggest addressable audience for AR content, games and apps.

Google puts nice innovation into each Android release....but developers can't really take advantage of them because after a year on the market, only 6% of Android phones run last year's new Android OS.

Jim Glue

And, FWIW, I have not said competition will wipe out all PHONES. I've said that all the PROFIT is being wiped out by (probably government supported) Chinese selling phones at a loss to buy market share. It's becoming a market place where innovators can't ply their trade as the "commodity assemblers" don't have to do any innovation.

It's expensive for Qualcomm to keep up with Apple (even keeping up with last year's Apple chips). As the number of high end chip sales decline, the fixed costs of development/innovation are being layed on fewer chips...rising their prices or destroying Qualcomm's margins.

Think this can't matter? It already has. Qualcomm sold so few Watch system on a chip's that Android Watches can't be competitive with an Apple Watch because there are NO providers over ever newer/better smartwatch chips. There just isn't the sales to justify the investments.

Winter

@Jim
"Yes, an entire industry can become moribound with little innovation as real "producers"/innovators are replaced by commodity assemblers that DON'T innovate. Compaq was innovative. Asus is not."

Indeed, and that was because all of the added income went to Microsoft, the monopolist. Innovation was pointless as any increase of profits were creamed of by MS. And that only if Microsoft allowed its users to access the innovation. HW innovations were useless if Windows did not use them.

Compare this to the GSM dumbphone market in the EU. That hat cut-throat competition with waver thin margins and a lot of innovation.

Winter

@Jim
"They only people who use it are where Google is forbidden or refuses to do business."

But I remember that AOSP has a much bigger market share than iPhones.

Jim Glue

Hi Winter,

Yes, Intel and Microsoft were the last two standing reaping the lion share of the benefits of computer making on the Windows platform. IBM, Compaq, HP and a few others initially were innovators but before long everything they contributed got standardized and commoditized.

The SAME is happening with Android. Google, Samsung, and Qualcomm are making most all of the profits. Motorola, HTC, Sony use to be innovators in partnership with Google but the vast majority of unit sales are going to low end commodity assembling. Samsung's ability to make profits in mobile smartphone manufacturing is under assault. Samsung is basically the "HP of mobile".

Apple is the "Apple of mobile". Apple took the lessons it learned making PC's and tweaked the formula a bit (controlling the app platform via the app store).

Apple's control of the iPhone and the technologies in the iPhone are far greater than the Mac. You can see today that Apple is held back on Macs due to Intel's problems. Apple doesn't have to wait on Qualcomm.

Apple's profit per iPhone is pretty much in line with their profit per Mac. And iPhones have 3 times the market share that macs have, and the market is 4 times bigger.

Meanwhile Apple avoided the commodity trap and was handsomely rewarded as the loser of both the PC wars and the mobile wars.

Winter

@Jim
"IBM, Compaq, HP and a few others initially were innovators but before long everything they contributed got standardized and commoditized."

No, Microsoft came to monopolize the critical OS and was able to dictate profits for everyone. MS forced the commodisation onto the industry to ensure that they, and only they, could cream off all the profits. Even Intel was once rebuked when they introduced a new feature that did not suit MS.

The commodisation of the PC industry was a determined MS plan that could only work because MS controlled the toll booth. Either you played by the rules of MS, or you were kicked out of the market.

Jim Glue

Hi Winter,

If it hadn't been Microsoft, it would have been IBM. IBM made a huge mistake in not taking the PC seriously at first. It was a skunk works team that put it together and used parts anyone could buy. And Msft put the "we can sell MS DOS to other customers" part of their agreement.

IBM tried to regain control with the PS/2 and Microbus...but it was too late to put the genie back in the bottle.

BTW, both "control everything" and "make a platform others can contribute too" have their good and bad points. Certainly the world got far more out of computing from Windows and Android than ever would have happened with Apple alone.

Tester

@Winter and Jim:

With all that discussion I think you both overlook a critical point here:

The companies you talk of, i.e. the PC assemblers are hardly the part where innovation takes place. They mostly buy the parts in bulk and put them together to make a computer. That's hardly exciting and more a service job than anything else. For the innovative parts, look one level deeper, i.e. the manufacturers of the separate parts. These definitely make a good living off the hardware they produce and also innovate a lot. Think SSDs for example or the ever evolving feature set of modern graphics cards, on top of rapid performance improvements in that sector.

Of course with OS controlled APIs that's indeed not going to work out if the OS maker doesn't want to, but fortunately that only really is a problem on macOS where Apple has final say about everything. On Windows it never was a real problem making a driver for some exotic hardware and expose it to the software running on that system. Think again about graphics cards: Even on Windows they can easily add anything new to their Vulkan driver (and if in return Microsoft eschews the new feature, they only risk making Direct3D obsolete because with an alternative at hand nobody would restrict themselves to the inferior API if there's a more powerful alternative.

Jim Glue

Ok, let's take the SSC. Great technology. I'll never buy a spinning disc computer again. I put SSD's in all my old computers extending their life time and my satisfaction.

So, you are Toshiba and you invented spinning disk technology (removing Samsung for the moment). It's going to greatly increase the performance of mobile phones.

Who are you going to sell it to first? Apple, if Apple wants it, you'll sell it to Apple first because Apple has the scale and the money to make your product successful. Apple will build you a manufacturing plant if need be. Apple will prepay for 2 years of your capacity upfront.

Or, if it's sold to Android makers...it will make any device that uses it more expensive. So you REALLY have to have some major "market moving" improvement to sell expensive technology to commodity assemblers.

But let's say there is (and there was with SSD's). If you aren't Apple or Samsung, it's REALLY hard to actually get ahead with new tech. Anything sold to the rest is sold TO THE REST. So you'd get an uptick in ASP as everyone would have to charge more for the more expensive component....the Chinese would make sure to sell their SSD equipped phone with no margin.

It's like MediaTek, Qualcomm, and Sony. They are arms dealers (pun intended).

Even with this innovation, it's Android that's at a disadvantage. If Apple likes SSD, Apple can adjust it's chip designs (probably not needed in this case), build support into the OS, etc. Apple is guaranteed to sell a couple hundred million of any tech it puts into an iphone.

You'll have to wait for Google to build support into Android...or you'll have to build the support yourself and bear the full brunt of the cost divided by a LOT fewer units.

But yes, there are component companies innovating and that innovation has a chance to make it into Android phones. It's just harder for all the same reasons the assemblers find it hard to do innovation themselves. Lack of scale. Lack of control of all the things that need to be changed. etc.

Per "wertigon" Ekström

@Jim:

And what if Apple deems that product you just created is not mature enough for their devices?

Jim Glue

Then you sell to other manufacturers. Apple doesn’t always jump first...but they always have a chance too.

Per "wertigon" Ekström

@Jim:

I don't think you understand.

It is highly likely that Apple will deem any prototype component as unstable and unwilling to invest the money that brings the prototype to market. It is even more likely they will do a massive blunder on the epic scale of Yahoos failure to buy Google in 2001, or Facebook in 2006.

Since Apple is more interested in true-and-tested than plowing down cash to bring new prototype hardware to market, well... Apple will not be leading innovation any time soon.

#profitsareeverything

Tester

@PWE:

"Since Apple is more interested in true-and-tested than plowing down cash to bring new prototype hardware to market, well... Apple will not be leading innovation any time soon."

How true. What was the last truly innovative thing Apple did?

HomePod? No, just a crippled copy of the competition's product.
Apple Watch? Also no. It isn't the first one and again isn't usable without buying more Apple stuff.
Apple TV? Wait, is this still a thing when current TVs are doing the work of these boxes?
Apple TV's remote? It was fun experimenting with it but overall it's a gimmick that makes using the device harder than necessary.
iPhone X? No, there were other no-bezel devices before it.
iPhone 6? Years too late.
Apple Pay: Yet another 'me, too!' service. It hasn't even caught on outside the US where the competition is too strong.

So we go back to the... iPad!

Well, sorry, Jim, but that's what happens if you got a money guy at the helm. This also means that it's pointless to peddle new ideas to Apple. They clearly have become unwilling to develop them to maturity at their own risk. They only buy stuff when it's already proven ready to use. That's why they are always late with new innovative features. Mark my words, but if they continue on this route they may eventually have to spend all their hoarded money on new IP to use because they lose the skill to develop it themselves.

Winter

About the health of the Apple Ecosystem:

Apple cuts iPhone X retailers’ margins
https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/hardware/apple-cuts-iphone-x-retailers-margins/articleshow/61745641.cms

Apple’s $48B Dent In The Supplier Universe
https://www.pymnts.com/ecosystems/2017/apple-iphone-supply-chain-and-shares-conundrum/

Jim Glue

You guys are hilarious. Someone slapped together an Android watch before the Apple Watch, and therefore nothing about the Apple Watch is innovative? It was the rumors of an Apple Watch coming that set off the race by Google and partners to create Android Watches in the first place.

Someone else invented a computer chip therefore nothing Apple does with it's chips is innovative? Ever?

Apple was the first with a viable, multi-touch OS for a smartphone...so nothing Google does with Android is ever to be considered innovation?

You guys know that iPhones have outperformed Androids for years now. It doesn't matter for most things, true. Top end phones from each are plenty fast enough. However, Apple has achieved this performance with less cores per chip, running them slower, and with less ram on their phones. The entire "big phones are better" was originally a design compromise to get a battery big enough to run them. Samsung et. al. were just lucky that it turned out people liked big screen phones.

But the reality is - no matter which platform invents it first, delivers it first....there has yet to be an uncopyable innovation. Steve Jobs was SURE that is iPhone had a 5 year lead on anything the competition could produce.

And certainly Nokia, Motorola, Palm and Blackberry were not able to respond effectively earlier than that. But Google turned on a dime as they hadn't released Android (was originally going to be a Blackberry clone) yet, and in a YEAR had a copy of iOS. And in a year or two after that had a truly iPhone class phone (the Motorola Razor).

That was the longest gap and the largest leap in innovation. And it didn't take all that long to copy. And since that time, the only thing even close to a gap was large screens. Which was a gap only because Apple was convinced that "one handed" usability trumped large screen such that they didn't even try to respond at first.

Android and iOS regularly copy each other's features ever since then. I'd bet that SHOULD a knock out innovation occur....it'll be Apple that delivers it. But I'm not even betting on that

Per "wertigon" Ekström

@Jim:

Apple will not innovate because of the same reason Yahoo hasn't innovated for years. Sure there will be some features coming out, but it's much more copying from other companies than companies copying from them.

Speaking of copying, Android manufacturers are currently driving people to buy the iPhone X by their stupid, stupid copy of the Notch.

There is *NO* reason to copy that particular feature, NONE whatsoever - except to copy the iPhone look and feel in the hope of confusing a customer enough to buy their brand. It is idiotic, stupid, shortsighted and plain dishonest.

Copying a feature like that, why? There are only three outcomes, none good:

1. Customer buys phone expecting an iPhone and walks away heavily dissapointed. Lost customer.

2. Customer buys phone knowing it is an Android, but the Android is not tailored to the notch. Walks away with a sub-par experience and probably a lost customer.

3. Customer looks at the phone, sneers at the copying and thinks "Oh, if everyone is copying it the original must be that good. I'd rather buy the iPhone X!" Again, lost customer.

Stupid, idiotic, moronic. Atleast Samsung and Sony does not seem to have fallen into this trap, and I hope Nokia is wise enough here, too.

Jim Glue

I agree on the stupidity of the Android notch. It's a design compromise on the iPhone...which I understand and accept. For the MOST part, you don't even notice after the first couple days. It's certainly NOT a "really cool Apple innovation". And yet...because Apple has embraced the notch fully, wears it proudly, and advertises it prominently on a phone that's $300 more expensive...Apple makes the look iconic. And the Android makers copy because..well...that's what they do. They aren't offering innovation.

Looking forward to Siri Shortcuts coming with iOS 12. You should HOPE that Google copies that feature as soon as possible.

Per "wertigon" Ekström

@Jim:

Oh, that feature already exists. Though perhaps not a stock option, rest assured it's already on the Android. I believe it's called Cortana. :)

Jim Glue

Exists in a way lots of people will use :) What's interesting to me is how much use Apple services get when far more devices run Android services. More people actually use Siri than use Google Assistant as one example.

I'll have to look into the Cortana option. I do have an Android phone running 8.0. What app do you have that implements the "Work Flows" (Apple bought the company and then built the product into iOS and added Siri on top).

Wayneborean


Folks, Innovation doesn’t really matter. It’s a side issue to what really matters.

The benefits the User experiences.

If the user doesn’t experience a system (hardware and software combined) that fills their needs, the device (car, mobile, etc.) then the device is a failure. No device is perfect, not even the Jesus Phone, so all are failures. But some are less failures than others.

Put two cameras on a phone? Unless the User benefits, who cares. Put in faster chips? Unless the User benefits, who cares.

The world doesn’t revolve around Innovation, it revolves around what benefits the User experiences, and how valuable those are to the User.

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