Coming to some of you, in about a month: Ads in your Tweetstream, from Twitter accounts you don’t follow. This is technically an extension of the ad product Twitter started selling a month ago. That one helped marketers place ads in front of users who were already following their brands’ Twitter accounts. The new twist to the plan will let advertisers place ads in front of Twitter users who are similar to ones following their Twitter accounts.
And, Kafka notes that users won’t have the ability to “opt out” of this.
Twitter has gotten themselves into a damned-any-way situation: given that it cost $25M to run in 2009 when they had 60M users, I’d be surprised if their expenses weren’t cresting $100M this year. But users have been getting this service ad-free at no cost, and—like most things on the web—they’re going to be outraged at the suggestion that this should change. I don’t want ads in my Twitter timeline, but would I pay (say) $50 a year to remove them? That also sounds outrageous, but if we don’t want Twitter to show us ads and we don’t want to directly give Twitter money, what are we proposing they do for revenue? PBS-style donation drives? Bake sales?
Our relationship with the web is going to be undergoing a fundamental shift over the next decade, I suspect, because it has to undergo a shift. Historically, we’ve paid for television, movies, books, and magazines, and in many cases we pay for those things even when they contain ads—and we pay a premium for magazines and TV shows that are ad-free. But apparently we believe that when you Just Add Internet, only greedy people would keep asking for money, because everything is subsidized by magical money-shitting ponies.
In the complaint filed today in federal court in Washington, the Justice Department is seeking a declaration that Dallas-based AT&T’s takeover of T-Mobile, a unit of Deutsche Telekom AG (DTE), would violate U.S. antitrust law. The U.S. also asked for a court order blocking implementation of the deal. “AT&T’s elimination of T-Mobile as an independent, low-priced rival would remove a significant competitive force from the market,” the U.S. said in its filing.
The US’s position in this case is, basically, that AT&T’s argument that this will help consumers by enhancing their network is blowing smoke — that AT&T could spend the purchase money on enhancing their own network rather than buying T-Mobile and get the same effect, and so the real point of this is just to eliminate competition. This is probably true, but there’s an implicit argument that T-Mobile’s current existence provides a check on AT&T through competition, and this seems notably less true to me.
This means both the Slide products before Google’s acquisition of the company a year ago, and the newer ones that the Slide team has been building within Google for the past year. Yes, it includes the newer products like Disco, Pool Party, Video Inbox, and the just-launched-last-week Photovine. They’re all dead. The lone exception is Prizes.org (which we covered here), we’ve heard. The reason is that this was developed by the Slide team in China for Google, and they’ll keep pursuing it, apparently.
Just a few random questions:
Does Google believe that it’s essential to their business to wrest the “Best Place For Your Product to Go to Die” title from Yahoo?
Is killing a web service one week after launch some kind of new record?
Does anyone actually use any of these products other than friends of Slide/Google employees and writers for TechCrunch?
America has a love of the entrepreneur. Sometimes this is expressed as a seeming love of corporations, of big business, but in truth our Great Defining Myth is that of the iconoclast. The lone inventor with the revolutionary idea who’s dismissed as a crackpot and crushed by The System might as well be our official National Tragic Romantic Figure. In reality when one, or even a handful, of self-taught amateurs say X and the collective expertise of the field says Y, this is much less likely to be a sign of a grand conspiracy to keep the amateurs down than it is a sign that the amateurs are, in fact, wrong.
Every so often, though, there’s a successful, world-changing entrepreneur who embodies this weird, very American notion that the best way to succeed is by having a singular vision and sticking to it. By doing things your way, figuring that if you’re right the rest of the industry will adapt. And, over the long run, being proven right.
This isn’t a matter of being nice; it’s not even a matter of not being nuts. Neither Henry Ford nor Walt Disney were sunshine and roses—but they arguably created businesses that changed the world through their products and processes. Even with their warts, they’re visionaries. There’s very few private citizens you can say that about.
You may not use Apple products. You may not like Apple products. But if, every day, you’re using a computer with a mouse and a GUI, then Apple had a direct effect on your life. Spare me the cries of “Xerox was there first”; they were, but Apple’s innovations in that area were far beyond merely being first to market. For the last twenty-five years, the Great Irony of the computing world has been that even though Macintosh computers were never huge sellers, you could consistently look at new Mac OS releases and see what was going into the next major release of Windows. (This is still true today; OS X Lion brought with it an integrated application store and an iOS-influenced UI, and darned if Windows 8’s tentpole features aren’t an integrated application store and a Windows Phone-influenced UI.) The iPhone changed the entire landscape of smartphones, and the iPad has changed the entire landscape of tablets.
In fact, you could argue—as Samsung is, without considering the philosophical implications—that the iPad is the first embodiment of the computer the way it is in sci-fi movies, not just the personal video screen of 2001 but the PADD of “Star Trek.” A friend of mine who is not an Apple fan made a comment a while ago on this blog to the effect of, “We were all waiting for something like this, we just wish it was from a different company.” Perhaps—but which company? The romantic notion is the unknown garage startup, the Apple of 1977, but garage startups only succeed in industries that are garage-sized when they start. Once they do succeed, they’re not going to be mad enough to bet everything on futuristic visions—after all, now they have something to lose. You wouldn’t have caught HP or Dell or Microsoft announcing the iPad. After it was announced, Apple was roundly mocked in the press for it.
If you’ll pardon the expression, it takes serious brass balls to do that.
Steve Jobs, like few other modern CEOs, has always been quite willing to be mad. And I mean that as the highest possible compliment.
Will the post-Jobs Apple still be mad? I don’t know. It’s certainly not abruptly going to fall apart; Jobs’ vision is shared by more than a few people who still work there, after all. In fact, I suspect Horace Dediu is right when he suggests that Apple’s next Big Disruption is already planned. The test isn’t next year, or the year after that; the test is in ten years, or twenty.
But for now, even though Steve Jobs is stepping back, Apple is little different than it was at the start of this year, and as it’s been for this decade. They’ll still do things their way, releasing highly opinionated products that delight millions of people and irritate nearly as many others. And I look forward to them doing both for a long time to come.
ReadWriteWeb covers this forthcoming social service in their typical way when they describe it as “the Next Social Network from the Founders of Twitter,” and by “ReadWriteWeb’s typical way” I mean “getting crucial details utterly wrong.” The former Twitter founders in question—Ev Williams and Biz Stone—restarted their umbrella company, The Obvious Corporation, when they left Twitter, and are providing funding and support for the two people who created and designed Lift. And while—presuming RWW got these details right, at least—it’s a social network in the broad sense, it’s not a competitor to Twitter or Facebook, but rather, as Biz Stone puts it,
Tony Stubblebine and Jon Crosby have created an interesting new application for unlocking human potential through positive reinforcement. We love this software for what it does, and because we’ve tried it and it works.
So, clearly, this is not Twitter, it is a Web 2.0 Skinner Box.
The electric cars have no visible accelerator or steering wheel; rather, they are completely automated and travel along a dedicated guideway. My only input consisted of a button push, which indicated my destination.
The system is an example of “Personal Rapid Transit,” which the futurist in me finds immensely cool—and, with all due respect to the Segway, possibly even practical. San Jose, California, is looking into PRT.
Groupon’s fundamental problem is that it has not yet discovered a viable business model. The company asserts that it will be profitable once it reaches scale but there is little reason to believe this. Unlike the very few successful companies that scaled before they were profitable, Groupon’s business model does not benefit from significant network effects. The company’s product is not more valuable to users as more people adopt the platform. Yet, Groupon maintains a blind faith that growth will be its salvation. As Pets.com learned in the last bubble, such a strategy works just fine until you run out of other people’s money to spend on growth.
This is potentially a problem even for companies that do benefit from the network effect—Twitter is the poster child for that, with Tumblr and possibly even Facebook also facing that dilemma. (Facebook? Really? Just say I agree with Ben Brooks that while Facebook is undoubtedly generating buckets of revenue, they’re also still raising hundreds of millions through private investing, which strongly suggests they’re not generating enough revenue.)
Imagine a tech startup CEO watched Minority Report a few times and thought, “If only I could put that on a 10-inch screen!” Then he drank tequila shots until he became convinced that, by God, he could put it on a 10-inch screen.
Seriously, it’s the only possible explanation for the Grid UI.
That’s the question being asked by a viral campaign that’s been going around for a couple months, which oddly seems to have mostly on the radar of desperate Nokia fans believing that “TabCo” was a new project for a MeeGo tablet. (Oh, Nokia nerds. By the end of the decade these guys are going to be like Amiga fans. “There’s still nothing on the market as good as Symbian Anna!”)
Answer: Fusion Garage, trying to recover from the JooJoo fiasco, and bringing us the previously-reported Grid 10 tablet. They describe the Android-based operating system as “GridOS” and compare its relationship to Android as like that of OS X to BSD. (Since they say it’s using the “Android kernel,” it’d be more accurate to say the relationship is like that of OS X to Mach, since OS X doesn’t use a BSD kernel, but never mind.) Interesting business point: they’re not using Google services for this, instead using Bing for search (that’ll be a great selling point, huh?) and making their own Grid application store. It’s Android-compatible enough that you’ll be able to use the Amazon app store, but because it’s not an Android branded device, you won’t be using the Android Market. They’re very much positioning it as an alternative to Android, which, according to their CEO, lacks any real innovation and is just a “copycat” of Apple. (His word choice.)
The UI looks nothing like anything else on the market — it’s closest to Windows Phone, but with 100% more swoop and fiddle. It looks like they’ve paid a lot of attention to dazzling animation effects and very little to UX design. It looks like a usability nightmare. On the plus side, they’ve got the lucrative market of diehard Enlightenment users buttoned up.
Right now you can pre-order the device from them or Amazon, starting at $499. And they’re also preparing a “Grid 4” smartphone. The phone will be sold only unlocked, $399 for 16GB. In theory, the tablet is shipping on September 15th. The phone will be introduced in “Q4,” with announcements of operator availability coming later. (Mmm.) No word that I see yet on things like dimensions, weight, and ultimate grounding in reality.
A friend online described the lawsuit against Apple and major publishers for “ebook price fixing” as ridiculous, and I agree. He’s also argued that we (consumers) tend to underestimate the price that goes into producing ebooks, and I also agree; the expenses for editing, typesetting, proofing, marketing, and—oh yes—paying the author don’t change based on the output format, and in fact they all add up to considerably more than the printing and shipping costs for physical books. I did some back-of-the-envelope type calculations a few months ago and came up with the notion that the “proper” price for an ebook—that is, the price point at which you’re going to end up with about the same amount of profit per unit as a physical copy—is about 75% of the physical book price. As it turns out, technical publishers like O’Reilly and Apress that have been doing ebooks long before they were mainstream tend to price their ebooks at about 75% of the print price, so I suspect I’m at least in the ballpark. (This cost model is not applicable to self-publishing ebooks.)
But my friend also suggested, “I could even make the argument that ebooks have more utility than paperbacks, so should cost more!”
Okay, not so much on board with that one.
It’s hard not to make that argument in a way which doesn’t lead to the natural conclusion that everything we get delivered digitally has “more utility,” and thus we should be paying more for iTunes music than we do for CDs, more for digitally downloaded movies than we do for DVDs, and so on. Yet the digital music we get is worse quality than CDs; the digital video we get is worse quality than DVDs, and sharply limited in what we can do with it due to DRM; and the ebooks we get—at least from major publishers—tend to be badly typeset in ways the limitations of the ebook format do not excuse, and of course the DRM is still present.
My friend, I think, means “convenience” rather than “utility,” and an ebook is inarguably more convenient than a physical book. I’ve taken to buying ebooks myself whenever possible because, frankly, it’s convenient. I can just carry my iPad around; I can even read the books on my phone if I want. Especially for technical books, this is fantastic.
But with very few exceptions, technical books are not the kinds of things you reread a decade later. I bought Scott Stevenson’s Cocoa and Objective-C: Up and Running when it came out around April of last year; it’s a great book, but I haven’t gotten to it yet, and if I wait another two years it’ll probably be obsolete. That’s just the way of these things. (It was one of the last physical tech books I bought, as I recall.)
On the bookshelf about 10 feet to my right as I type this, I have a set of The Lord of the Rings in hardcover. They’re the second edition of the books, from 1978, and they’re beautiful artifacts. A fold-out hand-drawn map of Middle Earth is affixed in the back of the first, the top edges of each volume are dyed a different color, and they have the precise and perfect layout that ebooks could have but rarely do. (I shudder to think what most ebook software would do to render the Elvish script. My guess: a 75-dpi JPEG compressed just enough to show artifacts. Timeless, baby.) I can still pick them up and read them just as easily now as I could over thirty years ago when I was given them as a gift. I could lend them to anyone I chose, or easily give them away to someone else. If I had children, I could very well have passed the books on. I do not have to worry if, thirty years from now, there will still be hardware and software capable of reading them. That is not solely a DRM-related concern, as there are few data formats other than pure ASCII that have survived since 1978—but of course DRM does matter, as it sharply reduces what I can do with a digital copy, and no format using it has yet lasted a full decade.
These are solvable problems. But we’re not there yet, and that there’s a very good chance that the ebooks we are buying now—especially if we are buying them through Amazon and Apple—may be orphaned formats much sooner than we’d like to think. At least from my point of view, that’s something that needs to be taken into account when we think about ebook pricing, too.
The other day I was bugged by the fact that while I had a way to convert Markdown to RTF, I didn’t have a way to convert RTF to Markdown. I had all the tools, theoretically—so it should be easy, right?
As it turns out: not so much. RTF and AppleScript don’t get along very well, and no matter what I did in Automator I couldn’t get it to pass the clipboard as raw RTF data to AppleScript.
I’ve pretty much made the transition from TextMate to BBEdit, and BBEdit is where I’m going to be doing most of my Markdown writing these days anyway. And BBEdit gets along pretty well with AppleScript. (Infamously well, those who—like me—are not AppleScript fans might say.)
I’ve put together a BBEdit 10 Package that includes the “Paste as Markdown” script; either you will never have a use for this or you’ll find it totally awesome, I suspect. (Not that it couldn’t be made more awesome; it’s got its share of rough edges.)
In addition to that, the package contains BBEdit-specific versions of most of my other services; while BBEdit has syntax highlighting for Markdown—and a pretty useful clipping set for it, if you haven’t peeked at it—it doesn’t have any transformational scripts. And, I added a couple helper scripts, one taken rather brazenly from Brett Terpstra’s Blogsmith bundle for TextMate. (Namely, the one feature of it that I miss!)
A patent fight against Android, or "Look and Feel 2.0?"
I’ve been reading—and trying to follow, with only limited success—the various fights going on between Apple and various companies, and there seem to be three categories of fights.
The typical fight between big companies, such as the (now concluded) one between Nokia and Apple. These are usually based on fairly technical patents “invented” by the companies in question and about who has or has not licensed them. These suits are fairly close legal reflections of what the patent system is supposed to protect in the first place. (In this industry these are likely to be software patents, hence the air quotes around “invented.” I’m not 100% against software patents, but I’m approaching 99%.)
The submarine patent battle. This is typified by Intellectual Ventures’ shell companies and just about anyone who does business in East Texas courts: a company obtains the rights to a patent from years past, usually one that has never been put into an invention but can be read as successfully “predicting” something in widespread use now. Lodsys’ patent on in-application upgrades is in this camp.
The look-and-feel fight. It’s back!
The second one is interesting in its own right—in the way Cthulhu is interesting—but I’m thinking about the third one today.
The whole battle in the mobile space is pitched as a fight between Apple and Android, and Apple is taking some hits for making this a legal fight rather than “letting the marketplace decide.” (I have so many problems with that phrase, but that’s another show.) But Apple isn’t suing over Android, per se—they’re suing over design elements, or “trade dress.” This is not about Samsung (or Google) infringing on some kind of obscurely-worded method patent, it’s about Samsung making phones and tablets deliberately confusable with Apple’s products.
It’s easy to dismiss Apple’s suits out of hand with observations about how such-and-such is the “obvious” way to do a given task. But many things weren’t “obvious” until someone started doing them. Apple didn’t invent touch screen mobile devices but there’s no phone you can hold up as an example of something that the iPhone “copied” wholesale. Even so, it’s hard not to recall that Apple was on the losing end of the computing industry’s most famous “look and feel” lawsuit, Mac OS versus Windows 2.0. Are they really up for another round? Didn’t they learn the last time?
Well, maybe this is different. The suit against Microsoft was a copyright infringement lawsuit, which failed on several grounds. You can’t copyright an idea, only a concrete expression of the idea. Also, the lawsuit fell apart due to licensing: Apple had licensed many GUI components to Microsoft for Windows 1.0, and had licensed many of its GUI components from Xerox. Apple argued that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but the court ruled that didn’t matter—contracts is contracts. In this case, though, there are no existing contracts, and this concerns design-related IP and patents rather than copyrights. Apple still believes that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts—but this time around they’re going to go after the parts.
These are not “patent troll” lawsuits. These focus on what makes a hardware/software combination distinct enough to be legally protected. How close can a Samsung phone be to an iPhone, or a Motorola tablet to an iPad, before Apple is within their rights to force them to back off? Clickable application icons are obvious. When you present those icons in a 4×4 grid with a bottom row of four icons that remains “docked” while the top grid scrolls to the left and right to reveal more application pages whose existence is shown by the presence of “navigation dots,” is that getting too specific?
Even so, I’m not sure I’m on Apple’s “side,” both as someone who doesn’t like software patents in general and as someone who generally likes Apple’s products. Filing injunctions over the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Xoom on design-related grounds suggests Apple thinks that Samsung and Motorola have created tablets that could be confused with the iPad. Seriously? Has anyone in Cupertino actually seen a Galaxy Tab or a Xoom?
Ian Bogost, at the “Wharton Gamification Symposium”:
More specifically, gamification is marketing bullshit, invented by consultants as a means to capture the wild, coveted beast that is videogames and to domesticate it for use in the grey, hopeless wasteland of big business, where bullshit already reigns anyway.
For those unfamiliar with “gamification,” it means taking an online service and slapping game-like elements onto it in an effort to make the service more sticky—the idea is that people will go back to your service over and over so they can get (largely meaningless) awards. Foursquare’s central conceit of “checking in” to locations you visit for points and achievement badges, is largely to blame for this, yet I don’t think one can accuse Foursquare of gamifying their service: that is their service. Yelp and Google+ and Facebook added check-ins because Foursquare was doing it. That’s gamification.
As “social game entrepreneur” (sigh) Jon Radoff points out, though, the core of what Bogost is railing against is behaviorism—stripping away all the elements of play and leaving just a “press button for points” mechanic isn’t really a game at all. It’s a Skinner box. I think it should be quite possible to make a social location-based game that isn’t a Skinner box, but it’s going to require more than just adding a “check in here for points” button to your mobile app. (And seriously, that ship may have already sailed.)
Suppose you are a big—very big—company, and you want to enter a new market. But you don’t actually have direct interest in this market as a profit source; you want to enter it because you realize that to protect your existing business (one you’re overwhelmingly dominant in), you have to be a major player in this new space.
So you either buy a company in that space or you license technology that lets you get there and you sink resources into improving that technology, maybe pivoting once or twice with your positioning based on what competitors are doing.
And then you give it away.
Remember, you’re not interested in this new market as a profit center. You want to become a major player in it as fast as possible because that will protect—and ideally enhance—your existing revenue streams.
Okay, here’s the challenge: explain why the scenario I’ve just described is good when Google did it with Android, but bad when Microsoft did it with Microsoft Explorer. Because as near as I can tell, that’s the conventional wisdom, but it’s hard to see a substantive difference.
Granted, one difference makes Microsoft out to be a pretty intentional dick: they licensed the original IE core from Spyglass rather than buying them, and they licensed it for a percentage of revenue—which, of course, turned out to be exactly $0. And, of course, Android is being given to hardware partners who ask (or negotiate) for it, rather than shoved directly to consumers who didn’t. (Microsoft relied on consumers to not bother getting a competing browser if IE was sitting in front of them.)
But even so.
This rumination is brought on by Brian Hall’s (unfortunately titled) “Google are Pussies,” linked to by Daring Fireball earlier today (and as of this writing brought down by DF, but cached here). I wouldn’t go that far, but we tend to forget that Google plays serious hardball with both Android and their core search business.
Android comes for free, but not without strings—just ask Nokia. When the Finnish company made it clear that even if they switched to someone else’s core platform they wanted to bring their own mapping and imaging technology with them, they were told that Google Open wasn’t that open, thanks. From Google’s standpoint, the whole point of Android is to have a dominant mobile platform that isn’t controlled by someone who can strike a deal with a Google competitor to keep their services off that platform. Technically, Google can’t stop someone from taking Android and making a device that cuts them out of the loop—but they can sure stop them from using the Android brand (and the Android Market).
Google’s attitude here is best viewed through their search engine itself, though. What Google tells you is: you don’t need to go to a weather site—we’ll do it. You don’t need to go to a flight tracking site—we’ll scrape that. We’ll index Twitter so you don’t need to search that. We’ll add reviews, so you don’t need to click through to Yelp. We’ll do price comparisons, so don’t bother with PriceWatch. We’ll add coupons, so you don’t need to bother with those Groupon folks. And instead of Facebook, may we introduce you to Google+?
Google is very deliberately leveraging their dominant position in search to keep you on Google-controlled pages as much as possible. Always, always keep in mind that Google’s core business is advertising: either they want to show you ads, or they want to collect information about your browsing habits so they can make the ads they show you more targeted. Facebook is a walled garden, but Google is increasingly a pasture with cattle guards.
“Above all, there is nothing provocative or daring in the antiheroic attitude right now; we are up to our necks in it, and to create more [television] series in that image is no longer to fly in the face of convention but to coast along in its wake. It seems to me that the more radical choice at the moment is to look carefully at the ordinary lives of basically decent people and to tell those stories with depth and art.”—Robert Lloyd (LA Times)
"Last year Push Pop Press set off to re-imagine the book," chirps the press release. "There are no plans to continue publishing new titles or building out our publishing platform that was in private beta."
Christina Larson’s article for Foreign Policy not only features the link-baiting title “Red, Delicious and Rotten,” but the over-the-top subhead “How Apple conquered China and learned to think like the Communist Party.” There are some interesting tidbits in the article: the accusations that Apple is a luxury brand in America have, however long-held and cherished by critics, always been a little suspect when it comes to computers and demonstrable nonsense when it comes to consumer electronics, but in China, Apple has found success by very consciously positioning itself as a luxury brand. (Larson sardonically notes that the marketing story of iconoclastic rebellion that Apple used from the “1984” ad up through the “Think Different” campaign—which featured, among others, the Dalai Lama—wouldn’t fly there. As an analyst put it, “Being a rebel is so obviously not the aspiration of [Chinese] who can afford these things.”)
Ultimately, though, Larson is returning to a story we’ve heard before: Apple’s contract manufacturers in China aren’t nice people. As reporting dictates, start this with a human interest story:
As orders for glass iPhone touch screens went up, the factory bosses began to have workers wipe screens with a new and apparently more efficient cleaning agent. But the new formula contained n-hexane, a toxin that causes nerve damage. After suffering dizzy spells and intense pain that left him unable to work, [worker] Jia [Jingchuan] was hospitalized for 10 months beginning in August 2009, and 136 other workers at the same plant were also severely injured. Wintek paid for Jia’s initial hospital care (the company reported shelling out $1.5 million for workers’ compensation in the case), but after he was released, he says it put pressure on him and other workers to resign and sign no-liability forms so that the company would not have to cover future medical expenses, a charge that Wintek denies.
Then go in for the punch:
In recent years, Apple’s Chinese suppliers have been involved in a string of labor and environmental infractions, from a string of suicides linked to poor or inhumane working conditions at plants managed by one of its major suppliers, Foxconn, to allegations by green groups that chemicals leaching out from its factories are polluting China’s fields. True, Apple is hardly alone among international companies with Chinese factories in having problems arise from the practices of its suppliers. But what makes Apple singular, say Chinese environmental and labor rights activists, is its sluggishness in responding to complaints and its secretiveness about just which factories are in its supply chain.
While I’ll cop to irritation with Larson’s writing—secretive corporations are the same as the Chinese Communist Party?—this is an important story. It’s part of a considerably larger and older narrative, though, about the effects of globalization, a transformation of the world economy that I don’t think anyone, from regular citizens to corporate executives to policy makers, quite understands all the ramifications of. As consumers, we want the benefits of highly mobile global labor pools and the infrastructure that makes it possible for our electronics to be manufactured in Shenzen, but we want it without massive job displacement and the real risk of human rights violations in countries that treat The Jungle as a how-to manual.
Is Apple really worse than anyone else? To the degree that Apple puts an extremely high emphasis on secrecy, they very well might be. No matter how thorough Apple’s own internal supplier compliance audits may be, verification requires third-party, independent auditors. Sooner or later, Apple needs to respond to this by doing more than releasing internal audit reports, no matter how attractively typeset.
Yet Apple isn’t full of delusional secrecy nuts. They really do have reason to be concerned about leaks and about industrial espionage, arguably more so than any of their competitors. Nobody is interested in stealing plans for the next Samsung Android phone or the BlackBerry Playbook 2, but plans for the next iPhone or iPad? That’s a real problem. The majority of leaks of new Apple product information over the last year seem to have come, directly or indirectly, from their overseas manufacturing partners.
Apple could do better about “sluggishness in responding to complaints,” but they won’t. Apple responds to all complaints sluggishly, because their idea of damage control is to spend a week or two doing an internal investigation so they know what the hell they’re talking about, as opposed to the typical corporate practice of denying everything reflexively. I consider that a generally good thing. (One wonders whether some of the companies that perform better in these surveys perform better because even though they respond with PR doublespeak they respond quickly with PR doublespeak.) For better and worse, though, Apple also isn’t about to become less secretive any time soon—and while that’s not an exclusively bad thing, it has bad consequences.
But, there’s always a silver lining: when Nokia or LG or Dell has equipment manufactured in the same plants, that’s never really a story. As long as Apple keeps doing it, though, people like Ms. Larson can keep getting a whole lot of hits.
“We’re going after Lodsys for sure, but understand the ultimate target is Intellectual Ventures. They are the Mordor to these trolls.”—Mike Lee, on uniting independent developers against patent lawsuits