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By Tadashi Ushiroda
 
11:03PM

Why Apple did not make a cheap iPhone

 

Apple has a simple strategy - to make the best consumer products. Apple's brand strength lies in their ability to consistently meet this goal. Consumers trust that when they purchase an Apple product that they are getting a best in class product.

If Apple launched a cheap iPhone customers would feel betrayed because they would be getting a mediocre phone not a great one. Additionally Apple would permanently damage their brand because customers will no longer be able to trust Apple to consistently deliver excellent products. While a cheap iPhone could lift short term profits, the long term impact to brand equity is never worth it.

Sony once had a brand that was synonymous with high quality products but because they pursued profit before brand consistency they are lagging in every single consumer electronics category.

 

10:35AM

Crowdfunded journalism?

The trend of people having reduced trust in major media companies necessitates a new channel to get news that is objective, timely, and controlled by readers instead of dictated by institutional interests. 

Imagine a kickstarter like platform where instead of crowdfunding for iPad cases, you invest in an issue that you want to have investigated. Journalists would first submit an issue, their credentials, and the price to investigate and investors can choose which issue or story they would like to have investigated by making an investment in the story. Stories that reach their funding requirements will allow the journalists to access the funds and start investigating!

Imagine a kickstarter like platform where instead of crowdfunding for iPad cases, you invest in an issue that you want to have investigated. Journalists would first submit an issue, their credentials, and the price to investigate and investors can choose which issue or story they would like to have investigated by making an investment in the story. Stories that reach their funding requirements will allow the journalists to access the funds and start investigating!

The trend of people having reduced trust in major media companies necessitates a new channel to get news that is objective, timely, and controlled by readers instead of dictated by institutional interests. 

 

Investors could have access to a exclusive page for the specific story being investigated where they can review drafts of a story, have access to related material like recorded interview and unpublished photos, and have direct access to the journalist. Investors would be able to rate the quality of the investigation after the story have been written which will provide vital feedback to the journalists.

The revenue model will be a hybird model of advertising and fees. There will be a percentage based fee that will cap out at a certain dollar amount. Investors will have two weeks exclusive access to a completed story at which point the story will be published on the website.

Thoughts?

 

 

11:34AM

How reddit can improve the internet

I really dislike reading comments on articles on most websites. I find that comments rarely contribute to the article and are often just a waste of time. 

The only comment structure I have found to have meaningful content at the top is on reddit. This is because reddit has a terrific voting system where users can vote on each comment allowing the best to rise to the top.

I would love it if reddit released a product or API that allows any website to use reddit's comment structure. If reddit created such a product, the quality of online discourse would improve overnight. I'm looking at you Youtube.

9:34PM

Cook is not a product person

In the past Steve Jobs was the defacto decision maker for all departments at Apple including, hardware design, user interface, and retail strategy. He had a nuanced, personal sense of what the product should look and feel like and would often get personally involved to make sure that a particular detail was executed the way he wanted it. Tim Cook does not have the same product sensibilities; while he has a long history in operation management, he probably never made a single decision on design until he became CEO.

One illustration of this is the fact that Tim Cook has recently delegated all design decision to Jonathan Ive. While the decision was the right one, it highlights the fact that Cook does not possess the skill sets to lead on design, which is integral to product development.

In the short term, the negatvie impact of this situation will not be obvious since Apple has a world class team including Jonathan. However, in the long term, I don't see how you can sustain the best product company in the world without a product person at the helm. 

11:36PM

iPhone 5 - Combo Breaker

I'm probably not going to be getting the new iPhone 5. This is obviously no threat to Apple since the iPhone 5 seems to be well on its way to yet another round of record sales. However I might be the subset of users that may be the canary in the coal mine. 

The original iPhone was the first major Apple device that I had ever purchased; since then I have bought every single new iPhone model leaving me with the iPhone 4s. Each new model had enough of a difference from the prior to warrant the hassle and the cost of getting a new smartphone. However this time the difference might fail to overcome the resistance.

This time AT&T will not subsidise the phone cost for any customer with time left on their contract. That's $200 extra that I didn't have to pay last time. The main features that were announced in the keynote presentation were in iOS 6 which most if not all are available to the 4s. AT&T's LTE network is of seemingly negligible quality over HSPUA, and is of limited availability. 

The screen increase is actually the only thing that I'd really love to have, but it's probably not a $650 benefit.

Instead I will probably get a small tablet so that I can enjoy a larger screen at home and deal with a smaller screen on the road. The tablet I get depends on how well the rumored iPad mini stacks against the competition. Although in all honestly I will get an iPad mini unless it is seriosuly underwhelming in some way. While this is by no means a bearish outlook on Apple, it does highlight how sustained innovation is extremely difficult.

 

7:19PM

Bearish on Med School

Vinod Khosla, a Silicon Valley investor, claims that technology will replace 80 percent of doctors; I agree. A general practitioner's main function is diagnosis which is essentially decision making, and can be replaced by an algorithm driven device. Data input of symptoms, tests, measurements, etc. can be handled by a nurse or someone that is trained just for the device.

Algorithm based diagnoses would be objective and would be unaffected by a patient's emotional state. The devices would also know in which rare cases a human doctor would be advantageous for diagnosis and could defer in such situations. Additionally these devices will always be up to date with the most current medical understanding without costly, lengthy retraining.

What I find most exciting is if these diagnosing devices were coupled with recording devices that captured patients response to various treatments, the information captured could be data mined and help improve treatments by customizing treatments based on factors such as ethnicity and medical history.

A medical system without 80% fewer doctors would massively lower health care costs while improving overall health. However I'm highly doubtful that this revolution will take place first in the U.S. due to the very strong medical lobby and exisiting regulations. Instead I bet that BRIC nations, especially India or China, that have strong tech industries with a large populations will be the first to implement these algorithm driven medical diagnosing devices. I could see state sponsored initiative that encourage investment into this space.

If Watson can beat the cleverest human today, then a Dr. Watson of tomorrow can surely beat most doctors.

8:13PM

Nuclear Power 2.0

Liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) is the no waste, super safer nuclear technology that uses an abundant fuel called thorium. China is building one and for good reason. Thorium fueled nuclear reactors should be cheaper by design, take up less space, and only create insignificant amounts of hazardous waste.

My guess is that the fossil fuel and renewables lobby will do all they can to stop the development of LFTR.

 

 

 

9:40PM

Robots to take over skilled manufacturing

Can't think of a single reason why people will be needed for the vast majority of mass manufacturing within 15 years.

Related [Automated Mass Manufacturing]

3:24PM

Choice

People choose to get an iPhone, while people settle for Android.

9:46PM

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs's greatest achievement is showing us how to live life.

1:57PM

How to Read Engadget

 

  1. Skim top story headlines
  2. Read if they are interesting
  3. Profit!

 

1:46PM

Improving Google News

Allow people with Google+ accounts to comment on articles.

6:12PM

Why Tim Cook is not good enough

There is no doubt that currently Tim Cook is the best person to run Apple in the short term. Apple also has the best executive team in the world and has several major products in the pipeline so the company will fine for the next few years. However in the long haul Apple is at serious risk of losing their way if Tim Cook remains as the CEO.

Steve Jobs has many exceptional talents including marketing and understanding of design, but his most important skill his incredible vision for products. Steve Jobs is so involved in the product development process that he has his name on patents for nearly all the major products that have come out of Apple in the past decade. He had the vision to know that the iPad, which was designed before the iPhone, was not ready for prime time and developed the iPhone first. This is an example of a situation where Tim Cook will not have the instincts to know what to do.

Tim Cook, for all of his talents, has shown little indication that he can serve Apple in the same product capacity. Apple is not an operations company and will be ill served without the right type of genius at the helm.

3:43PM

Why startups need to adapt quickly

Startups are often advised to iterate quickly and that they should fail fast. The commonality of the two pieces of advice is that success for startups requires quick adaptation.

Many startups operate in an area that overlaps with a larger, better resourced competitor. Thus one of the key ways a startup can gain advantage is to compete in a way that places their competitors at a disadvantage. Large companies are pressured by shareholders to chase growth and seek products that can be larger than their last hit product. Consequently the cost of failure for these projects are even higher leading these companies to spend more time on analysis and research which slows down product development.  For startups, the cost of failure is low and they can develop their products at a far faster rate. Part of the low failure cost is that a startup’s user base is also more tolerant of unpolished products especially if the product is new and cutting edge.

A startup’s user base is also usually far more active than regular customers in terms of wanting to communicate with the startup. This is why leveraging your user base as part of your product development process is a viable tactic. This idea of quick adaptation ties in with my previous post about optionality, as quick adaptation can be further enhanced by designing in flexibility in your products.

Adapted from “Iterate Again’” and “Fail Fast” by Colin Angle, CEO & founder of iRobot and Alex White, CEO of Next Big Sound.

2:32PM

Focus SCVNGR, focus

One common message given to startups is that they should focus on doing one thing really well. Amazon took this to heart by focusing on books before diversifying to other products. Zappos has succeeded in a post Amazon era by focusing on shoes and superior customer service. Amazon has since then been able to branch out into new markets such as cloud computing and eBooks because they first established a firm foundation in books.

The online deal space has been particularly effective in getting startups to forget this advice and get companies such as SCVNGR to create their own offerings. It is easy to see why as companies such as Groupon have had great successful with revenues of over $750 Million and a forthcoming IPO. SCVNGR'S offering in the space is called LevelUp and differentiates from Groupon’s product by focusing on developing customer loyalty instead of offering one time deals. However the larger question is whether SCVNGR can effectively compete in this market with their attention divided between two completely different products. LevelUp shares much of the same executive staff with SCVNGR and is clearly not an independent entity.

If SCVNGR is serious about pursuing the online deal space they need to hire people so that LevelUp can run independently or shut it down and focus 100% on SCVNGR.

Adapted from "Focus" by Jared Polis Founder, TechStars