Google's self-promoting Chromebook educational sales is more than public relations fluff. Laptops running Chrome OS provided "all the growth" in the otherwise troubled U.S. retail PC market during back-to-school buying season, according to NPD. Otherwise, overall PC sales fell 2.5 percent, with desktops down 5 percent and notebooks off by 2 percent. Mac laptop sales sank 3 percent and Windows notebooks by 6 percent. Chromebook sales topped 175,000 units.
"Chromebook sales are being helped by demand for low-cost computing", Stephen Baker, NPD's vice president of industry analysis, tells me today. "We saw strong sales in under-$300 Windows products as well". But Windows is established, while Chromebook is new and necessitates a mind-shift reset: Mostly working in an Internet-connected web browser.
Windows 8 started out on shaky legs, but Microsoft's flagship platform found firmer footing during the lucrative back-to-school buying season, foreshadowing Santa could deliver gifts, rather than coal, this holiday season.
"Touch appears to be coming into its own as a core feature in the Windows ecosystem", Stephen Baker, NPD's vice president of industry analysis, tells me today. The analyst firm released new U.S. retail data showing two bright spots among otherwise tepid sales. "Chromebooks and Windows touch helped offset what could have been much steeper declines this back-to-school season", he says.
If a prominent analyst's sales estimates are correct, Apple hit, at best, a single rather than homer launching iPhone 5s and 5c. Yesterday, the company announced first-weekend sales of 9 million, which compares to 5 million for iPhone 5 a year earlier. But today, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster tells Bloomberg:
"When I saw that 9-million number, I basically fell out of my chair. But you have to put that 9 million in context here". Apple's so-called sales includes "channel fill of the 5c". Based on that, the real number of total new iPhone sales was "closer to five-and-a-half million". I cannot overstate what the number really means for the launch.
First-weekend iPhone sales look good at first glance, and they're surely nothing to snicker at. But the numbers are not as big as they might seem. A year ago, iPhone 5 racked up 5 million sales, which compares to 9 million combined for successor 5s and the new 5c. Five is more than nine right?
But the math isn't so simple. The 9-million figure should stand on its own, and not -- as many blogs and news sites state today -- suggest sales surge. Don't be fooled by Apple marketing. What's good isn't great.
I just have to ask, because the price irks me.
Late this afternoon, Guy Kawasaki, Motorola's chief evangelist, posted to Google+ that Moto X "Developer Edition now available". I've been waiting for this, being on T-Mobile, which doesn't directly sell the handset. But the phone isn't available for me, or likely you. Verizon model is $649.99. GSM X is "coming soon", presumably for same price. While the phone packs an "unlockable bootloader" and is contract-free, price busts my budget, particularly considering one major benefit -- personalized appearance -- isn't available.
The first new iPhone reviews are in, and there is increasing buzz about how 5s supplies will be greatly limited, as in "severely constrained". Something everyone should keep in mind about iPhone 5s availability. There is huge, as in humongous gigantic, benefit to Apple.
In business perception is everything, and supply shortages generate blogs and news stories and the appearance that the product is super hot-in-demand. No preorders and buzz about coming supply shortages should get people to stores, standing in line -- a phenom not really seen since iPhone 4. Waiting lines -- longer the better -- create perception a product is wanted and result in more blogs, news stories and social network shares.
Today, at the Intel Developer Forum, Google and OEM partners unveiled plans to release new Chromebooks using Haswell chips. That means long battery life, on the order of MacBook Air, for a fraction of the price. Six top OEMs will produce Chromebooks, which isn't the best news for Microsoft and Windows 8.1. ASUS and Toshiba join Acer, HP, Lenovo and Samsung.
"Intel’s latest processors consume less power to improve battery life by more than 2X over previous generations, while offering increased performance", Caesar Sengupta, Google's Chromebook product manager, claims. "This means these new Chromebooks can last all day so you can focus on getting things done".
I am apprehensive about Googorola's choice to launch Moto X with AT&T -- the carrier that failed with HTC First (Facebook phone), like Verizon Wireless with Microsoft Kin, which were targeted at similar audiences. My concern: Death in childbirth. A device so different, in terms of responsiveness, must be experienced by many people fast to build excitement and demand.
In business and marketing perception is everything. Negative perception, or lack of any at all, can kill Moto X. Motorola's top priority should be fast sales and building social media buzz around touchless and personalization benefits. I don't see either coming from the exclusives given to AT&T.
Emergency surgery is the appropriate analogy for the firing of the iconic CEO. Yes firing. Microsoft announced Steve Ballmer's departure today, quite unexpectedly, and in his own words "within the next 12 months, after a successor is chosen". Meaning: Soon as there is a replacement, he is gone. Vamoose. Adios. We'll send Christmas cards. Not!
Unless Ballmer is in ill-health, or something bad happened to someone he loves, he wouldn't just walk away whistling to the wind. The man is too passionate about Microsoft. There is but one interpretation: The board of directors gave Ballmer his pink slip.
Microsoft's CEO is serious about reinventing the tech giant as a "devices and services" company -- the recent reorganization is for real. Today's launch of Office for Android can mean nothing else; okay, he wants to preserve revenues for the most profitable division, but the two objectives are intertwined.
Office for Android is a gutsy, risky move. Bets are on the table, and Ballmer puts his biggest stakes on one number. Google chief exec Larry Page sits opposite. Who wins the gamble? Is it winner takes all? Or will both take home booty? The answers are likely a fiscal year of earnings -- perhaps half-a-gin more -- away.
Rest in peace, iPad mini. Google killed you. The question then: Is it murder or manslaughter -- or justified homicide, putting the Apple tablet out of our misery?
Three days using the new Nexus 7, I can't imagine why Apple let Google, and partner ASUS, seize back-to-school buying with the tablet. I don't refer just to the instrument of destruction but the means. The 2013 edition is widely available through major US retailers, including Amazon and Best Buy. By all indications there is inventory to meet demand, not the typical supply shortages, although the 32GB WiFi model is unavailable this weekend from many retailers -- but Google Play is stocked.
The magic is gone. As recently as mid-2012, rumors of a new iPhone was command performance -- bloggers and social networkers rushed every little bit of spec speculation to the web. A year later, has-beens are kings. Buzz belongs to the once high and mighty: HTC, Motorola, Nokia and Sony, each a former market-share commander. These companies are all something Apple, and even Samsung, is not: Hungry. Pride goes before the fall, they say. Pride brought down the big four (five, including BlackBerry), as their execs laughed off iPhone's launch in June 2007. They laugh again, as their companies bring truly innovative mobiles to market and Apple acts much as they did six years ago.
The fruit-logo company has a huge problem that is core to future competition. For nearly a decade, Apple benefitted from free-marketing, as enthusiast tech bloggers and reporters and over-eager Wall Street analysts and investors fanned the smallest flicker of rumor into raging fire. Now Android rises, like one of those robots in "Pacific Rim", to crush the iPhone monster. Meanwhile, Apple's humbled stock price gets less bang from rumors. CEO Tim Cook signaled three months ago that new "innovations" won't come until autumn -- and there are no leaks to rally the faithful against the horde of Android and Windows Phone infidels. The problem isn't bleeding market share -- a circumstance in most every market outside the United States -- but one of bleeding mindshare.
The apartment was strangely silent last night and darker than usual. Gone was the flickering light filling the center room as one of us scanned the program guide. A year later than planned, we dismantled the TV shrine and took back the living room from the false idol. Henceforth, we will worship at a different altar. Finally, I cut cable's cord -- IPTV, really, but we all call it the other, eh?
I feel anxiety and elation at the dramatic change, which allowed us to rearrange the furniture such that the living room is more open, more inviting and more suited to entertaining real people. The television now resides in the bedroom, more for the benefit of my wife's sleepless nights (the thing is narcotic). We'll stream from Amazon Prime, Hulu and Netflix primarily -- haha, maybe even iTunes. I had planned Google Play by way of Nexus Q, but the search giant nixes that option.
On June 30, the day after my most recent one-year contract expires with AT&T U-verse, I will cancel the service and cut the cord. Last night, while I watched some last-minute Prime Time before it's gone, Apple commercial "Our Signature" aired. The ad is a concise, tweet-like mission statement that encapsulates all of what the company's product design is about. The spot sums up all anyone need know about the fruit-logo company in 60 seconds.
"This is what matters. The experience of a product. How it makes someone feel. Will it make life better", the commercial begins. Yes. Yes. Yes. This is what I have written about Apple for a decade -- that the company's products and marketing are aspirational. That the design goal simply is to make people feel good, to inspire life will be better for choosing the Apple way.
Seven months ago, when rumors burned hot, I explained why "Microsoft Office for Android and iOS is a Trojan Horse" -- that any mobile suite would be all about the cloud service. Sure enough, today Microsoft released the strangely named "Office Mobile for Office 365 Subscribers" to the App Store.
Office 365 is the productivity suite's future. Microsoft now claims to be a "devices and services" company. Smartphones are devices, Office 365 is a service and required for the iOS app. What more reasoning is needed? The Redmond, Wash.-based company provides more functionality than I predicted, but does so strictly in mobile context that doesn't diminish the PC product. That said, what Microsoft gives to iOS should be withheld from Android.