A product manager's thoughts on the connected future.

Hands-on with Apple's CarPlay

Jalopnik have a hands-on video with Apple’s new Carplay feature in a Volvo, that combines native iPhone apps together into a new Apple-designed UI for your car’s dashboard display.

Ofcourse, it only works with 2014 model cars from certain manufacturers, so it’s going to be a while before this gains any significant proliferation. It’s nice to see an Apple designed solution in place of the usually horrible UI found in many car dashboards.

However I wonder how well this will work since Apple is only designing the software, not the hardware. Many touch screens in cars are nowhere near as responsive as the iPhone’s or iPad’s screen.

Maybe when I upgrade my car sometime in 2018 I can make use of this.

Apple Said to Plan TV Box Amid Time Warner Cable Talks

Adam Satariano and Edmund Lee:

Apple Inc. is planning to introduce a new Apple TV set-top box and is negotiating with Time Warner Cable Inc. and other potential partners to add video content, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

There has been a lot of smoke about a revamped Apple TV, and it looks like early this year we will see a new device. This doesn’t look to be about a ‘revolutionary’ interface Steve Jobs reportedly talked about in Walter Isaac’s book. Rather, it’s about content.

The big scoop in this article is about integration with Time Warner and Comcast cable. One device that can control all content including free to air, cable and on demand content will be the ‘halo’ device we’ve all wanted.

And no, it’s not going to be an actual TV. 

Apple Predicted to Release Ultra-Slim 12-Inch MacBook

Macrumors:

We expect the unprecedented 12” model will boast both the portability of the 11” model, and productivity of the 13” model. The high resolution display will also offer the outstanding visual experience of the Retina MacBook Pro. The offering will likely be lighter and slimmer than the existing MacBook Air to further highlight ease of portability in the cloud computing era. We think the form factor will showcase a much improved clamshell structure, and that it will redefine laptop computing once again following the milestone created by the MacBook Air.

An entry level 12 inch Macbook, and then pro machines at 13 and 15 inches makes perfect sense. Right now you can buy three different Macbook’s at 13 inches, this complicates both the consumer buying decision and also Apple’s production lines.

Apple will also want to increase floor space for iOS products and future post-PC devices, a good way to do that is decrease the amount of traditional Macs that they sell.

Steve Jobs loathed Google at the time of his death

Brad Stone:

At the time of his death, Jobs had come to loathe Google, which he felt was copying features of the iPhone while withholding a key feature of Google Maps that allows smartphones to dictate turn-by-turn directions aloud. Jobs also discussed pulling Google search from the iPhone, but figured that customers would reject that move, according to two former Apple executives.

We knew that Jobs wanted to go thermonuclear on Google, but Stone provides some insight on just how far he was prepared to go to nix their services completely from the iPhone.

Messaging war between Apple and Facebook

Ellis Hamburger:

Facebook has been rapidly updating its messenger platform, and shows no sign of stopping.

Apple needs to release an iMessages client for Windows and Android, and then it will have a fighting chance of becoming the ubiquitous messaging platform to rival SMS.

For a messaging system, cross-platform is key. SMS can be relied upon because it works on everyone’s mobile device, without this iMessages will never fully replace SMS. Facebook has a better chance of ubiquity as more devices will have a Facebook client installed than an iMessages client.

The clever thing Apple did was bake in iMessages to the SMS app in iOS. This means that if you’re on an iPhone you don’t need to think about sending someone an iMessage, it just happens automatically.

However if you’re on an iPad or Mac and want to message someone, then you need to think about which messenger platform to use. If you haven’t messaged them before, you’ll need to reach out to your iPhone to try SMS first. You could also try Facebook if they are a friend. This platform dependancy is where iMessages loses, it needs to be a process where you don’t even think about it.

Every time you seek an alternative to contact someone is another reason that iMessages is not the next SMS yet, not even the next BBM.

John Siracusa’s Mountain Lion Review →

Siracusa’s famously epic Mac OSX reviews do not disappoint. The trend continues with Mountain Lion.

iPad vs Mac, units sold →

iPad vs Mac

If ever there was confusion about which computing device was most important to Apple, this graph from Asymco following today’s earning call should dispel it.

The 8-inch iPad and the Challenge of Naming Products

Speculation continues to mount that Apple will release a smaller 8-inch iPad. Many pundits have taken to calling the device the iPad mini, following the convention set with the iPod mini.

Let’s assume that this device exists and will be launched sometime in the near future. Let’s also assume that this device will be a smaller iPad and not a larger iPod touch. Naming this product will be key in Apple’s expansion of it’s post-PC product line-up, and it is not without a challenge.

There has been a lot of discussion that a smaller iPad doesn’t fit into Apple’s portable line-up. There is one screen-sized iPhone and one screen-sized iPad. Yet the Mac lines feature products at a range of different screen sizes. While there is clear demand for the smaller tablet form-factor, where does an 8” iPad fit into Apple’s product line, and who is it intended for?

In positioning devices for the post-PC era, Steve Jobs once said that PC’s are like trucks and tablets are like cars. Extending that metaphor, we can think of an 8-inch iPad as two-door hatch, capable of doing most things a regular sedan can but in a more nimble package.

Remembering the iPad is still in the early stages of the product lifecycle, the challenge for Apple is how to position this device in the line-up without creating customer confusion and diluting the nascent iPad brand.

There are two types of brand architecture1 Apple could utilise in naming a smaller iPad. Apple could follow the iPod model and create a hybrid brand, such as naming the device the iPad mini. Alternatively, Apple could retain the distinct brand of the iPad and simply name it iPad, in the same way the different screen-sized Macbook’s are not sub-branded.

A case against a hybrid brand strategy

Apple could create a hybrid or sub-brand by taking the existing iPad name and appending a new word, such as mini. This is Apple’s strategy for their iPod line, creating a new sub-brand while retaining the brand cachet of the more established product.

People feel they are more productive, more creative and more mobile when using an iPad. A hybrid brand would extend these desirable brand attributes and apply them to the new device, activating the same higher level needs of esteem and self-actualisation2.

In the competitive context, it may be beneficial to Apple to create a hybrid brand that can be positioned as a direct competitor to the wave of ‘media tablets’ that are focused on content consumption, like the Kindle Fire and the Nexus 7.

When Apple introduced the iPod shuffle, just by looking at the device itself it’s not easily apparant that it’s in the same class of the iPod. However by creating a hybrid branding strategy utilising the iPod name, the product was able to ride on coat tails of the iPod’s success. If the product had it’s own distinct brand, it may never have reached the level of success it achieved.

It allowed Apple to open up to new markets while retaining the ‘cool’ factor of the iPod brand. If young John wanted an iPod for Christmas, Mum and Dad could pick up the iPod shuffle for their son at a cheaper price point.

By appending the new name of ‘shuffle’, it makes it clear that the device has a different functionality to the regular iPod.

However a smaller iPad will run the same software and have the same functionality but in a smaller package. It may be a detriment to delineate the product from the 10-inch iPad. It could create the impression that the smaller device is not a full featured tablet, eroding the iPad’s marketplace advantage.

Retaining the distinct brand

Instead of creating a sub-brand Apple could retain the distinct iPad brand and apply it to different sized products. This is the strategy with the Mac lines. The 11-inch and 13-inch Macbook Air devices are not distinguished by sub-brands. Similarly, Apple could release an 8-inch iPad to coexist with the 10-inch iPad.

The brand elasticity of the iPad should be able to stretch wide enough to cover at least one other screen size in the line-up. The product differentiation between sizes is more akin to the Mac lines than the iPod lines. It would be in Apple’s best interest to retain the same brand strategy, as marketing can take advantage of the overall brand for budgets and reputation.

By retaining the same brand strategy for the smaller device, Apple would be reinforcing the notion that the smaller iPad is a full-featured tablet at a more convenient size. Not a compromised tablet at a reduced cost. This would allow Apple to raise the reputation of the device above that of competing devices that are marketed as consumption devices.

There are compromises to be made with either strategy. However it would be in Apple’s best interest to keep the premium iPad brand across the entire price umbrella. If you could purchase a full-featured iPad at US$200 or a reading device such as the Kindle Fire at the same price, which would you choose? By adding a sub-brand, it will dilute the strength and positioning of the brand and place the device on a more even playing field with it’s competitors.

If it was a betting man, I would bet the smaller iPad is simply that - an iPad. Just at a smaller size and lower cost.


  1. Brand Architecture is the way in which the brands within a company’s portfolio are related to, and differentiated from, one another. The architecture should define the different leagues of branding within the organization; how the corporate brand and sub-brands relate to and support each other; and how the sub-brands reflect or reinforce the core purpose of the corporate brand to which they belong. 

  2. Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs 

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