Finally, there’s Apple, the jilted lover, feverishly working to eliminate any dependency that puts it at the mercy of a potential competitor. Apple remembers when Samsung was a great source of mobile CPUs and Google provided network services for iOS. Now look at those two traitors. No partnership is safe!
And so, in addition to developing its own OS, designing its own hardware, producing many of its most popular applications (built in its own IDE using its own compiler and language), Apple now has its own mapping service, is designing its own mobile CPUs, and is trying to get someone other than Samsung to manufacture them—all the while presumably eyeing its other parts suppliers and software partners warily.
Apple’s strategy has been clear for a long time — eliminate dependencies on others and control fully all core parts of its platform (HW, SW and services). I agree that ideally, no essential part of anyone’s business should be dependent on a third party. In practice, it is difficult to build a new capability “in-house” from scratch quickly and partnering with someone else is frequently the only option how to bring something new to market rapidly. Over time, smart companies (who can also afford it financially) tend to build enough know-how internally to be able to start a process of cutting off their ties to some of their suppliers in favour of having more control over the product/service in question. That is all good and makes sense.
However, as always, there is a BUT. And the BUT is that with any complex multi-faceted product (and a mobile platform is definitely one of those), there is a limit to how many parts of the overall solution or product can be successfully build, managed and evolved by a single company. What I mean is that in some cases it is better to rely on a partner who specialises and excels in their field. A partner who is able to dedicate 100% of its employees’s focus to making their product perfect and to innovate on it very rapidly.
Focus is a very powerful thing. Best products tend to be created by people who are able to concentrate all their energy and skills towards a single objective and vision. Constant distractions are counterproductive and usually result in mediocre products. Large organisations more than anyone struggle to create an environment that enables such a focus and autonomy and eliminates distractions. Instead, they tend to be crippled by constant reprioritisation, contradicting product requirements and expectations and a lack of single coherent vision for their product or its parts. They try to do too much and they get distracted easily.
I believe that in general the strategy to try to control all core parts of your product is the right one for most companies. It is critical to recognise though that taking a full ownership of something at a wrong time is likely to be detrimental to your product. For the sake of having the best possible product and unless you are positive that your organisation is genuinely geared up to do a better job than your current supplier/partner, that you have as good or better and more qualified people and that your company culture and environment is the right one for what you want to do, you are probably better off staying “dependent” on your supplier for now (provided that you work with the best suppliers out there). After all, having a full control is a nice thing, but it’s useless if the result is a product that sucks.
With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.
— Tim Cook, September 28, 2012
Apple broke its ties with Google which resulted in not only removing the YouTube app from iOS6, but mainly in replacing Google Maps with Apple’s own mapping solution. Everything got even more interesting after it turned out that Apple’s contract with Google still had a year to go and that it was Apple’s decision to terminate it early. While the YouTube app is now already available for download from the App store, Google Maps app for iOS does not exist and iOS6 users are stuck with clearly inferior (both from data quality and feature perspective) Apple maps. This is my own no-inside-information theory about why Apple launched Maps even though this service was not ready for prime-time.
In the olden days (read: before they became competitors), Apple and Google representatives used to sit on each others management boards. But then Google started eating Apple’s cake (especially thanks to Android) and Apple’s management became almost obsessed with annihilating their main competitor. Being so dependent on Google for such a vital part of modern smartphone functionality as maps are was not what Apple would want to tolerate for longer than absolutely necessary. Moreover, Google’s maps experience on Android have been superior for years and Apple could do nothing about it. So over three years ago Apple started acquiring talent and technologies and building partnerships in order to come up with their own mapping service. But as Apple painfully learned later, building a world-wide mapping solution that can compete with Google Maps is extremely hard, even for a company with almost unlimited funds.
Now, why Apple did that? It is almost certain that already months before iOS6 was announced, Apple’s engineers and testers must have known that their maps will not be ready on time. They knew their product is getting better every day, they were ironing out bugs, adding more and more data, making maps more accurate. But they must have known they are not going to make it on time. And they must have raised it to Apple’s senior management: Maps will not be market-ready for iOS6 launch. At least not to Apple’s standards.
However, Apple’s choices in this situation were extremely limited and none of the possible options was very palatable. Delay iOS6 launch? Call Google and ask if the contract Apple terminated could be re-instated again? Tell everyone that iOS will not have Apple maps after all? In the end Apple management chose to stick to their guns (and to hope that ‘it won’t be so bad’). Unfortunately for Apple, their hopes died just a day after iOS6 was released when reports about errors, missing cities, incorrectly named continents etc. started coming from all over the world.
Today, a week later, Apple’s CEO formally acknowledged the problem, apologised and even suggested alternative mapping apps users may want to consider until Apple’s own maps get into shape. To be fair, it takes balls to openly say such a thing, especially given Apple’s pride in their products and their ‘policy’ of shipping only when ready. Now Apple has just one task — to work really hard to improve their Maps significantly enough to get back to the game because when (not if) Google releases their own Maps app for iOS, Apple’s job will be much harder. Customers tend to be unforgiving…
This is just ridiculous. Patents this broad should never be granted. It is not good for anyone.
Horace Dediu comparing the two leaders in two fundamentally different industries.
On Thursday Nest announced that it has officially denied Honeywell’s patent infringement claims in court, and has brought on Apple’s former Chief Intellectual Property Officer Richard “Chip” Lutton as its new vice president and general counsel.
I am not sure what to think about this. When Honeywell announced they were suing Nest for multiple patent infringements I at first felt, that this is just another example of a long-time market leader panicking, because after years of dominance someone else actually came up with a great product and that it would be best to aggressively sue them rather sooner than later in order to retain status quo and to keep producing products nobody is excited about.
I have been thinking about writing this post for several weeks, without even realising (in the light of yesterday’s Apple event) how relevant and timely it will be. Yes, I want to write about how the iPad and the ecosystem around it is changing the way our children learn and why the next era in learning methods is about to start. Also, I will attempt to illustrate how learning using tablets compares with traditional methods all of us grew up on.
At first though, why iPad? Why not to talk about all tablets in general? Well, because as of early 2012 iPad is the only tablet that provides the user experience that allows developers (and authors and institutions) to truly innovate in the area of education and also successfully monetise their efforts. Apple’s product is also the only tablet on the market today that is responsive and ‘polished’ enough for children to use it fully naturally and intuitively without getting frustrated every few minutes. So what makes the iPad such a great educational tool and how does it stack up against books?
I have worked in several large telecom and SW corporations and have seen many roadmaps. Most of them were not worth more than the paper they were printed on.
A typical technology roadmap has the following characteristics:
- is ambitious to the point of being almost unrealistic (being ambitious sounds good to the stakeholders)
- spans over at least 24 months (‘surely, we must know where we want to be in two years’)
- tries to be too precise (‘we can do better than Q3 2013’)
- is visually meticulously designed and presented
The problem with most roadmaps is that they tend to assume a static world. A world where competitors don’t rapidly launch great products, where new rules and regulations don’t influence company’s ability to design and develop services as planned, a world where it is possible to know what’s going to happen in 12 months time and what the key priorities will look like then.