Category Archives: computer

Why Apple’s victory is about emotion


Speaking as a marketing guy and someone with a high geek factor, Apple has a very important ace: Market cachet. To the average consumer – particularly ones not adept in tech, and they are legion – “cool” is very often more important than the tech. This is often because the customer doesn’t know enough about tech to care; they respond to emotional qualities first and, for many, that’s as far as they get. For instance, there are many cars that are outright dogs, yet they sold well because of the design. Not all Cuisinart products are good quality, but folks proudly display them.

A mass of designers and engineers can change the game, but Apple is the de facto winner among artists and celebrities, and those in the creative side of media. So long as they stay in the Apple camp, folks will want Apples because that’s what the “cool” people are using. For instance, to enroll in Full Sail University’s classes, you must have a Mac. (Note: I am not endorsing FSU by any means.) Voluntary product placement by celebrities buoys Apple (e.g., Jimmy Fallon’s MacBook on his desk every night). After all, if you know anything about tech, you can immediately spot Apple products at a hundred paces, giving them a huge passive advertising advantage.

As one who’s worked at a printer manufacturer and spent thousands of hours with engineers, few are good at the emotional qualities because their job is to live and die by the specs. This isn’t a cut against them, it’s simply the truth. I also worked training customer support people around the globe and the biggest complaint they hear from customers is, “This thing makes no sense.” Apple has excellent UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) factors.

There are companies that have gobbled huge chunks of market share through promotion, price and manufacturing efficiencies; Apple is rare in that, while their tech is quite good, and they have created a system that is simple and fairly seamless to use, much of their success is due to emotional qualities. Many users don’t care about chipsets or other tech aspects, but Apple consistently ranks first in customer satisfaction polls, and that creates a huge pool of fuel for marketing and sales. Happy users spread the word, and that is the most powerful sales tool … period.

The other side of it is the aftermarket vendors. There are SO many pieces of add-on, plug-and-play tech built for iPhones, and iPads: Many magazines offer only iPad versions; Wal-Mart is chock-full of Apple-compatible speaker towers, clock radios, keyboards and so on. Each new device built to dock an iOS product is advertising for Apple, and the shelves are full of them. It also gives weight to the brand by showing their popularity, which appeals to the herd effect to which we are all susceptible.

When you’re dealing with a juggernaut like Apple, no matter how huge your claim against them, you have to deal with the product and brand inertia. iOS devices have a projected 17% market share in 2012, vs. Android’s 68% across all vendors and Windows Mobile’s paltry 4.1%*. That alone provides sufficient capital to battle any and all competitors when you consider that Android vendors have to battle Apple and every other vendor; Apple builds one market strategy and defense, and their competitors must battle Apple and every other vendor selling a mobile product. Overcoming that chasm is almost impossible in the short term, and perhaps Sisyphean in the long-term. Only an out-of-the-blue, Hail Mary, game-changing, Oh-my-God-gotta-have-that product development can quickly narrow that gap; those do happen, but very, very rarely.

As a note, Android is gaining market share but, is it due to increases in overall mobile devices, or because Android is their preference? The projected IDC figures in the Washington Post article (link below) show that, Android will finish 2012 with 68% this year vs. 47% for 2011, and Apple will have 17% vs. 2011’s 19%. I suggest you compare figures, to see what you think. 

Technology aside, when you put dollars and emotion to the equation, it would seem Apple has lots of latitude to keep their market dominance. Their legal victory only puts more distance between them and highlights why they’re so successful in the first place: They get what users love, and they give it to them in wrapped in simplicity.

*Washington Post, 8/24/12, “Worldwide market share for smartphones, a market dominated by Apple and Android 

Engadget, 8/14, “Gartner: worldwide mobile phone sales dipped 2.3 percent while users wait for next iPhone,” 

The Threats Are Real – Even Orwell Would Be Impressed

I’m a pretty positive guy and you’ll find me making opportunities out of problems, lemonade from lemons, and so on. There is one thing that has me troubled, though: Computer security. We are under attack from more threats than ever, both from inside and outside of our country. There have been many discussions and articles about a Cyber Pearl Harbor. As fast as “white hat” computer programmers stop a threat, “black hats” come up with myriad variations. As they say, the good guys have to be right every time, but the bad guys need be right only once.

If you’ve been watching the news, perhaps you saw the reports about the “Shady RAT” virus that infected many machines. There is strong evidence that it came from China, and some evidence that points to the Chinese government itself. They deny it, as you would expect, but there is no doubt that it came from there. This isn’t about scams and phishing against we average citizens, but against our national systems that handle military and government operations, our phones, utilities, banks and other concerns that, if successful, would cause a widespread calamity that could affect millions.

For instance, this headline (and link) says a lot:  (Reuters) – A congresswoman on Wednesday requested more information on security company McAfee’s report detailing a five-year hacking campaign that breached 72 organizations globally. These folks have first-rate help, yet the hackers penetrated their systems and left malware that quietly collected data for years.

It would be nice to say that we could point to one source, but that’s a fool’s dream. For instance, in the former Soviet Union, hacking a company within the country is a horrible crime, but hacking a US concern of any type gets a shoulder shrug from the government. There is a town in Romania that has the reputation of having the most hackers anywhere in the world: Dirty deeds done cheap. To top it off, there are but two detectives assigned to the task of arresting known cybercriminals. Wired magazine’s article about it is informative if not a bit chilling: How a Remote Town in Romania Has Become Cybercrime Central

The known threats are one thing, but there are unknown ones that are more dire. For instance, the military has millions of dollars of contracts out for computer systems. These contracts go to companies in a variety of countries. For your average flat screen TV, no big deal. When the components are being made for a top-level military system, big deal – a very, very big deal because the computer chips that go in might be part of the control system for missle launches, or a secured orbiting communication system. 

Malicious computer code can but put into the chips used in the systems which makes the threat practically invisible until it’s called on, and then it does its dirty deed. There literally is no good way to check every chip in these systems for every possible threat. The military is wringing its hands over this.

Just as it can happen to the military, it can happen in the utilities, to your car, just about anywhere. Siemens makes the majority of systems that control nuclear power plants. The Stuxnet virus that made headlines last year was targeted at those systems and is credited with bringing down Iranian centrifuges used to make weapons grade nuclear materials – a very targeted attack. The US was blamed, and we quickly denied, as one would expect. Also suspected are “green guerrilas” whose mission it is to rid the world of any nuclear threat anywhere. Just as it was done to them, it could also be done to us.

The point of this article is to remind you to do all the right things when it comes to computer security: Back up your data; run virus scans weekly (or more often); keep your operating system patched (a major defense which many ignore); don’t click on anything you’re not 100% sure about. For all the high-level mayhem out there, the run-of-the-mill hacker who wants your email address rides the coat tails of the truly brilliant and malevolent computer hackers. When the geniuses learn something, they toss a scrap of old yet still sophisticated tech to the common rabble, who in turn now have a new way to steal your identity, torch your credit or simply fill your in-box with Viagra or get-rich-quick spam. The cost to restore your data is infinitely more expensive than the routine safeguards you can easily take. So, is your anti-virus up to date? Fire wall working? …