An Interview with Robin Wauters of The Next Web on Blogging, Pitching, and Predicting the Future

It has been over 6 years since I picked up my virtual pen to start my first blog post. Throughout those years, there has been a small group of elite journalists who have served as a role model and inspired me to keep writing. This group includes names like David Pogue, MG Siegler, Joshua Topolsky, and Robin Wauters. I have been following Robin for years and I believe I first encountered his work when he was just getting started at TechCrunch.

 

Why I Was Wrong about the iPad Mini. Well, Sorta…

When Apple introduced the iPad Mini, it was the first ever Apple announced that sparked an emotional reaction from your truly. No, it was not excitement or happiness that the company finally reversed a policy put in place by the late Steve Jobs that there is no room for a smaller tablet in the Apple portfolio. My reaction to the iPad Mini announcement was actually disappointment and frustration, maybe even borderline anger.

 

Stop Saying it’s Too Late for BlackBerry and Microsoft. It’s Too Early to be Too Late!

Please forgive me if this post comes off as a rant, but enough is enough. Every few months, a new handset/mobile platform comes out and the same claims are repeated by the pundits. “Too little, too late”. Apple and Google own the mobile market and that can’t change. And every time I read those words, I realize just how fast people forget.

 

What Microsoft and Nokia Can and Should Learn from the Recent Launch of BlackBerry 10

By: Hillel Fuld (@hilzfuld)

I know what you’re thinking, “Learn from BlackBerry? Who said it will succeed? Why is BlackBerry in a place to teach anyone anything?” Good question. I thought you’d never ask.

BlackBerry10-demo-meeting-5

OK, so as you know, BlackBerry launched what it hopes will be the vehicle the company rides on its way to comeback land, BlackBerry 10. Will it really save the company? Who knows? What I do know is that initial reactions to the phone and platform have been positive and based on analysts watching closely, so far, it has been adopted nicely as well.

So as far as the launch goes, not the success of the platform, Microsoft and by extension, Nokia have a lot to learn. I will explain.

Branding

One of the bigger surprises in the launch of BB10, aside from the company’s choice of Creative Director of course, was the fact that the company rebranded from Research In Motion (RIM) to BlackBerry. Some hate it, I think it was the most brilliant thing the company has done in years.

You see, when a company has one product, I see no reason they should separate the name of that product from the name of the brand. BlackBerry users love their devices, right? So why not leverage that loyalty to the brand as a whole? Why confuse users with a name like Research in Motion when everyone knows BlackBerry? Imagine if Facebook would call its site that and call the company something else? That would cause unnecessary confusion and such confusion in the brand causes confusion and frustration in the product.

01sld-blackberry-10-1

I have spoken to quite a few startups who were debating this exact topic. Should we call our company one thing and our app/product another, or just go with one name? My answer is always “If this is going to be your only product, then why confuse users? If you plan on having other products down the line, then you need an independent name for the company.”

BlackBerry was gutsy enough to change its name, something many companies would never do and I praise them for that….

Now while Microsoft has many products so its mobile platform has to have a different name than the company, I am fairly certain that there are enough smart minds in Redmond that can come up with a better name than Windows Phone! In fact, pretty much anything they choose will be better than that name. So while it might be a risky move, if BlackBerry can pull it off, so can you, Microsoft. Get on it.

Focus

This is a loaded topic with Apple on the one side and Google on the other. Focus on one or two products or spread your wings and offer any possible option in the hopes that that product will find an owner. Samsung is of course on Google’s side, ie make mobile devices in every possible size so people can use them while sitting in the back seat of their self driving car wearing Google Glass. But, wait, isn’t Google a search/advertising company? What’s with the cars and the glasses? Yea, exactly.

BlackBerry took a good look at its core audience now and what it hopes will be its user base in a year from now. iPhone and Android users love their big touch screens and think of hardware keyboards as somewhat primitive. For those folks, BlackBerry has the Z10.

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But what about its loyal fan base? The ones that swear by their keyboards? Boom. The Q10. And that is all, folks. No Z10 Pro, Q10 2, or Z10 5.5. Will that change in the future? No way to know but I sure hope not.

Now take a look at the Lumia line. Why, can someone explain to me, do we need a Lumia 620, 800, 810, 820, 822, 900, and 920? Did I catch them all? Doubt it. Who needs all those phones?

Well Samsung will tell you that creating a phone in every shape, size, and color is the way to go. But you know what? Samsung can afford to do that, Microsoft and Nokia cannot at this point. Focus, people!

Make one high end Lumia (920) and one lower end one (620). Push those devices with everything you have, then pray. Don’t confuse users with so many devices that when entering a store to buy a phone, feel so overwhelmed that they opt for the simpler option from a certain Cupertino company.

Focus, Nokiasoft, focus!

The 70,000 Elephants in the Closet

Sigh. I hate to be writing these words, but I guess we all agree that they are necessary. Apps!

BlackBerry could have launched BB10 years ago with no apps and impressive hardware alongside a few nice gestures. They chose not to while they build out their ecosystem (even if it is via an Android emulator…) Smart move!

Microsoft, after years, still has not gotten the developers on board. Yes, there are quite a few apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace, but from where I am sitting, 80% of them are flashlight apps. No, not really, but you know what I mean.

blackberry-10-l-series-leak-back1

Microsoft has to try harder to get the big boys on board. I have one question for Microsoft. Don’t you own part of Facebook? Doesn’t Facebook own Instagram? I can’t imagine it is too difficult to get Instagram on your platform, yet you haven’t done it. To name one example.

The bottom line? Microsoft has to focus its energy less on getting Nokia and HTC to make yellow phones and more on premium apps that will show off what is up there with the nicest  mobile OSes on the market.

A Product, NOT a Prototype

Once again, BlackBerry could have released a half-baked BB10 years ago but it chose to polish it, polish it some more and then release it. Is it perfect? No, but from what I can tell, any issues with BB10 are by design and not by accident.

Notifications are a perfect example. The way BB10 handles notifications is loved by some, despised by others. But at least it handles notifications. You don’t like it? That is fine but BlackBerry did not release a mobile OS without addressing one of the main pain points of users on a mobile phone. Microsoft did.

blackberry10-10-new-features-310113

Notifications are just one example but it seems like Microsoft just released its OS with the thought of fixing this “small” missing feature in the next version.

This is true across the board. Windows Phone was always not a complete product. It was always close but it lacked the polish that we are all used to from iOS and  now from BB10.

Microsoft can’t turn back the clock now to release a finished product but what it can do is start cleaning up its mess and get Windows 8 to offer everything we have grown to expect from a mature mobile operating system. I love my Lumia 920, I really do, but no quality apps or notifications, alongside a lack of polish keep driving me into the arms of my iPhone 5.

In conclusion, we don’t know what will be with either platform but I still think BlackBerry pretty much nailed this launch, and for that alone, they deserve the opportunity to make the biggest comeback in the history of mobile.

 

The Most Ridiculous Complaints about the iPhone 5

By: Hillel Fuld (@hilzfuld)

Let me be very clear here. I am as guilty of saying the things I am going to list below as anyone. I “Live tweeted” (is that even a real thing?) the Apple announcement and let’s just say, multiple people asked me if Samsung was paying me to be anti-Apple.

My initial reaction to the iPhone 5 was the same reaction I had to the iPhone 4s. “Come on, Apple?! That’s it?!” Why did I react that way? Mainly because of all the leaks prior to the announcement. In the good old days, Jobs made sure close to no information was leaked about upcoming devices. Putting aside the Gizmodo ordeal, he was almost always successful at that.

What that meant was that come keynote day, there were a lot of surprises. However, with the iPhone 5 announcement, there was absolutely zero shock factor. We knew literally everything about the phone before Apple unveiled it.

A part of me wanted to believe Apple would pull a “One more thing” moment and when it didn’t, I, along with many many people were disappointed. Then I took a deep breath, read the reviews from people who actually used the phone, and thought about my knee- jerk reaction about the iPhone 5.

I have not held the phone yet nor have I decided if I will be getting one. But the complaints I am hearing from so many people are completely out of place, it’s ridiculous. Let me explain…

Nothing New Besides a Longer Screen

First of all, before I get into this point, let me just say off the bat, that it is plain wrong. LTE alone makes the iPhone a huge upgrade. But if you, like me, are in a place with no LTE coverage (yet), then the thing that should excite you about the iPhone 5 is not the screen, the A6 processor, iOS 6 (which you can get on older devices), or any other spec.

What Apple is going for is a refined experience that keeps getting better. A deep integration of hardware and software, both the best of its class. The iPhone 5 delivers that. If you, like me, have been reading too many tech blogs analyzing and over thinking all the leaks, that does not mean it should affect your decision whether to buy or not to buy what is the best overall mobile experience on the market. Apple is about the experience, not the list of this spec or that spec.

Of course it is going to mention screen size because that is part of the overall experience, as is LTE. What Apple will not talk about is RAM or how important megapixels are, because those things mean nothing to the average consumer who is looking for the best experience.

So is there anything new? Not unless you think cars brought something new to the world when it got you from point A to point B faster and more effectively than horses did before it.

New Connector? Is Apple Nuts?

Speaking of horses and cars, many people are complaining that Apple killed its dinosaur of a connector that it  has been using since the iPod. “Why make all my accessories obsolete? Apple just wants my money for the adapter!” Yes, that is it. Apple needs that $29 boost in revenue because $700 billion market cap is just not enough. Or… It is time to move on and when you move on, some things remain in the past.

I mean, I had the nicest Walkman, how could those CD players do this to me? In fact, my record player rocked. As did my CD player. As did my standalone MP3 player. As did my floppy discs, I LOVED those… I think you get the point.

Apple was using a dock connector that was almost as big as the bottom of the device. Is that really necessary? Of course not. So the company called it a day after years of use and upgraded the 30 pin connector to one that is smaller, faster, and adds the convenience of being able to use it in both directions.

This is really a non-issue that people have to stop complaining about.

The Maps! They Stink!

This is not an iPhone 5 issue but more of an iOS 6 issue or more like an Apple-wide issue. “How and why did Apple kick Google out of its OS and start using its own Maps instead of Google Maps! How dare they!” Are you really asking that? Do you really expect Apple, the most valuable company in the world to let its biggest rival and the company it believes ripped off its flagship product to own the most valuable data about its users, their location? Surely you do not!

Releasing their own maps was probably the most obvious next step for Apple. “But what about the consumer? What about the experience? Google Maps are so much better!” Well, since that seems to be the consensus, I am not going to even try and fight that point despite the fact that I do prefer Apple’s maps over Google’s. What I will say is this.

Apple is jumping into the mapping space late. As it did with mobile. As Google did with search and mobile. As Chrome did with browsers. As Facebook did with social… And the list goes on and on. The point is, yes, Apple has to catch up to Google (is what people are saying), but it will never catch up if it does not start. And so it is starting and it is most definitely off to a decent start, there is no denying that.

Give Apple some time here, I think it has proven itself enough times that despite coming late, it can deliver.

And Last but Not Least: “Apple Is Only Catching up to Android”

There is nothing more annoying to me than statements like this (OK, maybe I can think of one or two things more annoying). Let me make this very clear…

  • iPhone = A phone/mobile device manufactured by Apple inc.
  • Android = A platform developed by Google, utilized by many manufacturers, each with their own phones and resulting specifications.

People, stop comparing iPhone to Android. You can compare iOS to Android. Or the iPhone to the Galaxy S3 but comparing the iPhone to Android is like comparing “Ford Focus” to “Toyota”. You tell me, which is better, a Ford Focus or a Toyota? The sad thing is, I am fairly certain some people reading this are now thinking “Of course a Ford Focus (or Toyota) is better! One is a car, one is a brand that makes many many cars. No comparing!

Now to what those people really mean. The iPhone does not have specs that match the flagship Android phones on the market. This is true. You know what else didn’t have good specs? The first iPhone. No 3G, no video, no freakin copy/paste. What a disaster that was! And that 4S had NOTHING new besides some talking assistant that never worked. No wonder Apple couldn’t sell any of those pieces of junk… That is sarcasm, in case you couldn’t tell.

Apple could not care less about specs and here is a secret, neither could most Apple users. Apple sells polish and between the speed, weight, and size of the iPhone 5, combined with the much improved iOS 6, over two million preorders have proven once again, that polish trumps processors.

So Am I Getting One?

Fighting the temptation for now but this post did a pretty good job convincing me that I need one. Who wrote this thing? They should be in sales or at the very least, marketing.