A clinical (and somewhat devastating) unpicking of the predictable “Apple’s on the slide without Steve” claptrap.

Originally posted on Matt Miklic:

Jolie O’Dell at VentureBeat: Apple’s press conference showed a brand unraveling

While today’s Apple event unveiled a couple new improvements to an expected lineup of products, it also revealed a certain sloppiness that was absent from former, Steve Jobs-led launches.

[…] I think today’s Apple event shows that perfectionism fraying a bit around the edges. The bad pun, the goofy logo, the weird product name — all of it pointed to a leadership that either didn’t understand or didn’t care about consistency in iconography.

Obviously O’Dell is right — Tim Cook is failing to hold Apple to the high standards that Steve Jobs set for the company. Steve Jobs’s Apple never would have used an ambiguous product name like “The new iPad.”

Steve Jobs’s Apple never would have used a silly pun to announce a major new product.

And there’s no way Steve Jobs’s Apple ever would have used some

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Putting the new feature where it belongs (or, testing the limits of airline loyalty)

It’s no secret that I’m fascinated by air travel and its economics. So when our entire company convened in Budapest for a work meet-up a few months ago, I made the most of an opportunity to compare anecdotes and on-board amenities across a range of different transatlantic carriers.

If I’m flying for longer than a couple of hours, these days I’ll go out of my way to pick a carrier that has laptop power available in all seats (wifi is an added bonus). Flights are immeasurably more productive if I can work, and most work seems to involve the laptop. It seems reasonable to expect that more and more people will also feel this way. In-seat power will be valued higher, and employers will appreciate the added productivity of their laptop-toting employees. Doubtless providing power to our personal screens will be something that on-demand media services could see some value in too.

Der erste Airbus A380 der Lufthansa auf dem Fl...

Lufthansa A380. Mega internet cafe, with no power supplies. (from Wikipedia)

I was interested to hear from one colleague that on Lufthansa’s new A380s, economy class passengers may connect to a wifi signal, but don’t have access to any power. That just seems silly. I have to imagine that in the overall costs associated with buying and equipping a new A380, adding power at every seat must be an almost inconsequential expense.

Airlines have a clever business model of engendering permanent passenger envy. Unless you’re flying in your own private jet, you can be certain that somebody else is always more comfortable than you, and airlines like to make sure that you know it. The entire economics of customer loyalty are geared around indulging people’s aspirations to be more comfortable in the aluminium can.

I’ll hold my hand up to being a total sucker for it. I almost exclusively fly Virgin Atlantic if I’m going from a US city to London. In return, Virgin lets me use their lounges and (according to no clear algorithm that I can discern) randomly upgrades my seat every now and again. From my flights and the use of a Virgin Atlantic credit card, I have enough miles to upgrade my return journeys (the day flights) to Premium Economy, affording me more leg room (nice) and laptop power (essential) on my 11 hour flight. I’m sure that there are plenty of people who pay for these things too — and if not individuals, there are certainly companies that will pay for it.

On the one hand, this looks like some excellent customer segmentation at work: I value using my laptop on a flight so much that I’m willing to spend in order to be able to fly with power for my electronics. By putting power only in the cabin one above the level that I can afford, an airline arouses my envy and causes me to do everything I can to be able to fly in this cabin, including giving them my exclusive business. I’m pretty sure that this is the reason why there’s no power in the back of Lufthansa’s A380; companies are only cutting costs these days, and if Jones from accounting has all the tools he needs in Economy, why on earth would the company pay for something more?

But I’m reminded of something that I heard from Kenny van Zant (twice): Product Managers can be inclined to add new product features to the pricing level *above* the one in which the majority of customers value it, the theory being that that will help move more customers up to a higher price point. But Kenny’s view is that in a competitive market, if you overcharge your customers, someone else will come along and charge the customer something closer to her valuation of that feature. In the process, they’ll win her business.

I’m really not all that averse to economy seats on planes. If I can get an exit row, and the person in front doesn’t do the (ultimate douchebag) maneuver of reclining his seat into my dinner, I can be pretty content. In Kenny’s example, I’m a low value customer that would like at-seat power. Would I switch airlines for it? Absolutely. And I think that others will too. Virgin America’s brand new fleet is equipped throughout with at-seat power: I’m certain that they recognized that a San Francisco-based domestic airline would win loyal customers very quickly by providing what is fast becoming a necessity for airline travel.

Real life Grisham

It was six years ago today that I moved to California. September 5th was Labor Day in 2005 as well. I remember arriving to a very quiet Palo Alto and staying in a motel before moving onto the Stanford campus the next day.

That was also the day that I took a flight for which I was charged a fuel surcharge (of £18) that turns out to have been the result of a price-fixing scheme orchestrated by British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.

A while back I was invited to apply for compensation under the terms of the settlement of the class action. And today in some coincidental full circle, I opened a mysterious envelope containing my check (around $25). I’d really never imagined being a part of a class action — I’d always thought that they were for characters in John Grisham books — let alone actually get some money from one.

Then again, I must have paid BA and Virgin tens of thousands of dollars over the last six years. So a bit of compensation for some anti-competitive behaviour is really the least that they can do for me.

What’s your URL


It’s been at least 12 years since I had to approve copy and artwork for a bus side. But back then I’m fairly certain that I would have wondered if there couldn’t be a better URL than the one used here. Was anybody actually expected to remember the /en/?


It’s no wonder that advertisers are using and @twitter addresses so much if this is the best kind of landing page URL the web teams can come up with.

Blogging the London riots

Summer was traditionally a quiet time for news. Not 2011, it seems. Especially if the weekend just passed is anything to go by. In the United States, it’s all been about debt ceilings and downgrades (with the odd brawl thrown in for good measure).

Meanwhile, London has seen an extraordinary outburst in rioting and looting. Some of it just a couple of hundred yards from where I used to live in Brixton. I suppose that these days it’s unsurprising that within just hours of the major story breaking, there’s an angle on the role of social media. Twitter is playing its part (not always helpfully, it seems) and there’s an interesting story on the role of Blackberry Messenger being used to organize assemblies of rioters.

But I wanted here to highlight some great ways in which blogging has also contributed to the discussion. These days, for any breaking story in the UK, my go-to source for the latest on a story will be the Guardian’s live blogs. I’ve been hooked on these ever since the UK elections (and coalition-building aftermath). The bloggers present frequent recaps on the latest headlines and bring in information and sources from all around the web, as the story breaks.

Last night The West Londoner blog (hosted on provided a great series of time ticker updates. Judging by the volume of comments, this was a service that at least hundreds (probably thousands) found valuable and hadn’t found elsewhere on the internet.

This morning I found a link pointing to another fascinating perspective on the riots: Insp Winter claims to be a police officer who was working over the weekend. His account of events is fascinating:

The traditional, stereotypical, image of a public order police officer is that of some knuckle dragging man mountain who’s main skill in life is being able to knock a door down in one hit. As I survey the people around me, none of them fit that. They’re all reasonably intelligent, in the van there have been long discussions on what the cause of this is.

Lately there’s been much made of the impact that Twitter and Facebook can have in coverage of big news stories. But in an event like this, where a series of localized events together make the story so huge, micro-blogs can be chaotic and distorting. The longer form can provide the considered, aggregated and personal aspects that are ultimately so much more rewarding and informative.