Steve Jobs Talks Touch, Nano, and Maybe Tablet

24 Comments

steve-jobs-returnsSteve Jobs return as the face of Apple (s aapl) yesterday was immediately followed by an interview with Tech Guru David Pogue of the New York Times. A lot of the conversation focused on cameras, like why the iPod nano got one and the iPod touch did not.

It turns out Apple had no idea how to market the iPod touch — imagine that! Vacillating between concepts such as an “iPhone without the phone” and a pocket computer that actually fits in a pocket, touch users had to help the company that is arguably the most adept at advertising in the world figure out what to do. “What happened was, what customers told us was, they started to see it as a game machine,” Jobs said. From there, a multiplicity of game screenshots drove advertising and “it just took off.”

Completely coincidentally, this also made it unnecessary for Apple “to add new stuff,” like a camera, or a compass, or GPS. Instead, as Phil Schiller said during the Apple Event yesterday, “at just $199 the iPod touch is the most affordable gateway drug to Apple’s revolutionary App Store.” Jobs echoed those comments in the interview, saying that what “we were focused on is just reducing the price to $199.” So, it’s not about artificial product segmentation at all. Glad we cleared that up.

More realistic was Jobs’ response to the lack of photo capability in the video camera on the iPod nano. Apparently, the sensors for video are thin enough to fit in the nano, but the technology for pictures is not. Personally, I find this a little curious, as I often export still images from videos I have taken using QuickTime. At the very least, some kind of built-in workaround like that could have been included with the new nano.

The other topic covered during the interview, and one that will have message boards buzzing, concerned e-readers. Pogue asked Jobs if his dismissive attitude towards the devices had changed since the appearance of the Kindle. Jobs noted that digital books aren’t big sellers, then tossed the tablet fanatics some red meat, stating that “I think people just probably aren’t willing to pay for a dedicated device.”

If that wasn’t an oblique confirmation of the Apple iTablet, this response regarding future products being delayed because of Jobs’ absence is likely as close as we will get before the mythical device is unveiled.

“There are some things that I’m focusing a lot of attention on right now—to polish,” he said. “No, I don’t think we’re going to miss a beat. We have some really good stuff coming up.”

And this is why I love Steve Jobs being vertical again.

24 Comments

Cloama

lame. What a lame excuse. theses guys are innovators and originators and that’s all they could say. How evil to of them, to know exactly what consumers want (camera, mic, battery life) and to deny us that. Because you’re Apple and you’re afraid of losing even the smallest bit of money.

my ipod touch broke after the warrenty expired and i wanted to replace it. But i’ll wait for the 3rd gen. if they don’t deliver i’ll just find some other device to rule my life.

Daniel

Well said

all i wanted is, better battery, a camera, a mic

but they have gone for gaming what a joke

Mike Perry

Quote: It turns out Apple had no idea how to market the iPod touch… “What happened was, what customers told us was, they started to see it as a game machine,” Jobs said.

Customers didn’t tell Apple that, focus groups did. That’s not the same thing. Apple, no doubt likes focus groups rather than just talking the customers or (gasp!) simply initiating open online discussion groups. A focus group often has to sign a confidentially clause, for instance. That fits Apple’s culture of secrecy.

I’ve been in more than of few focus groups–including, years ago, one to replace the rainbow Apple logo. But I’ve always wondered why companies depend on them. The people that come, and I say this of myself, aren’t “normal.” Most don’t have fixed schedules, or they wouldn’t have time for the group. Most aren’t making much money, or the typically modest payments wouldn’t be worth all the driving. They’re also filtered in odd sorts of ways. I often don’t get in a group because I don’t use a certain product. I laugh and tell the screener that the company has it backwards. They ought to be questioning people who do not use their product rather than those who do.

The groups themselves are a joke. The formalities often steer the results in a certain direction set in advance. Boeing did a study in the early 1980s, just as PCs began to take off, that concluded that the future in computing lay in time-sharing terminals. It no doubt proved what some VP wanted to prove, but was a joke from day one. The iPod touch as primarily a game machine is a similar joke, although not a very funny one.

Even worse, conversation in focus groups tends to be dominated by those with loud mouths, little brains, and weird attitudes. I once participated in a study group at Microsoft intended to find needed improvements for Excel. I went planning to stress that Microsoft needed to make their products create beautiful output by default. I never got my POV across. Discussion was dominated by two people. A salesman thought the graphs that Excel produced were not glaring enough. He wanted them to be in-your-face ugly. The other was a really strange guy who wanted computers to be his friend–perhaps because he had so few of the human sort. He wanted help interfaces that looked like someone was talking to him. We all remember when Microsoft tried to do that sort of thing.

Now lets look at Apple, which came up with brilliant, breakthrough ideas in their touch-screen interface. Earlier this week I talked with a friend who’d gotten a 1-G iPhone simply because someone gave it to him. Skeptical at first, within a few days he was delighted by it, showing it off to any and all. He’s likely to be even more happy when he discovers the App Store.

But as Schiller and Jobs have admitted and despite the high sales, Apple has been clueless about how to market what they have created. In the U.S. they locked themselves into one of the least-liked cell providers. When LTE becomes the standard for virtually, maybe they will escape that trap.

For the touch, they at least admit their problem: “they had no idea how to market the iPod touch.” Actually, it’d be better to say that they had no idea how to create touches that would market themselves. Jobs and Schiller seem to spend too much time with marketing types who prefer image to reality.

What they’re selling is a marvelous interface and a standard platform that provides developers with millions of potential customers through an App Store that levels the playing field for those selling. What they’ve not done is create devices for the all the uses people want to make of their ideas. They’re stuck in a one-shoe-fits-all model, which means, in this case, they blunder into supporting just one market–gamers. It’s like Toyota or Ford discuss what The Car they make should be like, should it be fast, roomy, carry a lot of stuff, or get good gas mileage. The answer is not an impossible-to-create The Car. It’s many models, each for a particular sort of customer.

Apple is making that sort of blunder. The brilliant UI-to-app-store they’ve created supports many potential products not just two. Here are some:

1. There’s the iPhone for those who need a phone and always available Internet and don’t mind paying extra and klutzing with AT&T.

2. There are gamers, who no doubt want speed and could care less about phones, mikes, and a GPS. They’re getting all the attention now.

3. There are creative/work/productivity people (such as me) who don’t want the hassle and costs of cellular contracts, but do want almost all the features of an iPhone, especially a decent camera and mike, which are good for on-the-go note taking. These are the ones Apple just slighted very badly, saying in essence, “You’re not gamers, get an iPhone or get lost.”

4. People often spend quite a bit on their vacations. They spend thousands of dollars in travel and accommodation and hundreds for guide books. Then they promptly get lost. There should be a touch just for them, one with a long battery life and GPS. One that’s rugged but not heavy. One that does what travelers want, including good VoIP features for calling home via Skype or the like.

5. Don’t forget kids. The UI is so intuitive that kids pick it up quickly. Why not a kid’s model, a bit bigger so it can have enough battery life for a long trip, and rugged enough to take abuse. I could also have a lock so it only runs kid-safe applications.

6. And finally, there are the outdoor/recreational users who need a device that’s rugged, waterproof and includes a GPS and an extended battery life. Although a lot of Apple employees fit this category, I see no indication that Apple is even aware of this market.

A good parallel is to the GPS market. When it began to take off in the mid-90s, the gadgets were of the one-shoe-fits-all variety. Over time, manufacturers began to understand the need to target specific markets: marine for those with boats, auto for those needing help getting places, and rugged, waterproof models for those outdoors. Each is different, but each is a GPS.

Apple hasn’t done that. It knows is wants a phone and that, to stay competitive it needs to add features. But for any other use of that wonderful UI-to-App-Store idea they’re clueless by their own admission. They think this marvelous scheme should have one use only and blunder about trying to find it, like some demented automaker trying to create The Car and leaving everyone unhappy.

What Apple need are several pocket-sized products that use their brilliant ideas, products roughly equivalent to what I have detailed above. And because each is tailored to a specific market, each can maximize the features for that group while keeping the price down.

–Michael W. Perry, Seattle

Niels

I hope that a tablet will be introduced soon! Laptops are cool, but I love touch! Having a tablet that runs Snow Leopard and all the applications that are available for it would be heaven to me ;-)

Daniel

thanks for that “good enough”

It is just annoying as i had planned on getting a ipod touch after this event.

i wanted more battery life on it and a few other hardware updates, as well as a mic and camera

good enough

well after reading the day before rumors, they probably really didn’t have the real 3rd gen touch ready togo for showtime. Apple is smart enough to have a backup plan which is what they went with. Was it a strong backup plan, no not really. Yeah they are pushing the Touch as a gaming device because they probably get to read all those numbers and see what the average age of user, what genre of app is particularly bought for the Touch, and they probably point towards kids and games, and they will buy, buy, buy. Would I personally at least like to see the Touch get a iPhone-esque upgrade, YES. But I am not holding my breathe, I was just hoping for the price drop for the kiddies this christmas.
Overall this really wasn’t anything breath taking, but to just shine a light back onto Apple, and show the new bells and whistles. Do they really know where to take the Touch or even the iPhone, no, but they truly are the only ones in the game and have many years ahead, but developers are helping them make those decisions.
Just look at the whole layout of what they putting out. This isn’t your normal company, they truly aren’t worried about the money, because that will take care of itself if their product is great, and affordable, which all these are. We can always bitch and complain because most of us are tech geeks, but the average consumer will think the world of what they will purchase, they were smart to compare what they are offering and what the competition is offering.
Yes the iPod Touch can compete against PSPGO and DSI, think about it. How long does it take for any gaming company to put a game for those devices? Well with the iPod touch, it’s a simple approval within the appstore, no packaging, shipping, shipping dates, hardware over stockage, so it’s a win in every category for the company which means more profits. for the consumer, no cartridges, cheaper game prices, regular updates, online competition(maybe prizes later), and a great true ALL-IN-ONE, that you can listen to your own music than cheeesy midis.

And the Zune is a joke, it’s the “me-too kid” compared to the Touch, it’s the software that matters, not the hardware, and all those nice things are worthless, if all it cant do is the basics.

Daniel

Ok guys. so most people who buy a touch use it as a mini computer?

id say id use it for everything. music , videos, and use the internet.

then why is APPLE trying to make it a gaming machine, and how can it possibly attempt to compare itself to NINTENDO and the PSP ? who do they think they are , are they that full of themselves that they dont even know where they are heading with this device?

It should have had a camera, it should have had a microphone, if people want a phone, they will get the iphone

i really hope Zune HD kicks arse in sales, and Apple is then forced to think again…

my gut feeling is that Apple will release all this stuff OLED, HD radio, camera , mic in the real Gen 3. but when that will be… who knows.

It will be when the Zune Hype has gone down….. maybe a year

Brian Hogg

I don’t see how Jobs saying that people wouldn’t pay for something is a confirmation that they’re making it.

Well, I can, actually, in the same way that people who believe that aliens crashed in Roswell take someone saying it didn’t happen as confirmation that they’re hiding something.

Joe

Actually, I think the idea is that by him saying people wouldn’t pay for a dedicated eReader, he’s implying that they’re working on a more full-featured device, but yea, it’s pretty weak and grasping for straws.

mxs

So the guts of nano can process 30 frames a second, but it cannot do one JPEG at a time????

Yeah, right ….

skellyrocker

With no video on the 3G, no WiFi since OS3.0 (3.1 didn’t fix it) then I think it’s a bloody fair question! If he had I would probably ditch the iPhone and buy a Touch and a cheap Nokia.

Josh Pigford

Agreed. I think Apple should be (and most likely is) pushing the touch away from the iPhone to make it its very own device instead of the “iphone without the phone.”

Adam

No one is going to switch to an iphone because they want a camera on their touch and didnt get it. If people want a phone they are going to get the iphone. Having all the same features minus the phone doesn’t make a difference at all in my oppinion. The commitment to the PHONE in the iphone is big enough that the other features dont have nearly as much impact on switching decision.

Wesley

I agree with Adam.

I can’t see anyone purchasing an iPhone instead of an iPod Touch because it has a camera. It’s because they want a PHONE. I think you all are forgetting the additional $100 a month price point for an iPhone over a Touch. That’s a lot of money to pay simply for a camera, and I don’t think anyone is doing that.

jsk

Why does everyone assume that GSM coverage is universal in the US? I live somewhere in the US that has excellent CDMA coverage, but NO GSM coverage. Why would you plop for an expensive phone that wouldn’t function as a phone where you live?

Peter

I’ve got to say that seeing the ipod touch as a gaming device is weak. It is a computer and it needs a camera, GPS and the compass. You need to support the Apps sold on the store. I use my touch as a mini take anywhere computer, not a games machine, so if I go away for a few days I no longer feel the need to lug a laptop with me I can do everything (almost) with the touch. So with all those great Apps out there that utilize GPS, the compass and a camera, the touch should be seen a real pocket computer not limited to a games machine. Anyway the Nintendo DS is a better games system. The large quantity of games in the App Store doesn’t equal quality.

Joe

Even as a game device, having a camera, GPS and a compass could make for some innovative games, so that’s not a good enough excuse in and of itself. The DSi has TWO cameras (granted, I hear they’re pretty weak), and that’s clearly a dedicated gaming device.

My best guess as to why they’re positioning it as a “gaming device” and limiting hardware features is so as to not only prevent it from cannibalizing iPhone sales, but also leave space for a new upcoming portable computing device. If the iPhone AND the iPod touch worked perfectly fine as portable computers for most needs in that segment, would they really be able to make a profit on a slightly larger portable with a couple additional features?

Though I’ll say this, yes more games doesn’t mean better games, but there are plenty of great games on the App Store, and plenty of crappy games on the DS and PSP platforms, so I think it balances out to being enough to compete in that segment.

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