Competing With Free

Time has an article on how four hackers almost caused the collapse of the entertainment industry. Many gems of insight in there, particularly how iTunes managed to succeed despite the availability of free music/movies on Napster, Bittorrent etc.

It turns out that there is something that can compete with free: easy.

Free is not an automatic choice if there is a cognitive cost or inconvenience attached to it. And easy by contrast is difficult to design and engineer.

The route to be taken will depend on the market you are in and the environment that you are trying to operate within.

In hindsight its interesting to note that all of them have gained immensely from the experience of executing their idea, though not necessarily on the monetary front. And they did not set off thinking to disrupt anything, they just wanted to have some fun and try out things. The tectonic effects within the entertainment industry was just a by-product.

Lessons for entrepreneurs who will end up disrupting an incumbent’s lunch.

Via John Gruber.

Design vs Engineer = Apple vs Microsoft

I have always wondered why Apple apps, especially on the iPhone, all had beautiful UI. Boy Genius completely nailed the reason in a recent blog post reviewing the Google Android. The relevant quote is below.

Here’s another issue on why for the foreseeable future Android won’t be anything like what Apple or another company can offer: coders aren’t designers….That’s why Apple’s entire developer ecosystem is different, because believe it or not, Apple’s developers are amazing designers that make beautiful things, and they happen to know how to code. That’s entirely different from someone who’s the best coder in the world and trying to create something that looks, works, and feels great.

And herein lies the tale, as they say.

If you are still not convinced, hear Jonathan Ive, Chief Designer at Apple, talk about the design philosophy he lives by.

To justify the title, this is what distinguishes Apple from Microsoft. The latter builds and caters for engineers, while the former focuses on the intangibles of taste and design, but somehow magically ends up out engineering Microsoft in the process.

All said, the inspiration for folks like us in how we could emulate this rigor in building our products or services.

The attention to detail, the passion for excellence and the honesty in being able to question fundamental assumptions, all are basic traits that will influence what we stand for.

The Poor Man’s Nike+ iPhone, Without the iPhone and Nike

I just saw this post on LifeHacker about rolling your own Nike+ iPhone for free. The option that I use, while not exactly free, does the same job without having to nod to the Apple hype machine and Nike.

My setup requires.

  1. A Nokia NSeries Phone with GPS
    • This could be any N Series phone with GPS
  2. Free Sporttracker application
    • Download this from here. Page also contains list of phone models that are compatible. Follow the usual route to install applications on the Nokia phone.
  3. Data Plan
    • You will need this for just about any decent application
  4. You actually run
    • No amount of wizards, or tech platforms, can help you here..you need to get your lazy butt off that chair and run instead of browsing the net!
    • With or without a shoe! 

The Sporttracker application allows you to export your run routes to Google Map etc. The graphs are quite accurate, you can measure every run and see how things have been fairing since you took that fire-vow to get yourself fit.

Of course, you still can’t do anything about the Apple Fanboys who will insist that their’s is the coolest device on the planet. But what could you do anyway about people who have donated all reasoning to St. Steve!

Do note that this user experience of Apple’s AppStore will be absent here. But Nokia with the NSeries 3rd edition has been making giant leaps on our behalf, and for their survival, on the user experience front. 

Highly recommended. Anyway, have you tried this? What are your experiences?

And Apple Can Get Away With This? WTF!

Well, it goes like this. A commercial product goes to sale, say people call it the iPhone. They have an SDK.

An enterprising publisher sees a legitimate opportunity for a book on the SDK. Publisher goes through all formal processes, or at least I guess so from the description provided, by signing NDA and all.

Now the hitch is the book is blocked, because the NDA is not lifted.

Are these guys serious?

[Update: Today, the 3rd October IST, I read that Apple have lifted their NDA. Good for them. The walls keep away innovation on their own platform. Without innovation, even Apple will turn out to be a commodity platform. And that cannot be good for the industry!]

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PC kicks Apple’s rear

The ‘I am a PC’ campaign from Microsoft. It is cool to be a wisecrack but the real world has work to be done.

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