Is Apple’s Messaging Going Negative?

As I work in IT and support both Macs and PCs, I consider it part of my job to stay up on the latest news with regard to Apple. A few days ago, (3/21/2016) I watched the live stream of Apple’s event, in which they rolled out the iPhone SE and the smaller iPad Pro.

By many accounts, this was a bland event, as Apple has trained us to expect breakthrough products at these events. However, there was one moment that really stood out for me.  It happened about 45 minutes into the presentation, when an Apple exec said the following:

“There’s a second group of people that we’d love to reach with the new iPad Pro. Windows users. You may not know this, but the majority of people (who) come to an iPad Pro are coming from a Windows PC. A desktop, or a notebook. Now of course, we all know, Windows PCs were originally conceived of before there was an Internet. Before there was social media. Before there were app stores. And this is an amazing statistic. There are over 600 million PCs in use today that are over five years old. This is really sad. It really is. These people, yes, could really benefit from an iPad pro. And when they see the features and performance and capabilities of a product like the iPad Pro designed for our modern digital lifestyle, well many of them will find it’s their ultimate PC replacement”.

Never mind the fact that Macs were also originally conceived of before there was an Internet, social media, or app stores. We can also ignore the fact that bulk of these aging Windows PCs can connect to the Internet, access social media, install more apps than are available for the iPad, and have lots of capabilities that the iPad Pro doesn’t.

Putting aside the absurdity of claiming that an iPad is a direct replacement for a desktop class computer, what I find most interesting is that with the exception of the Apple vs. PC commercials that ran from 2006 – 2009, Apple has used very positive messaging that focused on the benefits of their own products. Apple positions their products as status symbols, and typically pulls new customers toward their products in an aspirational way. The “sad” statement, is very different. Rather than positioning their updated iPad as something to aspire to, this message seems to be very negative – even condescending. Apple seems to be saying that there is something wrong with people who continue to use old PCs.

Statistically speaking, I am the target of this statement. The PC that I’m typing this on is 7 1/2 years old. It was only a mid-range machine when I purchased it, costing about $750 including the flat panel monitor. However, the processor is not drastically slower for day-to-day use than a processor in a new computer. Two years ago I spent about $140 to add more RAM and a SSD, which drastically improved its performance. It is more responsive than a typical new computer with a conventional spinning drive. I expect this PC to continue to meet my needs for at least another two or three years.

However, there is nothing sad about my continuing to use it, and if it died tomorrow, I couldn’t possibly imagine replacing it with an iPad.

What might cause Apple to shift from a positive, aspirational message to one of derisiveness? Why are they making the effort to try and portray older PCs as relics of a bygone era? Why is it sad that people are continuing to use computers that are clearly meeting their needs?

My contention is that Apple is worried about both the slowing product replacement cycle across the industry, and commoditization within their product categories. This is a scary prospect for a company that derives the vast majority of its revenues from hardware sales.

The overall replacement cycle for computers is slowing down tremendously. There are a few reasons for this, but I believe that a major factor is that software bloat has largely leveled off for basic applications – i.e. running Windows, Office, and a browser. While it used to be the case that new versions of Windows or Office placed a significantly higher load on machines than their predecessors, this is no longer the case for most users. Businesses and individuals who used to need to replace their hardware every three years have started stretching their replacement cycles to four years, five years, or even longer. Two years ago I surveyed the faculty I supported who were due to have their four year old computers replaced, and 43% of them asked if they could just keep using their old computers.

Yet Apple is counting on this replacement cycle to drive sales of new iPads. While millions of people have certainly supplemented their aging PCs with iPads, the overall market for iPads seems to be plateauing. Just as with PCs, iPads themselves aren’t being replaced at the pace that Apple would like for them to be. For many customers, even those seeking status, there are fewer and fewer compelling reasons to upgrade with each iteration. The iPhones and iPads are maturing, and Apple seems to be exploring new tactics to stimulate growth.

Competition within the Android phone market, combined with the cell phone industry’s move away from subsidized purchasing, is putting increasing pricing pressure on the iPhone. There is currently a selection of not just usable, but very good Android phones in the $200 range, which couldn’t be said a few years ago. As more and more people pay cash and see the actual cost of their iPhones for the first time, it becomes harder and harder for many of them to justify not just replacing their iPhones, but spending significantly more than they would for an Android phone.

I certainly don’t think that Apple is in any danger of going out of business. I fully expect that they will continue to be the most profitable player in the industry for many years to come. Apple has a tremendous amount of cash, their products are extremely popular, and their customers are willing to pay a premium relative to the technical specifications of their products that is unheard of in the rest of the tech industry.

However, the negative message does seem to signal some insecurity on the part of Apple. It will be interesting to see if this is a one-off statement, or represents a change in Apple’s messaging.

 

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Is Apple’s Messaging Going Negative?

Journaling: Analog/Digital

For a few years I wanted to start journaling. I read lots of articles and listed to lots of podcasts that highlighted the benefits of the practice. Intellectually it made a lot of sense, but I was never able to get myself to do it for more than a day or two. I decided to really focus on what might be holding me back, and this helped me to come up with a system that is working for me. The purpose of this post is to share some of the thought process that went into me coming up with my system, and to give some specifics on how I put it into practice.

Abstract / TLDR / Summary

I wanted to write long hand instead of typing, but didn’t want to worry about keeping a journal private. I write long hand, then use the Office Lens app on my phone to scan directly into a designated section in OneNote. I then move the scans into password protected section of the same Notebook. Finally, I shred the paper.

Privacy / Security

I definitely wanted to write long hand, but the big thing that held me back was privacy. I certainly don’t consider myself paranoid –  my journal actually ends up in the cloud. However, I didn’t want to have my journal sitting in some notebook where one of my kids (or wife, or co-worker, or other random person) might read it. Putting privacy notions aside, as an IT guy, the thought of not having a backup was pretty disturbing. Given that a journal is really just text, it seemed crazy to leave it in a form that could so easily be lost.

Analog to Digital

I don’t remember the exact point at which I made the connection between scanning a document into my computer and scanning a journal entry into my computer, but I’m surprised it took as long as it did. I use OneNote pretty heavily, so it seemed like a natural place to store the journal. It just took a quick Google search to learn how to password protect a section of a notebook.

Perfection

Most people have heard the expression, “Don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good”. For some reason, I allowed all sorts of trivial details about how I should journal hold me back from getting started. What kind of physical journal/notebook should I use? What kind of pen should I write with? Should I write in the morning or evening? What if I run out of things to say? What I realized that I needed to just get on with it. The details didn’t matter – I could just use some trial and error to determine what worked best for me.

Paper

I started with a pack of 6’ x 9” unlined memo pads from Amazon. I wanted something unlined, but I didn’t want to use copy paper because I didn’t think I’d have enough in my head to fill a page. Almost immediately I found that I typically wrote several small pages, and that I preferred good old 8 1/2 x 11, college ruled paper.

At this point, the only thing I consider to be really important in paper selection is that the pages be easily removable. This makes is much cleaner to remove the pages without messing up the notebook. I did recently purchase an 8 1/2 x 11 notebook with the spiral at the top, and I really like it. As a right-hander, the spiral in a conventional notebook really gets in the way when I’m writing on the back of the page, which happens much more frequently than I initially expected.

Pen

Of course I also thought I needed a fancy pen for journaling. I suppose it was just a search for an affectation of some sort. I bought some disposable fountain pens, since they are at least conceptually fancy. They made me feel cool for a few days, then I realized just how badly they wrote on most paper. I soon found myself just grabbing whatever pen happened to be close by, eventually gravitating to an old Cross style pen that I was given as a groomsman’s gift about 20 years ago. I like the weight and the size of the barrel.

Tech

I use a password protected section in a OneNote notebook to store my journal. This could just as easily be done in Evernote, but for reasons that I may write about at some point, OneNote fits in better with my workflow. I create a page for each month, and scan the paper right in.

Journal-Pages

I used to have a sheet-fed scanner, but now I just use the Microsoft Office Lens app to scan. The app doesn’t let you save the file into a password protected section, so I save it to a different section and copy it over. The scans are perfectly readable on the screen, and while the file sizes are considerably larger than plain text, I expect free cloud storage to grow much faster than I can fill it up.

I then crop the image to get rid of excess white space. OneNote does not have a built-in cropping tool for images, but there is a free plugin that adds this function. Onetastic adds a tremendous number of features to Onenote, and lets you just right-click on an image to bring up a cropping tool.

Workflow

I try to do most of my journaling in the morning when I first wake up. I start by writing the date and time at the top of the page as a reference point. When I’m done, I’ll scan the page into OneNote. Sometimes I’ll write for a few days, then scan and upload the pages in a batch. Once the pages are safely in the cloud, I shred them. I find that shredding the paper afterwards provides a nice sense of completion to the process.

Occasionally I’ll do a little writing at work if something pops into my head. In these cases, I’ll usually just type directly into OneNote.

Results

The journaling started to pay off in just a few days. I found that forcing myself to write about what was going on in my life, personally and professionally, enabled me to have insights that I simply couldn’t’ tap into just by thinking. It has also helped me to become more action oriented. Seeing the same “I really need to do X” statement written over the course of a few days or weeks often gives me the push to actually do it.

I also found that journaling enhanced my capacity for writing public facing content. I have another site when I post some tech tips, but wanted to start a non-techie blog (i.e. this one). I was reluctant to post things that might be too personal online. As I journaled, I started to recognize that there was a fairly clean line that could be drawn between what was intensely personal versus what could appropriately be shared. It’s no coincidence that after years of wanting to start a blog, I finally started doing it after journaling became a habit.

Finally, my penmanship has improved tremendously. I never had good handwriting when I was younger, and it’s only gotten worse over the years since I use a keyboard for just about everything. I still type much faster than I write, and I don’t expect that to change. However, even in this day and age handwriting is still important, and I am very pleased that I can actually read the bulk of what I write now.

Other Tips

As I write, ideas frequently pop into my head that belong on a to-do list. As a loose follower of GTD, I want to get these ideas out of my head, both to prevent them from being a distraction, and to make sure I don’t forget them. I now make it a point to keep a separate notepad nearby so that I can quickly jot these things down as they come up. I can then deal with them after the journaling session.

I don’t write every day. Looking through my notes I’d say that I write about 4 -5 days a week. I used to worry that meant that I wasn’t doing it right, but there really isn’t a single right or wrong way to journal.

Journaling: Analog/Digital

Introduction

The purpose of this blog is to provide a central place for me to develop and catalog my thoughts on a wide variety of topics. I chose the name “GuttReaction” because I expect the bulk of my posts to consist of a link to an article or podcast that I found to be particularly interesting, followed by my thoughts and reactions to it.

There are a number of reasons why I’ve chosen to use this medium and format. First and foremost, I’m not a fan of comment sections. Comment sections are not a good place for really getting into any sort of depth about one’s position. Nuance and context seem to be in short supply these days, and are virtually impossible to convey without some length. I’d also much rather read a longer, well reasoned and written blog post than a comment thread.

I listen to a lot of podcasts and read a lot of online content. Over time I’ve built up a list/playlist of lots of “content creators” that I find to be particularly interesting. It’s rarely the case that I’ll find only one particular post/article/episode by a creator to be interesting. If I like a particular writer, I find it very helpful to be able to see lots of their content in one place, rather than scattered around comment threads on dozens of different sites. As I begin to generate more content (and hopefully develop some readership), I’d like to offer the same.

I also like the idea of being able to track the development of my ideas over time. That will be much easier to do if the bulk of my content is located in one place, as opposed to random comments posted to a variety of sites. I find it particularly interesting to watch how creators that I’ve enjoyed change over time. I have a great deal of respect for people who not only have well thought out positions, but who are able to modify their positions as things change. I think it would be interesting to periodically come back to older posts and see if I agree with my former self.

Introduction