Monday, 16 September 2013

UX: Silly Error Messages (Is this Violent & Destructive, ending in Utter Failure?)

This is a quick post. Today, as I was doing some UX work, I got this error in Windows 8:

It was while trying to over-write an image (PNG) with a newer one. 

Two quick reactions:

  1. I would hate to be translator @ Microsoft who had to translate this into other languages. How bad is it really? Catastrophic, that must be really really really bad. Better get out my thesaurus so I get the 'tone' just right...
  2. As a end-user, I was trying to understand what to do next? I tried it again, got the same error. Then I was thinking, do I need to restart my laptop? So do I prepare for a upcoming crash? Should sell my stocks and prepare for the end of the world?

This is what Webster's dictionary says about the word:
1 :  the final event of the dramatic action especially of a tragedy
2 :  a momentous tragic event ranging from extreme misfortune to utter overthrow or ruin
3a :  a violent and sudden change in a feature of the earth
3b :  a violent usually destructive natural event (as a supernova)
4 :  utter failure :  fiasco <the party was a catastrophe>
So basically my Folder view is like a:

  1. A tragedy...
  2. A 'violent' and 'destructive' end...
  3. An "Utter" failure...

On top of THAT... my only recourse or option is..

"press OK to continue"

Like everything is going to be OK after this Catastrophic event. 

No 'cancel'. No revert. No retry. No where to get additional help or error codes. No support logs. Nothing... 

...Go about my normal business. Move along. Nothing to see here... 

The 'error message' does not match the 'response'. It doesn't seem like an appropriate response. As an end-user (with my Design Thinking/Empathy hat on...) this would irk me. It's like it got me worked up for nothing!

But at last, thanks Microsoft! You made my day. =) Or at least you put a smile on my face... (To be fair, Microsoft isn't the only software vendor to have error messages like this. We all do it... we should just all do it less often...)

Bottom line: I'm going to think twice when I write my next error massage. That's for sure...

Hope that helps...

Wayne Pau

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Fun Topic: Cellphone Economics Part 2 (aka. WiFi iPad vs. 4G iPad)

So this is a follow-up to Part 1 in which I compared the iPhone 5 to iPod Touch, which was almost 1/2 the price. I got thinking and said, 'hey wait, the iPad comes in in WiFi and WiFi+4G versions', maybe we have a breakdown for that. Luckily, IHS/iSuppli has come through again:


So, when looking at the iPad 3, the main difference is the $41.50 modem. (I believe this is a Qualcomm Golbi, but it's not officially called out. For some reason it's about $3 more expensive than the one in the WiFi iPod Touch.) We also have a slightly more expensive Manufacturing cost, about $0.75, most likely from the need to mount and solder on the chip, maybe antenna, etc. The total difference is $42.25.

The simply math is that $42.25 allows Apple to charge $130 more. That's basically 3x or 308% markup. Compare that to the roughly $52 (Camera + 4G modem) that allows Apple to charge $420, that 8x or 807% mark-up when going from iPod Touch 5 to iPhone 5!. (This is one is "approximate" because I have costed it out totally electro-mechanical differences + labour cost, etc., unlike in the iPad 3). 

Clearly, there is a huge mark-up for making an iPod Touch 5 (entertainment device) into a iPhone 5 (cell phone). 

If you think this is the only place where Apple really gauges people, it's not. Another very obvious area is extra memory aka. NAND flash memory. (BTW, note that Apple isn't the only one to do this.)  For iPad 3 WiFi+4G, going from 16GB to 32GB, it's an additional $16.80, but an overall consume cost of $100, or basically 6x or 595% mark-up. Going from 16GB to 64GB it's an additional $50.40, but an overall consume cost of $200, or basically 4or 397% mark-up. (Note to self, if you're splurging, it's a better deal to go for the larger 64GB. You're paying less mark-up!)

I *think* this is a BIG reason why all iOS devices don't offer external storage via MicroSD slot is because it makes good business sense *not to*. The going rate today I think is about $50 for 64GB MicroSD. So on any Android with MicroSD slot you are only paying like 25% of the price (or $50 instead of $200) to get at least 64GB of (extra) memory (that you can re-use potentially later down the road). 

Andrew Rassweiler of IHS pretty much sums it up here:
“The NAND flash memory is one of the key profit-generating components for Apple in the new iPad line, as it has been in previous iPads and in the iPhone family,” Rassweiler noted. “Apple makes far and away more money in selling consumers NAND flash than NAND flash manufacturers make selling it to Apple. And the more flash in the iPad, the higher the profit margin there is for Apple.”
So while there may be concerns with security of having external storage, etc, Apple is definitely taking full advantage of the situation.

Hope that helps...

Wayne Pau.

p.s. So what *if* Apple did offer external storage like Android does? 

Once again with Android  (And from this post, it seems *a lot* actually do, if it supports SDXC, you could actually get even more memory than just 64MB. The specs say that SXDC can actually hold up to 2TB! Imagine a 2TB iPhone? No need for iPod Classic anymore...

However SD card storage comes at a cost. It's harder to manage from a software point of view and it's a potential security threat or attach point. Yet a big part of the real motivation for for Apple is 'possibly' economics.

For the record, HTC One line (everywhere but Asian) doesn't offer SD Card storage either. So it's not just Apple

Monday, 9 September 2013

Fun Topic: Cellphone Economics Part 1 (aka. iPhone vs. iPod pricing)

The question I've been asking myself lately is:

"Are cellphone prices heavily inflated?"

So a few weeks ago I had a posting about the rumoured iPhone 5C release and I had a link to IHS/iSuppli breakdown of the iPad Mini. That got me thinking (which is never a good thing...) as I was peeking around at the pricing of the latest generation of iPod Touches and compared that to iPhone 5.

  • iPod 5 Touch 16 GB - $229
  • iPhone 5 16 GB - $669 (unlocked)
Pricing from

 I was *shocked* (although I probably shouldn't have been) that you could get a iPod Touch 5, essentially get a iPhone 5 without the cellular part for less than HALF the price!

What is the *same*:

  • 4" retina display (1136x640 @ 326 PPI)
  • Almost identical bodies (iPhone is 7.6mm vs iPod 6.1mm)
  • FaceTime HD Camera (720p)
  • WiFi & BT connectivity
  • Apple EarPod headphones
What is *different*:
  • iPhone 5 has 8MP camera, iPod 5 has no camera (only 5MP on 32 + 64MB models)
  • Qualcomm Golbi MDM9615 4G LTE modem
I checked to see if IHS/iSuppli had a breakdown of the iPod 5 available for public consumption, but they did not. However I did find the iPhone 5, which I was at least a starting point to do some estimates on:


So... basically the total cost of iPhone is $199 in parts and $207 in BOM + Manufacturing in 2012. That's about 29.6% of $699 list price. Now if we subtract out the Golbi modem and camera, that's a simplistic subtraction of $52. That leaves $155, or 67.7% of the list price of $229. (Note: I image if I were cut everything we'd be closer to 50% mark... with lesser processor, etc)

That's *shocking*, that the margin on iPod is HALF of what it is on the iPhone.If we interpolated the same mark-up on iPod as the iPhone, we get $306, which is less than HALF again what the list price is. Now there may be more sub-par components in the iPod that I haven't caught cost-wise, but I can't image that you could get the BOM + Manufacturing costs below or around $100

(I'm actually more confident in that, after looking at the iPod Nano breakdown, which  IHS/iSuppli pegged at $43.73. This is with only 8MB and tiny display. There is $40 difference alone in LCD display and $6.45 in memory. That would put that almost at $90.20, and we aren't adding in more costs for bigger battery, WiFi and housing ,etc.)

What are looking at here then? I mean the iPod Touch is the closest thing to a cellphone without a cellular modem. Does this mean that Cellphone Companies and the ODMs are colluding together and inflating the prices of "smart-phones"?

This article from CNET had Luke Westaway discuss a very similar comparison with Asus. However I found the article somewhat unsatisfying considering I have the BOM breakdown in front of me from iPhone 5. Processor only accounts for less than 10% of the build cost.

Bottom line is that cellphones have a inherent "luxury" tax over non-cellular versions. This is probably driven by carriers who want very expensive phones that they can heavily subsidize with multi-year plans.  They want to sell you $700-$900 phones, it makes good business for them. 

Note (again): please understand that I am using information from IHS/iSuppli in my analyst which is by no means official pricing from Apple (as I doubt any exists). I have also made a lot of estimates and assumptions. This article was created for education or entertainment reasons *only*. 

Hope that helps...

Wayne Pau.

p.s. So what does that mean for someone frugal like me who might want a iOS device? (ie. for those Candy Crush Saga addicts...not me...personally, I'm OK with my current phone...) I'm wondering if you're better off with a $0 Android phone that you can share WiFi and buy a iPod 5 Touch. The main drawbacks are:

  • you won't have integrated calling and contact book 
  • you will have to carry 2x devices
  • you have to charge 2x devices

but you could be saving yourself like $400! Like you'd also save yourself some data charges as you're more likely to go free WiFi spots than tether to your Android Phone when given the chance @ Starbucks, etc.

I wonder what the carriers would do if everyone did this? Would that deflate or inflate usage charges as maybe more expensive handsets help off-set data, messanging and voice changes?

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Fun Topic: Hello Android Kit-Kat 4.4 (aka. Goodbye Key Lime Pie)

(Photo via TechCrunch)

Ok, so if you haven't heard already, Android 4.4 won't be called Key Lime Pie after all. Ironic because often Google isn't good at keeping it's name a secret and *everyone* I knew thought it was going to be Key Lime Pie. The photo via TechCrunch is Google lawn sculptures, which each represents a different Android version. It goes all the way back to original Android and first "dessert/junk-food" name in Cupcake (after that Donut, E-Clair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice-cream Sandwich and Jellybean).You can read about it on the Android Blog here. (Yes, Android with "A", but there is no "B". Cupcake was the next real release...)

Until now, I only heard a really good story that ICS was in-fact "what do you get when you mix Gingerbread and Honeycomb?" However, KitKat "takes-the-cake" as it's an actual license deal with a trade-mark with Nestle. What is even tastier is that this statue actually represents real KitKat bars that Nestle will produce in the near future (50 million branded packs and a smaller number of actual Android KitKat bars according to the press release).

Nestle Press Release

Talk about very cool promotion! If you want to know more, Google & Nestle have created a site to promote the new Android 4.4 O/S here:

Another really cool idea is that no money changed hands during this promotion. It's basically a "like-for-like" deal, so basically win-win for both Google and Nestle
We’ve reached out to Google for more information on exactly what the deal is here and it confirmed that no money changed hands between the two companies. This is apparently a like-for-like cross-promotion deal.
Bartering is one of the oldest forms of payment and often the most economical. Not sure when the last time I saw two super-brands come together like this and no money changed hands. Is this the first of new "super-deals", which are much like comic-book cross-overs which two brands come together for short-run promo or gimmick? 

A year ago could this have been Android 4.3 Jello-O, and we've seen Bill Cosby sporting the latest Android device? Eventually could there be Android 10 Twinkie

Bottom line, I wonder if in the future O/S versions may be up for naming rights like football stadiums? Or at least up for some co-marketing, cross product campaign. Would Apple even name the new Mac O/S after another product line?

We live in interesting times.

Hope that helps...

Wayne Pau.

p.s. Talking about Twinkies, turns out someone has a 36 year old Twinkie

Maybe because it's out of it's wrapper, but it's not as it was portrayed on Wall-e. The article states that it had the texture of Styrofoam and Hostess representative "who strenuously suggested that nobody eat the thing". However the *most* disturbing things was apparently there was mold on it, and eventually even the mold died off. 
It would be a mistake to say this Twinkie looks none the worse for wear. It reportedly has the consistency of Styrofoam, not to mention having acquired a fine coating of dust during its decades on top of the intercom. It even grew mold at one point, despite all the preservatives, although that’s long dead now.
Not sure I'll ever look @ Twinkie the same ever again. 

Fun Topic: Microsoft buys Nokia (what's left for RIM?)

(via CNET article)

The news just came out that Microsoft is buying Nokia. Or pretty much all of Nokia. Basically the cellular business and patents, while absorbing 32K employees, about a 1/3 of the current ~100K workforce. This is interesting news as a few weeks ago I was talking about Samsung + Intel's investment in Tizen. It almost seems that to be successful today, you need both write the OS *and* build/sell the hardware, in Apple type of model. RIM and Apple are still the only vendors that exclusively write an OS for their own hardware.

So the articles say that board met over 50 times to discuss the purchase and that it had been in works since Feb 2013 @ MWC. Ironic, because I believe that Microsoft maybe then was trying to lower the cost of buying Nokia, since they marginalized Lumina users by not offering a Windows Phone 8 upgrade. John C Dvorak @ PCMag gave a pretty scathing article that finished with this quote:
"But it is not just as smart. Rolling out Windows Phone 8 and screwing over its only real partner proves that."

Google did purchase Motorola Mobility in August 2012, but said it's intentions weren't to dominate the cellphone market, but rather offer more features faster and cheaper and have more patents to defend itself. This was clearly a campaign to Android ODMs that Google was not abandoning them and that they should keep on pushing Android products. For he most part it has worked because by far the only real Motorola Android device I've seen of significance is the Motorola Xoom which was the first Android Tablet. For me, Android has been mostly a landscape of Samsung and HTC devices, but that may be changed as I discussed here.

Microsoft will likely have to also calm HTC, Samsung and other Windows Phone makers, but I am not sure they will be not so calming as Google. Ina Fried @ All Things Digital wrote this article on the topic.

Many knew something was coming. As I wrote before as reason #4 for creating Tizen, Samsung and HTC are already paying Microsoft for every Android phone they sell, which is big part of the $220 million Microsoft says it's makes in mobile. You can see in my Samsung makes Android, Windows Phone & Bada phones, Windows Phone from IDC only accounts for 2.6% of the 2012Q4 market. Sadly I believe very little of this was from direct Windows Phones licensing.

If Microsoft want to turn things around, they needed to do something, and that's what they did. They bought the biggest Windows Phone ODM and will put their marketing machine behind it. I heard many times that if Windows Phone had Nokia hardware engineering and Microsoft Marketing, it could succeed. We'll see how right (or wrong) they were.

As I said in my 'What happened to Surface RT' article, obvious something went wrong with Microsoft's last foray into mobile hardware. It will be interesting to see what happens now with Nokia. Seems like it's doubling down after Surface RT failed, so we'll see if it's "good money after bad" or it's what saved Microsoft post-Ballmer.

So bottom line, if anyone thought that Microsoft would buy Blackberry, I think they are having second thoughts, as they are about $7 billion poorer and 32K employees larger. With 1/3 more employees (and overhead) and having spent that much capital, Microsoft is really "betting the farm" on mobility. It will need to justify that investment quickly.

Microsoft must see the writing on the wall that you just can't *only* be tops in the desktop/laptop/server O/S and BackOffice/Tools markets. This ZDNet articles says it has some cash-cows, but it must see mobility is where it needs to be 'long term'.

Hope that helps...

Wayne Pau.

p.s. Just random thoughts, but if Samsung is teaming up with Intel with TizenMicrosoft has purchased Nokia, has already been bought by Google and Apple is doing fine, I'm not sure there are suitors for Blackberry (as a whole). Maybe if an unlikely suitor like Oracle (or even IBM I guess) wants to get into the Mobile market? Dell seems have enough problems and HP/Compaq has had it's own share of issues. Maybe an Asian vendor like HTC, Huawei or ZTE will come up with the cash, as I was surprised when Lenovo purchased the personal computing business from IBM. The only other names out there are really Amazon and Facebook (who already has a pact with HTC, but it's reaper much reward from it...)? It will be interesting... I'll be paying close attention.

Here's Henry Blodgett @ Financial Post's take on the situation. Ironically #5 was bought by #6 on his list.