Nalini Muppala

Analysis, observations, perspectives on mobile space

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Written by Nalini Kumar Muppala

January 17, 2015 at 10:04 pm

Posted in Smartphone

Why is it called Apple Watch

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Apple announced a revolutionary product in Apple Watch. The name does not strike a cord for many. The dissatisfaction is palpable and understandable given the promise of a computer on wrist and the possibilities that enables. It will be much more than a watch. But why call it Apple Watch?

As Horace Dediu succinctly put

Apple product names are usually intuitive and convey the intended use directly. Just to pick a few: Numbers, Mail, iPhoto, Apple TV, Thunderbolt, Lightning – All these names make sense and convey the intended use directly. In light of this the name Apple Watch seems to be a disservice for the potential it shows.

However promising the prospects of iPhone might have been in 2007 it is hard for anyone to predict what would become of the iPhone a few years later. The killer apps for iPhone did not exist in 2007. Same goes for the Apple Watch in 2014.

What do you name a product when you do not clearly know what it would evolve into if you are used to naming products to convey exactly what they are meant for?

The safe bet is to name the product to convey the one essential function that is well defined, it will always do, and can be called upon to do anytime. For iPhone the essential/bare-minimum function guaranteed to always work is making phone calls. For Apple Watch it is telling time.

Horace Dediu reminds us of the Tentpoles around which iPhone and Apple Watch were launched

When the iPhone launched, Steve Jobs introduced it as being three products in one:

– A wide-screen iPod
– A phone
– A breakthrough internet communicator

When the Apple Watch launched, Tim Cook introduced it as being three things:

– A precise timepiece
– A new, intimate way to communicate
– A comprehensive health and fitness device.

Of the three tentpoles for iPhone only the phone part is a novelty in an apple product and well defined – Phone part of iPhone works the same way since day one. Although it would be a disservice to the product, an iPhone can be used just as a phone. iPod functionality existed in the iPod. Internet communicator functionality was not well defined – at least not the way it would power novel applications a few years down the line. It seems natural that Apple would name this product Phone.

Of the three tentpoles for Apple Watch only the timepiece part is well defined and guaranteed to work the same way from day one. Timepiece functionality is a novelty in an Apple product. Timepiece functionality will not improve significantly – Accuracy within 15 msec is way more than good enough. The other two tentpoles do not pass this test: intimate communication device and health/fitness device parts are far from well defined and will see significant improvements in future version. It seems natural that Apple would name this product Watch.

Now does it make sense to call them iPhone, Apple Watch?

Written by Nalini Kumar Muppala

October 4, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Posted in Smartphone

Instacart, Soylent, hobbies

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Every week I go on a trip to the local grocery stores to stock up the kitchen and the fridge. Most of the time I have to go to multiple stores – this is partly because some of what I want is available only in a particular store; and partly from observations on quality, pricing differences on items that are available at multiple stores. I understand this behavior is common. Most people do this weekly ritual on weekends. Stores plan for the rush on weekends and are often not as well stocked on the lean days. While the economy is attuned to this man-made construct called work-week and weekends, mother nature treats all days equally. Vegetables, flowers and fruits do not plan backwards from weekends and account for transportation and harvesting.

I have often wondered what a waste of time these weekly grocery trips are, more so if the day thus far had not been very productive. I am sure many have felt this way and wondered if there was a way out.

People pay for convenience. The folks at Instacart, and investors like Andresseen-Horowitz are betting that enough people will pay for this convenience.

Several questions arise:

  • Does the typical shopper buy groceries from one store?
  • Given that Instacart charges by the store “For most stores, delivery in under 2 hours is just $3.99” Will someone hire Instacart for several stores?
  • Will someone hire Instacart several times a week for the same store to get fresher produce?

Routines and rituals punctuate our lives. I enjoy the time when the whole family goes on these grocery trips. Such trips are clearly marked during the week. May be I am in the minority.

I see the benefit of services like Instacart in saving time and effort for many people. Even to this day households in many parts of the world buy vegetables and fruits from hawkers. May the developed world is going back to the convenience of getting produce right from home; services like Instacart provide an added convenience of choosing from a much bigger selection than the vendor can transport on a cart.

That brings me to the next topic doing rounds in my head in recent days: Soylent.

Food is integral to culture – at least so far. We make plans for social gatherings around food. Ceremonies are commemorated with elaborate feasts. Countless conversations end with “How about we meet for lunch sometime next week.?” It reminds me of the famous The New Yorker cartoon. “How about never — Is never good for you?”

People point out that food cannot be replaced by a concoction like Soylent and that it is doomed to fail. Not every meal is conversational, socializing, etc., Just ask how many meals are eaten alone at the desk. Chris Dixon put it succintly.

The mistake in this analysis of Soylent haters is that Soylent will replace food completely. As Balaji Srinivasan pointed out, Soylent will not be a substitue for all food in the near future or may be never. Soylent can substitute snicker bars or milk shakes that go between meals. It is highly unlikely Soylent will replace entire meals for anyone outside the die-hard fans. Soylent will definitely not replace grilling with friends at the local park or the family dinner or the dinner at a friend’s house. It does not have to. The job that Soylent addresses is satisfying hunger quickly, possibly lonely meals.

I am not convinced that food can be replaced by a concoction of checmical ingredients. The reason is that we can only test and create synthetically what we know about food.

Societies evolve. Daily affairs of lore are now hobbies. Eg: hunting, running, grilling, gardening, camping. Will trips to the grocery stores and cooking for oneself go this way? I am not convinced.8

Written by Nalini Kumar Muppala

June 25, 2014 at 7:15 am

Posted in Smartphone

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Workspaces On Tablets

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Tablet computers are shared much more than desktop or laptop computers. However, there is no privacy or individual workspace on a tablet. Tablets have lacked the individual logins available in desktop and laptop computers.

I understand there are resource constraints on Tablets. I am eager to see the day when TouchID will be used to recognize the user and show the applications associated with the user. Even if this provision is not full scale, it would immensely help parents who share a Tablet with children to limit what the children can access.

Apps are silos. We can limit the silos available to individual users.

Written by Nalini Kumar Muppala

March 16, 2014 at 7:33 am

Posted in Devices

Digital Camera Trend in 2013

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Here is a visualization of the annual update from CIPA Japan. Updates from previous years are here, here and here.





And the score card


Written by Nalini Kumar Muppala

February 3, 2014 at 11:47 pm

Posted in Smartphone


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Almost three years ago I wrote on how asking to pay for a physical book and e-book separately was double charging. Amazon announced Kindle MatchBook. It is still not giving e-book for free with a physical book. It is close enough.

Written by Nalini Kumar Muppala

September 9, 2013 at 9:40 pm

Posted in Smartphone

Nokia As A Toyota: Branding And Disruptive Innovation

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Should Nokia have split itself into an incumbent chasing high end smartphones and a disruptor that seeks to bring smartphones to the masses?

Segmenting the market according to user needs, profitability and product capabilities is not new. The automobile industry, for example, has been there — and has taught us a few lessons on the necessity of focus in the process. The big three auto makers in the US had stretched the branding too thin (primarily through retaining acquisitions as independent brands) and had segmented the market to such unsustainable levels that they had to jettison some brands (for e.g., Ford offloaded Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover) to focus on profitability.

Toyota has been a beacon in segmenting the market according to demographics. The Lexus brand symbolizes luxury, Toyota symbolizes reliability and economy. Sensing that the average age of Toyota owner was 47, Toyota spanned a new brand Scion to address the youth segment.

The phone business in contrast has been a monolithic branding endeavor. Whereas an Apple phone or a Blackberry phone signifies luxury and sophistcation, a Nokia phone or a Motorola phone could be a cheap device or a high end smartphone. Nokia could have started a trend.

As Horace Dediu summarized in a series of articles analyzing Nokia’s partnership with Microsoft, Nokia had to address issues on several fronts: low ASP, unattractive margins, lack of focus, high development costs. Nokia abandoned Symbian in favor of Windows Phone, effectively rendering itself to be a high end player given the high costs of hardware required for Windows Phone.

Nokia has an installed base of 250 million users. Agreed that the platform stickiness is not a big factor, and the current installed base does not guarantee loyal customers in the future. A majority of Nokia’s installed base is from the poor and developing economies. Every one seems to agree that, in the near future, a majority of phones would be smartphones. Who will bring smartphones to the masses?

ZTE and other low cost handset vedors seem to have the momentum at the moment. In his famous burning platform internal memo to employees, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop indicated pressure from low cost manufacturers producing devices based on chips from the likes of MediaTek.

At the lower-end price range, Chinese OEMs are cranking out a device much faster than, as one Nokia employee said only partially in jest, “the time that it takes us to polish a PowerPoint presentation.” They are fast, they are cheap, and they are challenging us.

According to Clayton Christensen‘s theory of Disruptive Innovation, disruptors start off serving customers currently unserved by the incumbents. The poor and the masses are currently unserved by the smartphone vendors.

Should Nokia chase profits at the high end or address low cost handset vendors eating into its installed base? One solution offered for the Innovators Dilemma is to span a separate unit that is independent and is focused on serving the currently unserved. Why did Nokia not take this path?

Written by Nalini Kumar Muppala

February 23, 2011 at 7:34 am

Posted in Smartphone, Theory

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