Well, what a week it’s been. Apart from bankers proving, once and for all, as if we really needed the proof, that they really do match up to their Cockney rhyming slang name, The Stone Roses returned and were, if I do say so myself, triumphant.
But outside the world of middle-aged men cashing in their chips, and Bob Diamond, what’s been happening in the world of tech?
It’s The Content, Stupid
These days it’s becoming hard to keep up with all the tech companies rumoured to be on the verge of releasing a phone, TV, or some other high-tech consumer product. Facebook’s releasing a phone. Google’s releasing a home-entertainment system. No, Amazon’s releasing a phone and Google’s releasing a tablet.
Oh, I give up.
But why would all of these companies, who currently make their money in ways other than shipping product, want to get into manufacturing (even if it is through a third party)? Well, the answers are myriad, but in many cases, it’s down to content. Because what’s fascinating about Apple, is that through its iTunes store, it has essentially locked millions of people into owning its products.
Whilst using an iPhone (or iPod) doesn’t mean that you have to use iTunes, or vice versa, it certainly makes life much easier if you do. And the reason that this works so well, other than the fact that Apple have categorically shown, particularly through the app store, that people really don’t mind making micropayments, is because Apple has a pretty impressive library of content, through its deals with the record and movie labels, as well as its flourishing app developer eco-system.
And it’s with this in mind that we should look again at a few of the last couple of week’s stories:
- Amazon’s phone would come with the entire Kindle library at is disposal, as well as, in certain major markets (US & UK), the ability to download music & movies.
- Google has only managed to sign deals with the labels in the US, so its decision to launch its new tablet in the UK means that it will be a cheap tablet, but an expensive way of not doing much with that tablet.
- The long-awaited launch of YouView, 5 years after it was originally mooted in 2007, when it probably would have been revolutionary, means that you can now pay £300 to access content you can probably already find on other devices you already own.
Meanwhile, of course, Apple keeps on printing money before
squireling it away in off-shore havens carefully investing it. And the real irony? As was pointed out this week (and I kind of noted last week), for Apple, the iTunes revenue is a bit like funny money – the real cash is in hardware, and it uses its (free) software to make that hardware redundant, so that you have to buy a new one.
Black & Blue Berry
Meanwhile, away from the world of succesful tech companies deciding what product to release next (and YouView), a lot of attention was focussed on RIM, the makers of BlackBerry, previously the ‘smartphone’ of choice for businesspeople and rioting teenagers alike.
The pronouncement by RIM’s CEOThorsten Heins that his company isn’t in a “death spiral”, was met with widespread derision by the tech blogosphere. After all, the company has seen its share price plummet, shed a chunk of its workforce, and can’t seem to do right for doing wrong, all on the back of delays to the launch of its new operating system.
Now comes news that RIM might be about to lose another big chunk of revenue, if reports that mobile carriers are insisting on a reduction in the fees RIM charges them to use its server infrastructure are true. All of this has left many wondering whether there is any hope for RIM, or whether it should just sell itself off, either in parts or as a whole.
But having said all that, reports of a company’s death have been greatly exaggerated in the past. After all, back in 1997, it was commonly agreed that a once-great tech company, with its shares at an all time low, was basically toast. Indeed, Michael Dell famously said of the company in question:
I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders
Who was he talking about? Apple. If they could come back from the brink, maybe RIM can as well. Now all they need to do is find their very own Steve Jobs. Excuse me if I don’t hold my breath.
I’ll leave you with a wonderful synchronisation of music and tech, and more proof that many of Britain’s finest musicians get better with age: blur’s new songs, premièred on Twitter.
You can now view last night's performance on Vevo/Youtube – Here is Under the Westway http://t.co/Eg8m3ACg … out now on iTunes RT
— blur (@blurofficial) July 3, 2012
… and here is The Puritan (live) http://t.co/9ZuxHVG8 RT
— blur (@blurofficial) July 3, 2012
If you have any thoughts on these issues, or anything you’d like covered in a future digest, please do leave a comment, drop me a line on ciarannorris at gmail dot com, or tweet me.