FryUp: Firefoxed thrice

The Main Alternative Browser still suffers from some teeth-itching quirks like excessive memory usage, but in most other ways, there's no good reason not to use it.

- Waegu gin dir en hangu ma leu mo tam ni da

- Firefoxed thrice

Waegu gin dir en hangu ma leu mo tam ni da

Minister Cunliffe has been in South Korea, it seems, wearing his Comms hat and talking at a summit on broadband there. That's not an enviable task, if you think about it: essentially, Cunliffe had to say in his speech that we got it wrong, waited too long and really, compared to the likes of Korea, we're not there yet.

He did so rather well, I thought. Even so, an air of frustration with the slow progress here, while much of the world races on, is apparent in Cunliffe's speech. Policies, regulations, incentives and initiaves galore don't seem to deliver if you rely on the private sector to do something that's in the public interest.

Building networks ourselves would, but both Labour and National appear to be ideologically opposed to that course of action.

Still in Asia, Commsday reports from Singapore that Telecom's general manager of international, Anthony Briscoe, slagged off the upcoming Kordia-Pipe Networks PPC-2 link betwen NZ and Australia. It will only bring more capacity to a route that's already over-served in that respect, Briscoe said. He says, and should know about these things, that New Zealand traffic accounts for a mere seven per cent of Telecom's half-owned Southern Cross Cable.

Pipe's managing director Bevan Slattery hit back at Briscoe, revealing that Telecom was at one stage working with his company on building a second trans-Tasman link. Yep, that link would be in direct competition with the SCC. Unfortunately, Slattery didn't expound on the reasons for Telecom wanting a second link to Oz. He did say that New Zealand international transit is fifty per cent dearer than the Australian equivalent though. The reason for this? "... New Zealanders ... are currently subject to monopoly pricing for capacity..."

Quite.

- Shock report ranks New Zealand 38th for broadband

- Firefoxed thrice

I do like Firefox 3. The Main Alternative Browser still suffers from some teeth-itching quirks like excessive memory usage, but in most other ways, there's no good reason not to use it. Well, unless you must frequent a poorly-coded site that only works with Internet Explorer of course.

Thanks to a whole bunch of usability improvements, I feel very much at home in Firefox 3. And, it's faster than versions 2 as well. Probably a bit quicker than IE7, I'd say, but would need to test it properly before I say for certain.

Now that the gimmicky "Download Day" is over, you should be able to get a copy of Firefox 3 for your operating system. Do it, you won't regret it.

- Firefox 3 "Download Day" cripples Mozilla site

- Firefox 3 vulnerability found

- New Firefox downloaded 8 million times in a day

- Infoworld Test Centre: Firefox 3 comes out sizzling

XKCD

Cartoon: www.xkcd.com

Robert X Cringely

MeMobile, You Kaput: Apple's plan to take over the world

As widely predicted, Steve Jobs this week introduced at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference the iPhone 3G that was first reported in this column late last year. The $199 price was a welcome surprise but shouldn't have been given Apple's confident predictions that it would sell 10 million iPhones by the end of the year. That's four million more by Christmas in up to 70 countries, so the numbers make sense. Apple, which holds its sales estimates pretty close to the vest, had to do something like this in order to remain the darling of Wall Street. But you know what was the REAL big news in Jobs' keynote? Not his apparent poor health, which I have to admit concerns plenty of people, and for good reason. No, the big news was MobileMe, Apple's Microsoft Killer.

Huh?

Watch the recorded video of the speech (it is among this week's links) at around 1:10 when Phil Schiller takes the stage. He demonstrates a lot of stuff, mainly push e-mail and calendaring, but also a suite of web applications for remotely accessing user data and metadata held in MobileMe, the successor to Apple's .Mac service. He doesn't show a word processor, doesn't show a database or a spreadsheet, and doesn't show a presentation program. In short, he doesn't show the guts of any networked office-type application. He shows applications that are actually far more sophisticated than any of those.

Given the code Apple already has for its iWork applications, how much more effort would it take to webify those apps, too? Not much, I'd say. A year from now I guarantee you that MobileMe will offer a complete suite of web-based Office applications.

Now let's get back to that Microsoft-killing part. Microsoft's success is based on two products and only two products -- Windows and Office. Microsoft is obsessed with the idea that Google will undermine one or both of those monopolies through Google Apps. This is all Steve Ballmer thinks about and is what made him so eager to spend $40+ billion for Yahoo. But what if the real threat isn't Google at all, but Apple?

In every business there is some version of the 80-20 rule that says 80 percent of the business comes from 20 percent of the customers. Smart businesses do whatever they can to play to that powerful 20 percent. If you are a new CEO who needs to turn around a business 10 minutes after walking through the door, there are two things you can do: 1) cut costs, and 2) focus on your top 20 percent customers. That's it -- you are now a turnaround expert and I grant you an honorary MBA.

There's another kind of company, however, that applies the 80-20 rule in a different manner and Apple is one of those companies. They aim everything they do at that top 20 percent and ignore the rest. Sometimes you hit a home run and get 75 percent market share, like Apple did with the iPod and iTunes, but I can guarantee you the business plan was aimed at taking 20 percent, tops, and making a good living with that.

There are other companies that take a similar market approach to Apple, but few of them are in the computer business. BMW and Porsche are good examples.

What if Porsche were in the software business. What sort of word processor would Porsche build in 2008? It would be distributed, network-based, have central file storage and an elegant user interface. That's the key to what Steve Jobs does all day: he sits around and asks questions like, "If Porsche made a media player, what would it be like?" That's it -- you are now qualified to replace Steve Jobs at Apple on days when he's away making trouble for Disney.

There are two delightful aspects of applying the 80-20 rule in this manner. For one, the 20 percent market -- if that's all that you are aiming for -- tends not to be price-sensitive. That market is willing to pay something for elegance or convenience, but better still for elegance AND convenience. That's how Apple could charge $99 per year for .Mac and for the successor to .Mac, MobileMe. There is at least $60 in profit for Apple hiding inside that $99 price.

The second delightful aspect of Apple's application of the 80-20 rule is that Microsoft can't do the same thing. Microsoft can't compete. Bill Gates made the decision decades ago to go for market share -- for the 80 percent part of the 80-20 rule or -- better still -- for all 100 percent. And it looked for a while like he might get his way, until Apple was reborn.

If Microsoft gets only 20 percent of any market it enters, they consider that effort a failure and it would be, because Microsoft's business is scaled and its cost structure is optimized for really, really big numbers of mindless and fairly undemanding customers, most of whom wouldn't pay $99 per year.

That takes care of Microsoft, but here's the real beauty of this Apple strategy: it takes care of Google, too.

Though Google has a very different approach than Microsoft does to almost every product and market segment, in this one aspect they are identical. Google, too, aims for maximal market share, which means they can't expect customers to pay and their cost structure has to be maintained such that they make a profit without being paid.

Which leaves a lucrative niche all to Apple.

Now let's jump back to the automobile analogy and look at Porsche, which is presently buying Volkswagen. This is probably a stupid move on Porsche's part, but makes the point that smaller, highly profitable companies can develop the kind of financial power needed to take over vastly larger, if more poorly run kinda-sorta competitors like Volkswagen.

Nearly everyone who tries it is going to LOVE MobileMe, which Apple -- calling it "Microsoft Exchange for the rest of us" -- will madly market to small and medium-sized businesses, of which there are six million in the U.S. alone. Those outfits will buy iPhones, MobileMe accounts, and eventually Macs and MacBooks for their workers. IPhone enterprise customers will do the same. Organizations that find Google Apps too hard to use (have you actually tried to build a wiki using Google Sites? I have and it is HARD - far worse than using JotSpot, from which Sites supposedly evolved) or aren't big enough for Exchange will buy MobileMe instead and never look back.

And that's just in the U.S. What about those other 69 countries that will have iPhone service by the end of the year and the 62 that will allow Apple's App Store?

This will become a juggernaut driven not by the iPhone, not by the Mac, not by Apple's media distribution business, but equally by ALL THREE businesses.

There are ways it could be made even better. For example, the smartest thing Apple could do with its cash hoard right now would probably be to buy SalesForce.com and fold that into MobileMe, instantly taking the high ground among the road warrior set.

Steve Jobs is brilliant and patient. He has a plan and is executing on it to perfection. Bill Gates couldn't pick a better time to retire and let someone else take the fall.

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