WE Technology, Strategy & Business

WE Technology, Strategy & Business is a part of the greater Weekend Economist, which is an interactive space aimed at being both a source of information and a place for discussion on developing stories related to Economics, Business, Technology, Finance and Geo-politics. Please feel free to post your comments and/or send us your own articles for publication by contacting us at weekendeconomist@gmail.com. Also, if there is a relevant topic you would like us to write about, please ask and we will be glad to meet your request. Finally, our other two blogs, the flagship Weekend Economist "Quaerere Verum" and The World Beyond The Weekend Economist, might be of interest as well. We hope you enjoy our site(s), Benjamin Valk & Jeroen van Bommel.

Monday, April 16, 2007

"Phony Leopard"

For a device that's aiming to get only 1% of market share, Apple sure has committed a lot of resources to the iPhone. Is this surprising? Hardly. Apple's change of strategy was reflected at this years Macworld when Apple changed its name from Apple Computers to just Apple. Allthough this went fairly unnoticed by most people, many Apple users are realizing that it's becoming a sour bite.

The delay of Leopard makes Apple's previous rants (redwood start your photocopiers) all the more ironic, including all the previous Microsoft Vista bashing. Furthermore, the delay comes at a critical juncture in consumer computing. Just when Apple could have offered consumers a "new, fresh and better" choice in the world of computing, Apple put it's chips in a futuristic, over-hyped phone device that is still months away from release. Not that the iPhone is a bad product, but Apple may have made a grave strategic error in terms of priority.

What Apple should have done, is committed the resources and attention needed for a timely release of Leopard, iWork and other Apple software in need of an update. To make matters worse, at last year's developers conference, the general public was made hungry for the then up and coming release of Leopard. Apple's failing to deliver, first in February, then March and now who knows when, clearly shows the rest of the computing world that Apple has "dropped the ball."

A new OS coupled with an updated macbook or other computing products would have had a much more positive impact for Apple's market share and most of all for consumers. Apple is a goodwill driven company, much of its core users are a fairly loyal community of professionals and students willing to pay a premium for quality. It is this community that Apple is now alienating by becoming a company of hype, rather than delivery. Even if I am going to be one of many standing in line for the new iPhone, consciously, I would have been much happier with a new release of Leopard, iWork and iLife.

The problem with leopard is probably twofold. One is that Apple probably has over concentrated on the iPhone and sapped the leopard project of the engineering resources and talent needed to finish a project of such magnitude. Secondly is that Apple is simply getting nervous living up to the hype and expectation of Leopard. Even if there was a releasable beta that could be passed off as a Leopard release candidate, it would have had to live up to enormous expectation. Vista for all it's flaws is a solid looking piece of functional eye candy and Ubuntu is also catching up, so anything Apple releases better be pretty damn flawless and revolutionary. That is quite a burden of expectation to live up to. In that regard the iPhone comes as both a timely reason and excuse to delay the "undelayable."

Technology, Demographics and Lay Trading

After the boom and bust around the turn of the century, it seemed that small discount brokerages would be hard pressed to survive. Many professionals and amateurs alike got burned as the markets retreated after 9/11 and the bursting of the tech bubble. In recent years we are witnessing a clear uptrend in the use and popularity of discount brokerages. "Amateur" investors are once again rushing to the market place and there is some hefty wooing going on to attract those flushed with enough cash.

We are now witness to the rise of a new kind of investor. This new kind of investor is an active trader that has become known as a "day trader." These are mainly amateurs and semi-professionals who play the short term markets in various ways, be it by trading in commodities, currency markets, using leveraged products, futures or options. Often it is a retired professional with some knowledge of financial markets. Then there are also the "early" retirees (late 40's, early 50's) who are using day trading to supplement their income and financially secure their retirement. The new day trader community is a mixed bag of complete amateurs, gamblers and semi-professionals alike.

The recent upswing in US and Global markets has provided ample money making opportunities for this group of day traders, which has lead to an increasing number of amateurs joining their ranks. By sheer word of mouth, the success of Joe the neighbor, who sits at home making "easy" bucks, is a fairy tale concept that is capturing the imagination of many. We could coin a new term for this growing class, namely "lay traders." This is a play on the words "layman" and "trader," put together in the same way that the term "day trader" is. Lay traders are amateur traders who try their luck on short term market fluctuations. It is true that even aspiring lay traders can make money in bullish markets. But what will happen to these traders when markets turn bearish?

The democratization of trading is not going to be a blessing for everyone. In fact, there is a significant risk that these new lay traders could overexpose themselves to risks that their financial situation does not allow for. The smell of easy money is one that has the potential to blind even the most experienced and confident investors. The end of the tech bubble has shown the devastating effect that declining markets can have on traders. Significant financial damage was caused to countless traders who lost their entire savings, sometimes in a matter of months. The threat of losing all they own is a serious reality for today's bullish day traders.

Technology has been a critical aspect with respect to providing near professional real-time trading tools for the aspiring lay trader. The technology transfer from the professional market makers to the amateur trader has the same potential as what blogging offers traditional media. The paradigm in creation has the potential to create a small hurricane in the traditional brokerage and trading community.

However, discount brokerages always expand in boom times, only to sound a hasty retreat when markets go down. The same could very well happen to the growing "lay trading" community. On the other hand, when the market goes down, only the most able and skilled traders will remain, weeding out the amateurs and speculators blinded by easy money. Perhaps this is nothing more than a healthy, Darwinist example of "survival of the fittest." Either way, "laytraders" are here to stay, driven in part by demography, technology as well as a human hunger for more than it can safely devour.

Friday, April 13, 2007

iPhone Mania: Is it Worth the Wait?

Honestly, who wasn't "wowed" when uncle Steve presented Apple's latest "wannahave" the iPhone. After months of intense speculation and a successful bid at maintaining secrecy Apple did reveal the iPhone. Unfortunately Apple and gadget lovers alike will still have to wait a few months before they can get their hands on one.

Even the most grumpiest geek will admit that the iPhone clearly has some great features packed into (it seems) a very enjoyable user interface. However, if we look purely at features, then there is really not that much worth waiting for. Most Sony, LG, Motorola, Blackberry and Nokia phones come fairly close feature wise. Secondly, those phones are available now, and are in almost all cases cheaper then the iPhone. Thirdly there is also the battery life issue, some people have claimed that it is absolutely abysmal. The iPhone will become most definitly a city slickers whanahave and really not be very useful for people on long journeys. Will Apple also supply a mobile power generator for recharging their device? They could call it the iPower or iCharge for all it matters.

All this waiting for the iPhone is making a hungry public hungrier. Let's hope that the iPhone can live up to its expectations without too many stomach aches: at 500$ price tag it surely is hurting my pocket. But what about 25% of America's Teenagers who confessed to wanting an iPhone? How are they going to cough up the cash to buy an iPhone? Even if the iPhone is more hype than product, Apple sure can expect to make a lot of money. And maybe...just maybe they'll come up with something that will solve that prickly battery life issue.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Nintendo and Apple: A Match Made in Heaven

Let's face it; Nintendo and Apple are two of the hottest companies in the world at the moment. And from a consumer electronics perspective, both Apple and Nintendo have a tasty lineup of great innovative products.

From a product synergy perspective, both have a lot to offer one another. This would also be inherently better for the consumer. Apple is quite deficient in the gaming arena and Nintendo would love a slice of the digital media sphere. Imagine if Osx would be compatible with Wii games, throw in complete Wiimote functionality and you've got yourself a great combination.
Also, a marriage between the Wii and the Apple TV could render the ultimate consumer product. An AppleWii tv would give consumers an ultimate all in one device.

Secondly, a merged product that takes the best from Ipod and Nintendo DS could create a fantastic consumer entertainment product, essentially outfoxing Microsoft and Sony in one swift move. When you think about it, an Apple Nintendo marriage really doesn't sound that strange. Infact, I would love to see a "DSpod".

One question remains: who would benefit the most from such a partnership? For the consumer it's a 100% home run. For Apple it would be a great opportunity to add more value and diversity to their current product lineup. Furthermore, it would earn them big time kudos with the gaming community. On a personal note, I would love to use the wii-mote for presentations in keynote. Just imagine the possibilities or using two wii-motes to lay down a drum part in your garageband. Forget guitarhero, what about the drumsmaster deluxe?