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How design beats functionality in Technology



Philip W Schiller, Apple’s vice president for marketing, strode across the stage of the California Theater in San Jose last week trumpeting the virtues of new Apple products. As he caressed the side of the latest iMac personal computer, he noted how thin it was – 5 millimeters, 80 percent thinner than the last one. Then he said, with an air of surprise, as if he had just thought of it: “Isn’t itamazing how something new makes the previous thing instantly look old?”

Umm, yes, Mr Schiller, you design your products that way. It is part of a strategy that Apple has perfected. How else can the company persuade people to replace their perfectly fine iPhone, iPad, iMac and iEverything else year after year?

In the past, electronics makers could convince consumers that the design was different, because it actually was. The first iMac, for example, was a blue bubble. Then it looked like a desk lamp, and now it is a rectangular sheet of glass with the electronics hidden behind it. The iPod designs changed, too, over time, before they became progressively smaller sheets of glass.

Certainly makers add features like better cameras or tweak the software – Siri and Passbook on theiPhone are examples of that for Apple – to persuade people to upgrade. But in the last few years, consumer electronics have started to share one characteristic, no matter who makes them: They are all rectangles. Now, companies like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Google need to persuade consumers to buy new rectangles once a year.

“This phenomenon happened to the TV manufacturers a few years ago. They all started to look the same: flat panels on a wall,” said Donald A Norman, author of “The Design of Everyday Things.”

The consequences for manufacturers were disastrous. “Customers no longer had to buy the higher-end Sony model; instead, they could get the cheaper, Chinese one,” Norman said. “This is what today’s companies are scared of. Turn off the screen on a smartphone or tablet and they look identical. They’re just rectangles.”

Each year, Apple and other companies seem to put those rectangles in a vise, flatten them slightly, alter the exterior dimensions and showcase them as the next big, or little, thing. (Apple did not comment on its design strategy.)

This was not always the case. As a child I remember exploring my father’s Minolta film camera – a camera from the mid-1950s that was given to him by his father. Although film cameras are now for the most part obsolete, you can bet that camera can still take 36 pictures without a hitch.

Yet can you imagine, 10 years from now, someone handing a child an iPad Mini, the latest Apple gadget? They would scoff, just as people do today when they see an older – 2 or 3 years old – version of the iPhone.

There is a term for all of this: “planned obsolescence,” which was popularised in the 1950s by Brooks Stevens, an industrial designer who specialised in making new cars. Briskly adopted by post-war consumer goods industries, the strategy coaxed Americans to sell their 1955 Cadillacs for the 1956 Cadillacs with their pronounced tail fins, and then the 1957s with even more exaggerated fins, and then ’58s, ’59s and so on.

Stevens’ term was often misinterpreted as meaning things were designed to fall apart on a regular schedule. But he believed that true upgrades and design changes would make people want to buy the latest thing. That still holds true in this era, when consumers are supposedly wary of the hucksterism of manufacturers. If you don’t upgrade to the latest iPhone or iPad, you fear you may look dated and clueless, even though the rational part of your brain says, “This is a perfectly fine, useful device.”

Consumer electronics companies, Norman noted, have adopted the same marketing techniques the automobile industry perfected decades ago.

“This is an old-time trick – they’re not inventing anything new,” he said. “Yet it’s to the detriment of the consumer and the environment, but perhaps to the betterment of the stockholder.”

He added: “For Apple, you forgot the other trick: change the plugs!” While the rest of the electronics industry has adopted micro-USB ports, Apple just changed the proprietary ports and plugs on all of its latest devices – laptops, iPads and iPhones included.

Even so, my first iPod still plays music. My laptop from four years ago can still browse the Web. And my first e-readers can still display books.

It seems some consumers are starting to feel upgrade fatigue. There is no lift in PC sales, and people are owning them longer. A report by Recon Analytics, a market research firm, found that people around the globe were waiting longer to buy new mobile phones. In 2007, Americans upgraded their phones every 18.7 months on average; three years later, that number had stretched to 21.1 months. In Finland, people now wait 74.5 months to upgrade, compared with 41.8 months in 2007.

Maybe Schiller’s comment about the iMac isn’t how consumers see it anymore. Instead, people are starting to realise that these upgraded products are simply flatter rectangles that don’t really offer much more than the last model. Just like the tail fins on the ’56 Cadillac.

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4G SIM में चलेगा 5G या खरीदना होगा नया सिम कार्ड और फोन: जानिए हर सवाल का जवाब




5G launch होने के बाद कई लोग सोच रहे होंगे कि अब 4G SIM card का क्या करें? और 4G Phone का क्या? क्या उन्हें फेंकने और 5G पर स्विच होने का समय आ गया है? यदि आपके मन में भी ये सवाल उठ रहे हैं, तो पढ़ें

भारत में प्रधान मंत्री नरेंद्र मोदी ने आज आधिकारिक तौर पर 5G launch कर दिया है। आने वाले कुछ सालों में पूरे भारत में 5G services मिलना शुरू हो जाएंगी। रिलायंस जियो के साथ एयरटेल ने बताया कि जल्द ही 5G सर्विसेस को देशभर में रोलआउट किया जाएगा। भारत में 5G तेज इंटरनेट स्पीड लो लेटेंसी, साथ ही साथ विश्वसनीय कनेक्टिविटी जैसी सुविधाएं प्रदान करेगा। ऐसे में कई लोग सोच रहे होंगे कि अब 4G सिम कार्ड का क्या करें? क्या उन्हें दूर करने और 5G को पूरी तरह से अपनाने का समय आ गया है? और उन पुराने 4G स्मार्टफोन का क्या? क्या उन्हें दूर फेंकने और 5G कनेक्टिविटी पर स्विच करने का समय आ गया है? यदि आपके मन में भी ये सवाल उठ रहे हैं और आप कंफ्यूजन की स्थिति में हैं, तो यहां वह सब कुछ है जो आपको जानना आवश्यक है।

भारत में 5G लॉन्च, क्या अब 4G सिम कार्ड फेंकने का समय आ गया है?

– नहीं, फिलहाल कुछ सालों तो बिल्कुल नहीं! 5G के आने के बावजूद, 4G LTE है जो भारत के टेलीकम्युनिकेशन इंफ्रास्ट्रक्चर की रीढ़ बना रहेगा। अगले दो सालों में, एयरटेल और जियो जैसे दूरसंचार ऑपरेटर जितना संभव हो सके अपने 5G नेटवर्क का विस्तार करेंगे। तब तक, आपका 4G सिम कार्ड आज की तरह ही काम करता रहेगा।

– 5G अपने शुरुआती दिनों में उतना विश्वसनीय और आसानी से उपलब्ध नहीं होगा जितना आज 4G है। 5G केवल कुछ ही पॉकेट में उपलब्ध होगा, वह भी कुछ ही शहरों में। इसलिए, आपको कुछ क्षेत्रों में केवल 5G स्पीड मिलेगी और 4G वह है जिस पर उद्योग बाकी क्षेत्रों के लिए निर्भर करेगा।

– एयरटेल का कहना है कि उसके 4G सिम कार्ड यूज करने वाले ग्राहक बिना सिम कार्ड बदले 5G सर्विसेस का उपयोग तब कर सकेंगे, जब सर्विस उनके क्षेत्र में एक्टिवेट हो जाएगी। इसलिए आपको अपना 4G सिम कार्ड बिल्कुल भी फेंकना नहीं चाहिए। जियो ने अभी तक इस पर कोई स्पष्टीकरण जारी नहीं किया है।

– हम नहीं जानते कि भारत में 5G सर्विसेस की कीमत कितनी होगी। ऑपरेटरों ने संकेत दिया है कि भारत में 4G सर्विसेस की तुलना में 5G थोड़ा अधिक महंगा है और इसलिए अधिकांश लोगों के लिए 4G अधिक किफायती विकल्प बना रह सकता है। अधिकांश यूजर्स के लिए, 4G LTE सस्ती कीमतों पर पर्याप्त डेटा स्पीड प्रदान करना जारी रखेगा, जबकि 5G हाई स्पीड चाहने वाले प्रो यूजर्स की जरूरतों को पूरा कर सकता है।

क्या अब किसी काम के नहीं रहेंगे 4G स्मार्टफोन: क्या इन्हें फेंकन का समय आ गया है?

– बिल्कुल भी नहीं। यदि आप 4G स्मार्टफोन का उपयोग कर रहे हैं, तो 5G प्राप्त करने के लिए इसे फेंकने की कोई आवश्यकता नहीं है। कम से कम अगले कुछ सालों तक को बिल्कुल नहीं, 4G LTE ऑनलाइन होने का प्राइमरी तरीका बना रह सकता है। तो आपका 4G स्मार्टफोन आज की तरह काम करता रहेगा।

– जब 5G चलन में आता है, तब भी आपका 4G फोन और उसका 4G सिम कार्ड अच्छी तरह काम करता रहेगा। आप अपने पुराने फोन से हमेशा कोई न कोई उपयोग कर सकते हैं- जैसे कि आपकी कार के लिए एक GPS नेविगेशन यूनिट या आपके बच्चे के लिए पहला स्मार्टफोन।

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Can Windows Phone 8 stop Nokia’s downward spiral?




For Nokia, it comes down to this: Is Microsoft’s new phone software going to get it back in the smartphone race, or is it going to be too late?

After being the top seller of cellphones in the world for 14 years, Nokia failed to meet the challenge when Apple in 2007 introduced thedazzling iPhone that caught the imagination of design-conscious customers and rattled mobile markets.

The Finnish company hit a downward spiral that has led to shrinking sales and market share, plant closures, thousands of layoffs and downgrades by credit agencies to junk status.

On Friday, research firm IDC said that in the July-to-September period, Nokia slid for the first time off the list of the top five smartphone makers in the world. It’s still the second-largest maker of phones overall, but sales of non-smartphones are shrinking across the industry, and there’s little profit there.

The ailing company’s CEO, Stephen Elop, sees Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 8 software as a chance to reverse that trend, describing it as a catalyst for the new models.

On Monday, Microsoft is hosting a big launch event for the software at an arena in San Francisco. The first Windows 8 phones from Nokia, Samsung and HTC are expected to hit store shelves next month.

The launch of Windows Phone 8 follows on the heels of Windows 8 for PCs and tablets, which Microsoft released on Friday. That operating system has borrowed its look from Windows Phone, meaning Microsoft now has a unified look across PCs and phones – at least if people take to Windows 8. The company has also made it easy for developers to create software that runs on both platforms with minor modifications.

Analysts are calling this a make-or-break moment for Nokia.

“Nokia is placing a huge bet on Microsoft and if the gamble doesn’t pay off, the losses can be high,” said Neil Mawston from Strategy Analytics, near London. “It’s putting all its eggs in one basket and that’s quite a high-risk strategy.”

In February last year, Nokia announced it was teaming up with Microsoft to replace its old Symbian and next-generation MeeGo software platforms with Windows. This move was made in the hope that it would rejuvenate the company and claw back lost ground.

Eight months later, they produced the first Nokia Windows Phone. Consumers didn’t warm to it, and it soon became clear that these phones, based on Windows Phone 7, were going to become obsolete. They can’t be upgraded to Windows Phone 8. Lumia sales slumped to 2.9 million units in the third quarter after reaching 4 million in the previous three months.

“Retailers withdrew marketing and promotion because no one wants to sell customers a device that ages in a few months,” says Michael Schroeder, analyst at FIM Bank in Helsinki.

“Had there been a seamless transfer to Windows 8 from the old (Lumia) devices, sales figures would have been much higher last quarter.”

Mawston gives Nokia until April to prove it’s still in the race.

“If Nokia does not have more than 5 percent of the global smartphone market by the end of the first quarter 2013, alarm bells will be ringing,” Mawston said.

Analysts estimate Nokia’s current global smartphone market share to be some 4 percent – down from 14 percent a year ago. Meanwhile, uncertainty clouds its new venture with Microsoft.

“We’re a bit in the dark here,” Schroeder said. “Right now we can’t really say anything about Nokia’s future. Everything depends on how the new devices are received in the market.”

Nokia says its Lumia 920 and 820 phones are just the beginning of a new range of Windows Phone 8 devices, but early evaluations suggest they lack the “wow” effect necessary to make a dent in the smartphone market.

Also, Windows Phone 8 lags behind in the number of third-party applications available. There are some 100,000 available. Google’s and Apple’s stores have six or seven times as many.

“It’s a perception thing really,” Mawston of Strategy Analytics said. “Like in supermarket wars, if you have a store with lots of shelves with lots of apps, then consumers will choose you over a smaller store that has a smaller offering – even if you can’t use all those apps.”

Analysts expect 700 million smartphones to be sold worldwide this year. While network operators and retailers may welcome a third software system to challenge the dominance of Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, it is the consumer who will ultimately decide Nokia’s and Windows Phone 8’s fate.

Beside the smartphone challenge, Nokia is feeling the pinch in the lower end with manufacturers in China and in Asia producing cut-rate non-smartphones – Nokia’s former domain. Earlier this year, Samsung overtook it as the world’s no. 1 mobile phone vendor, ending Nokia’s reign that peaked in 2008 with a 40 percent market share.

“Dumb” phones continue to be the backbone of Nokia operations, including in India where it’s a top seller. With strong and extensive distribution networks and a brand well-known in emerging markets, all might not be lost for the company that grew from making paper and rubber boots to being the biggest manufacturer of cellphones.

Mawston says that in theory, Nokia and Microsoft have a good chance of success as they offer an across-the-board system that stretches across home computers, mobiles, laptops, tablets as well as in the office, backed by Nokia’s strong distribution and hardware and Microsoft’s multi-platform software.

“If they can exploit that underlying market platform… and tie it all together in a good hardware portfolio, then potentially Microsoft and Nokia could be a very, very strong partnership – a bit like bringing together Batman and Robin,” Mawston said. “But, in practice, whether they can execute on that reality still is a great unknown and remains to be seen.”

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iPhone 5 is not just a phone, it may deliver a well-timed stimulus to US economy




Apple’s iPhone 5 is one of the biggest product launches ever in the sector, and may also deliver a well-timed stimulus to the US economy ahead of the presidential election, analysts say.

Apple is expected to sell as many as 10 million of the devices in just the first days of the launch starting September 21, and upwards of 50 million in the fourth quarter, including a big chunk in the United States.

JP Morgan economist Michael Feroli said he sees the iPhone 5 adding between 0.25 and 0.5 percentage points to US economic activity in the fourth quarter, based on projected US sales of eight million.

Feroli said it was a simple math calculation: if the phones are worth $600, including carrier subsidies, minus $200 for import costs, that would be $3.2 billion in net sales, or $12.8 billion at an annual rate, boosting gross domestic product ( GDP) by 0.33 points.

Cary Leahey, chief US economist at Decision Economics, said the calculation “makes sense.”

“It just shows the power of an extremely popular product which is priced very dear,” Leahey said.

He said the boost was “noticeable but not earth-shattering.”

But with the US economy having expanded at a tepid 1.7 per cent pace in the second quarter, the stimulus will be well-timed.

“The economy absolutely needs it, it could not come at a better time,” said Joel Naroff at Naroff Economic Advisors.

“Household incomes are flat, real disposable income is going nowhere. You don’t have any source of fuel, so it’s got to come from somewhere.”

Naroff said that US consumers will likely pull money out of savings for the iPhone and similar devices, and in some cases, it may be simply a matter of pulling the spending forward.

“The net impact on the economy is not clear,” he said.

Paul Krugman, a Princeton University economist who blogs for The New York Times, said the stimulus effect underlines how the US economy is dependent on consumer spending.

“To believe that more spending will provide an economic boost, you have to believe — as you should — that demand, not supply, is what’s holding the economy back,” Krugman wrote.

“We don’t have high unemployment because Americans don’t want to work, and we don’t have high unemployment because workers lack the right skills.

“Instead, willing and able workers can’t find jobs because employers can’t sell enough to justify hiring them. And the solution is to find some way to increase overall spending so that the nation can get back to work.”

Krugman added that “over time, there will be more equipment that needs replacing, more iPhone-like innovations that boost spending, and, in the long run, we will exit this economic trap.”

Even before the iPhone 5, Apple cited a study showing it has created or supported more than 500,000 US jobs, including 47,000 at Apple alone and 200,000 in the so-called “app economy.”

Apple’s launch comes amid a spate of new product releases expected to woo US consumers in the pre-holiday season.

The Consumer Electronics Association projects record sales of electronics of $206 billion this year, the first time above the $200 billion mark.

Along with phone launches, Microsoft is producing its own Surface tablet computer, Google has introduced a tablet and smartphone and Amazon has upgraded its Kindle Fire tablets.

And Apple is expected to launch a “mini iPad” in the coming weeks to cement its position in the tablet market.

All this has the potential to boost share prices, consumer spending and the so-called supply chain involving component makers. Apple’s record stock price surge has helped push the Nasdaq stock exchange to its highest level since 2000, after the dotcom collapse.

Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty said Apple may ship between 48 million and 53 million iPhones in the fourth quarter and “up to 266 million” in 2013.

Contrary to popular belief, the largest portion of the proceeds from iPhone sales flow to theUnited States, not China, said Jason Dedrick, professor of information studies at Syracuse University.

“Virtually none of the profits go to China,” he added.

A 2011 study by Dedrick with researchers Kenneth Kraemer and Greg Linden concluded that 58 per cent of the iPhone cost went to Apple profits, with materials representing some 22 per cent and labour costs in China just 1.8 per cent.

“We estimated about $10 in wages for each iPhone going to workers in China for the iPhone oriPad,” he said.

Even with the stimulus, most economists say the iPhone and other devices probably won’t make a difference in the November election.

Leahey said the introduction is too late to have an impact on jobs before November, and that more important is “the public perception of the labour market,” which is unlikely to change in the next two months.

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