Friday, January 30, 2009

Freakonomics Approach to iPhone Success

There have been a plethora of blog entries on why the iPhone is successful, and of course countless long meetings up in Redmond, Sunnyvale, and Canada (RIM). Of course I am split between my hometown rivals Apple  (from Cupertino, where I went to high school) and Palm  (from Sunnyvale, where I grew up). But the fact is, I now own and use an iPhone, despite my years of having a "Palm Desktop" shortcut on my now bare desktop.

So why is the iPhone successful? I'm going to take a stab at it Freakonomics style, by looking at the seemingly small things that can make a big difference. What was seen with the iPhone was a big launch for the original, but no where near the traction that the 3G hit the ground running with. This is shown much more clearly with the recent Engadget post about "Days to a Million". Did the public really care that much about GPS? Who even knew much about 3G vs. Edge last June? I highly doubt it was the small cosmetic change. Essentially, it was a re-grand opening. With a new price (and a higher AT&T bill). This re-grand opening allowed people to get in on the hype all over again, and this time, with a multi-country launch, it was much stronger, reaching the 1 million mark in about 3 or 4 days. So what am I attributing part of this to?

The bounce-back feature. This is one of the features that Apple is actually planning to sue Palm over, as it is part of their huge portfolio of patents concerning the iPhone and Pre wars. As the lawyers describe in their analysis of the patents, the bounce-back feature when scrolling to the end of the page (in contacts, email, a web page, music...) is a well known iPhone feature. As is the swishing between pages of Apps, though that was somewhat rare in the original iPhone unless you happened to add webapp shortcuts. But still, you could slide around the Springboard. What I find is iPhone owners do this quite consistently even if they're not emailing or texting someone as Blackberry addicts are. So regardless of whether they have a need to use their phone, since it looks cool and its distractingly fun, they're using them. This puts the device in the face of "dumbphone" users and entrances them. Many may say since Blackberry users are constantly emailing people even from the airport terminal, this has the same effect. But I think not - these people look tethered to their devices because they have to, whereas iPhone users are so delighted by the swooshing, flipping, and bouncing, that they are practically a guerilla marketing campaign. 

This brings me back to the multiple launches. This phenomenon caught my eye back with the original iPhone, and by the time the 3G came along, I felt very compelled to buy at least an iPod touch, and I did. I swooshed and bounced for a while, till I realized I could swoosh and bounch and flip much more comfortably on my phone than with two devices in my pocket. The second launch allowed me to do that, because I felt like it was a new product (though I have the original iPhone), and those mesmerized by these simple animations on their friends' or coworkers' originals when and bought the 3G. 

Do you think this was a significant contributor to the iPhone hysteria? Or a contributor at all?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Google Docs in Education

I recently used a Google spreadsheet in my studies (first time, because I finally feel as though people would rather use it in collaboration) this week. We had a long list of terms to study in a Human Physiology class and therefore I created the spreadsheet and shared it all of my friends. The definitions required by the professor are very demanding and need to be thorough, so I figured with many eyes on it we could all get a good set to study from. We pulled from old exams, books, class notes, and PowerPoints. Finally we ended up with a nice set. Even better for me, I used previously mentioned gFlash to load them as flashcards onto my iPhone and study whenever I had the chance to. With some citation features, this would be great for my current journal paper, as I have about 5 people contributing and editing it. But alas, its still in beta... What would be great, and I look forward to in the next iteration of Word, as part of Office 14, is to instantly throw a local copy of a document into the cloud. This would be able to work regardless of my sharing profile in Windows, as I feel like that would complicate things. From there I should be two clicks away from choosing my friends in Google/Yahoo/Outlook Contacts, and having them collaborate on it just like Google docs. But then, I want the functionality of pulling it back down from the cloud/using sync tools so I have the regular functionality of Word too. Hint hint....

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Evolution - Survival of the Fittest

When you consider the centralization of the nervous system as an evolutionary trend and the unlikeliness that a single change confers a tangible change in fitness, it becomes more obvious that one need not be more fit but just not the least fit. This allows for the propagation of some sort of neutral adaptations, while allowing longer-term adaptations that require multiple changes in a lineage, such as nervous system centralization.