Now this is how you get people to try a product: by putting it on something they already have, front and center. Beautifully implemented.
I choose to fit myself into most of Apple’s intended-use constraints because their products tend to work better that way, which makes my life easier. But that requires trade-offs that many people can’t or won’t make.
Previous-me tried to persuade everyone to switch to my setup, but I now know that it’s not worth the effort. I’ll never know someone else’s requirements, environment, or priorities as well as they do.
You should use whatever works for you. And I no longer have the patience or hubris to convince you what that should be. All I can offer is one data point: what I use, and how it works for me.
Great introspective by Marco Arment. Despite all of the time and effort that goes into creating a user experience that is as universally applicable as possible, it’s important to realize that there will always be someone (and almost certainly more than a few people) who finds your product completely counterintuitive. The best you can do is to aim not for the center of your target audience, but for the center of your target use cases.
Kachingle (that name makes me cringe every time I hear it):
- We are just the middleman. Our users use our system to make micropayment donations to the sites they love, as a way of showing their gratitude with a financial “thank you”. We do not collect money on behalf of sites. Rather, we are the conduit through which the users of a website make micropayment contributions. So our users decide which sites they want to support, not us. We just facilitate their desire to donate.
That first sentence isn’t going to win you any fans.
- Adverse revenue impact? One concern that we hear from time to time is regarding whether or not Kachingle could cause a decrease in a site’s revenue due to existing donors of the site switching over to Kachingle. Kachingle facilitates the wishes of users who are unable or unwilling to donate directly to a site, so basically Kachingle is generating an extra revenue stream for the kachingled sites.
We’re doing you a favor here.
But even at this point, it seems no more malicious than other ad-revenue generators out there, like an Adwords or VibrantMedia, but then they bring out their “revolutionary” feature:
Also, some people want to know why we add a site to Kachingle and allow users to start contributing money to it right away, prior to making contact with the site:
- Our users (kachinglers) have made it clear to us that they want to be able to add a site to Kachingle and start contributing to it immediately, without having to wait a month or two for us to track down the owner of the site to see if they want to start getting free money. Because we are completely user-driven (as we need to be), we have said yes to that desire, and we therefore add requested sites to Kachingle and enable them to start getting paid by their users immediately.
We put your money in a bucket, with your name on it. Because who doesn’t like free money?
- We always make best efforts to contact the owner of a user-requested site so that we can pay them. We do that automatically using twitter and email, and eventually also manually using phone calls and postal letters. It usually takes a few months, but eventually most sites respond enthusiastically, confirm their desire to be part of our system, and give us their PayPal email address where they want the money sent.
We attempt to find out who you are, and maybe get you to agree to accept money you didn’t ask for, by a process you weren’t made aware of and under terms you never agreed to.
Sounds…fishy. And rousing the ire of The Gray Lady probably didn’t help either.
The term “Post-PC” is one that has been thrown around a great deal this past year, and while we have certainly seen a dramatic shift in consumer preferences away from the desktop increasingly towards the mobile space, one concept that seems to have carried over from the desktop generation is the obsession over hardware specifications. As I mentioned in my last article, I feel that the present consumer mood towards mobile devices (particularly tablets and smartphones) dictates that people are looking primarily for technology that can work for them to accomplish a need or goal, rather than what’s under the hood.
But this hasn’t stopped companies from trying to differentiate their product using specs or form factor, almost to the point of complete abstraction. As with the PC market, the Android ecosystem is vast and diverse, with many manufacturers vying for the attention of a limited pool of consumers. Eventually, no matter how much R&D or design time you invest, what you end up with will undoubtedly start to resemble your competitors’ on at least some basic level. The end result is the need to bend the rules, and add visual flair or celebrity endorsements (which can turn out to be very successful, however misleading) to get your target audience in front of your product.
How then do we explain Apple’s success? After all, they have only three smartphones on the market currently and one tablet, and yet they continue to lead their respective product categories, and are rising in laptop market share. The answer involves many different elements acting in concert, but I think MG Siegler is on the right track:
During the PC years, specs [mattered] because there was one common dominant force in computing: Microsoft. Because Windows was everywhere, you could fairly reliably gauge the performance of one machine against another. But with the rise of the Mac and more importantly, smartphones and tablets, you can’t as easily stack machines up against one another performance-wise.
My MacBook Air doesn’t have the specs of a brand new HP PC laptop — but it still feels faster. Maybe it’s OS X, or maybe it’s the solid state drive. Point is, consumers don’t and shouldn’t care. They care about which machine will boot faster and which will be easier to navigate. Time to web matters.
While I wouldn’t go so far as to say specs are dead, I do feel that they are no longer important as figures in a table, but rather in how they affect the feel of a product. In the end, it’s not about specs, power, or even competition, but rather accessibility, ease of use, well thought-out design, and devices for change. The post-PC era exists not only in currently popular produts but also on the fringe, verging on the mainstream, and in some cases may even be devices in search of a problem to solve.
Compare the commercial for the Droid RAZR above to Apple’s Siri as an example. The ad is full of nothing but use cases. Situations that make you think, “that could be me” and immediately make it feel more approachable. This is an aesthetic that runs throughout all of the iPad and iPhone commercials, and focuses on the why rather than the what.
That’s not to say that these sorts of innovations are only happening at Apple; there are plenty of Android and Linux-based devices that are doing their part to usher in the post-PC era, they just choose to manifest themselves in a more “homebrew-esque” fashion. Two notable examples that come to mind are FXI’s Cotton Candy prototype and the Raspberry Pi. Each of these proposes a number of use cases, and while perhaps unconventional, are important for just that reason; they potentially represent future mass-market applications of needs we didn’t know we had.
The post-PC era, while often portrayed in terms of “non-desktop” mobile computing, is in reality much more complex: it represents an entirely new way of thinking about digital products and experiences. We have reached a point of development in hardware specifications where it can no longer be used as a quantitative measure of the success or failure of a product. Instead consumers are unconsciously replacing it with a new qualitative metric of feel: incorporating ease of use, ecosystem, and how well it folds into everyday use cases. Those companies that are able to deconstruct how their users feel about their product (John Gruber also refers to this as consumer “affection”) will be able to better anticipate needs as (and perhaps even before) they arise.
Shortly after midnight EST, the embargos were lifted, and the first reviews for the Kindle Fire promptly rushed in. From what I’ve read so far, I get the sense that there is an internal conflict amongst reviewers of the device; a battle against what is considered “good enough” for $200:
Still, there’s no question that the Fire is a really terrific tablet for its price. The amount of content you have access to — and the ease of getting to that content — is notable to say the least. The device is decently designed, and the software — while lacking some polish — is still excellent compared to pretty much anything in this range (and that includes the Nook Color). It’s a well thought out tablet that can only get better as the company refines the software. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great start, and at $200, that may be all Amazon needs this holiday shopping season.
- Joshua Topolsky at The Verge
When stacked up against other popular tablets, the Fire can’t compete. Its performance is a occasionally sluggish, its interface often clunky, its storage too slight, its functionality a bit restricted and its 7-inch screen too limiting if you were hoping to convert all your paper magazine subscriptions into the digital ones. Other, bigger tablets do it better — usually at two or three times the cost.
- Tim Stevens for Engadget
Now, I’m not accusing either of them of being Android or Amazon apologists; it just struck me as odd that they went out of their way to emphasize the $200 price point as if people would still inevitably compare it to the iPad, and wanted to give it a fair chance to stand on its own. For what it’s worth, I think this was a natural evolutionary product for Amazon, and will serve as a fine addition to their already very successful line of devices.
But the only real competition that the Kindle Fire has is the recently announced Nook Tablet (and perhaps the discounted Nook Color); it’s the only device that compares in price, functionality, and ecosystem (however wide that chasm may appear to be between Amazon and Barns & Noble). At the same time, its success will ultimately confirm the notion that there is no tablet market. But rather than merely an iPad market, a device that covers a broad number of use cases but only one price point and form factor, these “tablets” will usher in a new era of content and context-specific devices. Jeff Bezos has even gone so far as to suggest buying two devices depending on what set of activities you want to focus your attention.
And that doesn’t sound like such a crazy idea.
The trend in the last decade or so in consumer electronics has been to try to fit as many features into a single device (i.e. a mobile phone) as possible: one form, many functions. But I’ve always subscribed to the idea that it is better to have five separate devices, each of which do one thing very well, than one device that does five things poorly. Until very recently this maxim has flown in the face of the trend; but sometime shortly after the “smartphone” boom following the initial iPhone’s launch in 2007 (and further accelerated with the introduction of the iPad), we also began to see a vast array of form factors and use cases being argued for. As consumers were exposed to new methods of input (i.e. touch) and were re-introduced to a familiar medium on a massively more accesible scale (e.g. ebooks), there arose a division between books and everything else and a subsequent need for different devices to consume the content. I’ll refer to this phenomenon as hardware segmentation.
Segmentation involves more than just division, and should not be confused with fragmentation (which we have seen occur on the software side in the Fire itself via Amazon’s decision to use a forked version of Android). Rather the term should be used to define clear-cut lines of form factor, use case, and price among a continuum of “tablets”, or perhaps even more broadly, “mobile computing devices”. It also should be limited to external hardware: the diverse visual and tangible aspects of each of these devices is of much greater immediate significance to the end user than what operating system it runs or what chipset it has inside. This is not to say that these items do not have any significance in the user experience, but only that when examining (and predicting) trends in consumer electronics, first impressions are everything.
And perhaps most significantly, hardware segmentation demonstrates that people want devices that do things, and they sit up and take notice of companies that provide them with just that. Going forward, I think we will only see more medium-form tablets like the Kindle Fire, each with their own specific use case and application for a rapidly growing market.
Interesting analysis (coupled with thought-provoking charts) regarding the effects of new UIs and input systems on hardware markets:
In a few short years the rivalry between incumbent handset makers has evolved into a rivalry between mobile platforms where the incumbents were caught in an increasingly unprofitable role of hardware integrators.
My disruptive hypothesis for Siri is that it shifts the competition from platforms positioned on a device to a “coupled” super-platform dependent on broadband and infrastructural computing.
Just after collecting enough data and observing patterns in it that give us clarity, It looks like things are about to change all over again.
The distributed-load method that Siri utilizes, while limiting in an area with poor service, nevertheless strikes me as a compelling way to introduce these new types of complex systems to the masses. And after today’s news on the death of mobile flash, I’d argue that sea-changes in web standards are disruptive in and of themselves.
So what’s our takeaway after seeing the Nook Tablet in action? Will it extinguish the Fire, as some are saying? The hardware is still beautiful and the new organs provide a faster experience, but we’re not sure at $50 more than the Kindle Fire, B&N’s got what it takes to fight Amazon on the content front.
The $250 price point seems to be the biggest piece of news here based on the early impressions. This race to the bottom on hardware profit margins may ultimately be Android’s niche and legacy in the tablet market: as a content-specific loss-leader. Depending on how well these sell this holiday season (and I have no doubt they will), that may not be such a bad thing.
MailChimp makes it easy to design exceptional email campaigns, share them on social networks, integrate with web services you already use, manage subscribers and track your results. You’ll love mixing and matching MailChimp’s templates, features and integrations to suit your needs—think of it as your own personal newsletter publishing platform.
I really like the approach that this company takes to an otherwise boring and mundane task for growing businesses. The clean layout and easy access to support and tutorials doesn’t hurt either. May have to take it for a spin to see how robust their CMS tools are.
We’re focused on bringing you — our extremely savvy and frankly very handsome readers — the best and most comprehensive coverage of the consumer technology world. Not just the nuts and bolts, 24-hour news cycle stuff, but more in-depth coverage, bigger stories, and content that goes further.
We’re going to do that on a new product that we’re really psyched about. A site that’s not just a stagnant, fixed entity, but an evolving, growing piece of technology. We think of The Verge (and its underlying CMS) as something akin to an app. A piece of software that is being constantly developed and updated. Today we’re launching with The Verge 1.0, but 1.1 and 1.2 are just around the corner.
I’ve been waiting for a long time to see the site finally launch. Their new content management system is the breath of fresh air tech writing needs, which on a large scale has lately felt more and more like a stream of glorified twitter updates (one of the big reasons I stopped reading Gizmodo several months back).
If you’ve been reading my site closely since its inception, you’ll notice that I frequently cited thisismynext, which was the pilot project prior to The Verge. I frequently found that their articles were of higher journalistic quality than most of what was generally available, and also wanted to support a group of editors striking out on their own. I wish The Verge team all the best in the months ahead and eagerly look forward to all of their new content and coverage.