Why GoDaddy doesn’t deserve a break after their recent reversal on SOPA:
Even if you’re OK with their support of SOPA, their sexist and tasteless commercials, and their elephant-killing CEO, they’re still a terrible registrar: their upselling is misleading, sneaky, and sleazy, their control panel is horrendously confusing, slow, and buggy (like the rest of their site), their DNS servers are unreliable and randomly ignore changes you make, their support is terrible,
and they often block outbound transfers for no apparent reason. They don’t deserve “a break”.
I just can’t believe we needed SOPA for most people to reach this conclusion about GoDaddy. They’ve been terrible for years.
It’s no mystery that I have been a fan of Windows Phone 7, particularly since the Mango update and the great live demo they released via HTML5. Recently Charlie Kindel, the former general manager of the Windows Phone Group, posted his take on why Windows Phone 7 has failed to gain the massive foothold that Android and iOS have in the year since its release. Kindel points to the problem of an “overly complex virtuous cycle” in the relationships running between between four key players:
Carriers: Own the customer. Own billing. Own Sales. Own the physical pipe. They also own the marketing money. They hate being just a fat dumb pipe, but their capex structure means they will never be anything but a fat dumb pipe.
Device Manufacturers: Own the hardware. Own the industrial design. They hate not owning the customer. But their HW bias (and manufacturing capex structure) prevent them from breaking out of this.
OS providers: Own the core of the customer experience. Own most real innovation. They hate not owning the customer. Their core business models (search, desktop/server OS, office, …), as well as the fact they can’t build HW, means they are always at the mercy of some middleman between them and the customer.
Users: Own the disposable income. They don’t know what they hate. All they know is they buy phone service from mobile carriers and/or buy a phone from a carrier. They love speeds & feeds and will generally buy anything they are told to by television ads and RSPs (Retail Sales Professionals).
While I generally agree with his perception of carriers and device manufacturers, I do take issue with his perception of users and his generalization of OS providers. While he does make concessions towards Apple’s success as both an OS provider and a device manufacturer, as well as emphasize the already apparent fragmentation present within Android, he downplays the importance that this has on developers. Having only one entity to answer to (even if that entity is the gatekeeper) streamlines the deployment process in the official App Store; if you take issue with Apple’s terms, (and there are plenty of good reasons that one might) you have alternatives unofficially through Cydia or on an entirely different platform. But by stating that developers are “mostly irrelevant” when discussing the advancement of your platform, you are alienating your key partners who are most excited about your product at the outset and are precluding yourself from even competing in the first place.
The silver bullet that Kindel cites as the stand-in for strong developer tools and support is Microsoft’s carrier-relations strategy:
With Windows Phone Microsoft has taken a different approach. WP raises it’s middle finger at both the device manufacturers and mobile carriers. WP says “here’s the hardware spec you shalt use” (to the device manufacturers). And it says “Here’s how it will be updated” (to the carriers).
This all sounds wonderful on paper, and so far, Mango has been implemented on more handsets running Windows Phone 7 than any one flavor of Android that I can think of, perhaps even exceeding Apple’s saturation numbers with iOS5 at this point. But despite all the rhetoric about “sticking it to the carriers,” the latter half of his response spends a great deal of time talking about advertising and the importance of carrier incentivizing to move devices. In addition, I find it hard to believe that one can say in the same breath both that “end users just do what they are told (by advertising and RSPs [Retail Sales Professionals])” and believe “at the end of the day the superior end to end experience for the end user matters more than anything.”
Mr. Kindel has since started his own firm, and thus we can’t speak to the current climate inside the Windows Phone Group, but any degree of hubris is dangerous when you’re an emerging player in an already crowded market. However, I do think that the concept of Windows Phone’s late arrival is overstated; Apple certainly wasn’t the first company to design a smartphone that was capable of web browsing or email; they just designed a way to do it better through a revolutionary new medium in consumer-accessible capacitive touch displays. By the same token, Microsoft may have its killer new feature already in place: true ecosystem integration. If the new Metro-style UI of the Xbox 360 is any evidence, I would bet that Microsoft is ready to bet the farm on Metro and Windows 8, and link all three screens together: TV, PC, and mobile. The road to grabbing a sizable share of the market is long, but Redmond has the tools and expertise to get there; they just have to put the SDK before the RSP.
Think about that fact as you watch this little girl use an eyedropper tool, clearly understand the concept of undo, and even apply some basic shading and refinement of her work through brush adjustment. Simply fascinating to watch. Via Frasier Spiers’ excellent blog on iPad use, particularly in education.
Let’s start from the beginning, with this excerpt from MG Siegler’s review of the Galaxy Nexus:
Unfortunately, the system still lacks much of the fine polish that iOS users enjoy. The majority of Android users will probably think such criticism is bullshit, but that has always been the case. I imagine it’s probably hard for a Mercedes owner to describe to a Honda owner how attention to detail makes their driving experience better when both machines get them from point A to point B. As a Honda owner myself, I’m not sure I would buy it — I’d have to experience it to understand it, I imagine. And most Android lovers are not going to spend enough time with iOS to fully appreciate the differences.
Nothing particularly unusual about his conclusion, given his past history with the Android community. Nor is Gruber’s response to this very same quote:
You either see it or you don’t. If you don’t, that’s cool, enjoy your Nexus. But I think the reason Apple Stores are so crowded, and getting so big, is that there are an awful lot of people who do see it.
Granted, Gruber’s soundbite is much more outward-facing, choosing to focus on the general public rather than target subsets of users, but it still more or less draws the same conclusion that Google has fallen short with this latest iteration of Android on its flagship handset. But things start to get really interesting with Joshua Tolpolsky’s response to both, simply entitled, “Horseshit:”
This doesn’t get under my skin because I have some kind of allegiance to one brand or another. It doesn’t get under my skin because I fundamentally disagree that Android 4.0 lacks the polish of iOS.
It gets under my skin because it is a pompous, privileged, insulting, and myopic viewpoint which reeks of class warfare — and it is indicative of a growing sentiment I see amongst people in the tech community.
And… it’s a shitty way to think about other people.
This marks Topolsky’s first real departure from his neutral role as editor-in-chief of The Verge, and the fact that it was posted in the forum section of the site reflects his desire to not have his personal feelings influence the objectivity of the site. The timing of this particular series of events is also of note following Gruber’s own appearance On The Verge, where Tolpolsky specifically questioned him about his perceived Apple bias by many. Shortly after that, Gruber appeared on his own weekly show with Dan Benjamin and discussed (starting around the 27:00 mark) how The Verge’s need as a news site to objectively report to a broader audience potentially inhibited Joshua from expressing his true feelings about any one piece of technology.
So why is this important? Why isn’t this anything more than a typical squabble between pundits of competing platforms? Tolpolsky uses the term “class warfare” to describe the ill-will generated by members of rival brands of any given genre of technology that has two or more frontrunners. But “class” implies that cost is one of the key driving factors driving the divide between iOS and Android users, an element that I think is less significant given the Galaxy Nexus’ $299.99 asking price on contract; on par with the iPhone of the same price and storage capacity.
Instead, I think the answer lies more in consumer psychology, and is manifested in the “warfare-like” behavior we see in these debates. People at their core are not always rational, and are subject to manipulation by their surroundings and influence. Consider the following example of an imaginary user:
“Scott is twenty-eight years old, single, outgoing, and sharp. He majored in graphic design. While he was a student, he took up programming as a hobby and quickly applied his skills to start his own freelance web-design consultancy, and is also developing a business model around a new application.”
Given the above user, which of these alternatives is more probable?
1. Scott is a smartphone user.
2. Scott is a smartphone user and an OSX user.
I would be willing to wager that a large number of people would choose the latter option, even though No. 2 is logically impossible (if No. 2 is true, so is No. 1). This is in fact an exact emulation of a similar experiment performed by prominent cognitive psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky (splendidly outlined in this article discussing another set of teams entirely: the old and new management of the Oakland A’s), and their conclusions about the irrational nature of the human mind very much applies to this scenario. They term this conflict a “conjunction fallacy,” wherein an individual has been subject to a set of archetypes so ingrained by repetition and vivid description that it blinds them to any relevant factual discourse. There’s nothing to say that Scott couldn’t have the same occupation and use a PC, or a Mac and an Android phone, or any one of a million other combinations, the point is that the preconceived notion of “creative” work carries with it a certain set of characteristics specific to a platform, and that it is entirely by design.
This sort of subtle yet pervasive influence is evident in Samsung’s recent “Creative” commercials for the Galaxy S II, even going as far back as the Mac vs. PC ads. Regardless of platform, medium or even message, they all seek to do the same thing: to establish archetypes. By building positive archetypes of their own product or negative ones of their competitors, companies fight not first for sales, but for consumer attention. Only once they are able to wield and manipulate consumer attention and behavior can they transmute that into demand.
So what’s to be done concerning the future of the constantly-evolving mobile market? If the general public (and I mean general to refer to those who aren’t as well versed in the factual merits of one platform or another) is destined to be forever influenced by advertising or claims made by each manufacturer, how can we hope to see eye-to-eye and judge devices on an empirical basis, while simultaneously recognizing the subjectivity of user experience? To that, I think it’s safe to say there’s no clear-cut answer, but I will leave you with some parting words from Joshua Tolpolsky in the same post:
The world is not black and white. It’s really, really gray. You can see it and not care. You can see it and love it. You can see it and hate it. You can see it but need something else. You can see it, and yet see other things too.
Not seeing it is not the issue — the issue is not being able to see it any other way.
…video games are big, no, make that huge business. Even taking into account that the average retail game at launch costs about as much as 4-5 movie tickets, when you think about how much of a subset of the market video games are compared to mainstream movies, this achievement is all the more remarkable.
“Ultimately, application vendors are driven by volume, and volume is favored by the open approach Google is taking. There are so many manufacturers working to deliver Android phones globally,” Schmidt said. “Whether you like Android or not, you will support that platform, and maybe you’ll even deliver it first.”
These soundbites are really something: We have an assumption in the first sentence, a fact in the second, and a blunt assertion bordering on threat in the third. Who says developers have to support any platform, whether it’s popular or not? While I’m not a developer myself, my experience in using quality mobile applications is that the best ones tend to come from developers who like the tools their preferred platform offers. Even if we take the difference in SDKs out of the equation, the fragmentation issue continues to be a hinderance in my mind for those developers who are looking to maximize their exposure with as little overhead as possible. This is particuarly prominent in Marco Arment’s post today in response to an Android developer’s challenge to make an Android version of Instapaper, and why its costs are prohibitive:
If you make the first great Android Instapaper client that:
- uses the official API
- contains a significant portion of the iOS app’s features, the details of which we’d work out privately
- runs on a wide variety of Android devices and OS versions including modern smartphones, the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet, and whichever 10” tablet matters at the time of completion
- is priced at $2.99 or higher in the U.S. with approximately equivalent pricing elsewhere, and satisfies requirements to be sold in the Google Marketplace, Amazon Appstore, and whatever B&N uses for the Nook Tablet
I’ll call it the official Instapaper app for Android, I’ll promote it on the Instapaper site, I’ll drop the subscription requirement for its API access, you’ll answer all support email that comes from it, and we’ll split the net revenue 50/50.
What do you say?
The short version: Development is not cheap. It involves real time and investment, and is not something to be taken lightly; particularly if you depend on it for your livelihood. Everyone of course has unique needs, but ultimately the developers have to pick what works best for their given application, target audience, and anticipated growth (both install base and future innovation) of the platform.
So it appears that Schmidt was misquoted in the CNET article; the actual quote is presented below:
Whether you like ICS or not, and again I like it a great deal, you will want to develop for that platform, and perhaps even first.
I think the sentiment still applies as it pertains to unit sales, but there you have it.