Author Archives: Michael Gartenberg

Michael Gartenberg is a partner at Altimeter Group. His weblog can be found at gartenblog.net. Contact him at Gartenberg AT gmail DOT com Views expressed here are his own.

Citizen Gadgetry

Citizen Gadgetry

I love watching excellence in motion. Watching Fred Astaire dance, reading a poem by Robert Frost, watching Michael Jordan play ball, Tiger Woods play golf or opening new products that have the ability to bring a smile to my face. They all share one thing, these folks make it look so easy. The result of hard work and tireless practice is that the performance appears almost effortless. Of course, that's never the case.

I'm constantly amazed at the number and the degree of badly designed products out there that come to market. I'm talking bad stuff. I mean stuff that had to go from concept, to design, to prototype and eventually make it to the retail channel. Stuff so bad that it's impossible to imagine that anyone in their right mind signed off on the process and the steps along the way. The stuff that makes you scream…"what were they thinking?" You don't need to be a genius to know that some of this stuff just won't work. It isn't rocket science, it's just focusing on the basics and this is why much of the criticism is warranted.

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Apple is no longer the Nordstrom of Tech, they’re the “New Nordstrom”

Apple is no longer the Nordstrom of Tech, they’re the “New Nordstrom”

This past week I was at the opening of Apple's latest store in NYC. It's a work of art with a forty five foot glass wall, an all glass ceiling and marble walls. Along with that there's the now iconic glass staircase. In many ways, it's more a community gathering place for Apple customers and potential customers than it is a retail store. The beauty of the stores are effective but that's not what's ultimately driving sales. At the end of the day, the physical store is merely the visible manifestation of the Apple customer experience. Exercise if you're Michael Dell. Build a store with a forty five foot glass wall and ceiling and see if you sell more PCs.

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HTC HD2: What WinMo Can Do In the Right Hands (First Take)

HTC HD2: What WinMo Can Do In the Right Hands (First Take)

Last week, the buzz was clearly on the DROID (see my first take here) but there was another device that was also getting a lot of attention, albeit somewhat more restrained as few folks had one to work with. A few weeks ago, I wrote a column that emphasized people shouldn't dismiss Windows Mobile. Over the last week I've been using the phone with the quiet buzz that proves that assertion. Sadly, it’s the best Windows Mobile phone that you can't buy in the US yet. What device am I talking about? None other than the HTC HD2.

The HD2 is marked by two features not usually found on most Windows Mobile phones. The first is a capacitive touch screen. This is the first Windows Mobile device that has no stylus and is totally designed for input by touch alone. The second is a 1GHz Snapdragon processor that makes Windows Mobile and especially the HTC Sense UI fly. Finally, add in a gorgeous 4.3" screen and you realize this is not your father's Windows Mobile device.

Technology should be aspirational not confrontational

Technology should be aspirational not confrontational

I had lunch recently with someone who was a recent transplant to NY from Silicon Valley. They commented on what a great thing it was to finally ditch their car for getting around as it's a bit of a hindrance to own a car in Manhattan. I thought about this for a while afterward, mostly remembering the few years I lived in NY when I owned a car and kept it in NY. I never drove it anywhere for fear of losing the most sacred of things in NY, my parking space. As a result, it mostly sat unused except to move it from one side of the street to the other, twice a week. (I initially had dreamed of just garaging it until I discovered that for the same money, I could have gotten it three bedrooms and a 2 baths in a nice area in NJ). The key was, I had the potential of using it anytime I wanted to. Today, I live in the NJ suburbs, no more than 15 minutes from Manhattan without traffic. Ask me why, and I'll tell you it's to have the advantages of the suburbs but still be close to the great museums, theater and culture of NY. Of course you might want to ask me when the last time I went to one of the great museums or saw a show on Broadway. There's an aspirational theme associated with all this. It's not what I do. Rather what I could do.

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Verizon introduces the leader of the DROID army – First Take

Verizon introduces the leader of the DROID army – First Take

Recently I asked, if a DROID could take on the Death Star? Now, Motorola and Verizon, along with some help from Google launched DROID. I've spent the day with a device and here's what I think so far. First, Verizon was clear that DROID is going to be a family of devices running Android, Motorola's device will be the only one called DROID, others will be known as the DROID-XXX. DROID is the first Android 2.0 device and the Google branding points to the fact that this is stock Android. And I do mean stock Android: there are zero Verizon services on this device (with the exception of a non-branded visual voicemail app). No VCast. No nothing. One wonders if Verizon were willing to go to this length a few years ago, would the iPhone have landed on Verizon? Android 2.0 is a great update and finally is starting to feel complete. Compared to V1 Android running HTC Sense, it's a mixed bag. HTC’s UI is lightyears ahead of stock Android in my opinion but the DROID performs so much better than any Android V1 phone I've used and is nearly feature complete that it's hard to recommend a V1x device at this point.

Can a Droid take on the Death Star?

Can a Droid take on the Death Star?

Since it's introduction, the AT&T logo has reminded many users of the Death Star. Sure, that's not what it's supposed to look like but no matter how many times they tweak it, I just see the Death Star. So it was amusing to me when over the weekend the first leaks (or release depending on your point of view) came about Verizon’s latest campaign about a phone called the Droid that's poised to take on the iPhone.

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One Device to Rule Them All – I Think Not

One Device to Rule Them All – I Think Not

There's a lot of discussion about the role of convergence of devices. Everywhere you go, it seems that someone's pushing the notion that every function needs to be converged into one device. Now convergence is a great idea: the idea of carrying one device instead of multiple devices is compelling, but is it really realistic? Sure, I'd rather carry one device than two, but our research shows consumers will carry two or, in some age demographics, they'll even carry as many as three.

See Me, Feel Me… Touch Me?

See Me, Feel Me… Touch Me?

We're just a few weeks away from the formal launch of Windows 7 and I've been using the final build for some time now. It's very nice and I'm sure most of you have seen it, used it or read about it to death. What I want to talk about over the next few weeks is various parts of Windows 7. One of the most intriguing parts of the new OS that Microsoft has talked about for some time has been the integration of touch features. While vendors such as HP have done their own touch implementations in the past (HP has gone as far as to offer their own touch-based SDK for developers) this is the first time since Microsoft unveiled their touch platform offering, Surface, that we've seen the OS vendor incorporate true finger-touch features directly into the OS.

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Media Center for Windows Deserves Some Respect

Media Center for Windows Deserves Some Respect

When I first was briefed on the Media Center edition of XP by Microsoft, I thought MCE was a pretty bad idea. A lot of my skepticism had to do with the market they claimed they were going after, namely college students in dorm rooms and yuppies living in cramped apartments with no room for both TVs and PCs. Of course, college students mostly buy laptops, and no matter where you live most folks don't watch TV on a small computer monitor from across the room. The short-term market were enthusiasts who understood the value of a DVR such as a TiVo.

Over time, Microsoft tried a few approaches with MCE – from extenders to allow you to view content on other TVs in the home over your network, to creating extender technology for Xbox (which is already hooked up to a TV set) – as well as working with a host of OEMs to create "living room" form factor home theater PCs. The result of these efforts was less than a stellar success and few vendors actively build home theater PCs; these days, if a consumer uses media center they're either an enthusiast or they've tripped over it by mistake trying to do something else. That's a shame, as MCE has evolved over time to become a great technology, one that few people even know exist.

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When real is a little too real for me

When real is a little too real for me

One of the things I can't help notice, playing the latest and greatest video games, is how this generation of consoles and PCs have the ability to provide the most realistic worlds I have ever seen with the most intense level of detail and real-world physics models. It makes sense: games are, at their heart, simulations and thanks to Moore's Law the processing power of today's devices mean that I can model the world in ever more detail and sophistication.

To me, however, that's not necessarily a good thing. The problem is that there's a danger of real becoming a little too real, at least for me. I won't get into the issues of video game violence (for me it's simple: parents that are worried about video game violence should watch what their kids play) but watching the latest boxing titles and seeing someone get hit in the face really hard is a little disturbing to me. Sure, I love titles like COD, but as we get to the point of creating really convincing simulations we also begin to face the danger of losing the most important aspect of game play. Fun.

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It’s time for Microsoft to get serious about media and mobility

It’s time for Microsoft to get serious about media and mobility

This is a follow up note to some folks who work in Redmond (it's OK for the rest of you to read it if you want to).

Hi guys. How are you doing these days? There's no doubt that you must be frustrated. Really frustrated. After all, you were in digital music long before Apple, had cool phones that played music long before Apple and in general had a pretty compelling story for the digital consumer that was very complete, but no one paid a whole lot of attention. There were WMA players on the market long before iPod. In fact, Microsoft might have been dominant in digital music if it weren't for that pesky iPod and iTunes combo. You've taken some hard hits, I remember when Apple introduced a flash memory music player, removed features and had customers waiting 2-4 weeks to get one. Gladly waiting I might add and ignoring all those other devices your partners brought to market. Yep, it's been a tough few years.

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Lessons From a Mac OS Switcher

Lessons From a Mac OS Switcher

I used to be a total Macintosh user; however, over time, various places I worked depended on Microsoft Windows and other MSFT technologies so that I was forced to use Windows for much of what I do. I still kept using a Mac, mostly for creative work and where business use allowed, but I had to have Windows in my life. Over the last few years, Apple has created a new line of machines that more closely match my laptop needs and have made a lot of changes to their core platform OS X. The result is a combination that makes for a very compelling argument to use Macintosh full time.

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