During a turbulent year for technology, we learned a few things about the way business is done in that world. Among them...Tim Cook is a badass.
Really. Even though he doesn’t look like one. In fact, Apple’s boss looks like the straight-man character actor from a sitcom, sort of like Ryan Stiles (http://ow.ly/gtQgZ
), but he isn’t. He may be the calm after the Steve Jobs storm, but he’s made Apple even more profitable, maintained the heat on Samsung and Android, fired senior executives and went to China to sort out exactly what was going wrong with the factories and workers who made the company’s products.
Then he capped the year by running against the profit-driven tide on manufacturing, announcing that a sliver of Apple’s factory business would come back to the United States.
It’s all about the money
If the weird machinations of technology companies utterly confused you, you weren’t alone. One minute Apple was in court fighting against Android, the next, they were partnering with Google and other companies to buy patents from Kodak and other companies.
Are they vex or are they buddies?
Truth is, they are neither. They are in business, and it’s all about the benjamins. Follow the trail on any court case or business partnership and you’ll quickly realise that strange bedfellows are curled up on mattresses made of money.
That’s why it’s a waste of time forming romantic allegiances with products and brands, because really, while they may say the love you and want your business, they actually just want your money and would like to separate you from it with a smile.
If you want to run with sharks, you need to keep moving.
It’s surprising that Research in Motion forgot this basic business principle. They were fast out of the gate with unique smartphone technology that worked on public data networks but used proprietary technologies to make the best use of the constrained bandwidth that was the norm ten years ago.
While Palm and Microsoft tried to make the nascent tech of the time do things it simply couldn’t handle, RIM’s Blackberry used the thin data pipelines with remarkable efficiency and grabbed a large share of the market with satisfied customers—oh hell, let’s call them fans—because people loved their Blackberry devices.
Fast-forward to three years ago and we found RIM railing against the newfangled devices with their touchscreen keyboards and their expensive mobile broadband plans. When everyone else was surging forward, forcing telephony companies to build out their networks to accommodate the new demand that smartphones were creating, RIM was still pushing old technology and doing so with success only in markets where mobile broadband had poor penetration.
In just a few weeks, the company will be releasing the device they needed to bring to market two years ago.
Blackberry developers are bullish on the new product, claiming it will be a game-changer for the company. It needs to be, because the game they are playing now isn’t winning them many cheers among the punters.
High-tech becomes commonplace
Nowhere was this more evident than in the growth of consumer-grade 3D printers. When last we wrote about the technology in 2005 (http://ow.ly/gtU5f
), the device was the size of an industrial freezer.
Don’t entertain any fantasies about an inkjet-sized printer spitting out fully realised models from your Word documents, though.
Three-dimensional printing is still a pretty geeky enterprise, requiring familiarity with computer modelling technologies and a willingness to handle a printer that looks more like an addled robot than your HP Deskjet.
At US$520, though, there are people who would jump to try out the Portabee 3D printer, and the technology has been used to create finished modern art pieces and objects, not just models of things someone would like to see built one day.
Look for interesting things to come from companies like Makerbot (makerbot.com).