Adding value to remove value

Apple have just announced free engraving for iPads ordered from their online store. It’s a perfect example of how personalisation can add value to the initial purchase whilst at the same time restricting the resale possibility of the item.

Who could bring themselves to part with an iPad that had ‘to Daphne, with love’ etched into the back of it? And how much less is a personalised product worth anyway – sufficiently less that it’s not worth selling when a new one comes ou

How can you personalise your product so that someone wants to hang on to it for sentimental or perhaps other reasons?

You’re nobody till somebody hates you

You know you’ve made it when otherwise sane and rational people spill bile and hatred all over the internet at your company, your product and your customers.

This week ought to see Apple reeling from the sucker punch of the ever-so out of context reporting of recent suicides at a subcontractor’s plant in China. Reporting that goes to great lengths to mention that Apple’s iPhone and other products are assembled there whilst neglecting to mention that HP, Dell and Microsoft all have their products made by Foxconn.

This has made the news, and given Apple-haters plenty of opportunity to point fingers. Someone I’d previously thought a friend took exception to me adding some balance to a Facebook post about Apple/Foxconn, in so doing branding all Apple owners as ‘a cult of smug wankers’ then laying into me in no uncertain terms.

Personal sleights aside, this week has also seen Apple surpass once-mighty Microsoft’s market cap, the international launch of the million-plus selling iPad, with lines around the block in London, Sydney, Tokyo and many other cities across the world ,I shouldn’t wonder.

And in news that’s going to make authors across the US (a US tax ID is required) sit up and take notice, Apple also announced that authors will be able to cut out intermediaries and publish directly to the iBookstore for iPad.

I’ve been a Mac user since 1993, I owned a Mac all through the ‘dark times’ for Apple; I was a subscriber to Guy Kawasaki’s EvangeList mailing list; I’ve done my fair share of encouraging friends and family to switch. I guess I’m one of those people that Apple haters despise. I won’t pretend to understand the motivation of these people – to so diligently troll online forums, blog comments and magazine websites for opportunities to spread hatred. Any discussion of Macs, wherever it takes place is considered fair game to go off topic and rant about whatever the anti-Apple issue of the day is.

On the other hand, Apple’s so-called fan-boys have been known to get pretty heated too when seeking to redress the balance of negative reporting, though there’s a little less of that since the days of ‘beleaguered Apple’ in the 90s.

For a company to incite such passion on either extreme shows that they’re doing it right. Keep it up Apple!

Image credit: kyz via Creative Commons on Flickr.

iLike Ads

I like ads. Always have done. Good ones that is. As a teenager my walls were decorated with framed mini-proofs of poster campaigns that my dad worked on. There are some very effective TV and cinema campaigns that I enjoy watching, where each ad is part of a serial and I look forward to the next execution.

Are there any web ads I’d place in the same category? Web ads I’d mention to a friend ‘hey have you seen the latest Acme Widgets banner?’ Um, nope. Mostly they annoy the hell out of me, they make noises or enlarge, unbidden when I mouse over them, (hey. Wired, I’m looking at you) and worst of all are designed to hijack my attention and take me away from the content I want to read.

But the iAds that are demoed in this Stevenote (skip to 45 mins in unless you want to learn about the new features in iPhone OS 4.0), now they looked like the kind of advertising I wouldn’t mind on my phone.

Essentially they’re small ads when when clicked open in a layer over the app you were in. Then what you have could be described as a mini-app within the app, or a micro-site (depends on what paradigm you’re familiar with). Except unlike a standard micro-site there appears to be the ability to interact with the iPhone on a relatively meaningful level – like setting the wallpaper on your iPhone. I can only guess at the other possibilities.

The demo ads that Apple created for this presentation (for Pixar, Nike and Target) really showed the potential of the platform. In fact I’d say there’s a shortcut button missing alongside the little ‘x’ to close the ad – a ‘save & share’ that puts the ad into a Favorite iAds app on the iPhone, or sends a link to a friend.

It’s not all roses however as this Marketing Vox piece takes great pains to point out though some of the criticisms levelled there are somewhat churlish: ‘iAds will be hard to build’. Yeah? Hard like a TV ad? Hard like a micro-site for the desktop web? Yes it’s harder than a crappy text ad that you could create in seconds with Google Adwords or Yahoo Search Ads. Good, because I don’t like those ads, you want other reasons why they’re lowest-common-denominator bad? Check out the demographics of who’s clicking on those ads. If iAd raises the bar on ad quality, I’ll be happy, because it’s pretty low right now.

Of Prams, Toys and Throwing Stuff Out

Sorry for straying off-topic. If you’ve no interest in the iPhone, or Flash, skip this post.

Adobe’s ‘Flash evangelist’ Lee Brimelow isn’t happy with Apple:

Now let me put aside my role as an official representative of Adobe for a moment as Speaking purely for myself, I would look to make it clear what is going through my mind at the moment. Go screw yourself Apple.

His beef is with Apple’s proposed change of terms in the iPhone OS 4.0 SDK agreement that state that you can’t use third-party frameworks. However I can see their reasons:

1) Developers are likely to miss many of the APIs that make the iPhone experience stand head and shoulders above earlier versions of the OS (and, for that matter, other smartphone platforms). Moreover, if any framework becomes overwhelmingly popular, Apple will lose the ability to rapidly update functionality independently of the third-party’s agenda.

2) Existing apps produced using the Flash iPhone Packager, those that have somehow managed to get approved and are available on the App Store, get resoundingly bad reviews (usually citing poor performance).

3) Adobe are using a back-door method here, one that they didn’t clear with Apple before they started trumpeting it as a tent pole feature of Flash CS5. I’ve seen comments online to the effect that Apple should have said something to Adobe when they made their announcement. But why should Company A react to a pre-release feature in Company B’s software? If you have a tent pole feature it’s manifestly your responsibility to make sure you’re not sticking it into quicksand. You don’t assume there’ll be signs up in someone’s garden saying, ‘No camping’, you ask permission first; it’s only polite.

The developers that Apple are supposedly slighting here are Flash developers, not iPhone developers; nothing is being taken away from them. There are plenty of apps already without opening the floodgates to countless self-indulgent conceptions from mewling, crayon-wielding anklebiters.

Flash on the web is finally being beaten back by a machete-against-weeds combination of common sense design and user-installed Flash blockers (like the excellent Click to Flash for Safari or Flashblock for Firefox).

Don’t get me wrong, Flash has a place. Its ubiquity on the desktop is useful and there are still some things that are best delivered in Flash. But the number of times I come across sites with needless Flash elements just because the designer doesn’t know how to use a free javascript library is enormously frustrating. I suppose Flash files do cost more to update (and few will give up their source files) so I can see the attraction for some designers in the guarantee of future work.

This isn’t about how much I think Flash sucks, this is about a company exerting their right to care for the platform they created. If users have bad experiences with a large number of apps (and the Flash Packager would result in a tidal wave of submissions to the App Store) they won’t simply blame the app; they’ll blame the device.

If you’ve not had enough anti-Flash invective, hop over here and see how someone who isn’t an Apple aficionado feels about it.

Image credit: babydinosaur via Creative Commons on Flickr