About Jean-Louis Gassée

http://

Posts by Jean-Louis Gassée:

The Apple Tax

Today, let’s have a little fun with Microsoft’s latest attempt at countering Apple’s “Get a Mac” campaign. Their premise is simple: for the same amount of computing power you pay more for a Mac, you pay an Apple Tax. As Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO, puts it: You pay $500 to slap an Apple logo on a laptop.
Microsoft is right: Macs cost more.
Pundits and advocates on both sides use contorted arguments to make a point either way, but the point remains: Macs cost more – at the time of purchase.

But, before we go on, a few words on the color of my skin. Especially the operating system layer.I’ve been in the high-tech industry for 41 years this coming June and I’ve used (or even caused at Apple and Be) system software of many flavors. Regarding Microsoft, I’ve been a DOS and, later Windows user; a happy customer, an occasionally proud one as I acquired the skills to fix or quickly re-install systems in my family or at the office. Naturally, after leaving Apple, I continued to use Macs, even after my company, Be, lost the Apple opportunity to Steve Jobs’ NeXT. More

Revenue Model Breakthrough?

Micro-payments are an old idea, some say a bad fantasy. Chief, we’re rich: I found a way to get a millicent per page view…

So far, not much has happened. Unless you look at a tidy, not tiny, little billion-dollar business called iTunes. Three years ago, in February 2006, 1 billion songs served, sold, cashed in, since 2003. July 2007, 3 billion. June 19th, 2008, 5 billion songs. January 2009, 6 billion. Tidy it is at 99 cents for every song. A little so now, with three stages, 69, 99 and 129 cents, without DRM, without copy protection.

But, you’ll justifiably object, this is a unique phenomenon, it doesn’t replicate elsewhere. How can we draw lessons from Apple’s idiosyncratic, proprietary, ferociously monolithic, militantly anal practices? True when it comes to Apple’s style, but less so when it comes to substance, to the replicability, to the potential for use elsewhere. Apple’s competitors are rushing to build their own App Store; for their smartphones, they yearn for their own applications distribution platform. This certainly makes the case for the idea’s replication.

But what idea?

What Apple did was lowering the mental cost of the transaction. More

Pixels: Size vs. Number

OMG, says the blogger, the next iPhone’s camera will have 3.2 million pixels instead of today’s measly 2 million! The blog entry gave me the final push for an occasional, meaning at irregular intervals, series of columns on digital photography. The idea is to find insights into what’s really going on in this very dynamic industry, to extract a few useful ideas from the flow of markitecture BS coming from hardware and software vendors on a daily basis. As you’ll see, these columns are intended for the ‘interested’ digital camera user and, on occasion, for the technophobe, but not for the pro – they use cameras to make money, not to have fun like we do. More

The Future of Netbooks

You the attentive reader might ask why VCs like yours truly are interested in netbooks. Hardware made in Taiwan, running Linux or Windows, low prices, even lower margins…Where are the opportunities for entrepreneurs, and for those of us who invest in their creations?

This is a different question from: Why are netbooks successful? We know the answer to the latter: price and, to a smaller degree (no pun intended), size. This picture and this list show how this new incarnation of the personal computer has proliferated. Because of the recession, yesterday’s manly “must-have” features are now suspect frills. Small has become virile. Users who wouldn’t be seen with less than a “plus-size” keyboard have now received cultural permission to travel with a 10” netbook, perfect for flying (the rediscovered) Coach class. More

Somber Sober Energy Thoughts

This is what happens with looooong conference calls: you’re sitting in front of your speakerphone, on mute so other participants can’t hear your typing or other asocial activities; your PC displays the PowerPoint under discussion.  You get bored, distracted, or, in the best cases, antsy.

So, as I was listening to one more paean to the electric car, I decided to do a little bit of math and googling. Specifically, I wanted to get an idea of the electric power required to recharge electric cars instead of pumping gas into today’s tanks.  This because, for years, I have harbored a vague, undocumented feeling that electric cars would create interesting problems for today’s antiquated, frail electric grid. (Europeans might not realize how often we experience brownouts or outright outages, even here, in the Vatican of high-tech – I used to write Mecca but, you know…) More

Google Voice: Did Carriers Miss An Opportunity?

Let’s start with what Google Voice is: Grand Unified Telephony, as in physics Grand Unified Theory. Imagine all your phones (home, mobile, work…) linked together to one number, and all data (calls, voicemail and SMS) also “webbed” together.  Add a few wrinkles such as transcribing your voicemail into text, personalized greetings for your mother or the boss, when different, conferencing, cheap international calls and you have a quick list of Google Voice’s features.  For more, see David Pogue, the NYT’s always articulate and fun gadget exper. More official: Google Voice’s “About” page with many example while we wait for the service to open to all comers “in the next few weeks”. More

Greening our houses

I’ll start with a gadget story but we’ll end up with saving energy, with greening our houses, I promise.To save another kind of energy, patience, I tried a Logitech Harmony One “universal” remote.  Again.  A few years back, two previous experiences with Harmony remotes had been frustrating and, ultimately,  abandoned.  It could be me, I am a certified klutz with a gift for pushing the wrong button at the wrong time.  Or my combination of devices couldn’t be “unified”, made to work together.  And/or the Mac version of the software was too painful to use.  Still, my Logitech friends kept insisting Harmony remotes were an extremely successful business of theirs.  I decided to try again three years after the second attempt. More

Enough with the cell carriers’ games

I write this both as a consumer and as a VC: Enough with the cell carriers’ games, we need a Carterfone decision. We need to connect what we want to today’s and, even more, to tomorrow’s wireless networks.  Carriers abuse the airwaves We The People licensed to them.  Or, perhaps more to the point, our elected representatives, instead of protecting our interests, let carriers pick our pockets and strangle innovation.  Speaking of Change We Can Believe In, transparency in government and respect for the citizen’s hard-earned and vanishing buck, how about the Obama administration getting carriers to open their wireless networks the way landlines are?  How about me, having the freedom to connect what I want and run whatever applications I want – as long as I respect rules similar to the ones for ordinary telephones, modems and fax machines? More

Convergence

Old word, at least in the Valley. The meaning has shifted over time; we no longer say digital convergence: everything is digital now, precisely the reason why the convergence concept arose in the first place.  Everything being reduced to zeroes and ones, to bits, all sorts of information, media, content (all much abused words) would now be stored, networked and rendered, played together.  As a result of this uniform digitization, content would be ‘repurposed’ thus providing ‘business model extensions’.  In a plainer English example, celluloid movie libraries are now be sold as DVD, on cable TV channels or iTunes downloads, Netflix rentals and streaming. More

Pen and Paper

We haven’t had a gadget story in a while, this is one and perhaps more than that. Not about Kindle 2, I haven’t tried it yet, but still somewhat related as we’re jumping again into the paper and screen topic.  Ebooks deal with one kind of electronic ink, the one used to display text.  Another kind is offered by Tablet PCs.  That PC sub-species has struggled for years and now enjoys a niche in vertical applications such as data collection/transmission/display in hospitals or for insurance adjusters.  The dream of writing on a computer tablet as pleasantly and flexibly as we write on paper and magically transcribing our scratches into machine text is still a dream. More