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Thursday, 24 April 2014

3 Reasons Why Your iPad/Tablet Was A Waste Of Money

It's that time of year again. Stockbrokers and analysts work all through the night whilst the world's biggest companies prepare to the release their earnings report for the first quarter of 2014. Whilst Microsoft has suffered a 6.5% fall in profits based on the previous year, Apple CEO Tim Cook delivered no such news.

Idle Scribe, Business, Apple, Tim Cook
Despite fears that Apple's revenue had stopped growing, the multi billion dollar company surpassed all expectations, reporting revenue of $45.6bn, up $1.9bn from the same quarter last year. Whilst I'm sure those figures will be cause for celebration in Silicon Valley, there is a more interesting story hidden in the midst of the report - The iPad sales figures.

Apple fell short of their projected sales target by 3.75 million units, selling only 16.35 million in the first quarter of 2014. Whilst naturally this is an unbelievable quantity, it stands for very little when compared to the 43.7 million iPhone sales in the same period. Only 20% of revenue is accounted for by iPad sales, and that value is set to keep decreasing. Here is why:

Apple iPad, Idle Scribe1) Slow Rate Of Replacement

Apple have a very solid business plan with iPhones. Sell them to consumers at a high price, and make them buy another one every 1-2 years. With iPads that simply doesn't happen. Tablet computing hasn't actually advanced drastically enough to constantly render your tablet useless, meaning you won't have to replace it for quite a while.

2) Cheaper Alternatives Are Just As Good

For the vast majority of users, a budget Android tablet will serve them just as well, whilst still leaving them with cash in their wallet. High quality devices such as the Nexus 7 are available for far less than a new iPad, posing the question why would anybody would be prepared to fork out so much for one in the first place?

3) Smartphones Are Actually Replacing Tablets

Despite tablets being designed for the exact opposite. The truth is, the average user doesn't consider their tablet to be a PC replacement, more a portable Smart TV. The vast bulk of consumers will use their device for internet browsing and streaming videos. With phone screens getting bigger, a smartphone is just as capable of doing all the tasks your tablet can do, and you wouldn't have to carry around a second device.

To wrap it up, it would appear that the iPad novelty has worn off. Just as quickly as it started, these products are becoming redundant. I can't help but think consumers were led to believe that tablets 'bridged the sea between phones and computers', when in reality, it was no more than a puddle we were crossing.

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A Free BBM App - The Final Nail In The Coffin For Blackberry

Not too long ago, RIM announced a fiscal fourth quarter loss of $423million, and that was considered to be 'better than expected'. It's pretty clear now that they wont last much longer in the smart phone market. With RIM's undeniable failure at persuading users to adopt its latest BB10 operating system, it seems that even their loyal customers know the end is nigh.

So what was the final nail in the coffin? Well, it was their decision to release the BBM app for Android and iOS.

BBM app for android


Of course, the problem starts with the fact the Blackberry hasn't moved with the times at all for the last 5 years. While Samsung and Apple were being innovative, Blackberry were simply playing it safe, and overstaying their welcome on the QWERTY keyboard bandwagon.

However despite the awful interface, endless hardware problems and very few apps, consumers would still rush out to by a Blackberry. The only reason being BBM. If there is one thing that Blackberry did right (and there really is only one thing) it's BBM. Blackberry completely pioneered the idea of free communication between the same type of mobile phone, and they made a lot of money out of it.

In fact, BBM was so successful that consumers wouldn't worry about the endless problems that a Blackberry would bring them, simply because they wanted BBM. Very quickly it became the only reason you'd actually buy a Blackberry.

Now I hate to point out the obvious, but if you've created something that makes your product desirable and successful, what's the LAST thing you do? Give it away for free. I just don't see any logic in their strategy whatsoever.

Naturally, the millions of downloads are going to at least make consumers think of the good ol' days with their Blackberry, but will they ever buy one again? Of course not, because now Blackberry have basically said, 'you know what, just use BBM, but don't worry about buying one of our phones, just use yours, it's better at everything anyway'.

All Blackberry have done is given consumers a reason NOT to buy their phones, and for some reason they think that will help their situation.

Now I do try to sympathise with failing businesses, but I’m really struggling to do so with Blackberry. At the end of the day, if you're a phone company, and you want people to buy your phones, just make a good phone. It really is that simple.

It's almost embarrassing to watch them attempt to save themselves, but considering they've appointed Alicia Keys as their creative director, it seems failure was almost certain.

Anyway, I'd be surprised if Blackberry survive another year. There will almost certainly be a day when I sit down with my children and show them some old photos,
 "What's that daddy?" they will mutter with confusion.
"Oh that's a very old mobile phone, and you won't believe it, but it had a keyboard".


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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Is America A Corporate Fortress Than Can't Be Beaten?

The Atlantic Ocean. The vast open space that effectively separates the UK from the US. Of course for us normal folk, bridging this gap requires no more than a boarding pass. However, for highly successful UK businesses, this voyage is far more complex.

English Businesses In America
The aim to 'conquer the US market' is a common sight upon many a business plan, but very few have a tick next to it. For some reason or another, firm after firm fail to capture the largest economy in the world, and despite these past failures there is still a queue to be the next international success story. At the front of this queue is Primark.

The Dublin based clothing superstore was amongst a handful of companies to benefit from the global recession. Its budget clothing and low production costs made it a guaranteed entry into every business studies textbook, but its sights are set on much greater accolades.

With plans to open a 70,000 sq-ft store in Boston as early as 2015, many wonder if the retailer will fare better than its UK based predecessors. 



To try and answer this, we must first get to the crux of the problem. The US is dominated by incredibly powerful brands. Walmart, Target and GAP for example, are amongst the clothing suppliers Primark will have to compete with. With such large brands in place, and their stronghold over their domestic market, it's no wonder that Marks & Spencer's American clothing chain 'Brooks Brothers' didn't last too long. The pure size of these American firms create huge barriers to entry within the market. They have the upper hand when it comes to number of stores, market expertise and even infrastructure. Surely Primark can't compete with that?

That was certainly the case with Tesco, who were forced to offload their loss-making 'Fresh & Easy' food chain towards the end of last year. However, I can't help but think maybe Primark's story will have a slightly different ending. As is clear by their 'bull in a china shop' strategy, Primark are certainly up for the challenge. Their enormous Boston store is bound to catch the attention of American consumers, and it's only just the beginning. Negotiations are already underway to open more stores in 2016.

If you ask me, that's what firms need to do. There is no point trying to ease your way into the biggest market in the world. You need to barge in all guns blazing and show them who's boss. 

Of course only time will tell if this business venture is destined for success, but I think as long as their ambitions stay larger than their customers, they'll be the next household name in the states.









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Tuesday, 22 April 2014

5 Bizarre Ways To Know If You Will Be Rich

It's very easy to zone out and dream about your future. The vast majority of the time, somebodies 'dream' future will include them being extremely wealthy. The problem is it's just a dream and no matter how confident you are, it's pretty hard to know whether you will be successful. Luckily for you, there are some pretty useful/bizarre ways that statistically make you more likely to be rich.

Here they are:

5) Not Being Obese


Although the natural conclusion to jump to is that employers discriminate against obese people, this idea actually has some logic. Obese people have higher medical costs and obviously that eats into their savings. On average, for every one unit increase in a persons BMI, there will be an 8% drop in wealth. Talk about losing some pounds!

Jay L. Zagorsky (2005): "Health and Wealth: The Late-20th-century Obesity Epidemic in the U.S." Economics & Human Biology, 3 (2), 296-313.

4) Drinking


This one is rather surprising. Instead of claiming that you will be richer by not drinking, the study carried out by Bethany L. Peters and Stringham claims quite the opposite. By drinking, it is claimed that your 'social capital' increases. I guess this study seems like a bit of a long shot, but they have found that on average, drinkers earn 10-14% more than abstainers.


Bethany L. Peters and Stringham, Edward (2006): No Booze? You May Lose: Why Drinkers Earn More Money Than Nondrinkers, Journal of Labor Research, 27 (3).


3) Not Smoking


Another rather obvious one but important none the less. Not smoking has been linked to wealth, which does make perfect sense. Smoking can be very costly, and over time can add up to a lot of money, creating a dent in your wealth. In fact, it's so costly, that non smokers are actually claimed to have a net wealth of 50% more than that of smokers.

J.L. Zagorsky (2004): The Wealth Effects of Smoking Tobacco Control, 13 (4), 370-374.

2) Being Blonde


This one doesn't really apply to men, but surprisingly women with blonde hair make more money than those without. 7% more in fact. Although blonde is the hair colour associated with being stupid, it's also associated with being attractive and when it comes to making money, that helps (Although it shouldn't do).

David W. Johnston (2010): Physical Appearance and Wages: Do Blondes Have More Fun? Economic Letters, 108 (1), 10-12.


1) Being Tall


Although there is very little you can do to control this. A study has shown that every additional inch in height amount to an extra $789 per year. That means that somebody who is 6 foot will earn $5,525 more every year than somebody who is 5 foot 5.

So how bright does your future look now? Fortunately for me I'm 6"2, blonde, don't smoke, healthy weight and I'm partial to a drink or two. So if you need me, I'll be up in my penthouse.





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Monday, 21 April 2014

Why Your Netbook Is Probably Worth Less Than Your Watch

Although the rise of tablet computing has somewhat eradicated the need for Netbooks, there are many users (myself included) who use one as a primary device. Almost by definition, Netbooks are intended to be small, portable and also cheap. For example, I was able to pick up my HP Mini 210 for a very reasonable £200. However, there comes a time when you realise this budget price point must exist for a reason. That reason is Windows 7 Starter.

 Unless you spent an extortionate amount on your Netbook or bought it shortly after the cavemen discovered fire, you are going to have Windows 7 Starter installed. At first you may think you are in luck for having a Windows 7 device at your fingertips without remortgaging your house, but this is far from the case.

For those of you who don't know, there are actually 6 different editions of Windows 7. Windows 7 Ultimate sits proudly at the top of the pecking order, but what is at the opposite end you ask? Windows 7 Starter.

This operating system is actually so limited that you can't even change your desktop background. Sure, you can work past that but have you ever wondered what else it can't do? Well, the Starter edition lacks Aero, Multiple monitors, Media Center, Fast user switching and much much more. It would literally be an easier task to list the things it can do because the list is so small.

Now for the sake of a fair argument, it isn't all doom and gloom. To start with, you probably don't use your Netbook for anything too intensive (if you were planning to you wouldn't have bought one), so in that sense maybe Windows 7 Starter is all you need? Maybe that is the case, but as is true with many devices these days, it is always a question of 'wants' over 'needs'.

For that reason alone, I can't help but think any Netbook currently running on Windows 7 Starter isn't worth its weight in cardboard, let alone gold.

Now if you're currently in a relationship with your Netbook where you feel you could do much better, fear not. There are a few solutions to help rekindle that dying flame. All of them require installing a new operating system, but I assure you it will be worth it.

Firstly, you can use Windows Anytime Upgrade to upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium or above. However this will cost you a fair bit, and your Netbook might run a lot slower. Alternatively, you could downgrade to XP. It may not look as pretty but your Netbook will run faster and have more features at its disposal. Finally, (and this is my recommended option) scrap Windows all together and install Ubuntu.

I'll be honest, it's difficult to advise the best solution for you, but I've recently installed Ubuntu and it's been a breath of fresh air. After just a days usage my Netbook feels useful. Of course it is early days at the moment but I will post an update in a few days comparing the two systems if you're interested.

So that's it. I'd like to hear your opinions on Windows 7 Starter and Netbooks in general, so leave a comment below and tell me what you think.
















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Sunday, 20 April 2014

5 Ways The Internet Has Killed The High Street

If you've taken a moment to look at the high streets recently, you should have noticed that it's not looking great. Shops are disappearing every day and before you know it, our high-street will become nothing more than a row of abandoned buildings. In my opinion, there are clear reasons why this has happened, 5 of them to be exact. So let's begin.



1) We care too much about price.

There's no denying the fact that when it comes to buying a product, price is the main factor we consider. In the current economic climate, we are far more prepared to go out of our way for that negligible saving. This usually causes us to rush home to the internet and buy what we want online. Despite the fact that the product will take a few days to arrive, and there are additional postage costs, we would rather buy online than from a high street. Online retailers have far less to pay in terms of overheads, so cost of production is much lower than high street stores. This means prices will be lower, and our high street just can't compete.

2) The internet has got a lot safer

The saving grace for the high street use to be the fact that consumers were always slightly scared when it came to buying things online. Nobody wanted to enter their credit card details in case of being scammed, and so people would pay a higher price at a normal shop. However, things have changed with secure payment systems in place on almost any online retailer. People have gained confidence massively, and now buying online is actually considered 'the norm'.

3) Poor quality products

Because the internet creates immense competition for high street retailers, they have to find ways of producing their goods for a lower cost. This often means that quality is compromised and slowly but surely competitors have noticed. After all, if you had £20 to spend, you want to get the best value for money, and the very nature of online retailers means that you can do just that, at the expense of local stores.

4) People think they're alone

When it comes to buying online, people think that they are the only ones who have found a great bargain. The thought that everybody else is doing exactly the same thing doesn't really occur to them. When you realise the amount of people that regularly shop online, it's hard to believe even the largest businesses are capable of surviving in the high street, let alone the smallest. It's sort of like film piracy, if one person pirates a film, the industry won't really suffer, but if everybody did it, there would be no industry. The problem is that most people aren't consciously aware that everyone is doing it.

5) Severe lack of entrepreneurship 

When a high street store closes down, it's not too long before some aspiring businessman attempts to start his empire. Unfortunately, all that we consumers get is a constant stream of bad ideas, that are in no way sustainable, let alone profitable. The lack of entrepreneurship means that businesses quickly start up, last about as long as there bank loan lets them, and then disappear just as quickly as they arrived. 

Although this entire post is about how the internet is killing the high street, I think it's more a case of how we are killing the high-street, and the internet is simply letting us.  

So what can we do?
Well, if we want our high-street to survive much longer, we need to radically change our spending habits, and be prepared to pay a slightly higher price in return for sustainability. We also need to help entrepreneurs develop successful ideas that will help the high-street, not hinder it.

Despite my rather pessimistic view, all it not lost yet, and with a change in consumer attitudes and spending, the high-street will return to its former glory.
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Saturday, 19 April 2014

What Google Might Have Forgotten When Making Google Glass

With the release of Google Glass on the horizon, I can't help but wonder if it will really take off. I'm sure the clever people at Google have done some clever things, but will anybody care?. Almost immediately after asking that question I found myself shaking my head. If you're wondering why, I believe the answer is simple. Voice Control.



As the proud owner of an iPad Mini, naturally one of the first things to do was talk to 'Siri', the voice controlled assistant for your device. It was here that I did the same thing every single Siri user has done at some point throughout their lives. I asked it for drugs and sex.

After being rejected for both, I was bored (as simple minded as that makes me sound). I wondered if I'd ever use Siri for what they do on the adverts. Sure, I was never going to search the web for recipes, but I might use it to make some reminders, open apps and contact friends right?

Wrong. Since those early days of trying to get Siri to sleep with me, I haven't used it for a genuine reason. This got me thinking. Is it because the world simply has no use for Voice Control, or is it the fact that Siri is so damn bad at it?

So, onto my first question

Does the world need voice control?

No. Simple as that. We don't need it at all. I'm sure we could all quite happily live our lives without it, but do we want it? Yes. If you were to ask 100 people if they wanted voice control on their device, the majority would say yes. Personally, I can't see why. I find using Siri quite an awkward experience, especially in public. If I want to Google something, I don't want everybody on the bus knowing what I'm searching (as innocent as it may be).

Then there is the matter of speed. I reckon it's quicker to complete the action myself, as opposed to double tapping the home button and making Siri do it for me, it's just long winded.

Is Siri any good?

Now I have to admit that Siri is bloody clever, I can't deny that. The only problem is, that for voice control to actually be worthwhile, it has to be perfect. The truth of the matter is that although Siri is clever and useful, it only picks up what I'm saying about 75% of the time. That may seem like a good percentage, but nobody is going to heavily use voice control if it will fail one in every four times.

To wrap things up, I'm pretty confident that only one of these two questions can be answered by Google Glass, the latter.

Although Apple did a good job with Siri, I think Google will do a much better job with Google Glass. After all, the success of the product depends on it. However, the first problem is something I don't think will ever be solved. Maybe I'll look back and laugh in 20 years time, but for now, the world just doesn't need Voice Control.


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