Monthly Archives: July 2011

The new MacBook Air – a revolution – and my Apple woes over

Earlier in this year I wrote two blogs: Is the MacBook Air fit for purpose? and MacBook Air – the debacle continues with a two-tier support system. It’s fair to say that since my first Apple repair, the machine was a disaster, and in any case the older MacBook Air simply couldn’t cope with simple things like Video Conferencing and screen sharing.

So I went into the Apple Store in Kingston upon Thames last week and said “enough is enough, give me a new machine”. Slightly to my surprise, they agreed and I now have a brand new 13″ MacBook Air.

Obviously I’ve not had this machine long enough yet for this to be definitive – we will see in the coming weeks and months – but I thought my first thoughts around the new Air, and Mac OS X Lion – which it comes with – might be useful.

MacBook Air

First the machine. For my money this totally changes the laptop industry. Apple sold 1m Airs in Q1 2011 compared to some 8m iPad 2s – which is incredible in itself, and more than most PC vendors sold in that same period.

But the new Air brings the laptop back to life. The screen is more dense, there is more memory, faster processing and the build quality feels fantastic. But that’s the minor technology components. The advent of the Thunderbolt connector means that you can attach the new Apple 27″ Thunderbolt Display. This brings with it a host of functions: power, USB, FireWire, Camera, Speakers and turns your Air into a desktop.

And in use the Air is fast enough for just about anyone. It sucked up my 12Gb email inbox in no time and I have put my much bigger and faster Dell laptop in the cupboard. It might not be suited to those people needing really fast processing for audio and video work but those guys will continue to buy the MacBook Pro. For the rest of us, this machine is fantastic.

Already this week I’ve been working on a video conference, sharing screens, working with large documents and the Air barely starts its fan up. Add to this a 7 hour battery life and it’s barely necessary to take a charger out the home. It’s enough for a long flight. And the Air will go into deep sleep so it will last 30 days on a charge.

Mac OS X Lion

I wasn’t convinced when I first saw OS X Lion that it was really particularly innovative but it’s not really the point. The point is that Lion makes the new MacBook Air even better. You might say that it was designed for it.

Setting up Lion took all of about 2 minutes from power-on and everything was intuitive. The new gestures and scrolling means that you work faster and more easily. Full screen apps are fantastic when you need to use all the space you can in a small product like the Air.

It’s fair to say that for existing Mac OS X Snow Leopard customers, it doesn’t really move the market on that far but the integration with the new machine is spot on.

Conclusion

I really do suspect that Apple have moved the laptop market forward with the Air today – it does everything that most people need in a small light package, which really has no down side. There really is no need to have a separate desktop or larger laptop. Nice work.

BT and how to lose customers with lousy customer service

I have had a problem on my phone line for some time. Sometimes I get noises and crackling on the line and this can make calls impossible. It’s intermittent and gets worse on longer calls and is pretty unpredictable.

So I phoned my telephone provider BT who said they would send an engineer out to take a look, which seemed fair enough. The engineer came and couldn’t pinpoint a fault and told me that he wasn’t sure if there was a fault or not, and therefore he would mark it as such and there wouldn’t be a charge.

Fast forward 3 months and they sent me a bill for £130 ($200) for the engineer visit. I phoned and they said that it was at their discretion and the engineer had no business telling me that there wouldn’t be a charge, and the charge would be maintained.

I pointed out that the engineer worked for them and therefore he was representing them and they said “he doesn’t work for us, he works as a subcontractor” – to which I responded that was their problem, not mine. I asked for an escalation and they said their supervisor would call me but wouldn’t be taking the charges off.

In the meantime I still have the intermittent problem and I therefore don’t ever use my phone line for calls – it’s just useless and unpredictable.

Interestingly I also have internet problems – I live just a few hundred yards from my BT exchange and I’m unable to get reliable internet past 8Mbit – despite paying for a 24Mbit connection. We downgraded the service and it’s worked reasonably since. I wonder if those things relate but I can’t be sure.

It amazes me that BT think that they can force substantial charges on their customers and there won’t be a backlash. I’m considering moving house so I won’t be moving from BT right now but they can be assured that I will never ever buy a BT service again.

Have you had this kind of  behavior out of a service provider that you pay for? Or indeed have you had such a problem with BT and won an appeal? I’d love to hear from you.

Do you work for BT and would you like to talk about the impact of upsetting your customers in this way? Research shows that upsetting one customer has a negative impact on a whole bunch of customers, especially those who might be reading this blog and considering moving provider.

Google Plus and contextual networks – analysis of the major social media websites

It’s slightly ironic that just 6 days after I blogged about “Social Networks in 2011 – it’s all about contextual networks“, Google should launch their new service: Google+, or Google Plus. Google+ is for my money, a sign of things to come and a significant disruption to the social media market. In fact, I think we will see a completely different landscape by the end of 2012 with a shift of power.

What does Google+ bring that’s new?

The most significant thing is the ability to easily build contextual networks. Its concept of “circles” allows you to group friends, enemies, mentors, colleagues, customers into easily managed lists that mean you can switch between social contexts. Don’t want to worry about work rubbish during the weekend? Switch to your friends circle and leave work behind.

Other than that there’s a bunch of useful things like the ability to chat, video chat, share photos etc. etc. I particularly like the “hangout” option, where you can video chat with a group of people that form part of a circle. As a blogger that loves the back channel, I can see that be a really useful place to have an off-the-record chat with a bunch of people.

What’s Google+ missing?

Tons of stuff. It feels pretty basic, the conversations aren’t well threaded and can be hard to follow and the email notifications are driving me a bit nuts. But none of that matters if Google invest in it and continue to improve user experience. Because they have a whole bunch of people around the world that use Google as their homepage, and those people will get their G+ bar at the top of the screen. And keep using it. Supposedly 10 million people have joined in 2 weeks, which is incredible – in the top 50 social media sites already.

Google+ vs Facebook

Facebook  isn’t under any threat just yet and probably won’t be, because the social media market needs competition and Facebook offers that. They also have incredible customer loyalty, with FB people spending on average 30 minutes a day.

But Facebook is starting to feel a bit limiting – you can’t easily group people which means that having work and personal contacts in one place can be uncomfortable, and as a collaboration platform for documents, rich media and videos, it is a bit limiting. Plus they have been slow to market with mobile apps – something which Google appear to have got right on day 1 – there is an iPad app on the way through the Apple approvals process.

Google+ vs Twitter

I think Twitter is in real trouble. It has poor support for threaded conversations and can be impossible to follow. Plus it’s really difficult to manage lists of people and keeping your followers under control is a pain. Add to that a growing spam problem and the limitation of 140 characters when most devices are rich and allow longer updates to be read easily.

Google+ isn’t taking Twitter on head to head yet, but if they improve the conversation thread, email notifications and provide excellent mobile apps, people may flock to it en masse.

Google+ vs LinkedIn

Again I think LinkedIn is in real trouble. It’s a poor platform for collaboration and most people use it as an online CV and linking engine – I often use it to check out new recruits, customers etc.

If Google build in the professional side of LinkedIn – support for places to work, recommendations, shared contacts and company sites, I think that LinkedIn is in real trouble fast, because they’re not a destination site – just somewhere that you go to get a job done.

Google+ vs Skype

Again I think Skype is in real trouble. Facebook doesn’t do video or audio chat yet (get a move on Zuckerberg) and Google+ support for chats and hangouts is fantastic – they have used the GTalk engine. My initial test suggest that Skype remains much better especially on poor connections, but Google may fix this.

If so I can see myself using G+ above Skype because it’s convenient and I’m there already, and so are my friends and colleagues. Which may be a worry for the $8bn that Microsoft just spent, although they need the technology platform for other purposes e.g. Lync.

Google+ vs Apple

It’s an interesting one because Apple are approaching it from the other angle – get your documents, emails and music in their cloud first. But make no mistake, it’s a content war – the war to get your content uploaded to their website. Once they’re there, building out the Social Media platform around it can only come next. But their position is safe building from the other direction with iCloud for now.

Conclusions

Just my opinion but I think by the end of 2012, we will have seen a consolidation of the major players and Apple, Google and Facebook will start to be the 3 dominant social media players.

It’s bad news for LinkedIn, Skype, Twitter and others but I think it’s an inevitable consequence of the fragmented market.