Tablet App Bait & Switch

It’s the most repeated form of advertising for software, whether it’s presented as a cloud based application, an “app”, or regular software:

You show a laptop screen, tablet screen and smartphone screen, all with the same GUI on them. The idea is that you more or less get the same functionality, layout, data presentation, etc., on the mobile version as you do on the fully featured desktop based one.

Sometimes though, this isn’t the case and it’s driving me up the wall.

The tablet version of a financial software package I use for a couple of side businesses and a non-profit I run doesn’t show the main page of the regular application (desktop or browser based), instead the main page is the least useful part of that front page. In fact there is NO way to get the app to show the same financial snapshot as the desktop or browser based versions, thus begging the question:

Why did I download this garbage in the first place?

A CRM application I use for my businesses is great on the desktop via my browser, but the Tablet version (again) doesn’t have the layout show in the ads for it, instead it’s a watered down version that makes you want to just use your laptop instead.

Making matters worse, if I try to pull it up on my Tablet’s browser I’m taking to the same annoying layout as the app. Thus leaving me with an app that’s useful to a degree, but makes you miss the desktop version so much that I’m often inclined not to use it at all.

For example:

If I were to pull up the financial software via the desktop app or the browser on my laptop, the first page shows bank balances, trailing 30 days profit/loss, amount of open invoices and pending bills. It’s the information you’d MOST want to see if you’re pulling up the financials on the road with a Tablet.

Instead I’m presented with a page that just shows recent history, I have the ability to take a few actions across certain categories and I have light reporting.

WTF?

The CRM app is significantly better as it’s actually proved useful on the road, but there is a lot of customer data updating and customization I can’t do. It’s often easier to just write something down and update it when I get back to my laptop.

Knowing that software developers tend to be intelligent I find myself scratching my head at this nonsense.

Didn’t the product development team test or review the tablet apps and think to themselves: “wow, we took out a lot of the usability?”

Didn’t the software development team say: “it’s just a browser based app, there is no reason we can’t deliver this same functionality to our customers on their tablets, especially certain dashboard views that show the key information they need”

I can’t imagine signing off on either app, I would’ve wanted both apps significantly revised so that you’re delivering value to customers and not irritating them.

I look at these apps and I see two companies that aren’t completely serious about their mobile app strategy, and instead want to just “have an app” as a selling point, but they don’t really mean for you to get much use out of it.

Meanwhile, the limiting factor for MS Excel for iPad is the fact that you’re using a device without a keyboard, mouse and an external monitor for more screen real estate, NOT the app itself.

No wonder I use Excel for iPad more than both of the apps I mentioned combined.

Again, this shows the company’s commitment as in many respects MS Excel is used for more complex activities than the apps I mentioned previously.

The above is why I think there is a low signal to noise ratio when it comes to app ecosystems, whether it’s for a platform or an individual company touting its app. Software companies just want to “have an app” so they seem legit, and the companies behind the various app stores/hardware platforms just want to push their app numbers up.

Delivering value to the customer is a secondary concern.

If legit 3rd player is going to emerge to take on the iOS/Android Duopoly I think the key will be having a high signal to noise ratio app wise.

A platform that says: “We set a quality bar for the functionality of our apps so you don’t feel like the victim of bait and switch”, will be sure to win customers in the coming years as at some point, people are going to get fed up with this nonsense. 

This is especially true for cloud-based apps. Just think about it: if I have to pay the same license fee regardless of the device, if I use the app on a singular device or multiple devices, there is really no reason for making the tablet version rubbish.

P.S. you’re probably wondering why I didn’t call out the companies specifically, the reason is that I have college friends who work at both companies so I felt bad ripping their employers in public. Plus I have better channels to take my complaints too, so no need flogging them in public.  

Flawed Technology Reviews & Media Coverage

It occurs to me that a lot of hardware reviews are inherently flawed.

But first, a quick side-step for a thought experiment:

Imagine if car reviewer said he was going to test out a 2015 Honda Accord competitor for a month to see how it stacks up against the class leader. A month later the reviewer comes back with a long list of superlatives of how the new car is better than his 2005 Accord and how he’s going to immediately switch to this new car.

Would anyone take that review seriously, especially people who are about to replace their ’05 Accords or who drive say 2011, 2012 or 2015 Accords?

Throw in any other model that’s considered best in class like a BMW 3-Series or Mercedes E-Class, and you’re sure to get the same level of “you’re joking, right?”

So considering how much faster hardware (Laptops, Tablets, Smartphones) advance compared to cars, where one smartphone year is like four car years, why do we tolerate the same with hardware reviews?

Why do we tolerate reviewers comparing the latest and greatest from one company against their older, PERSONAL devices?

Shouldn’t the latest Surface Pro 3 be compared against the latest MacBook Air, and not the reviewer’s older model?

If a reviewer does the “I used X phone for a month” thing, shouldn’t he or she compare it to the latest and greatest from OS’? E.g. if you review the latest Android phone, compare it to a fresh brand new iPhone and Windows Phone.

After all, depending on a host of factors, the differences between two devices could easily just come down to the reviewer screwing up their own device, the software they’ve installed, wear and tear, the time they dropped it, etc.  

We don’t tolerate old and used vs. new for cars, so why are we tolerating it for tech? It goes against common sense and the real world impact of using your devices in day to day life.

Better yet what’s more valuable:

I tried out the new MacBook Air and I like it better than my two year old PC and I’m switching/I tried a new Surface Pro 3 and I like it better than my 2 year old MacBook Air so I’m switching

OR

I used a Brand New MacBook Air and and Surface Pro 3 side by side for six weeks and after careful consideration, I prefer…. 

Final thought: I wish tech writers and reviewers would stop revealing the devices they own and stop saying things like “I cover Apple/Google/Microsoft”, or tweeting about how they’re traveling to a company’s HQ to interview random people, etc. Because from the perspective of someone who has worked within various large tech companies, it makes it impossible to take these writers seriously, as too many of them sound like, well, employees of the company when it comes to how they write about the companies they cover, their tweets, etc.

I say this as I’ve definitely read articles and thought: “wait, this sounds like the internal emails touting that product launch”.

The other day, I saw a tech writer tweet something pro a company they “cover” from the comments section of an article. 

How is that journalism when you’re actively promoting a single company, instead of objectively discussing it and other companies? How can you really give your readers an objective view of the marketplace when you’re only focused on one participant? 

Call me crazy but if a writer only studies smartphone offerings from Apple, Google or Microsoft, instead of studying them all, how can they truly give their readers anything resembling intelligent insights? 

I say this because as someone who actually works in technology I don’t have the luxury of “choosing a side”. I use a Windows 8.1 and MacBook side by side daily. I use multiple smartphone platforms and I’m going to get an Android and Windows tablet to go with my iPad, so I can speak intelligently about all of them to potential customers/clients. 

The tech mediasphere already suffers from a low signal to noise ratio and lack of objectivity, fans and PR shills masquerading as journalists just makes it worse.

Better yet - when it comes to choosing a side, the success of MS Office for iPad (the reason I bought an iPad) proves that technology companies can’t think in this manner either. 

So why are the journalists that “cover” them? 

The Corporate Tax Red Herring

I’ve grown weary and tired of the “if we change the tax laws and reduce the corporate tax rate, so that companies aren’t force to keep money overseas, they would invest the money domestically and stimulate the economy” argument.

It’s the 2014 version of trickle down economics and it’s utter rubbish.

Just think about it: for this argument to be true, it would mean that companies are sitting on major capital investment projects, are suffering with understaffed workforces, and other capital constraints because the cost of paying taxes is greater than the return from making these investments.

Here is the real kicker: the money companies would spend on labor, and other of these magical investments companies would allegedly rush to make if taxes were reduced…

…aren’t taxable (to various degrees). Because, last I checked labor is an expense and you’re not taxed on that money, and a lot of other capital expenditures you’d make as far as investments are either immediately deductible or are at least deductible over the course of a couple of years.

Better yet, if the tax argument were true, why aren’t companies spending their record profits that ARE in the US?

Ultimately it’s simple: companies spend their money on the people they need, and the projects they think will move the needle profits wise. If we reduce the tax rate the companies will just have more cash sitting in US banks. I simply don’t believe reducing taxes will cause a huge surge in capital investment and job creation, because US companies ALREADY have the resources to do this and they’re not doing it.

For the record I’m not making the argument that companies are just greedily hoarding cash, instead, I’m making the argument that they lack ideas to invest in. After all, if companies were sitting on a ton of ideas that were just waiting for cash, wouldn’t they be investing in those ideas instead of in record stock buy backs?

I’m not a corporate tax and finance supreme expert, BUT, I seriously doubt corporate CFOs are sitting around thinking: "We have to use this cash for a stock buy back instead of investing in the company because of the tax rate" 

At best the calls for a corporate tax are a red herring to blame sluggish growth on a tax hobgoblin, and worse just a cynical ploy for people who have ownership in privately held businesses to bank more cash.

Cash that (again) they’re unlikely to invest in anything that benefits the middle class. 

Hi Emo, this is one of the first photos I took of you after you and Nancy moved in. It was the start of a pretty cool period, no? I stopped working from the office and we started hanging out all day. 

Man, you were a picky eater. Rice and beef, then chicken, then turkey, oatmeal and beef, it’s all good though, I liked cooking for you.

I miss our walks, 45 minutes to circle the block, because you had to sniff everything. 

I feel bad looking at your photos just from last year, becauae I didn’t realize how much weight you had lost. I really hope you weren’t suffering before you got hurt and I realized how sick you were. 

How is dog heaven? Are the treats good? Do they know to warm your food up first? Last Saturday was your birthday, and now, the space under my desk is empty, no sleeping dog.

It all happened so fast, I wasn’t ready. 

That last night in the hospital when I brought you food and we sat and talked for long past the visiting limit, so happy we had that. 

Anyway, I’ll miss you, but I’m glad you’re not in pain anymore.  I also hope you have Instagram up there, otherwise I’m typing like an idiot. Hahaha

Anyway buddy, I’ll love you forever, and go easy on the moles and rabbits in dog heaven. Pace yourself, okay buddy?

Hi Emo, this is one of the first photos I took of you after you and Nancy moved in. It was the start of a pretty cool period, no? I stopped working from the office and we started hanging out all day.

Man, you were a picky eater. Rice and beef, then chicken, then turkey, oatmeal and beef, it’s all good though, I liked cooking for you.

I miss our walks, 45 minutes to circle the block, because you had to sniff everything.

I feel bad looking at your photos just from last year, becauae I didn’t realize how much weight you had lost. I really hope you weren’t suffering before you got hurt and I realized how sick you were.

How is dog heaven? Are the treats good? Do they know to warm your food up first? Last Saturday was your birthday, and now, the space under my desk is empty, no sleeping dog.

It all happened so fast, I wasn’t ready.

That last night in the hospital when I brought you food and we sat and talked for long past the visiting limit, so happy we had that.

Anyway, I’ll miss you, but I’m glad you’re not in pain anymore. I also hope you have Instagram up there, otherwise I’m typing like an idiot. Hahaha

Anyway buddy, I’ll love you forever, and go easy on the moles and rabbits in dog heaven. Pace yourself, okay buddy?

Random Thoughts For Tuesday

Random thoughts for a Tuesday

Reading through the headlines of one of the major financial sites I saw a headline that said that GM & Ford were in trouble due to a potential car loan bubble (likely), and another that said that Ford shares should jump 40% because Cars.com predicted an increase in car sales.

Um….

While it’s obvious that the writers of those articles aren’t looking at things holistically, it begs the question: how in the hell are average investors supposed to sort through all of this mess to make any decisions? Do they just pick sides as far as sites, writers, viewpoints, etc., and just follow the advice from “their favorite”?

Talk about a case for just investing with ETFs.

Also, no wonder future wifey tells me to just “take care of it” when it comes to our investments with the added “if you screw up, YOU’RE going to be the one working when we’re old, not me”.

Wouldn’t that be a great way to work with a financial advisor? “Look man, if you mess up my money, you’re going to have to get a job and support me when I’m old”

Also, 40% is a huge jump; just how many additional cars does that author think Ford is going to sell?

I loved this blog post discussing how absurdly vague software patents are allowed to be, and how that nonsense doesn’t fly in other industries.

I read a news story around how a new start-up is offering an electronics payment service that doesn’t charge credit card fees, instead it offers customers “special deals” or “purchase credits” and charges the retailers that use them $0.35 on the dollar for each purchase credit.

Here is the problem: in order to make money LevelUp needs to generate more revenue from the 35% it charges on purchase credits than it pays in credit card fees. Meaning: if LevelUp gets to a point where it makes money, it’s no longer a profitable relationship for the merchants using it as the cost for the purchase credits will exceed the cost of paying credit card fees. 

Needless to say, I’m skeptical of the mathematics of this situation.

Trying to find an end around the law of no free lunch is probably not the best way to build a payments business…

…unless you’re thinking that a lot of business owner’s pathological hatred of credit card fees will cause them not to realize that you’ve tricked them.

Apparently we have a bunch of communes in Seattle, the owner of one noted that she hates that her neighborhood has become full of “double income white people, it’s boring”.

My retort would be that I’m black and I find overly educated white people complaining about “double income white people” insufferable, in fact, I find any self-righteous complaining about “people different than me have moved into my neighborhood, help, help, I’m being oppressed” to be annoying. 

Especially since that neighborhood has nearly always been 90-95% white, you know, like ALL of the Seattle area.

Yeesh

Here is the funny thing: I know some of her neighbors, they share really similar world views, she might like them if she looked past the fact that they have good jobs. 

Maybe that’s the real issue as far as partisan divides in this country, anyone far left or right is close minded and insufferable.

Either way, reading about the communes struck a nerve, not sure why. 

Loved this piece by Susan Schorn related to the Hobby Lobby case (written before the SCOTUS’ deplorable decision), reading it makes me wish we could bring back my great-grandmother and Susan’s great-aunt to straighten out the government.

I mean, sure, they’d wind up discussing smacking techniques and then unleashing hell on Congress, but don’t you want Boehner to have something to legitimately cry about? I mean, when my great-grandmother smacked my little brother* for talking back in the early 80s he never talked back to an adult again. ß This is true. He even brought it up the other day….

…..and he’s 36.

Speaking of tough women my Grandmother had this to say when she signed her DNR: “Of course I’m signing this, I don’t want ya’ll waking me up out of my good sleep, I’m old, I’ve had a good life and I’ve always been surrounded by people that loved me”

*I freely admit I violated the Warrior Ethos by running away when this happened, there was no need for both of us to go down.