iOS Maps: the five year plan

No one outside of Apple and Google knows the particulars of why the companies completely parted ways with Maps on the iPhone. The common assumption is that it was entirely Apple’s move to protect its platform from a rival, but we don’t know. Perhaps Google decided to pull the plug to protect their own platform, or maybe they wanted to junk up the built in YouTube and Maps apps with tons of ads, and Apple balked.

The fact is that Apple and Google had a five year agreement, not entirely unlike the one Apple shared with Microsoft from 1997-2002, where steady updates of Office to the struggling Mac platform were promised. People worried that Apple would suffer with the prospect of Microsoft letting Office die on the vine at the end of that term, but the reality is that both companies continued to create and update products that fill that productivity need, and users today have great choices with Office 2011 and iWork.

Most importantly for Apple, they are no longer depending on Microsoft to stay relevant. Five years into iOS, they are (or were) pretty reliant on Google for a core part of their user experience. I predict that Apple Maps will improve rapidly and Google will eventually have their own solution in the iOS App Store, complete with all the ads they want to sell. The new YouTube app does that now. I don’t think Apple would reject a Google maps app considering Mapquest has been available for a while.

I’m not so sure about that iPad mini

Predicting the release of Apple’s medium-sized iPad has been the national pastime for the tech press this year.  I would argue that it may be a very long wait.

Practically no one who follows Apple announcements expected the “iPad mini” to be announced alongside the iPhone 5.  The conventional wisdom was that Apple would shine the spotlight on the iPhone for several weeks to guarantee a huge rollout, and then schedule another event in October to unleash the not-too-small, not-too-big iPad.

But then Apple announced the new iPod touch.

The latest generation touch now has the same larger screen (vertically speaking) as the iPhone 5, along with a host of other significant changes.  And it’s priced at $299.

Which begs the question: what would they charge for the iPad mini?

Pundits predicted that Apple will price the still mythical device in the $200-$250 range, which is well below that of the new touch.  I suppose the iPad mini could be built with cheaper components than the new iPod- a non-Retina screen, slower processor, lesser storage capacity, lousier cameras- all to drive it down to the price of something like the Kindle Fire.

This is a problem for two reasons:

1) Apple would suddenly be undercutting a new high-margin product with something slightly larger, cheaper, and slower.

2) Apple is not in the business of selling crap.

Let’s address the second point first.  The battle cry for the small-ish iPad reminds me of a time in the distant past (3 years or so) when pundits declared that Apple would face certain peril if they didn’t create a super-cheap laptop to compete with the surging netbook market.  Back then there was a range of $200 laptops available at your local Best Buy that ran Windows or Linux on cramped screens and were powered by yesterday’s technology.  Profit margins on these devices were razor thin, and Apple just doesn’t duke it out for scraps at the bottom of the market.

So how much profit would Apple make on a $200 iPad mini?  Not enough.  Amazon is willing to go there with the Kindle Fire, but Amazon doesn’t mind barely operating in the black.

So, what if Apple decides to charge more than the iPod touch’s $299 price tag for the iPad mini?  It would avoid the undercutting I mentioned earlier, and it would sit neatly between the price points of the touch and the the $499 iPad.  That makes even less sense.  Why? Because the iPad 2 parked in that slot at $399, and some believe it’s Apple’s best selling tablet.

Any way you slice it, there’s little if any room for a device like the iPad mini to slide into the current lineup.

Amazon’s new Kindle Fire is ad supported

The Verge reports:

Amazon’s new lineup of tablets don’t just differ from the original Kindle Fire in their hardware. Like last year’s cheapest Kindle e-reader, all three new models — that’s the Fire, the HD 7, and the HD 8.9 — will display Amazon’s “Special Offers” promotions and advertisements on their lock screens. Unlike the low-end Kindle, however, Amazon isn’t offering the devices in more expensive, ad-free models, nor is it making mention of any way to opt out for a fee.

Those aggressively low Kindle Fire prices are making more sense. There’s no doubt that Amazon’s profit margins on tablets are slimmer than Apple’s, but by subsidizing them with ads it shows that Amazon is no longer willing to give them away at cost.

Breaking Bad’s death toll in one simple chart

John LaRue at TDYLF:

Fans are left to reflect on the season that was, and re-watch previous seasons. Or, they can bide their time over the next year by checking out this infographic I’ve created that details all of the deaths that have occurred in the series, including the cause of death and the responsible party.

Simply awesome.  And full of spoilers if you’re not up to date on the show.

R.I.P. Avid Studio for iPad…

…and hello Pinnacle Studio for iPad.  TUAW:

You might get a surprise when you open Avid Studio on the iPad today. A pop-up message advises users that the app won’t get any more support. Users are urged to download Pinnacle Studio, a similar high-end editing app owned by Corel.

Avid sold off a large swath of its prosumer products earlier this year in the hopes of improving their bottom line.  Avid Studio was an interesting foray into touch-based editing, and it’s good to see the product isn’t going away.