Articles for March 2014

Keynote 6.x – Has Apple lost focus on their user base?

More than a year after first release and couple updates, I still don’t like new Keynote. I thought features like similar look and feel between OSX and iOS, new transitions, and iCloud support will win me over but…It is clear that in order to simplify this time around Apple actually added more steps for a user like me to get job done. Let’s look at simple example to understand what I mean by additional steps.

Consider changing color of an object on the chart. In Keynote 09 color tool was right there in the top menu bar, just one click away. See screen capture below:

Keynote 09

In Keynote 6.1 same tool is at least two clicks away. One for expositing the “Format” side bar from right, second to expand “Fill” menu so as to click on color tool.

Keynote 6.x

Of course one need to remember simply clicking on color shown next to “Fill” menu only exposes predefined colors and gradients based on template you are using. Which means you must expand “Fill” menu to access color wheel.

Interface is same on iOS and OSX but this is coming at cost of adding more steps for simple task like one I described above. Why would Apple do something like that?

  • Common UI is more important than fewer steps to complete a task
  • Appropriate defaults will make novice users productive quickly

First reason is really against Apple’s design principles. Second reason may be true but works only if your goal is to please novice users. BTW these novice users may realize these additional steps sooner than later as they get comfortable with the software. Quickly turning in to an annoyed user like me.

I always appreciated Keynote’s design compared to PowerPoint. Simple things like how ruler work, aligning of objects and text on a chart, and many more such features shows thoughtful design. Not just me but others who suggested Keynote over PowerPoint probably did so because of thoughtful design. Has Apple lost focus on their user base who appreciated this thoughtfulness? Or this is new Apple who is more worried about monetizing hardware than providing the best tool to get job done? We will see. As much as I like their hardware which is still the best in the industry, software (free software 😉 is bothering me a lot lately.

Microsoft’s user base is different

Last week I received an email from our IT team to ensure I am not running Windows XP and if yes then to remind that I must update to Windows 7 ASAP. After 12 years of supporting Windows XP, Microsoft decided to stop supporting the OS after April 8, 2014.

On a positive note it is admirable to support what you created for 12 years straight. What we have seen all these years is the pressure on Microsoft to maintain the support. So as much it is about Microsoft caring for customer more it is about their customer detecting terms for them. It is no secret that in spite of some successful consumer products like Xbox, Microsoft paying users are Big Enterprises. Microsoft’s financial results for 2013 reiterates which segments are bringing revenue and profit. See below chart for Revenue and Gross margin per segments. Note: Total Revenue was ($77.85 billions) and Gross Margin was ($57.60 billions)

Microsoft revenue & growth margin


Source: Microsoft Investor Dataset

Clearly 75% of the revenue and 93% of the gross margin is from “Commercial Licensing” and “D&C Licensing” segments which includes basically Windows OS and MS Office, see following definitions from Microsoft segment information.

Commercial Licensing: server products, including Windows Server, Microsoft SQL Server, Visual Studio, and System Center; Windows Embedded; volume licensing of the Windows operating system, excluding academic (“Commercial Windows”); Microsoft Office for business, including Office, Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync (“Commercial Office”); Client Access Licenses, which provide access rights to certain server products (“CAL”); Microsoft Dynamics business solutions, excluding Dynamics CRM Online; and Skype;

D&C Licensing: Windows, including all OEM licensing (“Windows OEM”) and other non-volume licensing and academic volume licensing of the Windows operating system and related software (collectively, “Consumer Windows”); non-volume licensing of Microsoft Office, comprising the core Office product set, for consumers (“Consumer Office”); Windows Phone, including related patent licensing; and certain other patent licensing revenue;

It is interesting to see Microsoft trying hard in last few years to woo CONSUMERS like you and I. Of course big enterprises are becoming more demanding in terms of price and support but they are here and are the reason why Microsoft is still making money and will make money for foreseeable future. If Windows OS revenue and profits are declining what is replacing that is server business. Again Enterprise customer not consumer. See below chart for revenue from these two segments from 2009 to 2013 explaining this trend.

All sales in $ millions

Microsoft revenue: Windows & Server and tools

I think any initiative to be a cool consumer company is not in the DNA of Microsoft, they have not done that in years and their existing user base won’t let them. That’s why Microsoft continued supporting windows XP for 12 years. Can Microsoft turn in to a consumer company even at the cost of annoying their enterprise customers? May be for Microsoft to win they don’t have to be Consumer and Enterprise company at the same time. We will see, hope to see some changes from new CEO Satya Nadella soon.

PS: As “Windows 8.1 Update 1” is almost here, there are reports that “Metro” UI takes a backseat allowing desktop to boot as traditional Windows desktop. Even though Metro had some issues but it was step forward in right direction for touch UI and now back to classic seems step backward under pressure from “Existing” customers.