Apple proves (again) that design sells
Record profits today from the maker of all things shiny and desirable has vindicated yet again that people will opt for a better designed and thought out product or service if the value proposition is that compelling – even during a recession.
Over the last few days (for various reasons) I have had time to play with several competitors to the iPhone. With the exception of the HTC Tattoo that I was immediately taken with, it was very obvious that several years after the launch of the iPhone, Apple still don’t have much to worry about. As is already known, they put much thought into many aspects of the iPhone – including those that are controversial, such as the (current) lack of multi-tasking. Today I got to play with one of the devices that was supposed to be a serious ‘iPhone killer’. After all the hype, this device proved to be a major let down. It was so slow, it was unusable and the interface was actually somewhat counter intuitive to all other phones – missing any obvious mechanical or virtual call and end call buttons too. The reason it was slow is because while it can multi-task, the processor is underpowered. I have way too much respect for the company behind this competing phone to mention them. Their prior devices have been revolutionary and practical, and if they survive (unlikely sadly), I am sure the next version of their otherwise innovative device will offer a more practical and immediately intuitive proposition.
The other major future competitor to Apple is Android. Although my employer (lead by me) is exploring developing for Android, the lack of consistency between devices is a major flaw that Apple’s offering does not suffer from. This lack of consistency is a nuisance for end users (who may like to share another person’s device) and developers who prefer a “write once – run anywhere” platform. (Consider the 100% consistency between each X-Box 360 or PS3.) All said, I think (and know!) that this issue is solvable – through good design! 😉
Back to Apple, and related to my prior post re the new iPod Nano (with video recording ability), Apple are being very clever and aggressive in oblitterating their competitors through strategically timed gradual feature improvements. In one swoop they will launch an upgraded OS or a new version of a product and render a competitors offering of lesser relevance. In this case, the iPod Nano video recording capability while not HD quality, is good enough to make the young and colourful choose it over other dedicated pocket video camcorders because the Nano is also a very capable music player – with a radio and a few other goodies thrown in too.
I have often wondered if we would reach a point when only one or two corporations ended up building all the world’s products. Not due to some ‘evil’ Bond like conspiracy or mega cartel, but simply because one or more of these corporations became – like a super triathlete – all powerful based on their own hard work and a consistent focus on key attributes. In the case of Apple, their key attribute is thoughtful design backed with outstanding marketing. Go play with iWorks and compare to it’s nearest competitor from you know who. From a usability angle, Apple iWorks is light years ahead, even if not in the spotlight at present.
Fight back club: Invent several paradigm shifting technologies that leapfrog the status quo, patent them and built a company around the patents. Sony, Toshiba, Hitachi, Qualcomm, Apple and others did – so can you!
Footnote: I predict Apple will launch a ground breaking upgrade to iPhone OS in the not too distant future that will introduce three missing features: a) Multi-tasking – the iPhone 3GS and latest iPod Touch have the power to handle this. b) An active ‘home’ screen. (If Apple ever introduce widgets, that will be terrible. Horrible horrible idea in all current implementations by Samsung and others.) c) Device to device file sharing of some sort – probably via the cloud too.