If you already own an Apple product or two, you might already have become one of those endearing/irritating Apple Evangelists excited by any new product announced from Cupertino. Or you might see your Appleware as the best of a crowd of good products. Or you might find the whole cult-of-Apple think rather weird. But you can’t argue with success, they say. And Apple has proved stunningly successful over the last few years – especially as it has developed the iPod line and released the iPhone. The latest MacBook Air must feel like a bully’s pile-on to the competition. Where can they possibly go from here? Jared Keller of TheAtlantic.com reports on the conclusion stated at the held in New York last week – Namely, that the hardware wars are all-but done. In the world of mobile technology, where ever Apple goes, Apple will lead, and win, the race ‘there.’ In itself, hardly a striking insight. But why Apple will win is worth a look because it runs counter to the counter-attacks launched by Apple’s competitors, especially in the mobile-phone industry. As Keller puts it:
Forget apps. In the coming mobile revolution, the company with the best machines will win.
That’s why Apple is the most formidable force in tech, according Gene Munster, an Apple analyst for Piper Jaffray & Co, in a presentation at Business Insider’s IGNITION conference on the future of the media. With the iPhone and iPad now ubiquitous features of the media landscape, one can only wonder how Apple’s hardware advantage will translate into deeper dominance.
Advertising for Google Android phones brags about the ‘world of software’ available on the open-platform system. Microsoft Windows 7 brags about its ‘App-tastic‘ new phones (I’m fighting the urge to turn this post into a burlesque review of …). Even Apple pushed its “There’s an app for that…” over the last couple of years.
Nowadays, at least until last week, tech companies emphasized the easy, beauty, flexibility, stability, price … of their software to get ahead – Or, in the case of Windows Vista, get behind (Couldn’t resist).
Yet the insider analyst takes us back to 2002 and the focus on the svelt hardware Apple presented with each generation of iMac. The quirks of the latest OS X (OS Ten) operating system still made shoppers nervous, but the screen ‘seemed to float in midair’! The iPod was absurdly successful not because it did things other MP3 couldn’t do (Indeed, it did less than many other MP3 players on the market could do), but because it was cool to own one and the hardware was easy to use.
If the Mac computer were easy to use, then it wasn’t the hardware that made it such. But what caught consumers’ attentions was the design – awareness of the software came later. As the market for computers matured and consumers grew in experience and awareness, tech companies could push the software to the fore and leave the hardware to Dell or Intel or Motorola. Apple did not quite do that, of course, but (Snow) Leopard or iLife got the bulk of media attention over the last 5-6 years. Not the move from a 21″ to a 23.5″ to a 27″ screen on the iMac.
But before we lay the laurel wreath upon the head of the Olympian victors, let’s not forget what Apple might want us to forget: Apple makes mistakes too. The G4 Cube? The Newton? AppleTV? This is not meant as a challenge to Apple, but as a reminder that desires and interests in the market change. Apple’s single-unit speaker system, the Hi-Fi, had technology later perfected by Bose, offered some portability (albeit for a block of eight D-size batteries), and wonderful, room-vibrating, sound. It also never really took off. Other speaker systems always sold better and Apple finally cut it’s loss. To assume the company will move from win to win amounts to , which has brought down many an enterprise.
So, yes, the iPad is an amazing and amazingly popular device (I wouldn’t mind if Santa put one in my stocking). But Apple will continue to innovate, as will its competitors. And as the small print says: “Past performance is not necessarily and indicator of future dividends.” I would not bet against Apple. But I wouldn’t see the competition as a ‘war,’ or that Apple ‘won’ it either.