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Apple – Not A Technology Company

February 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Each time a new highly promoted mobile phone is launched, the media adds the following by default: “potential iPhone killer”. It seems to be believed that almost any phone launched is made to compete directly with Apple. The same is now said of tablets, where everything launched since the iPad is an iPad competitor. The sense of these comparisons is questionable at best, since Samsung, Motorola, HTC and others are technology companies. Apple is a fashion company.

A company launches a revolutionary product that changes the way in which we consume media on the move. Sold at a premium, this device becomes the “must have” item of its generation and propells the company to worldwide success, as it becomes a household name. Anyone looking to purchase a device for personal media consuption immediately thinks of this product before all others, not because of a superior feature set but due to its status as THE device of this type. There were others on the market of matching and even superior quality, but with no premium brand recognition, consumers were always going to choose the safe, accepted option.

Competitors eventually realised that you can not beat someone at a game that they did not invent themselves. What they needed was a new, evolved game, one with rules that they could control and shape in their own favour. With a new game they could compete on price and functionality in a way that suits your needs and gives you access to the market you desire. Sony was too slow to react; the iPod destroyed the Walkman.

Apple achieved this victory over the previous champion of portable media consumption, and in recent years took control of the smartphone market (without actually producing smartphone initially) because they changed the game. A hard drive instead of a cassete tape or CD meant it couldn’t be directly compared to the Walkman, which used inferior technology, so they were able to price it as a premium item, immediately creating an “exclusive” label for something most never realised they wanted (unless you truly do need to take 1500 hours worth of music with you for your daily 90 minute round trip to the office). A mobile with a capacity touchscreen, perfect for finger based navigation could not be compared to resistive devices as they were meant to be used with a stylus. In both cases the products took years before they could be classed amongst the top tier on features, but in the eyes of the consumer they were the ones to own.

Ask the typical iOS user why the are not using another operating system. You will not be impressed with reasoned, informative views on the failings of competing products and why they can not match their needs. You will be informed that Apple is better because it has better applications. Push for examples of this and you will be lucky if even a single app name is provided as being better on iOS than other platforms. I can only assume that companies have so far failed to realise exactly what they are fighting because they refuse to look at the industry through a different window. This failure is ever more shocking when you consider how Apple propelled themselves into the position they hold today. 

If you were to look into the home of a typical Apple user today you would see their Macs and iOS devices take centre stage, placed and positioned so precisely they could be mistaken for ornaments. But ornaments they are, used to present their owners as “cool” and “up-to-date” with today’s technology. They are on show to highlight that their owners buy the best, regardless of cost. Apple products are fashion accessories to the general public, in the same way that Nokia devices with the changeable faces were a few years ago.

Buzz words like “eco-system” and “closed environment” are used in ways that imply this is a game never before seen. This game is just another evolution of the one always played, and the key remains the same – “cool” always wins. Not the most features, the most open source, the best applications or the best screen technology, just ask Apple of the 80s or every other mobile manufacturer when the iPhone first arrived that could not even send MMS and had no app store behind.

Attempting to best Apple by offering products with improved specifications but at a higher price will never work, nor will offering a device with matching specifications at a slightly lower price. You must offer something different, something unique that blurs the lines when comparisons are drawn.  You can not play Apple’s game and win; their game, their rules. Change the game.

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An introduction…

Hello and thanks for reading. I can’t promise that you’ll like it here, that everything I say you will find interesting or agreeable. I can however say with absolute certainty that the words that appear on this blog are my own and are my honest and true opinion.

With that in mind, I’ll continue with the introduction…

I am an engineer that has been employed by the technology industry for many years, specialising on mobile devices of various categories. In this time I have come to the realisation that power – any power – corrupts. I have seen people who began their careers with the intention of being imaginative in their roles, bringing something fresh to an organisation and trying to implement change be turned into whiny, snivelling little suck-ups who will do anything to not “rock the boat”, making sure that they’ve done exactly what is necessary to tick that box that says “Complete” by their name and guarantees their next paycheck. This all happens with only a hint of their being a promotion at the end.

Those who actually are in power (you know the type, middle management men who can finally afford a nice suit and think their gods), are living examples of the “sloopy-shouldered” mentality, only ever going the extra mile if they have the opportunity to stomp on someone’s face as a reward. You may say that all of this is standard behaviour for most businesses around the world these days and is not unique enough (if thats even necessary) to start a blog about, which is a view that can not be discredited. This blog however will not be about those situations. This blog will be about what this behaviour has lead to in my industry, and most importantly I will attempt to show where these companies could be if they simply learned from the mistakes of the past.

Now it could be said that simply explaining how a business has gone wrong and detailing a recovery road is not particularly interesting, but I will differ by adding in something else. I have had a lot of ideas over the years (many of which are still under NDA) that could have and should have been made into some amazing products. These ideas have never seen the light of day due to the lack of invention, creativity and willingness to be independent in thought by those in power. A few of these ideas have been produced by other companies though, to the usual shrug of “Oh, we missed a great chance there…” as he sinks back into his chair, reading his email for another 7 hours until 6pm, then has his meeting until 7pm so it looks like he’s worked hard all day…

From now on, my ideas will be posted here, rather than locked away never to be used. As I said at the start, this doesn’t mean you will find them interesting or agreeable, but you can be sure that they are my own. If you’re still reading this, thanks for bothering as it is a lot and probably a bit rambly for my first post, but stick around, as it can only get better from here.

Categories: Uncategorized