Thursday, October 25, 2012

Apple: market creation vs. invention

I cannot believe I keep reading articles like this.

Compare the Apple of 2012, then, to the Apple juggernaut of 1998 to 2010. That Apple didn't react to markets. It created them. Who wanted a tablet before the iPad? Who gave smartphones a second thought before the iPhone?

I'll lay it out as a bullet list, so you can read it more easily. Apple can be considered a disruptive influence in four markets:

  1. Personal Computing – Setting aside who stole what, they created this market. I won't use "invented" because even when they specified hardware and write code, they made choices from existing projects, from existing microcomputers out in the wild. The accomplishment, and these others, are amazing, but are business accomplishments and not art or invention.
  2. Portable Computing – Laptops, even as we'd recognize them, existed and were a force in business computing (selling enough to be tracked and talked about) well before the first PowerBooks. Apple (eventually, after the false start of the luggable Mac Portable) helped solidify the space around the still-current layout.
  3. Personal Music – We all know MP3 players existed for a couple years before the iPod, and even that Apple bought the code and hardware fundamentals, only applying a finishing sheen to it all, and eventually a really robust ecosystem that changed the industry. Before this, it was the realm of nerds, and there was no reason to set aside your
  4. Smartphones – Smartphones were a huge thing, and already growing at a weirdly large clip before the iPhone. Remember back pre-iPhone when we all talked about how Japan is so much more advanced? That's because we were backwards. Blackberry? Meh. Try
  5. Tablets – I'd tend to say the Tablet PC is not even in the same category. But, since they didn't launch an all new product per se, using the same OS and gestures and basically everything, it's hard to say they invented anything here even if I stipulate that. They were inventive, and created a market from scratch, but did not invent anything truly unique.

So, what do I think of the iPad Mini? Not much. Not that I hate it per se, but literally that it's just a variant. It's not carving a new niche, but is an option in an existing lineup. No one much asks when there will be a 17" MacBook Air.

I think this is probably a good idea. I can imagine someone making a radically new style of 7" tablet, and Apple would be a good company to try that. But, then you have to sell this competing /class/ of device. I wouldn't bother.

No one knows outside their buildings, but sure, it seems obvious that Apple didn't want to loose any part of the tablet ecosystem to anyone else, so made a smaller one. I am actually insulted by their claims that it displays more than a Nexus 7. Of course it does: It is bigger! They made their choice, and I think it's bad but all the rest is marketing.

If I had to pick one thing Apple is really good at, it's cutting their losses. Annoying if you own one of those devices, but I am thinking of the reduced marketing drive and refresh or actual discontinuation of (in no order and not comprehensive):

  • Pippin
  • Newton
  • eMate
  • Cube
  • Mac TV
  • ITV
  • I'd argue Apple TV

Note I didn't even go back to Lisa and the luggable. There's plenty of others. Which is great. They try things, and let some fail. And learn.

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