Friday, June 15, 2007

Damn. I have to get serious.

I hate it when this happens. I've been reading Forbes, BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal. I've read a bunch of different Tech blogs. Everybody is babbling about the coming of the iPhone. The common denominator in a lot of the writing is the belief that Apple's growth is fueled by "true believers" rather than by the products.

There are many people who believe that the Apple/Macintosh loyalist is simply a loyalist. They believe us all to be taken in by the Jobsian Reality Distortion Field. It cannot really be the products, but merely the hype. We are – in there eyes – stupid and easily led sheep.

They believe Windows and OS X to be equivalent. The iPod is equivalent to the Zune and every other mp3 player. Different but equivalent. To the extent that there are differences, they are hype and fad and cosmetics.

With that in mind they assert that every new touch-screen cell phone is going to compete against the iPhone. The iPhone does not introduce any new technologies. Apple didn't invent any new program or circuit or chipset or interface components. All Apple did was cobble together a bunch of existing technologies.

Ergo, the iPhone can be easily copied and competed against. That would go against Apple's recent history. It hasn't happened yet to the iPod. There are ample examples of iPods available in the wild. If someone really had the savvy to copy it, they would have by now. The iTunes Store has been online for a few years. No significant challengers have risen.

Also, the Mac is growing its market share in a shrinking market. The other guys have been driven to sell their stuff in Wally World. Microsoft is trying to eliminate the challenge of Linux by buying up the companies that sell it, and intimidate those that won't sell with lawsuits. They're trying to shore up one flank while Apple attacks relentlessly by producing what the market really wants.

Growth means new customers. Significant growth can't happen without growing the customer base. Fanboys can't do it.

Apple is innovating several steps ahead of the rest of every market they enter. In the case of the iTunes Store, Apple created the online marketplace then reconfigured the recording industry. No one has yet really tried to copy what makes Apple's stuff so cool. Because of that, no one has taken the necessary steps to compete. It's actually quite a simple process.

1. Determine what people want.
2. Determine what is currently available.
3. Analyze the delta.
4. Find the technologies that will fill that delta.
5. Design with the goal of simplicity and perfection.
6. Never stop innovating.

Then add creative marketing and continuously try to improve customer support.

The iPhone is a perfect example.

1. What people want is a mobile device that lets them stay connected. Apple evaluated what the ideal feature set should be.

2. Existing mobile phones and smart phones are awkward, klunky, and unreliable. The software that runs them is shit.

3. The delta is huge. Apple figured that out without a lot of high powered mathematics.

4. Apple found technologies that could be combined to bridged the gap.

5. They built a device that meets or exceeds the needs of the average user. They designed the item and the software to run it. That way all the nips and tucks needed to make it all dovetail together happened without having to send memos to another State. Then they made it look cool.

6. Continuous innovation: You can be sure iPhone version 2 is in the lab. I'll bet my old sweat-socks against your leftover tuna casserole it's even cooler than version 1.

The mobile phone market – all of it – lives in fear of another Apple innovation, because they lack the mobility, imagination, and flexibility of Apple. The rest of the marketplace makes cosmetic improvements and adds useless features to differentiate one product from another.

Apple engineering in the last ten years is more about finding what features are really used and making sure they work correctly.

If the iPhone lives up the the recent standards of Apple, it will be an unqualified success. It will only fail if it doesn't really do all it says it will. There is nothing equivalent to the iPhone on the market. Nothing. There are smartphones with more features and mobile phones with fewer features. There is nothing with the same feature set. The iPhone has a gee-whiz interface with minimal clutter.

When the iPhone goes on sale, Apple and AT&T will work full time for months filling the demand.

I don't believe all this just because I'm a fanboy.

I've learned that Apple products are better, more reliable, and useful longer than those of competitors. That means that, over time, Apple's stuff is considerably cheaper. I have a daughter to put through college. I can't afford to waste money. I have to make my purchases carefully. I expect my 4-year-old, single processor, 1.8 GHz G5 to last another two years, running the latest operating system and updated software the whole time. It just works.

Do that with a Dell.

The iPhone is going to kick some serious ass. Apple is about to bust loose in a big way.