Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Test

For the last few months, everybody in the tech press has been all stirred up about all the companies that are trying to compete with Apple.

It's kind of interesting to look at the companies that are on that list. On the hardware side is Dell, HP, Sony, Toshiba, Gateway, Acer, Nokia, Motorola, TiVo, Creative, to name but a few.

For software there's Microsoft, Linux, Adobe (sort of), all the browsers.

In the realm of online media sales, there are a host of companies vying to compete with iTunes, including Wal-Mart, MTV/Real, Yahoo, Amazon, Napster.

Now here's the test. Which other company competes in two categories? Which company competes in all three?

Each one of those companies competes with one aspect of Apple's ecosystem. No one company competes with more than one aspect, much less the entire system. Plus, each of those companies is in competition with the other companies on the same list. The Windows-machine builders are all in competition with one another. The only things they really have to differentiate their computers is price and service. They get potluck for an Operating System – whatever Microsoft is selling or the best Linux build they can find.

Each new product Apple builds is designed to work well without the ecosystem of a Mac, and better with the whole system surrounding it. Each new product Apple builds is – from the ground up – a fully integrated piece of a Macintosh system. That means the OS gets tweaked to support the new gadget, too.

The wireless phone guys are at the software companies' mercy for that, too. They can't innovate too far ahead of someone else's software.

Here's a football analogy for you: Think of Apple's technology as a football team. The Mac is the quarterback; the OS is the offensive line; the iPhone and AppleTV are the receivers; the applications form the backfield and defense. Every time one part of the team changes, every other part of the team adjusts as needed.

There are other players on the field, to be sure. Is there another team? Nope. All the other guys want to play quarterback. Everybody else wants to take the snap and throw that touchdown pass, but there's nobody willing to block or go long.

Tell me if you will, in the comments, how Apple can lose this game.

I'll bet a freshly prepared pan of Jiffy-Pop Apple is the biggest computer company – in sales, revenue, profit, market cap, and Employee of the month parking spaces – by the end of 2008.

Oops. It's a school night.