I Predict 2010: Apple Will Win

 

Remember Apple vs. Microsoft? Yeah, me neither. I mean, personal computer wars are so 2002. The real competition has moved on—to Apple vs. Google (iPhone vs. Nexus One, iAds vs. Adwords, etc.), Apple vs. Adobe (HTML5 vs. Flash), Apple vs. Nintendo (gaming devices), etc.

With the launch of the iPad, there’s now Apple vs. Sony/HP/Amazon and every other ebook/tablet PC maker. A leaked HP comparison chart shows how HP views their Slate stacking up against the iPad.

I haven’t heard much of it yet, but I predict the Apple iPad backlash is soon to begin. And it’ll be driven by two types of people: 1) people who really want an iPad and can’t afford it (like me) so they’re frustrated and want to take their frustration out on someone (in this case, Apple); and 2) competitors of Apple who believe they have a superior product and want to try and convince everyone of that fact.

Here’s the problem, competitors: The game is already over. Apple is already winning, and, I predict, Apple will win. Why? It’s simple: Apple was the first to market with their elegant, well-designed, well-marketed device. They’ve gained huge market share, and once they have market share (like they did with iPod and iPhone) now developers have to create for the iPad first and the rest of the market has to follow. Every other device will be compared to the iPad, and the first question will be, “But is it as cool as the iPad?” (Answer: No. Impossible. No other company/brand has the cache of Apple.)

Apple has figured out what other companies haven’t seemed to figure out: Be the first out of the gate, get the farthest out ahead of the competition, and the race is over.

I don’t doubt there are superior devices being produced that’ll soon be coming out (or are already out), and those devices will sell thousands of units as well. But the iPad will dominate, because it’s already gone very far, very fast.

People will argue that Apple is creating a repugnant “closed” environment, that the iPad isn’t “open” enough. That forcing everyone to purchase through the iBookstore and iTunes is “bad for the Internet.” That people should rebel against this monopoly that should be antithetical to Apple’s own hippy dippy Cupertino culture.

And there’s merit to all of those arguments. But in the final analysis, none of that really matters. The vast majority of users just want a product that is sexy and cool (a status symbol), that works right out of the box, that is simple to setup and use. We’re really willing to pay more for such a device and pay more for content and applications for such a device.

Sorry, competitors, your device may have more great features (e.g., flexibility of expanding memory, what-have-you) and it may even be cheaper (which should be key in a down economy, right?), but no, you lose.

One caveat: The only thing that could stop the iPad from dominating in the same way and to the same degree as iPod and iPhone is if there’s an Achille’s heal, e.g., a fatal hardware flaw in the device that causes these things to spontaneously catch on fire or electrocute people or some other freak thing. Apple can still blame a third party manufacturer for whichever part is to blame, but it’ll kill the device itself and erase all the gains it’s already made in the market. That’s the only I can see bringing down Apple at this point.

What do you think? Please leave me a comment if you have an opinion on Apple, the iPad, or business. Surely you know more than I do, so please set me straight!

Photo by Steve Mays

 

 

Posted on 04-11-2010

Comments

  1. diligent geek says:

    April 11th, 2010 at 9:39 am

    First off, thanks for the post, and I agree with you, by and large… But here are two thoughts:

    1) First, a nitpick. You write, “Apple was the first to market with their elegant, well-designed, well-marketed device.” This is not quite true. As you know, Microsoft has issued tablet versions of Windows for a decade now. There have even been other touchscreen devices; consider Archos’ Android tablet from last fall. Maybe you’re implying that only Apple’s offering has been “elegant, well-designed [and] well-marketed.” If so, I say, “Right on!” … but others might debate the point.

    2) It’s not yet certain whether there’s anything to “win” here. Yes, Apple enjoyed a successful first week with the iPad. But have they given birth to an entirely new category that will thrive over the long haul? Will tablet computers be mainstream devices in five years? Ten? As an example, consider Apple TV. The device has been around for over three years now, but it’s hardly a game-changer. Apple could “win” the category and yet not really “win” much of anything.

    All that said, I feel your pain. I can’t afford the iPad, but I want one. Oh, baby, I want one.

  2. Steve K. says:

    April 11th, 2010 at 10:23 am

    thanks, Diligent Geek! Great feedback – on both points.

  3. Jennifer Ekstrand says:

    April 11th, 2010 at 11:39 am

    I think you underestimate the “closed environment” type arguments. I’ve recently seen a lot of chatter on the web about Apple alienating app developers with absurd restrictions, which I think will cause problems for Apple in the long term.

    I may very-well be an exception, but I have almost no interest in owning an iPad. It does not seem to do any one thing well enough to be a specialty device, and it doesn’t do enough things to interest me as a generic device.

    Apple may win in the short term, but I think they are fighting on too many fronts right now to maintain their victories in the long run.

  4. Steve K. says:

    April 11th, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Thanks for your comment, Jennifer! You may be right about the long-term impact of Apple’s latest moves. Taking on Google with iAds seems like a particularly risky move to me.

  5. diligent geek says:

    April 11th, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Jennifer, I’m sympathetic to iPhone developers who have seen their (expensive!) projects shut down because of unpredictably arbitrary App Store restriction.

    But do you see evidence that Apple’s closed mobile environment has undermined their business up to this point? Consumers seem all-too-happy to exchange freedom for convenience.

  6. Steve K. says:

    April 11th, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    “exchanging freedom for convenience” – exactly!

    Freedom is overrated 😉

  7. Jennifer Ekstrand says:

    April 11th, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    I don’t have evidence on the macro-level, but I know individuals who have ruled Apple products out because of closed-system issues; for example, some never considered iPods because of lack of ogg support.

    The closed system isn’t always convenient. I don’t use iTunes because it doesn’t work with what I’m already using- Ubuntu. In the past year I’ve been surprised by many people I know switching to options like Ubuntu even though I wouldn’t describe them as particularly technically inclined.

    Apple has a large, committed group of fans, but I think ticking off developers limits their potential to attract new customers. New customers are attracted by doing new things or doing things in a new way.

  8. Steve K. says:

    April 11th, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Jennifer, you may be right about the long-term impact of Apple’s actions. But in the short term, no matter how ticked off developers are, they’re going to have to develop for the leading device in the market. And that’s the numbers game I’m talking about, which Apple knows how to play so well.

  9. Rocky says:

    April 11th, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    You’re probably right. Did you run this by Jeff Jarvis? 🙂

  10. Dave Hunt says:

    April 12th, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    I agree with Rocky – you’re probably right. But that also kind of saddens me. I hit the Apple store on launch day and was really close to blowing lots of saved up discretionary income on an iPad, but the cost was enough to give me pause, and now after the last week, I’ve decided against it for three reasons:

    1. Planned obsolescence. Sure, tech always improves and gets better and cheaper, but no camera on the iPad? Really? It’s like they couldn’t even trust themselves to come out with a way to upgrade the thing, so instead they create this artificial upgrade cycle by holding back obvious features.

    2. OS4 (and the lack thereof). If OS4 were hitting the iPad in June, I might have still caved and purchased an iPad. As it is, you have to wait until fall to multitask (no multitask is a deal breaker for me on a tablet), as well as experience things you don’t want like the impending glut of ads in all your applications.

    3. The closed system. There’s a huge rant here that other people have argued better than I could, but when I read about how it’s a pain to actually transfer files to and from the iPad if, for example, you actually want to use iWork and be productive on the iPad, a lot of that hampered user experience is due to just how closed Apple’s system is. It extends beyond just only being able to load apps that Apple approves and only being able to load them through Apple’s store.

    I don’t know, however, whether any of this matters. I took a third of the money I was going to spend on the iPad and bought a Barnes & Noble Nook (the Kindle doesn’t allow free ebooks from the library, so screw Amazon), and I’ll just keep using my laptop for things like watching streaming Netflix. But I’m a geek. I care more about these issues than a lot of people, who aren’t even aware some of these issues exist.

    Perhaps the true brilliance behind the iPad and nearly every other Apple product is that Apple caters to people who don’t actually know or care that much about tech. As you mentioned, Apple customers just want a cool device that works. That’s understandable, and Apple does a great job with industrial design, user interfaces, and branding. Those three things are enough to sway a lot of people.

    I also reserve the right to change my mind about the iPad in two or three years when it costs half as much and comes with all the tech and capabilities it should already have today.

  11. diligent geek says:

    April 12th, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    Dave,

    Like you, I expect to see this feature in a future revision, and (again, like you) consider this artificial upgrade cycle pretty despicable.

    But what’s your use case for an iPad camera? A front-facing cam would offer a table-level look at my nosehairs. A rear-facing camera doesn’t seem very useful, either; the iPad seems too big to whip out for snapshots.

    Good thoughts, in any case.

  12. Steve K. says:

    April 12th, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    I think a front-facing cam would be nice for videochatting. And I remember early specs for the iPad appeared to show a spot perfectly designed for housing a webcam in the frame. So it seems Apple was definitely holding back on that feature – for now.

  13. Dave Hunt says:

    April 13th, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Yes, a front facing camera for iChat (or Skype, for that matter). Based on the 30 seconds I spent trying out Chat Roulette a few weeks back, I can imagine and also fear what people will decide to do with a rear-facing camera. 😉

  14. Eli says:

    April 13th, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    What there is to win:

    A market that didn’t exist before, now exists, and Apple created it. Go to an Apple store soon. I’ve been twice in the last couple weeks. PACKED. People waiting in line. Geeks? Hardly. Fanboys? Maybe a few. You know who’s there? People who know nothing about computers. People who are intimidated by computers. People who hate computers. And they are buying iPads, because the iPad doesn’t scare them. They use it with confidence. They can slide their fingers across it with no fear of screwing it up. They can make it do amazing things effortlessly.

    It’s hard for you and I to grasp this, but the vast majority of people (people who don’t read and comment on blogs for example) are not techies. They buy a car and expect to know how to use it without being a mechanic. They buy microwave ovens and expect, they will be able to use it without reading the manual first. The iPad, and it’s predecessor the iPhone finally removed this hurdle of entry into the world of computing. And people are eating it up.

  15. diligent geek says:

    April 14th, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Eli, those are helpful analogies, and Apple certainly paints its products as devices that “just work.”

    Concerns about touch-typing feedback and unitasking dampen my enthusiasm, however. How can a device “just work” when you can’t do real “work” on it? But I’ll admit: I haven’t yet touched an iPad, which (so I’m told) is necessary if I’m going to “get it.”

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment via Facebook