Monday, January 19, 2009

Forget Apple, and You May Be Forgotten

Palm's new smartphone, the Pre, has garnered some attention, and some folks are calling upon it, like many before, to be the "iPhone Killer". Nokia had one. So did Blackberry. But none of them have even put a damper on Apple's momentum in the phone market.

It appears as if karma is catching up with a lot of companies for snubbing Apple over the past decade. Now that times are tough, most consumer tech companies are feeling a hit. Apple sales are similar, but they are able to sell laptops priced 30% higher then comparable offers from competitors.

My theory is that this could have been avoided if companies had only recognized Apple's turning point back in 1998 with the iMac. Before Apple unveiled their 'bondi blue' savior, their products came in beige or gray, and the few major software and hardware companies who supported them didn't provide updates for Mac as often as they did for PC. And after the iMac was released, those companies still didn't see much potential in them.

This was also right around the time that MP3s were taking over the CD and short lived minidisc market. Hardware companies were making portable players to jump on the trend, but with the exception of Diamond Rio, they didn't see profit in extending compatibility to the Mac. So Mac released iTunes, then the iPod, and finally the iTunes Store. Today, they are the #1 music software, device, and store in the world. Most of the original companies from the 90's are nowhere to be found (How many people do you see today carrying a Grundig or a Diamond Rio?). The same thing applies to phones. While Palm had limited ability to sync with a Mac, Blackberry offered nothing. People still rely on 3rd party software to make it work. So Apple created the iPhone, cutting into Blackberry's market share, and leaving Palm and Motorola in the dust.

Can you see the pattern? Apple's not necessarily trying to take over these markets. OK fine - yes they are, but part of the decision to go down the recent paths they've traveled is to further strengthen their computer market share. You haven't seen them dive into the graphic software market, because Adobe has always provided cutting edge software for them. They backed off of the printer market because Epson's entire line of printers were compatible by the mid 90's. By the time digital cameras were commonplace, Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Olympus knew better than to ignore Apple. Today, gaming companies are quickly porting their most popular games to play on the Mac, and Google was quick to admit their mistake in not having a Mac version of Chrome upon release.

The moral: Apple marketing is king. If you create a product that is not compatible with the Mac, Apple may just create a similar product that will render yours obsolete.


  1. Just a minor quibble: the Mac is nowhere near being a gaming platform. Bioshock came out Summer of '07 for Xbox 360 and PC, a great and imaginative game, but its Mac release is something of an afterthought. There are a few companies that have a strong commitment to developing for PC and Mac simultaneously (the glorious Blizzard comes to mind), but those games are the exception, rather than the rule.
    Every few years, Apple comes out saying that they're committed to courting game devs to bring their products to Mac, and they've never followed through. Their current lame response is, "well, you can run Windows on our machine, and Windows can play games." But people don't buy Macs to run Windows.

  2. Bringing new meaning to the phrase, 'Iphone killer.'