Very interesting post from MacRumors.com, on the perceived evolution of Apple’s customer base, to-wit,”consumers want what we don’t have”.
As new players enter the market, the customer’s needs change, this is inevitable in any free-market and it’s something that Apple used to be very good at despite all the dogma that, “Apple abhors focus groups, and doesn’t listen to it’s customers.”
Take the iPod for instance.
The iPod started of in as much the same way as the iPhone, a very expensive, albeit limited answer to a market that already existed.
Over time, new models were introduced, the hardware got a lot cheaper, and every single market niche was eventually filled, from the music-mad (100g+ iPod classic for all your songs), to the teen with limited cash, (the iPod mini/nano), onto the bargain-basement little iPod shuffle.
The iTunes store gained traction and ALL the hardware from the high end to the low-end was serviced by the iTunes store.
To the point we are now at where the competition to the iPod doesn’t exist, it’s been destroyed, other than extremely cheap devices that are little more than USB sticks with a few extras.
Game, set and match.
You can argue that the bottom has fallen out of the iPod market, now that the iPod touch fills most of what remains, however all the iPod line is still on sale.
So why hasn’t this happened with the iPhone?
Where is our iPhone mini or nano?
Where is our iPhone shuffle, or the candy-bar phone equivalent?
While we’re at it, why can’t developers write apps for the AppleTV?
Why doesn’t Apple view the iPhone market, in the same way the viewed the iPod market?
It would certainly work, the AppStore is perfectly capable of servicing every model of iPhone, with apps that can only run on certain hardware, (you can’t view videos on an iPod shuffle like you can on an iPod classic for instance).
Lot’s of why’s, very little answers.
Looking at some of the internal memos that have come out from the Apple / Samsung trial, it’s clear that there’s a struggle going on at the top of Apple, in what they stand for, what markets they should service, and what their profit-margins should be.
It’s clear that Apple needs to get focused and act like a start-up, like they used to.
Continuing the trend of leeching borrowing off Gruber’s ideas, his assessment of the iPad chimed with my thoughts as well.
Computers. Gruber thinks he’s seen the future of computers, and it is the iPad. “It’s really, really good,” he gushed. If you are sitting on a couch and you need a computer, most people are going to reach for the iPad, not the MacBook Pro. And that puts Apple into uncharted territory. For the first time since the original Mac replaced the Apple II, it has two overlapping computer products. And although it took a few years for the corpse to grow cold, the Apple II basically died the day the Mac arrived.
A very insighful observation which I think speaks of the future, not the present.
As Gruber points out, this is the same situation all those years ago when the Mac and the Apple II were side by side. The Apple II back then was the serious workhorse computer and the Mac was the novelty, the weird computer people didn’t take seriously.
The big difference now however is the iPad rides on the back of the success and investment of the iPhone. The AppStore and all its developers are primed and ready to launch the iPad with apps that just weren’t there when the Mac was released.
The Mac was an eventual success, the iPad with its thousands of apps? you get the idea.
I firmly believe that my children will be using the descendants of the iPad in their Graphic Design jobs, with fully envisaged multi-touch environments, instead of the mouse-driven Mac we all use now.
The big question for me is, what will Windows look like then?
Really good insight into what lies beneath Apple sleek, minmalist iPad, straight from the horse’s mouth – Colin McCaffery, product director at 2ergo (emphasis theirs).
“I believe the iPad will be about sitting in front of the TV whilst watching TV, browsing a ‘magazine’,” McCaffery – whose 2ergo made the apps for The Guardian, Fox News, Arsenal FC andothers – told me in an interview. “It will switch on in a second, you’ll be straight in to your content – it will be almost exactly like a magazine that you pick up from the coffee table.”
The jury is still out on whether people will naturally see the iPad as a coffee table companion, but it’s clear that important people in the media, already see the iPad as a way of realising the dream of digitized, subscription based content.
iPhone developers are currently getting to grips with the new software developers kit that includes iPad features, and 2ergo is already working on firm iPad app projects for four clients.
So the desire by the content creators is there, it seems now the ball is firmly in our court, that’s you and me, the content consumers – are we willing to pay for content anymore?
Last year I bought the excellent zombie-killer game on the iPhone, “Call Of Duty – Zombies”
This game is totally ‘up my street’, and last week they released a new map, which could be purchased through the app. The app cost £5.99, and the new map cost £2.99.
I purchased it straight after viewing the demo, but what worried me, and what should worry all content creators, are the comments on the app store from users who balked at the price.
Many thought that they has paid quite enough and expected all future maps to be either free, or under a pound.
Is this the current attitude of your average computer user?
It seemed that a lot of these comments came from kids, who obviously have very little money to spend, and they won’t necessarily be the same market that the clients of 2ergo are after, but no-one can doubt that these are their future customers.
And it’s this that seems to be at the heart of the iPad’s approach – it’s not a computer.
It’s not a device that ‘does it all’ and therefore doesn’t have all the shortcomings (from a content creator’s point of view), of that device – in this case, run illegal software and media.
It’s a perfect device to redefine what consuming media means as a concept, it’s the perfect device for content creators to take back their industry from the computer users, who have, let’s face it, damaged their careers, by arrogantly assuming that they can have everything for free.
A future where content is tied to a device and must be paid for might sound a nightmare to some people, but that’s also a future where content-creators can finally make a living online, allowing them to create even better content going forward, and in the long run, that’s good for everyone.
Good, valid points made from Gruber’s observations, but it’s the Nintendo comparison that got me thinking:
The App Store. There are two schools of criticism about the iPhone App Store: The most vocal critics say that it is totally going in the wrong direction and should be doing what Google (GOOG) does with the Android Marketplace — offer users the option of downloading apps that aren’t vetted and approved. The other school says that Apple is going in the right direction, but is hurtling at great speed a few degrees off course. Gruber fears that the shouting from the first school is so loud that Apple may be ignoring the second as well. There are game consoles — like Nintendo’s — whose apps are as tightly controlled as Apple’s. And there are computer systems with app libraries nearly as large as the iPhone’s. But there’s never before been a tightly controlled system with 150,000 apps. “If it proves unsustainable,” asks Gruber, “what are they going to do?”
My kids own a couple of Nintendo DS’s and it interesting that Gruber brings Nintendo into the conversation.
Nintendo have a similar approach to Apple, in that all apps released on the DS must go through an approval process.
I can say that there are a lot of DS games that are certainly cash-in products with poor graphics and have a ‘Adobe Flash’ game feel.
There are also a lot of high quality games also, but it shows that even when you have a stringent approval process, crap can still get through, hence the multitude of fart apps, softcore porn, and repackaged Gutenburg books on Apple’s AppStore.
What is Apple to do? Well they must do something. At the moment it’s difficult to find good quality apps on the AppStore, and you have to wade through a lot of hay, to get to the needle you’re looking for.
I think the small screen of the iPhone doesn’t help. Apple keeps the UI of the AppStore on the iPhone very simple, but it’s this simplicity that stops you from doing more advanced searches.
The only real way I find decent apps, is to fall back on other forms of advertising, such as when apps are mentioned on podcasts and on blogs.
I’m fully supportive of Apple’s approval process, I understand why it’s needed, but finding apps amongst the ever growing number available is a problem that’s only going to get worse.
Way back in 1997, Apple was very nearly history.
I remember back then that I seriously thought of getting out of the graphic design business for good, I could not face a career having to use, what was then, Windows 95/NT.
I decided to hold on and hope for the best, but even I never thought that Apple could go this far.
If there’s one thing that defines Apple, since 1997, since Steve Jobs came back, it is that everything they do, and I mean everything they do, MAKES THEM MONEY.
A sh*tload of money.
Profit margins on their hardware that others can only dream of (around 40% for the Mac).
Software – since Steve Jobs returned, Apple makes the best software in their target markets (please Apple, take on Adobe!)
Content – the iTunes store makes profit on music, movies and apps.
Apple Stores – have the best profit per square foot of any retailer.
Next we have the tablet, and with the rumours of more content deals and that huge data centre built for some as yet unannounced reason, we can expect that to rake in even more cash.
But as the MacDailyNews/Businessweek articles states, what is it for?
Apple have spent a little here and there, acquiring one or two businesses that make strategic sense.
But there’s a lot of money left and it’s looking very unlikely that Apple are going to give that money to their shareholders (with a dividend), or it’s users (by reducing that profit margin).
So what’s it for?
Take a look at the graph at the top of the page – I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.
I love my iPod. Well actually I love my iPods, because I have 4 of them, but there’s one thing that’s been troubling me.
The hardware changes, the design changes, but the underlying software features don’t seem to change.
Things have moved on from version 1, and I know that Apple like to keep things simple, but there’s one thing I wish they would add, or I could add myself.
More often than not, I’m listening to my music on shuffle, and I come across a song by an artist I really like, and by extension I like other songs by this artist.
Why can I not simply skip to a list that says:
1) Shuffle to other songs by this artist
2) Shuffle to other songs in this genre
3) Shuffle to other songs in this year
Maybe this could be a special section that you could programme from iTunes, so you would have an Applescript that does this, but it executes also on the iPod.
I know that the ‘KISS’ principle (Keep It Simple Stupid), is behind a lot of reasoning at Apple, but time and time again I come across a situation like this in the car.
The only way around it is to navigate back to the top level, select ‘Artist’ and shuffle from their entry – it’s not very easy and probably quite dangerous and distracting if you’re driving.
Maybe now that the AppStore is open we’ll see this, but what with Apple restricting certain apps when they duplicate in-built features, it’s not likely.