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  • Never Accept the Inevitable!

    December 30th, 2009

    You just know that the iPod had to be a failure. Why? Because the tech press and some alleged industry analysts said so over and over again, year after year. Every time another manufacturer came out with a competing product, it was dubbed the “iPod killer,” although those products soon faded from the scene. Certainly that was true with every version of the Microsoft Zune. After all, it was Microsoft. How could they build a product that wouldn’t take over a market?

    This is not to say the Zune was and is necessarily a bad product. But something about it seems forced rather than a natural evolution of design, perhaps the consequence of using committees and PowerPoint presentations rather than depending on sheer human inspiration to build a new gadget.

    Of course, the so-called experts didn’t realize that all of the digital media players before the iPod arrived actually never caught on in any meaningful way. They were all difficult to use, with obtuse interfaces from hell, and file downloads were agonizingly slow. Indeed, I reviewed a couple for an online publication and couldn’t find a single product I’d actually use for more than a minute or two after the review process was over — that is until the iPod arrived.

    Even after the iPod sped to the top of the market and remained there, the iPhone was greeted with derision from people who should have known better. After all, how could Apple possibly compete in a highly-saturated market with which they had no experience whatever? Against RIM, Windows Mobile, giant Nokia?

    Again people who should have known better failed to realize that the nascent smartphone market had lots of unrealized potential, particularly for consumers. The existing products were well suited for the enterprise, but not for people who wanted easy access to their online stuff. Consider why the iPhone consumes tons more bandwidth than the competition, which means customers are actually using them for downloads and other heavy-duty online chores rather than just email and occasional Web surfing.

    That the iPhone continues to do exceedingly well despite the arrival of contenders with Google software and friendlier BlackBerrys is a demonstration of how Apple had figured out what other companies couldn’t begin to understand.

    Once again, the alleged iPhone killers seem to be designed with bullet points. If the iPhone doesn’t have a feature, add it, or just imitate the ones present as much as they can. So much for actually building a better mousetrap.

    So we have two instances here where it was absolutely inevitable that Apple was destined for abject failure, yet they succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, even beyond their own sales projections in many cases.

    That’s why so many are now betting on an Apple tablet to be another barn burner. How could it miss in light of Apple’s previous successes? Indeed, although I’m still looking for a reason to buy one, maybe I’ll be convinced in the end, if only for the promised e-book capabilities. Just last night, I was reading an old science fiction novel on my iPhone, and certainly the page navigation process was simple enough. I was even pleased to discover that, while I hadn’t launched the freeware application in question during the previous year, and then on a older iPhone, it opened right on the last page I had been reading when I last quit the app. Nice work, but I still prefer regular paperback books.

    Moving on to the PC world, it does appear that Windows 7 will do well for Microsoft and that tens of millions of customers who avoided Vista will upgrade, although the horrendous installation process for XP users represents a huge miscalculation. Moreover, Microsoft’s ad campaign is utterly pathetic. When I am not skipping past those ads on my DVR, I have to wonder sometimes if they are selling an operating system or someone’s note-book computer. Explain to me why the moron depicted in the ad seems to think that, because the PC incorporates a few basic functions all PCs possess, it was somehow customized just for him or her. Truly pathetic!

    Well, at least Microsoft is selling mostly to the business world, where the corporate purchasing agents don’t pay attention to lame ad campaigns — or shouldn’t. I would also seriously question whether any of those TV ads managed to persuade even a small number of individuals to upgrade to Windows 7, or even buy a new PC.

    In any case, typical of recent Windows upgrades, Microsoft apparently hasn’t made any headway against Apple, which continues to shine in nearly every product category. Arriving in the same month as Windows 7, the new iMacs, for example, have become a major success story in Apple’s current quarterly sales figures, based on what has been published so far.

    2010 will be a truly fascinating year for Apple, regardless of how well that promised tablet computer sells should it be released as expected.

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