There’s an immense amount of freedom sitting in front of a computer and putting words on the screen. You can say almost anything you want (but watch the hate speech!), and probably find someone out there who would be willing to read what you say. And maybe agree with you. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have the power to influence anyone, particularly a multinational corporation.
Now if you’re in a position where others are influenced by your words, you may begin to develop a feeling of power. You tell your audience what to do, and perhaps they’ll listen.
Of course, we all know that Apple Inc. got where they are marching to a different beat. Despite being told that releasing a digital music player in 2001 was a foolish idea, the iPod ended up becoming hugely successful. Despite falling sales (unless you count the iPhone and iPad as iPods of course), the iPad dominates the market by a huge margin.
Certainly the naysayers, which included no less than Steve Ballmer of Microsoft, said that the iPhone was a downright foolish idea. The market was already served well by others, so where did Apple have the temerity to think they could make a dent? But I don’t think those who criticized Apple so much are crying uncle. Instead, they’ve hunkered down, suggesting that Apple’s immense iPhone sales and profits are temporary. The market will right itself soon. Windows Phone will be second behind Android in just a couple of years, even though few care about Microsoft’s mobile platform, except for the companies who are building Windows Phone handsets, and Microsoft of course.
We can’t forget the iPad, the “oversized iPod touch” that many analysts suggested simply couldn’t succeed. Even when iPad sales soared, we were told that the latest tablet from RIM, make that Samsung, make that HP, would succeed. Well, Amazon did do pretty well with the Kindle Fire, but it’s not clear if any of those sales were at the expense of the iPad. It appears they just expanded the market, and, with middling ratings from customers, it’s not at all certain whether the Fire can expand beyond those who just want something — anything — on the cheap. But cheap isn’t so good if the user experience is no better than mediocre.
Just this week, I read reports that some analysts are again suggesting Apple is going to release a 7-inch iPad real soon now. Well maybe in the fall. But maybe it’ll be an 8-inch version instead, the better to expand Apple’s reach in the tablet market. The theory has it that the iPad, though cheaper than many expected before its arrival, is still too expensive for many customers. It’s also a wee bit too large and heavy for single-handed use. That may account for some of the popularity of an Amazon Kindle, but let’s not forget that Apple isn’t into producing loads of models for every perceived market segment. They’ve told us that, their actions agree, so why assume things are going to suddenly change?
Let us not forget that Steve Jobs made a big deal over his expressed belief that a 7-inch tablet was just too small. Better sandpaper your fingers so they’ll be small enough to navigate one of those things.
So far, there’s no indication that, aside from a few organizational and marketing adjustments, that Apple’s core product philosophy is undergoing any substantial change under the leadership of Tim Cook. Indeed, Cook has said that he won’t dismantle the product and marketing strategies put in place by Jobs, and there’s no reason not to take him at his word.
But that doesn’t mean Apple isn’t going to have an iPad mini, though it may not be quite as small as some suggest. If such a gadget does see the light of day, it won’t be because some analyst suggested that Apple needs to build one because they say so.
Sure, if sales of the iPad flagged, I suppose Apple would reconsider their strategy, and perhaps consider lower-cost and/or smaller versions. It’s still quite possible that the current iPad 2 will remain on sale after its successor appears, at a lower price. This will help grab customers who might have considered a Kindle Fire or another lower cost option. Even an 8-inch model would only be a modest concession, although some analysts would pronounce such a product as a vindication of their unproven theories. Maybe Steve Jobs even green-lit one before he passed on.
However, if those analysts are so good at what they do, why are they just talking out of their hats and not running their own multinational corporations to demonstrate that their marketing theories can actually work? Would any company even hire them, or is it far easier to just sit back with coffee in hand and shoot from the hip?
Here at The Night Owl, I’ll tell you what I think, what I’d like to see happen, and even express my concerns from time to time, but I would never presume to suggest I know better than Apple about anything. Microsoft? Well, that’s another story.