Of Halo Effects and More Halo Effects

March 31st, 2015

You know the score: People who buy other Apple gear, such as an iPhone or an iPad, are tempted to consider Macs the next time they are in the market for a personal computer. In recent years, Apple has claimed that some 50% of the people who buy new Macs at an Apple Store are new to the platform. A lot of that interest appears to be the result of buying something else from Apple in the past, appreciating the quality, elegance and smooth integration, and wanting to extend the joy.

But the halo effect didn’t begin with Apple, although I suspect some of you might believe that it did. When I looked it up, I came upon this reference, “The halo effect is a cognitive bias in which an observer’s overall impression of a person, company, brand, or product influences the observer’s feelings and thoughts about that entity’s character or properties. It was named by psychologist Edward Thorndike in reference to a person being perceived as having a halo.”

For Apple it started with the iPod, and when the company made the decision to make the iconic MP3 music player available to Windows users. That soon resulted in porting iTunes to Windows, for better or worse. Even though iTunes worked well enough on the PC platform, it was generally considered to function far more smoothly on a Mac, where it was better integrated into the OS.

No matter. For a time the iPod appeared to be Apple’s most important product until it was supplanted by an even better iPod in the form of the iPhone. So there are far more iPhones sold than Macs, but Mac sales have, by and large, grown faster than Windows PCs in recent years. At a time when PC sales are regarded as flat or declining, Macs continue to do well. Apple has therefore continued to invest in the platform, and it’s clear the new MacBook represents a huge investment in trimming a note-book down to two pounds, give or take, while retaining what is said to be a solid user experience with just a few sacrifices.

Well, some would suggest that a single USB-C port is a huge sacrifice in exchange for slim and trim, but Apple has a knack for revealing significant visions for the future. The vision for the MacBook is the near total reliance on wireless connectivity aside from the battery charger. The rest of the tech universe merely has to catch up, as it did when Apple discontinued loads of peripheral ports, floppy drives and DVD drives.

In any case, by making all Apple tech gear work well with each other, the customer is encouraged to stay within the company’s ecosystem. Some might chafe and call it a walled garden, but even Microsoft wants you to accept Windows 10 on PCs, tablets and smartphones. You can’t have the same level of integration on the Microsoft platform because the hardware is built by loads of vendors, but they understand the significance of convergence.

Now to me, the so-called halo effect kind of worked in reverse. I have used Macs since the 1980s, and when it was time to upgrade my wireless handset from a simple feature phone, I chose the iPhone. All right, I had already received a unit from Apple to review, so I had some free exposure before I needed to consider a decision when my wireless contact came up for renewal. Indeed, I switched to AT&T, despite the connectivity problems (long since resolved) because I had an iPhone in my sights in those early days.

The latest halo effect scenario embraces the Apple Watch. Now Apple Watch is, at least for the first version, an accessory for recent iPhones. It doesn’t do much without them, so if you want one, you have to get an iPhone if one isn’t already in your possession. On the other hand, if you already have an iPhone and want to consider a smartwatch, certainly the Apple Watch should be high on your shopping list.

Well, unless you want to save money and give up loads of important features, in which case the Pebble is also iOS compatible. It wouldn’t integrate near as seamlessly, but that’s the promise of sticking with Apple.

Now whenever people want to speculate about what Apple might do next — and there’s still talk that a motor vehicle is in the cards some day — you can be sure that integration among all the products is part of the picture. If such integration has to be forced, or doesn’t make sense, Apple won’t consider the product. But don’t assume you can guess what they’re going to do next. Even the car project might not bear fruit, or may be more about controlling the dashboard then building the whole vehicle.

As you consider the impact of this halo effect, isn’t it true that just about any tech company on the planet would love to have their own halo effect? Wouldn’t Samsung love to see their smartphone customers buy Samsung TVs and washing machines? Perhaps that might make sense, because there are ways all these products can be integrated or at least controlled, but a Samsung vacuum cleaner?

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