Category Archives: Blackberry

The secret to Apple’s success?

If there’s one company that is the envy of the high-tech community these days, it’s Apple.  Steve Jobs is hailed as a genius CEO and lauded for a string of hit products. Apple’s market capitalization is over $200 BILLION dollars currently, easily ranking it in the top 10 companies in the world by market cap, and just shy of Microsoft for biggest technology company.

Everyone wants to understand the secrets of Apple’s success and hopefully emulate them. The reasons given by people for Apple’s success are many. The following are a few of the arguments made:

1. Vertical integration – Apple owns most of, if not the entire, technology stack for its key products,  and thus gives it advantages over other less vertically integrated products.

NOTE: “Vertical integration” used to be called “being proprietary” and was given as the reason for Apple’s relative lack of success against Microsoft in the OS/PC battles of the 80s and 9os. But phenomenal success has a way of changing people’s minds.

2. Making markets vs.  addressing markets – Some claim that Apple doesn’t ask people what they need but gives them products they decide they want.

Does anyone NEED an iPhone or iPad? Not really, but a lot of people seem to want them.

3. The Cool Factor – Let’s face it, Apple does make “cool” products. Attention to design and detail – fit and finish as they say – really distinguishes Apple’s products from competitors.

4. Entering markets after they’ve developed — Contrary to #2 above, some people claim that Apple doesn’t make markets but enters existing markets once they’re growing and takes  advantage of latent demand.

The iPod was not the first digital music player and the iPhone was not the first smart phone, and the iPad is not the first portable computing device. In the case of the iPad, products like the Kindle and Netbooks actually paved the way for the market to accept  small computing devices, and Apple’s iPad is riding that wave.

5. Differentiated business models – whether it was iPod+iTunes or the iPhone+App Store, Apple innovates not just on technology, but on the business model. This makes it difficult for competitors to play catch up, let alone overtake Apple once it establishes itself in a dominant position.

6. People care about the experience not technology — Apple has always been about the user experience, but for a long time, the majority of the market didn’t care about that.

The majority of desktop computer users cared about “techs and specs”.  Now the tables have turned, and the majority don’t care about the specs, they care about the experience. The iPod, with it’s “1000 songs in your pocket” motto and iTunes which radically simplified purchasing music latched onto the experience wave, and Apple has been riding it ever since.

7. Simple product offerings – Apple has a very clear and simple set of products. It’s easy to understand the differences between their products, product families and the various configurations. This makes it easy to buy an Apple product if you want to.

A lot of companies complicate things unnecessarily. How many iPhone models are there? How many Blackberry models are there? How many Nokia smart phone models are there? See the difference between Apple, RIM and Nokia?

The same is true for the iMAc, the iPod and the iPad. Granted, there are actually a number of iPod models (Nano, Shuffle, Touch etc.) but they are very distinct amongst themselves. This can’t be said for digital music players from other companies.

I’m sure there are other reasons for Apple’s success, but it’s interesting to see how much debate is happening today on this topic. What it says to me is that there is no single reason for their success. And keep in mind that Apple has had failures as well.  Notice Apple doesn’t talk much about Apple TV. And remember the G4 Cube? The 20th Anniversary Mac?  Even the ultracool MacBook Air has had far from stellar success.

So, what do you think are the reasons for Apple’s incredible success over the last 10 years?


Taking the “mess” out of Messaging (part 4)

This is part 4 of the series. Here are links to Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

In this part, I’ll take a look at whether the industry can get out of the mess it’s in.

Looking back

Before looking forward, let’s take a look back at some ads from a couple of decades ago.

Click each image to enlarge.

Notice something about these ads? They all look rather similar. Pictures of (similar looking) computers and lots of text! Check out those headlines. “A new way of personal-professional computation”???? What’s that all about? Is it a personal computer or a professional compute? Well it’s both (and neither)! Ouch.

And that’s one fine looking set of muttonchops on Issac Asimov in the Radio Shack ad!

Even Apple was not immune to kind of advertising.  Here’s the original Macintosh print ad. A double-page spread! Click images to enlarge.

Cool. Did you catch the specs on the Mac? 64K ROM, 128K RAM, 32bit MC68000 processor, and even a clock/calendar chip!

Comparing these ads to advertising today, it’s  clear that things have changed for the better in 25 years. Apple certainly leads most other technology companies in their sophistication, but then, they’ve been at it much longer than most other technology companies!

As every industry matures, so does the audience for it’s products. Forty or fifty years ago, a lot of advertising for cars talked about engine horsepower, size (in cubic inches), acceleration, top speed etc. The only metrics that are frequently mentioned today are mileage or fuel consumption (and sometimes number of cup holders!). But that’s because those are important to us.

In personal technology, few consumers, truly care about the processor in their device. Quick, what kind of of CPU does you iPod have? What about a Blackberry? What about an iPhone? The Palm Pre? The Motorola Razr? The MacBook Air?

If you know any or (even worse) all of the CPUs in those device, you’re a serious geek. 🙂

But for the vast, vast majority of people, it doesn’t really matter one bit. Those days are behind us. We have matured and so has the industry. Of course, there are still many companies that talk in “speeds and feeds” or mumbo-jumbo, but in a maturing industry, they pay a price. The segment of the market that listens to the “tech-speak” is shrinking steadily.

Looking forward

If we try and look 25 years into the future, how will things have changed? Technology will have become much more embedded and ubiquitous in our environment.

The days of the big desktop computer will be gone. We will carry, wear and perhaps even embed devices within our bodies.

A second full generation of people will have reached adulthood living in an Web-enabled world. The word “offline” will be an anachronism. Augmented reality will be our reality.

In a world like that, how will people relate to technology? How will companies need to communicate with the market about their products?

The current “craze” known as social-media will be old news, and will just be part of the communication process vendors have with their customers. Consumers, particularly younger ones, will likely give up a lot of what is now considered “personal” information to companies, in exchange for individualized products and services.

In the context of the digital world, “Give me what I want, when I want and how I want” will simply be a common state of affairs.

Remember the phrase “personal computer”? That of course was shortened to PC, which is still used today, but few people think about the “personal” part explicitly anymore. Messaging and advertising will become “personal” in the future as well.

And of course there will be those that do it well, and those that do not.

So getting back to the original question – Can we get out of this mess? – the answer is yes, but it will take time. But for those of us who are at the forefront of this change, let’s see if we can’t make that change happen just a little bit faster and easier and ensure we don’t get emails that promise to help do things like  “Design a Monetization Strategy to Enhance Strategic Goals while Protecting Core Assets” any more.



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Partnering for Strategic Breakthroughs

I thought I’d give this one a dry title – it’s really about the iPhone again. But I thought people would be pretty tired of iPhone posts by now.

So, for those of you who don’t follow the iPhone (both of you perhaps), Apple released the iPhone SDK. But they did something else that will end up driving many more iPhone sales than allowing you to download games – they added ENTERPRISE support. Yes, ENTERPRISE. It’s just that important. (I’m sure you know by now that your products are nothing if they’re not ready for the ENTERPRISE.)

You can now connect your iPhone directly to Exchange and get all your corporate email in one sleek, beautiful Apple-branded package. All the cool of Apple and all the IT-approvability of the Blackberry. And how did Apple do it? Did they hire dozens of developers to copy RIM’s BES gateway technology? Nope. They licensed ActiveSync. The trouble is that, as anyone who has ever owned a Windows Mobile device can attest, ActiveSync stinks. It just doesn’t work reliably. But you know what – no one cares. In one fell swoop Apple just did more damage to RIM then a dozen NTP lawsuits.

When you’re looking to take your product to the next level and add in the “killer” functionality that every single prospect asks for during demos you need to look long and hard at how you can buy or license that technology instead of building it yourself. RIM had nothing to license when the Blackberry first came out – ActiveSync was even worse back then anyway – so they had to do it themselves. But Apple went to the source and did in just a few months what RIM has spent millions of dollars building. So Apple knows what to do. What technology have you licensed for your product lately?

Honey, I bought the Phone. Confessions from the Cambridge Apple Store.

Alan with his iPhoneI have a perfectly good Blackberry 8200 series, but I’ve been waiting for a chance to hit the Apple store to check out the iPhone. If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, you know that we’ve been paying attention to this product launch.

Finally, a trip to Boston, over a month after the release, and here I am. In fact I’m writing to you from the Apple store in Cambridge right now. It just so happens that today is a big day for Apple; they are right now announcing a new iMac design, upgrades to iWeb, a rewrite of iMovie, upgrades to iPhoto, and several other announcements. The announcement is still under way, so the staff here is still sworn to secrecy, but I’ve been getting SMS updates on my iPhone from macrumors since the announcement stared about 75 minutes ago.

Yes, I bought an iPhone. I can only say this: the thing is truly sweet, a masterpiece of design in every way. Some people have made sensible comments, such as “It’s only a phone”, and I did actually struggle with why I had the compulsion to buy it. I decided this morning on my way over to the store that I would try the phone out and just see whether I *had* to have one. It didn’t take me long. When I picked it up, saw the slick unlock button, my reserve cracked immediately.

Now after a couple of hours of playing with it (I admit that I have been playing), I realize that while this is *just* a phone, it also somehow expresses something about my tastes in product design, ease of use, and just plain beauty.

Am I being overly romantic? Tell us what you think. You can leave your comment here, or send me an iChat …

(Saeed, I think we know how your feel. 😉 )

Now, 12 more minutes until I find out whether they have the new iMacs in stock here.

RIM on the iPhone

In a recent conference call, RIM co-founder Jim Balsillie gave his two cents on how much the iPhone is keeping him awake at night:

I think there’s so many dimensions to the market that we’re in, that people tend to define it too specifically… I’m not really into the ‘my input mechanism is funkier than your input mechanism’. It’s really about the user experience for us. I really don’t pay attention to all these different dynamics, because it doesn’t help me with my channels or my customers any.” via Blackberrycool

That’s right. It’s not about competitors, It’s about customers. And now that Jim has my approval on his product development process, I’m sure he’ll sleep even easier.

iPhone vs Blackberry: Fight!

Read/WriteWeb weighs in, along with 97% of the blogosphere (aka 0.0000001% of humanity), on the iPhone. Specifically, the iPhone vs the Blackberry. Their conclusion: “Watch out Blackberry!” My conclusion? Get a paper bag and breathe deeply for a few minutes because hyperventilation can be dangerous guys.

This is somewhat related to product management; let’s think about some elements of user segmentation and key features. First of all, it has been reported elsewhere that for the moment you can’t get an iPhone on a corporate AT&T account. So form a purchasing perspective, the game is over. But let’s pass on that because AT&T could chage that policy easily.The keyboard would seem to be the most obvious advantage. But, a R/WW commenter says that it will be easier for Apple to add a keyboard than for RIM to make OSX. Really? Is having a OSX-like systems really a key criteria for corporate users? Allow us to reminisce about the breakout product that launched RIM onto the world stage… the RIM 850. This pager-on-steroids was the device that first earned the name “crackberry” among Wall St users. Yes, admire that gorgeous 5-line black-on-yellow LCD display. Admire the operating system that look like it was written by some upper-year computer engineering students after an all-nighter to finish an embedded systems class project. Marvel at the 512K RAM. Enjoy the flexibility of replacing its AA battery any time you want – no messy recharging cables. No hassle sync’ing over USB because there’s no external connectors at all.

Seriously, the RIM 850 is prehistoric compared to the iPhone. It doesn’t even make phone calls! And yet it is absolutely the product that launched RIM. There would be no Pearl or Curve without the 850. So what were those killer features that made the 850 the must-have item of 1999?

  1. integration with corporate email and calendaring servers
  2. a keyboard
  3. brain-dead ease of use

Three things that the iPhone lacks. It has some Exchange support, but not the tightly integrated, seamless solution that is Blackberry Enterprise Server. It doesn’t have a real keyboard. And while I’m sure it’s quite slick, it lacks the one-handed one-two-reading-my-email simplicity of Blackberry.

So while it will be the must-have toy of the next several months, Apple neither needs nor wants to supplant RIM. And RIM will lose absolutely no sleep over the iPhone.

Related: Honey I bought the Phone: Alan buys one and blogs about it.