Category Archives: Kindle

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?


Kindle available in Burundi but not Canada?!?

OK, this deserves a serious WTF?!?

Amazon recently announced they’d expanded availability of the Kindle digital reading device to over 100 countries. Previously the Kindle was only available in the United States.

It’s a big expansion for Amazon, taking the Kindle to Central and Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Pacific Rim.

One VERY noticeable and bizarre exception to this list of countries is Canada.


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No information from Amazon

No reason was given by Amazon for this omission, and a call to Amazon’s Customer Service department (1-866-321-8851) was not helpful. The CSR read what sounded like a stock response, that unfortunately the Kindle will not be shipping to Canada.

I asked whether I could buy one in the US and bring it back here and use it. She said she could not confirm whether it would work as expected. She was polite and thorough, but the complete lack of information was troubling.

What makes this issue even more ridiculous is that citizens of incredibly poor nations with low literacy rates like Burundi will have opportunity to purchase and use the Kindle.


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A few facts about Burundi

Burundi has been ranked as the poorest country in the world in in some studies and ranks at or near the bottom in others. With an average per capita income of between $400-$600 per year, A Kindle would cost roughly 1/2 of the annual income of someone in that country. And each book — costing approximately $10, would be equal to about 1 week’s pay. On top of that, the literacy rate in Burundi is approximately 60%; ranking in the lowest 1/3 of the world’s nations.

Burundi is not an exception here. A whole roster of under-developed, poorer nations including Rwanda, Malawi, Ivory Coast, Albania, Cambodia, Central African Republic, Ghana, Gabon, Madagascar, Guinea-Bissau, Nepal and Mongolia, just to name a few, can purchase this device — if they save up for about 6 months!!!

I have nothing against the people of Burundi or any other country where the Kindle is available. That is not the issue. But the availability of the device in those countries, and the lack of availability of the Kindle in Canada is troublesome. I doubt this is due to lack of interest from Amazon, but the lack of ANY specifics from my call to Amazon’s Customer Service  didn’t help.

My suspicion is that there’s some issue with the wireless carriers in Canada. When the iPhone was launched in Canada, Rogers Wireless tried to gouge customers with their call/data plan. And I’ve written recently about exhorbitant data charges from these same carriers.

If anyone has any information on why the Kindle is not available in Canada, please leave a comment.


P.S. There is a Product Management object lesson in here somewhere, but I’m too incensed by what is clearly a blocking factor by some Canadian authority or telecom carrier. If it does turn out to be a wireless carrier, it’s time the Feds move in and break up these virtual monopolies. They are clearly inflicting harm on the Canadian public by preventing access  to and benefit from what is increasingly a necessary utility (i.e. leveraging wireless services) for the residents of Canada.

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