Most Mac users take for granted the idea that Apple designs differently, but most of the time it seems as if this is of little import to the rest of the world. Since the return of Steve Jobs to Apple, beginning with the release of the first iMac and culminating (so far) with the release of the new iMac G4, the concept of Apple as a design innovator seems to have been making steady inroads into the culture of the mainstream as well. Today we caught a tiny little reference to Apple in an article on the commoditization of the cell phone industry, of all things, that offers a poignant example of just that.
The article focuses on the potential impact of Microsoft and Intel entering the cell phone market with a new reference design that will allow smaller manufacturers to buy the parts needed to make their own version of a Wintel cell phone and assemble them in the cell equivalent of a clone. This is important as it could allow for comparatively small corporations to enter the cell phone market, a market currently dominated by the three giants Nokia, Ericsson, and Motorola. The Wintel duopoly would like to add their respective names to that list by bringing to market what will likely have a commoditization effect on the industry that is even more pronounced than what is already happening. The result will be cheaper cell phones, but the side effect could well be cell phones with some version of Windows running amok on them.
In this article, a parallel to the PC market is drawn, and the importance of design differentiation is discussed. Who should the author of the article use as the epitome of design differentiation? Our favorite PC company, Apple. From the article:
Cell phones are unlike PCs in that design matters--a lot. People have to be able to fit their phones in a shirt pocket, pants pocket, in a purse or on their hip. The buttons must be small but not so small that oneis fingers overlap the keys while dialing. Width and color matter, as do features. For example, built-in phone books are becoming standard. There will be room for companies, especially those with established brand names, to set themselves apart with design. Imagine if Apple Computer designed a cell phone!
You can read more information on the cell phone industry and the Wintel design reference in the full article.