In ancient times, namely a few years ago, companies conceived of products, then marketed them. In 2011, that process is too slow. Communities create technologies, and in turn, companies that fuel the community surge ahead. This is why Dell, Microsoft and, perhaps, Hewlett Packard are doomed.
Internet communication is so good nowadays that no company can drop just any old product out there and hope for the best — before the consumers get wise. Instead, the community of users, via Facebook and Twitter, conceive of what they need and create a group consciousness about what serves their needs and what doesn’t. That’s why the Microsoft Kin phone failed. It was designed in a vacuum.
Companies, especially large companies, are accustomed to diagnosing the competitive market place, then designing a product to compete. The problem is that it isn’t the product that competes, its the social web around the product that drives evolution. Apple learned that lesson along the way as it benefitted from an almost religious frenzy over its Macintosh products.
This is, of course, why Apple’s tablet competitors are having a problem. Microsoft sees the world through Windows 8 glasses. RIM sees the world through BlackBerry glasses. Motorola sees the world through consumer electronics geek glasses. And Hewlett Packard may fall into the same trap of seeing the world through WebOS glasses because the success of the product appears to depend on the acceptance of the tablet OS and specs. It does not.
Apple, instead, has created a watering hole that has leveraged from its fandom. iOS developers are making money. Customers are buying music, magazines and books for the iPad and iPhone. People congregate and share at Apple retail stores. There is a community of people who are saying, this device can help me in my hotel, my restaurant, my medical practice. Then, that community, interacting with developers in social media, delivers solutions, apps and social concepts, faster than the competition can design a product and force-fit an infrastructure. After the fact. Google is good at this as well, but often their concepts are flawed thanks to a healthy dose of naivete.
This social process also explains why Microsoft has had to work so hard to lure developers to Windows Phone 7. If developers don’t see a business opportunity, no amount of patience and long term thinking is going to emerge into a winning strategy. The question is not how to beat Apple by running a marathon. The question is how to get out ahead of Apple with enabling products and community so that in a time of rapid changes, one can get a head start by leveraging from the consciousness of the community.
Playing catchup may have worked for the PC business in the 1980s as it caught up with and surpassed the Apple II, then the early Macintosh. In the Internet age, marathon thinking is just a rationalization to the stock holders. Either you’re in tune with the community and helping them build their new way of life, daily, or you’re history.
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