The evolution of technology often results in frustrating corporate pratfalls. Companies, desperate for growth, perhaps survival, make decisions that annoy, even alarm us. Why doesn't that happen to Apple?
Some examples are in order. A phone carrier starts with unlimited service to entice customers and later does everything it can to force-convert customers into capped or metered service. A company, which had a fine product for sale can't generate enough growth with a mature technology, so it makes its product available via subscription only.
Here are some more. A free social service becomes insanely popular, and then starts to sell the information people thought they'd only share with friends and family. Or an initially free service violates the implicit trust embedded in the good design as it proposes an unimaginative change —as a result of being under pressure to raise more money.
This is the modern business model of the Internet. Give something away for free (because free is enticing), and then gently pull the rug out from under the customer in order to recover the initial investment.
Have you ever wondered why this doesn't happen to Apple?
Apple is not unique amongst the technology companies, but it is perhaps the very best at creating a quality product that has recognizable benefits. In turn, people are willing to pay for those benefits. Exactly how you convince a customer that the product is desirable and should be paid for is the mark of a great company and ensures that it will thrive in today's culture.
It requires a lot of R&D to build a desirable product. The R&D is often the marriage of sophisticated software with bleeding edge but state-of the-art hardware. For example, the parts necessary to make the original iPod were available to other companies, but they didn't invest in the software, the GUI and iTunes, to make it a wholistic product. The same parts were available to RIM in 2006 to develop an iPhone as they were to Apple. But RIM (now BlackBerry) was cashing in on the present while being blind to a future vision and how to compete with itself.
Every year, Apple makes an iPhone that's better than last year's. We use it (and show it off) with pride. Over time, the iPhone doesn't betray us for the sake of Apple's success. The enthusiasm we have for the iPhone in the first place is Apple's success. And I'm not restricting this to hardware. Apple's software evolution of connectivity, iOS and OS X continues to improve and amaze.
As time goes on, everything with Apple gets better and better because of its well designed product roadmaps combined with an obsession with making the best of everything. There is never a race to the bottom, and there is no built-in or expected double-cross with Apple products. Many companies that seek success in the high technology market overlook that aspect of their relationship to the customer and assume that they can engage in perpetual customer abuse. That abuse is often the result of refusing to think ahead and lay out a great product or service roadmap that builds on success instead of mortgaging the future.
Some executives also assume that they will prosper personally even when their company and its doomed employees are later scattered to the winds. As those executives extract for themselves rationalized success, the customer starts to suffer. In contrast, Apple builds for the long term, and we experience that things are getting better and better. That can be frustrating to those who want their tech-jazz right now at any cost.
In the end, Apple's competitors will ultimately fail as they watch Apple prosper. Some won't even understand why they failed. It's easier to be jealous of Apple's success and explain it away.
Next: the tech news debris for the week of Aug 18. Why the iPad succeeded where others failed.