Why Everything Gets Better With Apple, Worse for Others

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.

Page 2 - The Tech News Debris for the Week of Aug 18

The tablet Holy Grail was always on our minds.
Star Trek: First Contact. Image credit: Paramount.

Jean-Louis Gassée writes, with characteristic clarity and insight, about the evolution of the tablet, leading to the iPad. He goes back and starts with Alan Kay's 1972 Dynabook and traces the evolution of the tablet vision, the Holy Grail device that's always been on our minds.

Unfortunately, the first Tablet PCs, especially those made by Toshiba (I owned two), are competent but unwieldy. All the required ingredients are present, but the sauce refuses to take.

Skip ahead to April 2010. The iPad ships and proves Alan Kay right: The first experience with Apple’s tablet elicits, more often than not, a child-like joy in children of all ages.

How is it that so many companies tried to develop what they knew was the vision we had for a tablet—and failed? How is it that Steve Jobs had a vision that made us feel like kids again? If that process were well understood, every company would be as successful as Apple. Correction. Many CEO's can, in principle, come to that understanding, but they can't and won't be steered there.

In delightful fashion, Mr. Gassée takes a look at the state of the iPad with a tennis metaphor: "The Sweet Spot On Apple’s Racket."


I think I knew this lawsuit was coming. First, corporate employees got tired of being dictated to by the IT department, so they started brining their own smartphones to work. This is the "Bring Your Own Device" (BYOD) phenomenon of late. Next, employees, realizing that their employer wanted to both reap the savings and dictate security and procedures, have decided that they should be reimbursed for the business use of their smartphones.

Nancy Goring (@ngohring), who is a good writer to follow on Twitter, lays it out at CITEworld. "Be prepared if California court's BYOD ruling sticks."

Not every writer who covers technology has a first rate mind. But former attorney John Kirk does. Over and over, he has presented the ironclad logic of Microsoft's failures with the Surface tablet. Why Microsoft doesn't see what they're doing wrong when presented with the burning light of reason—that's there for all to see—is unfathomable. I agree with Mr. Kirk's logic. How about you? "Microsoft’s Surface Ads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly."

We have heard, here and there, about the jewelry aspects of a rumored new product from Apple. 9to5Mac has posted an interesting letter from GTAT in Arizona to the U.S. Dept of of Commerce about the production of Jewelry. "Apple files to kick off expanded, potentially ‘jewelry’-classified sapphire production this month."

Speaking of new products, Jonny Evans at Computerworld has summed up what we know about the state of Apple's new products. "10 credible future Apple product claims for this week."

Finally, I am always alert to the musings of Ken Segall. In his Aug 22 report, he describes some curious lapses by Apple. They're very low key things, something few people would notice. But Mr. Segall did. A good (and perplexing) read: "Some curious Apple lapses."


Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page 1) followed by a discussion of articles that didn't make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.