March 6, 2012


Comparing orange and appleApple faces a marketing dilemma. Steve Jobs had enough charisma to make the mundane and predictable look innovative. Look, the iPad 2 has a camera ... which the iPad 1 should have had.

Steve is gone but Apple fans will still camp out to buy the next new thing for the sake of having it. They’d camp out even if they didn’t know what they were getting.

Yet Apple is lagging in innovation. Instead of the wished-for iPhone 5, Apple released the less-than-groundbreaking iPhone 4S. It doesn’t even have 4G. Android devices are improving more quickly. For instance, Samsung with the Galaxy S II and beyond.

In the world of tablets, the iPad still reigns. Again, Android devices are getting better. I've talked to several iPad lovers and they have no plans to buy the iPad 3. That's partially because the prior models are so good. I haven't upgraded from my iPad 1.

The Hurdle

Apple's big hurdle is continuing to meet growing expectations. The next thing needs to dazzle (especially if the current one didn't). That strategy is tough to maintain indefinitely.

Another approach can win over the long run: incremental improvements. This isn't as splashy but works, especially with apps. Do you remember The Little Engine That Could? “I think I can ... I think I can” ... becomes “I did”. There's also The Tortoise And The Hare. Pacing won the marathon.


Microsoft also follows the next-big-thing model. Windows 8 gets touted as a big deal. I see no compelling reason to upgrade. I'll get Windows 8 preinstalled when I replace my computer, which isn’t imminent. Imagine if Microsoft made continual improvements to Windows 7 instead: 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, 8.0.

You can't make incremental changes to gadgets like iPhones that you’ve already sold. You can with software that's designed for revisions. Windows isn't. Google services, iOS and apps are. Changes take place continually. There might not even be a charge.

If an app isn't quite good enough, you can still buy it without much worry since upgrades are likely. That's reassuring. You can make suggestions, which might change the developer's priorities.

Your Model

Which model do you follow: splash or incremental? Is that the best approach for your clients and your company?

Now that Steve Jobs is gone, I’m less compelled to buy Apple products. I only got the iPad 1. It's still my favourite gadget ever. Yet, next time I could easily get an Android device. The ThinkPad Tablet (review) has a stylus and looks well-designed for business. The next version may be compelling.

The Future

Apple is hardly a has-been. Yet hype gets ho-hum over time. There's the pending risk of getting overtaken. That’s not impossible. Samsung is getting better at designing products that work better and look better.

Do you remember when Sony was the company to watch? The Trinitron TV. The Walkman. The CD player. Samsung was second rate but kept improving and has become the company to watch. Imagine transparent, flexible bendable, foldable displays due this year (see the Daily Mail, Dec 2011). The tortoise may lack flash but can still win the marathon. And take a bite out of Apple.

Apple's next big announcements take place tomorrow on March 7, 2012. The frenzy keeps building. MSN says Apple could be the first company worth a trillion dollars. Maybe. Predicting the future based on the past is risky. Preferences change. Tomorrow’s Apple may be an orange.


PS Keep working on incremental improvements.

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