May 282009

You’ve all heard of the strategy of being a “loss leader” in a market; but M$ is looking to perpetuate its title of “loss follower” in its consumer product offerings.   Witness Microsoft’s latest flotilla of capital destined to do dance of the porcelin swirl: the Zune HD.

zune hd Hey. That design almost doesn’t look half bad. Wait a minute. Haven’t I seen this somewhere before?

zune hd cropapple-iphone-back Oh, that’s right. Jesus, M$. Could you even try?

Consistent with Microsoft’s previous duplication policies, they’ve taken the most aesthetically pleasing aspects of the design and fucked them in the ear.  In this case, we have visible screws (must be for that replaceable battery) and hard-angled bevels.

Companies with less capital than the average European nation would have tanked under the weight of the original debacle.   But Redmond is not content to sit on its laurels: they will not rest until they’ve diverted at least tens of sales that would’ve otherwise gone to superior products.

May 212009

Apple does not respond to market trends by introducing “me too” entries. If there is something of value to be extracted from a market, Apple takes it and packages it into products that have a more intuitive UI, a better industrial design and consequently higher margins.

When MP3 music players were first introduced, Apple didn’t shove some ham-fisted music player out the door.  It thought a lot about how to navigate content, came up with the idea for the clickwheel, and made it the joystick of a UI.  The iPod Classics and Nanos still use this combination and the UI is also at the core of Front Row and the Apple TV.  With the hardware‚ we also got iTunes – the eventual portal to the iTunes Music Store.

Cell phones had been on the market for over two decades before Apple decided to enter it. It did so after carefully considering what was good (almost nothing) and what sucked (nearly everything) about cell phones.  From those musings, we not only got a revolutionary UI and a new model in carrier relationships, we also got advancements in SDK and app propagation.  The point is Apple didn’t compete in markets by conforming to them.  It redefined them through a marriage of form and UI,  backed by other Apple services.

This is why, when red-faced analysts jump up and down screaming about Apple losing out on millions of potential customers by not introducing a netbook, Apple is content to quietly utter “fuck you” through their smiles.

People have been proposing what Apple’s response will be to the netbook craze for at least the past 8 months. Every time Apple acquires, hires or delivers a keynote, speculation runs rampant. I think Apple will introduce a product that will be perceived as a “response” to the netbook‚ but I believe it will be a very different animal.

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