iPod Touch Apps & Apple App Store

For my study break tonight, I installed Apple’s version 2.0 software update for my iPod Touch.

Put simply, it makes my iPod the best pda in the business.  Now I really want an iPhone since I hate being tethered to wifi but might dislike ATT and their iPhone ripoff just as much.

I am tired so I will keep this brief (and try not to regurgitate too much of what other’s have already said) — the iPhone is a great piece of hardware but the software + the app store = an amazing piece of equipment.

In a manner similar to computer makers who are stuck with Windows (see my previous post), phone manufacturers are going to have difficulty replicating the iPhone/iPod Touch’s software and app store.  Hardware is easily replicated (see Sprint’s Samsung Instinct) but software legions of fans (and businesses) wanting to create programs for your software is not.  Apple’s App store is the “hot” place right now.  That could change (especially when Google’s Android is released) but Apple has a big head start, which is growing by the day.

Quick review: The App store is already good and will only get better as more software is released.  However,  not all of this new software is up to Apple quality and my Touch has already frozen on me once.  How long until people begin to blame Apple for 3rd party software problems (see Windows for an example of how this happens)?

Even still, RIM, Nokia, Samsung, LG, you have major work to do and I hope you do it asap!

What happens when Apple is no longer cool?

With the launch of the new iPhone rapibly approaching, a thought has popped into my head — what happens to Apple when they are no longer as cool or counter-culture as they used to be?  Will its legions of hardcore fans, the ones who stuck by Apple through all of those tough years (and the new people who are joining the train now), want to continue to eat every scrap Apple throws their way without complaint?

People are lining up throughout the world to be the first to get their hands on the new iPhone.  From everything I have read, it is a great phone but if you already have an iPhone version 1, version 2 isnt so much better.  The most important part of this launch is the App Store and that is available on iPhone 1, as well as 2. Why are people lining up?  Why so much hype (in every newspaper in the world)?  Because it is Apple.  What happens when they stop being the golden Apple?

I loved my Apple when it was only one of a few around town.  I was part of the Apple crew and I bonded with people over my Mac.  Sure, it is a great computer with great software but it stood out because it was an Apple.  Heck, just today someone asked me questions about it and whether they should buy one.  This person came to me because he saw I had a Mac.  I can’t imagine someone doing the same if I was using a Dell.  My problem was this — I didn’t want to tell him to buy a Mac.  I wanted to say, “no, dont buy a Mac.”  I didn’t want the people not already in the Apple group to join.  I wanted my Mac to be exclusive.

Apple no longer is exclusive.  It has gone mainstream.  I still love my Mac but it is no longer the same sort of love and devotion that I used to have for it.  “Everyone” has a Mac.  It simply is not special.  Will this hurt or help Apple’s business?  What happens when Apple’s every move is not as closely tracked and people don’t care.  I don’t see people lining up for any other product launches (except video game systems and that only happens once every five or so years).

Too many apples too much of the time makes one sick of Apples.

Licensing Apple’s Leopard OS

In my previous post, I discussed why PC manufacturers are scared of Apple.  Here, I want to discuss whether Apple will ever again test the licensing waters (and if they should).

About fifteen years ago, Apple licensed its OS to 3rd party PC manufacturers.  I bought one of those machines.  It was great and cheaper than a comparable Apple Mac.  Licensing was the key to Microsofts rise.  Build an OS and let everyone else market and sell it.  Brilliant!  Apple, a little too late, decided to play copycat and failed.  The 3rd party manufacturers grew at a fairly fast pace.  However, they stole market share from Apple rather than from the PC manufacturers.  Licensing fees couldn’t make up the difference in lost revenue from sales of Apple’s own hardware.  Licensing was killed.

But oh times have changed — Leopard rocks in comparison to Vista.  The iPhone is the hot new smartphone.  Hardware is cheap and ubiquitous and the age of software commeth.

If Apple decided to license Leopard, I believe PC manufacturers would quickly line up and would agree, a la AT&T, to any of Apple’s onerous requests (such as an approval of every hardware design that was created to use Leopard).

What would licensing bring Apple?  It would add millions of dollars in secondary marketing.  The Dell and HP magazines that I receive in the mail would feature their Apple OS designed computers front and center as would ads in magazines, on TV, and throughout the web.  Also, these companies have entre into large corporations that Apple simply does not (although it is beginning to build those relationships).  There is the potential for a huge increase in sales of Apple’s OS.

What is the downside?  Licensing could bring the same problems that Apple faced fifteen years ago — 3rd party manufacturers would just eat into Apple’s slice of the pie rather than taking from Microsofts’.  Also, Apple would lose some of the control that makes Leopard so wonderful.  In its current form, it works wondefully but part of that wonder comes from the fact that it only runs on a few Apple controlled machines.  Apple can optimize the OS for its computers.  Licensing would loosen that control potentially destroying some of Leopard’s benefits.  Vista, by its very nature as the default OS on every non-Apple computer on the planet, must run on thousands of different hardware platforms and therefore can never be as good as Apple.  Vista has to do too many things.  If Apple licenses Leopard, it could run into the same problems.

What will Apple do?  I doubt Apple will license Leopard or any future OS.  It is doing too well and is too busy to care about licensing.  If its business ever reaches the point when they think they need to license to grow and create revenue, then it is likely a point when they shouldn’t even think about making such a move (see 1996).  They are strong and they do not need it and there is no reason to help out their competitors (i.e. Dell, HP, and others) even if they receive tangible secondary benefits by doing so.

Remember, Apple is different than Microsoft in that Microsoft does not offer their own hardware platform and therefore have nothing to lose and everything to gain by licensing.  Apple has a lot to lose and little to gain, which makes any licensing of Leopard unlikely at best — oh, Steve Jobs loves control!

Happy post-4th of July!

Why Dell, HP and the other PC manufacturers are scared

In the past week, there have been a slew of articles discussing the huge growth in Apple’s share of the overall computer market.  One article discussed how nearly 8% of computers now in use are Apples, which is a nearly 32% jump in a year and another article here.  Apple’s notebook sales jumped 61% in a year.  Another article discussed how 14% of all new computers sold are Apple (cant find the link).

To add to this growth, a number of articles have discussed the iPhone halo effect (similar to the iPod halo effect).  The big difference this time around — the iPhone does much more and is a more important part of people’s live than any iPod ever was.  If you use and iPhone and love it, buying a Mac running on similar software makes sense.  Check out some discussions/articles, here, and here.  Apple has seen a dramatic rise in sales of Macs but the interest in the iPhone far dwarfs that of Macs.   Add the halo effect plus an unprecedented level of interest in the iPhone and you have huge potential Mac growth.

Of course none of this would be possible without the help of Microsoft.  Vista’s growth is huge but it started from zeo and is in the range of 250% growth year or year.  However, that growth happens because people are not nearly as willing to switch to a new computer OS as they are to make the move from a regular cell phone to a smartphone.  A computer is already an integral part of people’s lives and they are rightfully scared of making any big changes (especially when most folks fear computers and any minor computer change).  Making the move to a smartphone is less frightening than moving to a new computer system.

Vista, as anyone who has tried it knows, is not the revolution that Microsoft promised.  It is, at best, adequate.  Whenever I turn on parallels or bootcamp, I cringe in fear of something freezing.  Components still do not work and drivers are not out.  Vista forced me to return to Apple after a near 10 year separation and anecdotal evidence shows that it is making many people do the same.

However, to return to the title of this post, Dell, HP and the other PC manufacturers are scared.  Apple sales are growing and, with the iPhone effect + Vista, they are likely to continue to grow for the foreseeable future (Windows 7.0 might change this but it is too far away to discuss here).

Why are they scared?  Apple has one thing that those PC manufacturers do not and that they can never reproduce — Apple’s OS Leopard.  Dell, HP and the others can build the best computers in the world but Apple will not allow them to run Leopard on those machines.  Those machines are stuck with Vista (or XP).  As the iPhone, Leopard & Vista have shown, people are drawn to stable software on quality hardware.  Apple has both of these things while Dell and the others only have one.  Apple’s growth can continue unabated while Dell and the other PC guys will decline and they do nothing to stop it. With an enterprise based iPhone coming down the pipe, a less virus prone & crash prone OS, and with consumers snapping up Apple’s for their homes, company’s are going to start to make the switch (as they already have).  When this switch begins to happen in full, Apple will begin to hit at the jugular of PC/Vista sales.

The PC manufacturers are tied to a now sinking (or at least leaking) ship of Vista.  If I were them, I would be scared…