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When Did Apple Become a Market Laggard?

by Saeed Khan

apple logoIn case you were sleeping yesterday, let me fill you in on the big technology announcement from Apple. Live from Cupertino California, and streamed (rather problematically) on the web, Apple had a number of big splashy product announcements. These included:

  • Upgrades to the 7 year old IPhone
  • A new (expensive) Apple Watch that can tell the time (amongst other things)
  • A mobile payment service call Apple Pay
  • Some updates to iOS
  • A free U2 album on  iTunes

With the exception of Apple Pay, it was for the most part an unimpressive show, though I have to give Apple credit for generated buzz for what were essentially a number of “me-too” product announcements.

The star of the show?

Most of the focus was on the new iPhones. The iPhone improvements were mostly related to faster processors, better cameras and most obviously bigger screens. But all that did was invite the inevitable comparisons with phones from Samsung and HTC which already had faster processors, better cameras and bigger screens.

iphone-samsung-htc

Yet another smart watch?

The long awaited Apple Watch was also announced.

apple watch mosaic

Yes, it does look good, has a number of wrist-band styles, and measures your heartbeat with built-in sensors etc., but in the end, it’s a watch with a STARTING price of $349! Oh, yeah, and even though it is a new product, the inevitable comparisons are being made with existing watches from Samsung, Motorola and others that have similar capabilities and are less expensive.

apple-samsung-moto-watch

 

Apple Pay has potential

Apple Pay seems like a differentiator to me….Even though there are other mobile payment systems like Square and Paypal, Google Wallet etc. the fact is that the client UI looks great, and on the back end Apple has partnered with Visa and Amex, so they are not a direct competitor in the way Square would be.

I’m not a mobile payment expert, but if I have an iPhone and it’s DEAD EASY to use Apple Pay, then as a consumer, that may be the way I start paying. Alas, I don’t have an iPhone, but lots of other people do and Apple’s cut of the payments made on all those iPhones could add up to a LOT of recurring revenue.

U2 on stage again? WTF?

I was (and still am) a U2 fan. I remember going to see them during the Joshua Tree tour with Los Lobos and Little Steven as warm up acts. Bono, arm in a sling because he had injured it in a fall during a concert a week or so earlier, belted out songs with a then, still vibrant voice. It was a cold October evening and my friends and I all shivered endlessly in our nose-bleed seats in the open air Exhibition stadium by Lake Ontario, regretting not wearing warmer clothing, but still enjoying the music and the show on the stage.

There were lots of “kids” — 14 years old or thereabouts– with their parents, probably attending their first concert. Apparently my wife – a big U2 fan herself – was also at the concert with her friends, though in much better seats than me. We didn’t know each other then, and wouldn’t meet each other for another 6 years. It was October 3, 1987, I was in my early 20s and U2 was the biggest band in the world.apple-u2

But U2 today is NOT the U2 of the 80s or 90s. So when U2 came on stage at the Apple launch and announced that their latest album would be free for download from iTunes, it seemed a decade or two too late. It’s almost like announcing a new version of Angry Birds is now available free for  download on the Apple App Store. Yeah…so what. It seemed a bit like Apple grasping for some old glory.  Apple did release a U2 branded iPod back in 2004 with Steve Jobs on stage with U2.

I’ll definitely check out the album (hey it’s free)…maybe there’s some good music there. Maybe U2 has a whole lot of fans that still see them the way I did back in ’87.

I may be completely wrong — Apple’s stock is up today over yesterday — and if so, it wouldn’t be the first time I was mistaken. 🙂

What do you think? Is Apple losing it’s shine and becoming a follower vs. a leader?

Saeed

Tweet this: When did #Apple become a laggard? http://wp.me/pXBON-4cO #prodmgmt #prodmktg #iphone #u2

About the Author

Saeed Khan is a founder and Managing Editor of On Product Management, and has worked for the last 20 years in high-technology companies building and managing market leading products. He also speaks regularly at events on the topic of product management and product leadership. You can contact him via Twitter @saeedwkhan or via the Contact Us page on this blog.

0 comments
  1. jaydnz

    Focusing on the product itself, specifications and all, are completely missing the point of Apple’s philosophy. That is how they grab the average person. But for a keen observer, it’s always more interesting to see how Apple revolutionizes the market.

    It’s wiser to ask: in what ways will the new hardware and software affect new market movement? Watch-related app economy? The “technologizing” of personal health? How will it change the healthcare market?

    Lastly, Apple, at least post-1997, has never been first-to-market, because it was never their strategy. Best-in-market is. It’s better to compare Android to Windows than it is to compare Android to Apple and its iOS.

    1. Saeed

      Jaydnz

      Thanks for the comment. A lot of what Apple itself discussed on Tuesday were specs etc.: the A8 processor, iPhone 6 being 50x faster than original iPhone, their upgraded camera etc.

      I agree that Apple is not a true first to market leader in the traditional sense, but the iPod/iTunes combo was, as was the iPhone (although others had tried something similar) and the iPad. They were definitely clearly differentiated products. Can’t say that same about the new iPhone or Watch. In particular for the watch, coming late to the game is fine. Coming late to the game with an undifferentiated product is not.

  2. M C

    Probably about 1976. This has long been their method of operation. They weren’t the first to release a personal computer, there were other computers with mice and graphical operating systems, there were other mp3 players on the market long before the iPod, the iPhone wasn’t the first smart phone, and there were many attempts at tablets before the iPad. What they’re really good at is looking at new tech that others are releasing, putting together a new version with their own twist (that is arguably better for the most part) and then marketing the hell out of it.

    1. Saeed

      MC

      Thanks for the comment. Please see my response to Jaydnz below. Agreed, they typically don’t enter markets first, but when they announce, the products are clearly differentiated and that drives leadership. As you say “with their own twist”. This week, with the exception possibly of Apple Pay, neither new IPhones or Watch show any real differentiation or “twist”. They are simply me-too products to follow Samsung etc.

      Saeed

      1. M C

        I disagree with the iPod or iPhone being true market leaders on release. There was a great deal of criticism of the iPod when it was released saying it was just another mp3 player. The same with the iPhone which didn’t really start to look enticing to many take off until the app store was available. The me-too argument has been made with virtually every Apple release for many, many years. Maybe it will bear out this time, but I doubt it.

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