NetworkWorld has an interesting article on Why the iPhone can’t be ‘killed.’ I don’t agree with all the reasons, but I agree with the premise. Just like the iPod before it, the iPhone will not be crushed by any competitor. The iPhone is crush proof. It isn’t just that the iPhone creates such a wonderful experience for the user, one that exceeds all comers to date. Apple learned a few lessons from the iPod.
It may be that Apple’s success with the iPod ecosystem—iPods, low prices, iTunes Store, iTunes, Windows users, and accessories—was a fluke.
One success, the popular iPod and iTunes, was leverage used for a whole train of success. iTunes Store. Windows and iTunes. Accessories. Rapid updates to the line. A barrage of clever, attractive advertising.
Oh, and that user interface, the experience we Mac users have known for ages. That was important because it was much better than anything any competitor came up with or has now.
If the iPod’s success was a fluke, Apple jumped on the opportunity and made the most of it. Five or six flukes in a row doesn’t happen too often.
Success Begets Success
Within a few short years Apple was the dominant player in the crowded portable media player field. iPod became a generic term for portable player.
Windows users loved the iPods simplicity, elegance, and the fact that it just worked. Apple kept prices competitive with the slew of iPod killers that followed, and each died, withered, or failed to catch on.
Apple learned from those years to keep moving. A moving target is more difficult to hit. Or catch.
Apple Needed A Phone
As much as the iPod ecosystem was a success, Apple recognized that success must be continually earned.
Apple’s market share for online music sales and portable media sales was in no danger from anemic and fragmented competitors, including Microsoft. The danger to Apple’s iPod cash cow was cell phones.
The highly fragmented, splintered, and nearly dysfunctional cell phone market was ripe for a revolution, Apple style. Conversely, Apple needed to make a phone because handheld functionality was the future of computing; not more desktops or notebooks.
Cell phones, despite lackluster interfaces, and backhanded support from carriers, were becoming the all-in-one device that Apple’s Steve Jobs loves. Enter the iPhone. Just as Apple’s iPod teams knew it would be a success because they all wanted one, they all wanted a cell phone with an iPod experience.
Proof Of Concept
The iPhone was make or break for Apple, flush with cash, thin on resources, high on hopes, and fearful of not creating the next great thing.
If the iPod created a string of successes—iTunes, iTunes Store, accessories, a whole ecosystem—that could not be toppled by competitors, all Apple needed to do was create a similar experience, a similar environment, with an attractive, easy-to-use touch screen cell phone.
The user experience is paramount at Apple; from product packaging, to advertising, to button size, to the careful blend of features and functions. The iPhone was an immediate hit, even without thousands of applications, because it did the basics so much better than anyone else.
The original iPhone was a success. The iPhone 3G leveraged that success with the iTunes App Store and thousands of apps, utilities, games, all in a carefully balanced and controlled environment that users truly love.
Once users get their data, utilities, apps, and games onto an iPhone, they’re not likely to bust out and go elsewhere, AT&T notorious network hiccups notwithstanding. Apple’s environmental concept is proven.
To be fair, competition exists, but not of the iPhone killer kind. What other cell phone platform has tens of thousands of apps, utilities, and games which run on an attractive, pleasant, easy to use platform, with a superb combination of hardware.
Hardware? Yes. All too often products are compared by hardware specifications, a game Apple does not enjoy, and manages to overcome with the new line of iPod touch and iPhone 3GS.
Hardware? Who cares. It’s the UI, stupid. The iPhone platform experience cannot easily be duplicated. Palm worked for two years on the Pre, and in the end came up with a slightly improved version of the original iPhone. Evolution won’t be an iPhone killer because the iPhone has its own evolution ongoing.
The smart phone competition is coming. Microsoft and WinMobile won’t roll over. Android looks promising. Palm Pre looks like an iPhone. But not one competitor has the same user experience, end to end, as Apple provides with the iPhone.
BlackBerry is in a different category because of the focus on the enterprise and email. It is not an iPhone killer. If anything, it would be the other way around.