Let me use a baseball analogy to explain what happens in the technology industry. In baseball, a good hitter is one who doesn’t get a hit about 70-percent of the time. A bad hitter is one who doesn’t get a hit about 80-percent of the time.
Good technology companies may have a better average than a major league baseball player, but the same math holds true. Sometimes you swing and miss. Sometimes you get a hit, then another, and another. And, sometimes you strike out without even lifting the bat.
Last fall Apple launched the new line of thin and light iMac models. Launched may not be the optimum word. It’s more like announced. The actual launch was delayed for months while Apple worked out the manufacturing kinks and ramped up the volume to meet demand.
Meanwhile, Apple didn’t have many iMac models to sell, and overall Mac sales fell precipitously. Call it what you will– a swing and a miss, or a strike out– but the whole mess tells us that even great companies which appear like well oiled machines sometimes have a breakdown.
Murphy’s Law: ‘Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.’
Expectations are high when Apple steps up to bat. Every tech pundit and media critic the world over is expecting a home run at every bat. That just doesn’t happen, of course, but Apple’s average in recent years– Mac, iOS, iPhone, iPad– has been very good.
There’s a new slugger in town that goes by the name Samsung. Many of those same tech pundits and media critics were expecting Samsung’s newest iPhone killer to be a grand slam, taking Apple from the lead in one swing.
Some, including Jonathan Littman say Samsung swung and whiffed and struck out with the launch of the Galaxy 3S. In summary:
Samsung stumbled last week in a sexist Broadway style product introduction that revealed the mobile king’s limitations.
While reviewers listed the gee-whiz features of the latest Galaxy phone, the Associated Press summed up many by concluding, “the phone has a grab bag of features that don’t come together as a pleasing whole.” Slate was more direct: “Samsung Unveils New Phone Packed With Inane Features You’ll Never Use.”
Uh oh. Samsung struck out. Now it’s Apple’s turn at bat.
Before Apple gets up to the plate, let’s take a look at what Samsung actually did. The iPhone’s most serious competition was Samsung’s Galaxy S III. Expectations and hype over the Galaxy S 4 hit Apple-like levels and when reality hit the fan, Samsung turns out to be more of an Apple copycat than we ever thought.
How so, Kate? Note that I called the new Galaxy smartphone a Galaxy 3S. Why? Because the S 4 is really more of an incremental improvement on the standard bearer, not much different than Apple’s 4S model was to the iPhone 4.
Apple whiffed on the iMac’s launch and was criticized accordingly. Isn’t CEO Tim Cook the Godfather of the manufacturing world? How could that happen? Murphy’s Law.
There’s another issue at play here and it has to do with technological improvements. Apple is pretty good at two things. Disrupting innovation, and continual iterative improvements. Samsung isn’t so much an innovator as a copycat, and there’s just not much to copy beyond what Apple does already, so the Galaxy maker is content with iterative improvements, long on feature creep and bullet points, and short on disruptive innovation.
Wait. What about the Galaxy 3S? Large screen size and screen pixels you can’t see are not innovations. Differences, yes. But innovations, no. Neither is a faster CPU, nor multi-tasking. What about the Smart Pause eye-recognition, and eye-recognition Smart Scroll, or S Translator or S Voice Drive, or the Air View fingertip hover feature?
Ho hum. Feature creep fills up PowerPoint slides with bullet points but don’t add much to the overall user experience (hence the many reviews about Samsung’s mishmash of features to be seldom used).
What we’re actually seeing with Apple, Samsung, Nokia, BlackBerry, HTC, et al, is iterative feature creep, not a quantum leap in the interface, usability, or capabilities of the modern smartphone.
The only smartphone makers hitting for average these days are Apple and Samsung. Everyone else has a good swing, but a pretty poor on base percentage, and they’re just not scoring any runs.