How to beat Apple

Discussion in 'Apple' started by Sam Posten, Apr 26, 2011.

  1. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Sage advice:

    http://kottke.org/11/04/how-to-beat-apple


    I'd add:

    -Build EASY to USE compelling, beautiful products that door more than the minimum. Apple focuses on the minimum to get a job done with a beautiful and humane product. Everyone else focuses on 'toss every conceivable feature in, usability be damned". There has to be a middle ground.
     
  2. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Producer

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    With regards to Apple designs, I have to disagree. Every step one takes away from a minimal design lessens the impact of the product and make it more like the junk that tries to do everything and does nothing well as a consequence.


    “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
    —Antoine De Saint-Exupery


    - Walter.
     
  3. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Producer

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  4. Ted Todorov

    Ted Todorov Cinematographer

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    I don't know about beat, but clearly Android phones have found a way to compete: depend on selling/marketing through carriers that don't have access to the iPhone. Have said carriers give away your product in BOGO deals. (Compare the Android numbers on AT&T vs. the Android numbers on Sprint, T-Mobile and pre-iPhone Verizon).

    Unfortunately when it comes to the iPad the above approach is not really applicable.


    Hint on how not to compete: fixate on a feature Apple is missing (Adobe Flash) and then make your product all about delivering that feature. Consider the possibility that Steve Jobs knows something you don't and left out feature X for a reason. If you do add feature X, keep mum about it until after you have released your product and reviewers have raved about feature X. Don't on the other hand jump up and down about how great your device is because it will run Flash, only to have to ship without (Xoom) and thus get egg on your face or expend years in development effort (Playbook) only to ship without an email client because you were so busy trying to get Flash to work, and then get egg on your face anyway, because, surprise, Flash performs badly and Hulu cuts off you device on day one, leaving you with a bunch of obnoxious Flash based ads iPad user don't see.


    Same thing applies to all those tablet makers who jumped up and down about how their tablet has a camera and the iPad doesn't, only to ship after the iPad 2 (if at all) and again look really, really stupid.
     
  5. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Walter: I appreciate simplicity but am not ties to the cult of it. Too much of anything, including simplicity, can be bad. Ping is the biggest example of this that I can think of. The Apple remote runs a close second.
     
  6. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Oh and the Puck 1 button mouse
     
  7. mattCR

    mattCR Executive Producer
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    I cannot explain how much I hate the puck mouse. In fact, I can praise apple for their accomplishments, but their keyboards and mice are the most un-ergonomic pieces of garbage ever. They have never put out an ergonomic keyboard. You compare how an Apple mouse feels in your hand in comparison to a good MS/Logitech mouse? Jeez. Apple Mice SCREAM Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.


    Put a Logitech MX700 or a MS in my hand. I know that people like the Apple Magic Mouse.. but to me, it has just absolutely no arch support; your hand lays nearly flat, and I find that so unfomfortable, no matter who the maker that it just isn't worth doing.. it's not a natural fit for your hand.

    My wife loves the new Macbook Pro we picked up; perfect for her.. but uh, she's running an MS Arc mouse out to the side. And I've always been baffled how they never say: "wow, maybe we should be ergonomic.." ?
     
  8. Ted Todorov

    Ted Todorov Cinematographer

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    Quote:


    I used to think that, now every time I need to scroll horizontally and don't have a magic mouse in my hand I curse silently. At any rate the ergonomics (or lack thereof) have nothing to do with the simplicity vs. complexity argument -- you could have a magic mouse with very different ergonomics but the identical functionality.
     
  9. mattCR

    mattCR Executive Producer
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    Oh yeah, I wasn't getting into the simplicity argument. The magic mouse is a neat tool.. but I can't use anything that makes my hands hurt. And my hand laying flat is insanely uncomfortable. And comfort trumpcards everything (IMHO). It's why I tend to prefer ergonomic keyboards too. Put an MS Ergonomic 4000 down in front of me, I can bang out some serious WPM.. flat-ass keyboards.. ARGH.

    Again, I agree it's not about simplicity.. Have you tried the MS Arc touch mouse? As far as scrolling horizontally.. why, my good man, that's when you get a nice Apple Cinema Display 27".. (2560x1440) or you go all the way and grab an Astro Design 4K monitor... :) I don't know, I couldn't get by without something that fits my hand right. It's one of those "Must have".

    I think in the end, the thing is, everyone tries to beat Apple by playing their game. Apple is still less then 15% of the total marketspace. Google figured that out. You can write off Google, and I can agree that their hodge podge OS is a big problem, but they will have a much larger install base then the iPhone, etc. in short order.

    I think the trick to really beating Apple in a sense is to not try to be "better" then Apple; just try to be "good enough", cheap enough and broad enough to get tons of adopters. It's how MS did it. It's how Google is doing it. For all of apple's manufacturing contracts they are still one company contracting out; Google figured this out and basically provided there stuff to everyone and the dog (see: Microsoft, 1990).

    I think you highlighted this earlier. And you were dead on... forget trying to beat Apple for being Apple. I mean, root for them to make a mistake down the road or two; for their execution to be "off" or for something to not work; but just spread your own net as wide as possible and try to outflank them with tons of vendors and devices. Just as MS had people talking about constant variations, different style units, blah blah blah because every manufacturer was coming out with them in the early nineties, that's what you have to do. Just own the headlines.


    Apple will be Apple. They will sell a fantastic product and they will have a ton of loyalty. But the best advice for a company would be: stop fretting about what Apple is doing or not doing. Worry about what you are doing.
     
  10. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    The way to beat Apple is explained by Barnet Stintson: Be Awesome. That's all it takes. Create an awesome product and sell it.


    The problem is that no one else does that. Android is a sub-par photocopy of iOS. Playbook? An unfinished developer preview. WebOS? Has the potential to be awesome, if HP can execute. Windows Phone 7? MS has fresh design, but their internal shackling to Windows undercuts their efforts (even the device's name indicates problems); like HP can they execute?


    Awesome might also be cut-throat pricing. Android may be mediocre, but if current-gen HTC Android phones were free with contract, that $199 iPhone 4 would look very expensive. Likewise, that Xoom and Playbook: priced the same as the iPad, they're unsellable. But if they were 30% cheaper, they might be worth the trouble. (Though playing price war against Apple's supply chain and $60B piggy bank might ultimately be unwinnable.)


    So back to awesome. It's not about simplicity or complexity or open or curated; not per se. It's about awesomeness. It's about making a device that shows attention to detail, care for the customer, and a deep understanding of what and how I want to buy stuff.


    I can look to my speaker purchase last year: as you may know from my thread on that, I ultimately bought from SVS. They provide an attention to customer that's unparalleled; performance to knock your socks off (almost literally, in the case of subs); competitive pricing; attention to packing that tells you post sale that they're serious about their product; and sufficient product design to meet SAF. They achieve the "be awesome" mandate to succeed against much larger and entrenched competitors.


    Tivo used to "be awesome" with a a rich UI that wasn't "simple" but managed complexity to enable the user to manage their TV effectively. But now they're losing that attention to detail with devices that get slower every generation; with bugs that linger for years, and seemingly no response to emerging trends.



    If a company wants to beat Apple, they have to stop competing against Apple and design something fantastic, interesting, and awesome.
     
  11. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    The problem about your awesomeness theory? It pretty much requires awesomeness cradle to grave. Apple buillt their awesomeness one imperfect piece at a time and interated until they had gold.


    ROCK SOLID OS X (remember the pain before and during that?)

    Mac Hardware

    iTunes (music, movies, books, podcasts)

    iPhone

    iLife

    App Store

    iPad

    Even Apple TV


    Even if you come up with a crazy great smartphone it won't have the rest of the ecosystem to match.
     
  12. mattCR

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    I think that's the thing.. I mean, even OSX had a really rough start; OSX10/10.1 were real problems and had a lot of people up in arms... it wasn't really until 10.2 that OSX really hit stride. AppleTV has never hit it's stride.
     
  13. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    You're right: excellence is difficult. Apple has spent a decade building up to it. Doesn't mean it's the wrong answer. For this reason Apple will have a very difficult time competing with Google in the "cloud". Google has spent its corporate life being excellent there. Apple has spent a decade charging high prices for second-rate online services. The other answer is to sell mediocre products so much cheaper that you reduce Apple's marketshare and profitability so they can no longer continue to be awesome.
     
  14. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    I disagree with your assessment of Apple but I think I can pinpoint where I think you are wrong. Apple is careless on things that aren't its core competencies. Apple TV, iPod hifi, Mobile Me. But when it decides it's going to make something its core it picks at it and makes it better over time. I think we will see this in a big way SOON with the Cloud and down the road a bit with Social. They are not heavy hitters in either yet but it's clear they see opportunity there and will make a statement on them.


    TV/Cable interested Apple but they never could get in on the ground floor because of the strangle hold of the cable companies. As more and more people 'cut the cord' I would be shocked if Apple doesn't turn their focus here.


    People said the same things about Microsoft with Office. Sure MS is still a leader but it's viewed as a dead man walking because of it's clinging to the past. There are opportunities here for Google, Apple and others and they know it.


    I saw this this morning and it's true for a LOT more than just Newspapers:

    http://www.buzzmachine.com/2011/04/25/hard-economic-lessons-for-news/
     
  15. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    You put forth an interesting hypothesis. So far Apple's behaviors suggests that its very DNA lacks the instincts for user-centric cloud and social. Let us see if they can in fact learn enough to compete vigorously there. (I hope so. Their forced MobileMe calendar upgrade is going to break my home setup and I don't want to pay $49/yr for my own MM account. It's not the Apple Way to pay good money for inferior products.)


    Regardless, to compete with Apple you have to either embrace Awesomeness or Cheap Commoditization. And the latter sinks your own revenues, unless you've got a monopoly (Microsoft) or its not your core business being commoditized (Google).
     
  16. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Put brilliantly: "This is the most repeated sales advice on the planet: sell benefits not features." http://blog.fogcreek.com/the-very-most-basic-things-your-company-needs-to-know-about-sales-part-2-of-4/
     
  17. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Producer

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  18. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Word.


    While anyone can learn the principles that drive Apple’s innovation, few businesses have the courage to do so
     
  19. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Try competing with this:

    http://www.macrumors.com/2011/06/03/apple-retail-10th-anniversary-poster-weve-learned-a-lot/


    It reminded me of the Kodak Carousel episode from Mad Men:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2bLNkCqpuY&feature=player_embedded
     
  20. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    That wall-of-tiny-text poster looks more like something Microsoft would have made. Doesn't seem very Apple-like to me.
     

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