Reflections upon 10 years Swimming in the Apple iPhone Ecosystem

This summer was the 10th anniversary of the release of the iPhone. I remember waiting in line (on queue for my Australian friends) with my son to buy the first iPhone on that hot June day. I was already way into being a smart phonegeek. I had a fondness for the original Mac and just jumped back in with the Macon Unix (OSX) MacBook and really loving it, so I bought an iPhone on day one and haven’t looked back. A few years later in the early iOS 3.0 days, I started making my living as an app developer in the Apple ecosystem.

Three Standout Lessons from Apple

Anniversaries are a good time for reflection. Of the things I’ve learnt from Apple over the years, three things stand out:

Use Technology To Solve Customer’s Problems

The Apple Paradox

Conventional wisdom says that Apple breaks out new technology just for the coolness factor of having the latest and greatest, but beneath the cool veneer, are accusations of stealing the good technology from others.

Steve Jobs “stole” the mouse and desktop GUI from Xerox PARC. He “stole” the idea of a MP3 music player. He “stole” the idea of a tablet. There were other great smartphones before the iPhone! He “stole” all their good ideas and invented them at the same time?

Apple hasn’t bent the space-time continuum: it’s sorcery is in identifying customers’ true problem. It knows what job the user needs to accomplish. The chief designer of the original Macintosh spent his weekends as a salesperson for the local computer store. He knew first hand what people wanted and what troubles they were having with Apple IIe’s, IBM PC’s and Commodore 64’s. He then found the technology that solved these problems.

Focus on the Total User Experience: Technology and Content

Apple’s successful products solve the complete problem for the customer. The iPod wasn’t just another MP3 player. The iPod solved the problem of delivering high fidelity music you love to you wherever you are (Walabie | Giving Customers What They Need, Not What They Ask For), with a complete package of a click mp3 player AND the iTunes Store for the easy purchase and download of those songs.

Apple also created the laser printer, so not only could the customer design from the desktop, but they could produce camera-ready source documents and for most business uses, the final product.

Don’t Try to Boil the Ocean

The biggest technology company on the planet is actually a niche company. Apple doesn’t try to please everyone, particularly the price-prioritizing crowd. As if you evaluate them feature-to-feature by price, they lose every time. Apple consistently loses market share on its product, no matter how successful, to products featuring low prices.

Apple does make its technologies work with ubiquitous platforms, such as the Windows file system and Microsoft Office file formats. However, if the technology standard hasn’t already conquered the world, they don’t support those other platforms just to build numbers.

The Apple Lesson

I’m often approached by entrepreneurs that want to apply some great technology they’ve discovered to the unfocused market of “everyone,” delivered on Day One on all available platforms with the budget they can finance on their credit card (less if they’re willing do all the non-programming work). Apple shows us that a tech company’s lasting foundation is deep, not wide.

Follow in Apple’s well-worn path to success:

  • Solve a pressing problem for your user,
  • Solve the complete problem, and
  • Niche down to match your development and marketing budget.
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