The Nike+ site is drawing hordes of runners, and its success may hold lessons for brand building on the Web.
In a year already marked by innovations, Apple on Wednesday unveiled advances on multiple fronts that drove home its ultimate goal: to become the architect of home entertainment.
Apple's new products have one subtle quality that no company can touch: Cohesion.
Since late 2005, Apple's stock has quintupled. With a market capitalization of close to $250 billion, Apple is (at least today) the third most valuable company in the world, behind ExxonMobil and Microsoft. It's a stunning story that's been dissected to death, but still remarkable enough to warrant reflection. Ten years ago — three years after Chairman and CEO Steve Jobs had returned to "rescue" Apple — the company was still largely treading water, with a relatively meager $3 billion market capitalization. Its personal computer products had a loyal following in niche markets, but that was about it. Over the past decade, Apple has launched five legitimately game-changing innovations.
Marketing people spend 95 percent of their time on brand maintenance when the real opportunities lie in brand creation. Look what the iPod has done for Apple Computer. In the first quarter of 2005, Apple sold 5.3 million iPods. This year alone, iPod sales should reach $5 billion. The iPod brand dominates its market segment, accounting for 91 percent of all MP3 players with disk drives. How do you create a brand like the iPod? It’s simple and at the same time difficult.
Apple has generated a lot of chatter with its new iPad tablet. But it may not be quite the conversation it wanted. Many women are saying the name evokes awkward associations with feminine hygiene products. People from Boston to Ireland are complaining that “iPad,” in their regional brogue, sounds almost indistinguishable from “iPod,” Apple’s music player.
Apple patents come a dime a dozen, but these two seem both practical and implementable. The first outlines a solar powered iPod and the second details more specific gesture-based input methods, including scoops, nudges, and tilts.
With the new tablet device that is debuting next week, Apple Inc. Chief Executive Steve Jobs is betting he can reshape businesses like textbooks, newspapers and television much the way his iPod revamped the music industry—and expand Apple's influence and revenue as a content middleman. In developing the device, Apple focused on the role the gadget could play in homes and in classrooms, say people familiar with the situation. The company envisions that the tablet can be shared by multiple family members to read news and check email in homes, these people say.
In 2007 Steve Jobs launched the iPhone with a fanfare of fiery rhetoric. The iPhone, Apple's chief executive claimed, was three "revolutionary" devices in one. Combining a touch-controlled iPod media player, a phone and an "internet communicator", the iPhone was "a leapfrog product that is way smarter than any mobile device has ever been". In contrast, when Mr Jobs introduced the App store a little less than 18 months ago, his vocabulary was considerably more muted.
Satoru Iwata, the president of Nintendo Co., is a self-proclaimed Apple Inc. fan. He carries an iPhone and uses a Mac laptop. So when Mr. Iwata says Nintendo and Apple aren't competitors, he should know what he's talking about. Nintendo, whose gadgets and software dominate the portable-videogame market, faces the greatest risk from the emergence of Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch as gaming platforms. But Mr. Iwata says attempts to create a rivalry between the two companies make him "uncomfortable," because he says it isn't true. He argues the companies appeal to different consumers.
Apple, once untouchable in terms of marketing, has gotten a little roughed up lately. For much of the decade, Apple got away with bashing longtime adversary Microsoft without repercussions. Apple also dominated the MP3 player category without a serious rival. But now, as Microsoft has reinvigorated its marketing and it navigates into the phone handset category, suddenly everyone is bashing Apple.
How's this for a gripping corporate story line: Youthful founder gets booted from his company in the 1980s, returns in the 1990s, and in the following decade survives two brushes with death, one securities-law scandal, an also-ran product lineup, and his own often unpleasant demeanor to become the dominant personality in four distinct industries, a billionaire many times over, and CEO of the most valuable company in Silicon Valley. Sound too far-fetched to be true? Perhaps. Yet it happens to be the real-life story of Steve Jobs and his outsize impact on everything he touches. The past decade in business belongs to Jobs.
Anyone who has followed Apple news/rumors/patents over the past couple of years has probably noticed a certain trend emerging: Apple seems to be slowly shifting its entire line of products to touch-based computing. That is to say, it’s moving its products away from buttons and keys, towards manipulation through a touchscreen interface. While obviously, MacBook trackpads have used some level of touch for a long time, this trend really started with the iPhone, which presented the first excellent use of multi-touch in a consumer device. From there, Apple slowly began adding multi-touch support to the aforementioned notebook trackpads, to the point where they all now feature it. And then of course, there’s the iPod touch, which is an iPod with multi-touch support. But where things really start to get interesting is when you look at Apple’s patents and the rumors that spin out of them.
Starbucks is launching a store-finding and menu-information application for the iPhone, and is testing a second app that will let customers use the phone as their Starbucks card. The two apps are the coffee chain’s first for the iPhone and iPod touch. It has previously offered mobile services, such as the ability to send a text message to locate a nearby store, and has worked with Apple to make in-store songs available through iTunes.
Yes, he’s back. When the Apple event started today, CEO Steve Jobs took the stage to a very long standing ovation. He used his opening remarks to talk about the importance of organ donation. Jobs noted that he now had the liver of a person in their mid-20s who died in a car crash. Jobs urged everyone to think about organ donation, as it saved his life. After that, Jobs thanked Apple’s executive team, and especially Tim Cook, who steered Apple’s ship in his absence. But then it was time for Jobs to quickly move into some impressive statistics.
In reality a product is all about the experience. It is about discovery, purchase, anticipation, opening the package, the very first usage. It is also about continued usage, learning, the need for assistance, updating, maintenance, supplies, and eventual renewal in the form of disposal or exchange. Most companies treat every stage as a different process, done by a different division of the company: R&D, manufacturing, packaging, sales, and then as a necessary afterthought, service. As a result there is seldom any coherence. Instead, there are contradictions. If you think of the product as a service, then the separate parts make no sense - the point of a product is to offer great experiences to its owner, which means that it offers a service. And that experience, that service, comprises the totality of its parts: The whole is indeed made up of all of the parts. The real value of a product consists of far more than the product’s components.
One of the best books of the year is undoubtedly “Design-Driven Innovation: Changing the Rules of Competition by Radically Innovating What Things Mean,” by Roberto Verganti. In it Verganti, a favorite of this blog, attacks one of the central mysteries of innovation–how can a company successfully create a product that is a radical break from the past, and which shows the way to a new future?
On June 6, 2008, Veronica Noone attached a small sensor to her running shoes and headed out the door. She pressed start on her iPod and began keeping track of every step she took. It wasn't a long run—just 1.67 miles in 18 minutes and 36 seconds, but it was the start of something very big for her.
Why does a diploma from Harvard cost $100,000 more than a similar piece of paper from City College? Why might a BMW cost $25,000 more than a Subaru WRX with equally fast acceleration? Why do “sophisticated” consumers demand 16-gigabyte iPhones and “fair trade” coffee from Starbucks? If you ask market researchers or advertising executives, you might hear about the difference between “rational” and “emotional” buying decisions, or about products falling into categories like “hedonic” or “utilitarian” or “positional.” But Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of New Mexico, says that even the slickest minds on Madison Avenue are still in the prescientific dark ages.
Don't look now, but the Walkman's back. Actually, the device that virtually created the portable-music market never left; it's been around as a player for cassettes, CDs and digital music in one form or another since 1979. According to Sony, the company produced 150 million Walkman units during its heyday in 1995. But in recent years, the device has all but fallen off the map thanks to missteps by Sony and huge advances by Apple's iPod, which has a stranglehold on the digital-music market. Still, Sony will seek to leverage its brand legacy once again with the launch of the Walkman X, a product that comes closer to the iPod line than ever before.
Energy consumption habits are a private thing--sometimes you just don't want everyone knowing that you have a cell phone charger, computer, external hard drive, and iPod charger all draining energy at the same time you're also playing Xbox on your big-screen TV. But for those of you who are energy voyeurs, there's the Tweet-a-Watt.
Shaking up the nascent market for electronic books for the second time in two months, Amazon.com will begin selling e-books for reading on Apple’s popular iPhone and iPod Touch. Starting Wednesday, owners of these Apple devices can download a free application, Kindle for iPhone and iPod Touch, from Apple’s App Store. The software will give them full access to the 240,000 e-books for sale on Amazon.com, which include a majority of best sellers.
How do you measure your own happiness? Do you gauge the tingly feeling in your fingers? Or perhaps the slightly giddy sensation just above your belly button? I only ask because something called the Gadget Helpline surveyed 2,500 of its most helpless customers and discovered that the Nintendo Wii is the electronic device they would most like to marry.
Palm has confirmed that games will be among the applications available for the Palm Pre, although exactly what type of games will run on the handset remains unclear. In an interview with Engadget, Palm said games will be part of the Pre experience, along with various other applications that will be offered through a Palm-style version of Apple's App Store. Mobile gaming is extremely popular on the iPhone and iPod Touch, and is a big part of Apple's pitch for those devices.
A vivid example of the silo problem -- the failure of autonomous product and functional silos to cooperate -- comes from Sony's incredible miss of the iPod market, as recounted in the new Wiley book Sony vs. Samsung by Sea-Jin Chang.