All About Apple
Facts and opinions from a passionate entrepreneur at heart.
by Prateek Sahay
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect
them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots
will somehow connect in your future.
To me, there is no doubt that Apple Corp. is the most fascinating company in the world. Within five years, the once-mediocre electronics company catapulted into the international spotlight as the most valuable company in the history of the world. Apple managed to revolutionize/invent at least four categories of products, where most companies in the world never achieve even one. I do think Apple's sudden success is due partly to its innovative technologies, but I also believe it was moreso the brilliance of its marketing tactics-- everything from the iconic "i" in front of its products to the Mac vs. PC ads we all remember and love. For this reason, you'll find this page discusses not only the tech, but also focuses upon the marketing tactics of Apple.
I want to take a pause here to assert that I'm no Apple fanboy; I'm not one of the thousands who would "buy anything if it's shiny and made by Apple," to quote The Onion. Instead, I simply enjoy observing interesting marketing tactics and learning from them, and I've found that Apple's are by far being the most interesting. My goal here is to be informative, honest, and open.
I also want to mention as a side note that, although the company of discussion here is Apple, I don't talk much about the Macintosh computer lineup, the reason being that I find the marketing tactics behind them largely uninteresting and unextraordinary. It's the discussion of the mobile devices that just recently came about where things get interesting.
To prove I'm not biased toward Apple's successes, I'm going to start with a list of Apple's major snafus in the last five years.
MobileMe was Apple's first attempt at cloud storage. It was a paid service ($99 a year) to store your email, photos, calendars, contacts, and documents in the cloud so your data wasn't trapped inside one device at a time. Upon MobileMe's release in 2008, however, users experienced extremely unreliable service-- the cloud tended to lose something like one in every ten emails, and the service as a whole experienced many blackouts, something unacceptable for a service that hosted something as vital as email. And this was a paid service. Apple eventually posted a message on their website telling users they would begin solving the issues and let customers know of scheduled downtimes on the MobileMe service. Apple gave existing customers four months of free service that same year, but finally replaced MobileMe with iCloud in 2010 alongside the advent of iOS 5.
Ping was a short-lived attempt at a social network geared toward music integrated into iTunes. It was introduced in iTunes 10.0 in 2010, but later removed in iTunes 10.6.3 two years later and replaced with Facebook and Twitter integration instead. Ping was meant to be a new way of sharing music and gaining popularity for artists, and had its own array of Facebook-esque Like-ing and commenting features, along with Twitter-like following features to keep track of new album releases and concerts around the country. The takeaway from Ping's eventual failure from lack of popularity is that Apple doesn't always get everything right.
Antennagate is the street name for Apple's mistake in the construction of the iPhone 4. The 4 was released in 2010 with a totally redesigned exterior from the 3GS, which featured the radio telecommunications antennae on the outside of the phone. Putting the antenna on the outside of the phone would supposedly significantly increase the clarity of the signals to the phone, as traditional phones had begun embedding the antenna inside the bottom of the phone after the extendable type became phased out. However, after the iPhone 4's release, customers quickly realized that by placing their fingers over a spot on the bottom-left of the phone caused the cell signal on the phone to fluctuate, then drop suddenly. In response to customer complaints, Steve Jobs is famous for having told Apple customers to just "not hold it that way," but Apple began the iPhone Case Program anyway. In mid-July of 2010, Apple began offering a limited suite of iPhone 4 cases that customers buying an iPhone 4 could have shipped to them for free, valid until September 30, at which point Apple would reevaluate the situation.
Mapplegate is Apple's most recent major mistake, but, in my opinion, the least nocuous on this list. It's also the only mistake in this list that occurred under Tim Cook's reign at Apple. I won't blame Cook for the mistake, but I will say that the humble apology he posted goes a long way toward showing Apple's dedication to user experience. A transcript is below. Cook adds that users can try Nokia maps, Microsoft's Bing, Google Maps, Mapquest, or Waze, then adds an entirely new section in the App Store dedicated to "better" map solutions. Cook's modesty implies that Apple truly does care most about the end user. Investors, however, were afraid advertising for Nokia and Microsoft, two of Apple's biggest competitors at the time, might take customers in the wrong direction. It's a matter of opinion.
Not actually a garden.
But They Do a Lot of Things Right
The thing about Apple is that they doesn't stop improving their products. Even for releases of they always do in almost exactly a year, every single year. MobileMe met its end on June 30, 2012, but was replaced with the much better, faster, and free iCloud service in 2011. And they are one of the most innovative and successful companies in the world. Now you know I'm not biased against Apple either. They are the most valuable company in the history of the world after all, so they must be doing something right, right?
There's more than I can hope to list here, and it certainly isn't simply limited to the iDevices. Within four decades, Apple has risen to become the highest valued company on Earth and in the history of mankind, seemingly out of nowhere. They have created three entire categories of products within the same decade-- some argue four or even six. There is no doubt Apple is an incredibly successful company, and they have so many knockoff copycats these days, people trying so hard to replicate what Apple could do seemingly with a snap of a finger, and everyone is wondering: how the hell did Apple do it? Why Apple?
Steve Jobs (1955-2011) had his own legacy, even before he returned to and became CEO of Apple Inc. in 1997. Many people attribute Apple's turnaround success after nearly hitting bankruptcy in 1998 to Steve Jobs, design guru and master of marketing. Jobs is credited with having invented at least three (some argue six) different product categories and the connotation the Apple name carries today. He had always been the master of marketing tactics, even since the days when he and Steve Wozniak founded Apple; Wozniak was the programmer nerd and Jobs was the one who could talk the talk and get the brand off the ground. Jobs is remembered for having convinced John Sculley in 1983 to leave Coca-Cola and join Apple as CEO with the statement “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?”
However, after his death, Apple seems to have veered off the road in terms of both marketing and product design. Several sub-par performances by Apple in the market have led to its valuation plummeting from its nearly $700-billion all-time high back in 2012.
Curiously enough, the period labeled as "Widespread Success" on Wikipedia's Apple, Inc page begins in 2007, the year the original iPhone was released, and 2011, the year Jobs died.
How I Think Apple Did It
One of the reasons Apple is so succesful in my opinion is that they do things right the first time. People ask and wonder and jeer at Apple for having changed such tiny details as customizable backgrounds on the home screen between iterations of iOS, Apple's mobile operating system on iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads (and maybe this month, the iPad Mini). And you may be thinking, well how rare could "doing things right the first time" could be. Look no further than Google. Google released their own social networking website, Google+,
Apple Truly Has Changed the World
It's pretty obvious what Apple's done for you, the reader. But let me explain it in detail, because there are subtle details of how Apple changed the world. Apple created three (I argue four) entire categories of products. Here they are, listed chronologically.
This is back when people still had Walkmans. The portable mp3 player was still a relatively new concept, but there were a few in the market already from Samsung, Sony, and the like with a gigabyte or two of memory. Apple entered the pocket player market when people were still asking "Portable music? Why would I ever want to carry music with me?"
The iPhone, arguably until recently, has consistently set the market standards for how smartphones should look and what they should be able to do.
The release of the iPad initially arrived with lots of jeering-- "It's just an iPod Touch with a giant screen. Why would I want the same thing except unable to fit in my pocket anymore?" Truth is, the iPad was concepted before the iPhone, and it was only because Jobs had the genius to realize "Hey, we can fit this in a phone instead" that the iPhone arrived first. Nobody was quite sure what the iPad was originally. It wasn't the same as the tablets already in the market; those were just PCs with touch screens and a stylus, and pretty much nobody used them except doctors and construction crews. This iPad was supposedly meant for the home, even though it couldn't do as much
This one's more easy to overlook, but I include it because Apple changed the music industry forever.
Mimickery is a form of flattery. But not for Apple. Apple's recently been engaged in a series of lawsuits against Samsung over form factors and the look of
- Samsung Electronics
- Google, Inc.
Samsung is a Korean hardware company and one of Apple's biggest rivals in the mobile hardware market. Their flagship series is currently the Galaxy series, which took off with the Galaxy S III and found wild success in the market.
Google is Apple's largest competitor in the mobile software market. Google makes the Android operating system, which is currently the best-selling mobile platform in the world.
What's Apple Doing Now?
The Most Recent Lineup
Well, you may have heard of Apple's release of the iPhone 5, 6th generation iPod Touch, and iPod Nano lineup in September that's causing a splash. Most noticeably, the iPhone 5, despite some of its strange drawbacks, is still the best-selling iPhone yet, selling 5 million in the first opening weekend, compared to 4 and 2 million in the iPhone 4S's and iPhone 4's opening weekends, respectively.
The reason I call the iPhone 5 "weird" is because so much of it is so...different. Apple seems to have changed so many things all at once, and it seems like such a drawback to buying the newest phone. I myself had planned to buy the iPhone 5 upon its release this fall, but found myself discouraged by the new changes.
The main reason is the new charger port. Apple has finally changed from the old 30-pin dock connector they had been using for the past nine years in every generation of iPod, iPhone, and iPad to a new 8-pin Lightning connector. This strikes me as very disturbing. For one thing, you would think that if they updated the USB connector, they would make it compatible with the newest standards for data transfer-- USB 3.0. Instead, it remains on USB 2.0 and has only 8 connectors. USB 3.0 requires a minimum of 9. Secondly, I find myself annoyed because my father and I each have bought small, expensive speaker systems in the past three years that support the 30-pin connector, having full faith that Apple would not change the connector on their products for at least a while. I refuse to buy a separate $30 adapter, and was actually hoping the new iPhone would come with one included. In fact, I read reports that Apple had posted on their site that the new iPhones would come with the adapter, but then later took the message down.
It seems the iPod touch is evolving into something new. Apple has added a wrist strap that attaches to the bottom corner of the most recent iPod touch, not unlike those on point-and-shoot cameras. The specifications of this generation of iPod touch are much more on-par with those of the iPhone. Historically, the iPod Touch suffered from lackluster hand-me-down parts of the iPhone: dumbed-down cameras and displays and processors. However, this generation has the same 4-inch retina screen and A5 dual-core processor as the iPhone 5.
To the disappointment of many, the new iPod Nano has changed to have a 16x9 aspect ratio screen. The previous generation Nano was quite loved because of the small form factor, which people quickly discovered would allow it to be worn as a watch.
4th Generation iPad
iPad has reached its third generation, curiously named "the new iPad," though people simply call it the iPad 3 anyway. You can't help but wonder what Apple intends to call it once the 4th gen iPad comes out, unless of course, they intend to end the iPad line when they release the iPad Mini this month.
Jobs is famous for having told Cook while in his deathbed not to think about what Steve Jobs would do, but instead to act on his own intuition. Jobs definitely trusted Cook, but who really knows what goes through Tim Cook's head.
The iPad mini is an iPad shrunk down to a 7.9" diagonal. There's really nothing more to be said.
Since the death of Steve Jobs in October 2011, I've noticed a few changes in Apple. Of course, Apple's first release after Jobs's death was the iPhone 4S, which was meant simply as a specifications-- battery life, processor, RAM, etc-- upgrade to the iPhone 4 released a year before. But people began clamoring immediately that the death of Jobs had negatively affected the company, and that Apple would never innovate like before again. The next release after
It seems since the passing of Jobs, Apple seems bent on making enemies out of everyone. Namely, Google and Samsung.
Samsung is not very happy with Apple right now. You may have heard of the lawsuits recently; Samsung lost the American case and has paid Apple $1 billion in damages. But not before a host of retrials. Samsung is suing Apple around the world as well, including in Australia.
Not actually a garden.
The Rumor Mill
There's never any end to the rumors surrounding Apple. Of course, Apple tries so hard to keep its products secret that the rumors seem to spread more quickly than for any other company. Usually though, the secrets always get out, mostly coming in the weeks leading up to the product release. Here's a list of the most popular rumors, in order from most realistic to least.
- Apple iWatch
- Apple TV Set
Apple TV Set
Rumor also has it that Apple is working on a full television set. There isn't much news on expected features, just pure speculation. Personally, I don't expect it to be a complete overhaul of the TV industry the way iTunes was to the music industry, reason being that the TV industry is more or less happy the way it is now, a far cry from the condition of the music industry in the early 2000s. Jobs had to work extremely hard to get music artists to cooperate with his iTunes venture before the release of iTunes in 2001. You might argue the advent of streamable content from services like Hulu, Amazon, and Netflix are definitely interfering with the TV industry, as are DVR and TiVo services that allow users to skip ads, which has slowly brought down the price of TV ads. But even to that, I can say the TV industry is still thriving and growing. It has no need for an overhaul. There are, however, rumors that Apple has been talking to TV providers asking them to release . It could be that the Apple TV will let you see any show or movie aired on TV, ever.