So, “Welcome to Macintosh” was just playing on CNBC. I was cleaning up from the dual birthday party for both of my kids, so I left it on. All in all, it’s maybe a bit too simplistic and a bit too reverent of the fruit company from Cupertino, but it made some valid points.
The most important point it made was that “Apple doesn’t compare itself to another company.” I think that’s true and I think that’s why I’m a devotee. Apple didn’t release the iPod as a “MPMan-killer.” The iPod was designed from the beginning as the best personal music player possible at the time – and it was. The most important point here is that it wasn’t the specs (although they were impressive) that made it so compelling, it was the solutions to design problems that were inherent in the device. The iPod offered new modes of interaction (a new personal relationship) with the device.
It’s precisely those new modes that make Apple’s products so desirable. Just like the Wii has achieved runaway success without having the most monstrous graphics chip or the ability to play DVD’s (of any definition), it’s the novel ways of ratcheting up the fidelity of interaction that makes those devices appealing. The Wii wasn’t an Xbox-killer, it was quintessentially what it was, and so was the iPod.
When the iPhone was released, it wasn’t just the same old phone with hopped-up specs like so many other phones were – it was a whole new class of device. Initially, I thought it was a way to reduce the number of devices in my pocket. I could have all my music and my phone in one device. What happened after was something different altogether. Soon, I had games on it that (in many cases) surpassed the games on my DS. Then, the apps started pouring in. I can now record music, remove loyalty cards from my wallet, monitor my social media presence, and check to see if the groceries I’m about to buy are gluten-free (a necessity in my family). It became more than a phone with my tunes, it became a personal assistant/playmate.
Now, Apple’s just announced the release of the iPad. I’m not jumping up and down demanding that I have one, but I wasn’t when the iPhone first came out, either. I was actually going to pass on the iPhone because I really liked my Blackberry. However, my wife bought me an iPhone and I haven’t looked back since. The initial impressions of the iPad have run hot and cold. Most of the cold reactions have centered on specs (“It doesn’t multi-task”) or features (“Where’s the camera?”), but I have a feeling it may be another mode-changer. The iPad is not a Netbook-killer. Soon, we’ll probably look back at the iPad and find Netbooks as quaint as the early MP3 players. I think the iPad is to written media (including websites) what the iPod was to music. I think making the task of navigating the Internet or a particular publication as intimate as pointing to where you want to go will be the mode changer.
Only time will tell if I am wrong, but I think we’ll see another shift pretty soon. My friend Gordon Bell has posited a law that says a new class of computer is introduced every 10 years. I think Apple is trying to get him to change his law from a linear timeline to a geometric one.