iPod = Apple 2.0?

by Chris Seibold Oct 26, 2006

When Apple first became a legal partnership just over thirty years ago, few would have suspected that the next thirty years would end up being little more than a prelude to being the next big thing. Most surprised would be the founders, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Mike Markkula, they thought they were just going to be making a really profitable personal computer.

The personal computer they had in mind was, of course, the Apple II. The trio’s instincts were correct, the Apple II was a monster hit. For a time, until the IBM PC was introduced, Apple was the player in the personal market. Once the PC got around to being the PC, well, Apple took a quick backseat.

This seems confusing, how could Apple go from dominant computer maker with scads of software, software that included Oregon Trail, go from dominance to irrelevance? The chain of events seemingly defies rationality. If the Apple II was markedly inferior to the PC, why hadn’t some other computer maker made a machine demonstrably better than the Apple II? The truth is that plenty of people made better machines than the Apple II, and plenty of companies made equivalent computers that cost substantially less. Unfortunately, for the competitors, they got their product to market after Apple.

Thus, Apple had the huge advantage of being first to market. How big of an advantage is being first to market? Take pharmaceuticals, every so often some key piece of research will be suddenly uncovered and a drug will be pulled from the market. Usually the drug pulled is the first one in some supposedly new class. The interesting thing is that before the drug is pulled from the market, generally, it is still the best selling product in that segment of the market. This despite the fact that when drugs are pulled from the market it isn’t because of concerns over efficacy, it is because they tend to cause the adverse reaction known as death. It is easy to conclude at this point that being the first to market is of the utmost importance. The idea makes sense, a void for a product exists and the first company to fulfill said void naturally has a huge advantage.

Of course, the first to market advantage doesn’t last forever, Penicillin isn’t the world’s go to antibiotic anymore not because it is dangerous but because it has been outclassed by other drugs. Apple wasn’t stupid, it knew that the reign of the Apple II couldn’t last forever so they tried to be first to the market again with the Lisa and the Mac. The company might have had the edge in tech and usability but Apple lacked the legitimizing force of three important letters: IBM.

In truth, there was little Apple could do to actually compete with IBM and later the clones, short of giving up on the hardware side of things and start licensing the software. The move was suggested but by the time it was taken as a serious option it was far too late. Apple shouldn’t be seen as shortsighted, no one expected the eventual winner to be a software company and there was nothing in Apple’s previous experience that would indicate that massive profits and world shaking power would be found in something as fleeting as software.

By 1983 the days of Apple dominance were fading quickly and the long slide to “beleaguered” and “dying” had begun. The Mac only broke into double digit market share for a single year and most people, including the board of directors, saw Apple as a company that needed to be bought out by a company that could actually get something right.

While pundits, CEOs and the stock market all saw Apple with one foot in the grave Apple employees went about doing their jobs and trying to make some great stuff. Year after year, the company did crank out enticing, if not always successful, products. The Newton spawned the PDA market, Apple had one of the first digital cameras, and came out with a very early videoconferencing camera. These products and others kept Apple in the public mind as a company capable of making cool and cutting edge stuff.

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple he quickly realized that Apple couldn’t beat Microsoft Windows on features alone. The power of Apple wasn’t in their gizmos, the power off Apple was in the company name. The public did have a positive image of Apple, the average person would say (incorrectly) that Apple invented the personal computer. They would also likely opine that Macs were in some intangible way better than PCs but that they were also very, very expensive.

Apple’s reputation for ease of use, the perception that Apple made an inherently higher quality than other manufacturers spurred the adoption of the iPod. What started life as a Mac only, FireWire portable hard drive with a headphone jack and a few extra chips took the .mp3 player market by storm. Actually, saying the iPod took the digital audio player market “by storm” actually understates the influence. The iPod created a huge chunk of the market.

The iPod yearns to be much more than an .mp3 player. In the ideal world of Steve Jobs all your media will come to you through Apple branded products. The concept makes sense, is there something inherently better about watching a cable TV show via the cable? Is there something that makes a physical CD superior to an iTunes purchase? Is there a legitimate reason why a DVD is preferable to a download? While the answer to the questions may be “yes” for the moment, in the long term the answer is a resounding “no”.

Apple wants to be the company that manages all of the previously mentioned information and, what the heck, the company wouldn’t mind being the one to sell all of the digital goodness to the consumer as well. The iPod is the perfect way to achieve that goal, a perfect way to take Apple to the market dominating company Mac fans are so desirous of seeing. Can Apple pull it off, will Zunes “squirt”* feature derail Apple’s plans? The next six months will tell and it will be a very interesting half-year.

*Sometimes it is better to let the market come up with a name for a feature. The Zune’s wireless transfer feature has been dubbed “squirt” by Microsoft. As in “I’ll squirt you a video of my vacation.” The name sounds forced and incredibly lame. Below I present 20 better terms for “squirting.”

Ooze, push, transfer, WiFile, zip, jump, slap, slam, spurt, side load, slide, barf, splooge, spill, drive, zing, breathe, blow, charm, infect your Zune with a virus


  • I agree with one major point that its the Apple name that is actually helping save the company. The Aplle iPod is driving people into the stores to buy Apple iMacs.

    namebutler had this to say on Oct 23, 2007 Posts: 2
  • Xbox is a “total up to leader” (for homelessness of a better persisting) in the games console market. It wouldn’t surprise if MS rig big profits on the games number one. And nosy the net, it appears on MS’s alpha contingent results, that things are going the right way smoker the Xbox.

    We simplify to remember that the Zune is a “regurgitated” Toshiba Gigabeat in its gone glimmering glaring light. MS split shot constancy not be able to CPR that loser in any configuration or transition. They were better off concocting their own device from scratch.

    Sounds like the ROKR, eh? But we substantiate why Apple put their toe in the water by choice, in the front act it conventionally (unconventional the iPhone is more than myth)

    I remember when the in preference PocketPCs arrived. All the laughter and leering. No one’s levity now. Although MS are after a while ha-ha.

    proxy site had this to say on Nov 13, 2007 Posts: 1
  • I think Apple wasn’t the first on the market but they had have the best and simple to use product and marketing strategy ever. if you are the first and keep on pushing there will be almost no one who can kick you out.

    seed had this to say on Nov 20, 2007 Posts: 1
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    kral oyun had this to say on Jan 11, 2008 Posts: 2
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