Apple’s new media republic
Thursday, 14 August 2008 — by Wayne Smallman
Apple have a thriving digital ecosystem, populated by partners and consumers alike. In many ways, what Apple have created is their own new media republic. Having recently watched Apple flirt with failure on a massive scale, it’s a brash, rough new republic and not an e-Eutopia just yet…
The digital ecosystem — a new media microcosm
The strategy is simple; to ensure the user experience is consistent, simple and reliable, you have to control the whole of the experience from inception to completion. And that means cutting your own media formats, as well as your own media deals.
When something goes wrong, the customer doesn’t give a shit who’s wrong, so long as someone fixes the problem. In the Microsoft ecosystem, the finger-pointing is a common and oft lamented problem.
Microsoft will blame the hardware supplier (the OEM), the hardware supplier (Dell, Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard or some totally anonymous beige box) will blame the OS vendor (which is nearly always going to be Microsoft). As you can imagine, or maybe know from bitter experience, this can go on for some time.
Much to their cost, Microsoft are slowly learning that a closed system approach is a better option for things like digital media — here I’m thinking of how they started out with their Xbox and Zune and how they’ve both ended up being wholly-managed Microsoft products. However, in learning this, Microsoft will ultimately have to burn some business bridges, cutting lose partner deals, or scaling them back.
Apple’s lesson in digital logistics
Some of you may have noticed that Apple have released version two of their wildly popular iPhone. The keener eyed among you might have also spotted Apple rolling out their much-anticipated update to .Mac, entitled MobileMe.
At the same time, Apple made available a software update to their existing version one iPhone and the iPod Touch which adds all of the MobileMe smarts, as well as a raft of smaller updates, including a button for the App Store.
Taking the sheen off things ever so slightly was Apple’s inability to deal with the huge numbers of people trying to register their new phones, which effectively killed their App Store for several hours.
Oh yes, and one last thing — Apple released the App Store, too — eventually! Now, anyone owning a properly updated iPhone or iPod Touch can download games, productivity tools, utilities, social networking clients, plus many, many more.
In effect, that’s four different updates being rolled out at around the same time. I’m sure it wouldn’t surprise you to know that wasn’t by chance. No, this is all part of an exceptionally well orchestrated strategy to mesh the iPhone, the iPod Touch with MobileMe and everything on the in between.
Thing is, this broad and ambitious strategy roll-out didn’t quite go according to plan. In addition to the App Store snafu, MobileMe had its own problems on launch, much to the disappointment of some subscribers — and Steve Jobs:
“It was a mistake to launch MobileMe at the same time as iPhone 3G, iPhone 2.0 software and the App Store,… We all had more than enough to do, and MobileMe could have been delayed without consequence.”
Not content with controlling your photos with iPhoto, your music and movies with iTunes, your contacts, calendars, emails and office files (pause for intake of breathe) Apple want all your other stuff, too.
Just as soon as Apple have learnt their lesson in digital logistics.
Apple iPhone 2.0 Beta?
There’s no doubting the success of the iPhone, but commercial success is not synonymous with best. That’s something earned, not gained by just selling more.
Only yesterday, HSBC announced plans to buy 200,000 iPhones, which will replace the existing population of Blackberry’s. Is this a wise move? For me personally, I think the iPhone is still at the very least another software update from being ready to compete with the Blackberry.
I own neither a Blackberry or an iPhone, but based on what I’ve read so far, the number of gripes, glitches and groans are piling up for the iPhone. And in addition to the glitches, the iPhone doesn’t quite stack up to the competition.
Right now, the sheer volume of units flying off the shelf is enough to keep Apple from being too concerned. But they are perfectionists, and I am certain these concerns will have been heard at the highest level.
Apple have invested a huge amount of effort into the iPhone, which is going to be at the very forefront of their future ambitions. That being the case, it would behoove Apple to pay heed to the problems people are highlighting and ensure there’s some remedial action.
When I look through the various reports coming in, I can safely say that I’ve never known any one Apple product release produce so many problems. For the most part, most people don’t have a clue about this. For someone like me who keeps an ear to the ground, it’s a concern.
Conclusion? The iPhone 3.0 is where the real Apple smart phone will stand up and be counted. Also, by that time, I’m assuming many of the infrastructure problems, as highlighted by Om Malik, will have been resolved, too.
By their own admission, Apple have a huge amount to learn, and learn they will. I think Apple really have rode their luck. Things could have been immeasurably worse…
- Apple’s benign digital dictatorship
- Seeds of Apple’s growth
- Apple’s iPhone is game for anything
- Dial ‘A’ for angry: New iPhone’s glitches elicit gripes, groans
- ‘App Store’ will distribute iPhone software
- Apple filing hints at live video Podcasts