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Re: FCP-X: Case study for biz schools

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Tim Wilson
Re: FCP-X: Case study for biz schools
on Jun 22, 2011 at 7:49:17 pm

Another way of saying "We're just trying to make great products" is "we don't trust anyone else to know a great product if it bit them in the butt. At least not until we give we them what WE think is great, and then they agree."

There are a bunch of measures of success, and to me, they largely fall into two buckets. One is the hardcore business side: profit/loss, market disruption, stockholder perception, etc.

On that level, everything that Apple has done is perfect. Even the antenna issues with iPhone 4 - irrelevant for more than a couple of weeks, and only among people who talk about such things, and most of that talk is to each other. Apple has made zero mistakes worth talking about for any length of time, and that deserves study on its own.

The part of the "market" that we're talking about here is the customer side. The first issue there is, who's the customer? The people using FCP now, or the customers Apple wants? What's the horizon for their own measure of success?

Apple consistently releases products late, overpriced and underfeatured. It has happened from the beginning, when the Mac was the last computer on the planet still working in black and white. iPod was very nearly the last PMP to market, and to get there, Apple took features out of the software they bought from Casaday&Green (SoundJam) to turn into iTunes, and they're still not back. We all remember how pathetic FCP was back in the day. Apple TV - still "a hobby," but not going to be forever.

So at every step, they came in below customer expectations. Every one of those was an area of disappointment...ah, use the iPod as an example. Sure, it sucked compared to almost the entire market when it came out, but it EXPLODED the market, so not even a single percentage point of the then-existing market gave a poo about its deficiencies. Didn't even come up. iPod came to define the market.

(The one exception to this pattern: iPad. Cornering the market on components helped, but Apple is consistently underpricing itself relative to the competitive feature set. iPhone is already being outsold, and it will fall further behind to a Windows-style ecosystem from Google. Already well underway.

iPad? I don't see that going anywhere. I have my wishlist for iPad 3, but looking at the leap from 1 to 2, I'm not looking at other pads as hard as I am other phones. I'm on my fourth iPhone in less than a year not because I love them so much, but because it keeps crapping out. Thank goodness for Apple Care. Don't leave the Apple store without it.)

I'm going to skip the thing that everybody skips: Apple II was very nearly the best-selling computer on the market, and Apple dropped an atomic bomb on its customers. No hardware compatibility when they introduced Mac, ZERO software compatibility, and where Apple II was famous for openness, Apple welded the case shut.

System 6 to 7 - blew up the entire world again. Forced new hardware, new software, was the least stable OS EVER (if you weren't there, you have no idea - a gazillion times worse than Vista), and a year later, nobody cared.

OS 9 to X - same story. OS 10.2, same story. A year later from each, nobody cared. In both cases, because the market grew so much faster afterward, and none of the new customers cared, and because by the time the of next release cycle, everything was fine.

Apple has always been willing to blow up its customer base in the service of creating a better customer experience.

The thing is, if Microsoft tried ANY of this, there'd be blood in the street to the horse's bridle. There's no company on earth who could have gotten away with this once -- selling a product that the CEO stands on stage and TELLS you it's not a real product? Well, it's working for Apple TV, whose sales are still going up even though nobody can say exactly what it does.

We'll know after the release of Lion (looking like September from here), but I think that FCPX will be another example of Apple being delighted to infuriate its customer base, and willing to lose a large number of them...whoops, it won't lose a single one, not really, and they'll gain a bazillion of them. It's the price we pay for being current Apple customers, rather than future ones...because hey, we'll be future customers soon enough.

I can't say I'm happy about any of this, but I also can't say that my wallet won't be out for Lion, and who knows what else by the end of the year.

I spend as much time hating them as loving them, and the end result is that I keep buying their stuff.


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