Has Apple (finally) missed a trick?
Posted by Lou Ellerton on June 5, 2010
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So the iPad finally hit UK stores at the end of last month, with the predictable queues, fainting and mass hysteria from early adopters, trend junkies and Apple fans across the country.
If you haven’t come across media coverage of Apple’s iPad yet, you’ve probably been off holidaying in the depths of the Amazon – and I’m not talking the .com version. Frankly, it’s reminiscent of nothing so much as… well, the arrival of the iPhone, now that you mention it.
With all the hype around the iPhone and the iPad – most, to be fair, coming from owners and would-be owners rather than Apple itself – it’s sometimes hard to believe that there are competing products on the market. All credit to Apple, as they’ve once again taken first-mover advantage in the new technology game with the iPad, leaving other manufacturers to follow sheepishly. Having said that, it’s interesting to note the growing prevalence of media headlines along the lines of “Here come the iPad killers” or “Android now outselling iPhone“.
While some of these can be attributed to wishful thinking from an industry desperate to jolt Steve Jobs’ pedestal, others perhaps reflect a fledgling consumer disenchantment with Apple and its push for global domination. The reason? Apple’s dependence on the iTunes platform.
Recently, a friend of mine upgraded to an iPhone, after months (years?) of coveting it from afar. On its arrival, he eagerly set about getting it up and running. All went well – until he discovered that the phone was unusable until synced with the latest version of iTunes. Disaster had struck. Not only did he now have to acquire iTunes, he also had to find a non-work PC on which to install it.
Go onto the net, and you’ll find a rash of comments from bloggers complaining about both the iPhone and the iPad’s dependency on iTunes. It’s not surprising – after all, surely one of the USPs of such next-generation mobile technologies was supposed to be that they would free us from the chains of our PCs? In this day and age, can you really sell people something that won’t work straight out of the box?
For Apple, the answer is of course a resounding ‘Yes’ – at least for now. From a brand perspective, though, one wonders whether they’ve fallen victim to their heritage. If you anchor your brand in innovation, imagination and design, as Apple has done so successfully, you must be prepared to build your products and services to suit. In this case, however, the company’s product strategy has always revolved around a ‘digital hub’, with consumers intended to use an Apple Mac as a single nerve center for a variety of devices.
It seems Apple has forgotten one key tenet of branding: it doesn’t matter how good your product is, if your brand creates expectations that you can’t or don’t meet, you’re storing up trouble. And with players such as Google snatching at your coattails, that’s a dangerous situation to be in.