There are two huge differences between Apple and most other companies that it “competes with”:
- Apple has a knack for understanding what the consumer wants — even if the consumer is still not quite sure what they want. To illustrate this point I think it best to recall a story I grew up hearing about cars in the 50s, the ones with fins running down the back of the cars. The legend, the story, that I have grown up hearing about those cars is the auto makers stopped asking consumers what they wanted and started asking them what their neighbor would want.1 The people asked then said something like: “Who Steve? He’d probably want something crazy with huge wings or something on it. That guy…” This research led to the finned era of cars (or so goes the tale) and spurred massive sales and pretty wild designs — it was a realization that consumers aren’t very good judges of what they want. Everyone said at the introduction of the iPhone that the lack of 3G would be it’s death. That the closed nature and web-only apps would be a problem. The original iPhone was still a hit despite those limitations — because what people actually wanted, what they actually cared about, wasn’t 3G or native apps.
- Apple also has shown many times over the willingness to introduce new technology the moment that they can. Some where (again, can’t find the source) there is a quote of Steve Jobs (I believe) saying that Apple likes to introduce new technology while that new technology stills seems magical. This is an important part of Apple’s products.
Up and until today I strongly believed that no major technology company was able to both understand and execute on both of these items in any way, shape, or form close to what Apple does. That’s why most tablets that we see simply look like clones of the popular iPad — albeit a crappy clone in most cases.
Today Amazon showed that they, at the very least, understand the first point above. They seem to get what the consumer wants, or at least are willing to gamble on what they think the consumer wants. It’s an interesting and refreshing perspective.
Amazon has never been in the business of providing the second item — the magical technology2 . Amazon seems to understand that they, as a company, will prosper on pricing — that’s their goal, it’s Amazon’s second item3 . Amazon wants to ship products that attempt to meet what consumers actually want, at low prices. Apple adds in the magical part, while attempting both of the same things.
It is an incredibly encouraging sign for Amazon, and for consumers, and I for one can’t wait to see how well Amazon executed this vision on the Kindle Fire.
Whether the Kindle Fire is a success or not — it speaks well to Amazon’s longevity in the consumer electronics space.