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Apple launches were about defending its position in mobile

by Scott Bicheno on 7 June 2011, 09:34

Tags: Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL)

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Building a moat

It's been said many times before, but iOS vs. Android is very comparable to Mac OS vs. Windows in so much as it's a closed, controlled platform competing with a much more open, diverse one. The closed system has many advantages when it comes to stability and optimisation but, as the end of the day, it's closed.

The big difference is that Apple has a much stronger position in mobile than it ever had in PCs, and yesterday's software launches were as much about bolstering that position, and defending Apple from competition, as it was changing everything...again.

I've included a bunch of screen-shots below that I think illustrate what a defensive set of launches this was. Firstly MacOSX Lion has many new features that bring it closer to iOS in terms of look, functionality and user experience, much in the way Microsoft seems to be doing with Windows 8 and WP7.

The image below shows an iMac with ‘Mission Control', which seems to bring widget functionality to many apps, while the MacBook is displaying the ‘wall of apps' paradigm we've all become familiar with.



Onto iOS 5, there's a new bar at the top of the screen. Being Apple is has to have a Product Name and this one's called Notification Center. In many ways it seems designed to provide similar functionality to what's already available on Android - the pull-down bar at the top - albeit with a bunch of Apple stuff too.



And then we have iMessage, which is being viewed universally as very bad news for RIM. BlackBerrys have been a surprising success among younger consumers, mainly due to the unlimited free instant messaging offered by BBM. Now there's an alternative on a sexier platform and many may defect.



Finally there's iCloud. Jobs admitted MobileMe was a failure and that iCloud is, in part, resigned to remedy that. Such contrition is commendable, but given that MobileMe required a subscription, Apple will need to make sure loyal paying customers don't feel ripped-off.

BBC tech correspondent Rory Clellan-Jones tweeted during the keynote "MobileMe ceases to exist today, says Steve Jobs - err, I paid for an annual sub in February??!!" While a friend of mine, who's a big Apple fan, emailed me after reading my initial report: "So what about the poor f*ckers who have been paying for it up till now???"



Jobs realised a long time ago that helping people consume their content can play a big part in persuading them to buy products. While all the cloud syncing stuff will add to the appeal of the Apple ecosystem, the iTunes in the Cloud is also a defensive move in response to the activity Amazon and Google have displayed in the cloud music game.

The trump card is iTunes Match, which enables people to replicate their entire music collections in the iTunes cloud, even if they haven't acquired the music via iTunes. This seems to even include tracks you haven't paid for at all, and the key element is an annual fee of $25, which is presumably levied on behalf of the music rights holders.

This seems like quite a small amount of money to compensate the music companies for all the music that won't be bought in duplicate as a result, but then again Apple is better positioned to levy this free than its competitors, as Apple customers are already so used to handing over cash to it. Amazon also has good commercial lies with consumers but Google's ‘give it away for free and sell ads against the traffic' model doesn't look so well suited to this.

There were many more new features in Lion, iOS5 and iCloud, such as deep Twitter integration into iOS that will allow apps to be built with a seamless connection to Twitter, but the features I've mentioned illustrate what a strong defensive move this was from Apple. This isn't the 90s - Apple already has a very strong position - so while it needs to keep innovating, its focus will probably remain defensive for the time being.


HEXUS Forums :: 12 Comments

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Not quite sure I get this music match thing:

Let's say I've got all of my CDs which I ripped to MP3s a few years ago. I'm happy with them. However, Apple will “allow” me to match my MP3s, for which I own the CDs, up against their database and I can buy AAC versions?

Can I keep the AAC versions? Can I download them, or just stream them? As they're DRM free, from what I read, then what's the difference between having them and the MP3s I made myself, other than a) sharing the MP3s over iCloud would take up some of my alloted space (whereas “purchased” or “matched” tracks do not count towards that 5gb) and b) bitrate, etc?

Not saying it's a BAD thing: just don't get it.
what's the difference between having them and the MP3s I made myself
iCloud will automatically save all your purchased music for you. If you ever get a new device or want to download that specific song, you can.

What iTunes match does is match your entire library and gives it iCloud access. This means you have access to your entire matched library where ever you are. If you get a new device you wouldn't need iTunes to transfer everything over. The perk of match is that you don't need to upload all of your songs as it matches the ones you have with the iTunes database. While not being as good as uploading everything (a lot of us will have songs that iTunes does not) i think it's priced accordingly.

The one query i have is, piracy. If you have said track which you downloaded from where ever if you buy iTunes match do you suddenly get a free legit version? That makes no sense to me.
Thanks for that, very helpful.

re: Piracy: I have to say, I think it makes perfect sense.

You can't beat piracy. You just can't. So what we have here is an attempt to lure pirates back into the fold or, at the least, a middle ground which is “OK, you might have pirated our tracks, but here's a fairly cheap service where you'll get them better quality, on all of your devices. Deal?”

It's clawing back money which they would otherwise probably never have got. And I think it's clever.

A bit like Steam, as I see it. Steam persuaded many people (myself included) to stop playing pirated games.
so the difference between that and say a spotify premium or zune pass is?

I quite like having things like music seperate from things that are important and possibly confidential.
I agree that it's definitely been about defending their position as leaders in the smartphone marketplace - and from what I have seen so far, it's a success..for the iPhone at least.

I installed iOS5 this morning, and it's definitely a very good evolution of the OS. The Notification center feels and acts exactly like an improved version of the HTC Sense notification manager that appeared way before android became popular, and it works really really well. Ties in perfectly with the new lockscreen which answers many of the critiscims of iOS when it has been compared to android devices.

Not so convinced on the iCloud aspects as yet; so far i've got it setup to sync my phone content, and tested doing a wipe of my data and then resetting it from iCloud..all worked very well, just like the MyPhone service offered by Microsoft for windows mobile a few years ago.

Background OTA sync is something new to the iPhone also which make a huge difference - I was able to use my phone and set it up whilst it did it's initial sync, after installing iOS5..I had gotten used to the whole “lock your phone whilst it's syncing' thing so this is a nice change. No idea personally if that feature is offered with Android.

Got to have a play with my apps next to see if they are affected by this, but we'll see. Personally I am not a fan of these new ”non interrupting“ notifications - if you have your phone on silent they are too subtle for my liking, I liked them being ”in my face" as it were..but no biggie, and it is pretty slick if a little too subtle.

I get the feeling that this whole year is about Apple consolidating/refining their position in the marketplace, before another slew of pretty large updates towards the end of 2012. It's a good strategy, if a tad risky due to people's expectations of big new product launches every year!