Friday 8 May 2009

What next from Apple

It's time for the 3rd generation of the iPhone. In a month's time, the Faithful will make pilgrimage to developers conference (WWDC) to hear from their gurus.

There are lots of rumours about Apple producing a "netbook" - one of those ultra-portable tiny laptoppy things that have suddenly become so trendy.  But it makes no sense that Apple should compete against stuff at the bottom end of the financial spectrum.

It helps to understand Apple's target market. People complain about Apple's expensive products, but there's a clever plan going on here. Apple have successfully cornered the rich "early adopter" market - the gizmo-gang who absolutely must have the latest stuff.  Remember how much the first iPhone cost? Price was no barrier to these loyal customers, who were happy to pay nearly US$1000 to be the first ones to have a fancy telephone! 

These rich early adopters include a lot of people at the top of businesses. It is these people that I think Apple will target with their new Thing next month.  An exec or sales manager who travels and does lots of presentations would pay good money for something like the iPhone that can also display PowerPoint on a projector. If it were just a bit bigger than the iPhone, they could do most of their emails on it (touch-screen typing works OK for short messages).  It would of course have a docking option for attaching keyboard, mouse and big screen.

I thought Apple would bring it out last year - but I guess the technology wasn't ready yet. I think it'll be a cross between a Tablet Computer, a Netbook and an iPhone, with some other really neat technology in it. The price is irrelevant, because the Faithful will queue up for three days so they can have one by Christmas, and business users will buy one anyway. 

The most difficult decision for Apple right now is not the technology but how Steve Jobs should transition out of the company.  The Guru of Apple is ill and isn't getting younger. For his own sake and the sake of his family, he should plan a grand and happy exit strategy whilst he is still on top, rather than trying to fight the relentless progress of time. Maybe he should spend more time with the fans too, going on walkabout and queueing with them on release day.  That'd be different.