The old adage professes “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” I’ve often manipulated this statement to mean using an Apple product every day will keep your stress level down as it relates to technology. But thats another post. Other computer manufacturers have interpreted it another way and have unknowingly reinforced a key pillar in Apple’s product strategy.
Please know that not a single one of the numbers I’m about to state are in any way official. Completely unscientific at best.
A quick survey of two manufacturers’ websites highlights the veritable deluge of products consumers have to wade through to make a purchase. Currently on Lenovo’s website there are 14 different subsets of laptops. Multiply that out by an average of three different screen sizes each and you have 42 laptops. Similarly, Samsung offers roughly 23 laptops with varying differences in color or other small changes within a large portion of those (precisely 54 listings on Samsung’s site). And that does not include Chromebooks.
The current tablet market shows similar trends. Samsung and Lenovo have 6 different tablets models. Within each of those, a consumer must decide between normal specifications of 3G, LTE, capacity, color, etc., as well. This doesn’t include other tablet makers such as Acer, Asus, Dell, RIM, and Pantech. That’s a lot to decipher just to get a tablet running Gooogle’s Android OS which, until the last iteration, wasn’t actually intended for use on anything but phones.
“What about mobile phones?” I’m glad you asked. According to Google’s own numbers, there are currently 85 different phones that run Android. 85. Yes that’s a lot of choice. Consumers like choice. But consumers like simplicity more.
It seems not a day goes by when there isn’t another Android smartphone or Windows laptop released. At the Consumer Electronics Show last week, Intel announced that there will be over 75 ultrabooks (MacBook Air clones) released in 2012 alone. And while all these devices aren’t coming from one manufacturer, there are fewer than you think. A vast majority of these hundreds of laptops, smartphones, and tablets are coming from Lenovo, Asus, Acer, Samsung, Dell, HTC, Motorola, and Toshiba. This means lots of choices for consumers but not without cost. Not in terms of price, necessarily, but in quality. So many different models and competition from other manufacturers means companies spend little time perfecting a product before its release. Too little man power and resources to innovate with each new iteration. And increasing competition means compromising on components and build quality to meet a price point.
Compare this to Apple and it becomes obvious why it is the only manufacturer gaining any significant market share year over year. Apple sells two different laptop lines; the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro. Two different screen sizes for the former and three for the latter. Five standard models total (user customizable if desired). There are two screen sizes of iMac; each comes in a standard model that is also customizable. Apple still offers the MacPro desktop machine but may soon do away with it as it no longer offers a considerable upgrade to the iMac units. There is one iPad. Yes there are choices for color (2), capacity (3), and connectivity (2), but when someone says they want an iPad, there are very few decisions to make. In regard to the modern smartphone, Apple invented the category and in five years has released five phones. Essentially this is Apple’s entire product line. It’s easy to navigate and differentiate for consumers. But that is only part of the reason for its success.
This limited product line is updated, at most, twice a year. Most products receive an annual refresh or redesign. One iPhone per year. One iPad. At most, 2 specification upgrades for MacBook Pros and iMacs. This allows Apple designers and engineers to focus all their energy on making each product amazing. A smaller product lineup also allows Apple to continue to offer support at a high level for all it’s devices. It’s a level of focus that few companies can boast.
A new laptop, tablet, or smartphone a day does not keep the doctor away. It creates confusion and apathy and makes it hard to get excited about any new release. It leads to derivative products that are obsolete days after they’re released and makes it virtually impossible to get adequate support when something inevitably goes wrong.
An Apple a year continues to kick the competition to the rear.