I was sitting at an event the other morning and a long-time acquaintance sat down next to me and proceeded to pull out his iPad and start taking notes. He leaned over to me and said “Rob, remember when you stood up at a meeting last year and said that it won’t be too soon before it shifts from knowing someone who owns an iPad to everyone owning an iPad? Well, that day has arrived.” He had just bought his first a few days prior and fell in love with it overnight.
I’ve had similar experiences over the past month and it turns out that 11.8 million people have taken the plunge in the 4 weeks since the latest hardware launched. This isn’t really news is it? You could see this happening – just look up from your coffee right now and see. The landscape has changed because of Apple – the only competition these days is, well, Apple. I’ve had so many people ask if they should buy an iPad or an iPad 2. Not if they should buy a PlayBook or an Android tablet or the Kindle Fire…How long before the iPad rivals the iPhone’s numbers?
This is a crazy time for Apple – they can do no wrong while every single one of their competitors can do little to nothing right. They have done what successful music artists have done so well for so long – harnessed the wisdom of the crowds to great success (even if it lasts but for one song).
The Age of Pop
When I was 11, one of the most popular songs on the radio at the time was Let’s Get Physical by Olivia Newton-John (who?). She was tearing up the nightly top 10 lists and was riding an incredible wave of popularity. So much so that I can’t remember a single other song during that time. In fact, I even called in to a request line for my local radio station and, when I finally got through, I found myself requesting that very song even though I hated it – I just couldn’t think of another song to request.
Apple is in that very spot right now with their products. There aren’t any quite like it. There aren’t any that are asked for by name by grandparents, parents and kids alike. There aren’t any companies with the same ecosystem, the same panache and the same bravado. There aren’t any companies that have $110B in cash in their bank either. There aren’t any other companies that also get such a reaction – positive or negative – as Apple lovers give it and haters chastise it. Make no bones, this is a cult-like religion that could buy a mid-sized country and have money left over.
Regardless of what side you fall on – love the Apple or hate it – you can’t deny what they have done for the mobile industry. Not all perfect (not even close) but, when asked, most mobile developers will say the moment they got serious about this industry was when the very first iPhone was released.
Long live Rock and Roll
Flash forward a year to 1982. There I was a 12-year old music veteran and voting for the song of the year by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. She was the new it girl, “I love rock and roll” was the new it song. It was rock, not pop. Olivia Newton-John was long gone. Had Jett released the song a year earlier she would have lost out to the genre that won the generation. A year later, she was the genre.
Technology, like music, goes in cycles. Think back to when RIM was on top of the mobile world, Pocket PC was the dominant OS and the iPhone was just a rumour. This cycle is merciless and inevitable and will knock companies around without compassion as it did RIM. There is opportunity out there but, perhaps, not right now. There really is no “iPhone killer” is there? Probably not an “iPad killer” out there either but there will be a shift, there will be a Joan Jett singing “I love rock and roll” that will eventually knock pour Olivia Newton-John into obscurity.