His name flooded websites throughout his lifetime and did so many times over after his death, and much before this issue of Technology Next goes to print. I do admit that we have been very vocal about his achievements and harboured a bias towards him just like other technology analysts and mediapersons of this day and age. And after Steve Jobs’ unfortunate death, it is my honour to pay my tributes to him one last time. You have heard about how he was a zealous worshipper of design, a maverick leader who believed in new paradigms a lot more than CEOs normally do and a technology visionary par excellence. To me personally, those four words from his Stanford speech – “Stay hungry, stay foolish” – have been a deep influence, far more than the products he brought to the market. In fact, I use these words often to motivate my team, and myself, and I am sure I am not alone. Believe in these four words and we could discover a Jobs in ourselves. Or maybe not. For if that was true, there would be many more ‘Steve Jobs’ and he wouldn’t be the cult figure that he was, right?
For Apple Computers, it’s a unique moment in history, wherein CEO Tim Cook has to try and emulate Jobs’ magic and also infuse some of his own. One of the issues that have exposed Apple to a lot of criticism has been its inability to play the volume game and go down the pyramid. Well, the Apple tablet has resisted the drawbacks of that so far. Gartner says that the iPad’s lead extends well into the holiday season this year and will continue to command over 50% of the market till 2014. By that time, however, Android devices are expected to pick up much to the chagrin of the ‘Gates’, ‘Windows’ & ‘Nokias’ of the world!
Among Android devices, the Samsung Galaxy Tablet is the one that has been widely touted as the most credible challenger to Apple, and the latter seems to tacitly admit it too, considering the lawsuits the two have got into in recent months. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 is considered neck to neck with Apple. While there is the unique ‘Apple’ feel to the manner in which the iPad’s interface works, Galaxy scores on being thinner and lighter and a better personalization experience with the Android 3.1 Honeycomb including a better camera.
The more interesting challenge coming to Apple as per technological reviews is from the Jeff Bezos-led Amazon. The company launched its Kindle Fire last month. The 7” tablet was launched at around half the price of the iPad and is showing promise in its user interface as well as market acceptance. Amazon has done two interesting things. One, even though it is an Android device, it has a personalized app store as opposed to using the Android Market and has also optimized the Android 2.3 for its hardware. The store already has over 10,000 apps. Secondly, the company has promised use of its cloud services for storage of all kinds of content. It doesn’t have certain Apple features, but nevertheless does pack a punch for the value buyer. The Fire had a blazing 95000 pre-orders on the first day and around 20000 per day on subsequent days.
Perhaps that is what exemplifies the mandate for Cook as he takes Apple forward. The company’s products are benchmarks in the technology sense, but have largely been out of the reach of the mass market. Also, Android seized a valuable opportunity and its ecosystem for tablets and smartphones is looking as menacing as Windows used to be in the PC era (expect some of those anti-trusts soon!). Steve seized technology opportunities pretty well, and while Cook cannot let that part of Apple’s DNA diminish at any cost, he has to also start seizing some of that lucrative & untapped market potential.