When I read articles like last year’s Apple iPhone Doomed To Failure — Windows Mobile 7 Plans For 2009 Leaked, which predicted that competitors would rush in to dominate the iPhone’s market share, I find myself reflecting on the history of the iPhone with the awe that an acolyte has in the presence of a grand master. Because the competition was beaten before they even understood what was happening to them.
When Apple introduced the iPhone, they won the game in a single move – the perfect checkmate. Although the iPhone was arguably not perfect, by the time it was announced, Apple had already maneuvered its pieces in such a way that, by the time the other players saw the move, it was already too late for them to do anything about it.
I’m not referring to iPhone’s dominion over Windows Mobile 7 – Ballmer and his cronies will shoot themselves in the foot enough to ensure that it’s never any real threat, as history has already shown – I’m talking about its dominion over the entire mobile phone market.
Plans within plans, wheels within wheels
Apple spent years getting the design for the iPhone nailed, and they considered everything that was wrong with conventional mobile phones, and worked the problem until they had a solution that addressed those issues. They clearly understood how large of an effort the iPhone would require, and made a commitment to that effort years in advance of its release. I am certain that the amount of money, thought, and effort that Apple invested in the platform significantly outstripped anything their competitors had done previously, and perhaps since.
The extent of Apple’s efforts, and the remarkable patience and secrecy they practiced while getting things into place, paid off incredibly well for them.
Because of that effort, since the iPhone was released, everyone else has been struggling to play catch up, and no one has really come close. Apple raised the bar higher than anyone else had before, and by the time the competition realized how much of an effort would be required to seriously compete, the public had already turned to them to see how they would meet Apple’s threat.
Being in the public eye, and forced to react, no competitor is really going to be able to put in the years of time required to offer Apple any serious competition. Everyone is reacting and trying to get something out the door as quickly as possible. I think that this is very well illustrated by the BlackBerry Storm, probably one of the most notorious handsets ever released by RIM. Perhaps it was the need for a fast response, or perhaps it was arrogance on the part of RIM, but there was no way that the Storm could ever be considered serious competition for the iPhone.
The Palm Pre: One notable, noble effort
One camp that has earned my admiration is Palm, the only company that I appears to have been desperate enough to try and put in the time required to produce any real competition. While I don’t think that the Pre is serious competition for the iPhone, it is definitely a commendable and respectable effort.
Despite Mitchell Ashley’s claims to the contrary, no one has seriously found a way to compete with Apple’s skyrocketing market share, except perhaps through attempting to offer more liberal application sales policies in an effort to woo more third party developers.
I have long maintained the RIM and Microsoft have always shot to deliver a product *just* good enough that people will pay for it and not demand their money back. I’m wondering at this point if they’re ever going to be willing to duplicate the effort Apple put into the original iPhone and try and beat them where Apple is strongest, or if they’re just going to keep phoning it in (pardon the pun).
At present it looks like they’re sticking with phoning it in – just pumping out crap and subsisting on the money of people too cheap or indiscriminate to know the difference, or enterprises that have already committed to infrastructure changes that lock customers into their brand.
If the meteoric rise of Apple’s market share is any indicator, that market ain’t working, boys.