The Apple iPhone
I was at CES last year and when Apple announced the iPhone it was like looking at a bunch of deer in headlights when the press at the show realized they were in the wrong place and the folks making phones realized they were screwed. The reason they were screwed was they were going to have to go back to their bosses and explain how a company coming in from left field swiped all of the energy from their market in one move. That doesnt happen often and the last time was the iPod. Youd think, given the rumors, they would have at least seen it coming.
By the time the iPhone actually launched only one vendor, HTC, had a competing product on the market that had been developed after the announcement. And LG, which had the Prada that actually proceeded the iPhone, was left wondering why they hadnt done better. A brilliant combination of product design, OS, and marketing execution defended this product and overshadowed the similar iPod Touch.
If Microsoft had made the same marketing effort with Plays for Sure that they are making for Sync it would have taken a bite out of Apple. As it is, this technology is now moving Ford cars in what has been a very tough year for U.S. automakers. Showcasing a vastly better experience with even the iPod than currently exists with any car/MP3 Player/Phone solution, this is the way it should have always been. And its the first time, perhaps ever, that Microsoft has had the same kind of product/marketing/execution that Apple is famous for.
If this execution can transition to other things this company could become a top player again.
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However Google will be giving Microsoft a run for the money in that they are defining the advertising-funded software as a service space. So far they have yet to transition into business and it was a move in that direction that sunk Netscape, so there clearly is risk. However, if there is any one company which has more positional power than Google right now I dont know who they are. Microsoft still has more clout broadly but appears to be in decline in this regard and Google is in line to take their place just as Microsoft took IBMs a decade ago. Their exposure is less now from Microsoft than the massive number of smaller properties that are looking to nibble away their dominance. Holding on to what theyve acquired will become vastly more difficult in 2008. become vastly more difficult in 2008.
Nintendo was all but out of the segment they once dominated for the first half of this decade. With the launch of the Wii they came roaring back, helped knock the then current leader Sony into distant 3rd place and moved to challenge the Xbox, which had enjoyed a one year head start for dominance by year end.
They did this by remembering what the other two players had forgotten and that was that players have to be affordable and $200 is the magic number, and that there are woman as a potential audience. Nintendo exploded into the market and a year after launch they still cant meet demand, as this product remained constrained this holiday season as well. A lesson may come from this last that isnt positive because recent Xbox and PS3 sales may have a lot to do with the fact folks cant get Wiis and need to have something under the tree. These customers probably wont buy a Wii now and Nintendo may have lost a billion or more in potential sales as a result.
There wasnt much of a market for eBooks this decade largely because the readers kind of sucked, the buying experience sucked, and the selection of eBooks you could buy really sucked. Sony had belly-flopped its own nicely designed eBook reader a year earlier but hadnt fixed either the buying or the inventory problem.
Amazons Kindle wasnt as elegant in terms of hardware. But it worked well in use and they addressed both the buying experience and the inventory thing very well.
As a result, to the surprise of almost everyone the product sold out and was one of the hot products by the end of the year, even though it was about twice as expensive as it likely should be for sustainable volumes. It also showcased that it is better to get the product right and have it priced above market than it is to make the product incomplete and hit the price target. People will pay extra for a good product; they wont pay anything for junk.