上网时间: 2012年02月01日? 作者:Bolaji Ojo? 我来评论 【字号: ? ?小】


Is Apple Losing Its 'Cool' Design Edge?

Bolaji Ojo

Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) diehard fans believe the company can never do anything wrong. That kind of adulation may be fine when you head a dictatorship, but it can be dangerous for a business enterprise operating in a field as keenly competitive as the consumer electronics market.

Apple should listen to what critics are saying. Late last year, I attended an investors' conference at which participants discussed platform failures and what could derail continued sales expansion at Apple. Of course, not a single person at the conference thought Apple was in jeopardy of losing to anyone in its key market segments (smartphones, portable music players, and tablet PC), but participants were people with millions of dollars at stake, and this was reflected in their analysis. The comment made by one of them is relevant for our discussion here:

I have a suspicion lots of folks give Apple products leeway for "working" when really it seems the products are simply really working "just a bit" better than the alternative, not the monumental difference users may perceive/experience. This is part of the "magic gap" Apple has, and that "perception" of Apple products "just working" is a great signal to track.

If you've been open-tracking that "perception," you might have noticed rivals are hurrying to close the design gap. In smartphone OS, the Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android, as at the end of last November, had 46.9 percent market share, up from 43.8 percent in August, comScore Inc. reported. Apple's market share rose to 28.7 percent from 27.3 percent during the period (at the expense of RIM, which tumbled more than three percentage points).

In tablet PCs, competitors are chewing at Apple's (still significant) leadership position. EBN blogger and Semico Research Corp. analyst Tony Massimini noted Amazon "carved out a 7.5 percent market share in less than 2 months" with the Kindle Fire. Semico projects Apple's share in tablet PCs is likely in the 67 percent range, down from 87 percent in 2010. (See: Is Amazon's Kindle Fire Burning Apple?.)

But does this translate into a slow market erosion for Apple? Semico doesn't necessarily think so. But another analyst had some dire predictions about Apple for 2012. Apple, according to Brian Deagon, who wrote an article on the subject for Investor's Business Daily, currently has "stale products." Here's more from the article:

With the iPod, iPhone and iPad, Apple (AAPL) redefined markets and defined cool. But what's left? The iPhone is boxy, flat and feeling stale. The Samsung Galaxy smartphone seems cooler. With Google's (GOOG) Android platform now the fastest-growing mobile OS, Apple's software advantage will diminish. Smartphones and tablets will become commodity items and Apple will be eaten by the collective Android gang.

The reaction from the Apple fan base has been as expected -- fierce. Click here for a review of the comments. My favorite was a writer who in his defense of Apple noted the company "uses its billions of dollars in the bank to lock down its supply line resources for top notch components." OK, Apple has $85 billion or so in cash and long-term investments and has leveraged that to secure components, but the issue is about design, not the effective use of money.

The anecdotal evidence suggests rivals are responding faster to innovations from Apple, thereby closing the design gap between them and the company. I'll use myself as the purely unscientific example. Here's how I gushed to EBN Community Editor Barbara Jorgensen about my latest purchase. Hint: It's not an Apple product.

I bought a new personal phone -- the Samsung Galaxy S2. It's one of the coolest devices I've had the pleasure of playing with because it does everything I need aside from cook a five-course meal.

I have downloaded books on it; do my personal appointments on it (separate from work-related appointments, which is liberating); dictated IM on it (I speak, it types -- awesome!); played Angry Birds on it (definitely addictive); surfed the Web; asked it for the nearest restaurants during a trip to New York; navigated myself to places around home and well outside of my home state (the GPS is crystal clear and accurate); and even caught a member of the family (who owns an iPhone) admiring it secretly. I may still get a tablet but I know now I don't want a laptop-screen size iPad. Which means? It may be a Kindle Fire!

If I am representative of a large enough portion of the market, I would suggest Apple jacks up its design game.

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