Oct 9, 2007

[Apple] Apple facing war on two fronts

Apple is currently facing a battle on two fronts, all brought about by making its two latest products as closed systems.

When iPhone was announced, Steve Jobs said a lot of things, leaving people to set high expectations on the device. As they say, the devil is in the details, and when the details and launch date neared, expectations are either whetted or disappointed.

One pitfall of Apple is that they chose to lock the iPhone to a single carrier. But probably the biggest mistake is to make iPhone a closed system. Many were anticipating about the possible things that can be done with an iPhone, only to get themselves disappointed. No third-party software, carrier-locked units, problematic activation system (at first).

In a single stroke, Apple has managed to change the rules of the game. And to enforce the new rules, Apple has released an update that has turned some iPhones into bricks, unlocked and not. Ambulance chasers are now looking for clients for a class suit. It can get ugly.

Learning from its mistakes, Apple introduced iPod touch, an iPhone less the phone capabilities. And this time, they used an encryption system to prevent access to the file system. Yes, Apple has learned all right.

Two giants in their own fields are ready to join the fray.

Nokia, one of the largest mobile phone manufacturers, fired the first shot, taking advantage of the negative perception of iPhone's closed system by introducing the "Open to anything" initiative. Leveraging on the S60 UI platform, Nokia touts that its mobile phones are open, allowing anyone to develop applications for its mobile phones. Now, if Nokia pushes its buttons right, this is a market opportunity.

The problem with Nokia is that touchscreen is its Achilles heel. Remember Nokia 7710? Nokia started Series 90 as Symbian touchscreen UI, only that 7710 is way ahead of its time, technologically and market speaking. Series 90 is dead, so is 7710. (Speaking of 7710, my 7710 is dead, literally. It won't power on anymore. The unit is now a brick, after almost two years.)

Now, Apple is content releasing new iPod models, leaving behind old models to dust. Microsoft made a gesture that not only warmed the hearts of old Zune users, it also showed the world how Apple treats its old iPod users.

Microsoft recently released new generations of Zune with new features, and (I'm not sure if this was a product of forward-thinking) old Zunes will get the same features as the new Zunes via software update. Yes, Microsoft shows the right way to treat loyal customers - you do not leave them behind.

(As an owner of a 30GB iPod video, this gesture by Microsoft was touching - no pun intended. Good thing I got this iPod free, otherwise, I would be seething with resentment over the new iPod releases.)

While no iPhone nor iPod killers, Nokia and Microsoft are showing Apple what could have been. In the end, at least we know we have a choice.

To Apple: it should be not just about profit. Treat your customers right, and profit will follow. Learn from your mistakes.

To Nokia and Microsoft (and other Apple competitors): just do it.

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