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iPhone as Archetype

January 31, 2007

The iPhone strikes me as the archetypal Apple product.

I don’t know much more about the iPhone that I have read on Engadget. But it has three salient characteristics that are typical of recent Apple products:

  1. It is a very cool device.
  2. It is expensive compared to simlarly featured products.
  3. It is hard to develop software for.

The last of these is probably the most important and is why this product is doomed to be at best a popular piece of hardware (diven by the first characteristic), not something that would "change everything."

In contrast, Microsoft’s typical product is dull, but contains a development platform on which other people can and do create a plethora of aplpications. These third party applications are the strength of the best and most successful Microsoft products. Microsoft clearly recognizes this, as evidenced by Steve Ballmer’s much mocked chant.

Windows, Office, Internet Explorer, Xbox 360, Live, Office. These sucessful products are all platforms for development. Microsoft is at its core a company that creates and supports (e.g. Visual Studio) platforms for software development. It is not so successful when it strays from this. Other products may be good or even reasonably successful, e.g. the MS Keyboard, Streets and Trips (and of course some are just bad) but they clearly are not the lifeblood of the Company. There are of course exceptions like the tepid performance of PlaysForSure, but I am confident that my observation is generally correct.

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