Apple unleashed

Apple LogoI don’t make any bones about admitting that I’m a big Apple fan. I’d be hard-pressed to name another company that I think has their approach to the marketplace and how to innovate for consumers so well thought out. I think this is particularly true in the portable device space (iPods, iPhones, iPads). I don’t own a Mac computer and still can’t make the economic argument for it, but in my opinion their portable devices rule the roost. And let’s be honest, for consumers at home, the future is devices. We are likely to find in the near future that the iPhone was never about the phone, it was about getting in your pocket.

As I followed the unveiling of their latest – the iPhone 4 – yesterday, I had to feel excited for users (despite the clear disadvantage of a remaining lock-in to AT&T) and sorry for handset competitors. I wonder what it would be like to have to compete against them in device space.

My Dog RioA likely comparison would be to how I feel when my dog Rio is able to escape the leash, which she has done a Houdini-like 7 or 8 times during her life (which breaks down to about once a year). Once free, she retreats to about 40 yards away and lingers, paying no apparent attention to me. This is just far enough away that if I break suddenly into a dead sprint I will get within 5 feet of catching her before she is able to escape again to another 40 yard cushion.

Over the past year or two, I feel like other manufacturers have been catching up, slowly but surely, to the iPhone. Apple, seemingly unaware, has been sniffing a few trees and loitering non-chalantly. Then the sudden leap forward comes. Competitors must again find themselves 40 yards away, out of breath, dreading the next phase of the chase.

Lines in the sand

One of my favorite excerpts from Rework, the 37Signals‘ folks latest (and potentially best) book:

Draw a line in the sand

As you get going, keep in mind why you’re doing what you’re doing. Great businesses have a point of view, not just a product or service. You have to believe in something. You need to have a backbone. You need to know what you’re willing to fight for. And then you need to show the world.

A strong stand is how you attract superfans. They point to you and defend you. And they spread the word further, wider, and more passionately than any advertising could.

Strong opinions aren’t free. You’ll turn some people off. They’ll accuse you of being arrogant and aloof. That’s life. For everyone that loves you, there will be others who hate you. If no one’s upset by what you’re saying, you’re probably not pushing hard enough. (And you’re probably boring, too)

It’s a great passage on many levels, but the thing that resonated with me is that what you believe in as a business will lose you customers, and you have to be willing to accept that . . . and maybe even embrace it.

Rework Book CoverIt’s what Apple does with it’s devotion to artistry and unwillingness to have anything other than complete control over the systems it designs.

It’s what Southwest Airlines does with it’s devotion to cheap, friendly travel and unwillingness to diversify its fleet, assign seats, or charge to check bags.

When you think about it, the companies  with the most passionate fans also tend to have a healthy amount of critics. Are enough people complaining about what your company won’t do?

By the way, a thanks to Jane, who bought me a copy of this book before I had to buy one.