The New Yardstick: If You’re Not Apple, You Lose


For 2009 and 2010, the clear winner in consumer electronics is Apple. Its mindshare among analysts and consumers is far beyond any other company. I’d even go so far as to declare Apple the most successful tech company of this decade. That’s why I feel sorry for every other company in this space.

No matter what your company did in the past two years, Apple did it better. It reminds me of Sony in the 80s and Microsoft in the 90s. Companies were afraid of Microsoft in the 90s. All Microsoft had to do is decide to enter your space and you’d be out of business, if you weren’t lucky enough to be bought by the company. That’s not the case anymore. In this sense, Apple is the Microsoft of this decade.

Let’s take a look at RIM’s BlackBerry Torch, just released last week. Gizmodo had a great post on why the Torch launch was an utter failure, with only 150K units sold in the first week. In that article, they said:

The hordes are proclaiming the Torch a massive failure, and they’re right — but not because of how many units they sold. 150,000 handsets is a lot of phones. In fact, it’s totally in line with other major launches of the last couple of years: Sprint sold that many Evo 4Gs in its first three days, and it’s three times as many as the Palm Pre managed at launch.

Who it didn’t compete with, of course, is the iPhone. The 3GS and 3G both moved a million over their opening weekends, and 1.7 million people took home an iPhone 4 at launch. And that’s where RIM got into trouble.

They’re right. 150K units is a great number, but it doesn’t compare to Apple’s 1+ million numbers every time a new iPhone comes out. That’s the point. The Blackberry Torch, HTC Evo and Palm Pre all look like complete failures when measured against Apple.

Recently, Asus said they’re lowering production of netbooks due to a lower sales forecast. Nowhere in that quote did their CEO say Apple’s iPad is to blame, but it didn’t stop every blogger from making that causal link. What about the fact that netbooks have had the same Intel Atom processors, same form factor, same low-resolution monitors and same version of Windows XP on them since 2006 as the reason for lower sales? Maybe it’s time for Asus to actually innovate instead of putting the same stuff inside a different color case and throwing a $299 price tag on it.

The specifics of how other companies are doing doesn’t really matter. The issue is that, no matter what any tech company does, they’ll be compared to Apple in some way. Tech companies can’t release a mouse, display, keyboard or television-connected device without being compared to Apple. I’d like to see Microsoft release a battery charger at this point without drawing a negative comparison. Wait, never mind, they have one of those.

My point is, Apple is the yard stick by which all others are measured. There are better products out there with zero visibility and meager sales. In fact, the next Apple is probably out there somewhere. Let’s hope manufacturers don’t just throw up their hands and scale back in the face of stiff competition from Cupertino, and as consumers let’s keep an eye out for the next little guy swimming bravely upstream.

Related GigaOM Pro Research: Apple Company Analysis

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