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What can we learn from the iPhone 5c and Windows 8 flops


geeteam

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Whenever an exciting new trend in the tech world arises, analysts are quick to declare that every other company must quickly follow this trend or else be left in the dust. We’re seeing this right now with analysts declaring that Apple “needs” to release a phablet and we’ve seen it in the past with analysts declaring that Microsoft “needs” to build a more touch-centric version of Windows to compete with the iPad. I admit that I’ve certainly fallen for this line of thinking many times myself since it’s easy to get caught up in looking at sales trends without taking a step back to look at the bigger picture.


What this sort of thinking misses, however, is that companies simply can’t respond to disruptive trends by making radical changes because they have existing customers who don’t want to see the systems they’re comfortable with turned on their heads. Marco Arment has written an interesting mini-essay about the failure of Windows 8 to revive PC sales despite the fact that Microsoft “did everything that the press, analysts, and prevailing wisdom at the time were telling them to do” by building a more touch-centric user interface.


The problem is that while tablets have proven to be immensely popular and have eaten into PC sales, Microsoft’s PC user base really didn’t want to have touch capabilities added to their desktop and laptop computers. So while it’s tempting to just say that Microsoft “needs” to follow Apple into the tablet space, the company can’t do that without some push back from its core group of PC users.


“The problem is that Microsoft isn’t Apple, and Microsoft’s customers aren’t Apple’s customers,” Arment writes. “They tried selling a more Apple-like attitude to their customers, most of whom don’t want and won’t tolerate an Apple-like attitude. That’s why they’re not Apple customers. Microsoft’s customers have always demanded, and will always get, exactly what they ask for. That’s the reality of serving the low- to midrange-PC business, and it’s sure as hell the reality of the enterprise business.”


This is a very good point and it also shows just how hard it is for established companies to handle disruptive technologies. On the one hand, you can’t just pretend that you aren’t being disrupted and that everything is going great — that’s how you end up like BlackBerry. On the other hand, being too reactive means that you could alienate some of your core customers who have stuck with you for years.


And while the crew in Cupertino is probably having their share of chuckles over Microsoft’s Windows 8 struggles, Apple isn’t immune to making these kinds of mistakes as well. The iPhone 5c, for example, was Apple’s attempt to respond to analysts’ constant pleas to get the company to release a cheaper version of its iPhone. Apple CEO Tim Cook admitted this week that the iPhone 5c hadn’t lived up to the company’s expectations, although he was more than happy with the better-than-expected demand for the iPhone 5s.


Why did the iPhone 5c flop? If I had to guess, it’s largely because Apple’s customers are the kinds of tech fans who don’t mind paying more than everyone else for products that they think are the best. This means when they buy an Apple product, they want it to look a certain way and deliver a certain experience. And now matter how low the price, they just can’t get excited about year-old hardware wrapped in plastic.


So what should we take away from all this? I think the big thing is that we should be wary of calls for companies to completely overturn their long-established business models. This is why I have a decent amount of sympathy for Nintendo fans who regularly rail against the advice of analysts who want to see the company ditch its own hardware and sell all its games on tablets and smartphones. Nintendo didn’t make its fortune by making cheapie games like Candy Crush Saga and Fruit Ninja and any attempt to sell $0.99 Nintendo games will likely be shunned by its hardcore fans.


Responding to market place trends is one thing, but as Shakespeare might say were he a tech analyst these days, “This above all, to thine own customers be true.”



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While this article does make a few noteworthy points, the reality is that it also goes wrong by blatantly pushing half truths in some areas.

Half Truth No. 1. - "Apple’s attempt to respond to analysts’ constant pleas to get the company to release a cheaper version of its iPhone. ..... Apple’s customers are the kinds of tech fans who don’t mind paying more than everyone else for products that they think are the best."

The 5C hasn't flopped because the Apple fans shunned a 'cheap' iPhone. It wasn't cheap to begin with! Well, the hardware was, but the phone wasn't. Apple would have gained a lot of fans had that been the case. Instead here in India, the entry level 5C costs exactly $700! That's a full $100 more than the Galaxy S4 and $250 more than the entry level Nexus 5 :o

Had it *actually* been cheaper, it would probably have done decent business. ;)

Half Truth No. 2. - "Microsoft did everything that the press, analysts, and prevailing wisdom at the time were telling them to do by building a more touch-centric user interface ... Microsoft’s PC user base really didn’t want to have touch capabilities added to their desktop and laptop computers."

Yes, MS did *try* to build a touch centric UI, but it was a half baked one, whereby it wasn't either good enough for tablets (you have to constantly get back to the desktop mode to get any work done) nor was it usable enough with the mouse and external keyboard and a 24 inch monitor (pretty self explanatory)!

iOS or Android have done better than Win8/WP8/WinRT because they were designed to be touch centric from the word go. Win8 is a strange mishmash of the old and the new resulting in a frustrating experience and ended up pleasing no one :(

If MS can come up with a touch-centric UI that allows desktop users to get exactly what they're used to as two-decades-long Windows users, and use touch to their advantage without the confused to-and-fro UI, and of course runs traditional Windows apps (legacy programs) at the same time, I think it will be a revolutionary product and a runaway success. MS better get to work. Touch is in all probability the future, & MS can ill-afford another flop, seeing as both Android and iOS are snapping at it's heels :o

Edited by calguyhunk
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Microsoft's error was simple... they tried to implement a tablet/smartphone touch UI on devices like desktops and laptops. And it was inferior compared to the 'old' mouse/keyboard UI.

They finally learnt that touch UI on desktop/laptop was as good an idea as having a mouse/keyboard UI on a tablet/smartphone.

The holy grail of a common UI for these two distinct device families doesn't (yet?) exist.

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MS should simply make a complete new OS for mobile & tablet - they should never mix something that is used for home use for mobile or corporate use; they never did before and someone convinced them to; they were and still leaders in the market share despite downfall in numbers YOY however this does not mean you change your product because windows was never a failure; it's just that people r so lazy that they need user end systems without being worried to learn how to format a pc, install an OS, trouble shoot it, etc.. let's face it the newer generation gets more lazier by the day and less intelligent - this is the reality as much as many might not want to accept it

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