But this has got a bigger hard drive. And bluetooth. And…

The biggest mistake a technology company can make is to think that they’re a technology company. It leads to the mistaken belief that better tech spec means better product means market success.


David Hepworth is an unmissable writer on entertainment and culture, and also occasionally strays into marketing. This piece on the the difficulty of competing with Apple on rational grounds struck a chord:

Playing with it [a Sony Walkman] just now it struck me how difficult it must be in the personal electronics space these days, having to compete with Apple. It doesn’t matter how many qualities your product might have, Apple is the one that holds the high ground where dwells desire. A year ago a young friend demonstrated all the features of his iPod competitor, many of which were superior to Apple, but he did it more in sorrow than conviction, as if he knew that the playground prestige battle had already been lost

It reminded me of this similar article in Penny Arcade, which nailed it so brutally and beautifully that every tech CEO should staple it to his desk.

It’s got to be so annoying to compete with Apple… when you come out with what is (on paper) a better version of the same thing, maybe even multiple times over, it’s too late.  You made a “product” to compete with their “product,”… only to discover that they hadn’t made a product at all – they made a narrative.  A statement about how technology should interface with a life.

1 reply on “But this has got a bigger hard drive. And bluetooth. And…”

Hey Carl,

Some good references in here. But I don’t think it goes quite far enough so as to be obvious to the “classical” tech CEO.

There is nothing wrong with good technology, and there is nothing wrong with a good tech spec. The fatal mistake is in thinking that it ends there and somehow remains in a box.

Apple’s approach is one of what I call “joined up thinking”. They connect all of the dots.

I think the Penny Arcade piece is incomplete.

Apple took over the personal stereo market not because of their brand values, not because they had the “sexiest” piece of hardware (they didn’t) and not because they made “a product”. What Apple made was actually a “system” which is far more than a singular product and a result of joining up all of the dots.

They built iTunes.

What Apple realised is that no matter what the hardware does or how sexy it is or how incredible the technology is, it’s all completely irrelevant without *content*.

What Apple did is to productise *content* and not to productise *technology*.

In doing so, they built an entire eco-system, which has now extended out into applications (and I feel will continue to extend).

They achieved this by understanding that technology is really just an enabler to something else (in this case listening to music). It’s the music that’s important, and access to it, not the box that plays it.

It’s the joined up thinking of end to end value chain that Apple gets so well and results in good products.

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