Analysis like that tend to focus on single technologies like capacitive touchscreens or e-ink displays. Pretty much all the different single technologies many recent Apple products brought together existed in some way, shape or form before in consumer products. Single technologies don't make a product. Oh, and the UI matters. Having the same exact hardware with a better UI really does matter.
It still totally takes any Apple music playing device completely to school when it comes to classical music.
iPods are really wrapped up in the idea that you have artists, who produce albums, which contain songs, and if you don't want to organize your collection around those three dimensions, screw you.
In classical, we want six dimensions, not three: composer, orchestra, conductor, soloists, composition, and movement or piece within the composition.
Yes, iPod lets you list by composer. However, that just brings up a list of songs (tracks). However, most (all?) iPods have arbitrary and small limits on how long a title can be and still allow you to see everything in it. For instance, on my Vivaldi list, I see 3 different "Concerto für Laute, Violi...". If I'm lucky, maybe I can remember that the one I'm looking for is relatively short, so the 2:06 one is the one I want, not the 3:30 or the 5:03.
Let's compare to my old Archos. With the Archos, one option was to simply put a directory hierarchy on the device, and then access it via a simple file browser interface. If you hit "play" in a directory without a particular track selected, it would play everything in that directory, in alphabetical order.
So, I'd rip each CD into its own directory, with each track file starting with its track number (padded with a leading 0 if less than two digits). I could then organize these directories in a tree any way I wanted. For my rock, folk, and pop, I could use artist/album. For classical I could do composer/conductor/orchestra/composition for those that did not feature a soloist. For those with a soloist, I could toss in a directory in there to organize by soloist.
With the Archos, I never had to fish around to find what I wanted to find. With iPod I've sometimes spent several minutes trying to find something I know is there.
BTW, I used the same organization on my desktop machine, and made sure to use a music player that would handle drag-and-drop reasonably--drop a track on it and it plays it, drop a directory on it and it plays all tracks in alphabetical order. Then all I needed was a file browser on the desktop and music playback was dealt with there, too.
People have made classical work reasonably with iTunes on the desktop, by repurposing some of the fields. But that doesn't stop the suckage on iPods.
I too would love to see the iPod improve in areas other than "just" organizing contemporary music. (Besides classical music, audiobook support for example is almost ridiculously bad, and even podcast support is lacking in major ways.)
You didn't have to organize your music into directories and manage it yourself unless you wanted to.
The popular thing to do is to speculate that Jobs just doesn’t care about classical music at all and for that reason it’s neglected.
The reason it works for tzs is because Archos didn't give a shit about metadata at all — they implemented the crappiest thing that could possibly work. Apple's use of a metadata database prebuilt by iTunes makes using the iPod massively easier for the vast majority of people.
This infuriates the drag-and-drop anoraks that had been obsessing over their folder structure ever since they started downloading metadataless MP3 files from FTP sites and IRC fserves in the 90s.
Thus, an ordinary user could indeed have an iPod-like experience of letting software manage his player for him (although the player Archos bundled was not as good as iTunes).
(Samsung’s Galaxy Tab has much better hardware but Android just doesn’t feel right for tablets. At least not right now.)
And people keep wondering why there's both Android and Chrome.
I doubt it. The 20GB Archos Jukebox was released in October 2001. Archos' models from 2000 had 5GB and 6GB hard drives. 
Just like the 20GB Archos Jukebox, Apple's 5GB iPod was released in October 2001. 
The Nomad Jukebox was great for the tactile-feedback buttons and it's durability. It was a tank.
Apple's most underestimated strength is their continued march towards vertical integration - buying make the right processor company (PA Semi) and a team of 150 processor gurus to minimize power use, developing a proprietary manufacturing process to make seamless aluminum notebooks, etc, etc etc.
A good read from 2008 about Apple's strategy . . . http://www.forbes.com/2008/04/24/mitra-apple-pasemi-tech-ent...
Stats from 2008:
* Recognized as the #1 Fastest Growing CE Company by Inc. Magazine
* Total of 100 employees
* Shipped a total of 3,500,000 HDTVs
* Total revenue exceeds 2 Billion Dollars
10million revenue per employee is a huge number (as a comparison Apple, Google had 1 million per employee in 2009, which is already considered on the high side)
Just doing some casual research:
One of the founders had two other monitor startups (MAG and Princeton Digital) under his belt, so that sort of explains some of the success.
Still, it seems like an amazing achievement to get into the big retail channels so quickly.
How do they manage to create so much value, while keeping track of all the outsourcing? Surely, there must be times when things go wrong, really wrong with the outsourcing.
Edit: AmTran sometimes swallows shipping costs and pushes component suppliers to ensure Vizio's products are high quality and on time. AmTran now gets about 80% of its revenue from Vizio. In turn, Vizio sources as many as 85% of its TVs from AmTran, according to research firm DisplaySearch.
Likely to RIM as well.
As lost and flailing as RIM can seem right now, though, the company seems to have its path for the next 18 months cut out for it. In theory, they finally have everything they should need–a solid next-gen OS with a cadre of engineers who understand it inside and out, a hardware division with a wealth of experience, and now a surprisingly forward-thinking and experimental UI design acquisition that could work wonders if allowed to inform the entire product design process.
They just need to get them all working together. And that's the part I'm most worried about.
When trying to predict the weather, asking what the weather was yesterday is always the best prediction model.
What will RIM do next year? Probably what they did last year.
Flail and lose market share :)
There still hasn't been any hint of PA Semi in Apple's work. Even the A4 is pretty basic stuff, the work of Intrinsity (very good at optimizing the power/consumption ratio of existing systems) rather than PA Semi (very good at actually creating innovative chips from scratch).
I have no idea what the PA Semi guys are working on at Apple, but I still hope we'll see something interesting for the "A5" (or whatever the chip in the iPad 2 / iPhone 5 is called)
First story I found (not very high quality journalism, but you get the drift):
... maybe ... Markets swing back and forth between integration and disintegration. Apple was very vertically integrated in 1995 and paid a heavy price for that when the PC market exploded into a million models with multiple operating systems at low prices. Integration is usually best when innovation is lowest since value chain segments are mature and cost reducing and you can integrate the value chain, squeeze out waste between segments, increase coordination between segments and capture a nice profit. Innovation all throughout the value chain is very high right now, so this does not seem like the time to vertically integrating.
An interesting aspect of the RIM versus Apple thing is that they are both pursuing integration strategies, but RIM seems to have focused on integrating the wrong things for 2008 and then had an deeply integrated ball-and-chain around their leg just at the moment they had to be nimble. Apple seems to be in a similar spot w.r.t. Android: using the iOS UI is terribly frustrating after using Android 2.2 for a while (no back button?!); Apple's terrifically integrated, dogmatic approach leaves them little room to respond to competitors.
Importantly, Apple is very easily able to disintegrate when needed. They're doing their own chip design now, but if someone comes out with an off the shelf chip design that's better than the A4, there's nothing stopping them from building it.
Your point makes sense in theory, but I don't think it applies here.
As an owner of iPhone 2G I attest that was completely true. This is the first phone I'd ever owned that lasted less than two days.
(Apple themselves even cited battery life as the reason they couldn't do 3G, and the iPhone 3G, when it did come out, was thicker than the iPhone 2G)
What RIM probably didn't counter is that customers were willing to trade 24 hour charging cycles for an awesome user experience.
In contrast, a phone that requires charging every week, for example, you'll tend to keep at a higher total charge and will survive periods of heavier usage better.
That's not dismissing the fact that most people are willing to accept the tradeoffs of modern smartphone battery life, but make no mistake the necessity of daily recharging for average use is a problem.
Watch a 90 minute youtube video over 3G and you're pretty much there. (On my iPhone 3G at least)
I'm probably on the opposite extreme (never have watched a movie or tv show on my iphone nor any youtube video longer than about 3 minutes), but I'd be shocked if long video watching was a common case.
I sit down and play Mirror's Edge for 10 minutes and out goes 10% of my battery. Holy crap.
But even taking gaming out of it, even moderate browser usage over 3G burns through that battery like kindling. I have to charge the iPhone at work if I plan on going out in the evening. Even with judicious limitations on usage (and isn't that defeating the point of a smartphone?), if I leave with a phone at 9am, go somewhere after work, there is a good chance I won't have enough juice to call for a cab at midnight.
I don't have a problem with a 24-hour charging cycle, my problem is that current smartphones - iPhones and all - have trouble lasting that full 24-hour period unless you severely handicap your own use of the device.
Another annoying scenario is when you lock the screen but keep a high CPU app running. Go back and resume a couple hours later and your battery is decimated.
It isn't a problem ... mostly. But it's the edge cases that will get you.
e.g. Sometimes I stay the night at my SO's house. Or I go from work to drinks to a club. Any break in the routine and the phone's remaining charge is now an issue. These are also the times when you are more likely to need to send and receive texts, use maps or other helpful smartphone apps. What are you going to do, say "I can't; I have to go home and charge my phone"? These devices are supposed to liberate us from rigid schedules (and they did, if you remember that far back).
So I keep a charging cable in my desk at work, it solves a lot of things. Office-wide emails that go "does anyone have a charger for a..." happen regularly in any office.
My gf - a sales/marketing pro - had a lot of trouble with this when she switched to iPhone; she was use to not paying much/any attention to her battery until the phone complained... She had to get use to charging every night.
It's easy to discount this but it was a pretty significant issue at least initially.
I don't get the obsession with thin phones. I'd much rather have a thicker phone if it lasted 2-3 days instead of 1.
Rather than being stuck with the extra weight everywhere you go, you just incur it when you actually will be away from a charger for multiple days.
But again, we are not normal folks though I bet this isn't that unusual the more I think about it.
They started making USB wall plugs after all (which is a great idea).
It really depends on what you compare it to. I owned a Treo, a Sidekick and a few windows mobile devices in the years before the iPhone. All had worse battery life. Yes, Blackberry and feature phones were much better. But they weren't modern smartphones either. The iPhone was the first to combine truly impressive software, a large screen and 8 hours of active use in one package. My Sidekick was dead by 2 pm; my windows mobile phones needed a battery swap around noon.
Step 9 iFixit teardown of original iPhone:
Witness the size of the magical iPad battery in Step 22:
This happens all the time, established competitors become complacent and lose the intense focus that made them successful in the first place.
Apple and Netflix are two companies that are admirable in this sense. And perhaps it is because they're (supposedly) ruthless about hiring and firing.
Interestingly all the sites I've looked at trying to find the source, and there's been a few, all link back to this article in electronista (except sites like apple.findtechnews.net which rip off the entire story, pic and all and then remove the source link)
I guess I'm looking for a blog post or even a forum post/comment, but so far I've drawn a blank.
To clarify - there's now been several thousand words written across dozens (probably more) of sites and numerous comments all based upon a single deleted comment (id=24854573) by user Kentor on Shacknews.com
Whilst I think the (supposed) claim plausible, I do have a bit of a problem with the way we can take a single quote and turn it into news, which tends to become treated as fact down the track; "Everyone knows RIM thought the iPhone was impossible in 2007"
You guys could have avoided this entire conversation by just defining what Apple created as something more than a smartphone. What we call a smartphone today is a rather different than what was meant when the term was first coined.
The first smartphone was pretty much the Nokia Communicator back in the late 90s. It had data connectivity and some limited ability to run applications, and that pretty much what a smartphone was at the time. Today we take it to mean handheld wireless computer that happens to have a phone, but back then if you send a few packets you were a smartphone.
I was hired by RIM in 1999 just before they began work on their first phone and spent a good number years writing RIM proprietary protocol stacks that layered on top of the then new GPRS. Coming from a two-way pager background, RIM decided that phones should have two-way push synchronization of pretty much everything that Exchange provided along with a limited WML browser. The general thought was that phones would never have sufficient power density or radios sufficient bandwidth to allow anything more. That was incredibly predictably wrong, but it's how things went down.
Along with RIM was Ericsson, Palm, Motorola, and Qualcomm. Motorola came from a similar background as RIM and went on to build very similar devices. Both Nokia and Ericsson had come from phones and had decided feature phones should have far more sophisticated PDA functions. Palm started with PDAs then moved to the phones, but adamantly dismissed ideas like wireless synchronization for years making their first attempts at smart phone far more like early Nokia Communicators than early Blackberrys. Oddly enough, though Nokia made the first smartphone, which was followed by two more with RIM and arguably Palm in 20002, it was Ericsson that popularly coined the term in the mid 2000s.
So the point is that all these companies were fighting over what amounts to overgrown PDAs with phones and wireless stacks strapped on. Everyone assumed power density was no where even close to what was needed for general computing, that a full featured browser and heavy duty Internet services were impossible due to bandwidth and latency. Take a look at how our Java expert groups named standards, how people at the time talked about what features smart phones should have, and its clear that no one thought an iPhone was possible. Even Danger, which eventually went on to work on to create Windows Phone 7 and Android, was just working on a better Blackberry.
The iPhone did many amazing things, but what stands out in my mind was how it proved that these assumptions were flat-out wrong beyond any reasonable doubt. Apple pretty gave everyone the finger and said, "Fuck you guys we can build your distant impossible future today."
I left RIM back in 2006 just months before the IPhone launched and I remember talking to friends from RIM and Microsoft about what their teams thought about it at the time. Everyone was utterly shocked. RIM was even in denial the day after the iPhone was announced with all hands meets claiming all manner of weird things about iPhone: it couldn't do what they were demonstrating without an insanely power hungry processor, it must have terrible battery life, etc. Imagine their surprise when they disassembled an iPhone for the first time and found that the phone was battery with a tiny logic board strapped to it. It was ridiculous, it was brilliant.
I really don't think you're giving Apple enough credit here. They did something amazing that many very prominent people in the industry thought was either impossible or at least a decade away, and they did it in a disgustingly short time frame.
For RIM to duplicate the iPhone would require them to give up on a lot of long held beliefs (e.g. physical keyboard), to ignore most of the tech pundits (the pundits themselves don't like to remind us that they were busy ridiculing the very concept of a one-button phone right up to and in some cases even after it started selling like hot-cakes), to focus on the consumer instead of the business user and last but by no means least to madly start implementing and iterating on their own consumer eco-system.
Now the iTunes store is by no means perfect, but if you don't have a drop in replacement for it, what are you going to replace that part of the eco-system with? I think a lot of people grossly underestimate the time and effort it takes to create a system like the iTunes store, and never mind even all the iterations in features... how about the task of sitting down with every single recording industry association in every country that your product will be sold? How about doing the same thing for movies and then telcos? You'd have to be a masochist of the first degree.
On that note, one of the enormously revolutionary things that Apple did was to break the choke-hold that telcos had over the handset manufacturers. On an iPhone, you always have access to the App store and iTunes stores... on a Blackberry it is up to the telco whether you get App World at all.
In any case, RIM should play to their own strengths, not Apples. RIM groks business the same way Apple groks consumers. (But of course business users are also consumers, while this 'should' give Apple a big advantage breaking into the corporate market, they consistently fail to capitalise on it. I think the difference is they have to fight for the corporate space, whereas in the consumer space everyone else is falling over themselves competing to make the cheapest (read as: least profitable, also in the sense of 'nasty'), ugliest and hardest to use devices).
RIM has their own eco-system in the corporate space, mainly revolving around the BES (Blackberry Enterprise Server)... but what does that do? It encrypts your email and pushes it to you (via Canada). But is that really such a big deal now?
They have a plethora of device models, with differentiation based on presence or absence of things like GPS, trackballs and cameras, and also how wide you want your keyboard to be. I'm not convinced that having so many options is helpful, but they seem to have a hard time deprecating the old ones.
Lately they have been making inroads with the teenage market in the UK because they have a cheap alternative to SMS (one advantage of running your own server infrastructure I guess). But I wonder how many of those teens also carry iPods?
It is easy to look at a Blackberry and say something like "oh, this is why they're failing, their camera is bad and the browser is worse". But that is overly simplistic. When comparing the iPhone to other smartphones, the iPhone has two killer features: ecosystem and ease of use. You may put out a phone that physically has all the features of an iPhone, but you get an extra 10% megapixels... and the world is not going to beat a path to your door.
I can offer some more anecdotal evidence about the outrageous prices of SMS driving market behaviour... I was in NZ for a while when Vodafone (?) had a free text to other Vodafones in the weekend deal. _Nobody_ I knew had a Telecom (the main competitor) phone unless they actually worked for Telecom.
So we might say "okay, just specialise in texting"... but I think the other trend driving smartphones is convergence. I went looking to buy an iPhone the other day, but they are all sold out in my area. So instead, I bought an iPod Touch and am using a beat up old Nokia - but it annoys me that I need to carry two devices.
What the iPhone bought to the table (or rather, massively accelerated - since apps were available before but not in great demand) is convergence of things that we never would have actually carried around before - like a compass, barometer (weather forecast), pocket games etc.
Another example that comes to mind: when in London I used to carry a "Pocket A to Z" guide, which is basically a book that is a high level map of the city. It was my top priority purchase on arriving in the UK. Now though I would simply use an iPhone or Android phone instead.
And it is in this area of convergence that I think RIM is falling behind and their lack of vision and bad products (storm etc) are most telling.
The announcement was a historical event in computing and consumer electronics. But it is ancient history, 4 years ago, what's the point of this now?
The point is that 4 years after the introduction of the iPhone, RIM still hasn't managed to ship a phone that competes with the iPhone.
And since they have a long way to go with QNX, I don't expect RIM to catch up in the next two years.
Which raises the question: what has RIM been doing the last 4 years?
Both of these companies were largely reacting to the success of the iPhone and got sideswiped much like RIM. Unlike RIM, though, both companies recovered quickly and were able to ship compelling products (though not all commercially successful).
RIM hasn't shipped squat that would even begin to compete with the user experience on iPhone. Hell, RIM hasn't shipped anything that I'd use over the first-gen iPhone, much less iPhone 4.
Google and Palm had no users. They could afford to completely change focus and abandon the existing user base.
And then you get surprised when a competitor does what you thought was fundamentally impossible. And what you thought was a secure and cozy dominance of a high-markup market actually becomes a fight for the very existence of your company, and with the poorer footing to boot.
RIM getting caught with their pants down by the iPhone is just one of a countless string of similar examples from history.
It can happen to you too, that's why you should pay attention. Because if you want to avoid such circumstances you need to pay attention to the root causes and figure out how to avoid those well ahead of time.