I know I promised my readers some Apple secrets in my May blogs. Trust me, I have a ton about Apple marketing that I will get around to. (I promise!) But first I wanted to finish my discussion on what I believe is the real goal (and the secret) of the MacBook Air and the iPhone.
First consider this: the iPhone has more in common with a computer than a cell phone. It has a full OS, a modern touchscreen interface with soft keypad, it docks with other computers and it is software upgradeable. When was the last time you upgraded your other cell phone?
Now consider the current MacBook Air. Sure it’s the thinnest laptop in the world. But it has limited network connectivity – if you aren’t near an open WiFi, it’s an island. And don’t get me started on DVD playback.
So what do you get when you cross an always connected communication device (like an iPhone 3G) with a super thin computer like a MacBook Air? Simple. You get the MacBook Touch (or here’s a longshot – the iMac Air). A real computer connected to the web 24×7 with a touch interface sans keyboard. Throw in the new MobileMe (.Mac replacement) and you can get your tunes, photos, movies over the air wherever you are. (The iMac killed the floppy drive – perhaps this new tablet will kill the DVD.) And we’re going to see this sooner than most people think. But what does this prediction have to do with Apple marketing?
Well it seems to me that the MacBook Air was a dress rehearsal for building and field testing a superthin computer and learning on the backs of early adopters. The iPhone was the field test for a light, touch mobile device (actually the first phone beta test was the original Motorola/iTunes RoKR) where programmability was bolted on a year later. Together they gave Apple’s designers and product managers a real understanding of what makes a hit product.
This is Apple’s new way of product development, which they learned watching Microsoft push out flawed products then doggedly continuing to improve them until they were finally good enough to nearly kill Apple.
Today, pay careful attention to how Apple continues to learn, tweak, improve and then repeat until we get Apple products that seem like they were always intended that way from the start. It’s a very clever corollary to Steve’s insistence that most people could never have dreamt up the iPod or the iPhone or the Mac UI.