Marketing works. I feel dirty saying that.

One analyst predicted the death of the iPhone even before it was released*. Actually when you stop laughing that’s not so stupid when the market was flooded with many phones but little differentiation. The genius of the iPhone was that it didn’t copy, it didn’t even lead, – it just changed the game completely.

And that’s odd when you consider it is nowhere near perfect. Ask anyone their thoughts of the iPhone as say “a phone” and they’ll tell you it’s rubbish. They’ll point out other flaws as well – crap battery life, lock-in to Apple stuff, high cost, etc.” However, if you’ll offer to swap it for something has none of these issues expect wild eyed justifications, desperate pleading and offers of “Nooooo, take my daughter instead

I don’t know how Apple did that and it seems neither does anyone else. First the iPhone stole the market and then the iPad created one. You cannot deny they wedgied the entire technology sector although they were more than helped by every other manufacturer. Product strategies were divided between slavish reproduction or getting all pious about OpenSource and wondering why no-one cared.

Or in HP’s case, spending billions on two operating systems and using neither, and Nokia – the undisputed market leader for years – dumping five years of development and jumping in bed with Windows 7. Now that’s a smart move what with Microsoft having sold about 11 phones so far.

A note here: watching Microsoft trying to be cool must be like my kids watching their dad trying to dance. At least I’m trying to be ironic. Not that they really care as they’ve run away by this time pretending to be orphans.

Apple have managed to create an experience that is so good, we all forget that this is exactly what IBM used to be slated for. Devices that don’t work with anything else. Having to buy everything from a single supplier. No choices other than stuff with an Apple logo on it. The difference is by opening up the App Store to developers and creating really neat in house products and software, we’re happy to be assimilated.

My friend James reckons buying your first Apple device creates a “bridgehead in your home” through which the entire product range swarms through. Not only that, it also instantly devalues all your other toys reducing them to door stops.

I’ve had that Mac for a couple of weeks week and it has insidiously wormed its way into my life. The PC seems to have become part server, part monitor mule, the horror of the Chisel IT is already fading, the tablet feels a bit “me too” and not in a good way. But fanboi status is not yet attained- my Android phone is really blameless here and has a part to play. it cost almost no money, runs lots of useful free apps, delivers e-mail, plays my music, and allows me to make and receive phone calls without the battery running out.

Which is clear and irrefutable evidence to why I’m going to buy an iPhone 4S. A phone that manages to be an expensive upgrade without actually upgrading anything. Aside from the Apple-Fanboi-Chip insert, my rationale for spending all that cash is because the Android phone won’t talk to the Mac. Well not nicely – they sort of electronically swear at each other before sulking and refusing to speak further despite my repeated urging.

So despite the rise of standards and apparent interoperability, we’re back to two or three brands dominating the landscape which don’t play nicely. Back in the 1990s, it wasn’t like that – the choices were endless and every technology manufacturer was trying hard to differentiate their products. It wasn’t always very good, but it was fun to watch.

Finally we’re back to bikes and metaphors. Go back even fifteen years and you couldn’t pedal for all the weird and wacky designs coming out of the bike shops. Funny suspension, flexible stems, white off-road tyres and elliptical chainrings. Th great thing about standards back in the day were there were so many to choose from. Most of them still measured in imperial units.

So your Trek Bicycle was an IBM PC; worthy, useful, a bit dull. The Singlespeed was a ringer for Apple. Hippy, niche, not very good at a lot of things, prized by those who owned one, laughed at by those that didn’t. Now Apple is the 29inch wheeled bike – everyone laughed at these as well but slowly they’ve become mainstream and changed the entire market when doing so.

I miss all those niches; now differentiation seems to be about wheel sizes and graphics. Consolidation of component manufacturers has upped quality but reduced choice. All the major manufacturers have bikes that work – and while there is still inter-brand hatred and myopia, it’s not really based on the actual riding experience.

Computers then; nobody thinks of them as computers any more. Just places where your apps live. And bikes cease to be about how they’re designed but more about the things they let you do. This is probably a good thing. It just doesn’t feel like it.

* The same man who – on being shown the Apple LISA – informed Steve Jobs that “no one would buy a computer with a Mouse“. And the bloke still has a job, Amazing.

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