The iPhone was an unfortunate thing to happen to business. Before the iPhone launched the dominant phones were from Research in Motion (BlackBerry) and PALM—both with a business focus and even the idea of a virus or malware for these phones was just short of ludicrous. The apps were mostly built in and people used the phones for email, instant messaging, and phone calls.
Then the iPhone came out and suddenly apps and entertainment were king. Google then copied Apple with Android and—being more “open” than Apple—it allowed side-loading and now we are up to our armpits in malware.
Oh and we went from smartphones with nice keyboards that we could blind type on to screen phones that require we look at them when we type. And now a bit over a decade later there are laws against texting and driving.
But I think the new iPod provides a way to nudge users back to a new safer reality. One where IT gets the security they need and the user gets the experience they want.
Let me explain.
Steve Jobs Successful Gambit
The iPhone was created out of fear and it was a well-executed offensive attack on what could have put Apple out of business. You see PALM had created in the lab an iPhone like product that could do what the iPod did and also do what the Palm phone did. If successful this one phone could have made the iPod obsolete. I believe Jobs got wind of this phone—largely because there were a lot of employees moving back and forth between the companies—and that convinced him to rush the iPhone to market. Ironically Palm’s executive management, in all of their infinite wisdom, decided to kill their “iPhone” project confident in their belief that no one in their right mind would want to mix entertainment and communications in a single device.
So Jobs was in a race but rather than being in a race with Palm he was in a race with Google, which because Eric Schmidt (Google’s CEO) was on Apple’s board, knew all about the iPhone and had no problem cloning it. So you basically had two versions of the iPhone: one from Apple, and one that was copied by Google. And these phones blended the iPod capabilities with phone features and the end result was market co-dominance.
Jobs’ strategy was a good one, if he could convert the iPod users to iPhone users no third-party blended phone could take the market from him and there was a chance (a particularly good one) that other smartphone users would see this bundled product as ideal and thus this all became a huge market expansion opportunity. To add drive to this move the iPod was slowly de-emphasized (unfunded) driving iPod users to the iPhone. It was very successful.
Now Apple is bringing the iPod back, largely to address the opportunity of all of those folks who don’t want an iPhone but still want their iTunes to be mobile. But there is another opportunity, which is to use it to wean people off of iPhones and Android phones and back to more secure platforms like BlackBerry.
The BlackBerry Gambit
Actually this doesn’t just potentially benefit BlackBerry but anyone (Microsoft comes to mind) who wants to bring out a more business-focused offering and get out from under Apple’s massive shadow. Both companies provide simple wireless tethering which gives the new iPod its necessary connectivity for entertainment and then they focus on security and focused business apps where they are still competitive and security where they potentially lead. While this doesn’t significantly weaken Apple it would be a far better solution than the malware-plagued Android platform and they could market the best of both worlds—Apple being better at entertainment than Google, and Blackberry being better on business than either of them.
The interesting thing is that, long term, this could actually be better for both firms because if Apple were to switch to more of a business focus they’d likely have the same experience Microsoft had and lose their personal edge. With Blackberry both solutions play better for business and each company can focus on what it does best rather than trying unsuccessfully to be expert at both.
So, in the end, the new iPod could actually be strategically better (at least with regard to the business market) for both Apple and Blackberry. Not everything has to be a win/lose.
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