Friday, December 21, 2007

Apple Teaches People

By now there are a few million iPhone users compared to hundreds of million Windows Mobile phone users. Yet, in The Seven Biggest Mobile Content Stories of 2007, Fierce Mobile reported that iPhone Safari browser usage has dramatically exceeded Windows Mobile Pocket Internet Explorer.

I find this astonishing. Apple overcame a 100:1 disadvantage and a several year head start. Then again, I'm often taken aback when "average users" believe some feature is revolutionary when in fact it has been available for years. Now I realize that Apple's skill is not simply making good products but actually promoting their use. There are no commercials on TV that show happy Windows Mobile users scrolling around web pages on a phone, so I guess nobody realizes its possible until Apple runs an iPhone ad. Suddenly everyone thinks only an iPhone can do this, that or the other thing.

For example, in Year of the iPhone Sue Marek says, Apple's iPhone transformed wireless handsets with its innovative design and touch screen. I disagree. Hold an iPhone next to an iPaq from 1999. The design is sleeker and smaller but it doesn't seem innovative considering 8 years have past.

Sue continues, the device finally showed consumers that mobile computing was not only possible but actually fun to do. Here I agree and this is where Apple made a difference. They showed consumers.

Consider iTunes and CD burners. Nobody realized they could make their own CD's until the "Rip, Mix, Burn" commercials ran?

Go back to the first iPod. Handheld, digital music players had been around for a long time but people didn't know they existed or didn't understand what they did. Apple entered the market and taught everybody.

Go back to the first Mac. Other computers had mice and GUIs (including Apple's own Lisa) but Apple had to show people that computers could be easy to use. I honestly don't think Apple computers are any easier or harder to use than other computers but Apple does the best job at teaching people.

I'm not an Apple basher. To the contrary, I have an iPod, iMac and a Macbook. I love the products, however I didn't pay retail for any of them and they don't offer any feature I can't replicate for less money. It seems, the "average user" doesn't share my aptitude for cobbling together solutions or hunting down alternative products.

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