Blue pill or red pill?
2 days ago
The appstore is easily the most interesting part of the iPhone, much more than 3G. The appstore imvho means three things. First the carrier deck constraint is shifted away from the operator or default homepages to getting placed on the appstore's core views (like hot, top 25 and new). Second, and this what is drives the first, "embed date stress" is relaxed somewhat. In the mobile handset biz, phone embed dates are king - missing the date is bad because nobody, statistically speaking, downloads applications - whereas the appstore is easy to use. The appstore allows you to have a hit well after the handset launch. Third, "OTA" (over the air) updates will become the normal way of doing things instead of a feature - bad bug? - requirements 180? - protocol upgrade? Push out a new revision the way we do today with desktop applications and browser plugins. As much as Tim Bray doesn't like sharecropping and objective-c, this is a good for SMEs and innovators. I can imagine handset and opcos cloning the appstore model, right down as far as supporting technology, eg Android supporting an OSGi-a-like, and enhanced developer programs to drive applications. (None of this is good for IMS btw).
Seems to me that it's the usual branding vs. commoditization problem. As long as Dell make commodities (PCs) they have no social object to hang a story around. We know what a PC is and what we want from it. Either Dell can give it to us as cheaply as possible or they can't.
If Dell want a social object / brand makeover they have to make products that are differentiated in a way worth talking about. With English Cut and Stormhoek you had a novel story : "a tailor / wine that blogs". With Dell, "a computer company that blogs" isn't going to fly.
Who's making a differentiated PC today? (Apart from Apple who are at a whole other level.) Basically Asus. They have great stories : a whole new form-factor, a whole new price, new technologies (solid state disks), Linux really making things cheaper, etc.
Dell used to have two good stories : "cheaper because we sell direct without dealers" and "you can customize on our web-site and our super-lean process will build to your design in a day". The first story is probably no-longer available. Doesn't *everybody* sell direct? The second seems to have gone AWOL.
"Customizability" could be an idea that Dell still owns. The right web-site, a cute user-interface, could turn computer shopping into an intensely personal Build-a-Bear kind of emotional experience. Dell could offer wider variety of peripherals, accessories etc. They could invest in and promote their supply-chain, gain green credentials through offering you the chance to build "low carbon footprint" PCs from local or lower-polluting sources. They could create an Etsy-like market for casemodders etc.
But they need to have *something* to tell a story about.
In my mind, there are different types of OS platforms, created for one of several reasons, broadly separated into monetization, control or shared workload. Monetization - as shown by Microsoft - is that if you control a platform that becomes popular, you can charge money for it indefinitely as it's the basis for many other people's work. Control is what Apple and Blackberry do, where they don't license the platform, but use it to ensure they control everything about what happens on their platform and devices. Shared workload is what the Linux folk are about, where even though they lose control and get no fees, they still derive benefits from not having to do everything themselves, and the platform improves and is used more broadly as well with less investment on their part.
Symbian it seems has attempted to do all of this ...