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In the Line of Fire

Duck. And diversify.


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There might be a skirmish building up between Leander Kahney's Cult of Mac and John Gruber's Daring Fireball. Leander Kahney predicted Apple would have to do a recall of the iPhone 4, Apple held their press conference on Friday on the US west coast, as of Monday they still hadn't begun a recall, so Gruber came down on Kahney.

Kehney responded by citing a PR expert who claimed the offer of a free bumper was the equivalent of a recall.

Duck.

Of course a 'free bumper recall' isn't what people have in mind when they think of a recall. The Sony lithium ion battery recall is what they'd be thinking of. Sony literally -recalled- defective batteries - they were sent back to Sony (and replaced free of charge). Apple's bumper offer didn't actually recall anything.

But today was only Monday, the first full workday after the press conference, and the other major mobile OEMs were already out in force at the weekend - and Consumer Reports reiterated their 'not recommended' for the iPhone 4 - so anything might yet happen.

Apple have a severe problem here: they have too much riding on any one product announcement. They're the darlings of the tech media. And when they announce a new product, they get everyone's attention. One can hardly expect IBM to get the same web page real estate if they release a new peripheral.

Diversify.

But IBM have a staggering array of products. One more product doesn't mean much in the big picture. It's not going to garner as much attention and IBM would have a lot less riding on its success. Should a new product from IBM fail, IBM would hardly be in trouble.

Microsoft abandoned their Kin but Microsoft are still standing. Google abandoned their Nexus One but Google are still standing. Apple run into a PR blizzard with their new iPhone 4 and their stock starts tanking. (It lost $5 per share yesterday.)

Apple have every opportunity to diversify but won't ever take it. Apple invent new products not to add to the lineup but to replace earlier products that are already there.

But what about their computer OS X? OS X is on a back burner; it has a minimal team struggling to keep it up to date (and not fall backward). Wouldn't this be the perfect time to start licensing it to the world (and all the OEMs) at large?

After all: they're not exactly doing anything with it anyway. After all: Steve Jobs seems to be of a mind that he's not going to add more programmers to keep better care of it. After all: Steve Jobs is (incorrectly) convinced the PC market is yesterday's news.

So if it's yesterday's news and if it's not important to the company's future balance sheet - why not squeeze more money out of it while one can?

Think of all those curious Windows and Linux people who suddenly get the opportunity to try OS X for the first time. They don't have to 'pretend' anymore with those silly 'skins' that -almost- make their current GUI look like OS X - they can purchase the real thing for $129 (1/4 the price of an iPhone) and try it themselves.

Can you imagine what OS X would look like on a Dell? OK - don't try. Save yourself the pain. So suddenly all the neighbours who run Apple hardware have neighbours running the same OS but on Wintel junk. They stop by and chat about it. Of course they do. And the Wintel users notice how much better the system looks on Apple hardware. Why? Two reasons.

Apple don't have to explicitly establish a support operation for OS X on Wintel. They can do like Scott McNealy did for Solaris on x86: -just release it-. And tell people you really don't care what happens - if they don't want SPARC then that's their business - and their headache.

And Apple hardware simply looks better, works better, and works longer. Sooner or later those Wintel neighbours running OS X are going to have to trade their hardware up. Guess what they're going to choose this time around?

The legacy fanboy argument in favour of a hardware dongle is moot. It states in all its eloquence that nobody would buy Apple computer hardware if they could run the OS without it. But this is tantamount to saying Apple hardware is overpriced crap. And that's at least partly nonsense - it may be a bit overpriced but it certainly isn't crap.

The fanboy argument in favour of the hardware dongle has nothing to do with market exigencies - it's all about fanboys hallucinating the sky is falling again simply because some unknown individual halfway across the globe is running their precious operating system without paying the same membership fees.

Bill Gates never got into computer hardware. His dangerous operating system still dominates the globe. Steve Jobs wants to create superior products - and is considered a marketing genius - but he can't get a double digit demographic for his superior computer hardware and software. Go figure.

Can you see an office landscape of 1,000 staff all using not desktops or laptops but iPads to do their daily work? Spreadsheet work, system administration work, correspondence, presentations, image manipulation - all of that and more - on -iPads-? Ordinary computers - at least the laptops - will survive. Microsoft are unfortunately proof of that. Why not take advantage of that?

Steve Jobs doesn't like to sell to the enterprise. His users aren't the same as his clients, as he told Walt Mossberg. But that was always the case in the education market too. And he never objected to that. His sales staff never balked (or in the early days failed) at selling to the education market.

Wintel OEMs are already selling to the enterprise. Apple wouldn't have to do much work to get OS X up and running in the enterprise - the Wintel OEMs would take care of that end of the business for them.

Kahney and Gruber are fighting over the definition of a product recall because there's so much riding on the success of a single product. Way too much. Apple need to expand horizontally before it's too late.

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