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Editorial: H-Peas in a Pod

Editorial: H-Peas in a Pod

You may recall the last editorial of 2003, when I asked you all to collectively step into the shoes of Steve Jobs and Tony King and solve Apple’s problems for them.

In particular, I suggested that Apple is a great innovator but is close to hopeless at delivering its products to market in a transparent and timely manner.

While they are still battling with these issues, one thing is for certain — the top brass at Apple has acknowledged the opportunities it is missing. If it works, that’s going to be egg all over my face.

For a company that prides itself on doing things differently, this year’s Consumer Electronics show (see coverage pages 30-33) saw Apple pull such a strange rabbit out of its hat that even the company’s most loyal fans were taken back. Surprising as it might have been, the deal it announced also made sense.

One of Apple’s most innovative devices ever, the iPod, has been a boon for the company (733,000 sold in the quarter ending December 31), but resellers and customers have had to put up with long waiting lists to get their hands on the product. After surprising everybody with the launch of the product, after swamping us with iPod advertising on everything from television commercials to bus billboards, the predictable outcome was that the company just couldn’t produce enough to satisfy demand.

So, if you were Steve Jobs, how would you get an iPod in the hand of every music fan on the planet that wants to change the way they experience music? Enter Carly Fiorina.

While HP is not the be-all and end-all of the IT distribution channel, it is certainly one of the most powerful vendors in it. For mine, HP is essentially a box mover. (I am certain the company’s PR folk would not be keen on that statement, and will be ringing me next week to demand we give the company credit as an innovator as well. In anticipation I have prepared a reply: “How much of your profits come from printing consumables?”)

But I digress. My point is — this deal whereby HP licenses the technology from Apple and floods the market with iPod-like devices could be a stroke of genius for both companies. Apple gets the scale it could never have achieved alone, as well as a guarantee that HP will also preinstall Apple’s iTunes jukebox software on its consumer PCs and notebook systems, and add a desktop icon pointing customers to the iTunes online music store, Nice one. And HP comes off almost looking like an innovator. At least, more of an innovator than Dell.

That has to be good news for the channel. Soon enough, you too will be selling HP-branded iPod clones. You will be selling something that (at least to date) Dell doesn’t have.

Which got me thinking. If IBM had been the only company making the personal computer that evolved into what we call the PC today, the PC revolution as we know it might not have happened. Regardless of Bill Gates’ intentions, there may not have been a PC on every desktop on the planet. It was the work of thousands of PC manufacturers and brands around the world that propagated the spread of the personal computer.

Apple could have kept the iPod for itself but instead opted for the PC revolution approach. If all goes to plan, there might be an iPod in every pocket before too long. How do you rate their chances?

Email news editor, Brett Winterford, at brett_winterford@idg.com.au and let him know.


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