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Thursday, September 18, 2008

How many devices will Apple want to sell you?

The other day I did a post on MIDs, which as with a number of my posts gets syndicated on SeekingAlpha. Leaving aside the usual rants by Apple-ists thinking I'm somehow anti-iPhone (I'm not - I even bought one for my father), the comments have raised an interesting point in my mind.

Some people think that the iPhone is an example of a MID - and that it will absorb the future capabilities of a whole range of other devices.

But other people think that the iPod Touch is an example of a MID - and that it (or perhaps a slightly larger version) will absorb the capabilities.......

So here's a question - will Apple try and structure its product line so people end up buying two devices from the company, or just one? (plus ideally a PC as well). I don't mean the serious fans who'll buy everything - I mean normal customers.

Will the iPhone be the uber-smartphone, sensible to hold to your ear to make calls, but with a good web experience as well.... while the Touch becomes a larger, different beast - perhaps a PSP-replacement, or Netbook-alternative, with ergonomics optimised for these purposes? (and with a bigger battery and screen).

I'm pretty sure that Nokia has long welcomed the trend of people to buy and carry multiple phones - why sell people one product when you could sell them two or three? It will be interesting to see how Apple organises its portfolio around this opportunity.


Tom said...

It will also be interesting to see what that fragmentation of the platform means for developers who suddenly have to deal with different screen sizes etc - something they can ignore for now, one of the reasons people say iPhone development is so easy relative to other mobile devices...

alex said...

In my analysis, iPod Touch serves two strategic purposes for Apple:

1. Protect the iPod business. New platform to expand from media player to entertainment device, eventually fully replacing the old iPod platform, which is not suitable for 3rd party apps on larger scale. Note that Apple changed last year's iPod Touch slogan from "best iPod ever" with Internet capabilities high-lighted to "funnest iPod ever" with gaming high-lighted.

2. "Plan B" if the iPhone fails, eg. due to "all-in-one" (full convergence) proposition not finding a mass-market, operators gaining the industry-standard level of control over iPhone, or Apple loosing out against incumbent empires striking back.

I don't see that iPod Touch would have intentionally addressed MID; maybe as a side-effect if MID market happens to build up at the lowest end of the MID range you defined.

Since Apple's offering has a gap between 3.5 and 13 inch screen size (no sub-notebook), I could imagine that they'll someday come up with a new product category filling that gap. Maybe that'll be a MID or maybe something new.

So coming back to your question, I'd reckon that Apple wants well-off people to own
- an iPhone (or iPod Touch + basic phone),
- a secondary small iPod (sports, car, etc.),
- a primary laptop or desktop,
- a secondary mobile computer (MacBook Air or in future MID).