Friday, July 24, 2009

The structured debate

Over the past two weeks my household has been a microcosm of the Bberry vs iPhone raging debate. It's about settled now, with my wife's phone now adopted as 'our' phone and the Bberry, still a best in class for inputting alphanumeric characters, relegated for my inputting duty for long mails. The Bberry remains a wonderful device for structured tasks such as mail or texting. The iPhone, optimized for unstructured tasks, is foremost a web gateway, and now adequate

Thinking about an analogy from the software business, the Bberry is a best of breed device that's optimized for the critical task of mail and texting. The iPhone is an integrated device, whose 3Gs' text inputting has just crossed the 'good enough' bar and it's optimized for bringing the mobile web AND myriad of affordable applications now makes it compelling.

Previously, I posted about the commoditization of pricing, in part due to the integration of multiple features (phone, music player, game player, compass, etc) that makes the iPhone a price LEADER. But, I neglected to highlight, as I should, the tens of thousands of affordable (many free) quality applications that enable the iPhone to morph to so many single use devices that are only limited by your imagination (e.g. flashlight, ebook reader, fingerprint scanner etc). These reinforce the iPhone's price/performance leadership to heights beyond the 66% discount previously noted.

In the software business, early stage markets are most often dominated by fast moving best of breed vendors who optimize for one application. As markets mature, they tend to pull in other features and leaders emerge as integrated vendors that combine many capabilities. This integration, usually demanded and greatly appreciated by customers, relegate best of breed vendors, who do not expand their scope, to second tier status. MSFT was (note the tense) the paradigm of commoditization and integration of the desktop. Goog, with Chrome(s), search and the application suites have taken this approach to the web.

Web based applications, such as eBay, Facebook, LinkedIn, Amazon,etc. are greatly expanding their focus, as they must. Amazon, as they repeatedly show (now with the Zappos acquisition) are doing the same for commerce. In my view, this is the key challenge today for Twitter (as opposed to monetization) as their best of breed status can easily be subsumed by any of the above vendors (especially as Goog makes progress with Wave).

RIP John 'Marmaduke' Dawson of the New Riders

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