As the technology world goes into another round of frenzy with the coming of Apple's latest iPhone and rumors of a mini-iPad, people should recognize that the company's strength -- putting out an industry-leading product in a specific category -- is also its weakness. Failure is but one iteration away, with a single mistake leading to loss of market share and thought leadership. And there are a lot of people gunning for Apple's products and services.
Amazon sees Apple as a potential threat to a portion of its e-commerce business model. Apple's iTunes store is the first go-to for most consumers when it comes to buying music and video services, but the company would like to extend that penetration into books. Amazon started out by delivering paper books and now you can get nearly any physical good stocked somewhere through the service, ranging from USB cables to snow blowers.
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It's no coincidence people are watching what Amazon does with its tablet offerings. The company is willing to take a loss on tablet hardware while making up for it with future revenue on electronic and physical goods, with ongoing plans to optimize delivery of the latter with same-day services in many markets.
Amazon tablets may be like PC hardware back in the '90s -- while everyone wants an Apple iPad, not everyone can afford it. So an Amazon tablet becomes a "good enough" solution for anyone that doesn't want to shell out full price for an iPad. Amazon might be taking things a bit too far in having its own app store with apps tailored for its hardware, instead of being more Android-generic -- but it doesn't have to make everyone happy with hardware since it also has apps that run on Apple iOS and Android.
One of Apple's flaws is insisting on non-standard features. Its 30-pin "dock" data/charging connector on the iPhone and iPad in a world of USB cables is maddening. (It is true there are mini and micro-USB ports, but why didn't Apple pick one to work with or propose an open standard?) . Rumor now has it that the iPhone and other iThings will have a new and smaller nine pin connector for data and charging. If true, Apple will end up getting a lot of people buying a lot of new cables for no other purpose than to prove it can generate some extra cash from non-standard hardware.
However, the bigger challenger to Apple's device model is Microsoft. Apple has one design and operating system for its PCs and another separate design and OS for the iThings family of iPad/iPod/iPhone. Microsoft is hoping to unify everything under one user interface and operating system, Windows 8, so everything is the same from smartphone to tablet to laptop to desktop. If Apple wants to keep making PCs, it's going to have to start doing more than simply making them thinner and with better displays.
Edited by Brooke Neuman