It’s a crazy internet meme — you’ve probably seen the Blendtec guy already — but when I saw him destroy an iPad today, it gave me an idea. Blendtec’s literal blending of an iPad made me think of the way Apple has aggressively cannibalized its own lucrative markets to provide greater opportunity.
Think about it. Since the iPod launched, Steve Jobs has been on a path of brand destruction. With each successive iteration of the iPod, to the introduction of the iPhone and its variations, the iMac and MacBook Pro computers, and now the iPad, one thing has been in common: make sure the customer buys more of our stuff before they buy more of anybody else’s stuff. Brilliant idea, if you’ve got the product to back it up, and you’ve got the customer trained to believe in planned obsolescence.
It’s easy to ridicule this strategy, call Apple fans “fanboys”, and let it ride. Yet there’s something to this idea. If you can iterate your own idea, even if it’s half done, you’re going to pre-empt others from entering your market, set up barriers to entry, and continue a process of providing new and shiny stuff to consumers. Even better if, in the case of Apple, you’re pretty good at controlling the environment, designing beautiful and functional products, and brilliant at the art of the “reveal”. It’s great to keep customers guessing.
So what’s the equivalent opportunity to create an ecosystem product around Apple’s ecosystem when the basic product keeps changing? My answer: focus on capability and utility, and provide solutions to products that Apple doesn’t provide. Two attributes spring to mind that are underserved in today’s Apple market: durability/high availability/shock protection, and battery life/charging. The latter option has many entrants, but I haven’t seen many good examples of really excellent “always available” shock protection cases for Apple products. Panasonic’s Toughbook is a great example of this market niche — perhaps they could work with Apple to OEM shockproof cases for iPads. They wouldn’t be able to protect your iPad from a blender, but most customers might pay a premium to protect their iPads (and future Apple products) from the typical wear-and-tear that a real home computer’s bound to get now that it’s been liberated from the desktop.