The Apple brand promises “simplicity.” What is going wrong here?

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

1 February 2010

Apple will win if it keeps its brand promise

The Apple brand promises simplicity and elegance. I fear that Apple will begin to suffer from an underlying disease, one they recovered from in 2006 when they realized that by allowing consumers to compare apples to apples, Apple would win.

Back then, Apple switched from a non-compatible chip to the Intel processor, thus allowing Windows users to migrate to Apple with the promise that they could run the Windows environment natively. Since Apple decided to go with the flow, so to speak, they have been winning market share. In effect, Apple made it easier to choose as simplicity is their brand promise. (Although anyone who has used both Mac OS and Windows will tell you that, if you HAVE a choice between the two OS systems, Mac wins it hands down.)

It appears that Apple has fallen back to its old ways, and it frightens me. Instead of allowing me to compare apples to apples in electronic book readers, it seems that Apple wants to run on its own and force us to choose between oranges and apples. Why not allow any format of electronic book to work on the iPad? By making me choose a non-compliant format, Apple is running contrary to its brand promise of simplicity and seems to be running backwards — back towards niche status.

Obviously, there is a price to pay for having the brilliance of Steve Jobs steer the ship (see our last blog on Apple).

You see, Steve, it is not enough to have brilliant design and cutting edge innovation. You need to be true to your brand promise of simplicity and elegance. The iPad is a perfect example of a loss of focus.

A few weeks back, I bought a Kindle. The only decision I had to make was which size I wanted. I did not have to concern myself with book format or subscription fees. One simple purchase gave me what I wanted – an e-book reader and a non-fee subscription to a 3G internet service to download my books.

With the iPad, I not only have to worry about a non-compatible e-book format, I have to decide upfront: Do I want Wi-Fi only or do I need Wi-Fi and 3G? If I decide on 3G, I have to arrange for a 3G carrier and pay a monthly subscription fee. It is just enough uncertainty for me to stick with the familiar and turn my back on Apple.

Apple has not made my life easier. Apple has complicated it. That over-complication is a lot to ask for what is an oversized iPod Touch.

When I bought my first generation iPhone (three upgrades ago), it simplified my life. I no longer had to carry my phone and iPod when I traveled.  The iPhone did both better.

Tell me this, Apple: What do I leave behind this time to carry the iPad with me on business trips? My iPhone or my MacBook Pro? Nope, need both of those. Apple would have me add 1.5 pounds to my brief case so that I can carry my e-book and pay another fee to AT&T for 3G connectivity.

Never mind. I just bought a Kindle and its connection is free.

See more posts in the following related categories: Apple Apple brand Intel iPad iphone iPod Steve Jobs Technology branding

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