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Mark my words — The recently announced MacBook Air is going to be a game changer in ways that market analysts haven’t been speaking about.
We’ve all heard about cloud computing and the future being in the clouds, right?
Until the rise of cloud computing and resources, operating systems, utilities, etc. have been relegated to disc based delivery methods that have precluded innovation in technology hardware. Laptop and Desktop manufacturers have been forced to restrain (or worse, refrain …) innovative prdouct development and launches because the delivery mechanism of software vendors was still in the proverbial dark ages of technology from the 1970’s. If a manufacturer’s laptop or desktop didn’thave an optical drive then it couldn’t load software and be functional.
HP and Sony both introduced super slim, HD and SSD (solid-state drive) machines that lacked an optical drive in the early 2000’s. (Great Article from Brooke Crothers here: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13924_3-20020535-64.html ) These machines were bleeding edge technology that were expensive and lacked an install base potential market other than the early-innovators and early-adopters. Cloud computing (whether Amazon’s Cloud or Red Hat or Rackspace, etc.) was in its infancy and software firms were wary of delivering their goods outside of traditional distribution methods like CD’s or DVD’s – thus the clund infastructure for software needed by the innovative HP and Sony hardware didn’t exist and the products were doomed for mass market failure.
5 years later …
Apple’s introduction of the Mac Air re-introduces the innovation to the marketplace and is priced for early-adopters and innovators once again. Apple’s entry into this portion of the market fast tracks software manufacturers into the cloud (example: Microsoft’s Office 2010 is available for download as the preferred method of sale and delivery) and sets the stage for deeper market penetration as the cloud infrastructure grows and a new service delivery model is adopted by leading software firms. The fact that SaaS (Software as a Service) has been infiltrating the B2B market for well over a decade as a precursor solidifies the market adoption notion and readiness in the B2C or Consumer market.
Apple is not the innovator in this market.
In my opinion, Apple is the hands down, strategic execution leader in this market. Apple let other manufacturer’s foot the R&D costs for this type of technology platform (via HP and Sony), waited for a B2C SaaS marketplace to exist (and created one virtually with the iPod and iTunes), and for economies of scale in manufacturing to lower SSD pricing to a level that would allow for mass market penetration. The iPad (entertainment and no keyboard) set the stage for B2C SaaS computing and the MacBook Air delivers the full experience (with keyboard). Other manufacturers, including the market innovators like HP and Sony in 2004, are going to be in catch up mode for the next two years.
While Apple has superior innovation ability, the past decade has seen the company transition into a superior marketing execution strategy that was missing in the 1990’s. It learned the hard way and nearly landed in bankruptcy by playing the innovation superiority card in the 1990’s and has found itself the darling of Wall Street and the envy of Fortune 500 Boardrooms and CEO’s by developing an execution strategy that had been delivered (near) flawlessly in the past decade.