The press loves to talk about Apple. The cynics chalk it up to Steve Jobs's public relations savvy, while some journalists might counter that Apple products are unique, influential and iconic. With the iPod, Apple swept through and dominated the portable music player market. Now it's threatening to do the same with cell phones.
Mobile-phone makers are probably grumbling to themselves, "We have some great multifunctional products out there, too — and they're easier to use than ever! Why doesn't anyone pay attention to us?" Well, the easiest way to get the media's attention (and the consumer's) is to stop diluting your best models with 20-plus other mediocre models. In order to compete against Apple, electronics companies should start by throwing many of their existing products out the window. Click below for the full plan.
Why would a user want to choose between 39 Motorola phones when he knows he can, for a premium, pick up the iPhone and be assured of getting a well-designed, attractive, and high-quality product (assuming, of course, that the iPhone turns out to be all of those things)? Cell-phone manufacturers need to start making fewer phones, not more, if they want to compete with the new kid on the block.
Imagine what would happen if Motorola decided that its next phone — let's call it the LAZR — were to be its only phone. The basic LAZR would be a quality affair priced at $250, but for $450 you could get a tricked-out version that had all of the texting, e-mailing, Web-browsing, and music-playing features that a user could want. And for the grandparents, there would be a LAZRlite: a stripped-down, very simple $79 version of the product that could only make phone calls and accept voicemail.
Does this pricing model sound familiar? These three versions of the phones would be it. Motorola would cut everything else out of its line and put together some great advertising campaigns. Provided that the phone was better than the RAZR, the popular question would change from, "Are you getting an iPhone or some other model?" to, "Which kind of customer are you — Apple or Motorola?"
Canon has two lines of digital cameras: EOS SLRS and PowerShot digital cameras. I'm actually in the market for a digital camera, and Canon has a good reputation as brands go. But the PowerShot line has 23 cameras! Two of the highest-end models couldn't be more different: One is a 6-megapixel camera with a 12x zoom (the S3 IS), while the other is a 10-MP model with a 6x zoom (the G7). Other choices in the line are nearly indistinguishable: compare the SD750. The average consumer would have to do a lot of research in order to know he'd bought the right camera. It's no wonder that after only four months on the market, some of the company's newer cameras are already being sold at a 40% discount.
What about a single laptop that's good for every personality, a specific camera that will suit every possible individual need? What Apple's done is to ask: Just how different are consumers' needs? There will always be companies out there making niche products, but those are not the companies that capture the popular imagination. And what about the concern that consumers don't want to be sitting on the subway next to someone with the same gadget? Well, the iPod blew that notion away. The cool kids have decreed individuality overrated. Manufacturers should stop being such squares.