A Recipe for Beating Apple

Can anyone steal Apple’s momentum?

I learned last week that there have been approximately 35 million iPhone’s and iPod Touch’s sold worldwide in, oh, one year. I’m blown away by this because, after 11 years, this is probably bigger than the installed base we had to sell to. And in one year, Apple has matched it.

So I was thinking about this bit of information and reading my RSS feed on the way home from a meeting and found an article on Palm’s recent acquisitions and started to wonder how someone can steal Apple’s mojo.

And I came up with the answer:

  1. Build a beautiful, touchscreen device
  2. Make it synchronize with web-based applications
  3. Focus on offline use of online applications

Without that three-some, it’s just another iPhone clone.

The touchscreen device is a given anymore, whether it has a keyboard or not. That’s the cost of entry.

Second, automatic synchronization with web-based applications is important. Think Calendar, Contacts, Tasks and Memos, just to name four. One, it raises the requirements for others to enter the mobile market space. Two, it ties users to the system. It doesn’t have to be apps, per say, it could just be a database in the cloud that also syncs back to your desktop or laptop. But the truth is all those people that don’t use Exchange need the sync capabilities of Exchange, and this will provide it.

The third point, though, is the most important. To use web standards such as html, css and Javascript means automatically getting a wealth of applications and developers and, by default, would allow every application to sync to their online counter-part. Of course this means the device would have to have local versions of various web back-end technologies (things like Java ME, Ruby on Rails and a little MySQL database, if I’m making a wish list) and some way to promote apps, but figuring out how to make online apps run offline is a good challenge that would make the platform infinitely expandable.

Apple has around 1000 applications in its AppStore, will probably push this onto every one of their devices, and is leveraging every Mac OS X developer in the world. The problem of developing for a new platform is daunting, as I have commented before. By leveraging already accepted standards and courting a group that now feels abandoned by Apple, any new device could instantly have a huge developer community.

Other smartphone makers not named Apple will need a unique hook to get back in the game. Only RIM, with instant push email and their BlackBerry Enterprise Server, has such a hook today. Web sync and localized web apps can do that for others.

5 thoughts on “A Recipe for Beating Apple

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