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Dan Ramsden
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Dan Ramsden has been active in finance, markets and strategy, at global institutions as well as boutique firms, for over twenty years. He has covered the media and technology segments, through their transformations and transitions, since the mid-‘90s, and has been involved in private and public,... More
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  • Unity: the next stage of Apple’s value proposition 2 comments
    Oct 22, 2010 8:57 AM | about stocks: AAPL, GOOG

    The rare and much publicized appearance by Steve Jobs the other day, during Apple’s quarterly earnings call with analysts, was falsely interpreted by tech punditry as a rant. More likely this was, in keeping with Apple custom, choreographed. The point of the so-called rant was not to vent or complain or to do any of the emotionally charged mischief commonly associated with ranting, but rather to set the stage for the more obvious choreography that would be on display two days hence. The central subject of Mr. Jobs’s monologue on the analyst call was unity, (in opposition to fragmentation). The most important announcement made during Apple’s new product rollout that followed was a new OS X operating system that is set to unify the Apple desktop and mobile experiences. For the consumer, the two will move towards each other in appearance as well as functionality.

    The direction that Apple is thus pursuing – a direction that its CEO alluded to quite strongly in his impromptu visit with the spreadsheet scribes – is to create a universal standard, rather than keep building mobile and desktop products separately. Carrying the Apple imprint, this standard will not only be recognizable from afar by the consuming population, but should as a result of its consistency be easier for developers and publishers to populate with content. Regardless of the Apple device that we would choose to utilize at a given time and for whatever purpose – iPhone, iPod, iPad, Macbook Air, Macbook Pro, iMac, or Apple TV box – the home screens will interoperate. No readjustment required, no translation necessary, no settings to get used to. That the interface, moreover, happens to be beautifully designed and functionally sleek surely won’t hinder enjoyment.

    In the mass market, as in many things, unity has its advantages and a record of success. Consider the keyboard, the remote control, the website layout with horizontal headings on top and finer print at the bottom, the menu bars of web browsers and email clients that resemble the menu of any Windows product. Regardless of individual peculiarities, the form factors are largely the same. Consider the layout of newspapers, of magazines, of city traffic. There is a comforting quality about steadfast repeatability and consistency. In a media consumption environment, variety is rendered through fragmented content selections, so that inconstancy in the viewing interface can be a counterproductive excess.

    If Apple’s principal market alternative, Google’s Android platform, will ever come to boast any kind of universality, it will have been purely accidental – offered as it is through a multitude of independent vendors, each customizing and altering the product until there really is no Android per se for the consumer, but only, really, for developers and other techies. Openness, Android’s principal differentiator, may have been advantageous if there was a shortage of customized content in the marketplace. But this hasn’t been the case for some time. If Apple’s closed system makes it difficult to procure an app that counts the bristles on a toothbrush, this in itself is hardly a wide enough window to push an opportunity through. 

    Disclosure: No positions.
    Stocks: AAPL, GOOG
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  • Riverrun
    , contributor
    Comments (263) | Send Message
    Finally, someone who was listening to Jobs. Good take.
    24 Oct 2010, 11:52 AM Reply Like
  • Dan Ramsden
    , contributor
    Comments (65) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » Thanks for reading.
    24 Oct 2010, 08:57 PM Reply Like
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