Half-Baked Competition For Apple

Includes: AAPL, BB, NOK, SNE
by: Paulo Santos

There's something that really confuses me. Everyone knows Apple (AAPL) goes to great lengths to have fully usable products with very few - if any - obvious flaws. Apple is the market leader, and it is with Apple that everyone else needs to compare. It is hardly enough to do the same Apple does at the same price, because Apple already has an aura, an image, that none of the other competitors can match. So the competitors need not just to do the same, but indeed, need to do better and cheaper.

And what do these competitors do?

Nokia (NOK), which is under a painful transition from feature phones and Symbian to smartphones and Windows Phone, ships several of its new Lumia phones with what can only be called glaring omissions. The Nokia 800, 710 and 610 came to the market without NFC, although the Sybian alternatives already have it. The Nokia 800 came to the market without front camera, although the equivalent Symbian phone, the Nokia N9 already has it. What is Nokia thinking when it doesn't stick at least everything that it's already shipping on past products in this new line as well, right from the start?

Sony (SNE), itself under fire from every side, be it gaming consoles, smartphones, TVs, laptops, music players or anything else, also seems under the same syndrome. It unveiled the Sony Vaio E Series 14P laptops. The distinctive feature on these things is mostly its ability to be controlled by gestures (and its weird colors). Where does such gesture-based control work? It works only in a couple of apps (Windows Media Player, IE9, PowerPoint and PowerDVD). How can Sony expect this half-baked approach to sell anything?

Research In Motion (RIMM) did one better. It shipped the Playbook tablet without an e-mail client (although everything else in the market has it) !!! No e-mail client! To outdo this they'd have to ship it without a browser. How can any executive approve of such blunder when fighting the Apple behemoth?

And in general, what are Apple's competitors thinking when they flood the market with Android tablets that can't even match the iPad on specs, yet command prices that are comparable to the iPad's? Can't these people see that at the same price, it's almost impossible to sell, versus a product with a better image, better specs and a more attractive ecosystem? Incredibly, this lack of foresight seems to affect even Samsung, which could probably be called the most serious of Apple's competitors.


In the best of days, it would be hard for Apple's competitors to give Apple some grief. Doing the same at an equal price wouldn't cut it, since presently Apple's products command a rightful premium and have the intangible advantage of "providing status". But it truly boggles the mind when these competitors not only try to compete at comparable prices, but with what are sometimes obviously half-baked products. One thing is certain, as long as this lasts, Apple's empire is safe.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.