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Design Quality and Customer Delight as Sustainable Advantages

John Gruber has written a really good takedown of some common bear cases against Apple:

Apple bear argument 1: Superior design doesn’t matter in the long run, the mobile market will be commoditized by “good enough” competitors.

Apple bear argument 2: Quality matters but iOS devices have already lost their edge, and are no longer superior to competing devices from Samsung, Google, or Amazon. iOS devices just cost more.

Apple bear argument 3: Design doesn’t matter, app developers and peripheral makers will flock to Android simply because of raw market share, even if that market share is almost entirely at the low end of the market.

Whats interesting is that arguments 1 and 3 are both refuted by the position the Mac holds in the mature PC industry.

It is a really great piece as his usually are. I do disagree with one bit however:

Put another way, this third strain of Apple bear subscribes to the theory that iOS is the new Mac, Android is the new Windows, and Apple is about to see the 1990s all over again.

I agree with Blodget in one regard: the Mac, and its decades-long competition against Windows and the commodity PC industry, serves as a useful example. But I disagree what the Mac proves.

I do not believe the history of the PC is a very useful example to use in looking for insight into the dynamics of how the mobile market will play out. The post “Platform Wars: Why This Time Is Different” from a couple weeks ago outlines my perspective on this in some detail. Interestingly, Gruber does appear to agree that one of the fundamental differences between then and now:

modern computers — PCs, phones, tablets, all of them — are effectively just clients on one universal platform: the Internet. In the ’90s, as the Mac and Apple waned, compatibility meant connecting to Exchange servers, and reading and writing Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. Today, compatibility is a rarely uttered word. Twitter, Facebook, email, and at a lower level, HTTP are available to all platforms.

What I find most interesting, however, is that Gruber is able to make a compelling case that even if the PC industry is a useful example, it does not necessarily imply anything bad for Apple.