Tim Longhurst's Blog

Apple – harnessing technology, focusing on user experience

June 23rd, 2008 · 3 Comments

To some people, the opening of the Apple Store in Sydney this week has been a momentous occasion – worthy of camping out for hours, if not days. Reading about the chaos created by the event, I can’t help but think about how this has happened. How has one business managed to build a religion around the world, complete with high priest (Steve Jobs), festivals (Macworld Expo), millions of followers ( see Macheads movie) and temples (check this out).

The multi-million dollar Catholic-run-Australian-government-subsidised World Youth Day could do with a few lessons from Cupertino, California on how to build hype for a church event.

So what is it about Apple that makes it so lovable to so many?

There’s been plenty of column inches spent celebrating Apple, so I’ll keep my view brief:

Harnessing technology, focusing on user experience.

For all the patents Apple holds, almost all of them involve combining available, existing technology. From the iPod to the iMac to the iPhone, almost all of the parts come off-the-shelf – sure there’s a tweak here or a new part there, but inevitably when an analyst pulls out a screwdriver to work out how much money Apple is making on a new gadget, they discover a whole bunch of stuff that already exists in lots of other gadgets.

They don’t invent ingredients they just spend time coming up with new recipes they think will suit their audiences tastes…

There’s a great old video that compares Apple’s approach to communication with Microsoft’s. In the video, Apple’s beautiful, simple, uncluttered 5GB iPod box has Microsoft’s Style Guide applied to it.

Apple, with their head-office in image-conscious California, knows that simplicity and elegance sells.

In my experience of Apple products, if you want to work out how to do something, it’s straightforward. Some of the bestselling electronic devices in homes – toasters and TV’s – involve one button and you get something out of it. It’s the same with Apple products – you turn it on and something exciting is going to happen.
So how does this elegance and simplicity apply to the new Apple Store in Sydney? Well, they’ve used elements anyone could have used in a shop – glass, tiles, assistants…

And yet the user experience is dramatically different to any other store in Australia: exceptional design, plenty of staff, in this case free internet and even complimentary training and tech support from Apple’s ‘Geniuses’…

So Apple’s spent $15 million on the shop which probably represents at least $5 million in ‘unnecessary’ innovation. Well, if the store can generate anything like the $4,032/square foot in annual sales of it’s big NY brother, it’s probably money well spent.

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Apple iPhone

January 10th, 2007 · No Comments

stevejobsToday Apple announced it’s first ever mobile phone – the iPhone. It’s still six months away and hardly anyone has touched it, so I’m not sold on it yet.

Forgive me for being cautious, but I’ve heard plenty of stories of ipods dying and people losing all their files – that’s a shame if it’s your music, but devastating if a malfunction destroys your photos, music, contacts and email, which is basically what the iPhone will store, according to Apple. For the users’ sake I hope that the iphone proves to be more stable and reliable that the ipod.

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New computer

November 24th, 2005 · No Comments

powermacg5.jpgAfter years struggling with a slow little computer, I’ve just invested in a monster.

It’s a PowerMac G5. That probably doesn’t mean much to many people, but basically, I could have sponsored 18 children for a year through World Vision for the same money.

I’d better do something worthwhile with it.

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Apple takes an extra bite out of Aussies

October 25th, 2005 · No Comments

apple.jpg Apple’s iTunes music store sells songs to US consumers for US99c each. They are now charging Aussie consumers $AU1.67 to download exactly the same tracks. That’s AU44c extra per track for NO extra service. Basically, it’s Apple ripping off Australian consumers in a way they wouldn’t dare do to Americans.

The cheapest way to get music on your computer is still by downloading free mp3’s from independent artists. It’s also better for cultural diversity.

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iPod’s are tiny and toxic – Apple moves to protect America

June 13th, 2005 · No Comments

ipod.jpgApple iPods contain lead, mercury and other toxins.1 That’s particularly a problem considering there are more than 10 million of them in the world.2

Toxins in landfills are bad news for the environment, so Apple has launched a program (exclusive to the US) where people can take their broken/unwanted iPod to Apple for environmentally-friendly disposal (source: Apple).

What about the rest of the world? Is Apple only concerned about their products polluting America? I found no evidence that Apple’s iPod
recycling program extended beyond the US. Surely Apple thinks the
environment outside America is worth protecting as well? Or do they “Think Different”?

So I phoned Apple…

A quick phone call to the Apple Store (Australia) confirmed my fears – there is no take-back program for the more than 800,0003 iPods floating around this country.

Apple
Australia’s staff must be furious that their American parent is busy
investing resources to protect the American environment from iPod
toxins, while nothing has been invested to protect Australia from the
very same pollutants. Perhaps this frustration is echoed around the
world.

Why isn’t the iPod take-back worldwide?

When
Apple launched its Tiger Operating System in the USA, they felt it was
so important they managed to launch it in many countries (including
Australia) on the same day.

Why wasn’t the iPod take-back program launched in many countries on the same day?

Let
me get this straight – when Apple stands to make money (by launching
software), their programs operate across borders. When the environment
stands to win (by taking back iPods), the program stays in the United
States?

That doesn’t sound ok to me and I doubt that it’s ok with you, either.

Where to from here?

If
you think Apple should take responsibility for the toxins they design
into their products, call them and let them know. It will take less
than two minutes, and you will be able to see first hand whether
Apple is the customer-focused, forward thinking organisation we’d like
them to be.

Register your concern with the friendly Apple Store operators.

Please
be polite and courteous: I’m confident Apple’s retail staff will share
your reservations about one environmentally-friendly iPod policy for
America and nothing for the rest of the world, and will gladly pass on
your comments.

In Australia you can call 133 622 and follow the options to speak to an Apple Store representative.
Other countries: use Apple’s website (scroll to the foot of the page) to find the number for your Apple Store.

Read more:
Fix it Apple – the Green Guide
Environmentalists push for a ‘greener’ iPod | csmonitor.com
Computer Take Back Campaign

Bibliography:
1 Source: Information Week and the Green Guide
2 Source: Steve Jobs here
3 Source: Apple Store (Australia) representative

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Category: Corporate craziness