With the iPad frenzy, I’ve been hearing a lot about Apple’s success with its walled garden approach. I objected to their proprietary closed stance on principle for a long time. When I finally caved in, I came to understand something fundamentally true about consumers: predictability matters to the mainstream.
This is really no surprise. Walt Disney figured this out with his amusement parks a long time ago.
Disney World is the ultimate walled garden. They relentlessly control every mote of our experience in their parks and my family loves it. We happily willingly pay a premium for the experience because we know that going to Disney World will be a smooth and our fun in assured.
However, we less willingly pay a second price for our Disney experience; it’s homogenous and bland. It lacks the spontaneity and vibe of the Austin City Limits music festivals. At festivals, the content is raw and fresh and things can go wonderfully wrong. You may be delighted by Vampire Weekend when you’d planned to see the Bob Dylan.
And so, Apple provides the quality control and censorship to Disney-ify our smart phones and tablets. They’ve created a safe place to show off their impressive innovations. They’ve created a limited market where they can control the spot lights. In this way, Apple reminds me of how Disney manipulates it media outlets to create multi-talent superstars like Miley Cyrus. They craft personas for their actors and ensure that they can sing, dance, and act. This maximizes the appeal for Disney’s platform but blocks out other talented singers, dancers, and actors.
So far, the iPhone has been a platform for innovation. Please ignore the fact that developers had to buy Apple computers to write applications for it. Please ignore the fact that developers must pass through Apple’s QA and censors. Please ignore the fact that you must purchase an Apple device. Please ignore the fact that you can only purchase applications through the iTunes store. They are a platform trifecta with hardware, software, and distribution. This is the price that you pay to ride on Space Mountain, you must enter Apple’s iPark.
I’m hearing about some interesting new products emerging that will challenge Apple’s technology; however, I’m not sure if consumers are ready to leave the park and go to the festival. I hope they are.
Disclaimer: I am a Dell employee. We have products (based on Android) that complete with Apple’s smart phones and tablets.