Apple recently announced another great design achivement with their launch of iPad. I clearly am a fan of Apple’s design skills. I am also impressed at the way Apple has ramped up their Supply Chain – recently a global study mentioned them to be one of the world’s best. While they have a rather straight forward portfolio of products, the speed with which they evolve their products – it is impressive.
But where I have issue with Apple is the way they treat their customers – esp. the early adapters. I sometimes feel that Apple actually has some kind of contempt for the early adapters. If it were not for their deep fascination for the great designs that Apple brings out and the joy of using it, they would be some of the most unhappy customers in the world.
Just take the example of iPad. It already has the space for including a webcam on the front side – which makes logical sense. Now imagine you are one of the first buyers, soon you will be sitting with an iPad that does not have webcam. And the price – it costs Apple USD 270 to make the USD 499 iPad. So clearly the price is going to drop as the product evolves.
I remember my first iPod – a 10GB model from the second version with the touch sensitive wheels. It was launched in July 2002 and I had it that summer. And by Spring 2003 Apple had introduced next generation and apart from few technical updates, they stopped any updates for the previous version - in just a year. I had similar experience with my iMac. In fact I told myself I will not buy another iPod and will get myself a competitive product as and when they catch up. Now after my 4th iPod and 2nd iPhone I have to say no one has actually done that. So I am still an Apple fan! But I have also come to the conlusion that with Apple best to wait till a product is in its third iteration before you buy it unless you are a die-hard maccie!
Ok, now coming to the main reason I wanted to write this post. The launch of iBookstore by Apple and the pricing of ebooks by publishers. I own a Kindle and have been buying and reading lots more books that I have ever in the past. The pricing of USD 9.99 for most books – which translates to around USD 11.99 for those of us outside of US with internatioal Whispernet delivery was for me a reasonable price for buying a book that I cannot share, lent, or resell. Since most books are single use, I felt this was the price that I was comfortable with.
Apple, clearly in an attempt to get a headstart over Amazon – and the driver here is the number of books available in the bookstore is damaging the market. By setting the bar at USD 15, which would mean that it would be almost close to USD 18 or 20 for us internationally they are bringing the price of ebooks almost at part with a standard paperback edition that I can pick up from the local book store. I am not at all happy with this move. Publishers are comparing the price with that of hardcover editions – but most of us cannot and do not buy hardcover editions. I feel that Apple has wittingly or unwittingly damaged the market and is working against the overall benefit of us consumers. But then as I pointed out earlier – this perhaps is not surprising.
Apple certainly did create a new concept of selling songs by the song and not by the album with iTunes. And I do think that they had a good model and had understood the beat of the market. Perhaps it was the first mover advantage. Now in an attempt to catch up with Amazon – purely in terms of number of books on the bookstore they are harming the interest of us customers. I am quite certain that Apple is NOT going to publish the number books sold in their quarterly/annual results announcements, while they would want to advertise the number of books in the bookstore.
I hope Amazon is able to put a stop to the run on the price. Else I certainly will reduce the number of books I buy electronically and I would be sad for that.