Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Why It's Not "Winner Takes All"

With the Pre just round the corner, articles are popping up seemingly everyday making sweeping predictions "Doomed to Fail!", "Will Trump the iPhone!" and other such declarations. Here's the thing- a new phone is coming out. That's it. The world will not end, there won't be a massive iPhone burning in the town square, and Palm will (likely) not file for bankruptcy the next day. It will be released, people will buy it- some will love it, and some won't. Some will keep it, and some will return it. And in 6 months time, everyone would have made a decision one way or the other.
For me, the Pre is exciting because I believe that it will bring a new wave of innovation, and I'm eager to see what developers come up with after being inspired by the WebOS. But I enjoy hearing what others have to say about it, be they Apple FanBoys or realists. The most riveting thing I've read lately is not an article, but a comment made by DirkBelig (second comment) in response to the PC World article "Five Reasons the Palm Pre Won't Prevail'. Truer words have never been spoken:

Why is it that unless someone has a 110% certain chance of taking Apple off
the board entirely, writers like Coursey believe no one should even try to
compete with the Cupertino Goliath? It's a mentality straight out of Highlander,
"There can be only ONE!!! And iPhone is The One!"

Anyone remember a videogame console maker called Nintendo? They were huge, selling tons of systems before gradually becoming more and more irrelevant; trapped by the cartridge format while an upstart named Sony came along with a disc-based system and ate their lunch. Things looked bleak.

Sony advanced to become the 800 megaton gorilla of gaming. Their 2nd console sold over 100 million units and handily swatted away competitive offerings from Microsoft and Nintendo that were arguably technically superior. Life was good for Sony and very, very bad for Nintendo.

Then something happened: Sony got extremely arrogant on their lofty perch. They told their customers that they didn't need features that were considered standard, like rumble, and made needlessly complex hardware that was difficult to code for and extremely expensive due to their desire to cram a hi-def movie format down gamers throats.

Nintendo responded with an inexpensive console which was technically inferior to its competitors, but gave it a radical new controller and priced it low enough that it took over TWO YEARS before people stopped having to camp out for them. Where is once-mighty Sony? In third place, with more consoles being sold as Blu-ray players that can also play games than as industry-leading game console. Their hubris took them from first to worst almost overnight.

I'm not predicting that Palm will be able to knock Apple off the top of the medal stand, but am reminding everyone that no one is entitled to supremacy and there's plenty of money to be made at #2 from people who don't want the tired same-old just because it's the most popular thing around. Just as people love TV shows that get canceled while never watching a moment of "American Idol", there are plenty who are hungering for something NEW and not more of the same

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