iSoftware Strategy

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Date: Wednesday, September 11th, 2002, 11:00
Category: Archive

The iSoftware from Apple Computer is prominently featured in the Switchers Ad campaign and is so well integrated with the OS, that there are compelling reasons for Mac users to ditch a host of commercial software and shareware applications with each new iApp that Apple introduces. I am lumping in some applications that don’t even have i’s but here they are:

iTunes, iMovie, iDVD, iPhoto, iCal, iSync, iChat, iDisk, Mail, Address Book, Sherlock and .mac

iPhoto works seamlessly with many digital cameras and removable media readers as part of the Digital Hub strategy. No need to use the camera maker’s software and it can even be linked with Photoshop or Graphic Converter to edit images.

iTunes and the iPod work hand in hand as a truly elegant combination, and the software also works with other brands of MP3 players quite nicely. The not so nice part of the story is that iTunes hurt some good software developers and Sound Jam was bought out and eliminated as part of the iTunes strategy. The beauty and strengths of the iApps comes from a combination of Apple’s abundant resources, a direct line to the OS and massive distribution. Apple’s iMovie and iDVD also help to sell hardware but have tread on a few toes along the way. Sounds a bit like the five hundred pound Gorilla that decided to give away their browser for free a few years back.

Certainly Jaguar’s refocused Sherlock application has delivered a tremendous blow to Watson, which I consider to be one of the most compelling applications for OS-X. Sherlock is not as good, but it’s free, integrated into the OS and distributed with every single copy of Jaguar. It made tremendous sense to pull the local search function out of Sherlock and put it where it belongs while enhancing Sherlock’s abilities beyond that of just a browser for multiple search engines. Karelia Software saw this potential when they developed Watson as a companion to Sherlock and it seems Apple had a near identical vision.

iCal, iSync, Mail and Address Book can also be viewed as hostile to developers such as PowerOn Software and their Now-up-to-Date & Contact for OS-X. I just dumped Entourage in favor of Apple’s Mail and Address Book and am looking forward to dumping my Palm Desktop calendar and address book in favor of iCal once iSync is released. The idea of a single address book for faxing, email and my Palm is just too tempting and now thanks to a utility called Phone Dialler, I can use my Apple address list as a 200+ number speed dialer for my built-in modem too. I wonder why there is not an Apple iNotes application to synchronize with the Palm? I find MacJournal an excellent program for notes but wonder if developers will shy away from certain applications fearing that Apple might be planning a new iApp that might sink them. It’s not clear to me how open iSync will be to third party developers.

I have even seen the suggestion that Apple might develop a front end for Gecko as a sort of iBrowser. This would allow them to have a slick, integrated browser by just designing the interface and relying on an open source project for the engine.

While most folks are already paying for email and web space through an ISP, Apple is able to sell their .mac service because of the way iDisk, iCal and iPhoto integrate with it. How else could you sell a customer something they already have? Of course the iApps that only run on Jaguar don’t hurt new OS sales either.

The iApps strengthen Apple and benefit most users, but there are some negative aspects to the strategy. It seems, with the exception of Watson, that Apple has been careful not to damage too many developers in the process. Customers, unwilling to pay for .mac or Jaguar may also come to resent the many iApps and features unavailable to them without paying for an upgrade. Ultimately these are business decisions and Apple still needs to attract good third party software and satisfy it’s customers without coercing them into purchases they may resent.

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