Jason Smith

I'm Jason. This is my home on the web where I write. Stick around. It's going to get interesting. 

Have you ever heard of an aspirational brand?

Could you imagine people positing that "although BMW is going really well making mid-high end cars, but they need to make cheap ones because poor people in China need cars too"? Hey, other brands are making a profit selling cheap ass cars, BMW need to get in on the action.

No. You couldn't.

Because the car market is mature enough for economists, investors and manufactures to collectively hold an understanding of the value of a brand. We all know that BMW, by producing a $6000 compact car (which I'm sure they could if they really want to) would sell a whole bunch of 'em to poor people who would love the idea of driving something with a Beemer badge, but would in doing so murder their brand's value.

The rich people that paid top dollar with good margins for the expensive models would stop buying the BMW brand altogether, and take their business elsewhere. BMW would end up just being another price conscious competitor in a crowded market full of companies not clever enough to differentiate themselves on anything other than price.

The reality is, for better or worse, Apple is an aspirational brand.

Sure, they've blown people away on price before. The iPad was half the price of what pundits were originally predicting; other companies struggled for ages to make a laptop like the MacBook Air for the same price, and the Apple TV is a bargain at $99.

But whenever Apple has put out a product no one can match on price, it's only been because Apple is so good at making high quality products in large volume for such a low price. Ingenious supply chain management and foresight (like buying all the existing manufacturing equipment needed to make an item so your competitor is screwed) is a better way of keeping margins reasonable, and forcing competitors to produce a lesser quality item.

Three years after the introduction of the iPad, noone has a tablet that can honestly compete with it. The MacBook Air is still the Rolls Royce of lightweight laptop computing. And the iPhone, while it certainly has worthwhile competitors finally, is far and away the most utilised smartphone out there in a market swamped with cheap Android handsets.

Because Apple once competed with Microsoft in the desktop battles, people mistakenly think the smartphone battle is a winner take all end game too.

But it doesn't seem to be working out that way.

Perhaps if I could only perform Google searches on an Android, I would be inclined to buy one.

Perhaps if Dropbox didn't support iOS... If Evernote, Text messaging, Podcasts, Facebook, Twitter, Podio, YouTube, Audible, Squarespace, Instagram, my bank, Google Docs, RSS, email, gmail, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Spotify, eBay all only worked for one platform and not another... maybe then people would have to all choose one platform and stick with it.

Most people I know who purchased a Windows machine in the past did it so that when someone sent them a Word Document, they could open it.

I'm not exaggerating.

But the way we use our smartphones, if the whole world was on Android and I was the only one left with iOS, I would still be happy (not taking into account the availability of the apps I want).

So what was I saying?

Yeah, Apple can do one of two things.

  1. Try to be all things to all people.
  2. Stick with what they're good at.

Android can try to be all things to all people, because it is just a bit of free software. The person with the HTC 1 can feel a little more special than the guy with the weird ZTE thingy phone.

There are always going to be people who walk into the store and say "I don't care, just give me the cheapest". That market will always exist.

But the people who fill that market probably aren't going to be the people who release the first sensible wearable computer.

And the brand that fills that "cheapest no matter how crap it is" market aren't going to be the brand that gets people lining up around the block on release day "no matter what it costs".

But then again, what do I know? I'm just retroactively explaining Apple's decision not to make a cheaper phone yet. Any mug can do that.

But my point is, if part of Apple's long term strategy is to remain an aspirational brand, then they are probably going to tread very carefully into the burgeoning "cheap" prepaid handset market.

What I wouldn't put past them, however, is finding a way to get a very affordable device of some description into the hands of hundreds of millions of people in a way that we haven't yet thought of... and do it in such a fashion that their would-be competitors are left playing catchup for the proceeding five years.

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