Does Apple Hold The Key To Breaking Open Computing Everywhere?

This is an interesting series of short articles about what the author calls Ultra Mobile Devices — a catch-all category that encompasses mini-notebooks, pocketable devices that use mobile phone networks, entertainment playback devices, and tablets:

Ultra Mobile Device Market Overview
Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Part One has a very interesting graphic illustrating his idea of the four categories of Ultra Mobile Devices.

Part Two has this intriguing bit:

When I was loitering around the airports of Europe on my recent trip I couldn’t help noticing that the notebooks that people are carrying around with them these days are slimming down from the standard corporate 12” screen models to smaller sizes.

My research methodology may not have been exactly scientific, but it does point to the emergence of a new segment in the notebook market comprised of very small, light, and often stylish “Mini-Notes” targeted at (please excuse the horrible marketing term) “professionals on the go”.

Right now, this is still quite a niche segment, not least because of the considerable engineering challenges involved in resolving the thermal and other technical issues in such small devices, but it is one that is growing very quickly as people look for ways of lightening the electronic load they have to carry around with them.

Apple is rumored to have a subnotebook in the works to release late this year (2007). If this is true, then it seems to me Apple is ideally suited to capture the above market!

Part Three has this interesting bit:

One of the most important reasons for the limited functionality of these applications on today’s Smart Phones is that they are based on a RISC architecture, and hence do not have the performance headroom required for running even the most common PC applications.

Of course, many people don’t require full computing capabilities in their phone, but for those who do (or will in the future) a low power x86 platform such as our VIA C7-M ULV processor will be the only answer for a full featured PC-Phone UMD design. Performance headroom, not just for productivity applications but also multimedia, is a key benefit of x86, but just as important is the open nature of the platform. This not only ensures compatibility with a much larger set of applications than are available on current Smart Phones, but will also make it easier and cheaper for developers to create new software and services for UMDs in the future.

Again, Apple is ideally suited. Jobs saw the need to run on x86-compatible CPUs. All Macs do. I’d be very surprised — no, totally, thoroughly shocked! — if the rumored subnotebook didn’t also use an x86-compatible CPU.

But what does this have to do with Computing Everywhere? I’m getting to that!

When I was recently at the Samsung Experience once again obscenely molesting their Q1 UMPC, I was surprised at how many people saw me and asked, “Is that a computer?!”

I mean, look at all the effort Microsoft put into promoting UMPCs. That original viral campaign that stirred the Internet into a drooling, mad frenzy.

And yet, upon actually seeing one, the general public wonder what it is!

Put aside their price. This isn’t about price. It’s about what it is.

People outside of our Internet Hall Of Mirrors are shocked that something such as the Samsung Q1 even exists!

Once they get that point, then the other factors kick in: weight, size, and, oy!, price (that price!).

Let’s say they can leap over those hurdles. Then there is the final, and inevitable, one: need.

“Well, what would I do with it?”

For most people, the equation is this:

Computer = Work

I think Apple is trying to change that perception to:

Computer = Fun

In fact, I’d argue that Apple’s aim is to re-write the equation to:

Apple = Fun

This is why Computer was dropped from the corporate name.

With the iTunes Store, with the inevitable — despite the current idiotic resistance of MammothMedia companies such as Universal and Viacom — dawn of legally-purchased video downloads, with AppleTV, the iPhone, the total suite of real-life fun applications bundled with every single Macintosh, Apple is reinventing the emotional meaning of — I won’t use the word “computer” — digital devices.

Specifically, digital devices with the Apple logo.

I see how many people use MacBooks at public WiFi spots. In most cases, I see more MacBooks than Windows-based notebooks. And that can’t be about the hurdles I mentioned above: weight, size, and, price. There’s absolutely no weight advantage to having a MacBook. There is certainly no size advantage. And as for price, hell, I’m shocked when I look at the weekend sales fliers from electronics outlets. Windows notebooks are well under the price of a MacBook!

So something else is happening here. I think people connect with a MacBook — with Apple products in general — in a way they don’t, even can’t, connect with Windows notebooks or other non-Apple devices. I think that connection is emotional. And it’s not emotional in the way the Apple bashers believe it is: “Oh, look at him with his MacBook. He just thinks he’s so cool. If he wasn’t so concerned with appearing cool, he’d have a less-expensive Windows notebook. All really smart people do.” It’s not about the emotions of the user. It’s about the emotional content of the device itself.

Apple = Fun

Further, I think if Apple does indeed release a subnotebook, and offers it at a price that isn’t too much of a premium price (as everyone expects from an Apple product), Apple has the opportunity to create what Microsoft failed to do with UMPC: the idea that a computer is something that should be carried everywhere.

It won’t be thought of as an albatross grudgingly lugged around for work. It will be seen as a necessity for having fun. Just as an iPod is seen as a necessity for take-everywhere music. Just as the iPhone is already seen as the most fun a cellphone can possibly be.

With the introduction of the Zune, Microsoft crowed, “Welcome to the Social.”

Apple, with its products, has been quietly and hypnotically whispering, “Welcome to Social Computing.”

7 Responses to Does Apple Hold The Key To Breaking Open Computing Everywhere?

  1. [...] 10 IF Apple + Computer + ‘, Inc.’ = Apple + Inc. 20 THEN Goto 30 30 Print “Apple is Fun!“ 40 ELSE Print “Word Computer is Boat Anchor” 50 End [...]

  2. [...] computer can translate in to so much more than a portable office. That’s exactly what Apple is trying to get across to the general [...]

  3. [...] is working hard to make working an easier task for everyone. With the introduction of the iPhone and other services, it is making it possible for [...]

  4. [...] mentioned this before: So something else is happening here. I think people connect with a MacBook — with Apple products [...]

  5. [...] 13, 2007: Does Apple Hold The Key To Breaking Open Computing Everywhere? So something else is happening here. I think people connect with a MacBook — with Apple products [...]

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