I just left the office of an executive. A PC with duel monitors running Microsoft Windows, an iPhone and an iPad. I asked if he like the iPad. He said, “yea, but it is a third thing…” and then went on to describe how it has taken the place of his newspaper and magazine reading. What he described was a Blue Ocean, a place where there are no current customers. The iPad puzzles people because it doesn’t compete with phones, or with PCs. It does things that both do, but it also does things that neither do elegantly, like consuming content. The PC is too clumsy and over engineered and the iPhone is just too small a window. Apple’s answer, and iPhone with a big window, which then creates an opportunity to innovate based on real estate.
The rumors of competitors are coming, but the competitors, if they run Windows, as most seemingly will, won’t just win because of great hardware. They will need to innovate software that hides Windows and makes the experience drop-dead simple for end users. Because Apple’s UI is so good, it stifles competition because it is hard to imagine something easier, but that can be done. Apple doesn’t have the last word on user interfaces, it just means that HP, Toshiba, Samsung and others will need to think harder about not thinking about the history of the tablet space, or what Apple has done. Microsoft will have to unravel its horizontal view of the world and see it through the lens of a mobile platform that uses gestures and touch. It will fail if it cobbles on those experiences to the bulk of Windows as it has in the past, and as it does with Windows 7. Microsoft needs to create a new group with a charter to drive discontinuity.
Apple’s biggest worry will be Google at the moment, not Microsoft. Android can be made into many things, and that means that it opens up the opportunity for a new competitor to create a new metaphor that challenges Apple’s current dominance on elegant.