While Apple clearly deserves credit for rejuvenating music with the iPod & iTunes, reinventing the phone with the iPhone and the AppStore and for launching an entirely new category with the iPad, Apple finds itself now on dangerous new ground.
You see, one of Apple's secrets has long been "Never be first to market" (which you can read more about in my free ebook.) By following this rule, Apple has been able to bide its time, determine how to apply its legendary ease of use to existing problems in established markets and innovate by doing one thing better than everyone else. Frustrated users eventually move in droves to Apple, the easy, proven leader. This strategy worked way back with the Apple I, the Mac, and continues to this day.
However, now others are poised to do to Apple what Apple has long done to others - and the best example is Google and Android. Before the iPhone, there were no large, glass touch-screen interfaces. There was no AppStore. There was no multi-touch. There wasn't even low power processors capable of running a modern operating system. But now there are - just check out this week's list of tablets released at CES - most running Android. And today we get word that Android is now #2 in marketshare behind RIM...and Apple slipped to #3. 10 years after the iPod, good product marketing companies have finally figured out how to outmarket Apple: Make a better product, get more people excited about it, continue to improve it, and keep simplifying. While Android still has a long way to go, signs indicate they have figured some of this out - and Apple now is sitting up and taking notice.
Apple is now forced to work faster, release new versions of iPad sooner than they may like (Jan 2011) to keep the momentum going. And since the stakes are higher, mistakes are not as easily forgiven.
What do you think? Has Apple paved the road only to have Google and its partners flood the highway? Is Google and the Android ecosystem going to do to Apple what Microsoft and Windows did 20 years ago to the Mac? Or do you think Apple has something bigger up its sleeve to keep the excitement - and mindshare - firmly in Cupertino?