The age-old debate of Mac vs. PC fuels many heated discussions. Really, though, there is no debate today of which technology is more stable or more advanced. There is, however, a debate over which is “better” to purchase.
Success comes from industry adoption. The best-used product is the best. I’ve owned an mp3 player since the very first flash and hard-disk players were out on the market. This was well before the iPod came about. They did the same thing the iPod did: play music. They were just as small, and just as cool to me.
What made the iPod successful isn’t that it’s better than all the rest (though it is a very beautiful and functional device): it was simple mob mentality. It’s the hot gift. It’s the device we associate with music-on-the-go. Many companies achieve this level of product success. But how?
Sometimes it’s marketing. We can see that with many popular and shitty products with great advertising campaigns. Apple says the iPod ad campaign is their best ever. Have you seen them? They’re fun, but they didn’t make me run out and buy an iPod. They tell you nothing of the product.
Sometimes it’s in the product. I’d like to think this was the case with the iPod. It was the first player that had a nice click wheel to browse through my 42 days of music. But the success of the iPod over other players wasn’t simply in its interface.
Sometimes it’s in good partnerships and business dealings. Gates selling MS DOS before he had the source code to it was a damn fine decision. He convinced IBM they needed something they had never heard of. Apple’s decision not to license fairplay (their DRM) or anything regarding the iPod (short of accessories), to me seems silly.
So, I leave this entry today in puzzlement. What made the iPod work. I ask these questions so, as an entrepreneur and software engineer, I can emulate what was done before. What makes a product better?