Tue 12 Jul 2011
A quick scan of technology headlines might lead one to believe all competing software and hardware companies are locked in a never-ending death-match. Hardly a week goes by where the latest incarnation of the tablet computing platform is held up for evaluation as the next “iPad killer”. Remember how each new first generation Android phone was seen as the iPhone’s most lethal threat. And most recently Google+ has been trumpeted as the current aspirant to the “Facebook killer” crown. Why the need for such violence?
I think most technology companies understand there are only two real dangers to a market-leading product’s lifespan: self-inflicted wounds or a failure to evolve. The introduction of a new competitor does not foretell an impending winner-take-all contest.
While Apple has been churning out hit after hit for the past five years, Final Cut Pro is in danger of dealing itself a knockout combination of radical UI redesign and reduced functionality. Facebook may indeed need to be wary of Google+ as the most recent barbarian at the gate, but they also need to make sure they don’t turn themselves into MySpace.
The public perception nightmare of Windows Vista did more damage to the Windows brand than any Linux distro could ever hope to inflict. Personally I found Vista to be a fine upgrade from XP, and never understood the reason for such vitriol pointed its way. But nevertheless the criticism was loud and frequent.
Quick! What killed the Palm Pilot? Was it some hot new portable? Plenty of Windows Mobile touchscreen devices certainly wanted to take a swing at the champ. (Like my Viewsonic V35, which I finally got around to recycling last year). But no single device spelled the demise of the Pilot. Rather the entire PDA segment was washed away in a tide of irrelevance and redundancy as cell phones acquired this functionality. At least the 3-pack of replacement styli I bought for the V35 comes in handy when my son misplaces his Nintendo DS stylus.
So while the bloodthirsty tech media may attempt to paint the competitive landscape as a gladiatorial arena, I believe most tech products leave the battle under their own declining power, and not in a body bag.