An Apple a Day, Day by Day

14 Sep ’06

John Gruber at Daring Fireball has a “big picture” post on Apple’s latest announcements. All good stuff, but what caught my attention was a remark at the end of his post:

The most remarkable thing about Apple’s iPod/iTunes platform is how incrementally it has grown. These annual iPod/iTunes special events garner tremendous fanfare, and deservedly so, but it’s really just been one small evolutionary step after another.

It started with nothing more than a $399 5 GB Mac-only MP3 player and a Mac-only jukebox app. Then they officially supported Windows, albeit without iTunes,5 and only on PCs equipped with FireWire. Then the iTunes Music Store, still Mac-only. Then the Windows version of iTunes. The expansion to a family of iPods: the Mini. Then photos and color screens. The Shuffle. Then, a year ago, the Nano and video iPods. And, now, after a year of selling 30- and 60-minute TV shows, feature-length motion pictures. Walk, jog, run.

Steady, consistent improvement and expansion, one step at a time — and now it’s a juggernaut. The iPod and iTunes show just how beneficial it can be to be first to market. Apple has had the benefit getting to this point slowly but surely; anyone who wants to compete with them now is forced to try to catch up all at once or settle for just one piece of the pie.

For a while now it’s been exactly this excellent observation that I’ve thought the vast majority of recent Apple critics have been missing. It’s certainly true that the latest announcement won’t please everyone (and the ‘sphere has been buzzing with but … but … but posts). But piece by piece, with persistence and faith to one vision, Apple is building a juggernaut. There’s much room for criticism, but Apple has produced astounding results. David Pogue’s article on the announcements gives a nice flavour of that notion as well.

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