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Why MacBook Air Reigns Supreme

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Jason Cross over at MacWorld takes a shot at explaining why none of the PC manufacturers were able to lay claim to the ultra thin laptop market despite delivering ultra thin models to the market years before Apple did with the MacBook Air. Jason believes the PC manufacturers did not try hard enough with their product lines and threw in the towel too soon. He is right to point out that the the PC manufacturers should have persevered despite lukewarm market response to their introductory versions. It is always hard to have the courage to stick with a product line when the short-term market indicators are telling you otherwise. Technology vendors cannot always look at short-term market signals as reliable indicators of long-term market direction. You can look to the market for clues on incremental innovation but not necessarily for disruptive innovation. You are on your own, especially when you are trying to create a new market segment. It was important for vendors to tease out that the market response was weak because of the price and the low initial demand was not a knock on the overall value proposition of a ultra thin and lightweight laptop. Those that firmly believed in their vision and the value proposition of ultra lightweight laptops would have stuck with the pursuit of that vision and would have arrived at the incremental innovations necessary to fix the most glaring feature liabilities such as low battery life.

However that’s not what happened with the PC vendors. They either shut down entire product lines or did not invest enough to make meaningful improvements in the product lines. Apple in the meantime addressed the challenges quite creatively (case-less SSD, unibody design, packing more lithium-polymer for longer battery-life etc) and delivered a product that quite rightfully gave them the bragging rights and the lions share of the market. Apple is finding it hard to keep up with the demand for Macbook Air. Good problem to have. IMO, this does not mean that the PC vendors could not match Apple’s innovation. Quite the contrary, I suspect they would have arrived at similarly creative solutions through sheer persistence and it’s twin brother: serendipity. Lesson learned: good things happen to those that stick with the program, especially when you strongly believe in the long-term vision of the product and the value it creates. Of course, figuring out when to stick with it and when to cut your losses and run is not a science and not something that can be easily distilled into a formula. That’s where visionary leadership, intuition honed through experience and sometimes sheer maniacal doggedness come into the picture. As long as Steve Jobs is at the helm that’s one area where Apple clearly has the edge.


Written by Varma Chanderraju

August 22, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Posted in Apple, Innovation

Tagged with ,

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