I say, on the contrary, give people what they like. Not everybody wants the cheapest hotel available. Many people prefer paying a bit more for something better. And what’s wrong with that?
Orbitz Worldwide has found that people who use Apple Inc.’s AAPL +0.22% Mac computers spend as much as 30% more a night on hotels, so the online travel agency is starting to show them different, and sometimes costlier, travel options than Windows visitors see.
So, just for the sake of argument, I like interesting restaurants with local and organic food, and I don’t mind paying the bit more that those restaurants cost. Am I mad at Yelp if it shows me those on the top of a search, instead of the fast foods and pizza? The Journal adds:
Orbitz found Mac users on average spend $20 to $30 more a night on hotels than their PC counterparts, a significant margin given the site’s average nightly hotel booking is around $100, chief scientist Wai Gen Yee said. Mac users are 40% more likely to book a four- or five-star hotel than PC users, Mr. Yee said, and when Mac and PC users book the same hotel, Mac users tend to stay in more expensive rooms.
Guessing what people want, based on what we know about them, is not a bad thing to do. And it’s not like Mac users have to pay more for the same room, on the same night, booked at the same time; it’s a matter of guessing what they want to see. How is this bad?
We all routinely pay different prices for the same thing. We all know that airplane seats — to cite one obvious example — are priced in all different ways. It bugs me that I pay more for the trip I book at the last minute than the one I book in advance, but I don’t blame the airlines for that. And we can get last-minute hotel rooms cheaper, sometimes, than by booking in advance. This is pricing by context and value. I don’t like it when it’s me paying more, but then I always have the option of planning better. Or not going. Right?
I’ve been a Mac user since the beginning, and was a long-time consultant to Apple, although I like Windows too and use both. But I’ve always seen the Mac had some extra connotation. That’s interesting to me, and intriguing for marketing purposes. Like car brands, dining preferences, and fashion. We are what we buy.
I don’t know the app, haven’t used it, and I’m not a lawyer, but I hate it when people complain about some big company stealing their ideas. Ideas get copied all the time. Have you seen the web? Have you seen books, movies, or TV?
Good ideas get copied. I don’t mean software piracy or plagiarism, which I hate, isn’t legal, but is also inevitable. I do mean reverse engineering and just plain copying good idea. Like movie and fiction formulas that work. Selling points, tag lines, icons, apps, functionality, features, packaging, design … copycats get around them easily without strictly violating the law. It’s a fact of life.
Think of the history of high tech in the last generation or so. DOS copied and improved CP/M which copied something else. The original Mac copied and improved Xerox and Windows copied Mac. Lotus 1-2-3 copied and improved Visicalc and Microsoft Excel copied and improved Lotus 1-2-3.
As a writer, I hate it when people just copy my work and pretend they wrote it. But it does happen constantly.
As a software developer and publisher, I hate it when people copy my product’s tag lines and positioning but it happens all the time.
Ethical? You be the judge. Legal? I’m not an attorney, I can’t say. But I will say this: It happens all the time.
Whoops. It suddenly occurred to me: the old Mac-Windows rivalry is dead. There goes a bit of industry history.
It used to be fun, back in the old days, when it mattered. If you’re old enough you’ll remember the famous 1984 Macintosh ad. I was generally forgiven by the Mac zealots for my weakness for Windows, but only because I also used Macs and recognized their superiority. My Mac friends treated my sympathy for Windows systems as a forgivable flaw in my character.
I used to tell this modified version of an old joke:
Somebody dies and goes to heaven. On arrival, St. Peter gives him the quick tour of the place. As they go through heaven from place to place, they look at the mall, the school, the park … and they keep seeing a high wall on one side or the other. Finally, the new arrival can’t resist asking: “What’s with the wall?” St. Peter Answers: “That’s where we keep the Mac users. They like to think they’re the only ones here.”
I like Apple. I consulted with Apple from 1982 to 1994. Apple loaned me an Apple II in 1983 and a Macintosh early in 1984. I wrote the first book laid out on an AppleLaserWriter (at least according to me and McGraw-Hill Microtext, the publisher). As a consultant to Apple, I worried as Windows started to effectively imitate the Mac — not that it was as good, but it was good enough to fool a buyer in a store. And it was personally painful to me when the Windows system so dominated business computing, the late 1990s and early 2000s, that we (temporarily) dropped our Mac business plan product. We really had to. By 2000 a Mac product was costing ten times more than Windows to develop, and its market was about ten times less than Windows. Business is business.
By 2004 my computing was all Windows. And at that point my computing was all Windows. It wasn’t torture. Windows worked. I use a computer to get things done, and Windows did. I may have still preferred Mac, but hey, business is business.
And then the Mac came back. We saw them first in airports, the MacBooks, silently gaining strength and visibility. Then there was the iPhone, and more MacBooks. And then the gorgeous new iMacs. I taught an entrepreneurship class at the University of Oregon from 1998 through 2009. In the beginning all my students had Windows laptops. By the end, 80% of them were on Macs.
Once again, being Mac literate is good business. At Palo Alto Software, our LivePlan SaaS app is browser-based, operating system neutral, and developed mostly on Macs. And Mac software, and the Mac software market, are growth markets again. The app store works. Happy ending.
So now I’m almost all Mac again. I have two iMacs at home, a MacBook air, and iPhone and iPad, and I love it. An old friend. Isn’t computing great? And my Windows 7 desktop, in the office at the company, still works just fine too, thanks. It’s not good and evil, just computing.
In the retail business you have some companies who live on copying packaging. They put imitation products inside imitation packages to fool people, so they get the wrong thing. I hate that. How do they live with themselves?
But it’s not illegal.
And it’s also the history of innovation. From VisiCalc to SuperCalc to Lotus 1-2-3 to Quattro Pro to Microsoft Excel, copying makes things better. From CP/M to DOS to Windows, copying makes things better. The original Macintosh operating system borrowed from an earlier mouse and window system developed by Xerox. The iPod was not the first MP3 player, nor is the iPad the first tablet computer. These were not new ideas, but they were improvements.
And all the cool new phones now are copying the iPhone.
Do we hate the people who copy ideas? We all do it. Kids learn their moves in sports by copying other kids. We learn to write better by copying writing we like. We learn to get along with people by copying people.
The entire history of human creativity is built on copying. What, if not copying, is the cause of those identifiable periods in music and art and writing, like the Baroque or Renaissance? What except copying makes Gothic cathedrals? Try to name a good movie that didn’t borrow from some earlier movie. Even Shakespeare was often redoing older classical themes.
And yet, when I look at all the stuff in the market that’s copying something else, it makes me mad. Do your own thing. Be original. Make it better. Don’t just copy my thing. Even if it’s barely legal, it’s still sleazy.
A lot of great art starts with copying, borrowing themes, ideas, and so on. But business, starting with one idea and adding to it, making it better, creating new things based on old things, that’s progress. Business copying, looking like somebody else just to steal some respect, is just bad business.
I’m glad cool new innovations based on existing stuff succeed. I hope all sleazy business copies fail.
(Images: galtiero boffi, Konstantin L/Shutterstock)
What delicious irony. The champion of the little guy has become big brother.
Remember the groundbreaking first Macintosh television commercial, in 1984, with the young woman throwing a hammer into the giant video screen on an evil big brother, smashing it into bits? There’s a role reversal going on.
Apple Computer has taken the establishment role in the booming new iPhone application market. First the iPhone, then well-publicized stories of trivial iPhone apps making thousands of dollars daily, and then the application review process got swamped. And now there’s Apple Computer, the gatekeeper, protector of the establishment, standing between all those developers with stars in their eyes, on one had, and admission into the app store, on the other.
The original idea of review was a combination of protecting the software from crashing, and protecting the Apple store from embarrassment. Ever since the stories of iPhone application fortunes first broke — I fear it was with a fart app making $10,000 a day — the software developers are flocking to iPhone apps. Of course I have no special knowledge, but from the outside looking in, it would seem like the crush of applicants makes long waits, unfair rejections, and inconsistencies inevitable. I’m guessing Apple’s private-sector resources to manage the tidal wave are completely overwhelmed. Mobclix, which tracks iPhone applications with analytics, is reporting that there are more than 85,000 applications approved by Apple so far, and the wait has gone from days to weeks, and is rising.
On a Mobclix blog about the iPhone applications market, iPhone app developer Max Zamkow says:
iPhone developers live in constant fear of receiving an email from Apple with what can only be termed the ‘Death Sentence’: “We’ve reviewed your application and we have determined that this application…will not be appropriate for the App Store.”
He’s developed an app called FruitShoot Lite that lets unhappy iPhone developers (or anybody else) vent their anger by mock shooting at mock apples on their iPhones. But the default fruit target is a banana. And it passed the review.
It’s a couple of months ago now that Jason Calacanis, celebrity entrepreneur and blogger with a known taste for controversy, lashed out against Apple in The Case Against Apple–in Five Parts, in which he complained not just about the “draconian policies” of the iPhone app review, but also four other sins including “anti-competitive” practices with MP3 players, “monopolistic” dealings with telecommunications (a reference to AT&T’s lock on the US iPhone), “hypocrisy” of blocking competing browsers on the iPhone, and blocking Google voice on the iPhone.
Let me just get this straight: A hilarious satirical app made by the Someecards guys cannot get approved because it contains cards that, for example, mock Hitler. But an upskirt app is just fine? That is so ridiculous.
Yes, ironic indeed. On first glance, I look at the rising tide of complaints and I think they’re all delusional: Apple is a business, not a public service, and it owns the iTunes store, so it can do what it likes. Developers waiting weeks to get into the market, living in fear of rejection after all that work? It’s Apple’s clubhouse, so Apple can admit whoever it wants. However, as the whole thing starts to sink in, I have to add that Apple Computer has made this bed for itself, so it deserves to lie in it.
Not that I don’t like Apple. I’ve been a serious Mac user twice, first for about 10 years from the beginning in 1984 until the middle 90s, and again for the last two years. I like the Mac, love the iPhone, love Apple’s products in general. However, I’ve never quite accepted the odd phenomenon of Macintosh and Apple as crusade. The whole phenomenon of some connection between operating systems and good (Apple) or evil (Windows) has always seemed a bit creepy to me. After all, they’re just products for sale. Apple, IBM, Microsoft … they are all big companies.
Apple Computer, however, has actively catered to this odd canonization of brand throughout its history. It wasn’t for nothing that the Macintosh anti-big-brother image is part of our cultural heritage. It wasn’t for nothing that IBM became “big blue” and Microsoft “the dark side” … Apple spent a lot of thinking time, effort, and money on building that anti-establishment tinge to its brand. And it’s not totally crazy to suggest that Apple managed to change brand to aura, or halo.
Live by the anti-establishment brand, die by the anti-establishment brand. What we’re seeing, I think, with the rising protest of developers against Apple, is something akin to a jilted lover, or the famous Shakespeare epithet about a woman scorned. It seems like the backlash is whipped to a frenzy with Apple in a way that it might not be if it were some other big company, or, say, the US Patent and Trademark Office. Companies move slowly, government agencies move slowly, but not Apple Computer. The woman with the hammer in that 1984 commercial, crashing big brother and all. Say it isn’t so. Disillusion.