Somewhere in the 1980s we coined the phrase “first mover advantage.” Right or wrong, I associate it in my mind with the birth of Compaq Computer, in the middle 1980s. Compaq’s original 34-pound sewing-machine-sized computer was dubbed the first compact computer. Luggable was more accurate. And it wasn’t the first, either.
This bugs me. “But that’s not new,” people say, meaning, as they say it, “so it can’t be an interesting new business.” It’s an idea fetish. It misunderstands that underlying fact that being first doesn’t mean diddly without getting the traction to stand out, and stay.
Apple wasn’t the first personal computer. And Google wasn’t the first search engine (I read recently it was the 11th). Amazon.com wasn’t the first book site on the Web. And so it goes.
Which brings me to Google Buzz. Not first, at all. Not original. But very powerful. My favorite quote on this is Mobclix evangelist Megan Berry’s Power Trumps Innovation post on Huffington Post yesterday (bias alert: she’s my daughter). She says:
So how is Google Buzz different? It doesn’t have a character limit and conversations are threaded so you can comment below the original post. (OK so there’s actually a few more differences and you can check out Monica O’Brien’s ode to Buzz for the play by play). But, honestly, that’s pretty much it and neither of these ideas are really new. Google Buzz is decidedly unoriginal (for more on this check out TechCrunch’s superbly titled If Google Wave is the Future, Google Buzz is the Present). There’s nothing new here. Threaded comments have been around since online forums, the idea of social sharing is so 2005, and choosing who to follow is, well, have you heard of Twitter?
I totally agree. It’s not new, but it’s very important, because Google has power. We can’t ignore it.
A case in point, actually, is how many of us will revive our gmail facility just to get into Buzz. I’m annoyed, I admit it. This means that if I’m going to be absolutely up to date with everything I do in blogging and Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn these days, now I have to add Google Buzz into the mix. I’m really hoping Tweetdeck adds it into the interface, like they did with Facebook and LinkedIn, so I only have to go to one place.
What I mean is: damn! Another social media platform? Really? But this one is Google, so I don’t dare ignore it.
And that’s the point. Like Microsoft before it, Google has the power to jump into a market after it’s become important, and change it, even, in a short time, lead it. So first mover advantage? Well, not so much.
Avatar is a world-wide phenomenon and is currently the top grossing movie of all time*. How can you learn from its success and apply it to your own projects (even if they aren’t billion dollar movies).
Technology Matters. James Cameron first wrote Avatar in 1994, but he ended up tabling it until 2005 because he felt the technology wasn’t there yet. Figure out what your idea needs and how you can make it happen. If your current idea won’t work well, put it on hold and work on something else.
Love Your Idea. This movie finally came to fruition 15 years after Cameron’s initial idea. He didn’t just forget about it, he waited for his moment and made it happen. And now he’s very rich (er, richer).
Get Fans, Not Just Viewers(/Users). Avatar was so successful because you didn’t just go and think “good movie” and go to sleep. You wanted to tell everyone you knew about it. After watching this movie I immediately started telling my family and friends they had to see it. Now.
A Little Controversy is Good. Avatar’s a commentary on the war in Iraq. And our treatment of the environment. And a critique of the military. And advocates polytheism. And deals with racial issues. Or maybe none of the above, but it made you talk about it, didn’t it?
Make it Beautiful. Avatar is a cinematic masterpiece. It’s gorgeous. Don’t settle for less with your iPhone app. If your iPhone app is the best looking thing I’ve ever seen I’ll not only use it but share it with everyone I know.
*Okay, so this actually depends on whether or not you count inflation. In any case, it did very, very well.
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.