As Amazon announces yet another in a seemingly endless stream of tablets-that-are-not-iPads, I find myself, rather than being excited at a new product half the price of an iPad, wondering why they even try.
Many tech and device companies have created products in the past years attempting to thwart Apple, with almost unilaterally little to no success. Sure, Andriod-backed phones have emerged as a viable option for those who are iPhone-adverse, and have the benefit of a Google-backed operating system, but they still hold the stigma of being the “un-iPhone”. For those of us outside of the tech-industry, it seems as though companies have simply given up on true practical innovation in favor of a more follow-the-leader approach. Increasingly, new products are modeled in reaction to rather than in competition to Apple’s latest frenzied release.
Amazon’s recently announced “Kindle Fire” is undoubtedly modeled as a cheaper and simpler iPad, and early reports do give it credit for giving the public access to a tablet at a price point lower than $200. It has a few other distinguishing and praise-worthy characteristics, but I doubt it will produce the illicit gasps that new iPod or iPhone models do. Although the Kindle Fire is making headlines in the tech world, the announcement has gone off with little fanfare in the mainstream media. There certainly has not been speculation for months about the new kindle to the extent there has been for the long-awaited iPhone 5 announcement. I can’t imagine frenzied Amazon fans vowing to wait in line for months just to get their next product the second it is released to the public, as an Apple fan in the UK has promised to do.
The cult-like attitude surrounding Apple’s products is not altogether surprising – until Steve Jobs recent resignation, the company even had the charismatic leader necessary in every cult or groupthink situation. So it is no wonder that Apple shrouds their products in mystery until the last possible moment, ensuring that their legions of fans will have to take to websites such as macrumors.com to endlessly speculate on unfounded product rumors. But why is it that in this particular industry there is one company that rises above the rest so sharply? There may be fewer players in the tech industry than in something such as fashion, but all of the players are so linked that one cannot even think about a new product without wondering if someone else has a similar model in the pipeline. Recently, it has seemed as though all of the new products being released are only slightly differentiated from each other, and for the most part are poor imitations of what Apple has produced. No matter how amazing an Amazon product is, chances are most consumers will still save up for the status-lifting Apple version.
No other company can seem to keep up with Apple in the anticipating game – even when a thoroughly unexciting new product such as the iPhone 4S is announced, the tech world analyzes every detail. Have others just given up on even trying to make something so obviously different from Apple that no one could confuse it with an iProduct? It may be that Apple is such an appealing company to work for that they have poached all of the true innovators in the industry. Another possibility is that no company is brave enough to stick their head out and become the anti-Apple, risking creating something so out-there that it might not sell. Either way, the tech industry desperately needs some real competition, and whether from a new or established organization, I hope something emerges soon.