How Apple kills hardware innovation

Next Story

One part Android, One part Pre: Alcatel's upcoming Android slider caught on video

If there are two things you can count on it’s Death and the propensity of Asian electronics manufacturers to capitalize on a rising trend. In short, what we buy Asia makes and Asia is very happy about the iPad. And this chain of events, in turn, destroys hardware innovation.

First we have this AP report about accessories makers. We haven’t posted very many iPad accessories since the launch but trust me, we’ve been inundated. Every accessory and app company worth its salt has tasked its befuddled PR flacks to send us emails with subjects like “Supertech creates first iPad holster for cowboys” complete with rendered images of ridiculous accessories. Why do they do this? Because all they really have to do is make a call to a factory in Shenzhen and have a planeload made in a few weeks. It’s that easy. This ties up resources, however, discouraging other manufacturers from trying to make accessories for other, non-Apple devices.

The real beneficiaries, however, are the component manufacturers. Remember when Apple bought up all the Flash memory? Well, Apple has also cornered the market in touchscreens. A few months ago I spoke to one inventor who had a horrible time trying to grab capacitive touchscreens for a project, even at the smaller electronics markets. Manufacturers knew that something from Apple was about to drop so they drove up prices, resulting in a standstill in innovation.

By pricing the iPad at about $500 on a good day, Apple has forced Asia’s hand. The company clearly did plenty of deals with Foxconn and the rest of the suppliers down the line and while folks like LG are making a mint on screens and other components, they have essentially closed the spigot overseas leading companies like Asus and Acer to announce that they won’t try to compete.

This also explains why other companies just couldn’t get past the resistive touchscreen for so long. Suppliers knew that Apple was sniffing around and so they kept prices high. As a result we had almost two years of me-too garbage coming out of Samsung, Sony, and Nokia until – at long last – the smaller touchscreens are ubiquitous.

Apple has the industry by the tail. Heck, they even have the news cycle by the tail as evidenced by the fact that everyone – including this site – is still writing about Apple. But it’s not all roses and champagne when Apple launches a new product and everyone else – Lenovo, Dell, and the like – knows it but refuses to talk about it.

blog comments powered by Disqus