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10 things Sony, Samsung et al Must Learn From Apple

The recent Macbook laptop product refresh made it clear that Apple is still miles ahead of other manufacturers when it comes to the whole process of launching successful products. We've gathered a few of our thoughts into a list of what other manufacturers - laptops or otherwise - should be copying from Apple in order to be as successful as the firm founded by the two Steve.

(a) Use Proper Names for your products, not elaborate PhD busting nomenclature

You can feel that Apple's devote quite a lot of money to its marketing department when they come up with names like iPhone, iPod, Macbook, iLife, iTunes. Names that are statements in themselves. Apple keeps the name of its products as simple as possible in order not to confuse its audience. So compare that with a competitor like say Acer, whose tongue twisting, Ferrari FR1100-704G25MN will certainly NOT stick around long in our heads. Apple has no version 1, 1.1 or 1.1a. Simple, straight-forward names. And it helps. Most e-tailers now a dedicated iPod virtual shelf and the name itself is almost synonymous with portable music players.

(b) Have regular product cycles

Apple has regular cycles for its product ranges which mean that you can expect something to happen (and build up momentum) at some particular dates. You can expects things to happen in September/October or January/February windows for the iPod, June or July for the iPhone. Apple tends to release minor products or product updates all year round, except in November and December.

(c) Have less products/product ranges

One of the irremediable consequences of having regular product cycles and proper names is that you end up having less products, with a desirable silver lining - the research and development teams have more time to focus on making products actually better. The world of computer peripherals - especially motherboards and video cards - knows a thing or two about having ultra fast product cycles coupled with huge product ranges which end up complicating the lives of the end users - ultimately.

(d) Never cut corners

Another related method that Apple competitors should adopt is about corners. Never cut them or they will come and scratch you later. Apple is revered for introducing small things that make a huge difference to the end user. From the inbuilt webcam to the magnetic power connector in its notebooks or the gorgeous boxes and properly manuals that accompany its products, the company chose to invest in perception building to differentiate itself from the hundreds of technology companies out there.

(e) Tie your users into Subscriptions

Apple managed to do what no tech consumer company (bar Microsoft and game console firms) succeeded in doing. Tie its users into subscriptions. Apple did it with the iPod and iTunes as well as the iPhone and mobile phone networks (through which Apple managed to get a substantial cut of profits). Apple also has a much lower "bouncerate" with customers remaining faithful to the Apple brand during the years. We've noticed it firsthand at towers where users religiously spend their hard earned money each year on Apple's new gear.

(f) DO NOT cut prices

Might look like a crazy proposition but when you look at it closer it makes sense. Keeping artificially inflated prices for a classy range of products is what, partly, produces a positive aura around it.With the notable exception of the iPhone, Apple prefers to keep prices constant (which pleases its partners as well) and offer better specifications rather than cheaper prices. This makes the bean counters happy and make your competitors look cheap.

Point in case, the iPod Shuffle 1GB has been for sale at around £30 since its launch back in 2005 and has yet to receive any discounts. The NWE003F from Sony's Walkman range, an arguably better MP3 player (opens in new tab) has seen its price slashed by 64 percent to £24.99 since its launch. The only other widespread computer product whose price defies economic gravity and downturns is Microsoft Windows Operating System.

(g) Put more emphasis on style rather than substance

Others manufacturers might have much better performance per dollar but Apple wins hands down when it comes to the S-factor. Stylewise, the Cupertino firm simply has no competition. In case of the last Macbook Pro refresh, the manufacturer could have gone with Blu-ray writers or offer more powerful graphic cards or more memory or more storage space. Instead, Apple chose to offer these as expensive options (or in the case of Blu-ray, no option at all) and concentrate on making beautiful laptops even more stunning - even if it is at a price.

(h) Ignore the competition (that one is difficult to do)

Apple most of the time magnanimously ignores the competition or even tries to ridicule it (cue : The Genius, "I am a PC, I am a Mac" advertising campaign). By ignoring competition and not naming it, you don't provide with a platform to answer. As simple and as straight as that. Rivals with no name are marginally better than having rivals in the first place.

(i) Get your CEO to launch your products

Apple has a charismatic leader, Steve Jobs, who has a huge ego and he knows how to get the best no longer of his troops but also of his customers. Each time Steve Jobs launch a new product, it attracts the buzz that is normally seen with major movie releases. Having your CEO (and no one else) to launch products is a proof that s/he cares more about the products and customers than anything else. It also put a face on mere electrical devices.

(j) Minimalist. Minimalist. Minimalist.

If there's one line of thought that prevails at Apple HQ, it is the minimalist approach to design which has set the standard. Books could have been written on the influence of Apple on technical design worldwide and this is epitomised by the click wheel found on the iPod family. So simple, yet so smart. Computer manufacturers have spent thousand of man hours and million of dollars trying to find out how to make computers faster but like Microsoft, they have not spent enough time on making them easier to use.

Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.