Harvard professor: Apple’s iPod may not stand the test of time, Mac won’t continue to gain share

“‘The Innovator’s Dilemma’ author Clayton Christensen outlines his case for why Apple’s propietary strategy will soon fail, just as it did before,” Peter Burrows reports for BusinessWeek. “For years, many felt that Apple’s past mistakes were bound to come back to haunt the Cupertino (Calif.) company — the refusal to license the Mac OS in the 1980s; the stale products, bloated expenses, and management turmoil that hobbled it in the mid-1990s; the software availability and falling market share that plagued it right into the 21st century. These days, with Apple’s stock price the talk of Wall St. and its products once again defining techno-chic, all that’s a distant memory. That is, unless you’re Clayton M. Christensen, the Harvard professor and author of the seminal 1997 book ‘The Innovator’s Dilemma.’ Christensen, who more recently wrote ‘Seeing What’s Next: Using Theories of Innovation to Predict Industry Change,’ isn’t willing to jump on the Apple bandwagon just yet. As well as Jobs & Co. is performing now, Christensen fears that success is built on a strategy that won’t stand the test of time.”

Basically, Christensen is concerned that when the times comes to license their proprietary FairPlay DRM, Apple will miss it – just as they did with the Mac OS.

As to whether Apple will continue to gain significant share in the personal computer market with the Mac, Christensen says, “I don’t. I think it will allow them to survive for a bit longer. I think most people are satisfied with their current PCs (using Windows and based on Intel chips) and find that the performance of their systems is good enough. Sure, there are people at the bleeding edge who want to do more. But a good Dell PC can be had for $500, and it has performance that’s well beyond what most of us need.”

Full article here.
Christensen is wrong on both counts. Too many people are definitely not satisfied with their current PCs. Christensen needs to get out more. As for iPod+iTunes and the FairPlay licensing issue, we trust that Steve Jobs has a plan and, since he’s running the show this time (as opposed to the Mac licensing fiascos; not doing it early enough and then doing it too late and incorrectly), we bet he’ll license FairPlay when the time comes to do so.

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48 Comments

  1. In the long run, innovations fade. That is true enough.

    However, that is assuming that Apple is not pushing out new innovations. So far, Apple have been able to follow up with new products that continue to stimulate strong demands.

  2. El cheapo PCs may have power “that’s well beyond what most of us need” but they need to be replaced when parts fail or the OS gets corrupted by viruses. It’s better to pay a little extra for a Mac that will last longer than a PC from the same generation.

  3. “I don’t. I think it will allow them to survive for a bit longer”

    Sounds like a deathknell. +1 to the counter, or was it another site that has the counter?

    MW: I’m turnning my PC “OFF”.

  4. You guys are all a bunch of Mac apologists. This Harvard guy is RIGHT. Apple (i.e. Steve Jobs) is an ARROGANT BASTARD, and has ALWAYS BEEN arrogant. The shift is already starting to happen away from the iPod. Other companies’ MP3 players have satellite radios, built-in voice recorders, FM radios, and work with any number of music services out there — not to mention the fact that more & more people are interested in RENTING their music. GQ, Cargo Magazine, and other magazines have all done glowing articles praising these music subscription services. Steve Jobs will LOSE once again, just like he LOST the marketshare wars. Sure, he dominates now, but UNLESS he opens up the iPod & FairPlay, he will NOT be the leader in 5-10 years. You can NOT play this game ALONE — you need partners & alliances. And EVERYBODY IN THE ENTIRE TECH INDUSTRY wants to bring Apple down on this one. They WILL succeed if Steve Jobs doesn’t change his tune.

  5. I like the fact that I can buy Windows from any company I want – ohhh hang on, no, I can only buy Windows from Microsoft!

    I can buy Windows only THROUGH box shifters and resellers – just like the Mac OS.

  6. Hey Mac Bill, sure you can connect those other MP3 players with your car. Hahaha. Don’t tell Apple about alliances. People don’t want to rent music, is’s a business model that doesn’t work. And if it will, Apple can enable iTMS to rent music.

    Nice for those other players that they have all kinds of extra features. It also makes it more complex. People want simplicity. You are a feature seller, and think the most featured product is the best. You would make a car with a digital camera on front of the car and use the lights as a flash.

    You really don’t get it, just like your friend Bill. PlaysForSure, haha, plays for sure, but only on 10% of the MP3 players out there.

  7. it might be too late for MS to rule the music player market. Noone in the acessory market wants to make anything for a non leader in that market. It seems like the same thing that happen to the mac market with software. Those makers follow where the money is and how many users are out there. After 2006 where the ipod might sell another 30-50 million players there will be too many ipod users. If you look at the ad’s on the sunday newspaper ads like target or best buy there is a huge section for apple ipod related acessories compare to none or one for the other players. Once car manufactors start putting ipod intergration for the ipod, it will be over. Even walking into a long drugs or walgreens you see ipod accesories. Its like how you can find cheap window software at certain locations like a grocery store or even a book store , but no mac software. Same analogy as the ipod accesories compare to WMA player accessories. 1500 ipod related add ons compare to the 50 ( don’t know exact number) WMA player add ons.

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