For as long as Apple has been Apple there have been calls for the company to make “affordable products.” By this, most mean lower price tags. They’re not talking value or Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). When you bring those ideas into the discussion, Apple’s prices are very low indeed. No, this is all about price tags. People want Apple to sell products for less, so that more people can use them and – side benefit – it hurts those ripping off Apple’s intellectual property to produce cut-rate facsimiles of Apple’s innovations. Android, I’m looking at you.
One major problem: Offering low priced products is, as Apple’s leadership likes to say, “not part of Apple’s DNA.” This is a nice way of saying: We can’t dominate entire markets (outside of the fluke iPod/iTunes Store) because it would irrecoverably damage the Apple brand or as Steve Jobs once said, “We can’t do it; we just can’t ship junk.” More recently, this has been parroted by Tim Cook: “There’s always a large junk part of the market. We’re not in the junk business.”
I have a solution that satisfies everyone: Buy an established brand (on the cheap, no less) and design and market products for mid-tier consumers. There are other possibilities – other brands, creating your own (quite expensive) – but the BlackBerry brand would fit the bill quite nicely. No sense letting a widely-known brand just whiter away to nothing.
What would happen if Apple bought the BlackBerry brand and soon after, this new BlackBerry announced two products to start: A brand new 5-inch BlackBerry smartphone and a brand new 7.9-inch BlackBerry tablet, both of which are powered by Apple A-series processors, run iOS 7, and connect to the App Store (or the “BlackBerry App Store” which just so happens to mirror exactly what’s in Apple’s App Store)? Remember now, these aren’t junky products we’re talking about, these will be quality mid-tier Jony Ive-designed products. They will offer quality components and excellent build quality, they just won’t be the very latest, highest-end stuff. BlackBerry will be the best of the mid-tier, not at all low-end. (Bold emphasis added following initial comments below.)
Here’s what I think would happen: Apple iPhones and iPads would continue to own the high-end smartphone and tablet markets. BlackBerry smartphones and tablets would crush Android in the highly-profitable mid-tier (the low-end can keep buying junk). Apple would, of course, keep all of the money (instead of watching Samsung bank all of that non-Apple revenue using products based on Apple’s IP). iOS market share would rapidly overtake Android; first in the U.S. and then quickly spread elsewhere around the developed world. Even though the mid-tier BlackBerry users wouldn’t buy as many apps, patronize as many ads, spend as much money on services, etc. as Apple user, they would be iOS users. This would only make developers even more enthusiastic about developing for iOS. Many would lose interest in Android rather quickly. Android et al. would be relegated to the low-end. Google would be sucking fumes in mobile advertising. iAd would dominate. Plus, all of these new BlackBerry users would be far more primed to graduate to Apple devices next than even the Android settlers are now.
Mini Cooper has worked very nicely for BMW. BlackBerry could work even better for Apple.
Apple should buy BlackBerry for the brand and use it to preserve the Apple’s brand cachet while hitting Android and Samsung where it hurts, relegating Google’s wannabe OS and Samsung’s wannabe devices to the junk liquidation warehouses where they belong.
SteveJack is a long-time Macintosh user, former web designer, multimedia producer and a regular contributor to the MacDailyNews Opinion section.