It is so fascinating that everywhere I go in China this week, people are trying to sell me the Chinese versions of iPhone, iPad and other iThings that Apple has yet invented. I was really interesting to get my hands on the Apple Skin, the nickname of a Chinese original (yes, original, patent cleared) add on device that turned an iTouch into an iPhone but unfortunately they were taken off the market, so I went for an iHaircut instead. Not bad at all, there is really no risk for me here, it is not like buying an iPhone here in China. You never know what you'll get.
One guy showed me how it works; it was working really well when I used it to make a test call. That’s a real innovation that Apple missed. You can make calls and send text with this silicone rubber case with a SIM card slot and a dock connector. It is produced by a start-up Yosion Technology and was selling for RMB 388 (US$57) apiece. The gadget was invented by a 24-year-old Chinese graduate who felt it “inconvenient to have a mobile and an iPod Touch at the same time, and decided to solve the problem himself. We need more people like him.
To make it work for making calls and sending text, users would have to jailbreak their iPods to install Yosion and YsSMS apps. This is innovation Chinese style. I also tried the Chinese 5 inches iPad, pretty good and selling for only RMB600 (US$80) 3G enabled. I was tempted to bring one home for fun.
No one will disagree with me with the statement that Apple is probably the most loved brand by their users, employees, investors and even competitors. It is an innovative powerhouse, a very profitable company and earned itself tremendous market influence. The brand has more clout than BMW or Prada; the retail stores have better economics than a drug store and a market cap surpasses Microsoft. So who do they go from here?
The interesting question arises…what is Apple’s business? Computers? Software? Music? Consumer electronics? Lottery? The lottery business (app stores) is definitely an interesting one, doesn’t matter who wins the lottery, everyone will be paying Apple a fee. To date, iPod, iPhone and iMac are essentially creating a product category and have no competition—at least for now. iPod is not an MP3 Player. iPhone is not just a smartphone, iPad is not an e-reader and iMac is not a desktop PC. How can they do it across three categories?
Another question is how are they planning to extend the iPhone/iTouch/iPad UX platform to others? I don’t like what I am seeing if I am Nintendo’s CEO. And the same for Sony, they got beaten once on music player and can’t afford to be killed on gaming console. A patent application was filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on a hinged-screen version of Apple's iMac desktop that has a touch-sensitive screen. The hinge appears to allow the computer to alternate between a traditional vertical desktop configuration and a flat, iPad-like surface when rocked back on its hinge. I am not 100% sure if Apple will actually do it or just using the patent to create a barrier for entry. I bet Apple is thinking about a different experience gaming device….iPad is one for many already. So where else would Apple use this touch screen technology? Kitchen? School? Business? Entertainment? Retail? Apple is unstoppable.