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2 minutes reading time (420 words)

The Long Tail of iPhone Apps

The folks over at gigaom have written a nice analysis of the iPhone market. you can read that here. It would appear that the success metric for any platform these days is the length of the "app tail" and Apple is growing its tale much like the mythical Hindu monkey god Hanuman. Legend has it that the evil king Ravana set his tail on fire. He exacted his revenge by growing his tail winding it through the city of Lanka and burning it to the ground. In a sense, that is exactly what Apple is doing (minus the revenge bit). Apple took an approach that worked for it in the music buisiness and replicated it for the iPone. Why have they succeeded when others have (in relative terms) failed?

Think Different!

That tag line from the late 80s early 90s is very much alive in Cupertino. That drove their willingness to break the stranglehold of phone companies who for years took the walled garden approach to mobile applications. That undeniably marxist approach ultimately limited the market. The rationale was - everyone's doing it. Thats the point. That strategy ignored what consumers wanted. No different from the music business

Wow Everybody!

The use of technologies such as multi-touch and accelerometers made it compelling enough for at least one phone company to take notice. To their credit, AT&T smartly tore down their own walled garden (in a sense) and made the deal with Apple, gaining exclusivity in return. They got a device no one had seen before. Consumers got excited by the new capabilities, developers found a new creative outlet. An eco-system was born.

Stabilize the Universe

The creation of the iPhone was akin to the big bang. From it spun out a billion planets (apps) but the real work begins now. For life to be sustained, the universe needs to be stabilized. Microsoft knows a lot about this incidentally having very ably stabilized the desktop and server app universe over the past 3 decades. The mobile world is not forgiving enough to give Apple that kind of time, but stabilize it they must for this is the most profitable period of market exapnsion for them. As long as they keep coming out with good devices they will remain the center of the mobile app world.

Repeat until failure

At some point Apple will falter on one of its strategies. Its going to happen. Until then they will keep repeating this formula making just enough changes to fit the opportunity at hand.
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