So I was skimming through my newsreader this morning, when I came upon a post from Ben Metcalfe talking about Apple jumping the shark. The post seems to center around the idea that a product needs to be exclusive to foster loyalty and passion.
I happen to disagree.
I'd suggest that great design, and utility foster loyalty and passion. Beetle drivers love 'em ... because they have personality and great design. People love Starbucks precisely because it's consistently good ... everywhere, and for everyone.
BlackBerry users love 'em, despite the thought that using one makes you look like yet another banker/CEO/geek. (Yeah, BlackBerry doesn't have huge penetration, but it's a pretty insular demographic: if you have a BlackBerry, I'll bet a lot of your friends and colleagues do too.) Why? Because they're incredibly functional.
Are customers any more loyal to Tiffany's than to Target? Actually, I'll bet that Target customers are more brand-loyal. Exclusivity be damned.
So Apple's finally gotten to a point where a lot more people can afford a video-enabled iPod. Does that mean it's less exclusive? Absolutely. Does that mean their owners will love them any less? Of course not. Not unless there's a sexier, more useful alternative.
Oh, and about the iPhone price drop... Um... so what?
Nokia launched it's flagship N95 a few months ago. Until recently it was the £500 phone... now it's free on a contract with every operator in the UK. When it launched, I was amazed at how many mobile early-adopters picked one up (at considerable expense). Now, every day I see another "normal" person who happened to pick an N95 because it was free and has a decent camera.
So the suggestion that Apple ought to have given it's former customers the full $200 difference in price back seems a little silly. It's not like Orange and Vodafone (or Nokia) are looking to compensate anyone for the change in price for the N95. That's just a part of life with gadgets... whether it's a phone, camera or laptop.
Moreover, taking a product mainstream and jumping the proverbial shark are totally unrelated. Motorola took it's hugely successful (and originally hugely exclusive) RAZR mainstream, and dominated the handset market for quite a while. Then they deeply discounted the price... and continued to do so (nothing different from Apple or Nokia here).
They jumped the shark because they couldn't deliver a compelling followup product... and that's the important bit ... the ability to innovate, and to keep innovating in places that people care about is the bit that keeps customers loyal and passionate.
Then again, I could be wrong... anyone want a $10.5 MM cellphone?