Bet on the iDock
Friday, January 4, 2002 by Dave Winer.
First, why not a PDA? Unless they're buying Palm (there has been speculation about this), it's going to be hard for Apple to make much headway in this market. Palm is deeply entrenched. Microsoft is in a multi-year war of attrition with Palm, and they're getting somewhere. Apple could of course make a PDA that's specially compatible with the Macintosh. If they do a PDA and don't buy Palm, this is certainly the way they'll go.
Now, why the iDock concept? Apple was the pioneer in 802.11b networking. They created the market. But they have not been able to capitalize on that as effectively as they should have. If I were CEO of Apple it would irk me that I made this market happen, but most of the money is going to Wintel companies.
So the killer product for Apple is one that every 802.11b user would lust after, not just Mac users. That's the real market opportunity for Apple. If they have a squeaky clean product that inspires such lust, not only will they make a lot of money, and grab a premium spot in this high-growth market, they should be able to leverage that into more flow for the Mac OS, and more developers, more user choice, and all that leads to increased market share, and a booming stock. (And a Time and Newsweek cover.)
Now, it's time to read the tea-leaves. In December, Apple rescheduled Steve Jobs' keynote, moving it up to Monday, causing some consternation among reporters, including Glenn Fleishman (who also is the expert on 802.11b in the weblog world). Speculation at the time was that this change was made so that Jobs could be at CES. The tea-leaves say that Jobs got wind of Bill Gates' keynote topic, a demo of a wireless screen that connects to your PC over (ta-dahh) 802.11b. Ooops, says Steve, that's our market. "Better rev up the PR engine."
So my bet is squarely on the iDock, if only because it will make next week so interesting. Another faceoff betw Bill and Steve, with Steve not making any apologies for small market share. What great theater that would be. But only if the iDock works equally well with Wintel machines does Apple get the kind of rise in PE and PR that they deserve for leading the 802.11b market.
PS: 802.11a was not a typo in Dave's explanation of iDock. It's a faster standard than 802.11b. Is it backward compatible? In other words will 802.11b devices work with 802.11a? I don't know but I'll find out.
PPS: Tea-leaves are what are left in the bottom of a cup after the tea is gone. Fortune-tellers ignore the drink and go straight to the source. What's left behind tells the future of the soul who made the tea. When I say I'm reading tea-leaves, that means I'm speculating wildly with some basic belief of being correct.
PPPS: Stewart Alsop on 802.11b and 802.11a: "They are not compatible, but there are plenty of vendors developing dual chip sets that can talk to either kind of access point. As always there's a mixed story: 802.11b is longer range but slower; 802.11a is shorter range and faster. A is also in a different frequency (5GHz), also unregulated but less well developed than where B is (2.4GHz) so it's hard to tell exactly what the configuration issues will be for the new standard. Just to complicate things, the official standards body just announced 802.11g which is faster and compatible with 802.11b, but won't be available for a while."