Sunday, November 25, 2012

Reminiscing the difficulties of predicting the future or how the iPhone 5 made it all come true

A few year back, at the height of the iPod boom, I predicted its swift demise.
I might have titled this said blog post something like Why the iPod must die!

So back then I was predicting the death of single purpose devices such as MP3 players in general and the iPod in particular. Well... I was wrong, but not all the way. The iPod is still around, but sales are declining. As a matter of fact they have been declining every year since my prediction was made in 2008:

Why do I want to warm up old toast you ask? Good question. Another thing I mentioned towards the end of the aforementioned blog post was about, how I believed, Apple could make boatloads of money, not with the iPod itself, but with the control over the connection mechanism, the 30-pin dock.

Most "i" devices Apple introduced up to iPhone 4S have this connection mechanism. A whole supporting universe of accessory makers has emerged that use that 30-pin standard to connect anything from stereo systems to zebra pattern 3d printers (I made this one up, don't Google needlessly!).
However, Apple, like Sun, when it missed the JVM for the trees, missed to monetize the 30-pin connector handsomely. While normally very astute in locking in consumers and partners alike, this was a big miss, indeed, for Apple. Also contributing to this was the ease with which people could reverse engineer the connector.

But fret no more, under the guise of improving user experience, Apple introduced the new "lightning connector" and closed this loophole with the iPhone 5. Though I have not heard any of my friends or co-workers ever state that they had trouble or needed a new way to connect, it is now a fact of live that we will have to buy many adapters or replace existing gadgets.

Now, the life of the 3rd party accessory maker has changed drastically as well. No longer can they use simple analog techniques to reverse engineer this. There is an encryption chip specific to the connector that needs to be dealt with. Why would you need an encryption chip in the docking connector? To control its use of course. IMHO this thing is so complicated that it delayed the launch of the promised lightning to Apple dock adapter.
Thus, for manufacturers the only viable alternative is to check with Apple to see what the terms of licensing lightning technology would be. This, in turn, translates into revenue in the future for Apple, and my prediction made many years ago, finally comes true !


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