When I saw a headline that said that Apple's iPhone5 did not have the "Wow!" factor, I was surprised. What more did they expect? I think the markets agreed with me because Apple stocks rose 3% on after the world's coolest smartphone maker unveiled the latest in its range.
Apple makes bigger waves when it creates a new category of products, like it did with the iPod (digital music player), the iPhone (smartphone) and the iPad (tablet). These products changed the way we experienced things: iPod with the MP3 download, iPhone with its plethora of applications (apps) and iPad with its ability to make us experience e-reading and videos.
Within a category, it is extremely difficult to innovate on and on but iPhone, into its fifth release, has done that. The new smartphone is the thinnest in the world, has got a 4G broadband capability, a glass and aluminium top and a battery charger that is significantly more powerful than rivals, and a panorama-capable camera. Given that prices are falling and features are improving, the key point is that for a premium player, Apple can also garner volumes going forward. (from $200 or about Rs.11,000 looks extremely reasonable for the product they've created).
Apple is now in a sweet spot where it can command a premium with higher volumes because of increased affordability. This is just right for India.
Industry researcher iSuppli called the launch "strong" and it expects Apple's smartphone shipments in 2012 to be 149 million units, up 60 % from 93 million in 2011.
This is an amazing achievement in an industry in which high-end products can languish without volumes.
I think the gap between premium and cheaper players is narrowing and fence-sitters may prefer to put in those extra few dollars to buy themselves an Apple gizmo. With 700,000 apps as well, and an 'iCloud' system that helps you store and manage contacts and content on the Web, Apple is clearly in the lead.
Samsung and the Microsoft-Nokia alliance definitely have a huge challenge to match up, although they are doing. Two weeks ago, I wrote that Samsung can still score big in Asia. If only Apple dips into its huge cash chest to step up distribution efforts, Samsung would be in deep trouble here.
Can Tim Cook, whose company is active in China, now also look at India in a big way, spending some of his cash pile? It seems so, after the government opened up foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail last week. Look out for those Apple stores now.