App Store pricing
Before the iPhone, I used a variety of Windows Mobile phones, Palm Treo based phones and several Windows CE and Palm Pilot PDAs. A typical program, utility or game on these platforms often cost anywhere from $10 to $30 dollars each. Needless to say, application purchases were few and far between unless essential.
One of the main reasons Apple has been so successful with the iPhone is they've been aggressive in encouraging developers to price their software reasonably, usually at a price point of a couple of dollars or so. Despite this pricing pressure, many developers have been able to make a healthy living and some have even become millionaires.
Priced at only a buck or two I have over 30 paid applications on my iPhone, and often take a chance on a popular or highly rated app recognizing I'm out a few bucks at worst if it doesn't work out. I only wish my investment in desktop applications often costing a couple hundred dollars or more that didn't meet expectations was such an easy pill to swallow.
And by providing an e-commerce platform, developers don't have to worry about the icky business of "business" and the costs associated with marketing, e-commerce, etc. and can concentrate on developing great apps. Of course Apple takes a cut, but clearly based on the number and breadth of applications available, developers seem more than willing to accept that cut.
Before Apple, the digital music landscape was a mess with Napster, millions of songs available for "free" on the torrent networks and no reasonable, legal alternative.
Apple changed all of that, and once again, fought hard, against the conventional music publishing wisdom, to establish a 99 cent price point for individual songs as a fair compromise between music label profits and wide-spread piracy. Too expensive and people would continue to pirate music, too low and nobody would profit.
An awesome side-effect of Apple's efforts is now many artists (for example, Imogen Heap) can release self-produced albums on iTunes and heap, er reap virtually all of the profits which is where music lovers have always wished the majority of record profits would go.
Family pricing and buy once, use on multiple devices
Apple was the first mainstream operating system publisher to offer users a fairly priced "family pack" where they could legally install an OS (or application for that matter) on multiple machines. Once again, for homes with multiple Macs, $50 x 3 machines (or less depending upon retailer), it was simply too cheap to continue your pirate ways.
In regards to the iPhone App Store, I'm pleased to report that if you own multiple devices, most publishers accept your ability to install their application on multiple devices.
Things were slightly complicated by the release of the iPad but my experience has been I can download the exact same application on multiple devices (in my case my son's Touch, my iPhone and our recently acquired iPad) without having to purchase the application three times. Awesome. And for those applications where the author has enhanced their application specifically for the iPad, I don't mind re-purchasing but know I don't have to.
Fair system pricing
Apple has always taken a beating for the so-called "Apple Tax" the premium customers pay over similarly equipped PCs.
I'm sorry but that just hasn't held true in the last decade. Time and time again you'll find head-to-head comparisons between the price of an Apple system versus the main PC manufacturers (usually Dell) and in most cases Apple is competitive, or often less expensive than a similarly configured PC.
Fact is, I've been a life-long PC user, and over the last 10 years or so, a closet Mac user, usually at home until the last few years when I introduced my Mac to my company, and in each case, the Mac I purchased was within roughly $100 of the PCs I purchased for work, and more important, I've been able to get three or four years of use out of each Mac before I felt the itch to upgrade to something newer, better or faster.
And when you figure in the costs associated with productivity and virus protection (though I'm pleased to report that I've never had an infection on any PC I've used in over 20 years of computer use), the cost and time associated with system optimization utilities, or operating system and application re-installs every year or so, etc. the gap between any price difference is all but wiped out.
Add to this the value associated with a computer that is actually engineered, attractive and built to incredibly high standards and any remaining gap in price simply disintegrates.
The move to Intel processors
But the single most brilliant move by Apple was to adopt the Intel processor in their systems. I have to admit that I was skeptical.
I wondered whether Apple would become just another PC clone. I'm pleased to report, not only did Apple not become another PC clone, but they've also made integrating my Mac into my company's network painless and more important, technology such as Boot Camp, Parallels, VMware Fusion and VirtualBox has for the first time given me the ability to use the best tool for the job, regardless of platform, Mac, Windows (even 7 with Aero) and Linux.
Bonjour & AirTunes, AirPort Extreme and Express
These network related advances have revolutionized networking, making what was once difficult, painfully simple. Now I can easily connect to shared iTunes libraries across my home and business network, streaming tunes from other systems. Now I can easily browse network attached devices quickly and easily.
And now, I can not only stream music, but also photos, video and metadata across the network. Never before has networking been so easy.
So in conclusion, while there is plenty for which to criticize Apple and Steve Jobs, too often Apple's critics fail to recognize the huge advances in technology, policy and practice that Apple has brought to the industry and consumers; reasonable prices for software, music, movies and TV, fairly priced hardware, increased productivity and Apple's greatest legacy that still holds true today, "it just works".
About the author:
Michael Hill has been involved with computer technology for over 30 years. A GUI fanatic, he's used and experimented with a variety of different graphical user interfaces and operating systems over the years including GEM, GEOS, PC/GEOS, Windows, OS/2, MacOS, OS X and others.