Horace Dediu on how Apple is usually not a first mover into new product categories:
Apple doesn’t jump on a bandwagon. It doesn‘t develop a product strategy and doesn‘t actually firmly launch something until 2% (or more) of the market has been already explored through products sold. Meaning, until the adoption of that technology goes beyond 2% of the population that ultimately adopts it.
If you think about the mobile phone, when the iPhone launched in 2007, it had been already about seven or eight years of smartphones in the market. For Americans, it was mostly the BlackBerry, maybe a bit of Windows Mobile. But for Europeans, it would have been Symbian or Nokia-based smartphones that ran some crude operating system. But it was an operating system with apps. There were app stores. There were apps, there was media, there was imaging, there was a messaging with imaging, and so on. All these prototypical services we have today.
Effectively, by the time the iPhone shipped, tens of millions of smartphones had already shipped and arguably, about 2% of the market had been developed. And that‘s when Apple reset the expectations with the iPhone.
If you go back to MP3 players, same thing. The iPod, when it launched, was said that it was not competitive with the Nomad, which was one of the brands of the time. The iPod was lame because it didn’t have as much capacity as an existing MP3 player. By 2001, when the iPod did ship it already was 2-3 years of MP3 players in the market. Everyone at the time was like, why is Apple so late? Why is their product so limited?
The fact is that super early adopters are frustrated. They’re banging on about something. This is true for micromobility, it might be true for AR/AV too, where would you have already tons of VR headsets that kind of came and went. The Google Glass that came and went. The HoloLens from Microsoft.
We also had, by the way, tablet computing starting in the late 90s. That’s a good decade before the iPad shipped.
The pioneering happens early, and failures happen early. And Apple kind of comes in just when… I believe it is not because Apple thinks it can get a better advantage later, but because I think they toy with it. They put things together and say, “Now, it‘s good enough”. It‘s good enough for the Apple brand. And, as a result, it‘s good enough for the average user.
In the adoption curve, they come in after the so-called innovator phase, in the middle of the early adopter phase. The early adopter phase is between 2 and 13%. Above 13% is the early majority up to about 50%. Then after 50% until about 85% is the late majority. And then the last 15% are called laggards. Roughly, that’s how the famous adoption curve has been segmented.