One of the most important aspects of successful product marketing is differentiation. Back in 2007, Apple’s iPhone was the epitome of differentiation– an instantly usable design that upended and disrupted the smart phone industry.
Historically, Apple has always been good at differentiating their products from competitors. Straight from science fiction comes a new way for Apple to differentiate Macs, iPhones, and iPads with liquid metal.
Apple As Terminator
Perhaps the closest and most visible example of both differentiation and liquid metal is the terminator in the movie, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, where actor Robert Patrick portrayed a liquid-metal like creature from the future.
The Terminator in the movie could turn into any shape, with remarkable detail (yes, it’s a movie), amazing strength, and was next to impossible to destroy.
A few years ago, Apple invested a large sum of money in Liquidmetal Technologies. Their products combine high tensile strength, corrosion resistance, and a high coefficient of restitution with anti-wearing characteristics into almost any form.
That’s a fancy way of saying that future Mac, iPhone, and iPad case designs and other components could be super strong to the point of being almost unbreakable under normal use, and much lighter than today’s best of breed iPad mini or iPhone 5.
Apple recently applied for patents on the machines that could be used to form components such as cases for future products. Strong, light, and durable products can be a key form of product differentiation, and that is what Apple requires to grow and prosper.
The Mac was a giant leap in the design of personal computers, which gave the company a few years of prosperity. With the 21st century Mac, Apple has been able to maintain clear differentiation from Windows PCs by physical design and OS X, the operating system, as well as seamless integration between devices.
Likewise, the iPhone was a giant leap in the design of smartphones, which gave the company of a few years head start and enormous prosperity, which is in danger of being lost as competitors products have achieved a level of similarity in design and usage. The same could be said of the iPad vs. all other tablets. Apple innovated with clear product differentiation, only to see competition catch up.
It remains to be seen if Apple can employ liquid metal technology into future products to create yet another clear line of product differentiation. Advancements in technology tend jump forward as disruptive implementation, then follow a longer tail of incremental, evolutionary changes.
From the time the iPhone was first launched in 2007 Apple has worked furiously to expand the line of differentiation with the integrated ecosystem of cloud storage, online app store, and seamless product integration. As the innovator and leader, Apple’s system usually works better than the fragmented competition, but that gap is closing. If Apple can prosper with the tight integration of hardware and software of the Mac in an ocean of cheap Windows PCs, then the company is likely to continue to prosper even while competitors expand the smartphone and tablet markets.