What is it about the iPod that helped make it successful for Windows PC users? Sure, the interface of the iPod is easy to use. iTunes and the iTunes Store make it easy to buy music, TV shows, movies.
What’s really important is iTune’s ability to synchronize seamlessly with Macs and PCs. It’s a set it and forget it proposition for Windows users. They’re not used to such elegance.
For Mac users, the iTunes to iPod sync is somewhat more typical, but it’s still the secret sauce. No thinking required. Plug in device, wait, done.
The iPhone takes that simple process, one that has proven so successful, and takes it to another level. Not only can the iPhone sync with iTunes it also syncs back to iTunes.
That means you can buy online—applications, music, whatever—and the purchases and downloads get synchronized automatically back to iTunes on your Mac or PC. The whole process is simple, elegant, painless.
It also creates a massive barrier to entry for iPhone competitors. Once a Mac user has synced up with the iPod touch or iPhone, what’s the likelihood of moving to another device? The pain would be too great.
After all, the fear of switching is the best loyalty program ever devised by Microsoft for Windows users.
Today, there are far more Windows PC users on iPods and iPhones than Mac users. Windows users like how the iPhone and iPod sync with iTunes. As the iPod halo effect has shown, that bodes well for the Mac.
Windows PC users can think, “Hey, my iPod works great and it’s from Apple. My PC doesn’t work so great. Let me try a Mac. It’s from Apple, too.” See how that works?
And what makes it work so well? The sync from iTunes on Windows to the iPod or iPhone. And, the sync back again. It’s a seamless process that even Windows PC users love.
What of the future? Apple knows where it’s going. We want to sync our handheld devices with our desktop and notebook devices. MobileMe does that. For a price. Increasingly, Mac application and utility developers know the value of back and forth sync.
On my iPhone I have a handful of apps and utilities that sync back to my Mac. 1Password for login IDs and passwords. Changes I make on my iPhone version are updated on my Mac.
Things, ShoveBox, Cha-Ching, Wallet and many other iPhone/Mac apps have recognized the value of the back-and-forth sync.
That’s the future, and, as it is with iTunes’ ability to sync with Macs or PCs, it creates a great wall, a barrier to entry for competition.
After all, once you have your iPhone or iPod touch synced and running fine, who wants to get a different device that won’t sync with all your data? What a great ecosystem. For Apple. And, as long as it works fine for me, I consider it a good system for me, too.
What of data portability? It’s my data, right? Should I not be able to move it to whatever device or application I choose? Theoretically, yes. In reality, it’s a major challenge, and not likely to become the status quo any time soon.
The US government may step in and tell carriers and cell phone makers they cannot have exclusive, prohibitive agreements with each other. You know, consumers need choice and all that. That would be good for Apple and iPhone users in the US.
I simply hope that the government doesn’t move too quickly to make my data fully portable between any device. At least, not until Apple dominates the smart phone market the way the iPod dominates portable media players.