That means I’m a big fan of the bell curve. No, not the book; the concept. Or, at least the version of a bell curve I can understand and use. Let me apply the bell curve to Apple.
The Sweet Spot
Life has plenty of curves. The curve ball. Dangerous curves on a highway. Curves in art and design. And the bell curve.
Think of the bell curve as a graphic representation of data which spans a spectrum, and which is often displayed in the shape of a bell.
Allow me to apply it to intelligence. At the center of the bell, there’s the great mass of humanity of near average intelligence.
The left side of the bell is smaller and represents the number of people below an established average.
Likewise, the right side of the bell is smaller, and represents the number of people above an established average.
Product managers use the bell curve all the time to describe a targeted customer group.
That looks familiar, right? We’ve all seen and perhaps used a bell curve. How does it apply to Apple?
Apple’s Bell Curves
Assume for a moment that the bell shaped curve is the universe of smartphones. Where on the bell is Apple’s target customer (based on purchase capability)?
I would say the right half of the bell. Apple wants the high end, highly profitable premium segment of the market, but also ventures into the much larger center of the bell.
How would we apply the bell curve to the universe of PC users? Where is Apple’s Mac?
Without question, it’s on the right and covers the premium, more expensive side of all PCs (by revenue, perhaps even by unit sales).
The point is, Apple uses many different bell curves to slice and dice and segment the market for their products. Certain locations on the bell are high targets, while other locations on the spectrum are completely ignored.
Most of Apple’s critics probably have little understanding of the tenets of product marketing, of which one key component is differentiation. All smartphone and tablet and personal computer manufacturers strive to differentiate their wares.
Apple does it by a seamless integration of hardware and software and usability. Others may differentiate on price, or screen size, or stick to product bullet points like CPU, storage, pixels, or whatever else may be attractive yet different to the potential customer.
To the typical technology pundit, how well or poorly Apple does in the marketplace is seldom a reflection of Apple’s targets. Criticism is often based on a cursory understanding of the company, the products, and how they relate to Apple’s targets.
Here’s a good example. Sam Mattera says the upcoming Asus PadFone, a hybrid smartphone and tablet, could upend Apple and Samsung’s dominance of the smartphone and tablet market in the U.S. His weak analysis makes for a great headline.
‘Apple and Samsung Could Be Dethroned by Asus’ Radical New Device‘
Could? No. Maybe? No. Is it even remotely possible? No. When it comes to technology gadgets, read my lips (figuratively speaking): Hybrids. Don’t. Sell.
What about the Prius? Market niche. Isn’t the iPad really a hybrid? You know, e-reader, browser, email, game console, et al? No, not really. It’s more of a PC without the hardware keyboard.
Knowing what product will be attractive to which segment of a product on a bell curve is the domain of those well informed about product marketing and technology, which are experiences not often found in technology pundits who are more interested in a catchy headline and a unique perspective, than they are with the reality of a situation.
Where on the bell curve of smartphones and tablet customers does the Asus PadFone belong? Look closely. It’s not a big space.