How and why does Apple get paid for Apple Pay? Anders and Horace dive into the payments value chain and break it all down for you: whats in it for users, merchants, issuing banks and payment networks. What are the risks and opportunities for Apple? Is there a disruption about to happen?
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When the iPhone launched, Steve Jobs introduced it as being three products in one:
- A wide-screen iPod
- A phone
- A breakthrough internet communicator
When the Apple Watch launched, Tim Cook introduced it as being three things:
- A precise timepiece
- A new, intimate way to communicate
- A comprehensive health and fitness device.
In 2011 I wrote:
My hypothesis is that The Primary Cause for the shift of profits from Incumbents to Entrants has been the disruptive impact of a new input method.
It was a description of what I considered to be the “disruptive technology” which caused incumbents which had a “front-row seat” to the future of their industry to be completely displaced and marginalized by an entrant with no discernible right to do what they did.
I illustrated what underpinned the sea change in the phone business via the slide that Steve Jobs used in the iPhone launch event:
I added the years when each input method was introduced and the platform/ecosystems created as a result. These new ecosystems were the primary cause for dramatic industry-sized shifts in profits.
Not coincidentally, during the 2014 Apple Watch launch, the presentation began with a re-telling of the “mouse, click wheel and Multi-Touch” story.
Seven years later, the difference is that there is a new object added to the story. It answers the question that has been on my mind since that first post on revolutionary user interfaces was written: what will come next.
Now that we have an answer, the next step is to understand the new platform, its ecosystem; which industry will be affected and which incumbents will be displaced and to what degree will value be created beyond that which will be displaced.
Piece of cake.Notes:
Farshad Nayeri, Anders Brownworth and I discuss Apple Watch as I drive from the launch venue to the airport.
Anders Brownworth and Horace Preview of Apples September 2014 special event. We focus on how Apparel gets disrupted. We also wrap the Creativity, Inc. book review.
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Dash just added Gmail widgets yesterday, and they’re already one of the more popular widgets on the site. By default they show your inbox, but you can also set them up with Gmail search phrases like “label:apple”. You can even combine search terms to produce results like “all email received in the last 12 hours containing the phrase ‘scoop’ and an attachment.”
The bank robber Willie Sutton did not say, when asked why he robbed banks, “because that’s where the money is.” He did agree with the idea however saying “Go where the money is…and go there often”.
Regardless of it being apocryphal, this idea came to be called Sutton’s Law and is often taught to medical students. It’s similar to the notion of Occam’s Razor: when an obvious or simple answer competes with an obscure or complicated answer, pick the obvious one first.
These are sound analytical rules of thumb. When thinking about what products and services could arise in the immediate future, those most obvious and with fewest assumptions should be put forward first. The what part is relatively easy. The tough question is more about when will they emerge?
We now know that Apple will announce new products on September 9th. This gives us an idea of when something will happen, answering the tougher question. It leaves the simpler question of what will emerge.
I put forward my predictions as follows:
- Regarding iPhone, a tweet on product mix and pricing.
- Regarding an “iWatch”, an answer to a question from Eric Jackson.
- Regarding the potential for wearables, a post on the subject.
One more item has surfaced on the potential of payments processing which I want to address now.
Handling payments, to me, is a perfectly plausible activity for Apple mostly because the company has made quite a few comments on the value of their “customers with credit cards” and the effort that went into Touch ID (which seems to be extravagant relative to the value of rapid unlocking).
But one word of caution: if Apple does enable payments it’s important to realize that being a (payment) bit pipe is not a particularly profitable business. It will undoubtedly bind value to the iOS devices which make it possible, but I don’t think there will be a direct capture of profit from the transactions themselves.Notes:
- I’ll be there and will report via Twitter and a special session of The Critical Path podcast [↩]
If software can be injected into an industry’s product it will bend to the will of the software writers.
This theory expands on Marc Andreessen’s observation that “software is eating the world”. The evidence is that software, coupled with microprocessors, sensors, batteries and networking becomes applicable to an increasingly larger set of problems to be solved. Software has “eaten” large portions of entertainment (e.g. Pixar, iTunes, video games), telecommunications (iPhone, Android, Messaging), various professions including journalism, management and law, and is entering transportation, energy and health care and poised over banking, finance and government.
As entry happens, asymmetries are enabled and disruption follows. This is the bending to the will of the writers–who tend not to be incumbents. The incumbents can’t embrace the changes in business models enabled by software without destroying their core businesses and thus, invariably, they disappear.
The pattern is easily observed but the speed and timing of it is difficult to predict and hence investment success is not certain. There are many entrants who try and few succeed and there are many incumbents who will survive longer than a prophet can stay hungry.
Nevertheless, this process of software-induced turnover in wealth–and, incidentally, vast, additional wealth creation–is inevitable.
But can we predict anything other than timing? For example, can we predict the next industry to succumb to this force?Notes:
My thanks to Eric Jackson for his thought-out questions on Apple. As published in Forbes, here is his Interview With Horace Dediu: What To Expect When Apples Expecting.
A few excerpts:
Q: Do you expect to see a sapphire cover on the new iPhone(s)? Is that material significant?
I expect Sapphire will become a signature feature across many products. I don’t know if they will have capacity to deploy on iPhone this year but on a watch it’s essential. Here’s a clue: if the screen has any curvature, especially around edges, it needs to be sapphire as glass can’t take strain in that shape. The scope of the plant they are building with GT implies that they will have massive volume potential with at least one major iPhone model using the material. It’s a significant material because it allows design freedom in new directions, especially curved (concave) touch surfaces that retain a jewel-like feel. This has Jony Ive all over it.
Q: Is it fair to conclude now based on the 5C and 5S that Apple will never launch a “cheap iPhone”?
Oscar Wilde said a cynic is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. When I see the word “cheap” I never know if it refers to price or value. And even when we talk about price, an iPhone is cheaper than buying all the things it replaces so it’s always been a low end disruptor in my mind. (I saw a tweet with an image of a Radio Shack ad from the 1980s and every single item available on that page is now a part of the iPhone. It would have cost thousands to buy all those things back then–and dollars were worth a lot more.) Furthermore, I think Apple holds a black belt in pricing. They seem to define their position in the market by anchoring certain prices and “owning” them. Given all that I would say that Apple is not going to move their price points much. They will expand the portfolio and offer some iPhones at $300 but they will be older models. The average selling price (ASP) I expect to remain constant on a year-long average.
Q: In the past, Apple critics were quick to dismiss the new iPad and 5C iPhone as failures upon their introduction. You never judge. You just report the facts and data. That said, is there anything about past new Apple products launches that we should look at as a predictor of how a new iWatch might be received by customers?
When the iPad was imminent the great debate was over whether it would run iOS or OS X. Many imagined a touch-based Mac rather than the “big screen iPod touch”. It was a tough call and one which Microsoft could not and still does not make. Therefore, the interesting question for me with respect to iWatch is: What OS it will run? I will be shocked to the core if it does not run iOS. It is my opinion that making iOS work on it is the entire reason Apple is sweating this segment. They are in it because they are trying to make a platform product with a novel user experience and all the power of an ecosystem run on a wrist. It’s as big a problem as getting a phone-sized device to run a touch UI was in 2007. That is the crucial contribution that Apple is making to this next generation of computing. Now you might ask what users are asking for in this segment. The answer is nothing. Nobody is asking for this. As nobody asked for the iPhone (or the Mac or the iPad). It’s a new computer form factor and how it will be used will be determined by the apps written for it. But it will work and be magical out of the box in version 1. This is in contrast to the single purpose or accessory model of wearables we see to date.
Q: As a student of disruption, where is Apple most vulnerable to being disrupted?
Apple is a new market disruptor but much of what is put forward as a threat to it is low-end disruption. I think Apple knows enough about how that happens that it can manage its way around it. The strategy they employ is one of attrition. If you wait long enough a low-end threat tends to wear itself out as it starves of profit and is constantly gnawed-at by alternatives. (You see, if the disruptor cannot manage a profit then they cannot climb up the trajectory to get on top of the incumbent. Being profitable is a key requirement for successful disruption in the long term.) The attrition strategy works as long as you have the fortitude to hold out and the deep pockets to keep improving your product as alternatives flame out. It is my belief that Jobs made sure that thinking is inculcated in the company. So if not low-end is the company vulnerable to new-market disruptors? This is more subtle and the threat here is what Google/FaceBook/Amazon and the other ecosystems are all about. It’s creating new usage models and shifting where consumers place brand value. I think this is more what keeps Apple’s management awake at night. They are not standing still however. iTunes and Software and Services (now with Beats on board) is the way they are staying on top of that threat.
Lots more here.