If you live in a cave and missed the "big" announcement of the iPhone 5 iPhone 4S, you need to have a peek for reference before we start. Jump over to TiPb, where Allyson has a summary and links so you can watch the whole thing (if you can be bothered to install a proprietary QuickTime plugin, that is). If you came back a bit underwhelmed, you're not alone, and it looks like more than a few iPhone die-hards will be skipping this update altogether.
OK, we're done with the links and news about the iP4S -- promise. I just wanted to be sure you all had a chance to see just what Apple took 16 months to release, and have an idea how it was received. Now compare it to the reaction the Internet, folks in our forums, and people in general had to the Samsung Galaxy S II.
Apple no longer sets the bar that others are measured against.
This goes beyond the Galaxy S II. Samsung is releasing some amazing products, listening to user feedback, and delivering what consumers want. I don't like Touchwiz. Not even a tiny bit. But, damn, it is smooth and fluid on the latest Samsung hardware, including the Galaxy Tab 10.1. It's also functional, bringing things to the table that users haven't even thought to ask for yet. Techie types are falling in love with Samsung's new products, and we all know where non-techy types look for advice. No longer will the non-fanboy instantly say the word iSomething when asked what the best smartphone is, because until Apple can show something new, with features users have been asking for, the iProduct isn't it.
We tend to think in terms of smartphone here (we are a Mobile Nation of Smartphone Experts after all) but Samsung, like LG, sells an amazing amount of phones every year. Numbers that dwarf any manufacturer's smartphone sales. They are in the Prime position (see what we just did there?) to put out the product that sets the tone for the next generation of smartphones, likely running Android. Apple can't risk that, because they have a giant cash cow they need to protect.
For all the polish and thought that goes into Apple's mobile products, they are just a front end for iTunes. The fellows in Cupertino know that they can create buzz on a brand (and they do a marvelous job at it), but can they compete when another product comes on the scene that is simply better? That's a risk that Apple is too smart to take. If Samsung is able to build and sell something to make the average user want it enough to leave the iTunes universe, Apple's revenue will be hit -- hard. Apple knows how to sell content and build mindshare. Samsung knows how to sell a whole lot of electronic devices. The two had to butt heads eventually, and as Android matures, that day isn't far off. NVIDIA shows us what can be done with powerful hardware on a mobile device. The Galaxy S II line shows us that hardware has reached a point where even less-than-optimized software can look and feel awful damn good. When the two meet (Ice Cream Sandwich? Maybe.), the chance to really shake up Apple's ecosystem is there.
I'm no fancy paid analyst -- I'm a middle aged father of three who happens to be a big nerd. I have a theory that if I can see the big picture, real analysts and businessmen can as well. Samsung is in the position to de-throne Apple, and spending the last six months worrying about legislation instead of innovation makes perfect sense to me after the recent iPhone announcement.