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Why Apple Is So Sticky 595

Hugh Pickens writes "'Sticky,' in the social sciences and particularly economics, describes a situation in which a variable is resistant to change. For websites or products it usually means that visitors or customers keep coming back for more. Now Fortune Magazine reports on an analysis by Deutsche Bank's Chris Whitmore on what makes the (iTunes-based) iPhone-iPod-iPad platform so sticky and why it's going to get harder, not easier, for Apple users to switch, no matter what Google and the rest of Apple's competitors have up their sleeves. Whitmore says the investment Apple's customers have made in content for those devices in terms of apps, videos, and music purchased at the iTunes Store creates Apple's 'stickiness.' Apple has an installed base today of about 150 million iTunes-dependent devices that could grow to more than 200 million by the end of 2011. Whitmore comes up with a cumulative investment in those devices of about $15 billion today, growing to $25 billion by the end of next year. 'This averages to ~$100 of content for each installed device,' Whitmore writes, 'suggesting switching costs are relatively high (not to mention the time required to port). When Apple's best-in-class user experience is combined with these growing switching costs, the resulting customer loyalty is unparalleled.'"
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Why Apple Is So Sticky

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  • by Alphathon ( 1634555 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @09:25PM (#32402384)
    Agreed. I dislike most Apples interfaces. They certainly look clean which makes people think they're simple, but once you get into it they aren't any more intuitive than most Windows programs (and a lot less than some). The iPod I like (click wheel version I mean, not iPod Touch) but I dislike their OSs UI and the iPhone/iPod Touch UI. I use iTunes on Windows because I have an iPod, but wouldn't out of choice (there may be iTunes alternatives that work with iPods but I am yet to find a good music player I get won't be an iPod anyway) and the UI works well enough, but is far from intuitive. The only other Apple software I use is Safari, which I use for testing websites and nothing more. That said, I am fairly familiar with a lot of Mac stuff since my dad (who I work with) uses one and I am essentially the administrator (I fulfill the role of "tech guy", among other things). Some of their stuff does "just work" but much of it doesn't, and is not really any better than Windows programs (some are good, some aren't). Even as a Mac guy, my dad doesn't use a lot of Apple software beyond small widgets (calculator, stickies etc) and the email app.
  • by Peach Rings ( 1782482 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @09:26PM (#32402398) Homepage

    I think you're too kind to itunes. It's not a matter of intuitiveness, the software just sucks, period. With a hundred million devices, most of those users are going to be on Windows. And the Windows version of itunes carries along the ridiculously out-of-place Cocoa look and feel. Why anyone considers that acceptable (and why Apple thinks it's a good idea) is baffling to me.

  • by crmarvin42 ( 652893 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @10:02PM (#32402634)

    Why anyone considers that acceptable (and why Apple thinks it's a good idea) is baffling to me.

    For the same reason that the majority of software written for PC and then back ported to Mac kept the windows look and feel. It is far easier if all versions of your app look as identical as possible.

  • by ducomputergeek ( 595742 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @10:28PM (#32402814)

    You can run dual monitors with an iMac. They have a mini DVI output just like a Mac Mini. I know quite a few graphics artists that recently went from older g5 towers to 24" and now 27" iMacs. Some still use their old monitors with an adaptor as a second monitor. Others find the 27" screens has plenty of real estate.

    Personally I replaced my G5 tower with a Mac Mini. Since I'm not editing video any more, I found the Mac Mini has plenty of horse power and ram for what I need. Hell I use my iPad more than anything now.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 30, 2010 @10:33PM (#32402860)

    The term "lock in" apparently has had its definition changed much as "brick" has already.

    How in the world is anyone "locked in" to an iPod?

    Had you bothered to read the OP or the article, you would have some idea how.

    But as to why the parent got modded up, it's because "vendor lock-in" is a well-known phenomenon in the field of economics and it is exactly what the author is describing when using the word "sticky."

    Stickiness does not mean what he's using it to mean. Stickiness is a measure of inertia or lag between an event and the resulting inevitable reaction in the affected group. Vendor lock-in is what happens when businesses exert market-power to prevent "churn" such as when they artificially raise the cost of switching away from their products and services.

    Apple has done this in myriad ways, not the least of which include their selection of compatible file-formats, DRM and their developer agreement which prohibits the use of cross-platform development tools, together keeping competitors from offering attractive full-featured media-players and from having the same apps in their app stores.

    Vendor lock-in is the appropriate description for the phenomenon at issue. []

  • by ducomputergeek ( 595742 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @10:34PM (#32402870)

    Believe me, "It just works." I bought my Dad an iMac a couple years ago. Once he got used to quitting programs as opposed just hitting the red X and dragging and dropping programs to install them I've not had to field a single phone call the past couple years. I'm no longer spending an evening wiping his computer and reinstalling because he got a virus or spyware of some kind. And it only took him about a week to make that transition between christmas and new years.

  • by syousef ( 465911 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @10:39PM (#32402900) Journal

    I call bullshit on this one.

    I call BS on your BS. I use iTunes and I like a couple of things about it, but it has its problems.

    - Have you ever tried moving music in your library? Have fun cleaning up the invalid entries.

    - In Windows there's all sorts of resource hogging software - services and helpers running ALL the time, regardless of if I'm using iTunes

    - Ever tried to recover music back from your iPod? You use to be able to do that once upon a time, but they decided that there was too much potential for piracy

    - My clickwheel has never quite worked right on my iPod. I should have had that fixed under warranty early on, but who knows how long I owuldn't have had my iPod for and what sort of cost/hassles I'd have gone through to RMA. Apple was making it VERY hard to RMA at one point here in Australia. The local consumer body had to step in.

    - The click wheel interface sucks for large collections of music. Searching for a song on the iPod can be a pain.

    - They make you jump through hoops to use certain features like Genius. In some countries you, like Australia you have to create an iTunes account and supply your credit card. When you "turn off" or don't enable Genius it still gets in the way

    - Damn iPod screens attract scratches like moths to a flame. Keep some brasso handy.

  • Attention to detail (Score:4, Informative)

    by melted ( 227442 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @11:14PM (#32403186) Homepage

    That's why I use Apple stuff, anyway. I'm on my second MacBook Pro (my wife took over the old one after 4 years of merciless use, and my son took over her MacBook). We also have two iPhones and an iPad. As if this wasn't enough, my company-issued laptop is also a MacBook Pro. You can tell I'm a satisfied customer.

    The reason why I like Apple is their attention to detail. Backlit keyboard, fans that you can't hear (on a Core i7), gorgeous aluminum enclosure, pretty good (for a laptop) display, 7 hours of battery life, 1 inch thick. And it goes on and on from there. GPU acceleration in Aperture and core imaging APIs. Great PDF and color management support. Great audio subsystem. Great UI toolkit. GCC tool chain (and LLVM/Clang in Snow Leopard). Quick to wake up from sleep. Quick to start up and shut down. Automatic, transparent, on-the-fly versioned backups. Software bundle which is actually enjoyable to use (imagine that!). Drag-and-drop installation of apps (for most apps, anyway). And so on and so forth.

    AND it's a certified Unix. Sure, you could probably hack it to run on something else (giving up power management and a few other "irrelevant" features), but if you have the dough, the attraction is undeniable. And Apple is perfectly fine with targeting only those who don't mind to pay for the best.

  • by Idiomatick ( 976696 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @11:30PM (#32403320)
    MS has office for mac. Everything else isn't MS owned besides from the OS. Apple leverages every product to support every product. The cost of leaving apple ramps up in lock step with how much you own.

    Buy an ipod and unless you are a tech guy you are locked into itunes. If you use itunes for more than transfering shit and buy their stuff you are locked into their DRM (they still have drm for movies i believe). One poster a minute ago suggested that itunes on windows was problematic, to have it work properly you should use a mac. Also it does things like install quicktime and safari though patches (something else a non tech geek wouldnt notice)
    If you buy a mac to make itunes run properly you've screwed yourself even more. Every weird ass firewire accessory you get will be worthless if you ever want to go back to windows. Mac wireless routers and mac sans. You've switched totally over to mac. To leave them you need to replace everything you have software and hardware. (An exaggeration in some areas but certainly worse than going pc->mac). Windows crap at least attempts to follow standards (even counting ie6). Apple makes up its own shit so that only apples can use it and so that appler's can't switch away.
  • by Mongoose Disciple ( 722373 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @11:55PM (#32403498)

    I call bullshit on this one. Was hooking your USB cable into your nano too hard for you or something? Honestly tho, you drag your mp3s to the iTunes window, and you hook the iPod in. I can only imagine it being easier if the music was beamed directly into my brain.

    Of course, the second time you try to add music to it, you'll probably end up with multiple copies of each song on there. I'm sure there are people who haven't had this problem with the iPod/iTunes, but I've yet to actually meet any of them. There's a reason that there's an iTunes menu function to try to find duplicates on your iPod and delete them, and the very existence of that is not a good sign.

  • Re:Only $100? (Score:3, Informative)

    by bdenton42 ( 1313735 ) on Monday May 31, 2010 @01:36AM (#32404104)
    Most people already have a cell phone so the only real obligation is the full data plan. That is $30/month x 24 months, or $720. Certainly more than $100 but nowhere near "several thousand".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 31, 2010 @02:11AM (#32404262)

    No, they were dead on the money.
    I have piles of Apple stuff that doesn't 'just work'. For example - Adobe CS2 for Apple. Complete mess. Final Cut, which doesn't really bother to tell you that, btw, some of the software only works if you have 'x' hardware. The iPod, several of which I have scattered around due to hard drive failures (those things used to die FAST).
    How about the Networking? It took them 4 versions of OSX to get network shares working properly.
    Maybe handling external hard drives? Tried sharing a large USB hard drive between an Apple and Non-Apple machine lately? Apple's support for NTFS is terrible, and for extFAT non-existent. Even older versions of Linux can handle NTFS.

    Biggest thing that doesn't 'just work'? The warranty support. I have had incredibly bad support from them since the very beginning - and after going through 6 MacBook Pro batteries in 2 months (recalled, wouldn't charge, and my favorite, the one that started to get super hot and melted a stand) I showed them the door.

  • Re:The question is (Score:2, Informative)

    by ergo98 ( 9391 ) on Monday May 31, 2010 @11:05AM (#32407148) Homepage Journal

    Android and the idea around it came out a year after and probably because of the iPhone and the design of its OS.

    Android -- an existing mobile company -- was bought by Google in 2005 [].

    So how, exactly, do you rationalize seriously saying that it came about because of the iPhone?

    No doubt Google has stolen some elements from the iPhone, just as the iPhone stole from many other devices. Yet it is infuriating seeing history rewritten, North Korea-style, until Steve Jobs invented the Internet, the stars and heavens, and so on.

    BTW - You should send Google some thanks, as a wide range of features queued up for the iPhone 4 OS were cribbed directly from Android.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 31, 2010 @12:45PM (#32408212)

    hey dude, you became Apple zombie despite the fact you're a software developer, OSS advocate and multiple-os user

  • Re:The question is (Score:2, Informative)

    by ergo98 ( 9391 ) on Monday May 31, 2010 @03:53PM (#32409948) Homepage Journal

    but when did they actually start work on a full face touch screen interface with a real browser?

    Well the "real browser" was a part of the original implementation. A part of the reason Google started the Chrome project was because they wanted a browser everywhere. It was actually a critical part of their strategy since day one.

    As according to wikipedia, the touch keyboard wasn't added to Android till 1.5 which was displayed till two years after the iPhone, makes me wonder what Android would have looked like if the iPhone had never come out.

    It would have, absolutely, been much different. The original prototypes were very blackberry-esque. But here's the funny thing -- in the coming months we'll see Android strongly move back to that, having over-exerted on the "keyboardless" model. Personally I would rather have a good physical keyboard, coupled with appropriate on-screen touch elements.

    On screen keyboards are not fun to type on, and they consume much of your limited screen real-estate unnecessarily.

    But if your point is that Android ripped off what iPhone pioneered, to a degree that is absolutely true. It's also true that the favor is being returned. It's truer that Apple had a long litany of prior devices that they borrowed from.

    As Steve Jobs himself said, tech is about stealing the ideas of others. Lately people have gone a little Kim Jong-il about him, however, and seem to have conveniently forgotten that.

Promising costs nothing, it's the delivering that kills you.