iPod Nano and The Curse of Market Leader

Update: Apple is doing the “right thing” and kudos for that!

ipod nanoIf Bill Gates is letting out a cackle over the recent iPod Nano debacle, one can’t blame him. He has been on the receiving end of consumer ire for a decade now, many of whom (including myself) have experienced windows inspired rage many a few times. Apple is for the first time experiencing the ire of very angry customers. (Of course, there are others who have watched the love fest, and would like to sneak in a punch or two at Apple!)

Broken screens, scratches, and what not – this is a full scale PR disaster in the making. Steve Jobs and the gang have never enjoyed the market share, and the consumer glare like this ever before. The response from the company, even in its statements is less than adequate.

> “This is a real but minor issue involving a vendor quality problem in a small number of units,” said Schiller. “In fact, this issue has affected less than 1/10 of 1 percent of the total iPod nano units that we’ve shipped. It is not a design issue.”

Imagine, some drug company making an argument like that – oh only, 0.01% of our pills will cause violent vomiting… rest is all good. That won’t fly, and this one doesn’t. The coolness that made iPod a regular presence at the White House, Hip-Hop videos and Hipster clubs, and turned the shiny white thing into a cultural icon, has become the biggest engine of growth for Apple. The 80% or so market share is a testament to the importance of this product line to the company, given that every new upgrade brings millions of dollars in additional sales.

iPod Nano is not the only issue. There are people who have complained in the past about iTunes and how upgrades are causing havoc. All these recent complaints basically add-up to one thing: when you are the market leader, you have to try and keep everyone happy, all the time. If not, then be ready to bear the brunt of the hordes who will dismiss your product faster than the credit card swipe. Its as simple as that. Microsoft has learned to live with the downside of being a market leader. Apple is only getting a quick lesson.