Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Product Treadmills

Glenn Fleishman for TidBITS writes about Amazon’s update treadmill (hat-tip to DF), quoting Jeff Bezos:

We don’t need you to be on the upgrade treadmill. If we made our money when people bought the device, we’d be rolling out programs left and right to try to get you to upgrade. In fact, we’re happy that people are still using Kindle Ones that are five years old. They’re still reading on them, and every time they buy a book, that’s good for us. […]

To the first point, the upgrade treadmill, that hits home much more closely to the Android ecosystem, which has multiple manufacturers producing new models seemingly monthly, even though the new models often run older versions of Android that lack marquee features, and older models are often incapable of being upgraded after even a single version release.

Spot-on analysis. But it does raise the question: how does this differ from Apple’s strategy? Or, more to the point, what is Apple’s strategy? Horace Dediu analyzes the uniqueness of the iPhone brand:

However, when we look at the iPhone and the iPad, the nomenclature has been distinctly different. Both products have been using generational naming conventions. This implies no sub-branding as the iPhone and iPad are the only identifiers of brand and hence the only meaning being imparted to the buyer. You either get an iPhone or and old iPhone.

Dediu explains that these are not sub-brands in the same way that the iPod nano is, for example. Apple doesn’t need to update the iPhone 3GS, but they do need to update the iPod nano.

Marko Savic disagrees with Dediu, though, and thinks that the generational branding is the sub-brand itself:

The iPhone generational naming is creating sub-brands. 3GS, 4, 4S are used colloquially as much as nano, shuffle and touch. As long as there is only one new device on offer per year this naming convention works. The meaning of each iPhone sub-brand changes over time from premium, to mid-market, to low-end, moving back up to premium in the pre-paid market.

It’s a different strategy from even Apple’s own product structures. I agree with Savic—the sub-branding’s significance remains the same on the iPhone line, despite it being generational. If Apple’s still selling it, it’s still a current product.