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Apple Enters Uncharted Territory


Apple is entering a market - mobile phones - that's already saturated beyond the point of saturation.

With Apple's (AAPL) iPhone launching on June 29th, the growing hype has ratcheted up to near-hysterical levels.

Apple is entering a market - mobile phones - that's already saturated beyond the point of saturation. (In chemistry, this is known as "supersaturation"...)

It would seem to be a new game plan for Jobs & Co.; improving on an existing product rather than creating a new product category.

In "The Innovator's Dilemma," Michael E. Raynor of Deloitte Research and Clayton M. Christensen, the Robert and Jane Cizik Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, speak of "disruptive innovations" - new products, services, or business models that appear without precedent; things people didn't know they could live without until they realized they had been living without them.

So, was the Macintosh a "disruptive innovation?"


The Mac was introduced in January, 1984 - eight years after the Apple I, which itself was brought to market three years after the Xerox (XRX) Alto, which utilized a mouse, pop-up menus, and ethernet technology.

Apple's disruptive innovation was desktop publishing - not the Mac itself. The company simply improved upon something that already existed - personal computing - and created a "product" out of it that didn't exist before.

And the iPod?

Not even close.

Kwang-su Moon and Jung-ha Hwang filed U.S. Patent # 6629000 on April 17, 1998, "calling shotgun" on the world's first mp3 player.

U.S. Patent #6629000: MPEG portable sound reproducing system and a reproducing method thereof

Called the Eiger Labs MPMan F10, and appearing in 1998, the MPMan F10 sold for $250 and could hold 32 minutes of music. Sending the unit back to Eiger Labs with a check for $69 plus $7.95 shipping would get you an upgrade to 64MB, good for 64 minutes of songs.

Eiger Labs MPMan F10, the world's first mp3 player

Three years later, in October, 2001, the iPod was introduced.

Apple's iPod, the world's most desirable mp3 player

Apple's disruptive innovation was the creation of a "sexy" mp3 player-that also happened to be better than what other companies had on offer.

Will the iPhone be that much better than what is already available to justify the $500 price tag and a switch to Cingular (soon to be AT&T (T)), Apple's sole service provider?

The technical specs of the iPhone don't really matter. Will it be markedly better than what's out there now? Who knows? Will it solve a problem that needs solving? Impossible to tell. However, with none of these questions even answerable before the end of June, a poll from shows that almost 60% of people who were "very likely" to buy an iPhone were also willing to switch carriers.

Alas, in Cupertino, the normal laws of the universe don't apply.

Interestingly, elsewhere in the universe, disruptive innovations are now being seen.

Upon his return to earth after living in orbit for six months, French astronaut Jean-Luc Chretien's first words were, "My god, the food was awful!"

Jean-Luc Chretien, second from right

Eating in space

So, the European Space Agency and the French National Center for Space Studies called upon Alain Ducasse, holder of nine Michelin stars, to create gourmet foods for consumption on space flights.

Here's the space menu Ducasse developed at his Centre de Formation d'Alain Ducasse:

Main dishes:

Effiloché de volaille en Parmentier
Shredded chicken Parmentier

Dos d'espadon façon Riviera
Riviera style swordfish

Volaille épicée, sauté de légumes à la Thaï
Spicy chicken with stir-fried Thai vegetables

Cailles rôties au Madiran
Quails roasted in Madrian wine

Magret de canard confit, condiment aux câpres
Duck breast confit with capers

Side dishes:

Carottes de sable au goût d'orange et coriandre
Sand carrots with a hint of orange and coriander

Céleri rave en délicate purée à la noix de muscade
A light puree of celery with a hint of nutmeg

Tomato, aubergine and olive dip


Gâteau de semoule de blé fine aux abricots secs
Semolina cake with dried apricots

Morceaux de pommes fondantes
Apple fondant pieces

Far de l'espace
Space 'far' (a Brittany tart)

Rice pudding aux fruits confits
Rice pudding with candied fruit

Ladies and gentlemen, we've come a long way from Tang.
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