They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It is also a pretty effective way to make money. Given Apple’s (AAPL) record-shattering success with the iPad and IPhone, it only makes sense that everybody who dreams of mattering in the computer and communications industries is scrambling to field their own alternative products in hopes of tapping into that lovely river of money flowing into Apple’s bank accounts.
Several other factors converge to advance the narrative as well. The growth of professional urban populations worldwide has led to rocketing demand for such products. Because these are freshly-enrolled members of what might be called a new global middle class, they are particularly sensitive to the need to keep up appearances vis-à-vis their peers and competitors. In this way, new devices become as much of a fashion statement as they do a tool. This urge for the newest technology in turn shortens the design cycles of practically everything. Perfectly operational phones, computers, and productivity tools now have the same shelf life as this year’s line of spring fashions.
Research and Development cycles shorten in response to this demand for immediate gratification. Whereas two years was once considered a reasonable length of time to push a new product out the door, six to seven months is increasingly the target. Acceleration of technology has created an industry forecast that is significantly profitable over non-technology industries which struggle in the economy.
Imagine what might happen in the auto industry if there was a sudden consumer demand to have a new car every six months rather than every two or three years. On top of that, one can add in the fact that billions of new consumers are entering the market for the first time, and that most of the lowest-cost competitors have been pushed to the wall. For the companies that have survived the recent competitive purge of semiconductor manufacturers, the outlook is indeed practically glittering.
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