Apple’s iPad proves being number one is a waste of time

As predicted, Apple’s Steve Jobs yesterday proudly announced the company’s latest invention, the iPad. Whether or not you think this is a great idea, whether or not you want one and whether or not you think it’s going to be too expensive, there is little doubt that Apple will eventually only have a tiny share of the marketplace for such devices. That’s even if it can get the product off the ground – since the name “iPad” is actually a trademark belonging to Fujitsu. Plus, financial analysts have backed Amazon in the handheld computing war about to begin, since their stock rose on the announcement of the Apple device.

Probably, though, Apple doesn’t care. The much-loved Macintosh has never had more than 5% of the world’s computer market. Even the lauded iPhone only has a 2% share of the total mobile phone market, with analysts suggesting that Google’s Android phone will push the iPhone into second from bottom place in the smartphone sector within a couple of years. The chances of the Apple iPad being the device we all have in our hands is negligible. Many people will buy it, but most will not. Once again, Apple will be sidelined in terms of market share. Even so, it will still make money; Apple has just reported its highest ever first-quarter financial results. So it must be doing something right.

Here’s a clue; it is not trying to be “number one”. Here’s another clue; which company is “number one” in the search business? If you said “Google”, you lose the prize. To check, just type the word “search” into Google’s own search engine – OK, I’ve saved you the bother. Number One is “Bing”, Number Two is “”. Then comes AltaVista, Dogpile and then Yahoo. On, Google appears at the Number Six position for the word “search”; on it doesn’t even appear on the first page. Yet, there can be little doubt that with around 60% of the world’s search market, Google is the dominant player.

Do you notice a coincidence? Google is not listed in the world’s “Number One” search engine as being the Number One in search and at the same time, the world’s most talked about computer company is actually a tiddly bit-part player in the whole technology game. Clearly for both of these companies being “Number One” is not that important.

The world over you can find consultants helping you to get to “Number One” on a Google search page. Companies are paying millions of pounds to “SEO Consultants” to get them to that coveted “Number One” position. Yet, the world’s leading search engine provider isn’t itself “Number One” for its core business. Equally, telephone companies like Nokia and computer firms like Dell are battling hard every day to retain their “Number One” market position. When was the last time the world’s media jumped up and down for either of these companies? When was the last time pub conversations were dominated by their technologies?

The truth is, being “Number One” in market share or in search engine rankings is nowhere near as important as we like to think. For Apple there is a much greater currency they are being paid in, rather than cash. It is influence, legacy, power. The rest of the world’s computer firms will now be chasing the iPad notion. But who led them there? Who will go down in history as the “leaders of the revolution”? Will it be Dell? Will it be Levono? Will it be Fujitsu? Come back in a hundred years and read the history books; my guess is the name Steve Jobs will feature on many pages.

Equally, in your business sector, whose name will dominate the history books? Will it be the people running the “Number One” – whether that’s first on the Google ranking or having the biggest market share? Or will it be the company that has ideas, drive, energy and which everyone talks about?

Having money in the bank is one thing. Having a turnover the size of Dell may be what the Apple accountants aspire to, but to achieve that they would have to dispense with the other currency they trade in – influence. It’s no good being the richest person in the graveyard; but being the most talked about individual….? You see, when you are long gone your money will just be accounted for and if there’s any left over your sons will spend it on fast cars and loose women. But if you die with no money in the bank, but a pile of influence that will live on after your departure, that’s very different.

Google is not bothered, apparently, at being Number One on its own search engine ranking, but its influence on the search business is enormous. Apple is nowhere near number one in the computer or phone market place, yet it is the most influential business in both those sectors. So, ask yourself this question: are you chasing being Number One on the search engines or in your market place at the expense of being the most influential? The chances are, unlike Google and Apple, we’re all chasing the wrong thing.

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