Like Comparing Apples and Content Addressable Storage Arrays

Don’t blame me!  Brilliant Leap baited me into talking about Apple with her post and subsequent tweet about Rob Enderle’s article in Enterprise Storage Forum: Apple Could Learn A Lot From EMC.  Oh?

Let’s deal with the underlying issue here:  The ESF article is talking about the other 99% of EMC that bought Documentum to sell disk.  EMC friends, I’m just kidding!  I can joke, right?  Since storage is not my expertise beyond some hacking around with Centera as primary content stores, I suppose EMC might really knock their customers’ socks off in the storage arena, but I doubt it.

Network disk isn’t something you see until it isn’t there, just like any good support technology.  It’s not sexy.  Apple’s products are shameless show-boaters meant to hog the spotlight.  They are meant to be seen, to be touched, and–dare I admit–even licked. Maybe that’s not a recommended way to unlock an iPhone, but what else can you do about winter, thick gloves, and a touch screen?

Would the average EMC storage user know the EMC logo on sight?  Would the average Apple user?

apple_logo emc_logo.jpg

OK, so the EMC logo actually says “EMC” in it.  You get the point though, right?

Enderle’s article talks about quality, metrics, and customer loyalty.  All those things are important to Apple, although the often-excellent quality of Apple products is marred on a regular basis with things like incendiary power supplies and the worst product launch ever: iPhone 3G + MobileMe.  WORST!  LAUNCH!  EVER!

Only Starbucks matches Apple’s skill at selling Lifestyle. The synergy of Apple’s well-designed, well-integrated components had this caged bird singing gaily a few posts ago despite a healthy fear of monoculture coming from a science background.  That all misses the point, the one reason the whole discussion is apples and oranges:  Innovation.

Apple sets the bar for technology after technology:  operating systems, mp3 players, online music retailing, and of course smart phones.  The integration, the cool, the marketing are all icing on the cake because Apple does something better than anybody else:  They innovate, and they do it where they can define the market rather than chase it.

I don’t think Big Disk lives or dies on such radical innovation. In fact, their customers probably fear change more than most.  Change is not good for 24/7 availability.  I can hear the compliance officers, archivists, and system admins shrieking in terror at the thought of something that might as likely store their entire repositories on a postage stamp or burst into flames if looked at the wrong way.

There is a relentless integrity of concept, simplicity, and message spanning all Apple products that likely has a single source, Steve Jobs.  Such single-mindedness is what makes big, ambitious, risky, not-for-the-faint-of-heart products succeed or fail spectacularly.  Apple’s done both regularly.  It allows org-wide turn-on-a-dime changes, something that another industry titan *cough*Bill Gates*cough* executed brilliantly after completely missing the Internet as the Next Big Thing.

That conceptual integrity, that vision from the top is also why Apple clung to its single-button mouse a decade too long and why the iPod Touch and iThingThatWillNotBeNamed are missing the aesthetically unpleasing extra two or three buttons needed for touch-without-sight operation.  Because that’s how Steve Jobs sees it, end of story.

I’m sure Joe could give Steve a few helpful hints on running disk farms for MobileMe or handling eDiscovery for the next options scandal, but that’s not the point.  It’s what Jobs teaches his successor and if that successor has the Right Stuff to wield Apple as a single instrument of innovation, lest Apple repeat the recent catastrophes of their rivals to the North.

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