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Apple: 10 Things It Needs To Do In 2009

Its Mac OS X operating system, App Store, iPhone, notebooks, and other hardware all get good marks, but they could be improved upon. Here's how.
This month, Apple took a big step, announcing that it's eliminating DRM from its music store. But that still leaves video and audiobooks. And for consumers who've already bought DRMed music, upgrading is costly -- Apple will collect a $1.8 billion music tax if consumers upgrade all the DRMed iTunes music that's been sold -- and it's a hassle.

Apple needs to take a stand and eliminate DRM from its products, and provide people who've already bought DRMed products a cheap and easy way to upgrade.

What does Apple stand to gain from it? They'll give up the cost of developing and supporting cumbersome and useless DRM technology, and the time, money and hassle spent on having to update the technology when the inevitable bugs appear.

And they also avoid a potentially catastrophic customer-service problem. For now, only a tiny fraction of the public cares at all about DRM. Why should they? Apple has a monopoly on the media market, which makes Apple's DRM mostly invisible. "But if somehow the iPod ever falls out of favor with the general public there will be an outcry like no other when they realize they can't play any of their songs on the new player of choice," writes MG Siegler in a FriendFeed discussion.

He adds that Apple is doing whatever it can to kill DRM. They need to keep it up.

10. Stay Classy, Apple

Apple's products beats the competition on quality across the board. Even as the economy slid downward Apple reported profits rose to $1.14 billion in the fiscal fourth quarter ended Sept. 27, as sales increased 27%, driven primarily by iPhone and Mac computer sales, according to an October earnings statement. The company also said that it had surpassed during the quarter its goal of selling 10 million iPhones this year. While overall Mac sales fell behind sales of PCs running Windows in November, MacBook sales outstripped Windows notebooks, increasing 22% year-over-year, compared with 15% for Windows.

The iPhone alone is a smash it, the most popular phone in the US, according to market researchers NPD.

To be sure, the outlook for 2009 is sober for Apple -- but what company doesn't have a sober outlook for 2009?

Apple's success comes from a couple of defining characteristics.

The company often succeeds by defying popular opinion and expert wisdom -- things that "everybody knows" Apple needs to do. The blog CounterNotions has a list of 10 blunders Apple avoided over its history, decisions that made the company great. Many of the mistakes required Apple to defy expert advice, including avoiding licensing Mac OS X to clone vendors, and refraining from selling a Tablet PC before its time.

Another defining characteristic of Apple: The company embraces change -- indeed, it's afraid of not changing, Daring Fireball's Gruber writes. "Where other CEOs can't bring themselves to do something different, Jobs can't bring himself to keep doing the same thing," Gruber says.

So the final bit of advice for Apple is to continue to trust its own judgment, and prosper by selling great products.

Editor's Choice
Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer