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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Apple, Sony and Desire

I'm a judge for the Sony Radio Awards and they've sent me all the entries in my category pre-loaded on a Sony MP3 player. It's actually what they call a Sony Walkman these days. It's certainly a good idea to send the entries in this fashion rather than expecting judges to juggle cassettes or CDs. The Walkman's very neat. It has a radio, it records and probably makes tea as well. Playing with it just now it struck me how difficult it must be in the personal electronics space these days, having to compete with Apple. It doesn't matter how many qualities your product might have, Apple is the one that holds the high ground where dwells desire. A year ago a young friend demonstrated all the features of his iPod competitor, many of which were superior to Apple, but he did it more in sorrow than conviction, as if he knew that the playground prestige battle had already been lost. I stand on the Tube platform looking at the huge cross-track posters outlining the features of something that looks a bit like an iPhone but isn't, feeling sorry for the marketing man who has to persuade a 17 year old that this is what he wants. We were talking about this with friends at dinner last night, the way our rational side pretends to weigh the arguments over how we spend our money while our emotional side waits, drumming its fingers, knowing that in the end it will always win out.