The Real Problem with Lenovo’s Adware

Listeners of the Tech.pinions podcast will have heard me talk about this on last week’s episode, but I wanted to outline some thoughts about what Lenovo’s Superfish problem really says about the company. Tim had a piece on Wednesday, but I wanted to go a little further.

The root of the problem is a lack of differentiation

The real root of Lenovo’s problem here is a lack of differentiation. In the enterprise world, Lenovo has been able to benefit from the power of the ThinkPad brand. In the consumer world, it hasn’t had the same brand to lean on and has instead had to focus on other potential differentiators. But Lenovo suffers here from the same problem that plagues all Windows OEMs — on the software side, they’re all shipping the same thing, Windows 8 (soon to be Windows 10), with all the same features and functions. This obviously pushes them to try to differentiate on hardware, but there’s only so much you can do when the OS is the same and requires many of the same components to make it run. Battery life, screen resolution and other features vary somewhat between devices, but they mostly vary by price band rather than by manufacturer.

All this leads to the relationship PC OEMs have had with third party software vendors. Looking at things charitably, these OEMs are looking for positive ways to set their software experiences apart from competitors (and that’s certainly what Lenovo claimed it was doing with Superfish). Less charitably (but arguably more realistically), these OEMs need these third parties because they help push PC OEMs out of the red and into the black financially. But that’s only necessary because their inherent lack of differentiation doesn’t allow them to charge a premium and therefore leaves them with very low margins. However, the software they do pre-install doesn’t actually differentiate them in any positive way, while Microsoft is ironically able to command a premium for the Windows devices it sells without any third party software pre-installed.

Parallels with Android and lessons from Motorola

There have been lots of stories over the years about the parallels between Windows and Android – two platforms which dominated market share while Apple took minority share but most of the profits. I won’t rehash the parallels here, but there is one specific area in which Lenovo’s problem in PCs could benefit from its subsidiary Motorola’s recent success in Android smartphones. Motorola has differentiated some of its recent phones on the basis of stripping down the user interface to the barebones stock Android experience, while focusing on adding real value through software innovations of its own. This is just the kind of thing Lenovo ought to be looking to do on PCs too.

Windows PC vendors have struggled for years to add real value to PCs with their own software, and the reason is simple: none of them is a software maker by background and all come from a pure hardware heritage. Apple remains the one computer maker that successfully sets itself apart on both its software and hardware, and a large part of that success is down to the tight integration between the two with related services. Stripping down the pre-installed third party software is only part of the answer. Lenovo needs to find ways to provide real value through its own, exclusive software above and beyond what Windows itself provides. This is going to get tougher as Microsoft builds more functionality into Windows in Windows 10: Lenovo has experimented with different “modes” for its Yoga laptops, but that will now be taken care of by Windows 10 itself. And Windows 10 will also come with some Office functionality built in.

Lenovo has built some of its own software in the past and currently pre-installs this with some of its devices. But this software is largely along similar lines to the third party stuff PC OEMs have traditionally bundled. It’s naggy, not very useful, and clogs up the machine. I don’t think Lenovo, or any other Windows PC OEM, has the wherewithal to successfully develop its own software today. But, as Microsoft is demonstrating, it’s certainly possible to acquire good software makers if you’re so inclined. Lenovo has been very focused on hardware acquisitions, building scale and, to some extent scope within that narrow sphere. But I think it’s time it started making software acquisitions. This is going to be a key area for future differentiation, both on the PC and on the smartphone, and Motorola has made a decent start on the smartphone side. But it’ll take a far bigger investment in software to really set Lenovo apart. As long as Samsung continues to try to do this organically, I think there’s an opportunity for Lenovo to really do something different across both its major hardware categories.

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Jan Dawson

Jan Dawson is Founder and Chief Analyst at Jackdaw Research, a technology research and consulting firm focused on consumer technology. During his sixteen years as a technology analyst, Jan has covered everything from DSL to LTE, and from policy and regulation to smartphones and tablets. As such, he brings a unique perspective to the consumer technology space, pulling together insights on communications and content services, device hardware and software, and online services to provide big-picture market analysis and strategic advice to his clients. Jan has worked with many of the world’s largest operators, device and infrastructure vendors, online service providers and others to shape their strategies and help them understand the market. Prior to founding Jackdaw, Jan worked at Ovum for a number of years, most recently as Chief Telecoms Analyst, responsible for Ovum’s telecoms research agenda globally.

260 thoughts on “The Real Problem with Lenovo’s Adware”

  1. Some differentiation can come from build quality but probably in a rather limited way

    Other possibility would be to offer really working and really honest support to users related to: 1) privacy; 2) security.

    That would mean, e.g., to offer security warning capabilities before installing a new app, warning users before going to a web page that have security risks, to offer really easy ways to use encryption, to offer users really easy ways to use VPN services, to offer security diagnostic services of the user hard disks, … Have the computer manufacturer to become the ally of the user in the day to day usage of the PC simplifying and limiting at least some of the main current problems: security, privacy

    Other possibility: to offer honest and independent app review services

    Other possibility: to offer fast / easy to use financing services that would push the user to buy higher quality and more expensive computers but allowing the user to pay much easier, e.g. in 24 months (similar to what mobile operators are beginning to do to sell smarphones to users).

    1. Let me summarize your post by saying BULLSH*T!

      You expect an OEM in racing red, deflationary ASPs and increasing loses to spend even more hiring software & security experts to code audit & review all apps before pre-loading crapware for survival????

      Here’s a simple fact: Security is EXTREMELY expensive with ZERO return on investment. Zero. Not only, security is moving target. May be secure one year – next year that same code is deemed insecure due to a newly discovered exploit or flaw.

      When you’re selling the SAME platform: Windows or Android – there is ZERO differentiation in the long term. And ONLY constant customer churn, revolving brands (as many go bankrupt and new competitors emerge), and deflationary ASPs.

      Google taught the world and especially their OEM partners: there’s only way to make money: Get rid of privacy/security and track the user constantly to sell ads.

      What’s there not to understand????

      We collectively chose this path. Get over it.

      Or PAY-UP!

        1. I’m realistic.

          You want privacy & security? Avoid windows & android – and Pay Up.

          Don’t care & like targeted personalized ads: use android & windows. They have the best targeting ad systems in the world.

          There’s nothing wrong with either.

          I have an issue with people accepting adware/tracking first – and then after the fact complaining. That’s not reality nor is it reasonable

          1. Google at least requires explicit consent. That makes it 100% okay. What’s the consent in the Lenovo case? The actual buying of the PC? Is it acceptable that add-on software isn’t vetted ahead of time? What if it was so buggy it crashed every time, would they still include it?
            In the end, this exposes QC issues as well.

          2. “Google at least requires explicit consent.”

            No they don’t. It is implied consent at best. Google shoves ads at me anytime I use a Google service, and I was not presented with an Agree/Disagree option to give my consent in most cases. That’s what explicit consent is. There’s also quite a lot of user data aggregation and tracking happening that is done without explicit consent.

          3. Same with the 3rd party software. Its in the EULA terms & conditions packaged with Lenovo docs. The written material along with regulatory information.

            Both provide warning & implied consent.

            Just like in-order to use android phone – you have agree during activation.

            You’re arguing probably the worst argument:
            * yes it’s okay if Google tracks the sh*t out of me and lowers the prices considerably for android phone.

            * no if Lenovo tracks you using Superfish.

            Horrible argument.

            Here’s the right argument:

            Option A: Track & provide personal ads for lower upfront price
            Option B: Don’t track & clean OS install – but for a higher upfront price.

            What’s not clear with the *actual* issue at hand ?

          4. Except that on my Android phone, I’m in no way obligated to use any Google services. It takes effort, but it’s doable.

            Don’t get me started on EULA’s, those often concealed (until you open it), unilateral contracts, which also come without the benefit of legal advise (for a consumer).

          5. Get real. In the western nations with Google services you’re using Google services all the time.


            Also your andorid phone that’s tracking you right now – would have been *much* more expensive without tracking.

            Side note: you do know Google makes its money from tracking & ads right?

            They’re not a non-profit organization.

            Sometimes reading your comments its clear that you forget that fact quite often – and think they develop these amazing products (that cost billions) out their goodness of their hearts!

          6. So we shouldn’t complain and raise awareness. We should just “suck it up”? That doesn’t fly with me.

          7. Good for you.

            And I feel for you. I do. Sometimes finding out Santa doesn’t exist – frankly sucks.

            Moral of the story. Time to wake the f*ck up. Complain all you want. And continue to bottom-feed by buying the cheapest hardware – pirate apps or service.

            Then at the end of the day. You’re back to square one wondering in amazement shocked and stunned – “shocked I say… Shocked – that someone would track you and serve you ads?” Crazy.

            For everyone else: reality.

          8. You think I’m speaking on behalf of only myself?
            You also have absolutely no clue how much I spend on tech every year. Why would you after all, but you do ASSUME. We know what that makes you now, don’t we…

          9. What are you talking about.

            Again clueless! or just plain naive or ignorance.

            How are you still missing the *only* 2 options (this is not about OS platforms):

            1. Cheaper upfront cost: subsidized by extremely personalized tracking & adware
            2. higher upfront cost: clean install no OS tracking

            That’s why – think for a moment – you can buy windows PC without adware. Because the user pays more.

            Think a little.

            Remember the PC manufacturer is a *company* – they are in business to *make money*. Also known as a profit. Except hardly anyone makes a profit. Worse yet. Profitability is plummeting

          10. In some cases there is explicit consent for some actions, but quite a lot of what Google does is implied consent (or none if you’re not aware of their actions). Glad you added your edit and came back to reality.

      1. “Security is EXTREMELY expensive with ZERO return on investment. Zero.”
        True. It’s a necessary cost center. What’s the ROI for a Police Force, if not for the savings of harm and damages? Same thing here.

        1. Remember that Lenovo does not share the same responsibilities as a police force.

          They’re not the government. They’re a *For PROFIT* business.

          Want security & privacy: PAY UP

          Other than that, consumers should Stop complaining about tracking when they chose adware for bottom barrel prices upfront.

          1. Not exactly. They chose a price point. Adware is part of that price point. My guess is a large segment of the market will still buy, even being aware of the crap loaded on the PC, in order to get the low price.

          2. Absolutely not. That’s like saying they agreed to being victimized. All they did was increase their chances.

          3. They did not choose to be victimized. This was a malware man in the middle attack. They didn’t choose that. I don’t oppose preloaded software, but the seller (Lenovo) must do diligence and assume responsibility. Which they did.

            It’s not complicated really.

          4. Really???

            I have never seen such completely naive statement as “seller (Lenovo) must do diligence and assume responsibility. Which they did”

            Few things: companies never assume responsibility (read it its in the long legal EULA). Lenovo of course never admitted guilt or responsibility. There’s a huge difference between issuing a removal tool. Actually read the official statements.

            Lastly. Because this is clearly not being understood:

            There are 2 only options:

            1. Cheaper upfront cost: subsidized by tracking & adware
            2. higher upfront cost: clean install no OS tracking

            Do you really think this will end – even for Lenovo? Do you really think in a few years from now Lenovo itself won’t have tracking again?

            The reality is. Consumers en-mass have consistently (and will continue) to chose option 1. And tracking will not only spread – it will become even *more* invasive. What do you think Google & Facebook & ad companies invest in?

            How do you think Google & Facebook make money?

            How do you think an android OEM makes money (actually tries to slow their losses)??

            Seriously. I understand business knowledge is not common trait. But lets get real.

          5. Guess what – fraud happens!

            Lenovo was not responsible – as you suggested beforehand.

            Welcome to reality.

            Another factoid: did you know there’s fraud on credit cards? Wow.

            But guess what my naive friend? You seem to be forgetting or glancing over the: there’s only 2 options. Pay-Up! or Don’t.

            BUT expect more tracking if you don;t want to pay up.

          6. Don’t be naive. Price is the driving factor for a large segment of the market. Low prices mean razor thin margins for PC makers. If you want low prices you’ll have to put up with the crap they put on PCs. That’s reality. And it does mean that there’s a good chance it’ll bite you on the ass in some way at some point. When you buy cheap you are indeed rolling the dice, you are choosing a less good user experience.

          7. I do agree that nothing is more expensive than a cheaply done job. I see this more as a safety issue. All legal products, no matter what the price must be safe for their intended use. Brakes have to work, even on cheap cars, and guns can’t explode in the hand when fired. Privacy can’t be violated by anyone. That’s a constitutional level crime.

    2. The history of Windows PCs [and Android phones now as well, I assert] has shown that there is no significant market for Windows PCs with premium build quality. Most people are not willing to pay for it. [“I’m going to spend that for something that I will replace in three years, when there’s this perfectly workable cheaper alternative?”] Even Mac buyers are not willing to pay for it if there is a cheaper alternative. [Thus, among his first decisions when he returned, Steve Jobs killed the Mac clone program.’]

      The only premium thing that customers of consumer devices seem to be willing to pay for, and which can be kept exclusive by the manufacturer, is the OS. [Customers might be willing to pay for premium form factors e.g. larger screens, but no device manufacturer can attain exclusivity on that.]

  2. The column suggests that Lenovo should differentiate itself. But what can Lenovo do to differentiate itself that can’t be copied by competitors, who selling the same hardware and software?

    I agree with the column’s diagnosis of Lenovo’s problem. But diagnosing a disease is not the same as curing it. Lenovo is the seller of a product with several very close substitutes. Either economic logic is wrong, or the company will never earn a sustained economic profit.

    1. Agreed.

      This is why I find so frustrating – people shaking their finger at Lenovo in disapproval & shame.

      Ladies & gentlemen: Welcome to reality!

      We have literally no one blame but ourselves. As consumers we have consistently picked cheapest prices YoY and traded our privacy for adware & tracking.

      Google led demonstrated the world that TARGETED & Personal Ads through constant tracking – are *not* bad – but a an “added value” and a good thing.

      Thanks to Google, currently Lenovo and guaranteed other PC OEMs have ad tracking built into the OS level. Thanks to Google pushing for HTTPS so only Google can track (thanks to Chrome) they’re forced to install a root certificate onto their products (not illegal – but expected).

      Superfish should NOT be a surprise. This is reality – will become increasingly widespread on Windows and *MUCH* worse on Android (its always on your person, has a mic, and has GPS). This is Guaranteed.

      And just wait for Superfish 2.0!

      Anyone complaining about Superfish tracking because of “invasion” of privacy is absolutely BS. In reality they *chose* that route and are perfectly okay with Google’s constant tracking.

      Don’t want Superfish or adware/malware? Here’s the solution: PAY-UP!!!!

      1. You are 100% correct. At this time it looks like there are only two business models. Either you do things the Apple way or the Google/Microsoft way. If you want lower prices and a larger selection of products you get what you do not pay for.

        You are right on about Android as well. This was covered by AppleInsider a bit ago where they found many of the sub $100 Android tablets came pre-loaded with malware. I really do not get how anyone could be shocked by this as those tablets where selling below cost. Of course they are going to come with malware. It is the only way that they could sell them at the prices that they are.

        1. Except that it’s not the case. Not all Windows PC’s come pre-loaded with third party programs. So it’s something less than 100% correct.
          And it’s not like easy measures can’t be taken. Uninstalling is easy, but it does require you to know that you can do that.

          1. You are correct that not all Windows PC’s come pre-loaded with 3rd party programs. What I and Logan I am sure are talking about is the consumer side of the PC OEM market where most of them are.

            As for uninstalling being easy, I will let you know that is not always the case and you do have to know what is ok to uninstall and what you do not want to touch. On Windows the add/remove control panel can be a confusing place for the non-techie. Even if you can remove the application there are many times when settings or files are left behind that cause problems and system instability so it really is not true that uninstalling is easy.

            You are relying on the vendor to do a good job with their uninstaller. The same vendor that wants to make money from you for the use of their software. So therefore the incentives are all wrong.

            I can not tell you how many times I have had to download a separate uninstaller application to remove a stubborn program that would not uninstall from the add/remove control panel.

          2. You know where I have the biggest uninstalling issues? On a Mac!
            Yes, there’s enough issues to go around. Know your tools…

          3. The difference is that on a Mac I have never had a problem removing a stubborn application. Plus, even if you just delete the application anything that may remain in the Library folder really does not get in the way of the rest of the system working correctly or long term stability of the system.

            On Windows, many installers are badly written and make a mess of the registry along with shove files all over the place where it is much harder and sometimes impossible to get rid of.

          4. Yes klahanas wouldn’t know the answer if it flew and hit him on face. Or appeared multiple times on his screen. He wouldn’t see it.

            He just can’t see it.

            I’m simply impressed he can find his way to the comments section.

          5. “if were going to have a battle of the whit’s, you should let me know, so I can check my brain at the door.” -Milton Bearle

          6. You literally do not understand.

            This is not a platform war/issue. This is an economic/business-model issue. Of course it’s not 100% of Windows (this is what YOU’RE missing). It’s cheap ones vs. more expensive ones.

            THINK a little

            You seem to missing the answer here: it’s only 2 options! (how are you missing it???)

            1. Don’t pay – get tracked (like android)
            2. Pay-Up

          7. Okay, are you really that dense? How many times do I have to agree to pay up? My first comment even said so, before you chimed in.
            Tracking is another matter, especially when not EXPLICITELY spelled out.

          8. This is what you keep missing – its explicit. Its in the terms of conditions. (you know the thing you didn’t know to read?)

            (just like during activation in Android – Google notifies & you must agree)

            Also – what you’re missing is the following;

            1. there’s nothing wrong with ad-subsidy model. It enables the less affluent consumers to buy into the market.

            2. Most consumers understand the ad-subsidy model. They understand ads offset cost.

            So they keep buying into it – only cheaper

            And stop lumping in other users – just because you don’t get it.

            Most get it – you don’t.

            this is amateur hour.

          9. I object to the terms and conditions. If it involves malware, it’s criminal. There!

            PS: How exactly is the buyer of a Lenovo computer to read the T&C of an embedded piece of software? Especially a fraudulent one.

            That’s Lenovo’s job and I don’t care what it costs them.

          10. Again your delusional tendencies are taking over your better half here.

            It’s you’re right to object and not accept the terms – by not proceeding to use the product.

            Same with Google. Did you accept and use your android device – therefore agree to Google tracking you up your a*s?

            Yes you did – you seem to understand that condition.

            Keep your delusional tendencies at bay. Be realistic – that’s all I’m asking here – it’s not hard.

            What you’re demanding – like toddler having temper tantrum – is absolutely unrealistic for a dying business. How the f*ck do you think a company can pull that off?

            What you’re asking is pure magic.

            Understand that what you’re asking – for a CEO to pull that off – he would deserve a Nobel Prize in Economics.

            Nothing short of that.

          11. Let me venture on a guess here – you’re one of those consumers that need the warning on knifes or hot beverages: CAUTION MAYBE SHARP or BEVERAGE MAYBE HOT

            And if you don’t receive those common sense warnings, you’d sue the company.

            You’re that guy

          12. you’re missing the fact that it’s plummeting to free. (get it?) It’s not free right now – but getting there – because of cost structures.

            You do realize this don’t you. Look at a graph of ASPs – this is not hard.

            Me – I’m the guy worried for the people around you (or people like you – that lack basic common sense) – or your kids probably my age.

            This/you are ridiculous. It’s shocking.

          13. Yes. I’m worried about your decisions. You should be too. And EVERYONE around you should be too.

            Again: common sense: Jobs maybe dead – but you do realize he has replacement right??? The CEO position is not vacant.

            Also you should know that the Board of Directors picks a replacement. The CEO position at major firms is not something that you’d apply for.

            Holy cow. This is basic common sense.

            Really – stop making decisions on your own. For your sake – stop.

            >>> also when you drive home today… Cruse control does not mean auto pilot. Just an FYI.

            And yes there’s a warning in the owners manual that you don’t know how to read and don’t how to find.

          14. No.. No it doesn’t.

            Disappointment really. And maybe fear.

            If you’re a reflection of the old generation – not good. No wonder the country has massive debt obligations.

          15. You’re not following the main issue at hand. Clearly you’re not.

            Regarding uninstalling (you’re bizarre solution to the problem) – don’t worry it’s going to get harder.

            Seriously do you not see the forest from the trees?

        1. What no?

          That’s called an ‘exception to the rule’. Your example is *Not* the ‘trend’.

          This will be my only response to you, because I absolutely hate religious arguments (while you’re motivated by them).

          This is nothing about OS but economics.

          There are 2 options & business models:
          (no Cool-Aid or any of your B.S.)

          1. Cheaper upfront cost: subsidized by deeply personal tracking & adware (think Google/Facebook)
          2. higher upfront cost: clean install no OS tracking

          To be clear – because you seem to need warnings. There is nothing wrong with #1. It allows for SCALE (more users). because it allows more people who ordinarily cannot afford the tech to participate in the market.

          Regarding your platform arguments – take it up with someone else.

          1. It seems odd to assume price is an indication of privacy, when reality proves the contrary (see link).

    2. I think Lenovo do have some differentiation:
      – the Trackpoint, which some love, some like, and many just disregard.
      – a rather distinctive design, you usually can spot the Lenovos amidst a roomful of laptops
      – a rather good brand image (current ruckus notwithstanding), both for high-quality expensive wares and for good-quality cheap ones.

      That makes their decision even more egregious. Even w/o the horrendous security hole, replacing others’ ads with their own, which was the initial goal of the malware, is content theft and communication tampering. How they thought they could get away with this…

      We *are* seeing interesting moves by Windows OEMs though. It took a while for them to realize that Consumer was worth some attention, and then to start figuring out how to address it, but they seem to be starting, at least on the hardware design side: several new machines from Dell, HP and Lenovo look very good and have the right specs/features. The OS and apps have been there for a while, so the remaining issues are branding and service.

      1. They need to come up with distinct features that cater to the mass market (not a niche) and, here’s the rub, that cannot be imitated by their competitors. In Windows PC land, the first requirement is a tall order, the second one is an extremely tall order.

        1. I’m just not sure who “they” is. The Windows ecosystem is a 4-part thing: hardware, OS, software, services.
          Looking back at 30 years of Windows, I’d say the key to success is the opposite: focus on making good hardware, and stop wasting time and energy on trying to be somebody else. Hasn’t worked for Sony and pictures, for HTC and apps, for Facebook and launchers, … Especially going from the bottom up is hard, MS, Oracle, Google… have an easier time going the other way round, into hardware.
          Also, if Lenovo get lucky in coming up with an app or cloud service or whatever that really sells, they’d be silly to restrict themselves to their own hardware customers too. It’s a different business though.
          I’d argue even Apple aren’t really proving integrated is the way to go, because Apple is luxury more than anything else. I’m surprised by the size of Apple’s market, but then again I’m surprised at the size of Nike’s sales too.

          1. “I’m surprised by the size of Apple’s market”

            Yes, that’s been obvious for quite some time. You still don’t get it. You’re trying to excuse Apple’s success by saying they’re luxury. That’s not it at all. It’s the user experience, and integrated is the way to go in this context.

          2. I would have thought that was obvious. Apple’s sales are simply too large to explain away by saying “Oh, it’s just a luxury product” or “Apple customers are just buying because of vanity or image”, and so on. You can’t seem to accept that Apple’s success is legitimate and will not be temporary or fleeting.

            Oh, if you need a source for Apple’s sales numbers (facts, as you are fond of saying), Apple is a public company and do this thing every three months called a quarterly report.

          3. Interesting strategy, straight up denial of Apple’s actual sales. Well played troll.

          4. You might try to pretend otherwise, but the discussion is about the motivation for those sales.
            Still waiting for facts.

          5. Hmm, again, I assumed it was obvious that luxury/fashion as the driver of consumer purchases re: Apple cannot account for so many aspects of Apple’s success, from the sheer scale of unit sales to usage data to customer satisfaction to developer interest to competitor performance to disruption theory, and more. Luxury/fashion as a consumer driver can’t explain Apple’s success. There’s more going on here.

          6. Well “it sells because it’s good, and it’s good because it sells” might be a tad circular. I’m sure there are other parameters, and both the research I come across and anecdotal evidence around me lead me to fashion/branding as by far the leading motivator (today’s “nobody ever got mocked for buying an iPhone” answering IBM’s “…fired…” of yesteryear).
            Same as most people who buy Nikes never actually run in them (except after the bus, maybe), most people who buy iPhones have no clue what they can do with them except run what’s app et al.
            Hence, again, my question: do you have any research to support your (circular) reasoning (and counter mine) ?

          7. You’ve got nothing supporting your notion that luxury/fashion is the driver of Apple’s sales. Nada. Zilch. Sure you can cherry pick surveys, use *comedy bits*, and offer your anecdotes, (anyone can do that re: any subject) but that isn’t an argument, it’s wishful thinking, cognitive dissonance.

            “Well “it sells because it’s good, and it’s good because it sells” might be a tad circular.”

            I never said anything of the kind. This is your twisted logic, not mine.

            If you’re actually interested in why your notion of luxury/fashion as a driver of sales doesn’t work, there’s plenty of good analysis over on which covers what I’ve already brought up re: the magnitude of sales, usage, disruption, and lots more. I suspect you’re not at all interested in any data that conflicts with what you want to believe about Apple.

            It’s more useful to view Apple through the lens of user experience, the jobs-to-be-done, what the products are hired to do, this at least isn’t at odds with every aspect of Apple’s success.

            Just as one very simple example, if luxury/fashion is the driver of sales, then Apple should be easily disrupted and it should have happened by now. In fact, I seem to remember a lot of analysis along these lines, except it never came true. I bet I could dig up some comments from you on this subject. Quick! Go delete them!

            You can actually look at all the aspects of Apple’s success and see that your luxury/fashion notion doesn’t gel with reality. You have a brain, you can do this, you don’t need me to spoon feed you.

          8. Again, do you have any actual data about what motivates people to buy iPhones ?

          9. I just gave you an entire site with many articles on this subject. Whether you bother to read any of it is another matter. Stratechery is another good source.

            What a predictable response from you. I wonder if you realize how often you use this “Do you have any data and/or sources?” as an exit strategy (even after another commenter has given you plenty of info), instead of actually trying to think and engage in an intelligent discussion.

            You seem to just want links to surveys, but of course surveys give us incredibly dumb analysis like ‘iPhone no longer cool with teens” or “iPhone users are vain noobs”. It’s disappointing that you aren’t interested in deeper analysis, but I did predict that you would not be interested.

          10. Just point one single article on that site about *why* people actually buy iPhones. Like I did for you.
            “Do you have any data” is not my exit strategy, actually if you go back to the beginning you’ll realize it was my opener, because I’m actually interested in this. Not i-nalyst blurb on how they get why Apple succeeds and you should hire them if you want to succeed too, but actual data on purchase motivators. There’s a difference, believe it or not.
            I do value actual data more than analysis. Anything can be analyzed any which way after the fact, and it doesn’t really tell the story, of , again, why do people buy iPhones. You don’t seem to have anything to contribute either.

          11. Just one? Easy like pie:

            And speak of the devil, there you are in the comments on that article:

            “Subsidies are the major driver of demand for iPhones.”

            So now that the subsidy doom didn’t work out like you wanted, you’re on to luxury/fashion being the driver of sales. I couldn’t make this up if I tried, it’s priceless.

            By the way, there’s plenty more on Asymco, as well as Stratechery, if you’d bother to LOOK.

          12. Mmmmm… and where in that article does it talk about what motivates customers do buy iPhones ?

          13. Are you seriously this lazy? There’s lots of meat in that article, and many other articles on Asymco. In fact this particular article motivated you to comment “Subsidies are the major driver of demand for iPhones.”

            So if the article doesn’t have anything to do with drivers of iPhone sales why did you feel compelled to say “Subsidies are the major driver of demand for iPhones.”

            Maybe the issue here is that you really don’t understand why that article sheds light on what drives sales of the iPhone (and Apple products overall).

            Try this article:

            I would guess you also think this has nothing to do with what drives iPhone sales. And indeed, there you are again in the comments on that article: “How does this analysis work in other markets?”

            So it could be that simple, you truly don’t understand what this has to do with iPhone sales.

            One last article, from Stratechery this time:

            This one is fairly simple, I think.

          14. I think we’re having a reading comprehension issue. All those articles are pontifications about generalities. I’ll try to make it very clear: what I’m trying to do is complete the sentence:
            “I bought an iPhone because…”
            To be even clearer, the answer is NOT “… I feel like getting in on the 4th 5th of the logistics curve”.

          15. “what I’m trying to do is complete the sentence: “I bought an iPhone because…”

            Yes, and this is why you fail to understand, the answer isn’t as simple as you want it to be, it’s far more complex.

            The articles I linked to (and there are many more) are not “pontifications about generalities” but I understand that you need them to be exactly that. Your belief system re: Apple doesn’t fit otherwise.

          16. Well said. I’ll end with this comment from Horace Dediu (founder of Asymco). He was replying to a comment you had made on Asymco. You didn’t understand him then and you clearly still don’t:

            “The most important factor in commercial success is that the product works for the job it’s hired to do. There is no good or bad product. A camera in a phone is superior to a studio camera when the job is always having a camera with you. Being successful means avoiding competition in the first place by re-defining the basis of competition.”

            Horace was attempting to correct your misunderstanding of Apple’s success. If he can’t educate you, I certainly can’t.

          17. For all the smoke blowing, neither of you seems very capable of answering: But *what* job is it hired to do.

          18. There isn’t one single job, there are many jobs-to-be-done, and it’s different depending on the user, the environment, the context (which changes), there are many factors at play. Goodness, you don’t understand that? No wonder you’re confused.

            Here’s the answer you want: The job the iPhone is hired to do is to make me look cool.

            Yikes. I’m afraid you’re hopeless.

          19. As incredible as it may sound to you, there are usually a limited set of jobs. Furthermore, groups of users with similar sets of motivators and demotivators usually can be clustered into, say, segments.
            After spending months and whole bookfulls theorizing about jobs to be done, at some point a reality check about what those jobs to be done actually can be kinda keeps the whole hooplah a bit grounded. The devil usually is in the details.
            But since you seem to not have a handle on what those jobs to be done actually are, by all means do keep theorizing about them, theory always works better with no reality to gum up its cogs.

          20. “As incredible as it may sound to you, there are usually a limited set of jobs.”

            But you said there was one job, singular. I never said jobs-to-be-done were infinite. However it isn’t one job. It seems you’ve at least realized how silly it was of you to state there was only one.

            “But since you seem to not have a handle on what those jobs to be done actually are”

            You can’t be this dense, it isn’t hard to identify specific jobs-to-be-done. There’s plenty of discussion on various jobs all over Asymco. In Horace’s reply to you he identifies the camera. One of the jobs I hire my iPad to do is writing. Another is task management.

            *Think* about what you do with the products you own. This is kid stuff, come on.

          21. ” it isn’t hard to identify specific jobs-to-be-done..”
            Well, I’ve spent a inordinate number of posts trying to get you to list some actual ones (again, customer-side and real, not theoretical). And I’m still waiting. So please do go ahead and answer the question, instead of… can’t remember the word for doing anything but that.

          22. Do I really need to list some of the jobs-to-be-done for you, it’s so trivial. I did actually identify three in my last comment. But there are so many. You might hire an iPhone in order to listen to music, or make video calls with grandchildren, or to make a movie, or to act as a personal assistant, or to act as an information resource, or to read books, or to play games, or as a map. The jobs-to-be-done go on and on and on. And there’s isn’t just one, people are engaged in many. Many jobs. One device.

            Seriously, this is such easy stuff I assumed it wasn’t necessary. Your approach to this issue is as daft as asking what one thing do you do with your PC?

            By the way, there’s no such thing as a theoretical job-to-be-done. You can either do something with a product or you can’t. It’s all ‘real’. Oh, jobs-to-be-done is also all customer-side, *by definition*. Again, this is just so simple.

            Of course the analysis using jobs-to-be-done as the lens can be quite complex, but being able to identify a job as well as understanding that the jobs are real and always customer-side, is sooooooo simple. How can you not understand such a simple concept?

            But sure, you go ahead and pull the rip cord with your patented “still waiting” move. Buh bye.

          23. OK. Now, all those jobs can also be done with other devices. What makes people chose the iPhone to do them ? Those are reasons to buy any smartphone, not specifically an iPhone.

          24. Oy. This is like trying to teach a five year old. The user experience is the differentiation! Of course that brings many aspects of Apple’s approach to technology into play.

            Not that you’ll bother reading it, but there’s a great new article on Asymco about this:

            Now I’ll wait for the classic denial that Apple’s user experience is any different. Of course it isn’t. It’s just the same as everything else, just more expensive, blah blah blah Troll noise yadda yadda, as soon as these Apple Sheep wake up and realize they can get all the same stuff for waaaaay cheaper, Apple is dooooooomed.

          25. Becoming increasingly pissy because you can’t answer the question isn’t a useful tactics. For the record, I don’t think much about your reasoning capacity or emotional maturity either.

            Can you back up your claims that customers either 1- think or know the user experienence is better and 2- use that as the criteria to chose their phone ?

            And you prove for the umpteenth time that you don’t even understand the question by linking a totally irrelevant post.

          26. “Can you back up your claims that customers either 1- think or know the user experienence is better and 2- use that as the criteria to chose their phone ?”

            I didn’t say better. I said different. Better is necessarily going to be different based on your needs. And yes, consumers are aware of the jobs-to-be-done they want to do and whether the iPhone can be hired to do those jobs. So why specifically the iPhone? Because the user experience and jobs-to-be-done satisfies the needs of the consumer, more so than a different smartphone.

            Now, that doesn’t mean all other smartphones are pieces of crap, they’re just offering a different user experience, and probably more importantly in most cases, a lower price point.

            “And you prove for the umpteenth time that you don’t even understand the question by linking a totally irrelevant post.”

            That post is relevant. It’s not my problem if you don’t understand why.

          27. OK, you win. People buy iPhones over other phones because they’ve got jobs to be done and there’s a logistics curve. Nicely done. I’ll look elsewhere for my answers.

          28. The problem isn’t that I haven’t answered your question. I have. The problem is it isn’t the answer you want to hear, and you don’t understand or won’t accept the framework of the analysis.

          29. I do have an answer to your most recent question, if you read my other reply to this comment. Clever of you to come back and edit your comment to make yourself look less silly.

          30. You should read before answering (and lay off the paranoia), I hit send a bt early, and edited for clarity, one can never be clear enough with you, before you answered.
            Try again

          31. Clayton Christensen and three Anti-Apple musketeers of Tech.Pinions namely Obarthelemy, Klahanas and Kenny(all cut from same cloth) scratching their heas on how the hell Apple and especially iPhone has succeeded.
            Why iPhone is the most successful smartphone? Why?
            Hint: (in Steve Jobs words) It’s magic. 😉

          32. At least Christensen admitted he was wrong, I think. Part of it is that Apple is a threat to the ego/identity of the pseudo-nerds, the dabblers, the hobbyists, the poseurs. Apple’s push towards simplifying the computing experience directly impacts their identity. They often self-identify as ‘power users’ and imply that people who buy into Apple’s simplified experience are not ‘power users’ and ‘don’t know their tools’, etc. We had much the same outcry when the graphical user interface took over. The pseudo-nerds freaked out. What!!!?? That’s not a ‘real computer’!! Power users don’t use a GUI!!!! Give it time, the current crop of pseudo-nerd hysteria will die down.

        2. I agree. The iPhone and iPad didn’t just launch the app economy; the app economy launched them. And Android too. That spaceship has sailed.

  3. Differentiation is important both for the supplier and the user, sometimes for entirely different reasons. For the OEM it’s to stand out. For the user it’s choices in so many ways.

    Vertical integration can be used to explain the apparent paradox of why it’s okay for Apple’s products to be so, well, iDentical. This is critical for their success, the total control they employ. This leads to a binary choice. You’re in or your out, by necessity a more limited choice.

    What Windows OEMs, boneheaded as they are, need to do is focus on quality software add-ons as incentive, even if this means charging some more. They are already well differentiated on hardware.

    Remember when Jobs launched Next? He bundled Mathematica, The Collected Works of William Shakespeare, etc. This was before the internet explosion. Imagine what it could do for their University sales if the Surface (to pick but one model) came with Mathematica included? A shopping App?! Really?!

    1. 1st: welcome to reality – get used it. There’s more adware on the way and get ready for Superfish 2.0.

      2nd. You want OEM’s to spend even more money reviewing the crapware they install on their PCs??? They make up as much as they can from adware & crapware because their PCs are sold at a loss?

      What are users missing from this equation? Adware goes *AGAINST* privacy & security. That’s HOW they sell ads? This is how Google & Facebook operate.

      It must be remembered by users, OEM’s track you – like Google does – to MAKE-UP for their losses & stay in the black.

      If users care about privacy (they don’t – ask Google or Facebook) they have ONE SOLUTION:


      1. Someone’s cranky today!
        I suggested paying up for models that do what I proposed. No problem.
        But keep in mind, customers don’t owe these guys a living.

          1. Being informed matters. Knowing your tools matters. Incidents such as this raise awareness. That’s a good thing.

          2. Not saying being are is bad thing.

            Here it is – here’s the disclaimer going forward:

            It’s going to get worse. Tracking will become not only commonplace & more personal – tracking will become more granular as well.

            Superfish is *not* the exception to the rule. Many many more is already active right now – and will come shortly.

            Not to mention Superfish 2.0 (but under a different name).

            Happy? You’re aware.

            Solution: stop complaining – you’re aware.

          3. Here’s where we disagree:
            Complain! Loudly! Send a message. Uninstall, or better yet, don’t even buy.

          4. Don’t buy? Then you’re pretty much left with Apple as your only crap free option. Can any PC maker afford to not install adware, etc?

          5. I would agree with you if I could find the “crap free”.

            Yes MS offers the Signature Series in their stores, and it doesn’t come preloaded with anything. You can CHOSE what to add whatever on your own. Other shops do as well.

          6. Good for you!

            Now the challenge for Lenovo & ad firms – how to make their ad tracking even -harder to uninstall or block.

            Just like ad companies need to develop better ways of serving ads to bypass ad-blockers.

            Long term future:

            More tracking & ads – that’s even more pervasive & personal – that’s also harder to disable or remove.

          7. Most of the market won’t pay extra. Heck even *you* whine about high prices. That sends a clear message to PC makers, keep it cheap! And then we’re left with a crapware future.

          8. I don’t oppose adding software, even if it’s crapware. If the software introduces malware to a person’s system, the seller bears responsibility.

    2. Next is probably not the best example to bolster your plea for quality software add-ons as it was a commercial failure until Apple (who doesn’t solicit crapware business) bought it.

      1. absolutely delusional speak from Klahanas – I’m surprised he knows how to type into the comments section.

        Here’s a surprising fact: quality software companies (virtually none left in the Windows consumer sphere – thanks to race-to bottom and ad-subsidy model)

        DO NOT pay for inclusion!!! They would CHARGE for their product. It’s quality product. Why would they PAY OEM’s. How would they make money?

        Absolutely delusional

      2. Success at commerce, and highlighting a good thing are not exactly the same. Next failed for a multitude of reasons, not for their excellent (at the time) software bundle.

  4. “… it’s time it started making software acquisitions…” Spot on analysis. How about a version of touch ID?

  5. What you are basically suggesting is for Lenovo to find a way to be a Windows PC manufacturing and yet opt out of the Windows PC race to the bottom. If they are able to achieve that, their CEO deserves whatever is the Nobel Prize for management.

    I think the jury is still out on whether Motorola has succeeded on differentiating their version of Android. The only metric that matters there is sustained profitability. They aren’t there yet. They have to show an increase in profitability and then sustain it when the competitors start copying whatever it is that lifted their profits.

    1. Yes. That’s delusional speak.

      There’s only 2 options that surprisingly many cannot see:

      1. Cheaper upfront cost: subsidized by deeply personal tracking & adware (think Google)
      2. higher upfront cost: clean install no OS tracking

      1. There are of course some shades of the two options, some crossover, stratification I suppose, but essentially you’re right. This is market segmentation, another concept many don’t seem to understand, especially the crowd that yells “Market share! Android is winning!”

        To simplify we could map your two choices to market segments, and the reality is that Apple dominates segment/option #2. So for these OEMs looking to differentiate, it’s a very tough road. They have to target a segment that is willing to pay for a better user experience, but also doesn’t want to buy from Apple. That has to be a very, very small segment.

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