The New York Times writes: " Microsoft has a near-monopoly on the basic software used on the hardware owned by most people, enabling the company to extract what is basically a head tax. Google has a near-monopoly in the digital library business, which enables it to do very well with advertising that monetizes eyeballs. But Apple has an absolute monopoly on the asset that is the most difficult for competitors to copy: cool."
Another message: Interface matters.
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Mr. Saffo points out that the iPod and its competitors use identical hardware components. What permits one to so outdistance the others, he says, is "how they are put together" - in Apple's case, with yet-to-be-matched software and essential cool. Playing at the top of his game, Mr. Jobs can lead the way to ubiquitous, headache-free, plug-and-play computing, including every definition of "play" and taking a variety of forms.
Apple is well positioned for the future. When consumers open their wallets to buy things that have machine intelligence, or provide digital entertainment, or link to the Internet - that is, just about everything in a household that is not edible - they are likely to be drawn to the company with cachet, offering the best-designed, best-engineered, easiest-to-use products, priced affordably thanks to Mr. Moore's old law and Mr. Jobs's new pragmatism. They'll turn to the company that best knows how to meld hardware and software, the company embodied in the ecstatically happy hipster silhouette. The company that is, in a word, cool.