I always enjoy seeing the breadth of reactions when a new, eagerly-awaited piece of kit is unveiled. In the last couple of weeks we’ve had the new 41-megapixel camera smartphone from Nokia and the new iPad, and reactions have covered everything from feverish excitement to cynical jeering.
The real impact of competition is extremely visible in the ultra-competitive tech market. Consumers who covet the latest smartphones, tablets and so on are hard to impress. They demand quality and innovation, so it’s no wonder Apple and its rivals constantly strive so hard to gain that extra edge over the rest of the pack.
Regardless of the sector, showy demonstrations of innovations like these are a brilliant illustration of how a competitive market inspires audacious, entrepreneurial thinking. And that’s what benefits the customer.
We’ve been part of Scotland’s competitive water market since 2008, which might not have attracted the same attention as the new iPad, but has demonstrably improved service, innovation and prices for customers. We’re now looking forward to a similar market opening in England within the next few years, and an extension of these competition-driven benefits south of the border.
Just think about the impact of competition in the development of smartphones. Given that less than 12 years ago the very first cameraphone, boasting an underwhelming 0.1 megapixel camera, was only just hitting the market, it is remarkable how far the technology has come. Now more than 70% of all mobile phones have an integrated camera, with around one billion units being sold in 2011.
We can all remember mobile phones that were far from pocket sized and the first time we saw a mobile phone which also let its owner stay in touch with emails (you may have your own views on whether or not that’s been a good thing...).
Who knows? Maybe the iPhone wouldn’t have ‘changed everything’ if it hadn’t been for the speed at which competition has driven that market.
The mobile phone industry now has more than 30 competitors and it is, in no small part, thanks to the competition between these firms that phones can now boast cameras of which even photography enthusiasts can be jealous.
Interestingly, none of this kit comes cheap. When the new iPad launches in the UK this Friday (March 16), the least-expensive version will cost £399. The current iPhone 4S weighs in at £319; the Samsung Galaxy S2 is the better part of £400. Customers don’t always want the cheapest – very often they want the best, the fastest, the most innovative or the most responsive.
That chimes exactly with our thinking too; there’s always room to do it better.
What do you think? Is competition a force for customer good?