contrasting business strategies of Apple and Canon

Apple started at the sumptuous end of the smartphone market and has moved down table.  Canon users, in contrast, have been firing bigger, more expensive Canons.  Canon users on flickr have shifted from 37% DSLR / 63% point-and-shoot in November, 2006 to 71% DSLR / 29% point-and-shoot in April, 2011.

Apple entices customers with one new iPhone model once a year, or longer.[*]  Canon, in contrast, fires out a barrage of camera models.  Among Canon cameras used on flicker, about 65 new Canon models have appear over the past two and a half years.

The new iPhone model seduces a large share of users of previous iPhone models.  Canon models seem to stay in use longer.  Consider the flickr Camera Finder data for April, 2011.  The report for Apple doesn’t include a separate line for the original iPhone that was released at the end of June, 2007. The iPhone 3G, which was released in July, 2008, has 3,406 users.  That figure probably includes original iPhone users.  The Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi, released in Aug. 2006, has 3,171 users.  The Canon model with the most users, the EOS Digital Rebel XSi, has about 4,000 users, as does the iPhone 4.  The EOS Digital Rebel XSi was introduced in January, 2008.  The iPhone 4, in contrast, was introduced about two and half years later.

Apple is one company producing smartphones with proprietary software.  Many vendors are producing smartphones on a rapid development cycle using Android, an open-source operating system.  The differences between Apple and the Android industry and between proprietary software and open-source software are significant.  But as the contrasts between Apple and Canon illustrate, even as a single company building devices with proprietary software, Apple’s business strategy is distinctive.

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Data: Apple and Canon user growth among flickr users (Excel version)

[*] The iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, and iPhone 4 came on market from 2007 to 2010 with yearly introductions about the end of June.  The iPhone 5 reportedly will not be on the market until the fall of 2011.

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