We just learned that Apple intends to become a virtual mobile operator (MVNO). The brand has worked for several years with Gemalto to develop a revolutionary "chip": this SIM card is wholly virtual. According to Les Echos (29-30 October), it is "an electronic component loading flash memory to activate the telephone on the operator's network". We are therefore going to see a fundamental change within the telecommunications market: operators will potentially be "responsible for maintaining a network of channels, and double as bankers who might subsidize telephones". Mobile telephony will see a revolution - just like music did after the launch of iTunes.
I think this is additional proof of the existence of a genuine Apple ecosystem - enabling the brand to develop with a completely new business model: instead of selling products (a manufacturer Business Model), instead of selling a brand (a brand Business Model), Apple sells solutions.
Each of these solutions – corresponding to consumer issues / expectations - being extremely "pertinent" with regard to these expectations, the consumer - following a "contact" rationale - will be drawn towards an interest in other Apple solutions, and so buy a new trinomial - wish / product / solution. A perfect method of "percolation" towards the heart of the brand ...
Let's take some examples:
- The iPad buyers choose the product / solution for its functionality (access to books, magazines, videos, etc.), and discover the potential of the iOS. A recent Nielsen study shows that "25% of likely smartphone up-graders who have not yet owned an iPhone or iPad, indicate that they would purchase an Apple iPhone as their next smartphone. But when we asked iPad owners who do not have an iPhone this same question, this number more than doubled to 51%". They therefore "move on" to an iPhone.
- The iPad brings Apple new sections of the population - often still excluded from computing, such as the elderly, very young children ... or even baby boomers.
- iTunes users (there are currently 160 million) will use Ping – Apple's "entertainment" social network - to share their expectations, their pleasures and grievances: music in our society is the most structuring social factor (more than one million users became members within 48 hours of its release).
- Apple Stores offer computer users a unique space, organized around the 'expectations / solutions' combination: non-commercial consultancy spaces (Genius Bar, Studio, Amphitheatre...), "living" products to use and to transfer data from an older computer to a new Mac ("One to One"). Result: 45% of its buyers hail from the PC world.
The arrival of Apple as a virtual operator fits into this logic. Faced with operators whose business model relies on proposals made by engineers – with no concept of service and no reflection on the expectations of consumers - Steve Jobs could only repeat one of his own phrases (when he opened Apple Stores) and transpose it: "Buying a car is no longer the worst purchasing experience; buying a computer is now number one". Apple, after the success of the iPhone, offers to reinvent the relationship we have with our telephone operators – it's about time.