Three things that make Apple different

A few years ago, frustrated with all the time I spent fixing my computers and all the money I spent on new utilities to make them work, I bought an iMac.

I was equally surprised and thrilled to realize that the hype was really true. They actually do just work. Next, I bought a MacBook and a Time Machine/router. Not only did they work; they worked together. I added Mobile Me and synced everything seamlessly and without intervention.

But it wasn't until I bought the iPhone two years ago, that I went from being a very happy user to a convert. Today, I played golf with a gentleman who was learning his way around his first iPhone. "I always said I never wanted an iPhone," he said, "and I've had this for two days and it has changed my life." I completely understand that.

The iPhone changed everything for me. As a technology executive who was also in charge of cell phones for a 500-person business, I was able to consistently replace my cell phone with whatever was new and then roll down my phone to another employee. This was good because no matter how cool they seemed at first, within a few months their warts had been revealed and I was on the march for something better.

The iPhone has never disappointed. Consistently, I find new ways to make my personal and work life easier, more efficient, and - yes - more fun. And, again, they just work.

Adding the iPad this week, I now have an entire Apple orchard in my house and my work.

To me there are three factors that make Apple stand out among so many competitors.

-- People want to use their products. It's not work to work. Go to the Apple store. It is a modern, connected digital nirvana. The associate had a card swipe attachment and a proprietary app on his iPhone. When it came time to check out with my new iPad, he swiped my card on his phone there, emailed my receipt and applied my Apple Care plan to my existing Apple account. It was easy, smooth, efficient and it showed what the technology can do. Our businesses should all be this inviting and look this efficient to our customers.

-- And let's consider customer service. You can argue about the controversy surrounding the Apple antenna issue. But so often companies are quick to make statements, but slow to make amends. Last week, Apple announced they would provide the "bumpers" to all iPhone owners to correct the antenna problem. And, if you happened to have already bought one (like me), you would get a refund. 'How long is that going to take,' I wondered, 'and what kind of paperwork will I have to file?' I spent 30 minutes hunting up my receipts and emails so I would have everything all together. I need not have worried.  Today (one week after the announcement), I received an email from Apple that they had refunded the charge for my bumper. It was already in my bank. That's follow-through we could all strive for in our businesses.

-- Finally, they innovate. There were certainly Apple products that were sub par - the blueberry colored Mac and the Newton come to mind. But that didn't send Apple to the mattresses. They learned from the blueberry Mac and it evolved into the iMac on my desk. And the Newton may very well be the first glimmer of the iPhone/iPad revolution.

Like it or not, Apple is leading the way in computing, producing products that are both reliable and exciting. Businesses could do far worse than find ways to integrate that into our businesses.

Stay with us as we take the iPad on a rigorous course of Business 101. Your comments and suggestions on apps or integrations are welcome. We'll do our best to check them out.