What's Apple's Recipe for Success?
Only a matter of years ago Apple – after years upon years of success and innovation in the technology and personal computing fields – was considered to be an underdog in Silicon Valley. Sure, the company was still alive and well, but in comparison to other technology giants, Apple was deemed old and irrelevant. However, more recent years have paved the way for a huge comeback for Apple and the company now seems more prosperous and promising than ever before. Even those who express flat-out dislike for Apple would be making unsubstantiated arguments if they were to say that Apple hasn’t become a larger, more innovative, and more influential organization in the past eight years or so; a trend that will likely grow in the coming years.
But how did Apple go from being on the edge of failure to a driving force? In this article, I’ll cover a few of Apple’s strongpoints; areas that have helped the company to grow to what they are today, and the same concepts that they can easily build upon to be an even bigger force in the future.
Focus on Consumers
One of the biggest arguments made against Apple products is that they are not seen as suitable for professional and business environments. And while many workplaces have successfully disproved this theory, one cannot deny that Apple’s main target audience is not large-scale enterprises but rather individuals such as you and me. While other technology giants strive to gain contracts with big businesses, Apple has from the get-go catered more towards the consumers.
Anyone who pays attention to advertisements (on television and otherwise) will tell you that Apple definitely has a larger media presence than competitors such as Microsoft. And even though Microsoft has indeed invested in consumer advertising more recently, their media campaigns have – from what I’ve seen – been much smaller than that of Apple. How often, after all, do you see a Microsoft commercial on TV? Definitely less often than Apple commercials, right?
Not only does Apple focus on consumers in their advertising and marketing, but Apple’s products are indicative of a consumer-focused organization as well. The simple (some would say “dummied down”) products that Apple delivers are clearly aimed more at consumers looking for simplicity and functionality than large businesses. Of course devices such as the Macintosh and iPhone can be implemented in corporate-esque environments, but out of the box they provide the simple interface that a consumer would expect.
One of the biggest and clearest examples of this phenomenon is the difference between Apple’s “MobileMe” service and Microsoft’s “Exchange” service. At heart, both services are designed to work as a productivity and collaboration service for the end-user. However, while Exchange is used widely as part of corporate infrastructures, MobileMe is designed more specifically for home users who want to take advantage of dead-simple email, calendar, and storage services; giving them the same core features whilst implementing an otherwise unheard of level of simplicity.
Room to Grow
Perhaps more important than Apple’s focus on consumers is the fact that they still have room to grow in terms of business-focused products and services. Going back on the same MobileMe vs. Exchange example that I used in my last point, I honestly think Apple is in a better position to expand into business environments than Microsoft is to bring their enterprise-focused applications to a consumer level.
Think about it. MobileMe can be built-upon to fit business needs rather easily, because most of the “core” features are already present in the product. By offering MobileMe as a self-hosted solution for businesses and adding a few more enterprise-level control and collaboration features, Apple would have an Exchange competitor on their hands.
On the flip side, Microsoft would have to dummy down and significantly simplify Exchange in order to be anywhere near competitive to MobileMe.
This same concept can be seen in a great many of Apple’s products. While Microsoft is, of course, present in both the consumer and business fields, the fact of the matter is the company has expanded and grown to the point where further growth is a bigger challenge than one would think. After all, where can you expand to when you’re already in every industry and field? On the other hand, Apple still has a way to go in corporate computing, and based on their successes in the consumer industry would likely fair very well.
In terms of Apple’s actual products, I have more recently come to the conclusion that Apple’s various products at different price-levels are very successful in “hooking” users to the company. Seriously. Apple products remind me now of what Pokémon cards were like in the fifth grade; once you have one, you want them all. But what exactly am I talking about?
You see, all Apple products – regardless of if they are desktop or mobile based – share a common attribute in the sense of simple yet powerful user interfaces. So someone could easily pick up an iOS-based iPhone or iPod Touch, use it, and immediately begin contemplating an iPad or Macintosh purchase. And because Apple does have quite a few sub-$500 products, it’s easy to see where one could get lured into the Apple way of life.
Even on the PC-side, I feel that Apple’s iTunes and Safari software for Windows give users a peek into the OS X way of doing things, and in a sense help to make users consider Macintosh computers.
I’m not saying that it’s intentional at all – although it may very well be – but Apple’s product line sure does make it easy for consumers to become “addicted.”
But why do Apple users become addicted to Apple’s products? Believe it or not, there’s no magical electronic cocaine in them, but rather a deep sense of integration. Having said this, it seems like every single Apple product is built to coexist with another Apple product of another form. iOS devices, in the simplest example, sync beautifully with Mac OS X. The iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad can also be used as remote controls for the Apple TV; which coincidently works just as seamlessly with iTunes on either the Mac or PC platform.
With this in mind, users are able to purchase Apple products knowing that they will integrate flawlessly with their existing Apple products. This, I think, makes Apple goods all the more attractive to end-users who don’t want to fuss to get things working.
Last but not least, no one can deny the amount of hype and press coverage that Apple gets. I don’t know of any other company that can routinely get users to stand in long cold lines just to get their hands on a product. But this hype goes far beyond the retail aspect of Apple’s operations, and has a great deal to do with every single announcement that Apple makes.
Think about it. The World-Wide Developers Conference and keynote announcements always attract a great deal of attention to Apple. Whenever Steve Jobs has something to say, the media eats it up. Free advertising at its best.
Love them or hate them, Apple has definitely gone a long way in the last few years and I honestly do believe that their innovation – not only in their products but in the way the company is run as well – has helped to get them to places no one thought they’d ever see; including a strong future for years to come.
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