What is it about Apple that makes the company and their products different and desirable? I’ve watched Apple from various perspectives for over 15 years, most of that under co-founder Steve Jobs’ reign. During that time, Apple suffered. That’s right. Suffered.
It took the company years to come up with Mac OS X after Jobs returned. Both Jobs and the company’s executives built a platform for the future, but did so while suffering modest sales growth and profits for many years.
That had to be a humbling experience. Mac OS X was cool. Apple’s products were chic and desirable. Success didn’t come overnight. Apple’s executives and engineers kept their collective heads (down) and continued to build what they thought they themselves wanted and used.
Meanwhile, look at the competition over the space of the late 1990s into the 21st century. Microsoft, as rich and blustery as ever, made money hand over fist. So did PC makers. Apple, though profitable, was hardly catching a break, despite producing the best products ever.
While Dell, HP, and Microsoft languished, and stopped innovating, Apple took risks. First, iTunes. Second, the iPod. Then, the iTunes Music Store. Competitors scoffed. How could little old Apple succeed where no one else had? Apple ignored them and continued to build a better product.
Within a few short years, before the competitors actually figured out what had happened (pride and arrogance can do that to executive decisions), Apple had the iPod running on PCs, lowered the price, expanded the product line, and made both iPod and iTunes huge successes. They’re still number one and without much challenge.
What happened to competition? Apple ignores competition.
The switch to Intel CPUs helped grow the Mac into modest market share gains, steady revenue growth, and more profits.
But Apple knew what was on the horizon. The iPod’s reign would be brief, as smart phones would come along and do more, so Apple risked it all by moving into the smart phone industry with a dramatic disruption.
Apple put the Mac’s easy-of-use into a handheld, touch device. The iPhone, introduced just five years ago, spelled the beginning of the end for industry giants. Microsoft fell. BlackBerry fell. Others were weakened quickly, yet all of them scoffed at Apple’s new way of bring computing to the mobile masses.
Pride and arrogance kept the competition resting on their laurels. They moved too slowly, and when they did, didn’t realize that Apple was a rapidly moving target, constantly skating to where the puck would be, not where it was.
Then, the iPad struck. True, it was merely a very large iPod touch, but Apple sold more iPads in two years than they did iPhones in the first three years. Still, years later, there is little tablet competition, and those are the market are not money makers.
Google had to steal the touch interface from the iPhone to launch Android smart phones, but even free Android hasn’t had the success that Apple has with the iPhone. Where is Microsoft? Windows Phone collapsed. After four years, Microsoft launched a new mobile initiative, Windows Phone 7, which was met with decent reviews, not not market acceptance. It was too little, too late. Microsoft’s new phone, for all the fancy tiles, and navigation pluses, wasn’t enough to light a fire under anyone.
Samsung, for all their manufacturing prowess, did the next best thing, and took an earlier strategy adopted by Microsoft. They simply copied everything Apple designed and called it their own.
Meanwhile, Apple ignores the competition and continues to do what they do best. Build products they like. Isn’t that pride and arrogance, too? Apple is certainly proud of their products and success. Are they arrogant? Confidence can overlap with arrogance, and Apple is certainly a confident company.
Why is it then, that both Apple and their competitors exhibit a measure of both pride and arrogance, yet one is immensely successful, while the others languish as also rans constantly playing catchup?