As a technology company with a variety of products which sell well and overlap in functionality, Apple does not seem to fear cannibalization, a common occurrence that is often feared in product marketing.
cannibalize |ˈkanəbəˌlīz| verb [ with obj. ]
1 use (a machine) as a source of spare parts for another, similar machine. cannibalizing two broken-down cars might provide spare parts to make one working car. figurative : high culture should cannibalize mass culture.
• (of a company) reduce the sales of (one of its products) by introducing another similar product.
Remember the iPod mini? Apple killed the entire line in favor of the iPod nano. Cannibalization, handled correctly, actually is a good thing.
In marketing strategy, cannibalization refers to a reduction in sales volume, sales revenue, or market share of one product as a result of the introduction of a new product by the same producer.
While this may seem inherently negative, in the context of a carefully planned strategy, it can be effective, by ultimately growing the market, or better meeting consumer demands. Cannibalization is a key consideration in product portfolio analysis.
For now, Apple has a growing line of computers, many of which perform tasks and functions which overlap other devices. Starting with the iPod, Apple’s string of products have slowly but surely cannibalized functionality from the Mac.
Think about it. The Mac and iTunes were once all about Photoshop, browsing, email, spreadsheets and word processing, as well as music and movie making. Along came the iPod and music moved off the Mac and into the pocket.
Likewise, with the iPhone, we’ve moved function after function away from the Mac and into the pocket– browsing, email, music and movies, photos, calendar and contacts, and much more. Similarly, functions that once required the larger screen on a Mac have been offloaded to the iPad; games, graphics, photo enhancements, movie editing, sound production.
Step by step since the iPod debuted in 2001, Apple has been pulling features and functions from the Mac and stuffing them into mobile devices. Yet, the Mac sells in greater numbers than ever; owns the premium end of the PC market in sales, and Apple takes about half of the PC industry’s profits.
Apple seems intent upon replacing the Mac (or, the Mac’s functionality) with mobile device functionality, yet preserving the essence of the Mac in each device, and yet morphing the Mac itself into a desirable device that integrates well with today’s mobile devices.
If ever there was a technology company that knows how to cannibalize itself, it’s Apple. Can you name another company that does it better?