The Secret To Apple’s Success Remains A Secret

On January 29, 2015, James B. Stewart of Common Sense wrote: “How, and Why, Apple Overtook Microsoft.” (All quotes are from this article unless otherwise attributed.)

When Microsoft stock was at a record high in 1999, and its market capitalization was nearly $620 billion, the notion that Apple Computer would ever be bigger — let alone twice as big — was laughable. Apple was teetering on bankruptcy. And Microsoft’s operating system was so dominant in personal computers, then the center of the technology universe, that the government deemed the company an unlawful monopoly.

This week, both Microsoft and Apple unveiled their latest earnings, and the once unthinkable became reality: Apple’s market capitalization hit $683 billion, more than double Microsoft’s current value of $338 billion.

[pullquote]Apple’s profit this year is $5 billion more than last year. Perspective: Microsoft’s entire quarterly profit this year was $5.8 billion. ~ Farhad Manjoo[/pullquote]

Apple’s rise from near bankruptcy to the largest tech company in the world is one of the most fascinating business stories of our times. Virtually no one predicted that Apple would survive, much less thrive, from their fall in the late nineties. As Apple has rewritten the record books, business professors have had to rewrite their business books, too. Apple has been studied as much or more than any company on the planet yet, despite the intense scrutiny, Apple remains inscrutable. Apple’s success, both past and present, continues to baffle and confound friends, critics, journalists, analysts, and investors alike.

At this point the whole journo-analyst class, myself included, has to concede we were wrong about Apple having to make a cheaper iPhone. ~ Farhad Manjoo

With an introduction like the one I’ve quoted, above, you would think that the purpose of an article entitled “How, and Why, Apple Overtook Microsoft” would be to praise Apple, not bury them. However, other than those first few laudatory paragraphs, the remainder of the article focuses not on Apple’s rise, but, rather, on the likely reasons for their demise.

Sharing Microsoft’s Fate?

Apple has won. How this happened contains some important lessons — including for Apple itself, if it wants to avoid Microsoft’s fate. Apple, after all, is now as dependent on the success of one product line — the iPhone accounted for 69 percent of its revenue — as Microsoft once was with Windows.

Suggesting that there are lessons to be learned from Apple’s unprecedented rise is obvious. However, suggesting that the Apple of today is in a similar position to the Microsoft of yesterday, simply because Apple is dependent upon a single product, is dubious. And suggesting that Apple needs to learn from Microsoft’s mistakes in order to avoid Microsoft’s fate is, frankly, ludicrous.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great to study Microsoft and other companies. There’s much that can be learned. But Apple is as unlike Microsoft as a company can be. It is perfectly reasonable to suggest reasons why Apple may, one day, plateau and be superseded by another tech company. It is perfect unreasonable to suggest that Apple will falter in the same way and for the same reasons that Microsoft did.

Microsoft’s Vision

The most successful companies need a vision, and both Apple and Microsoft have one. But Apple’s was more radical and, as it turns out, more farsighted. Microsoft foresaw a computer on every person’s desk, a radical idea when IBM mainframes took up entire rooms. But Apple went a big step further: Its vision was a computer in every pocket. That computer also just happened to be a phone, the most ubiquitous consumer device in the world. Apple ended up disrupting two huge markets.

I respectfully disagree with the author’s oversimplified take on the respective visions of Microsoft and Apple. First, the author is subtly misquoting Microsoft’s vision statement, which was:

A computer on every desk and in every home. ~ Bill Gates,1980

This was one of the greatest corporate vision statements of all time. While it is true that Microsoft virtually achieved their audacious mission and has struggled to replace it with a worthy successor, I would suggest that it wasn’t the achievement of, but rather the corruption of, Microsoft’s mission statement that caused Microsoft to lose their way. [pullquote]Idle Observation: most or all of the companies described as ‘missing mobile’  were in fact in mobile 6-7 years before Apple. ~ Benedict Evans[/pullquote] After all, Microsoft didn’t ignore mobile computing. On the contrary, they were into mobile computing far earlier than Apple was.

It wasn’t Microsoft’s original mission statement that kept them from conquering mobile. Rather, it was the morphing of Microsoft’s vision from “A computer on every desk and in every home” to “Microsoft Windows on every computer” that derailed their mobile efforts. This oh-so-subtle shift in vision had oh-so-dramatic practical implications. Windows became the be-all and end-all for Microsoft and, inevitably, the “Windows everywhere” mantra became corrosive as it left no room for innovation anywhere but within the framework of Windows.

Microsoft missed mobile because mobile devices demanded a different user input (touch) and a different user operating system optimized for touch. If Microsoft had remained true to their original mission of computing everywhere, they might have created a mobile operating system to compete with their Windows desktop operating system. Instead, Microsoft tried to shoehorn Windows into every device — from watches to phones, to televisions and to “big ass” tables. Windows, not computing, became the cash cow that was worshiped at Microsoft and all other competing innovations were sacrificed upon its altar.

Like many successful companies, Microsoft nurtured its dominant position, but at the risk of missing potentially disruptive innovations. “You have to acknowledge that Microsoft has been successful and it still is,” said Robert Cihra, a senior managing director and technology analyst at Evercore. “But clearly, they’ve struggled over how to protect the Windows franchise while not having that hold them back in other areas. I think even Microsoft would agree that they’ve been too concerned with protecting Windows over the years, to their detriment.”

As Tim Bajarin put it:

(The Microsoft of today is) about making Microsoft relevant to all platforms and mining for dollars well beyond the Windows franchise. This is fantastic for Microsoft and I believe this new strategy is going to make them more relevant to the tech world.

I agree. Microsoft’s future is cross-platform services that work everywhere. Yet even today, in a vastly changed — and I would argue, vastly improved — Microsoft, CEO Satya Nadella, who should know better, continues to worship, and suggest that others should worship, Windows.

We want to move from people needing Windows to choosing Windows to loving Windows. ~ Satya Nadella

Microsoft cannot seem to shake their Windows dependency, still focused as they are on what is good for Microsoft instead of what is good for their customer.

“We absolutely believe Windows is the home for the very best of Microsoft experiences.”

What about the customer experience?” ~ Ben Thompson

Apple’s Vision

And what of Apple’s vision? Was their vision really ever “a computer in every pocket”? Hardly. Remember, Apple’s revival started with the candy colored iMacs; continued on with the brilliantly designed Powerbook notebook computers that are now the template for practically every notebook computer on the market today; and took a huge leap forward with the iPod which, if anything, was a device tethered to a computer and which specialized in music distribution. Even the iPhone came AFTER Apple had been exploring the tablet form factor that later become the iPad. Apple’s mission was anything but “a computer in every pocket.”

So what is Apple’s vision?

We’ve always believed that our role in life is to make the best, not the most. ~ Tim Cook

We think about doing a great product. And we think that if we do that well, that other things will take care of themselves. And so that’s what we’re focused on. ~ Tim Cook

If Apple had a more radical vision than Microsoft, it was a vision to make the very best computing devices possible, cannibalization be damned.

Mr. Sacconaghi said. “Unique, disruptive innovation is really hard to do. Doing it multiple times, as Apple has, is extremely difficult. It’s the equivalent of Pixar producing one hit after another. You have to give kudos to Apple.”

By contrast, “Steve ingrained in the DNA of Apple not to be afraid to cannibalize itself,” Mr. Isaacson said. “When the iPod was printing money, he said that someday the people making phones will figure out they can put music on phones. We have to do that first. Now, what you’re seeing is that the bigger iPhone may be hurting sales of iPads, but it was the right thing to do.”

Diversification Or Losing Focus?

Microsoft has repeatedly tried to diversify, and continues to do so under Mr. Nadella. But “it’s been more of a follower whereas Apple has been more of a trendsetter, trying to reinvent an industry,” Mr. Sacconaghi said.

[pullquote](D)iversification simply telegraphs lack of a definite strategy. ~ Farooq Butt[/pullquote]

Diversification is all well and good, but a laser focus is healthier and better. I would argue that Microsoft wasn’t diversifying so much as they were flailing around trying to discover what was next. During their heyday, Microsoft had too little competition, too much money, and too little idea of how to spend that money.

Does that sound like any other company we know? A company that actually brags about their lack of focus by calling their random projects “moon shots”?

Apple, on the other hand, has more money than God and while it is fair say they have no idea what to do with it all, it is not at all fair to say they’re spending it on random Project X moon shots. Apple seems to have a very clear idea of where they are going and they use their purchases to advance their purposes, whereas Microsoft and Google sometimes try to use their purchases to discover their purpose.

What Is There Left For Apple To Do?

Apple is also running into “the challenge of large numbers,” Mr. Cihra said. With a market capitalization approaching $700 billion, the number “scares people,” he said. “How can it get much bigger? How is that possible?” Apple is already the world’s largest company, by a significant margin.

“It’s getting tougher for Apple,” Mr. Cihra said. “The question investors have is, what’s the next iPhone? There’s no obvious answer. It’s almost impossible to think of anything that will create a $140 billion business out of nothing.”

Every year, pundits ask “What is there left for Apple to do?”. And every year, Apple provides a resounding answer that exceeds all expectations. And every year, those self-same pundits use Apple’s success as a cudgel with which to beat down future expectations. You think I’m exaggerating? Take a gander at the past parade of pundits predicting peril for Apple:

“I’m more convinced than ever that, after an initial frenzy of publicity and sales to early adopters, iPhone sales will be unspectacular… iPhone may well become Apple’s next Newton.” ~ David Haskin, Computerworld, 26 February 2007

“Apple begins selling its revolutionary iPhone this summer and it will mark the end of the string of hits for the company.” ~ Todd Sullivan, Seeking Alpha, 15 May 2007

“Apple is a company that has to come up with hit after hit after hit, every 12 to 18 months, but once you do the iPhone on Verizon, what’s the next thing past this?” ~ Patrick Becker Jr, Becker Capital Management, 7 March 2011

“Still, the iPod, iPhone, and iPad are all some of the top selling products in their categories, so why are people losing their faith in the money-making machine that is Apple? Maybe it’s because they’ve done it all. What is there left for Apple to do?” ~ Emily Knapp, Wall St Cheat Sheet, 24 May 2011

“If you look at any institution in history – look at the Roman Empire – anything in history, and what it looks like when it’s peaking. Look at Apple, and how can you say it’s not peaking?” ~ Trip Hawkins, Founder and CEO of Digital Chocolate, 3 Aug 2011

“I was talking recently to someone who knew Apple well and I asked him if the people now running the company would be able to keep creating new things the way Apple had under Steve Jobs. His answer was simply ‘no.’ I already feared that would be the answer. I asked more to see how he’d qualify it. But he didn’t qualify it at all. No, there will be no more great new stuff beyond whatever’s currently in the pipeline. So if Apple’s not going to make the next iPad, who is?” ~ Paul Graham, March 2012

“It’s been years — considered a long time in tech — since Apple delivered a “mind-blowing” product…” ~ Jon Swartz, USA Today, 4 October 2012

“Apple has nothing new in the pipeline.” ~ Henry Blodgett

“Apple has become a value trap, This is a company with no growth, and profit margins that are way too high vis a vis the competition.” ~ Doug Kass, Seabreeze Partners Management, 17 Sept 2013

“Deutsche Bank’s view is that Apple likely has few surprises left.” ~ 10/2/14

The Secret To Apple’s Success

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James B. Stewart devoted an entire article to explaining “How, and Why, Apple Overtook Microsoft” and yet it’s clear that he doesn’t, and many other pundits don’t, have a clue as to how Apple succeeded. And if we don’t understand how Apple succeeded, what right do we have to claim — and what excuse do we have for claiming — that we know the reasons why Apple will fail?

I notice a consistent pattern in Apple’s critics. Those that understand Apple the least, criticize Apple the most. If you want me to believe that you understand the reasons why Apple will fall, first demonstrate to me that you understand the reasons why Apple grew at all and grew so tall. Until then, I’ll remain skeptical of the doomsayers. For while I have great respect for the opinions of many Apple observers, I still believe that the secret to Apple’s success…remains a secret.

The secret of business is to know something that nobody else knows. ~ Aristotle Onassis

The best entrepreneurs know this: every great business is built around a secret that’s hidden from the outside. ~ Peter Thiel

Published by

John Kirk

John R. Kirk is a recovering attorney. He has also worked as a financial advisor and a business coach. His love affair with computing started with his purchase of the original Mac in 1985. His primary interest is the field of personal computing (which includes phones, tablets, notebooks and desktops) and his primary focus is on long-term business strategies: What makes a company unique; How do those unique qualities aid or inhibit the success of the company; and why don’t (or can’t) other companies adopt the successful attributes of their competitors?

758 thoughts on “The Secret To Apple’s Success Remains A Secret”

  1. “it was the morphing of Microsoft’s vision from ‘A computer on every desk and in every home’ to ‘Microsoft Windows on every computer’ that derailed their mobile efforts.”

    Very important distinction. Well put.

    “If you want me to believe that you understand the reasons why Apple will fall, first demonstrate to me that you understand the reasons why Apple grew at all and grew so tall.”

    Also well put.

    Great article.

    Joe

      1. “Today it feels like they are doubling down on that with Windows 10 for Phones/Tablets/Laptops/Desktops and even Xbox.”

        I actually feel that Microsoft is moving in the right direction, but that they’re still having a hard time letting go of their legacy past. Satya Nadella really seems to understand that Microsoft’s future is not Windows…right up until the moment when he says that they’re trying to make people want to love Windows. Still, on the whole, I like what he’s doing for Microsoft. I just think they’d move into their future faster if they let go of things like Windows Phone and the Surface Tablet.

        1. ” I just think they’d move into their future faster if they let go of things like Windows Phone and the Surface Tablet.”

          I don’t see it happening. Like Defendor mentioned, I see MS doubling down on hardware & I think they see Apple more as a competitor vs Google. They’re not expanding retail presence to sell Dells and Lenovos. They want to sell their own hardware.

          MS knows that revenue from Windows licenses is decreasing, over time. Selling their own hardware allows them, if successful, to make up for any losses from Windows licenses. Putting their software / services on other platforms is more akin to a Trojan horse. Once users get dependent on using MS services, it becomes much easier for them to move to Windows / Windows phone devices.

          1. i totally agree with you

            it is easier for microsoft to compete with Apple with an integrated solution than it is to compete with Google and their Ads base free services.

          2. It isn’t about whether it’s easier or not. You just have to look at the moves they’re making to get a hint of where they want to go. Example – they just spent $200 million acquiring the company that makes the stylus for the Surface Pro 3. That doesn’t indicate a company that wants to be relegated to being a cloud service provider. MS (and Bill Gates) have too much ambition for that. They don’t want to be another IBM. They want to be relevant.

          3. “it is easier for microsoft to compete with Apple with an integrated solution”

            We fundamentally disagree. Microsoft wants their services to run on top of every platform, including Apple’s iOS and OS X. Microsoft integration runs counter to that aim.

          4. I agree with this, but can they compete with Google, which happens to provide the best service for free while simultaneously controlling the most popular platform.

          5. Agreed. In the last Microsoft keynote they made it clear that they were not dropping hardware. I think they will, eventually. Hardware is incompatible with their long term goals but it will take at least a couple of more years before it happens.

          6. Oh, I don’t think it is at all clear that Microsoft will drop hardware. I think, as you point out, that they have re-dedicated themselves to hardware. However, I believe that their future business model is incompatible with the sale of hardware and that the incompatibility may eventually force Microsoft to abandon their hardware ambitions in lieu of their future, which is cross-platform services.

            Satya Nadella is a smart man who is working under conflicting incentives. In other areas he has shown a willingness to discontinue products and services that are incompatible with Microsoft’s long-term ambitions. I believe he will eventually bite the bullet and cut ties with hardware.

          7. “Satya Nadella is a smart man who is working under conflicting incentives.”

            The MS carriage was being pulled in six different directions by its mule team before he took over. Now it’s being pulled in only two or three different directions. Another year or so to discipline the mule team and he might actually manage to get the carriage to start moving again.

          8. Wasn’t one of google’s goals to stop ms from being the dominant platform everywhere? Hence google services, docs, etc provided free and the blackberry clone to limit Windows Mobile’s likelihood of taking over mobile as well?
            iOS still isn’t the dominant platform, let alone OS X, so why wouldn’t ms be dealing with the pressure from Google rather than apple? Doesn’t ms’s new obsession with hardware suggest they’re blind to their actual competition, or have they thrown in the towel there? The other possibility is that the ms era is over because their products are less relevant generally and they made too many enemies. It’s like there’s been a revolution and they’re not that scary any more. While they may pivot and remain viable, it’s unlikely Gates (or anyone) will pull a Jobs and reignite their relevance.

  2. Great article John

    here my question for you

    Just as Microsoft with Windows, Google with searche do you really believe that somehow Apple will be able to create a new category of product that will be as successful as the iPhone soon, before it Peak?

    I think the author is right
    Apple is as dependent on the iPhone and try to push everywhere, making it the center of our lives, just as Microsoft did with Windows and Google with searche. While the iPhone is now very successful and remain a dominant product, that does not mean he would not prevent Apple from being as successful in what will come next, as they can no longer acting as a smal hyper focus company as they used to be before the IPhone.

    The IPhone is the wave that lift all boat at Apple now, taking it away then Apple will no longer seem as dominant as they appear today

    I’ve said this and I will say it again, Apple as not prove yet they can be as dominant in the next phase of technology which is about cloud base computer as they are today hence I remain skeptical about their future when it come to innovation and relevancy.

    1. “Just as Microsoft with Windows, Google with searche do you really believe that somehow Apple will be able to create a new category of product that will be as successful as the iPhone soon, before it Peak?”

      Fairly sure that Apple has had more industry changing products than either MS or Google. If I were a betting man and based on Apple’s history, yes I think that Apple will be able to create a new category of product, possibly new categories of products.

      But the suggestion that it will be as big as the iPhone is a straw man argument Apple has the iPhone and based on current sales it is not going away and the tidal forces appear to be in Apple’s favor these days.

      “The IPhone is the wave that lift all boat at Apple now, taking it away then Apple will no longer seem as dominant as they appear today”
      As I mentioned above, that isn’t what is happening here despite your opinion Apple are expanding their sales, not contracting.

      “I’ve said this and I will say it again, Apple as not prove yet they can be as dominant in the next phase of technology which is about cloud base computer as they are today hence I remain skeptical about their future when it come to innovation and relevancy.”
      Your assumption is cloud based computing is the next big thing this may or not be where the world goes and Apple is working on a lot of stuff. Just because they could be innovating in an area you are unaware of doesn’t make the next product and instant fail.

      Put it this way. Apple could stop selling everything they make tomorrow and become a highly trustworthy and secure bank, or they could drop all their margins and sell everything at cost and still be the largest tech company in the world.

      1. i think you’re confusing many things when analyzing Apple’s busines.

        A company’s strength is not based on Today,s revenue and profits, but rather on its Product’s foundation, compared to technological trends for tomorrow solution

        First of all, Apple is not the only nor the first company to rely on one main product, to catapult them to the next wave

        Microsoft did the exact same things with windows by creating Office which can be sayd to be a stronger business than the IPad

        XBOX + Cloud base Azure and tools combine are a stronger business than ITune and the App Store etc..

        As with Apple when Microsoft was at its peak, they too were also working on a lot of project that many Pundy at the time said will revolutionize the industry, just as Office did, but it did not happened because the foundation was windows which has been eclipsed by a new form of computer such as the IPhone

        and now Apple is doing exactly the same thing trying to build another huge business base on the IPhone foundation, everything they do these days are based on the success and the relevancy of IPhone toward the public, but what if just as it was the case with windows the IPhone as we know it today will be eclipte by a new form a computer

        Cloud base computer is not tomorrow technology, it is today technology in a multi screen world that is becomes stronger more complex and and interconnected, day by days due to the advent of the Internet of things that will requirer big Data, Stong Cloud, AI, algorith and security where Apple are known to be very weak.

        my point to many of you is pretty simple just as windows base computer has been eclipse by the IPhone so can the IPhone be eclipse by a new form of computer. and there is no garanty other than faith that Apple will be as succesful in the next stage as they are today.

        when you become a company that depends on the success of one product as a foundation for new one, the time it will takes to protect this foundation are the time you do not spend create new one.

        Feel free to disagree

        1. No, you’re the confused one. You are looking at the size of the iPhone business, and your assumption of its “significance” to Apple going forward and declaring that Apple is basing its future on it.

          Rather, Apple, and Apple alone, has demonstrated the flexibility of its OS, and it’s ability to integrate software and hardware in a variety of form factors. Apple alone has successfully made a flexible OS with core modules that work equally well on desktops, phones, tablets, watches, set-top boxes, etc.

          Not only that, Apple has successfully migrated it not once, but at least twice between platforms: PowerPC – Intel – ARM. Microsoft has yet to successfully adapt and migrate full Windows once, and that is a key failure of Surface.

          Also, Apple alone is developing its own custom silicon with an emphasis on performance to power consumption, etc.

          Sorry, but you are quite mistaken: it is Apple alone that is ready for the future, and ready to move beyond their present core product.

          1. you’re simply do not understand the world in which you live and the technology trend

            Everything you said about Apple are the exact same conclusion that most analysis have about Microsoft has its peak,

            many analysis and investors used to be extremely confused about Microsoft too wonder how they can be so dominant and so successful with such a bad software versus the Free Linux, the same way many wonder how could apple be so successful with their expensive IPhone versus cheaper android

            these kind of attitude are not new nor unique to Apple.

            the things is Mobile phone including the internet are very Young what we call smartphone today will totally be different in the next 5 or 10 year even though the form factor my remain the same but the software side will change.

            now the question you need to ask yourself is

            What are the technology trends that will have the greatest impact in the 5 to 10 years?

            is Apple better positioned than others to maintain their excellence at providing the best

            Im not convince

          2. Not at all the same. For one thing, there was never the “confusion” about MS. In fact, all the premises about the future, yours included are based on the MS “story”: Marketshare, modularity, OEMs, etc.

            Any confusion is about how Apple seems to be winning a round against MS and Google, because MS and Google apparently “wrote the book” on technology markets. The overwhelming consensus is that MS will rebound, and Android must also “win” due to their being “open”, modular and licensed, and somehow “disruptive on the low end”.

            And yet, both Google and MS have tried to make forays into integrated software/hardware with their purchases of Motorola and Nokia; trying to recapture some of the margins and profits they have lost with the commoditization of software after they both forced their OEM’s into a commoditized race to the bottom. Hasn’t worked. They can’t do it.

            What you don’t seem to understand is that it is not about the iPhone. Apple is simply not “dependent” on it to the degree you think they are. There is no hubris, there is no putting their eggs all in one basket.

            Simply, they have a good business model and the ability to deliver it again and again: Provide premium hardware that is differentiated and given value through unique software and services.

            I illustrated that Apple can adapt their OS and platform technologies to any number of form-factors and scenarios. Successfully. The iPhone could be a watch or a even a car — whatever is required in the next 5 or 10 years. Doesn’t matter as far as Apple is concerned.

            Now, there is some “confusion” around what “PostPC” means. Many will still say that there is no such thing and that PCs being replaced by iPads or iPhones is some Apple conspiracy at making itself relevant. You seem to be in this camp. Yet it is Apple that reacted to Mobile and adapted itself. To Apple, a computer is a computer, whatever the form factor. It doesn’t care what form that takes. If that form factor changes over the next five years, Apple is ready.

            It’s quite rich, you getting on a high horse:
            “Mobile phone including the internet are very Young what we call smartphone today will totally be different in the next 5 or 10 year even though the form factor my remain the same but the software side will change.”.

            Why do you assume it will be Apple to be caught out, when it is Apple that stepped in later and significantly changed the perception of “smartphones”? And Apple raised the bar, set new benchmarks and regularly raises expectations — such as with privacy, ID, health tracking, and payments? And Apple is about to change it all again next month with the launch of the Apple watch?

            “Is Apple better positioned than others to maintain their excellence at providing the best?”

            Quite simply, yes. And just one reason is that Apple has a more straightforward business model that is better aligned with the needs of real end users. Another is that they are making better investments. Another is…

            I understand the world. What you don’t realize is that Apple understands it.

          3. First off all do not put word on my mouth, if you want to debate with me do it base on what i said not what others are saying etc.

            Apple is not the first company to have the perfect business model for their time with good execution and good performance until it was no longer the case.

            how old were you when Microsoft was the God of the technology sector

            there was IBM, Microsoft, Google and even Blackberry all had a perfect business model that made them extremely dominant too

            i would love you to answer this following question to me please?

            1- what do you think is Apple primary product’s foundation?

            2- what do you think is the company primarily strength

            3- where do you think we’re heading when it come to Innovation and technology for future solution.

            4- what do you think will be the most important asset or expertise for future innovation

            5- what make Apple so different in you mind versus all the other out there?

          4. First off: don’t continually insist that your particular view of reality is the only one and the correct one, when it has been demonstrated otherwise.

            You refer to the past and lessons learned from MS and others, and yet argue as though we are in a microcosm or universe in which the only reality is a current snapshot of an Apple that has no history, no legacy, and no hard-won lessons of its own — as though Apple has not, cannot, and will not change as technology trends change.

            Of course you want to preserve the basis on which your thesis is correct. But I’m afraid it’s tautological: Apple is only unchanging and unprepared for the future in the universe in which you declare Apple is unchanging and unprepared for the future.

            The simple reality is that Apple has already changed, several times; indeed: Apple led many of the trends itself. Apple seeks level playing fields and excels at finding new ways to take advantage of new playing fields.

            I was simply pointing out the reality. It is other companies who have failed to learn the lessons you bring up, including those in the examples themselves. The evidence is that Apple has learned from those lessons. Sorry if that makes you feel bent out of shape. You just can’t create an alternate universe and expect it to go unchallenged, however much you complain that others are putting words in your mouth.
            ____

            Now, Business Models, per se, are actually a red herring. In truth, there are only about three possibilities, and, as you say, any of them could be “perfect” at different times in different circumstances.
            a) you sell products or services directly to end customer
            b) you sell subscriptions to services
            c) you license products or services to someone who does sell them to end customer.

            Apple does both A & B, but not C. I was not arguing for Apple’s success on the basis that it simply had the “perfect” business model. That would be putting words in my mouth. Apple is not dependent on the form of the business model. Rather, the (intended) point was about the better alignment of Apple’s interests with Apple’s end customers. This is always a good thing. It doesn’t matter what the “trend” is. This is something that MS and Google are failing at.

            So, yes, Apple is better positioned, much as you would like to construct a universe in which it is not possible for Apple to be better positioned.

        2. Kenny, you missed the points I brought up. I was being both clear and precise about your opening comments but you think I am confusing things. Firstly from your use of language I suspect you’re not a native English speaker so I will not pull you up on that aspect of your arguments.

          “A company’s strength is not based on Today,s revenue and profits, but rather on its Product’s foundation, compared to technological trends for tomorrow solution”

          I can agree with that but currently the trend is in Apple’s favor. If you are in business the goal is to make profits. End of story. If you can’t make a profit you won’t be around tomorrow – see Palm et al for some examples. I think you’re also ignoring the technological trends that Apple have been putting in place over the years. The 64 bit iPhone 5 paved the way for bigger processor designs leading to the 64 bit processor in the 5s that had a secure enclave to store a digital representation of the users fingerprint for identification which lead to ApplePay, which is going to be huge going forward. In the same way TouchID is paving the way for both Home and HealthKit going forward.

          “First of all, Apple is not the only nor the first company to rely on one main product, to catapult them to the next wave”

          The part you’re missing is that even without the iPhone Apple would still be a huge company, iPads are the largest selling computer by unit share by a long way. Macs are the only product that is growing in the PC market currently – if you take away the Mac from the PC market then the sales growth looks really grim.

          “Microsoft did the exact same things with windows by creating Office which can be sayd to be a stronger business than the IPad”

          I suspect you forget that Word and Excel were originally created for the Mac launch, but I digress. Also comparing Office to the iPad is a bit disingenuous. All Microsoft need to do with office is stamp out the disks (they probably do downloads these days – what’s the expense with that, they’re not going to run out of clones of a file are they?).

          “XBOX + Cloud base Azure and tools combine are a stronger business than ITune and the App Store etc.”

          Do you have numbers to support this argument? Because that sounds like you may just be making that up. Also not entirely sure why you are adding two random Microsoft technologies to attempt to take down the outrageous numbers being earned by Apple by the iTunes Store. But again, I digress. Also it ignores how much Microsoft has written off on the Xbox product line for year after year, and I’m pretty sure the current drop in prices is driven by the fact that they were losing badly to Sony with this generation’s consoles.

          “As with Apple when Microsoft was at its peak, they too were also working on a lot of project that many Pundy at the time said will revolutionize the industry, just as Office did, but it did not happened because the foundation was windows which has been eclipsed by a new form of computer such as the IPhone”

          Not sure where you were going with this. But the difference is that Microsoft talks about many huge “Jam Tomorrow” things like the Hololens, which is until ready is just a dream fantasy with little or no use in the real world. But hey, it demoed well. But I’ve seen Microsoft use the technique many times since the early 80s and quite a few of them never pan out. A bit like all the Google things which make a lot of noise but nobody is interested. How the hell they managed to con a ton of people to shell out a grand and a half for Glass so that the people laying out the money could come up with ideas of what it was and what could be done with it is one of the worst examples of getting your supporters to fund your R&D and they all refer to Apple users as sheep? Outrageous.

          “and now Apple is doing exactly the same thing trying to build another huge business base on the IPhone foundation, everything they do these days are based on the success and the relevancy of IPhone toward the public, but what if just as it was the case with windows the IPhone as we know it today will be eclipte by a new form a computer”

          Could be, might do, but with nothing to support what you are saying. Just a whiff of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt that things could change. The point being is that Apple is and has been for quite a while laying the foundations of you being able to use the phone in all aspects of your life, not the scattershot “look over here, this is cool” approach of both Microsoft and Google. But gradually building out what the hardware is capable of.

          “Cloud base computer is not tomorrow technology, it is today technology in a multi screen world that is becomes stronger more complex and and interconnected, day by days due to the advent of the Internet of things that will requirer big Data, Stong Cloud, AI, algorith and security where Apple are known to be very weak.”

          I think you missed out on the whole continuity / hand off thing – where you can start work on one Apple device and seamlessly hand off to another. But whatever.

          “my point to many of you is pretty simple just as windows base computer has been eclipse by the IPhone so can the IPhone be eclipse by a new form of computer. and there is no garanty other than faith that Apple will be as succesful in the next stage as they are today.”

          My point was that out of all these companies, Apple is the single company that has the track record of delivering on these things, even where they cannibalize their own products such as the iphone destroying the iPod market. None of the other companies you mention have ever done that.

          “when you become a company that depends on the success of one product as a foundation for new one, the time it will takes to protect this foundation are the time you do not spend create new one.”

          The thing you are missing is that Apple’s economies of scale mean that they have almost exclusive access to the technological components that make their products great by purchasing everything that the component manufactures make. Look at Motorola for example pulling the fingerprint scanner from the Nexus 6 because if they couldn’t have access to the Authentec scanner it simply wasn’t worth doing.

          1. My initial argument is this

            Because of the advent and the emergence of the Internet of Things, smart sensors, multiple screens and all the services that comes with that, we are heading in a different direction from the one we know today, where contextual and personalize computer, AI / machine learning, Cloud based intelligence system integration will be the foundation.

            I am not convinced that Apple will be able to maintain their excellence in these area, because it requires expertise, such as user’s data gathering, constant iteration, Major Algorithm and Analytic system and years of experience which are not really in tune with Apple DNA and area of strength.

          2. “I am not convinced that Apple will be able to maintain their excellence in these area…” – Kenny

            I will not argue that Apple will be able to excel at the Internet of Things but I will argue that they have a clear vision for how it should be done. They are using the iPhone as the platform and they are using HomeKit, CarKit, HealthKit, Siri and ApplePay as extensions of that platform. In other words, Apple is not trying to create all of the sensors, multiple screens, etc that you mention in your comment. They are trying to become the platform that co-ordinates all of those things, similar to how the Apple Store co-ordinates the various third-party apps.

          3. Apple is not the only company to have a clear vision of how these platform should work, Microsoft, Google, and many other do too, now the only things that matter is execution.

            you just made my point,
            All their issue with iCloud, iOS 8 and the majority of their services and domain of expertise make me skeptical about their ability to scale these cloud platform such as HomeKit, Carkits, HealthKit, Siri and ApplePay as you suggested to their close to billion IOS user while still maintaining their excellence of providing the best service out there,

            something they have never done before, and that happens to be their greatest weakness.

      2. Kenny thinks that because he can’t envision what Apple’s next new blockbuster product is, then obviously there isn’t one.

        Just think about that. Every single pundit who claims that Apple has run out of ideas bases their assertion on the fact that they can’t imagine what Apple’s next successful product would be. This is a breathtaking display of arrogance and the total absence of self-awareness. This is like a Pop Warner coach giving Nolan Ryan pitching advice. They’re sitting there in front of their computers, typing out their self-important opinions as to why they think they can do better than the guy who just generated $18 billion dollars of profit in one quarter. Amazing.

        1. Kenny thinks that because he can’t envision what Apple’s next new blockbuster product is, then obviously there isn’t one. Completely oblivious to the notion that maybe the reason Apple is so successful is that just maybe they come up with products that none of us rank amateurs could conceive of, develop and ship. (aardman

          The same thing can be said about you and any other Apple IFan out there who think that Microsoft is doom, Google is doom, Android is doom everyone is doom but Apple.

          every single one of the products that Apple created were also envisioned by others or was already in existence, they were simply better at the execution by playing to their strength of good design blended with good software and hardware integration.

          but one thing that is very common in technology is that yesterday’s success is never a guarantee for future relevance despite what many so call analysis love to say.

          1. Never said Microsoft, Google or Android is doomed. But I do say that Apple is beating them where it counts in the end: profits. That is a fact, you can either try to explain it or come up with all sorts of reason to claim that said fact is merely an illusion. The more interesting, reality-based discussion is trying to explain the facts. I leave you to go down the road of creationists and climate-deniers and devote yourself to trying to convince everyone that reality is counterfactual and logic is a delusion.

            The moment you said iFan proves that you are really on some sort of personal vendetta against anyone who expresses admiration at what Apple has achieved. Why you would take these things personally, I can only wonder.

          2. to really understand my point, you must stop focusing on the business side when it come to these company, but the technology and innovation part where everything could collapse very quickly

          3. “the technology and innovation part where everything could collapse very quickly”, said every anti-Apple troll for the last 30 years. Seriously, people have been saying this about Apple *for decades*. Ah, but wait, this time is different… yeah, that’s what they all say.

      3. “But the suggestion that it will be as big as the iPhone is a straw man argument Apple has the iPhone and based on current sales it is not going away and the tidal forces appear to be in Apple’s favor these days.”

        Indeed. Thirteen percent of the phone market is peanuts. Once it has sixty or seventy percent, then worry might be valid.
        Namaste and care,
        mhikl

    2. “I think the author is right. Apple is as dependent on the iPhone and try to push everywhere…”

      Apple was 100% dependent on Mac yet they introduced the iPod. The iPod was the whole reason why Apple was ascendent in the last decade yet they introduced the iPhone, which swallowed the iPod whole. The Mac was still a big moneymaker for Apple yet Apple risked cannabalizing it by introducing the iPad. Apple is the anti-incumbent in this regard. They not only don’t fear cannabalization of their own products, they strive to achieve just that.

      Right now the iPhone is 69% of Apple’s revenues. Microsoft still makes 70% of their money from the combo of Windows and Office and those products were created in the seventies and eighties. Google gets more than 90% of their revenues from Search and that product became big in the mid-ninties.

      1. In all honnesty i think this argument is weak John

        the argument is not about a product versu another one, the argument is about your product’s foundation and opportunity related to technological progress and trends

        The IPod was a bigger opportunity than the Mac so do the IPhone to the IPod therefore moving the fondation from the Mac to the IPod and the IPod to the IPhone was an easy call because the opportunity was bigger so long as it was well execute but if you were Tim Cook right now will you move the Fondation from the IPhone to let say to the Appel Watch i doubt it and that is what happen everytime a product that is the fondation of your business is eclipsed by a new form of computer ?

        2- it is also not where the majority of revenue come from that matter the most, what matter is how strong your fondation is relative to the technological trends for today innovation and tomorrow solution

        Google doesn’t make 90% of their revenues from Search, they make 90% of thier money from Advertizing which include Searche, Youtube, Gmail etc, and advertizing has been estimate to be close to 500 billion a year business which is bigger than Hardware itself where Apple get 95% of their revenue.

        and if you were to take a closer look at Google Foundation and annalyze relative to today innovation, technology trends and future solution, you will notice that they are the best and are sitting on what will the most important for future solution which is big data, cloud-based computer and services, AI, Search, algorithm etc. the only thing that matters now for them is vision and execution. can we honestly say the same thing about Apple

        1. With the advent of the Apple Watch and whatever Apple has planned over the next couple of years, we’re going to find out how much vision Tim Cook has. As far as execution goes, Apple is second to none. They have execution down pat.

          1. I think these Apple car rumors give us a hint. Apple has a lot of really smart employees. And I’m sure they’re looking to attract even more smart people. Designing a slightly bigger iPhone and slightly thinner iPad has to get boring after a while. I think Apple sees the automotive industry as ripe for disruption.

          2. is not about vision rather the market

            the reason Tim Cook is putting all it’s egs on the IPhone basket is simply because the IPhone is their strongest business with the biggest Upside relative to their strength, that could change of course but i don’t see it Happening with the Apple Watch

          3. How is Apple “putting all it’s eggs in the iPhone basket”? Apple is continuing to develop the Mac and OS X and iPad, and introducing the Apple Watch and iCloud and Apple Pay, and evolving Beats/iTunes.

            Technology does not yet allow the Watch to be a stand alone product, but it’s obvious to me at least that at some point in the future it will be. That point will coincide with better human-computer interfaces that rely less on a seeing a large screen, and more on other human I/O (touching, hearing, speech, movement, etc). When it happens, it will seem obvious and everyone will engage in revisionist history and say they knew it all along so what Apple did was really no big deal. Any bozo could’ve done it; it was really the only choice.

        2. “The IPod was a bigger opportunity than the Mac so do the IPhone to the IPod”

          That’s revisionist history, Kenny. No one thought the iPod would be bigger than the Mac. Go back and read the initial reviews. And many questioned the viability of the iPhone, as well. No one — not even Steve Jobs — envisioned the iPhone becoming the monster hit that it is today.

          1. But the iphone did offer more profit per unit than the iPod. This means it would make more money for apple than the ipod in any scenario.

          2. common John you’ve been on this business long enough to know that most of the so call tech press or even analysis are simply cheerleaders who pretend to do real analysis.

            due to Microsoft’s success with Windows most people did not believe that Apple’s approach of total integration will be the most successful, just as a result of recent success of Apple many so called analysis are making the same mistake thinking that the Apple way Apple is the best to be successful in the next stage of technological innovation,

            but those who know the technology knew that Mobile was a greater opportunity than the PC, Just as I do not believe that Smart Watch will provide a greater upside than Smartphone.

    3. Do you know when iPhone will peak? 2 years out? 5 years? 10 years? If you can’t tell me, then I really can’t tell you what new category of product will take over, but I can say for sure that a new category of product will take over at the right time.

      Humans have consistently chosen to create and use physical tools to interact with the world around them. These tools amplify and extend what could be done directly with their bodies/minds. In modern times, multiple computing and communications tools have been created and iterated. In the last fifty years, we’ve gone from mainframe, to mini-computer, to desktop PC, to notebook PC, to smartphone, to tablet. From telephone to satphone to cellphone to smartphone. We can be sure there will be other much better things after tablet and smartphone, even if we can’t be sure exactly what it is right now.

      Apple is definitely not pushing iPhone everywhere. It is simultaneously pushing many tools (Mac, iPad, iPhone, AppleTV, Apple Watch) for use in their appropriate places, and making it easier for people to use the appropriate tool for the appropriate jobs (through Continuity, iCloud, Handoff, etc). But for now in 2015, the most people want the smartphone tool the most.

  3. I don’t think there’s any secret to Apple’s success. Apple creates very good, very useful computers that are thoughtfully designed. Then they sell those computers for a good profit. Of course a big part of that process is that Apple makes the whole widget, and that helps the product be more useful, deliver more value.

    Now, what Apple does necessarily restricts Apple to a minority segment of the market, those people willing to pay for value. As much as we don’t like to admit it, that simply isn’t most people.

    On the analyst side, they have trouble understanding Apple because what Apple is doing isn’t supposed to work, at least in tech anyway. But the reality is that closed, curated, and well regulated systems tend to do very well, and especially well among the segment willing to pay for value.

    I also wouldn’t say Apple is dependent on the iPhone. Apple makes computers. The iPhone happens to be a great combination of size and capability, so it is their most popular computer. If consumers eventually want some other form for their computing needs (jobs-to-be-done) Apple will then make that. Just one gorilla’s opinion of course, but saying Apple is dependent on the iPhone is kinda like saying Apple (a company that makes computers) is dependent on selling computers.

    1. You may be shocked that I agree with you 90%. What makes it not be 100%? It’s that you seem to assert that ONLY Apple delivers value.
      Different people have different value propositions, and value expectations. Your past comments notwithstanding, “geeks” are as entitled to their value proposition as those seeking ease. This is why I’ve asserted in the past that you’re elitist, not because of your choice, but because of your support for exclusion. For me, the value proposition, AT THAT PRICE, is to serve both sides since they are not mutually exclusive.
      You may say that Apple has the right to choose what they offer. I agree. They are also open to criticism for it, as well as praise.

      1. “It’s that you seem to assert that ONLY Apple delivers value.”

        This is really the heart of your error. You fail to understand (or don’t want to admit) that Apple is indeed delivering unique value within the user experience they provide. If I want the kind of user experience and value that Apple delivers, I have one choice, Apple. No other tech company is even interested in attempting to deliver the same kind of experience and value. In fact, even today and in the face of massive success, we see analysis and opinion saying Apple’s approach is wrong and destined to fail.

        It is obvious that Apple’s success upsets you greatly. That’s natural, Apple is moving the needle towards simplicity, and this threatens your identity as a “geek”. Just as the geeks lost the battle against the graphical user interface, you will lose the current battle against increased simplicity. Just as all PCs now work like the Mac, future computing devices will be more Apple-like. It is inevitable. All humans are seeking ease, even the power users (and all the real power users I know use Apple gear).

        1. “You fail to understand (or don’t want to admit) that Apple is indeed delivering unique value within the user experience they provide.”

          And everyone may not value that experience and it’s associated consequences the same as you. Having already said it before, and you just proving it, I’ll say it one last time…”not everyone values things the same”. You and I are proof of that. I rest my case on this point. I just got a new BMW on Thursday (true), it’s the ONLY car worth considering! (See how silly that sounds?).

          “and this threatens your identity as a “geek”.”

          Not by a long shot, not even in the same galaxy. You don’t know me enough to even begin to make that statement. Computers are not where “my ego rests”. Though I have written code, I’m not in the computer business in any way, shape, or form. I’m there as a user, period.

          Anyway, your labeling people as “geeks” is in itself an elitist statement, invalidating of other’s. Geeks aren’t entitled to valid opinions as much as anyone else? Do “geeks” threaten you that “Just as all PCs now work like the Macmuch? Where are we? High School?

          “It is obvious that Apple’s success upsets you greatly. That’s natural, Apple is moving the needle towards simplicity,”

          And away from latitude, self control, and thoroughness. It need not be so. Having bought quite a bit at one time, I was left “wanting”. At premium prices, that’s just not acceptable to me. Even so, as a potential customer, I can critique a value proposition as much as anyone else.

          If you want to debate value propositions, I’m here. Otherwise, this “class warfare” is bullshit.

          1. “And everyone may not value that experience and it’s associated consequences the same as you.”

            Yes, I already pointed this out when I said *what Apple does necessarily restricts Apple to a minority segment of the market*.

            “And away from latitude, self control, and thoroughness. It need not be so. Having bought quite a bit at one time, I was left “wanting”.”

            Again you fail to accept that for hundreds of millions of consumers, your statement is false. The programmers I work with that use Apple gear don’t feel like they have less latitude or self control. I certainly have never found that. Your point of view is ideology, nothing more.

            You refuse to admit that the value Apple provides is in any way different or unique. Worse yet, you’re creating a fantasy world (to support your ideology) where Apple can equally provide simplicity within the user experience AND make complexity available any time you wish to access it. There are cases where this can be done without harm to the goal of simplicity, but on the whole this is not practical.

            “If you want to debate value propositions, I’m here.”

            There’s no debate, only the reality of the value Apple provides to the consumers that are happy with that value and seeking that user experience. You seem to seek only to deride that value and user experience, simply because it isn’t what you want.

          2. “where Apple can equally provide simplicity within the user experience AND make complexity available any time you wish to access it.”

            Until Apple made the TB MacBook non-upgradable, that’s exactly what they were able to do. The Expresscard bearing MB’s also could. Terminal is still there. No alternate reality required. They “took away” to be what they are now. Better yet, where are the “complex” models”? Who does not having them serve?

            My ideology is that computers are versatile machines moldable to their OWNERS desires, either by the owners directly, the manufacturer, or someone on the OWNER’s behalf. That’s what makes them personal. Having a manufacturer restrict, (relative to past models or to the competition), in a non-negotiable way, what they do, is wrong to me.

            The “most people” argument is really weak. This applies more to iOS. More people know how to program in BASIC than any other language. Should computers be programmable only in BASIC? Isn’t it better that they be programmable in whatever the user chooses? Wan’t to hide the filesystem? Go ahead. Make a switch available exposing it to the user. Don’t be my IT department if I don’t want you to be.

            “You seem to seek only to deride that value and user experience,”

            Far from deriding it, that’s Apples most significant contribution.

            “simply because it isn’t what you want.” I don’t want exclusion. Who else’s opinion am I going to represent if not my own. Other’s reading this may agree or disagree (even adamantly). In so doing they make slightly more informed decisions.

          3. “My ideology is that computers are versatile machines moldable to their OWNERS desires”

            That’s a pretty good description of the computers Apple builds, iOS devices included.

            “I don’t want exclusion.”

            Great. The computers Apple makes are the most inclusive, by striving for simplicity more and more people are able to use computers.

          4. “Great. The computers Apple makes are the most inclusive, by striving for simplicity more and more people are able to use computers.”
            I agree. It does raise the average. They can be more, especially at their price.

          5. Ah, the old canard of price. Apple’s products are already more for their price, and will continue on that path. Simplicity brings power and accessibility. It’s just not the kind of power you want, the ability to ‘mod’ and tinker. But that isn’t what real power users do, they don’t fiddle and customize, they get real work done. Again, I go back to the programmers I work with that have none of your issues with Apple gear, and they all have Masters degrees in Comp Sci or better, and many years making a living at their craft. They are not left wanting when they use Apple gear, as you are.

            To bring this full circle, so to speak, you only seem to have these issues when it comes to tech and Apple. By your own admission you just purchased a BMW, which is the product of a highly design-focused closed and regulated system. When it comes to your vehicle, you essentially choose Apple.

          6. See how fast I turn on BMW when they dictate where I can go…
            They also offer a diversity of models covering the entire market of function.

            I also don’t feel compelled to say they are better than any other car brand. I’ve never owned a Dell, but the new XPS is firmly in my crosshairs.

          7. Then you better give back your BMW, they do dictate where you can go. Certain types of driving (racing, off-roading) will void your warranty, and many mechanical mods will also void your warranty.

            But, as you say, BMW offers a range of models covering a wide range of function. BMW does not cover the entire market of function, sorry, that is false. They cover most of what any reasonable person needs though. This is much like Apple.

          8. They make everything from bicycles to motocycles to cars to eighteen wheel trucks. So do other’s.

            Yes, it’s possible to void the warranty (as will ALL other cars), but there is also a permitted and flourishing aftermarket for mods. If my engine blows, they won’t deny repair just because I used aftermarket tires. My point was about being able to drive “outside the suburbs.”

            I repeat, I don’t feel compelled to heap praise over others. Others make fine cars too.

          9. Ah, so you admit there are indeed rules and restrictions when it comes to the use of your BMW. So, you’ll be giving it back then? Somehow I doubt that.

            Others do make vehicles of comparable quality. Closed and regulated systems that share manufacturing processes will tend to create similar quality products with similar restrictions. But fine cars? I don’t know about that. Decent maybe, but there’s a distinct lack of polish and thoughtfulness in the build quality of vehicles. There’s a lot of poor engineering and compromises.

          10. Laws are to be set apart. We have had this conversation before. Laws are established by democratic processes. BMW doesn’t dictate where I take their car, within the confines of the law.

            Further, I leased it, so I don’t “own it”. Different set of rules. Main reason? Cost.

            “Decent maybe, but there’s a distinct lack of polish and thoughtfulness in the build quality of vehicles. There’s a lot of poor engineering and compromises.”

            Yes, and BMW is absolutely terrible at polish, outside of the driving itself. It has the worst cabin configuration of all cars of it’s class. We’re lucky we get passable cup holders now. Massive waste of cabin space is prevalent as well. If I were a fan of companies, and I were a Mercedes, Audi, Lexus, etc. owner, I would be offended. Gratefully I’m not. My BMW is not necessarily “better” than any of them.

          11. “BMW doesn’t dictate where I take their car, within the confines of the law.”

            Yes, they do, whether you own or lease. BMW restricts your use in very reasonable ways, but there are restrictions no matter how much you backpeddle, and they have nothing to do with laws re: the democratic process.

            I don’t disagree with BMW’s restrictions, they make sense, they’re good for the community as a whole, and they don’t negatively impact the practical use of the product. Again, this is what Apple does. This is what most (all?) closed and regulated systems do.

            Now, you seem to be mainly annoyed by the suggestion that anything Apple does or makes is ‘better’. That’s natural, humans like to think the things they own are the best. But if I see the advantage and value in a curated, vertically integrated ecosystem, if that’s what serves me best, then Apple is better for me. Not only that, Apple is the only choice. Other tech companies just don’t seem interested (or capable) of offering what Apple does. It really is apples vs oranges. At least with vehicles it’s apples vs apples.

          12. That’s been my position since our first dialogue. I guess your pretentiousness didn’t allow that to sink in…

            Funny you picked a river as a dig. Rivers only allow you to go where they go. I prefer the sky! 😉

          13. What, you’re telling me that even at that price B&J doesn’t do vanilla! And they say they make icecream! The absolute cheek…

          14. It would deserve emphasizing that they don’t offer vanilla if competing companies do. Further, computers, as tools for the mind, are a bit more important than ice cream, but thank you for your insight.

          15. I feel the need to interject here, that BMW really doesn’t restrict your use of their cars, although they would probably like to, and we have our legal system to thank for that. Warranties are governed by law specifically such that they can not restrict uses arbitrarily, and there are implied warranties, such as warranties of merchantibility, that are understood to accompany the sale of any product, such that types of use for which a product ought to be suited can not be excepted.

            Therefore it is not BMW but our legal infrastructure that limits in certain ways how you can use the products you purchase; and in general, you can do whatever you’d like with them, with very few exceptions, although if what you do damages it, then of course you can not compel BMW to accept responsibility for that unless they are, in fact, responsible.

            That’s very far from the discussion about an open or closed ecosystem, which is an entirely different kind of limitation, namely, a *design* limitation, and design limitations are inherent in every product. The window I am looking out of can only open horizontally, not vertically, which is nothing nefarious and doesn’t imply a corporate desire to control my use of the window, it’s a limitation imposed by the window’s design. Likewise the design of the iOS ecosystem is such that it has (effectively) completely open access to the contents of the World Wide Web, as well as a single access point through which approved Apps can be downloaded. The lack of “open” apps is a design limitation that doesn’t bother me any more than the design limitations implied by the physical form of the device itself.

          16. Agreed. I did not mean to say that BMW restricts normal usage of their product. But there are rules and restrictions re: your BMW’s warranty, both in how and where you drive the vehicle (covered under misuse) and modifications you make (especially suspension or performance mods).

            Now, of course the vast majority of people aren’t going to run into these limitations, and indeed it would seem klahanas wasn’t aware these restrictions existed at all. The jobs-to-be-done a person hires a BMW to do are not negatively affected by the restrictions BMW has in place. I could argue that BMW’s restrictions are helpful to the end user. In much the same way, Apple’s restrictions do not negatively affect the jobs-to-be-done the products are hired to do, and again there’s a good argument to be made that the restrictions enhance the value and use of the product.

            My larger point with the BMW example was to demonstrate how ridiculous klahanas’s ideology is and how that ideology is not consistently applied by klahanas.

          17. And you have strayed so far from my original BMW comment, that I would be a total twit if I asserted that ONLY BMW provided value…

          18. True, but one would have to look more closely at what you meant by “value”, versus what BMW offered as “value”…

            (In this analogy) Your view of value would seem to lack a little depth or conviction; and BMW’s idea of value is not niche, but far more universally compelling than you are willing to admit — if a couple of realities presented themselves:
            1) BMW actually makes billions, because hundreds of millions of customers do see the value.
            2) most other car makers in this scenario are nationalized or dependent on govt bail-outs to survive. The “value” that they best deliver is simply to get someone from A-B at the cheapest price. They capitalize on that
            alone, and nothing else. Sure, you can “pimp” those cars, but few customers really do — pimping is the niche, not BMW. Moreover, they are only “pimpable” because they get all their parts off the same commodity rack in order to survive, and not out of any sense of wanting to deliver value to their customers.

          19. People may be willing to accept a different, but still elegant “drive” in exchange for better cabin layout, for instance. As you say, to some, no car is worth luxury pricing. They are no less valid than me who leased a BMW.

          20. Sure, but most of the time you are creating a false dichotomy in your arguments.

            In essence, you choose an arbitrary value, like cabin layout. You next say, BMW has 3 choices, everyone else has 3000 between them, many of which claim to be “customizable”, neato. Ooooh, if I want “choice” I better choose a non-BMW option….

            “Whoopee I now have choice of 3000 cabin layouts that I would miss out on had I chosen BMW to begin with. Cool, where do I begin?”

            [makes choice, then wakes up] “Bummer, this cabin layout, despite its supposed advantages and customizability is a real pain in the butt. How often am I gonna do this, and does it really make a difference? Kind of wish I had now opted for basic ride, mileage and reliability, as boringly mundane those universal values are.”

          21. True. Where I come from we have an expression… “A big basket can hold a lot, or a little. A little basket can only hold a little”.
            Hence my desire for broadness of application.

          22. What you’re missing of course is that the baskets Apple sells do hold a lot, or a little, and do offer broadness of application, just not in the narrow and artificial way that you want. But for hundreds of millions, Apple’s baskets are what they want.

            You seem to continually argue that Apple’s approach (closed, curated, vertically integrated) is wrong in some way, that Apple’s approach offends you, that Apple should change its approach, etc. And yet you don’t seem to understand (or don’t care) that Apple’s baskets work best for me the way they are, and changing them in the ways you want to would negatively affect my experience. Your only answer to this of course is to say “My changes wouldn’t affect you! Apple can do both!” That’s just silly, adding complexity to any system has consequences.

          23. I repudiate your comparison of bmw to Apple. Pretty much any car in fact. I realise it’s not supposed to be literal, but cars seem more like printers. The purchase price bears essentially no relation to the insanely unjustifiable running costs. Talk about being run by a secretive priesthood – the part with a name that we stuck together from a gold scrabble board is failing and can only be repaired by draining your bank balance into that bucket on the floor…..
            Funny thing about bmw drivers is that a significant proportion drive like dangerous aggressive narcissists. Good luck getting that parking spot before a Beemer suddenly appears in it and they start giving you the finger or abusing you.

          24. “My ideology is that computers are…” – Klahana

            That’s the beauty of the free market. Apple makes computers the way some people want them and HP, Dell and many others make them the way other people want them. Each of us gets to choose the device that serves us best.

            You are philosophically opposed to many of the ideas that Apple incorporates into their computers. It’s all good. People vote with their dollars and so long as their are enough “votes” to go around, competing visions can and do co-exist.

          25. And that’s the value of discourse. Since we all have different perceptions of “fair”, and voice them, it gives reference for others to see where they stand (if they choose), thus the become more informed.

          26. “My ideology is that computers are versatile machines moldable to their
            OWNERS desires, either by the owners directly, the manufacturer, or
            someone on the OWNER’s behalf. That’s what makes them personal. Having
            a manufacturer restrict, (relative to past models or to the
            competition), in a non-negotiable way, what they do, is wrong to me.”

            Ah yes, the general purpose computer. Like Cory Doctorow, you regard restrictions on the ability of a computer to do whatever a programmer wants it to do as a very bad thing.

            And my rejoinder to that viewpoint is, go read Infosec Taylor Swift’s “Story about Jessica”. General purpose computers got us into the malware/adware/crapware infested mess we are now in. We need fewer general purpose computers and more computing appliances. Computers are too difficult to use and also people are too technically illiterate to use them properly.

            The solution is not to try to make people be more technically inclined (a hopeless endeavor), but to make computers less difficult to use. Which means we need to slaughter the sacred cow of “general purpose computing.” The computers on every desk and in every pocket need to be specific purpose appliances, designed to do the jobs asked of them.

          27. I’m not at all unsympathetic to the plight of the overwhelmed, as described in the article. You’re just going to have to take me at my word on that.

            I also don’t know how to have this conversation without getting into sociopolitical ideology. More specifically, the quality of a culture. We do tolerate the need for police, and we have mutually agreed, democratically established, procedures of limiting liberty. The first amendment is not the cause of slander, and we don’t burn books to squash ideas. In democratic societies we expose all ideas, debate them, and judge them accordingly.

            If your government established a “book approval process”, checks for “ideological purity”, and a “masqueraded choice”, that was really an establishment of conformance, how would you feel?

            Here in the US we have factions that proudly proclaim “If you don’t like it, leave!”. That’s analogous to voting with your money, a shallow approach at best.

    2. “I don’t think there’s any secret to Apple’s success.”

      Let me put it this way. Many know the parts that make up Apple’s success in the same way that many know the ingredients that go into a great meal. But a master chef takes those ordinary ingredients and makes an extraordinary meal.

      I’m reminded of the movie the Untouchables in which Eliot Ness (and I’m paraphrasing), agrees that surprise is half the battle. He then goes on to list a whole lot of other things that are “half the battle” too. We may know the components of success, but getting them in exactly the right proportions is tricky…very tricky.

      1. I don’t think it’s tricky. Apple thinks about solutions, designs thoughtfully, and does what works best. Then they have the audacity to sell above cost, gasp! I grok your basic point though, there’s a lot of smart folks and hard work involved in what Apple does.

        1. “Then they have the audacity to sell above cost”

          I truly detest the idea that Apple is charging more for their products as it suggests they’re selling crap at an unreasonable price, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Name one Apple product that you feel was made from substandard materials that Apple charged an obscene amount of money for compared with comparable products in the same category.

          It’s okay I’ll wait.

          1. You missed the sarcasm. No problem, it happens. I agree that Apple’s prices are fair for the value they provide. As a business owner I understand that a fair profit helps the business continue to serve me well. My point was that Apple seems like an oddity in tech because they have a healthy profit margin. And you’re right, that is one of the big criticisms of Apple, made mostly by people who aren’t willing to pay for value (or just plain don’t like Apple for whatever reason).

          2. Sincere apologies. You’re right. Reading it again I see that you were in fact being sarcastic.

            Charge it insomnia.

          3. iPhone 5c, Pippin, MacIntosh TV, failed set top box Interactive TV box, iTunes Radio (dead in very short order), iCloud has repeatedly failed too. Topped off with one of the largest Security Break Downs in Computing History. To wit….. 1000’s of pics of trusting celeb’s bodies were exposed! …..now tell me you still trust Apple to keep you safe?

            http://www.redmondpie.com/8-mysterious-apple-products-which-you-might-not-know-of-list/

            Now for that one inferior grade product you asked far (or actually just one of them); Apple iPhone 5, 5s, 6 and 6+ all have used inferior grade aluminum. Contrary to the industry standards being used by HTC, Motorola, etc in 1st grade not 2nd grade aluminum in iBendEasyGate models since iphone5. Now even Samsung is using higher Aircraft grade aluminium alloys. Which they formulated themselves in Samsung C&T. Unlike Apple who must rely on EVERYTHING being totally outsourced including formulating of materials! ;-P

          4. As I said, those that understand Apple the least, criticize it the most. When you can speak intelligently as to why Apple succeeded, then I will trust your opinion as to why they may fail.

          5. “Topped off with one of the largest Security Break Downs in Computing History.”

            Pretty sure that award goes to the Sony hack that nearly caused international war but who’s counting?

            There’s also the matter of facts; the core of your “largest security breakdowns in computer history” is missing the very real fact discovered by the FBI that reports that iCloud wasn’t hacked but that the entire scandal was based on a phishing scam. Celebrities’ passwords and security questions were obtained because they clicked on emails they had no business clicking on.

            I’m not exonerating Apple of all wrong-doing but your brief account of the matter is more a sign of your misguided, misinformed hatred of Apple rather than what actually happened.

            The Verge even found out that the exposed pictures had been circulating the Dark Web for years. Someone finally got some hot pics of J. Law and got greedy which ultimately exposed the sick, twisted underworld of celebrity nudes that, again, has been around for years.

            As for the BendGate scandal, well, 74 million phones in 90 days sends a more clear message that the phone is made well enough that it didn’t stop people from lining up to get one. The fact that we haven’t heard a peep about it since the launch is telling enough that the situation was indeed isolated.

            Cheers!

          6. Ah, bend gate. The gate that bends. The gates that keep on giving (sane people extreme irritation). Otherwise known as Samsung business strategy. It’s rather depressing that otherwise apparently sane people only ever seem to remember theses “news” snippets about Apple and repeat them as fact. Having worked in news related media for thirty years, this quality of news “reporting” is applied to virtually every story. Generally it’s due to laziness or ignorance, but even the idealised world of “The Newsroom” gives you a bit of idea of what’s going on.

      2. I’d go further: Describing Apple’s success too simply is akin to saying children learn to walk because they take their first steps.

      3. Apples success is a combination of factors, just as most people in the forum have stated. A combination of ingredients that only a master chef can combine into a great meal FalKirk. Absolutely agree. A combination of quality product at a price that competition has trouble beating, an integrated ecosystem of software and services, to quality curated stores to incredibly well curated presentations combined with brilliant media control . Being first with truly paradigm shifting products doesn’t hurt at all either. The complete stack in other words. This has put Apple in the enviable position of top of mind, if not the top spot of brand recognition in consumer electronics. So to sum up if I might, Mercedes quality, complete control of the hardware and software, with Hollywood level marketing. How they are analyzed with respect to other consumer electronics companies is
        where the mistakes are made. With products that are a premium over other brands(not by much mind you) they are affordable by everyone in the western world. To my way of thinking imagine everybody could afford a BMW or Mercedes, these car companies would be the dominant cars by a large margin as in Apples case. Maybe another perspective might be to look at Coke or Heinz ketchup ( not anywhere near the same fields in marketing but both products are in consumer markets where price is irrelevant to the consumer (affordable) but mind share and perceived value play key roles. What kind of market shares do these brands enjoy over their competitors, what would it take to overcome them or increase the competitors marketshare. Sony with their stores was in this position not that long ago I would think. Standard market dynamics in consumer electronics is a very tricky thing. I think there are better products available ( my opinion only and I am sure quite debatable) but to change or radically shift the market away from Apple would take a series of events. Everything from hardware innovations, form factor,
        price, usability or functionality would have to change dramatically to shift Apples stock lower and all Apple would have to do is introduce it’s own version of those innovations ( as was seen recently with the shift to larger screens in th 6 and 6+).
        So two points here that are intersting to me. Before the iPhone Apple was a small niche player in computers. Windows was 95 to 99% of the market. Some say price was the determining factor, others would say standardization on one os or set of Apps for the business community, these being the major drivers for pc adoption. Is the same tipping point occurring in phones ie is history going to repeat itself in the phone market or because major apps are all cross platform with the cloud or Internet based systems filling in the gaps leave room for the best value in hardware by whoever? Does price, percieved quality, marketing or true innovation determine the market leaders down the road? My appologies for the long winded meanderings of an unclear thought process in advance.

  4. John, I thought a critical piece of Apple’s vision was the notion of “enriching peoples’ lives”.

    I have noted in other posts here that this notion of impact or difference is really a powerful distinguishing feature in a vision. Having something (e.g., Windows, computers, great products, etc.) is a self absorbing centred vision. Customers really only care about what we are doing for them (in this case concrete ideas about enriching their lives with use of great products).

    Personally, I see in most of Apple’s marketing and advertising an emphasis on how people using their products are leading better lives. I have not seen a similar focus on “me as the customer” in Microsoft, Google, Samsung, or any other major tech company. I guess if I were to challenge my thesis, Samsung’s and Microsoft’s recent attack ads on Apple’s customers is the anti-customer respect mindset. Pity!

    1. I agree that one of Apple’s greatest lessons is to focus on creating the product or the service from the customer’s point of view.

      “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around.” ~ Steve Jobs

      I also think that this is one of the hardest lessons to learn.

  5. What would happen if Apple were to drop the profit from the current 40% to Samsung’s 5%(whatever it is) or 0% or even negative as the vast majority of Android manufacturers?

    1. “(T)here were so many people advising us that we had to do something different… that people weren’t going to pay for a great product there. Well, let me tell you, it’s a bunch of bull! It’s not true! People everywhere in this world want a great product. And that doesn’t mean that everyone, every single person in the world can afford one yet. But everyone wants one. And so, if we do our jobs right, and keep making great products, I think there’s a pretty good business there for us.” ~ Tim Cook

  6. “I would argue that Microsoft wasn’t diversifying so much as
    they were flailing around trying to discover what was next”

    Put another way, they were trying to discover what new products they could create that would run Windows.

  7. Your columns seem kind of dangerous, John. My worry was, if you keep giving away the Apple secretes, or explaining them as they are, so well, someday Microsoft and the pundits will catch on. Then where will our Apple be?

    Probably so far ahead of where MS and the pundits thinks they knows Apple is, the story will just continue as it does.

    So no worries. Continue as you do.
    Namaste and care,
    mhikl

  8. “Microsoft didn’t ignore mobile computing. On the contrary, they were into mobile computing far earlier than Apple was.”

    Really? Let’s see:

    Newton OS 1.0 (Apple): August 3, 1993
    Windows CE 1.0 (Microsoft): November 16, 1996

    These two things still back up your other assertions, though: Newton OS was designed from the ground up by Apple with a clean-slate OS with a brand new UI that was optimized for mobile usage, whereas Microsoft’s Windows CE had tons of desktop UI baggage like a “Start” button/menu, windows that could be resized and overlap, and initial devices that looked like little clamshell laptops with full (tiny) keyboards.

    “Apple’s revival started with the candy colored iMacs; continued on with the brilliantly designed Powerbook notebook computers that are now the template for practically every notebook computer on the market today”

    Not sure which PowerBooks you’re talking about, here. The originals, which introduced keyboard-at-the-back, pointing-device-at-the-front to laptop computing? Those were in 1991, seven years before the iMac. The PowerBook 500 series, which were the first laptop computers to use trackpads instead of other, more mechanical pointing devices like trackballs? Those were in 1994, still four years before the iMac. Or the titanium and then aluminum PowerBook G4s, which *did* follow the iMacs, in 2001, and were the first major laptops with 15″ screens and enough power to be used as replacements for desktop PCs?

    Yeah, I’m just tweaking you a bit, here. 🙂 One of my personal bugbears, though, are claims about Apple’s various “revolutionary” products that completely miss how every single one of them is built upon a continuum of one or more solid foundations that Apple had developed or been working on for years beforehand. (For example, the friendly, colorful translucent plastics and curved shapes of the iMac can be traced directly back to the eMate 300, which was not only curvy and translucent green itself, but had prototypes that were purple, red, orange, and clear. Similarly, the iPod would never have come to be if it weren’t for FireWire, which provided simultaneous power for charging and high speed data transfers for years before USB 2.0 finally caught up.)

    It’s actually really *not* that hard to predict what Apple’s going to be up to over the next few years, as I did with about 80-90% success in 1998 in a list of predictions for Apple’s following five years (originally hosted on a MobileMe web site, so it’s inaccessible right now). Looking back at those, most people would say “Well, of course they were going to do that!,” but those things really weren’t so obvious in 1998. (The “next five years” sequel to this list is long-delayed, but I’ve been making notes for it since July 1 of last year. Unfortunately over that time some of the things I was planning on predicting have actually come to pass, like Apple Watch. Plus there’s suddenly been a spate of rumors about Apple getting into the automotive industry, which is something I started making notes about last summer. I’ve got at least one twist about that that I haven’t seen anyone else pick up on yet, though. 🙂

    1. Your points are correct, however they are not the point. John’s point was about Apple’s _revival_.

      As for the Newton and mobile. Again you are correct (current consideration of mobile compared to what was considered mobile then notwithstanding) but then Jobs axed that division (1998?) and was out of the picture until the iPhone in 2007. So in that regard Apple ceded the opportunity to others for almost a decade, materially eliminating the advantage.

      Joe

      1. “So in that regard Apple ceded the opportunity to others for almost a decade, materially eliminating the advantage.”

        Or not. It doesn’t appear that any “advantage” was “lost”, given how things have turned out.

        In the intervening decade (the decade of the iPod), Apple worked on miniturization, ARM expertise, power management, battery technology, alternate UIs and methods of input (clicks wheels), etc….

        AND, it turned out, they were developing iOS and MultiTouch for at least several of those years.

        Meanwhile, where did MS, Motorola, Nokia and RiMM go after a decade of staying in Mobile? Down the toilet. No advantage there.

        So, maybe the distinction should be: stepping back and willingly ceding for a time, vs being forced to cede a dominant position through complete mismanagement and lack of foresight.

    2. “Newton OS 1.0 (Apple): August 3, 1993
      Windows CE 1.0 (Microsoft): November 16, 1996”
      Ha!
      Franklin devices: Starting in 1986
      🙂

  9. Truly great business models (like Apple’s) are not developed, they are really discovered by way of massively parallel entrepreneurship (only one out of thousands of entrepreneurs will find such a model). However, business models that are great in one set of circumstances or era (e.g. 2005 onwards), may not work equally well at other times (e.g. mid 80s).

    In public conversation the success of a business that has stumbled upon a truly great business model is typically attributed to the great intellect of the founder(s) and their willingness to work ridiculous hours (the founders will also believe that to be the root of their success). Problem with that explanation is that great intellect and the willingness to work hard are both commodities; there are literally tens of millions of people capable of both. Being highly intelligent and hardworking is absolutely no guarantee for finding a second truly great business model (Google’s founders seem to be working under a misapprehension – http://ftalphaville.ft.com/2015/02/13/2118948/what-is-google-building/

    The key to a truly great business model is to develop something that cannot be copied easily and is able to sustain premium pricing. There are several tried and tested ways to prevent copying: 1) have an intellectual property that is protected by legislation (eg hardware patents, software), 2) insurmountable economies of scale, 3) be far ahead in the technological learning curve (eg Intel, Google search), 4) have a brand that is valued and prized by consumers and 5) a durable market (eg candy bars, baby food). There are undoubtedly other factors that put a moat around a business.

    Apple certainly appears to benefit from 1, 3 and 4. The weakness in Apple’s model is not in the technology (their proprietary technologies and OS are strong), but in the strength of their brand (which is easily tarnished) and the durability of the market for their products (but at least they are not hung up on one form factor).

    1. Good post. However, I think that your number 2 also comes into play for Apple. Not only is their growth and cash, a moat in itself, but their limited range of products and models within each product accentuate their economies of scale.

      Samsung or others may produce more units overall, but no-one dares produce so many units of so few models as Apple. You have to have a confidence in the designs and trade-offs you are making, and value propositions built up in your products.

      Apple achieves the margins it does, because the fixed costs of each product are pretty rapidly covered, and the product continues to sell another year (or two or three, in the case of the 4S). The margins actually grow as each unit becomes cheaper to produce, and the product largely holds its value and selling point through out the time it is available.

      No-one else has achieved this. They produce 50 different models to see what sticks, ship them out to sit on shelves, and have to start discounting them straight away. Economy of Scale definitely helps Apple disproportionately.

    2. I agree with your thesis.I think the thing that Apple achieved is a great company culture, one that is enable to support innovations and investment in good design and not be afraid of going after premium markets, coupled with the marketing ability to aim at premium products.

      With that tuned into the company , they we’re able to build the iPhone , a really breakthrough product(or maybe not ,as my next paragraph might hint ?), and from there(amazing product + great potential for various barriers for copying + great culture + great marketing), their success isn’t that surprising, although definitely a great achievement.

      Now compare that with nokia, which built[1] prototypes of a touchscreen based phone with a single physical button, and a tablet pretty similar to today’s – 7 years before the iphone. But the product got stuck in r&d, and nothing came out of it.

      [1]http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304388004577531002591315494

  10. What amazes me the most is not the amount of doomsayers but rather their passion to see Apple fall. What provokes a horde of journalists to trumpet the company’s demise year after year, even to the point where they’re predicting failure mere minutes after a keynote or quarterly earnings call?

    I have a theory: they all failed to get in on Apple stock some 8+ years ago and now they can’t stand to see Apple succeed. The memory of the iPhone announcement replays as they laugh alongside Steve Ballmer mockingly the iPhone as an overtly expensive toy that would never make it in the business world because it lacked a keyboard.

    SIDE-NOTE: Remember when a slide-out keyboard and Flash were reasons the iPhone would never be fully adopted?

    Bitter beyond belief their only recourse is to shame Apple at every turn to reduce the shame of not believing in them in the past. Never seeing Apple for the insane innovator that they were (check: are). But who knew that a company founded by a hippie and riding on the coattails of an MP3 player would command the industry?

    As you said, Mr. Kirk, the secret to their success is still a secret. I’d even go as far to say that I don’t think even Apple knows the secret. They just make great decisions that yield great products and the people swarm.

    Did Jobs and Ive mean to disrupt the POS (point of sale) machine business when they envisioned the iPad? I’d like to think that was a happy mistake, like a great actor improvising on set and making unexpected movie magic.

    1. The villagers with their torches, while comical, still draw the ignorant to the cause. After decades of this obvious denialist bs, I can only conclude its to manipulate markets, especially now that apple is a significant proportion of the market. Why waste time futzing with companies most people haven’t heard of. Just go with popularity and size and you make an easy living leaching off suckers in the stock market casino. The media virtually does the job for you.

  11. There is no “secret” to Apple’s success, but if the goal of this discussion is to discover the “REASON” for Apple’s success, then there is a list of Apple principles and practices that contribute positively to the outstanding results.

    1. Apple wants to create the best products possible commensurate with modern technology and practical pricing.

    2. Apple wants to give the customer what they need, i.e. optimally address the salient market demand.

    3. Apple wants to evolve an ecosystem that constitutes an interoperability framework of all its products, making each additional product purchase increase the customer’s overall productivity

    4. Apple wants to optimize the customer experience, including products, services, and support. This will increase customer satisfaction and ensure the likelihood of repurchases as new and upgraded products are released.

    5. Apple wants to control all hardware, software, and service aspects of the product. This is essential to achieving the optimum results and markedly different from the paradigm embraced by Microsoft and Google.

    Consistent adherence to these principles has enabled Apple to deliver 0ver 2,000% gain in the stock price over the last 10 years.

    By maintaining their focus on these principles, Apple will continue to outperform in the years to come.

    I am long Apple.

  12. All it really requires to understand why Apple has grown is to actually listen to and believe Steve Jobs at the 1997 WWDC. He explained his vision. He explained the cloud, although he didn’t call it that. You have to believe that he actually meant what he said – that’s the tricky part. He pretty clearly explained how Apple would grow.
    After that, if you really listen to what he said about Apple’s business concepts (not necessarily the finer details), he continued to expose his philosophy pretty clearly. The reason nobody has figured it out is that nobody expects the truth to be said out loud.
    Apple continues to make products that they want for themselves, creating a market, and then they improve the products iteratively.
    The rest of the industry looks for a market and then tries to make a product that fills it – usually by copying Apple. There were smartphones, tablets, mp3 players before Apple built them. There was no real market for any of them before Apple built them.

    1. You’re wasting your keystrokes. Facts and history are for pussies. Your just another Apple sheep (did you see what I did there?)
      Sorry, it’s rather depressing being swept along by de Nile into the sea of idiots. I can’t breathe and I can’t see the shore.

  13. As I understand John’s point, Apple’s success is highly circumstantial. Unreproducible, unscientific. No simple formulas apply.

    It’s so. The harmonics of globalization, material and technological developements, precursor products, China’s economics, American marketing dominance, played into Apple’s history and Jobs’s personal saga and all that corporate psychodrama—it’s one off.

  14. Hi John, great article as usual. The success of Apple seems to be summed up in two words. Dependability and Security. The ethic that I see in Apple that it is the WC Fields of the tech world. “Never give a sucker an even break.” “You can’t smarten up a chump.” and the best is, “You can’t cheat an honest man.” SJ must have been a fan of WC in that each of these quotes, and I know you love quotes, gives real meaning to Apple.
    Honest people know that the other services, phones, computers are cheats
    When has Apple given anyone a break? Only its customers, competitors beware.
    And the technoroti that call doom for Apple every day because their income demands it are the chumps that will know better but still serve up the slop they call analysis.
    So, dependability and security are why iPhone and Apple products in general are expanding and others are on life support or are the “disappeared” of the tech world. Cheers

  15. While John views the success of Apple as a company per se, and discourses on the whole, I would like to discourse underneath the layers of it as to the ultimate mantra that drives what Apple is and why it is thriving as such today. And the root-cause for this is the work ethic exemplified by its executives and its veeps. Consider the excerpts by below article way way back. Just imagine what an organization be able to accomplish if it had these kind of executives in them.
    ———————————————————————–
    Working conditions for employees making Apple products in China have long come under scrutiny, with claims of mass suicide, cramped accommodation and dangerous working conditions. It now appears that even senior executives within the Apple Corporation were expected to be on call seven days a week, and even while on holiday, if they want to get on in the company.

    Don Melton, who started up Apple’s Safari and WebKit projects, and Nitin Ganatra, a director of applications for iOS, spoke about the incredible pressures of working at the company in a podcast with Debug.

    Working at Apple, he says, was “like working in a nuclear power plant, but you don’t get one of those protective suits”. He added: “You either learn to survive it or you die.”

    Former director of applications for iOS Ganatra says emails would arrive in the middle of the night which required an instant response – especially ones from former Apple vice president Scott Forstall. “It’s from Scott, but it’s a forward from Steve [Jobs] and it’s just at this crazy hour, right? You just know that there’s this fire hose of emails that are just going out at 2:45am…And that was just week after week, month after month.”

    Jobs may be gone, but his work ethic has cast long shadows; Melton says new Apple chief executive Tim Cook is similarly driven.

    “When you hear the so-called apocryphal stories about Tim Cook coming to work in the wee hours and staying late, it’s not just some PR person telling you stories to make you think that Apple executives work really hard like that. They really do that. I mean, these people are nuts. They’re just, they are there all the time,” says Melton.

    Working weekends was not only normal but expected, says Melton on his personal blog. “Our veeps had to be ready for the big status and planning meeting on Monday morning and we had to be available to help them. Steve always had the meeting then. I assume to set the tone and the pace for the week. Good idea, really. I doubt that’s changed now. It’s not like other folks there weren’t working nights and weekends too. Many of my engineers worked longer and harder than I did. It was a busy place. By our choice.”

    Just in case you were beginning to feel sorry for the overworked executives, Melton admits working for Apple was a “kind of a Faustian bargain you make”: there were compensations to the sacrifices you make.

    Article written by Mark Piggot of International Business Times

  16. At the end of the day however, it all comes down to assertions and beliefs. The assertion that Apple can still continue to do it is predicated on the belief that they still can. Which is no less hunch-based than the belief that Microsoft can’t – or can – for that matter. Both companies caught the rising wave of key disruptive technologies and rode them to spectacular success. In Microsoft’s case, it was the “not invented by them” PC. Whereas for Apple it was the “not invented by them” cellular smartphone.

    I personally wonder how feasible it is for two companies with such entrenched visions (and cash cow products) to catch that next emergent technology. Especially now that they’re not automatically the only two smart kids on the block. Having large coffers and huge patent portfolios, however, may make that next emergent breakthrough never gain traction since Apple and Microsoft are both in the position to easily stifle any new technologies they don’t control.

    I think the better question isn’t whether Apple will continue to innovate, but rather how much innovation they will obstruct if it doesn’t belong to Apple. And the same goes for Microsoft. Obstructionism, long a staple of Soviet power, has come back into vogue under Putin. How long will it take Apple to see their power in the same way? Because while they aren’t the only exceptionally smart player with a hand in the game, they’re certainly numbered among them.

    1. I was wondering how long before Apple was deemed a communist dictatorship and had to be freedomified. Or democracied if you prefer. Ah, the American Dream.

  17. Throughout Apple’s history, their failures have out paced their successes. Just recently let me remind you that when they’ve been able to catch the competition off guard, is the only time they’ve had any degree of success. The Newton may be the Poster Child of Apple’s long list of failures, but super duper brain dead Elitist fans will always use Applewellian Doublethink to convince them everything Apple has ever done has been Gold. Fool’s Gold is more like it.

    In the 90’s they also thought that since Sony had never been in gaming before, that they could blow Playstation game Console out of the water. What happened to Apple Pippin? It blew chunks after all the RDF FUD and Misinformation Smoke died down, so did Pippin Game Console. That tried for several years to at least make a perceptible dent in the market. Never happened and now’s another Newton like failure.

    Perhaps this writer isn’t aware that no new product since Steve Jobs’s iPad has been successful. But…. perhaps you don’t call iTunes Radio or iCloud equal to past failures. But the reality is that what’s really freaky is that nothing they’ve ever developed independently of the Standards in pursuing Total Elitist Status has ever been what you’d call really successful. AppleTV….. is just one such product, having come out first, and now in last place to the newcomers Google and Amazon now even.

    Yet…. with Apple watch coming out years too late and still iVaporware to this date, is marching right for becoming their latest iFailure….. despite being now superstitious about using the small letter ‘i’ they supposed invented, well before the Dawn of Time. Reality though is like everything else, they bought it, stole it or borrowed it. All you Applewellian iBrainacs though are still thinking that they’ll sell a 100 Million over priced watches this year against already established leaders. Leaders who invented the first Wearables that Apple is now only copying. Samsung had the first watch phone wearable way back in 1999. IBM came out with their Watchpad phone in 2000 with a Digital Crown Control interface, that Apple obviously ripped off for Apple Watch:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1sXNlWpHKY

    But hey….. all you iReligious Fanatics will still try to say Apple invented pulsing heart emoji with Immersion’s stolen Haptic features, along with that Digital Crown Control, they obviously stole themselves from IBM. So now despite the fact that we now know the truth….. every other smartwatch maker who uses a Digital Crown, will be lambasted for copying Apple by all you religious fanatics ready to lay down your life or even bleed 6 colors of Apple to defend another lie about Apple ever being first at anything! ;-P …..although Apple Watch will be it’s first absolutely the worst overhyped FAILURE, since Steve Jobs died! Mark my words….. Apple Watch will launch to record crowds who never even buy it at launch, let alone when it is officially pulled off the market like iPhone 5c FAILURE!!!

      1. ah…. yeah that’s a dead giveaway that you’ve already been through Apple’s Thought Police Brain Washing and it’s basically too late for you to ever get back to REALITY! lol…. I personally never read Applewellian Addicted Fantasy Writer’s works and in fact prefer REALITY to an iFancist’s rambling delusions of greatness. Get some help and please take your meds! ^_* ….you’re a danger to yourself and loved ones! 😀

        1. Oh, you misunderstand. I am looking for some fantasy that gives me a rosy view of the universe in which there is something new under the sun to look forward to.

          I am with you all the way — the sad reality is that everything has been done before and absolutely everything in this world, including 99.99 percent of what Apple does, is a complete and utter failure.

          There are probably only two products in the whole history of the world that could be considered “unqualified successes” in terms of sales, and even that is because they both took their competitors by surprise. For some crazy reason they both continue to enjoy a fair number of perennial sales, though their critics are legion and most reasonable people profess to have absolutely no use for either product.

          In comparison, absolutely every other product in history can only be described as a failure (unless we are talking about simple commodities like grains of rice or squares of toilet paper).

          Yes, the iPhone and the Bible are the only things I ever consider a success. Take me away, iKrontologist, I implore you!

      1. Thems a big pot o claim chowder there matey! Hope he keeps it out of the sun. Talk about bitter. Should never have bought so much Samsung stock.

  18. Another great article, it’s amazing how so many supposedly informed people don’t get Apple. Their “secret” is an unyielding focus on making the best end to end experience for a small set of products. And that experience, starting from shopping online using arguably one of the best web experiences, to browsing in their beautifully designed stores, to opening the product packaging, to using the product, to learning more about it with free seminars and support at Apple stores. This adds up to the best premium technology experience there is and people will pay for and stay loyal to that experience, as evidenced by their recent revenues and most valuable company ever.

  19. Brilliant. The five P’s of business. The past parade of pundits predicting peril. I’m sure you could squeeze in a pontificating and possibly even pinhead.

  20. Apple success is due to there stores , chat and phone service. I myself bought the first iPhone and was not so literate on how to use computers that well . I not only bought the phone , I bought my first Mac . To me this was a opurtunity to go to a place (Apple store) and learn how to use my devices . At the time there was no one else doing this and still today , no one at the same availability and in depth like apple . Yes Microsoft is now starting to mimic Apple stores ,however as usual with them , years behind. They also are very good at marketing there products along with the support and choosing partners. The other thing Apple had none well is keeping there pricing stable . Nothing bothers some more than anything,when they miss out and pay more . It sounds like price fixing,however in the mind of the consumer, it’s perception. Since this happens , when you go to sell your device , it holds it value better . Just go look what a iPhone sells for on eBay vs any other.

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