Apple’s Strategy: The Good and Bad

The four major issues with Apple’s cur­rent product line and strategy that are “stifling the industry, con­sumer choice and pri­cing”, accord­ing to Jason Calacanis:

  1. Des­troy­ing MP3 play­er innov­a­tion through anti-com­pet­it­ive prac­tices.
  2. Mono­pol­ist­ic prac­tices in tele­com­mu­nic­a­tions.
  3. Dra­coni­an App Store policies.
  4. Want­ing to own almost every exten­sion of the iPhone plat­form.

It’s tough to dis­agree with these points (or Jason’s reas­on­ing) but a typ­ic­al response could be:

The restric­tions Apple places on its products are neces­sary to ensure the qual­ity of the user exper­i­ence, that Apple deserves to be paid for the innov­a­tions it has brought to the mar­ket­place and the con­sumer free­dom it has enabled to use things like the mobile inter­net, to make online music easy and fun to use etc.

Both of the above art­icles are anti-Apple (or at least anti-Apple strategy) and I agree with them both—but my stance is def­in­itely that of pro-Apple (a recent devel­op­ment since own­ing an iPhone, swiftly fol­lowed by a Hack­in­tosh).

The ROI I get with Apple products is pos­it­ive des­pite these issues and as such I’m will­ing to pay a premi­um. This isn’t a fin­an­cial ROI, but a time/enjoyment ROI. For an idea of what I mean, this short tirade against open source usab­il­ity from an art­icle look­ing at how to com­pete with open source soft­ware (via @zambonini) may help:

At a salar­ied job mak­ing $80k plus bene­fits your time is worth around $55/hour. […] And thus it is with the major­ity of open source soft­ware:

Open source soft­ware is free if your time is worth noth­ing.

[…] I’ve used main­stream image edit­ors like Pho­toshop, Paint.NET and Gimp; some of my best friends are main­stream image edit­ors. And when I saw Gimp I almost went blind. Chil­dren were weep­ing; fruit was bruis­ing. The UI could kill small anim­als.

Are there excep­tions in the open source world? Abso­lutely.

When an open source pro­ject gets enough tal­en­ted people work­ing on it, it can become a down­right mas­ter­piece.

In UI and UX terms the major­ity of open source applic­a­tions are behind or on par with PC-based soft­ware. These are then both behind Mac-only applic­a­tions. There are excep­tions, of course, but they’re exactly that—exceptions.

Gran­ted; there are unne­ces­sary and debil­it­at­ing restric­tions on Apple products, and when these restric­tions make product use cum­ber­some I’ll switch in a heart­beat. But it seems that these restric­tions are part of a lar­ger strategy: to build the best user exper­i­ence.

This, from a Tech­Crunch art­icle look­ing at Apple’s strategy:

“Our goal is not to build the most com­puters. It’s to build the best.”

That was Apple COO Tim Cook two days ago dur­ing Apple’s quarterly earn­ings call. Sure, it may sound like spin from an exec­ut­ive who does­n’t have a bet­ter answer as to why Apple isn’t com­pet­ing in the low-end of the mar­ket, and thus, gain­ing mar­ket share. But it’s not.

You need look no fur­ther than num­bers released today by NPD to under­stand Apple’s strategy. Its rev­en­ue share of the “premi­um” price mar­ket — that is, com­puters over $1,000 — is a stag­ger­ing 91%.

2 thoughts on “Apple’s Strategy: The Good and Bad

  1. tina

    You’ll switch if you *can*. That was the prob­lem with Microsoft. Every­one was fine with this beha­vi­or until they became unhappy with Windows/Office but real­ized they essen­tially could­n’t switch. They had a leg­acy of files for the plat­form, invest­ments in pro­ductiv­ity and know­ledge on the plat­form… I’d argue most people are in this camp now with iPods. They’ve bought Apple DRMd music and videos and speak­ers and dock­ing sta­tions and they’re now stuck with the plat­form. Cal­canis has the foresight here to see how bad this will get.

  2. Lloyd Morgan Post author

    Indeed, and I guess I’m one of the lucky few who have migrated through all three of the afore­men­tioned oper­at­ing sys­tems (Win­dows, Ubuntu and OS X).

    Because of this, I learnt a long time ago not to to put all of my eggs in one bas­ket (to use a rather tired idiom!):

    I now only own DRM-free music and use applic­a­tions and hard­ware that are rel­at­ively open and plat­form-inde­pend­ent. I would guess I’m in the minor­ity (espe­cially when it comes to users of Apple’s ‘wares).

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