Apple is not a company. It’s an experience.
Steve Job’s genius was that while he appreciated technology, he really valued imagination. He didn’t build the largest company in the world by asking "why?" — he built an empire by asking “why not?"
But will Apple be able to keep its edge with the new iPhone 5?
Apple creates markets by designing and introducing into the market products that consumers didn’t even know they wanted. It’s the “cool” factor. And Apple grasped the lessons of the Dot-Com bust soon than others. It’s not about the technology. Technology is a commodity, whether hardware or software. The twenty-first century is about the user experience! It’s about accessibility.
Whether downloading a vocal from last night’s The Voice on iTunes, or creating a book of the grandchildren at play for a Mother’s Day present, it’s quick and easy to do. Just scroll here and click there! It really is literally child’s play – just ask our three-year-old!
Or walk into an Apple store. It’s open, accessible, light, airy, and inviting. Ask a sales associate for help, and they can actually help you.
It takes a village to be a world leader. The Apple Apps Store is a virtual bazaar of innovation. And it’s a great business model which builds stronger customer affinity as it generates high profit margins for Apple.
And speaking of business models, a business built on innovation is a business with high profit margins. As an innovator, Apple has been able to define and, as a result, to dominate whatever market it enters.
The absence of competition and the patina of “cool” — along with the global demand that “cool” generates — allow Apple to price its products at a premium. Apple rapidly recoups its product development costs and starts earning profits. These profits, in turn, are used to generate still more innovation.
The caution is, however, that this business model is not new. Intel and Microsoft were built on the same principles. While they are still very large, profitable, and successful companies, they are no longer the “coolest” companies in the tech world. At some point, consciously or not, they avoided risk at the price of innovation. The competitive edge is fleeting; no technology leader yet has succeeded in completely recovering it once it has been lost.
On Wednesday, Apple introduced the iPhone 5. Industry analysts have described the phone as a “catch up” version intended to compete with high-end Android operating system smartphones with 4G network access. The latest model has a larger screen but a sleeker, slimmer design. There’s also a swap of Google Maps for Apple’s own mapping software. But early press releases say little else is new and compelling.
Consumer reaction over the next few weeks will tell us if Apple still has its magic, or if it too must yield its “coolest” company in technology title to someone new. Perhaps Google?