Why Nobody Can Copy Apple

Horace Dediu has written another brilliant piece titled “Why doesn’t anybody copy Apple?”. As he points out, Apple is fairly unique in its command of vertical integration and many people point to that as the “why”. However, Horace also admits this can’t be the sole reason and he is unable to explain what that reason could be. I think I know.

Tim Cook refers to integration and a great team as unique Apple advantages (but also note the references to magic and belief.)

Apple’s products are unique not on their feature merits, but because of the way they are conceived, designed, built, sourced, manufactured, shipped, marketed, sold, opened, held, and used. This is integration taken to the extreme and it would be difficult for any company to replicate.

It’s a better explanation but it is still hard to understand why nobody copies this approach. Integration is something that can take a long time, but it is possible with a Herculean effort. A few companies are starting to make moves in that direction (e.g. Microsoft.) But efforts are half-hearted. There is no “move the Earth” panic to become an integrated company from Samsung, Google or Microsoft.

I completely agree with all this: Replicating Apple’s vertical integration is a hard problem, but not an intractable one for the Microsoft & Google’s of the world.

I assert there’s something else that makes Apple is unique amongst its (asymmetric) competitors (e.g. Google, MS, Samsung):

It only focuses on one customer: The Consumer.

In my experience, the behaviors and culture of an organization (large or small) that focuses on the Consumer as a customer is diametrically incompatible with the behaviors and culture of an organization that focuses on Business as a customer.

This is a key reason Microsoft’s products are often good, but not excellent; the consumer ones and the business ones. This is why Google will never be able to beat Apple at Apple’s game: Google’s customer focus is split between the advertiser and consumer.

The behaviors of an organization, which are really driven by the attitudes, actions, priorities of the people, define what the organization produces. The behaviors required to delight the consumer are simply at odds with the behaviors required to delight businesses. You cannot do both simultaneously in a single organization and be excellent.


  1. Adam MacBeth says:

    You make a good point. As we are seeing consumers bring technology into the enterprise (iOS is case in point), it’s less clear that the focus on enterprise is even necessary to be successful there. If this plays out, the consumer is the only customer that matters. It seems unlikely to me that Samsung’s enterprise push will do anything other than set a match to piles of cash.

    1. Adam, I completely disagree that the consumer is the only customer that matters. I, personally, want to focus on consumers, but both consumer & business businesses are huge and have huge opportunities.

      But organizations (big or small) that try to satisfy both, simultaneously will not create products as good as organizations that focus on one. That is the thesis I’m presenting here.

      1. Lee Hart says:

        Would you rate the developer customer above or below the business customer?

        1. In this context I define “customer” as a “partner where the exchange of value towards the company is monetary”. DevDiv (which I think was a mistake for MS, but that’s a different argument) treats developers as customers. Apple does not. It treats them as “partners where the value exchange towards the company is platform adoption”.

          Or to put it more simply: Developers are not customers. They are partners. Unless your business is *selling* developer tools.

          1. I think the situation with Apple is more complex. I agree that they are focused on consumers, and that has brought success.

            An example that comes to mind is Apple Maps versus Google maps on iOS – I find Google’s constant request for login (i.e. identification) annoying, and I found on iOS 5 their constant proposing of businesses equally painful.

            But, if you look at Apple and the enterprise, they have done a lot to make the enterprise happy and to enable the iPhone and iPad to be adopted by the enterprise. Yet they have done this without sacrificing too much their focus on the consumer.

            So what is the enterprise? A partner like developers? Not really. I’d say it’s a regulatory authority. Someone you need to please in order to do business.

            I like Apple concentrating on my needs.

          2. JohnDoey says:

            No, I disagree with that. Developers are just consumers also. They consume a Mac, they consume Xcode. Whether they actually partner with Apple to sell an app in App Store or Mac App Store is optional and besides the point. I can buy a Mac, install Xcode, plug my iPad into the Mac, and write an app just for myself, install it on my iPad only, and be the only user of it. In that case, I’m exactly the same as the next guy who buys a Mac, installs Logic, plugs an iPod into the Mac, writes a song just for himself, installs it on his iPod only, and is the only listener of it. The developer and music producer are both consumers of Apple products. Logic and Xcode are designed for developer consumers and music producer consumers.

            The developer may optionally partner with Apple and sell an app in App Store. The music producer may partner with Apple and sell a music album in iTunes Music Store. Or they may not.

          3. kurt westphal says:

            actually your not exactly the same, you have 2 threads/personas, 1) one is the same, 2) the other is one can write code and be a partner, Item 2 is crucial for extending platforms adoption and success.

        2. JohnDoey says:

          The thing with Apple is that developers are not special. They are just another consumer user. They are not demi-gods like on other platforms.

          A music producer who buys a Mac at Apple Store and installs Logic from Mac App Store and publishes in iTunes Music Store is exactly equal to a software developer who buys a Mac at Apple Store and installs Xcode from Mac App Store and publishes in App Store. In both cases, the Mac, Apple Store, Mac App Store, iTunes Music Store/App Store, and Logic/Xcode were all made for the consumer of those products. (Yes, I consider Apple Store to be a product.) The music producer and software developer are just 2 more consumers.

      2. His Shadow says:

        RIM focused exclusively on business and how did that work out for them?

        People who use your technology everyday should be the focus. Not vague buzzwords, a myriad of dead end technologies and outdated business models. Apple made a device that absolutely anyone could use. The rest went from there.

    2. Jim Jarrett says:

      Focusing on the consumer has certainly brought success for iOS into the enterprise. And Apple has added “just enough” enterprise capability, without compromising the consumer experience.

  2. So MS needs to split the company. As should of happened 10+ years ago.

    1. Yes, Wayne, my thesis does lead to that. I am not convinced it was *possible* 10 years ago and I’m even less convinced it’s possible now.

      1. Partly because if you split the company in two, you have one side with a monopoly and one side without. The latter will not prosper. But that’s okay, because at least it will have focus, and pressure. And actually having pressure from competitors is a very good thing, that’s what forced MS to make WP7, etc.

        1. DanPierce says:

          “Partly because if you split the company in two, you have one side with a monopoly and one side without. The latter will not prosper.”

          Exactly. If they had split off the Xbox division years ago, it would not have survived. Microsoft lost billions on Xbox but those losses were absorbed by the money they made by having a desktop OS and office suite monopoly.

      2. Jeff Zugale says:

        There’s already a split in Microsoft, two cultures in the one company: The XBox Division. They make an entirely consumer-focused device, which few thought would be initially successful, which changed the industry it entered and is arguably the most successful device in its industry category. Sound familiar?

        Why they don’t leverage the talent in that division onto the rest of the company, I don’t understand.

        1. Jeff, I think you’ve actually just circled back around to my thesis: The behaviors of an organization building excellence for consumer are different than an organization building excellence for biz. Once you understand that, you’ll understand that just taking people who ‘get consumer’ and putting them in an org serving biz won’t make an iota of difference.

        2. JohnDoey says:

          Xbox is not an entirely consumer-focused device.

          Xbox was not conceived for the consumer. It was designed to protect and extend the Windows monopoly by getting game developers to code in DirectX instead of OpenGL. That is why Microsoft was willing to lose so much money on it for so many years. It’s just another plank propping up the monopoly.

          Xbox was not designed for the consumer. It’s a honking great Windows PC with jet engine fans that speaks to you in riddles and crashes regularly.

          So a spun-off Xbox would have gone out of business already. And the game console market is surprisingly small.

          1. JohnDoey, I’m sorry but you simply are wrong about Xbox being conceived to protect & extend Windows. The team that got Xbox funded and built it (several of whom are close friends of mine…and we were sitting the same hallway in Building 9 at the time) were very much focused on building a great gaming experience for consumers. There may have been some pandering to SteveB around DirectX but that was purely internal air cover.

            That they had to pander to SteveB and then continually defend themselves from attacks from within the company over the years just reinforces my thesis: MS will never make excellent consumer products because of the conflicting behaviors within the company; even ring-fencing a group/division will never work as well as if it were a standalone company.

            Note I am not saying MS can’t make consumer products, or even moderately GOOD consumer products, but they will never be consistently excellent at it compared to a singularly focused company.

          2. Walt French says:

            Is this the genesis of your insights?

            Sounds kinda like the “innovator’s dilemma” problem, with an attempt to transition to a new business runs up against the entrenched, profitable (and possibly, low-growth) business that pays the bills.

          3. My supposed insights have many genesis points. 🙂 I was thinking this way before the Xbox thing, because the reason I was in Building 9 was I had made the decision in late ’99 to focus 100% on consumers after spending my first 9 years at MS bouncing back and forth between developers (ISVs and corporate) and IT Pros as “my customer”.

            My job at the time was to build home networking for Consumer Windows. Consumer Windows was an offshoot from the mainline Windows group; an attempt to bring Windows 3 & Windows 95 consumer focus to the NT codebase, which had been developed almost exclusively without any real customer focus (some would argue enterprise).

            Interestingly a ginormous re-org shut down the Consumer Windows group as a separately entity. I applied my same principle and instead of taking on the job of owning all of end-user networking in Windows, I chose to leave Windows all together and join an internal start up focused on the consumer. I simply didn’t want to be bifricated myself as I knew it was not the path to excellence.

            This ‘startup’ eventually became eHome and we built Windows Media Center….

        3. Herding_sheep says:

          The most successful device in its industry category? Sorry, I think Nintendo and Sony still both hold that crown. The Wii sold more than PS3 or 360. But most importantly, it generated an unmatchable amount of profits for Nintendo. Xbox hasn’t exactly been a huge money maker for MS, they’re still in the red I believe. Even after all these years. Losing 3 billion dollars over the red ring of death issue certainly didn’t help them make a profit.

          But the point you were making is that MS does have a separate consumer focused division that is successful. The problem is that they simply got lucky with Xbox 360. They got lucky that Sony dropped the ball so much this generation. If you remember when the 360 launched and during the lead up to the PS3 launch, the amount of hype and excitement for PS3 was enormous. They were fresh off the heels of PS2, the best selling system of all time. But then they charged 499-599 for the damn thing, made it impossible for developers to program for it, and gave MS a year head start.

    2. JohnDoey says:

      At the very least, they should form a pirate company within Microsoft with the mission to obsolete everything Microsoft currently does, with complete access to all Microsoft intellectual property. Like Apple did with the Mac.

      1. airmanchairman says:

        That may just accomplish the magic transformation required at MS, as they slowly approach the levels of desperation that triggered the same in Apple 15 years ago.

        But, “who will bell the cat”?

        Time for Bill Gates’ return to lead the flock?

        1. Moeskido says:

          Not if you want new ideas to disrupt what the company has become.

  3. David C says:

    I think your point is right, but it’s often worse. Platform devices are co designed by and for many constituencies: the software provider, the OEM, the operator, the retailer. Only the operator has the end user as a customer, and operators aren’t really in a fully competitive market. All of these companies are competing with eAch other for position in the value chain. I like to think of many devices as being co-designed by wrestling match.

    Apple blasts through this mess and all the people are aligned under one leader who makes tradeoffs between consumer, operator, and developer audiences.

    1. Dave c says:

      I should add that there are other possible tradeoffs. Eg, focus more on devs or oems or operators. The point is coordination as opposed to the randomness of competitive co creation…

  4. Ryan Singer says:

    “You cannot do both simultaneously in a single organization and be excellent.”

    Why do you think this is so? It sounds axiomatic, but I wonder why you draw the line at the organization level. Is it because the company needs two ways of selling, two ways of defining value, two ways of delivering updates, etc, due to differences in the biz and consumer value chains? Are there specific points where the two targets come into contention?

    In my gut I agree with you and I think focus is everything. But I don’t feel like that intuition alone is actionable for an existing company split between biz and consumer.

    1. Bruce_Mc says:

      “Why do you think this is so? … Is it because the company needs two ways of selling, two ways of defining value, two ways of delivering updates, etc,”

      Design comes before the things you mentioned. Designing products to please a buyer at a Fortune 500 company creates a certain mindset and corporate culture. Designing products for individuals to use creates a different mindset and corporate culture.

      Supporting two different cultures with two different ways of thinking in one company is close to impossible. I think that’s more of an empirical observation than an intuitive one.

      1. The distinction is that the consumer and the business buyer are looking for two completely different things. This is the psychology of the business.

        Of course it is anathema to their ultimate goal, but they are criteria the business thinks will achieve these goals.

        The problem is that the business, typically large corporate, has a fundamentally broken and simply fucked up approach to everything. They are attempting to maximize their profit, so they want to buy bulk, cheap product that fulfills all of the criteria they come up with. And these criteria they come up with are universally profit-driven or simply stupid. They want X features, Y functionality, because they need to do aX and aY with the product. They don’t care about bX and bY, which in this case are the entire experience of the product, because it’s not something that is quantitated in the corporate machine.

        The business does not buy Apple products because 1) they think microsoft/dell/hp/whatever products are cheaper (which, in the long run, may or may not be true), 2) they need or think they need microsoft/dell/hp/whatever products, 3) they have no ability to measure the value and benefits of the Apple product over other products.

        The consumer picks up an Apple product and experiences the product. They feel it, they feel how it is in the hand, how it flows with the mind. It feels nice, it does what they want (and/or other things), and they want it.

        The business, having no hands, does not pick up the Apple product, does not experience it, does not feel it. The business interacts with the Apple product through its technical specifications, through its words and terms and marketing phrases and business-speak bullshit, and has a narrow view through those. The business does not know what it means to experience the Apple product, this result of great and obsessive care, thought, and ultimately plain old design, and therefore has no appreciation for it.

        Ultimately, all Apple products are about the experience of the well designed object. The business has no means of appreciating that, whereas that is almost all the customer appreciates about the product.

        Sorry if it took me a little while to articulate that.

        1. JohnDoey says:

          A big part of that is CIO’s buying 10,000 systems and concerning himself with his own priorities such as easing the cost of administration. The consumer is buying based on user priorities, not administrator priorities.

        2. Bruce_Mc says:

          “The business, having no hands, does not pick up the Apple product, does not experience it, does not feel it. The business interacts with the Apple product through its”

          The business usually has one person, or a small group of people, making the buying decision. They definitely have hands and feelings. The problem is that they have different needs than the people within the business that will use and support the product.

          In order to be successful in the business world, the manufacturer’s first priority is to design a product that protects the buyer’s job. The second priority is to protect the jobs of those who support the product. The third priority is to make the end users productive. Making the user happy is an optional goal, not really important to the success of the product.

        3. @hackthetruthorg:disqus I’ve quoted you in my follow on post. Thanks for your insightful comment. http://ceklog.kindel.com/2013/02/28/businesses-buy-differently/

      2. Thanks Bruce. This is a great response. I also very much agree with Dakota below.

      3. airmanchairman says:

        Isn’t Apple itself now approaching this happy medium, the reconciliation of both consumer and corporate focussed approaches, considering their unprecedented consumer pervasion, and the fact that a high percentage of Fortune 500 companies are either trialling or actively launching high volumes of iPhones and iPads into the enterprise?

        From where I see it, a little more storage capacity, CPU cores, RAM and inter-app multi-tasking UI simplicity will accomplish the task given the already-acquired strengths of operational efficiency, security, ever-expanding retail presence and coupled with Apple’s new-found desire to engage with investors and business administrators.

        I consider the likelihood very high of a company like Apple “threading the impossible needle” provided they can keep their top assets like Tim Cook and Jony Ives within the fold. I won’t however rule out a “3rd Force” emerging to accomplish the same. Microsoft and Samsung come to mind.

      4. Space Gorilla says:

        I wonder if designing products for individuals (instead of for the corporate buyer) naturally leads to a more human experience, which in turn is more successful over time.

  5. Bob says:

    The consumer is not Google’s customer. The consumer is Google’s product.

    1. Correct, which just makes it less likely they could copy apple.

      1. matthew says:

        “which just makes it less likely they could copy apple”

        The consumer is Google’s product, which just makes it more likely that Google is forced to copy Apple. Google copies Apple strategy, Apple’s ID and now Apple’s marketing look-feel (see the Pixel ad).

        1. Matthew, I don’t mean to be pedantic, but Google making a premium laptop is a bacteria on a gnat on one sheep in the flock that is Google. It is not strategy.

          1. matthew says:

            In regard to strategy, think more broadly.

            Clearly, Google was not founded as a hardware company. Now Google has internalized Jobs’s “Build the whole widget” mantra.

            Google/Larry has openly stated that design is now important to Google. I believe he even attributed his admiration for Jobs as his inspiration.

            As for how Google is projecting its products, the Chromebook Pixel marketing speaks for itself.

            Who is to say that these very smart, insanely deep-pocketed competitors won’t go after what seems to be the last (?) ingredient of the Apple formula: The Customer Experience.

            I’m not suggesting that a competitor can _become_ Apple. But they’re clearly copying Apple, and the question of how deeply and how successfully they’ll copy/mimic/ape/imitate/parrot/echo/mirror/plagiarize Apple remain open.

          2. jfutral says:

            But I think there are still two different philosophies underpinning these seemingly similar ideas. Google’s approach to “customer experience” will _always_ be tied to the need to obtain data to help them sell ads to a different set of “consumers”. Apple’s approach is to sell products to _their_ customers.

            Not to put too fine a point on this (but I will), Apple, little deeper, isn’t really concerned with generic consumers, they are concerned and _focused_ on _ their_ customers, the people who are interested in what _they_ build. If Apple was interested in any consumer, they would be more interested in other markets than they are. Most companies want to believe _any_ consumer is a potential customer. Apple is far more focused than that. Apple has a much clearer understanding of what they want to create and they know not everyone will want to buy what they create. They aren’t interested in those people. They are interested in the people who _do_ want what Apple creates.


          3. Focus! says:

            One of the most brilliant insights I’ve seen regarding Apple.

            We all know one of Apple’s key ingredients is focus. Focus on doing a few things extraordinarily well. But I think you’re spot on with this idea that part of their “focus” magic is focus on only a select portion of the pool of consumers.

          4. Swami_Binkinanda says:

            like mapping.

          5. ItTakesTime says:

            Give them a chance on mapping. Google Maps took time to grow as well. Same thing with iCloud and Siri.

          6. I think design was always important to Google. Look at Google’s home page. (Look at its predecessors’ home pages.) The problem with Google isn’t a lack of taste (although it exhibits a lack of taste especially in side projects). The problem is that its customer isn’t its user (just as Microsoft’s customer was corporate IT first, Dell second, you third). Google’s loyalties are divided. Worst of all, Google’s loyalties are divided between you and advertisers, and advertisers are pretty evil. At least in theory Dell’s and corporate IT’s interests aren’t inimical to yours.

          7. jeffreywindsor says:

            Who exactly do you think advertisers are? I don’t know either. I know that advertising is a tool used by businesses (like, say, Ford or P&G or MGM) who want to make products for consumers. Advertisers aren’t evil: they’re businesses.

            Apple is an advertiser, too. So by your logic, is Apple evil for being an advertiser, or is Google evil for working with advertisers?

          8. jfutral says:

            “So by your logic, is Apple evil for being an advertiser, or is Google evil for working with advertisers?”

            I haven’t read anyone call anyone else “evil”, so I don’t get where you are going with this question.


          9. jeffreywindsor says:

            Note Tonio Loewald, directly above me: “Google’s loyalties are divided between you and advertisers, and advertisers are pretty evil.” My comment was a reply to his comment, and he introduced the idea that evil advertisers tainted Google. My comment was intended to demonstrate that the idea of evil was misplaced here, since all sides are, morally speaking, pretty equal.

          10. jfutral says:

            Ah. Got it.

          11. My logic isn’t about good vs. evil, it’s about whether Google as a company cares about you vs. someone else. Sure, advertisers aren’t (usually) actually evil, but they’re trying to sell you something. At best, they want to show you an ad when you want to see or do something else. At worst, they want to use information surreptitiously collected about you to influence you to buy something you wouldn’t otherwise (e.g. by tricking you into thinking your friends already use it) or get you to pay more for something than you ordinarily would.

            In general, I don’t have a problem with “brand” advertising because it’s usually about companies trying to establish or reinforce long term relationships with customers (and tends to be to everyone’s benefit). Almost none of the advertising Google does is brand advertising.

          12. Bruce_Mc says:

            “they’re clearly copying Apple, and the question of how deeply and how successfully”

            I think the Google Pixel exists to help adoption of the Google Apps and Chromebook ecosystem by businesses. The cheaper Chromebooks are fine for many employees, but the bosses who make the decision for the enterprise to use Google Apps could use something nicer.

            So I’d say that the Google Pixel is focused more on the enterprise experience than the customer experience. This goes back to early days in Google’s culture, where they were focused on beating Microsoft, which itself was focused on the enterprise.

            The Google Chrome browser was aimed at Microsoft’s IE, and I think the Google Pixel is aimed at Microsoft Windows Server.

          13. Robert says:

            I think you are right…re: the adoption of a Google ecosystem. However, as kind of OK that the ecosystem is turning out to be, many people are rightfully very, very wary of committing all their information to Google. They have a problem in this. People don’t trust them to NOT utilize every scrap and byte of information you have in their ecosystem to sell more ads.

          14. SockRolid says:

            Re: “As for how Google is projecting its products, the Chromebook Pixel marketing speaks for itself.”

            And Sergey Brin has spoken for himself, saying that “rubbing” on glass-surfaced touchscreen devices is “emasculating.” Great way to project your products (including the touchscreen-equipped Pixel), Sergey.

          15. chuck chun says:

            I think “copy” has different implications. A perfect copy is a clone. It should be just as good and indistinguishable in quality. Usually “to copy” is an attempt to mimic. It is never the same. Something new cannot be copied. Because once copied, it isn’t new anymore. This is the problem with Google, Microsoft, and the rest. They don’t innovate beyond the copying. They don’t bring new experiences to the table. Apple has been doing this through their successes and failures.

            The other reason Apple cannot be copied is because they don’t understand what they are copying. That is bigger than vertical integration. It is about knowing why you are doing what you are doing. If Apple was innovative and Samsung copies Apple. Samsung is not innovative. 10 years ago, how did you know Apple’s brand was spreading through college campuses? Everyone wearing a subtle white earbud had an Apple iPod or iPhone in their pocket. Look at the iPhone case Apple vs Samsung. The phone is clearly copied, but if you look at the face of Samsung’s phone, it still has their logo slapped in the front. When you copy and don’t have a true identity, it eventually comes out. Branding has changed. Samsung doesn’t get it.

            Setting standards. Apple didn’t invent the mp3 player, the mouse, or webcams on notebook computers. But I would argue that Apple made all those things simple, affordable, and accessible to the consumer. Apple was the first to say “everyone needs this”. That is a different approach, because they set the trend of what is to be expected. When is the last time Samsung or Microsoft did that?

            There are so many things. The others are trying to build Rome in a day. Samsung and Android definitely have an uptick — they are doing well. But winning battles, don’t always add up to winning the war. Just a thought.

            Main point: you can’t innovate by copying. you need to do something drastically better — not just drastically different. trickle or gush, you need to reshape the landscape.

            don’t focus on gimmicks — specs, flashy hardware, etc. focus on experience.

          16. Further to your point: a rival can go and copy one of Apple’s physical products, and they can can go and copy the appearance and behavior of the software on those products, but just as Microsoft could create a perfectly attractive and functional iPod-like device, it could not create an iPod-like product (“experience”) — Microsoft was interested in subscription models because it liked them or its license partners liked them, etc. etc. The Chromebook is a pure web play because that’s Google’s strategy — the web makes Google money, give people devices that make the web nicer. The customer for the Chromebook is Google. The Macbook Pro is the best portable computer Apple knows how to make because people want portable computers.

        2. orthorim says:

          I think the argument above is that nobody can copy Apple. They can still copy Apple marketing.

          The Pixel ad looks exactly like the unibody MacBook Pro ads, with designers in black t-shirts speaking up for their product, almost to the point of WTF.

          There’s a Samsung Store that opened in a nearby mall that’s a 1:1 clone of an Apple store. Also a bit of a WTF moment.

          But those me-too products don’t capture what Apple is all about. They can imitate successful behaviors but they can’t make the right decisions one needs to constantly make to remain in the lead. Decisions that Apple is making all the time, throughout the organization. Apple largely gets them all right. Samsung / Google – they have different masters to serve, they won’t put the consumer first at all times.

        3. OgilvyTheAstronomer says:

          It’s not so much copying as “aping”: imitation without understanding.

    2. James Katt says:

      Wrong. Google’s products are the consumer data it collects and the ads it sells based on the consumer data.

      Google’s customers are businesses paying for the ads.

      Consumers are the resource/victims strip-mined by Google for data and the victims to temp for ad-clicks that lead to Google’s income. If robots could do the ad clicks, Google would not care about consumers at all.

      1. In other words, “The consumer is Google’s product.” Tendentious rewording does not count as insight; concision is a virtue.

        1. Steve_NYC says:

          @facebook-513554660:disqus That comment was brilliant!

        2. @facebook-513554660:disqus you are my hero. Thank you.

        3. Joe_Winfield_IL says:

          “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” – Mark Twain

          “El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.” – The Dude from The Big Lebowski

        4. James Katt says:

          No. Google did not create the consumer. Hence the consumer is NOT Google’s product.

          The analogy is saying the ocean is BP’s product. The ocean is not BP’s product. BP’s product is the oil it collects from drilling the ocean’s floor. And by collecting oil, sometimes BP rapes and damages the ocean by causing an oil spill disaster.

          Google mines data from consumers.
          Google collects the data and sells it to its customers, businesses.
          Google creates ads and sells them to its customers, businesses.
          Google makes money by tempting consumers to click on its ads.
          Google tailors the ads by using the consumer data so that consumers will be more tempted to click on its ads.

          Consumers are not the product. They are the natural resource.
          The ads are the actual product.
          And the data is the actual product.

          Consumers who block ads and block Google’s data collection are not products either.
          They are a threat to Google.

          Consumers who give Google false data are likewise a threat to Google.

          1. jfutral says:

            See if this helps. “People” are the natural resource. “(Targeted) Consumers” are the product. Targeted (which is the purpose of the data mining) consumers are the deliverable. The ad itself is just the way to communicate to them. The ad placement is the result of the consumer data which is what creates the “targeted” part.


      2. jfutral says:

        I get what you are trying to say, but if there is no consumer associated with that data, then no business would be interested in buying ads. So, yes, the consumer is Google’s “product”. Or probably more properly, the ability to offer access to a strong potential of relevant consumers is the product. But that is awkward to say. Reductionism says it best.


        1. James Katt says:

          Think about it:

          Television networks also sell ads to businesses.
          Television networks also mind consumer data – using tools like the Nielsen ratings.
          And if there were no consumers, then they also couldn’t sell ads.

          Yet, the product is still the ad. Television networks live and die by how well they can sell the ads.

          Like Google customizing the ad to the consumer to tempt the consumer to view and click on the ad, Television networks tempt the consumer by creating attractive shows that contain the ads.

          Yes, the consumer is the target of the ad.

          But the consumer is NOT the product of the television networks. They don’t create the consumer. We don’t even think of the consumer as the product of the Television networks.

          Google is the same. The consumer is NOT the product.

          1. jfutral says:

            As someone who works in the entertainment industry, including TV, I can tell you, this is not the case. If that television network cannot tie a consumer to ad sales, that show is not going to air. You better believe the consumer is the product.


          2. James Katt says:


            The consumer is also the product for Automobile manufacturers. If they can’t tie the consumer to car sales, there would be no point in building cars.

            The consumer is also the product for artists. If they can’t sell art to consumers, then there would be no point in creating art.

            The consumer is also the product of Apple. If Apple can’t sell Macs, iPhones, iPads to consumers then there would also be no point to creating them.

            That is the writer’s analogy.

            My point is that a product is something you create, build, make. And Google doesn’t create, build or even make the consumer.

          3. jfutral says:

            You are stopping half-way through the thought process. If I go somewhere to buy a spot for an ad I need that company to tell me either what consumers they can provide me for my money or (if I am smarter than that) I tell them who I am looking for (demographics, psychographics, etc.) to see my ad. That spot has to produce/create/draw together a group of consumers to match my criteria or I’m moving to someone who can. I’m not buying a spot, I am buying people who will look at and be interested in looking at my ad.

            I know this is harder to conceive of since we are dealing with a less tangible, more conceptual product, as in not something one can pick up, examine craftsmanship, etc., but that doesn’t make the consumer any less the product.

            But you bring up an ancillary point I alluded to elsewhere, in that Apple doesn’t really focus on the generic consumer, either. They focus on specific consumers, their _customers_, which are the consumers who are more disposed to what Apple creates.

            Ultimately everyone wants to create something that attracts customers from the pool of consumers. Some do it with a tangible product, some do it with an intangible service product. The author’s point is that if you are trying to reach two separate yet related markets, depending on how they relate, at some point you will have to decide which is the more important focus because conflict of interest will rear its ugly head. For Google, ultimately their “consumers” are the people who want to buy advertising space (who creates the actual ad is irrelevant) and what makes that ad space have value are the consumers it reaches. Google’s tangible products are just a way of further developing the consumer reach and thus value of the space they sell.

            In the context of this article, the “consumer” is the average person who would consume the service or product the businesses that buy from Google. So again, yes, the consumer is the product.

            If you don’t understand that, I hope you are not in the advertising or marketing business. Your future would look pretty bleak.


          4. jeffreywindsor says:

            Joe, I think you’ve got a distinction without a difference (or a difference without a distinction — whatever). Where you say, “Google’s tangible products are just a way of further developing the consumer reach” this is also true of Apple. The difference comes in what happens next. The full sentence you wrote is “Google’s tangible products are just a way of further developing the consumer reach and thus value of the space they sell.” For Apple, their tangible products are just a way of further developing the customer reach and thus sell them more products.

            For Apple and for Google, happy, loyal users are the gas in the tank. Whether the road is paved with users or with advertisers (I think this analogy just fell apart…) is interesting, but might not be relevant. If Google produces products that nobody wants, the advertisers will leave. If Apple produces products that nobody wants, they shrivel up and die. In either case, unless there are happy, loyal customers, there’s no business.

            It’s a little bit like the broadcast news business. In a perfectly ethical broadcast news business, there are a group of people who care passionately about advertisers. These people live and breathe and drink advertising sales. But, in our mythical perfectly ethical newsroom, there are people who don’t give a hoot about advertisers. They are newsmen and newswomen — they wear fedoras and chomp cigars and stay late pounding out meaty ledes on their typewriters because it’s news, dammit. They’ll tell the truth at whatever the cost: because the news is a sacred trust, etc etc etc.

            For Google, sure, advertising is part of the equation. It’s what pays the bills. But it isn’t the warm beating heart of the company. Google (might) have the equivalent to our mythical newsmen and newswomen who sacrifice for the story — er, user. I imagine plenty of engineers at Google who aren’t thinking about what the advertisers want, but what the users want. If their product is good (if the news tells the hard, true stories) the user/audience will follow — and the advertisers will follow the audience.

            If Google puts the wants of the advertisers above the needs of the user, they’ll lose: their users will leave and the advertising will dry up. But if they make their users happy, the advertisers will stick around, they’ll make money, and everyone wins.

            Look, I’m a dedicated Mac guy. I have been since the 1980s, and have never bought a non-Apple computer. Ever. In most circles I would be considered a fanboy. I’m very pro-Apple — but I’m not seeing this magic customer-vision being an exclusive property of Apple. It’s clear that Microsoft doesn’t have it — and never has. But Google’s another story. I think they’ve got a shot to remain competitive with Apple (and perhaps even, over the long term, win. Not a prediction, but a possibility).

          5. jfutral says:

            “For Google, sure, advertising is part of the equation. It’s what pays the bills. But it isn’t the warm beating heart of the company.”

            This is where you veer off. Being able to sell targeted consumers is actually the warm beating heart of the company, it isn’t just part of the equatio. It is the basis for what projects continue and which ones don’t. They are not in the business of monetizing hardware or software or services. They are inthe business of monetizing the consumers of those services and products. That’s why they give away Android. That’s why their tablet is essentially sold at cost. The Pixel is still TBD, unless they think they can pursue an Apple business model.

            Not sure how else to say this to make sense to you. Not sure why I thought I could.


    3. ShutTheFuckUp says:

      God that’s a cliche.

  6. lo_fye says:

    this is exactly why windows8’s “no compromises” motto is laughable.

    1. JohnDoey says:

      They did make one compromise. There is no actual kitchen sink in there.

  7. loopback says:

    Apple was able to make this change in part because their situation at the time was so desperate. MS and Google are hampered by the fact that they are comfortable. Their long-term viability is not in doubt, even though they may go through a diminishment, like IBM experienced in the 90s. For a big company to reinvent itself with a singular, obsessive focus, its situation has to be very dire.

    1. JohnDoey says:

      Apple also had consumer focus from 1977 through 1985. Then business focus from 1986 through 1996 (the lost years.) So the consumer focus from 1997 forward was a return to form, not something new.

      Maybe if other companies that are business focused switched to consumer focus they might suffer the same kind of crisis.

    2. airmanchairman says:

      Yes, the Magic was forged in the Furnace of Necessity, Close to the Edge, down by the River Styx that flows into the Abyss (rumoured to be so deep that you die of hunger before your body hits the bottom).

      And Apple as a collective, channelling George Clinton, fell into perfect line-dance sync and uttered as one voice:

      “Here’s my chance to dance my way
      Outta my constrictions;
      Feet don’t fail me now!”

      And their magnanimous dancing feet unleashed the Heat of Funkatation, causing Groove Contact with Celestial Brothers… the Fires were born, and Magic ensued and endures even unto this day, Selah…

  8. sgns says:

    This is good stuff, thank you. Complex simplicity: simple at the individual level, complex in what it fulfills. In contrast with corporate conformity, typified by the spec checklist. It explains why you need to be vertically integrated, too, as Jobs pointed out some years ago with his Alan Kay quote: people who are serious about software should make their own hardware.

  9. Gabriel Thompson says:

    An observation also captured by the phrase “If you build it, they will come”. Explains how they can build a huge developer market out of thin air that they basically control, curate and push around all the while getting huge buy-in since these developers also love building for the consumer too.

    We’re all too lucky…..but now it’s as if we have a right to develop apps that can reach tens of millions of people instantaneously. What a world.

    1. airmanchairman says:

      A very positive view and I agree…

      The glass is half-full, so there’s room for even more.

      What privileged times we live in. Hope we don’t blow it.

  10. Jeff LeBel says:

    I wonder what will happen as Apple gains more traction in the enterprise. Will it become more difficult for them to satisfy both the consumer and the business? Maybe they have stumbled onto a serendipitous path that no company has been down as of yet. By keeping the focus on the consumers, who are by extension also employees in the enterprise, businesses may choose Apple to keep their employee-consumers happy, retain talent, and drive creative problem solving in their respective markets.

    1. Jeff Zugale says:

      Apple has gained enormous traction in enterprise via iOS without offering a single “enterprise-targeted” product – it’s all consumer hardware with a consumer OS (the Apps address the business needs). It appears they will continue to do so. I don’t think they’ll change a thing, because at least at the moment, they don’t need to.

      1. Jeff LeBel says:

        That’s really what I was getting at (in an admittedly roundabout way)…It really flips the whole IT procurement methodology on its head…

        1. JohnDoey says:

          Which is great, because the IT procurement methodology was SUCKING BADLY.

          I do freelance graphics work, and when I work at a big company, they usually sit me down at a desk with a 3 year old Dell on it, running Windows XP on a 20GB hard disk and minimal RAM, a fuzzy bad-color display hooked up via analog VGA connection, and the only software on it is Microsoft Office. In other words, the same computer they give everybody. No question at all about what I actually needed to do my job effectively. Of course I bring a MacBook Pro and Wacom Tablet with me, running Photoshop and Illustrator and other tools, but I usually have to sort of hide them from the IT guys to avoid a lecture. How does that make any sense?

          And the Dell and my setup cost about the same to own and use, because there is always a patch monkey working on the Dell. So it’s not a cost issue. It’s just a complete lack of recognition of the fact that there is not just one computer you can roll out to all users and expect them to be productive.

          They didn’t even ask me if I know how to use Windows. (I don’t.)

          1. Moeskido says:

            To be fair, I’ve done graphic design at a couple of client sites that were Office-centric and run by Windows admins (staffed primarily by developers and customer service), but which at least recognized the need for specialized software, if not hardware. Too bad for us if there wasn’t a viable Exchange client for Mac at the time.

            The predominant motif I observed in publishing over the past two decades was having a Mac ghetto where product was created, largely neglected by IT, and occasionally serviced by production staff ourselves.

            In advertising, I found much more variety and solid support for Mac users in truly mixed environments.

            I sort of resent having to bring my own computer to what might become a semi-regular contract gig if it seems that the client firm has sufficient infrastructure to equip a swing workstation. But I certainly do understand the advantages.

    2. JohnDoey says:

      Business is adapting to Apple, not the other way around. The BYOD movement is business playing Apple’s game, switching from CIO’s buying 10,000 one-size-fits-all generic PC’s at a time to each individual user buying the 1 system they need.

      Also, I read an article the other day where a CIO said he is happy when his users choose Macs, because the Mac users never call the help desk, and that has saved the company a ton of money. In the first place, the Mac users have many fewer problems than the Windows users, and second, the Mac users were helping each other through small problems via some kind of chat room, and third, when the Mac users had problems they couldn’t solve, they went to Apple Store and Apple solved them.

      So there you have a case of Apple’s consumer-focus making a business-focused CIO happy. That CIO doesn’t want Apple to change. What he wants is for Dell to become like Apple, and offer a Dell Genius Bar, so the CIO can just shut down their own help desk.

  11. matthew says:

    Steve Jobs has pointed out the supreme importance of the customer to Apple many times. This video from the 1997 WWDC sums it up nicely:

    “You’ve got to start at the customer experience and work backwards to technology”

  12. Joshua Grech says:

    Charlie, I look at Apple and see BMW. Do you think there is a chance Apple, when looking to rebuild while on the edge of oblivion, they looked at successful industrial designers and borrowed the same strategy?

    1. JohnDoey says:

      I probably don’t know enough about cars, but is Apple really still BMW when a Microsoft Surface RT is $599 and an iPad mini is $329, and a Microsoft Surface Pro is $999 and iPad with Retina Display is $499? Isn’t Apple Toyota or something like that? And the Mac is Lexus?

      1. Fnordius says:

        I think the “Apple is BMW” works best if you restrict it to the German auto market: BMW only has two lines – BMW and Mini, having mostly dumped Rover. Its competitors in the market are Mercedes, with luxury cars but also commercial vehicles up to huge trucks, Opel – a subdivision of General Motors, and VAG – the Volkswagen Audi Gruppe, with its fingers in every pie from Seat and Škoda to MAN trucks, with the core VW and Audi somewhere in the mix.

  13. D R says:

    Googles focus isn’t really split. It is entirely focused on the advertiser now.

    1. jeffreywindsor says:

      That doesn’t work, business-wise. Think of broadcast television. Their only revenue stream is advertising, but in order to bring in the advertising dollars, they need to produce programs that the audience likes. It is silly to say that, say, NBC cares only about the advertiser, because they care very, very deeply about building a loyal audience. They build their audience to sell it to advertisers, true, but they can’t forget that the audience is made of humans who volunteer their time to (i.e., they choose to watch) their product.

      Google is exactly the same way. Yes, their money comes from the advertisers, but they need to have a product that appeals to that audience, or else they’ll head over to Bing or, um, Alta Vista or something. Google must care deeply about user satisfaction and loyalty, or else they’ll lose their advertisers’ attention.

  14. arnaud says:

    Charlie, could you give us some stories, of ” How ” , at work, this was present ?

    For example in your experiences of building customer-products in a buisness-company, e.g. Media Center, WP7, example of how the other culture was draining you, slowing, preventing or wathever ? .. Thks.

    (my company has business- customers but would like to be more customer-, I’d like to anticipate what are the big blocks on the road)

  15. Scott Unrein says:

    It’s a great premise, but what about Nest?

  16. Stef says:

    And to delight the consumer, they need a culture that values empathy with the consumer. There’s plenty of arrogant artists and engineers, but how many will take their cool idea and say, you know what, cool as this is, this isn’t going to work for people. That was Jobs’ RDF, he was sitting next to you seeing how cool you saw it was, not standing on stage telling you how cool they thought it was. Of course he wasn’t always right, but there’s a subtle put-down when the company is telling you why their idea is cool and if you don’t get that, then there is something wrong with you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to put on my computer glass specs because some rich guy said I ought to have them…

  17. gprovida says:

    Nailed it!!! This is why the question is asked at Apple, is this what I would want, whether its privacy, sharing my info when I subscribe to a magazine, or use two hands to use an iPhone.

  18. MrPhotoEd says:

    Excellent, great points and well written. Thanks.

  19. Fogbert says:

    Very interesting discussion.

    I think a key component (perhaps among the most important) is that Apple does not focus on the “consumer”; they focus on the *customer*. I don’t mean to be pedantic, but “making the sale” is only the first step–not the goal. Apple understands that it’s building relationships. My purpose is not to consume things. As soon as you think of me as a consumer, you’ve lost me.

    I believe that this is a fundamental problem with corporations that let sales departments drive their business models. When corporations do this, they’re typically only focused on the next quarter in order to maximize shareholder equity. The thing is, shareholders are exceptionally fickle and have no loyalty whatsoever.

    1. This *is* a bit pedantic, but at the end of the day you are absolutely right. What are you describing is the justification for the vertical integration; they WHY Apple invests so heavily in it.

      1. Fogbert says:

        I never tire of hearing that!

  20. the Ugly Truth says:

    Why would one copy AAPL “the company” when one can just copy AAPL’s product lines?

  21. So are saying because Google and Microsoft’s customer base is more business/advertisers than consumers they should stop making software/hardware aimed at them? I ask because as much as your post is true it also doesn’t matter in the real world; Apple is consumer first and has been rewarded with adoption of the iOS platform and the Mac. That growth has changed the computer market expectations for both businesses and consumers. So to me it maybe true that everyone else can’t be Apple because of its focus; but it is also irrelevant because they have compete with them or become irrelevant. Both Blackberry and Windows Mobile are examples of this. When Apple entered the mobile market it started a shift away from a market dominated by business/vendor/enthusiasts and toward regular consumers. Windows Mobile floundered because it wasn’t built with the flexibility to shift its platform; Blackberry was similar. I mean Window Phone has to take into account consumers, because that is where the growth is and what leads the market. To say that appealing to both consumers and business can’t be done because of organizational culture simplifies the reality of the market.

  22. I also think that Jobs drove this process from him down so with Apple losing Jobs will they lose this Singular Starting Point process and be pushed around by the market and Wall St?

  23. albertkinng says:

    I don’t know Cook intentions… But Steve intentions was creating a product for himself then…. For the consumer. History told that he was playing months with a gadget prototype before he says yes to production department. That is crazy but for some reason worked very well for the company. Maybe Cook is not a toy lover and is just a regular iDevice user without any more ideas of a product desire. So maybe a magical device will never come. You need that inner child and ignorance that drive Steve Jobs to be perfectionist with crap that at the end brought great products. If you don’t dream to eat the best hamburger don’t buy a grill.

  24. Piablo says:

    I think that question can be answered by Malcolm Gladwell’s two books “Outliers” and “The Tipping Point”.

    It’s a convergence of timing, technology, organization, demand, and fashion. Rockefeller experienced it with oil. Carnegie with steel. Ford with the Model T. Microsoft and Windows. And now Apple with the mobile connection. Others try to compete and mimic but they will never have the same success simply because it’s impossible.

    There’s a group of kids in school now unwittingly assembling the necessary pieces for the next convergence in 20 or so years.

  25. Tyler Etters says:

    Plenty of companies focus on The Consumer. Apple’s success is part what’s stated above (which I totally agree with) and part being in the right place at the right time and acting on it. They make the best hardware period. Find me a better all around performing, versatile and looking computer than a MacBook Pro and I’ll buy it in a second.

  26. Steve Schuller says:

    Apple has no ‘moat’. They can and will be copied and surpassed will follow the footsteps of Xerox, HP, Microsoft, Sony… and on and on…

    1. kurt westphal says:

      apples integration of experience and vertical integration can serve as a moat.

  27. Raphuu says:

    There alwaysa third type of customers for big companies: the shareholders. They don’t want the same thing as the business partners (advertisers in google example), or the consumers.

  28. Pointebasic says:

    Google, MS and Samsung can copy Apple products, but what will be hard is copying Apple’s motivations. Design decisions are influenced by who ones’s customer is. Different customer base, different decisions.

    The biggest difference is how narrow Apple’s customer focus is compared to the other three companies. Samsung, MS and Google want/need to appeal to “every” type of of customer, dictated by their respective business models. While Apple is, of course not against appealing to all customers, it definitely focuses on a much narrower segment of customers. This tighter focus directly effects the products Apple sells and more importantly the ones it does not sell.

    This focus was probably born out of necessity in the mid to late 90’s, but still serves Apple well now. Apple does broaden it’s focus in each product category as time progresses, (I’m looking at you iPod classic-nano-touch-shuffle).

    Great article!


  29. Mike Potter says:

    Someone told me that if you took 90% of the features of an iPod and 90% of the features of iTunes and 90% of the iTunes store, you wouldn’t end up with 90% of the experience, but rather 72% of it. The integration of the different parts is one of the hardest things to do well.

  30. jeffreywindsor says:

    The more I think about it, the more this seems to be a philosophical difference without a practical distinction — at least in terms of Apple v. Google.

    Consider the distinction between film and broadcast television in the United States. Film makes it money from consumers buying tickets or DVDs or streaming or something. It’s a direct sales model, basically. Television, on the other hand, is an advertising model: I don’t pay for anything for my broadcast channels, but the advertisers do.

    There is some awfully stupid television out there. Most of it, perhaps. But there are some glimmers of light, and there always has been. Television is a powerful medium that has been a vanguard in advancing culture. Hooray for television.

    There are some great films out there. And there are some terrible ones, too. The direct-to-consumer model, the model that puts customer satisfaction as a primary motive, has produced all the movies of Adam Sandler, for instance. The customer satisfaction model made Keanau Reeves a star. You know of what I speak.

    When a film doesn’t please its audience, it flops and the studio that funded it takes a bath and they try harder to avoid floppy movies. When a television show doesn’t please its audience, the advertisers pull out and the network that broadcast it tries harder to avoid floppy programs. In both scenarios, audience satisfaction is the single determining factor for success. Both studios and networks care very, very deeply about audience satisfaction and loyalty. To somehow imagine that the presence of advertisers makes them less concerned with their audience is pretty silly.

    In the end, shift your vocabulary from “customers” to “audience” (or, if you need, “users”) and it snaps into focus. Any company that loses focus on its audience/users loses, regardless of who the actual customer is. Conversely, regardless of the source of revenue, the company that continues to please its audience/users will succeed. Can Apple do that? Sure. Can Google? You betcha.

    1. jfutral says:

      I guess I’m just a glutton for punishment here. But there are very practical and implemented distinctions. Google does not charge for Android nor do they enforce any kind of Android branding when an OEM uses Android juxtaposed to the MS model for Windows. Google sells their hardware (again, Pixel is TBD) for little or no profit margin. They look to make the money on the back end through consumer data/eyes.

      And probably the most literal of illustrations is Google Glass. They want your eyeballs at all times. If the Apple “watch” is to be believed (and I am not convinced) this illustrates Apple’s “on demand” use of technology versus Google’s need to have access to you as much as possible, preferably always.

      Apple’s only goal is to sell their hardware and by extension ecosystem. To a large degree Apple makes money if you use their hardware or not. Once you buy their product, they’ve pretty much made their nut. Google’s only goal in hardware is to siphon user data, not to make money on the hardware. You will not find Google making or selling a product that does not serve to feed them user data. As a former designer at Google once related, if a particular color blue for a hyperlink meant more clicks, that was the only motivation they needed to use that color blue, they could care less how it looked or worked with any design parameters.


  31. Gord Wait says:

    I used to agree, but then I installed Apple’s podcast player on my iPhone. Not sure who Apple was thinking of when they released that horrible product.

    1. stevesup says:

      Apple can leave unprofitable apps in the hands of outside developers. No Apple engineer can make their bones on a gimmee podcast app. OTOH, several very nice apps have surfaced in the App Store for a couple bucks.

  32. kurt westphal says:

    Charlie absolutely great posts between both you and Horace.

    let me share a couple of operational points of view, that reinforce your essays.

    A consultant friend, we’ll call him, Leonardo, is a truly gifted consumer product designer, can do renderings, manage offshore prototypes, production, design for manufacture. about 10x faster than any of his peers. Leonardo says that the developers (everyone in the valley whether Fortune 100 or startup) starts out ‘wanting to build a product like Apple’, he does the various renderings, costings and shows that superb experience has added cost, but an amazing experience. Then, Business intercedes, and objects to the cost necessary to build that experience.

    We haven’t even begun to integrate the experience yet, but one could inductively conclude that the ‘cost-centricity’, extends to all the integrated touchpoints and subsytems. It’s a business ‘attitude’ or ‘cultural value’, at odds with true disruptive product design and user experiences. so out of the gate, business centered product ownership, loses the ‘customer’ persona.

    Disruption, carries risk, and can also upset the business, cash cows are assassinated, existing products undermined, or EOLd, but which ‘business centric’ companies are brave enough to actually ‘execute’ in this manner.

    Remember how the cell phone incumbents scoffed at the iPhone, there was ‘industrial agreement’ on approach, pricing, costing, .. etc. the iPhone destroyed that point of view and the incumbents have been dragged along kicking and screaming, (rather than leading their own disruption) needing to yield profit to apple to remain viable.

    Why companies object on the front end to ‘delight’ their customers, reject actual innovation and disruption opportunities, and then later, are dragged along with disruption, has to do with fear and a lack of real innovation, a cultural inability. they don’t know what to do, or don’t believe they can be disruptive or worry too much about the costs, to embark on something novel and creative and seamless.

    this i believe are the points you and Horace make, that the vertical integration, the mind share and disruptive point of view that Steve imbued in Apple is extremely hard to copy, certainly ‘aping’ a product is no way to create a sustained user experience.

    Loved the gnat remark. by the by.. .

  33. Robert says:

    This is brilliantly spot on and love the closing paragraph.

  34. Ron Wodaski says:

    It isn’t (just) about focusing on the consumer. Most jobs, and therefore most businesses, become focused on _what is right in front of people_. That involves a million things that have nothing to do with ‘the customer’, such as how to hide mistakes, what it takes to get the office manager to take time for your stuff – instead of focusing on product/consumer/user/service/communication, you focus on your _job_ stuff. Apple is disciplined, and on what matters most.

  35. Brian Silverio says:

    So Apple is in trouble after all. Seems like they are changing focus toward business instead of the consumer.
    The news that France Telecom now finds the easy to deal with is the first indication of this.


  36. Charles Ames says:

    Yeah… nope. Advertisers are buying consumers (potential customers), delivered to their doorstep, not data. Although Google did not create the people, they do deliver the person’s attention to Google’s customer, the advertiser. The data Google collects helps it do this more efficiently, but it never leaves their possession.

  37. Steve White says:

    A great article. It helps me understand one other thing about Apple: if their focus is on the consumer, the question then is, what consumers?

    Apple has answered that: the folks who will vote with their wallets to buy iPhones, iPads and MacBooks.

    Notice that the Mac Pro has languished? Apple’s focus isn’t on THOSE consumers, the media pro types who need all that horsepower. Likewise, no ‘cheap’ iPhone — while the Wall Street analysts may campaign for Apple to make one, Apple isn’t focused upon the consumers who would buy such a device (or if they plan to, they won’t do so by building a cheap phone).

    So it’s not just that Apple focuses on consumers, they’ve focused EVEN MORE on a certain group of consumers. Those consumers have select attributes, and those are the ones Apple serves. If you don’t fit, Apple doesn’t have anything to sell to you.

    I honestly can’t think of another company that has focused so and has worked so hard to define just who it is they will serve.

  38. stevesup says:

    Consumers. Absolutely. It’s all about people. That’s half the equation. Software engineers and designers are the other half. The best of them place challenge and achievement above money; these are core values. Tackling the supreme challenges that create an categorical disruption like the iPhone are imperative to Apple’s success. Put it this way: Apple makes the best for the rest. The best. Or nothing. There’s no middle ground in this kind of organizational commitment.

    Almost too late, Apple realized that outside developers were another key component; it opened the App Store and established a explosive albeit more open, chaotic marketplace where, again, tech’s best can serve the rest. It’s all about people.

  39. I disagree with the statement that being focused on Consumers means there should be no focus on other segments. Apple have dropped the ball precisely to the extent they have abandoned the segments who kept them in business during their darkest times, such as Education. Apple’s Server offering has been reduced to a Fisher-Price pastiche of its former glory (“It only has one button, and we’ve pushed it for you before it leaves the factory”), and the suggestion schools buy Mac Minis or Mac Pros instead of the capable XServe compounds this.

  40. kizi says:

    Thanks for the information. Ive been doing some articles almost similar to this on my articles,Its good to get some inspiration from elsewhere once in a while. Keep it up!

  41. candy crush says:

    Thanks for sharing this great article!

  42. John Harris says:

    Hope you still monitor these comments. Love this Steve Jobs quote.

    “You’ve got to start at the customer experience and work backwards to technology”

    Check your email kindelsystems@kindel.com today regarding technology that follows Jobs’ dictum and enables Alexa to surprise and delight customers.

Debate this topic with me:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.