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.