Apple: Steve Jobs + 1
My first ever Apple product was the 3rd generation iPod Nano purchased in 2007 and I was fixated by it’s sheer perfect design. It was slim, light (hardly noticeable in my jacket pocket), the software ran smoothly and transferring songs via iTunes was quick. To this day I’d still prefer that over my iPhone as an mp3 player, but now it’s convenient to have the combination on one device. It was inevitable that when I my iPhone 3G came along in Q4 of 2008, the Nano would unfortunately become redundant. But Steve Jobs talked about in his biography; it’s better to be the one that “cannibalises” your product than someone else.
There’s no question about it; Steve Jobs was Apple. Customers became disciples and the keynote speeches were when he fed the 5000 or healed the blind. Labelled by some as the world’s greatest salesmen, his trademark “insanely cool” technique was to sell a lifestyle rather than a piece of aluminium. But at the core of it there was passion and pride that the public loved. He always strived for the best possible end-user experience rather than the best margins.
After Jobs sadly passed away from neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer in October 2011 in California, his legacy products were the iPhone 4S, iPad 2 and iCloud. The iPhone 4 was a complete redesign of the hardware with it’s retina display, flat back and “gorilla glass” casing, showing that innovation was still prevalent. The 4S remained the same design, but was upgraded internally along with the introduction of the digital personal assistant, Siri. iPad 2 and iCloud also displayed a strong forward-thinking plan for the future at the keynotes.
So can Apple survive post Steve Jobs? Tim Cook, who joined from Compaq, is an excellent supply chain commander and no doubt CEO too. Although what I’m going to say is a purely a PR-orientated statement; there’s no eccentricities to his methods. A strategist on the polar opposite to Jobs’ gut-instinct direction, which is probably a good combination of complimentary qualities to have at the top. Steve Jobs had some strong viewpoints against market research and conceding to market pressures. With the recent November 2012 release of the iPad Mini it seems as if they are taking aim directly at the Amazon Kindle market share, which seems appropriate if they wish to make iBooks the dominant e-book retailer. However, they haven’t re-invented the wheel; they’ve just rehashed the iPad despite their claims. Apple aren’t exactly know for being truly original; they weren’t the first company to produce an mp3 player. They are fantastic in improving something that’s current, and develop it even better as an outsider looking in.
Apple continue to manufacture products to an astonishingly high specification. I sometimes think if not wasn’t for their importance on product design, PDAs would still be bulky and plastic Microsoft phones with buggy software. I’ve recently upgraded to the iPhone 5 from the 4, and the difference in responsiveness and actual weight is phenomenal (without feeling like a fake – the weight still has some value!). iOS is due a uplift after recently celebrating it’s 5th birthday, but how do you change something that actually…..works?
In my humble opinion, Apple are on the decline. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. Their markets are just beyond the point of saturation and the company has harvested more than it’s fair share of cash reserves (around $97 billion). They’ve got the resource, now it’s time for Apple to re-arm and re-evaluate strategies. Also, if they’re currently losing market share to Samsung or Google, may be they’ll regain that niche image again and reduce the risk of becoming a modern day IBM/Microsoft (“Big Brother”) from their famous 1984 ad campaign.