The Mac wasn’t the first computer with a GUI (graphical user interface). The iPod was not the first portable media player. The iPhone wasn’t the first smartphone, and the iPad wasn’t the first tablet. Historically, Apple appears to lag behind new technology markets. Why?
Think Different Differently
Alright, if Apple isn’t always the first to a new market, why does the company have such a reputation for innovation, and why has the company disrupted so many technology markets?
The key is probably an ingrained component of Apple’s DNA. The company thinks differently about how and where and what kind of product is needed in a market segment.
And, Apple prefers to leverage one product to another until the products are a seamless mesh which becomes an even more valuable ecosystem.
My case in point here is the Mac. The original iPod and iTunes app were Mac only and became so popular they needed to be leveraged for the Windows PC market.
Along with the iPod, the iTunes Music Store became cross platform, which introduced tens of millions of Windows PC users to Apple products and the Apple Store.
See where this is going?
Pioneers Get The Arrows
It didn’t take a rocket surgeon or a brain scientist to realize that standalone portable media players like the iPod would be superseded by smartphones which could do the same thing. Carry one device vs. two devices. Apple had to make an iPhone to protect and expand what was created with the iPod and iTunes.
The iPod was late to the portable media player party, but redefined how music should be managed. The iPhone was late to the smartphone party yet redefined how a smartphone should work. Likewise, tablets were around about a decade before the iPad, yet the standard was set by Apple’s iPad.
Historically, despite the innovations and disrupted industries, Apple is seldom first to the line with a new product. Once Apple disrupts and redefines a market, the company’s products seldom sport the top of the line hardware specifications, and seldom sells the most of any product (iPod seems to be the lone exception).
Settlers Get The Land
It should be obvious to anyone who has followed Apple for more than a few years how the company operates.
Apple does not care about being first in any new product category. Apple cares about making a great product for that category; a product so good that it defines the category, and creates an entire industry of copycat competitors.
Have you noticed how much Chromebooks and Ultralight notebooks look like Apple’s MacBook line? Doesn’t every smartphone available today take cues from the iPhone’s layout and design? How iPad-like are today’s rash of tablets (whether running Windows or Android or whatever)? Apple didn’t invent the retail experience with the Apple Store, but have you noticed how much Microsoft’s stores look like Apple’s?
Apple, more than any other technology company, may understand that in a new product market segment, the settlers get more land and prosper far more than the pioneers. For example, to those who cry that Apple has missed the large screen phablet market entirely, I ask a simple question. So what? Apple has missed the beginnings of nearly every important product line since the Mac in 1984, yet redefines and then prospers in each line it enters. Why would iPhablet, iWatch, and iGlasses be any different?