Technology competitors by the dozens try to out class Apple’s disruptive and innovative products, not by using the same tactics and strategy Apple uses, but by going the traditional route of tacking on features as if that will win the race.
Never A Finish Line
During the second era of Apple’s struggles and prosperity, the second coming of co-founder Steve Jobs, the company has an enviable record of disrupting old and staid markets, while marching beyond competitors to new markets.
Go down the list. From Mac to iPod, from the retail stores, to iTunes Music Store, to iPhone and iPad, Apple TV and app stores, Apple disrupts.
First mover advantage and Apple strategy of staking out the premium end of a product spectrum means higher margins, greater customer loyalty and repeat business, and an easy target for many competitors.
Think of what Apple’s competitors need to do to compete. Follow Apple’s lead, cut the price tag (easy to accomplish because Apple’s gross margins are usually the industry’s highest), tack on more features.
Apple doesn’t play the low price, low cost game, opting instead for that profitable premium segment, the one which every competitor would love to have, but won’t because they cannot compete with Apple head-to-head.
Instead, competitors are forced to differentiate their wares on price and bullet points.
As an example, Apple raced to the front of the smartphone industry with a massively improved and highly usable touch interface. Competitors (Android, I’m looking at you) had to steal to compete, cut price to compete, and tack on useless features to compete.
Another example is the first Retina display in the iPhone. Resolution is so good that pixels are not discernible while reading. Competitors followed suit with ever larger screens and ever more pixels, as if more pixels make a screen more readable.
Yet another example is the multi-megapixel cameras in smart phones. Apple raced ahead with a larger sensor which produced improved photographs, opting to not enter the megapixel race. That didn’t stop competitors who push cameras with more pixels, but not better photos.
The list goes on. Touch ID fingerprint sensor. 64-bit ARM CPU. 64-bit iOS 7 and 64-bit apps. Competitors push products with more RAM or faster GHz CPUs because they truly believe those are important selling points, seemingly not understanding that Apple also works on usability.
Apple ups the ante every year with innovations that leap ahead of the competition from a usability perspective, while competitors pile on the features in a growing list of complicated but dubious functionality. Even competitor’s stores have begun to look like Apple Stores (spartan look, t-shirted staff).
Since Jobs returned in mid-1997 to run Apple the company has lunged forward with disruptive innovations that leave competitors scrambling to catch up. This is a race that cannot end because Apple’s very life depends upon always leading the pack with new disruptions.