First of all, in both first generation (late 1970s, early 1980s) and third generation (after the dark years; 1997 until 2011) incarnations, Apple was co-founder Steve Jobs company. Apple of today carries the burden of legacy, expectations, and sheer size into the 21st century. Here’s what I mean.
Bigger Means Bigger Problems
Critics lambast Apple for not shipping a market disrupting product since Jobs died in 2011, despite the fact that such changes do not happen quickly or on a schedule.
According to Apple tradition under Jobs, new products will happen when they happen and not before. Apple has that kind of discipline.
Unfortunately, Apple’s sheer size means the company has less control over component manufacturing than some competitors, and that makes it difficult for the company to upgrade products to the latest components available.
Let’s look at batteries first. A new technology could improve battery life but Apple isn’t a candidate to be first in line because the company needs more batteries than what the industry, pushing a new line of batteries, can provide. Manufacturing new components requires a ramp up period.
The same holds true for high resolution screens on mobile devices. Why do Samsung’s smartphones and tablets have higher resolution than comparable devices from Apple? Apple sells far more products on the premium end of the spectrum, and component manufacturers, even Samsung, cannot always meet the company’s demands for the latest and greatest technology.
That explains why Apple designs its own CPUs for iPhone and iPad, and has invested hundreds of millions of dollars on aluminum case manufacturing, sapphire glass production, Liquidmetal research, and screen technology.
Apple makes and sells so many products that it cannot always obtain the best components.
One way Apple could reduce that problem is to broaden the product line. That means more iPhone models, and more iPad models. Each would have different component requirements, which would allow the company to obtain newer technology components faster than in the past.
Another way to avoid the feast or famine sales cycles is to introduce different products at different times during the year. Mac models are not always introduced according to an expected calendar schedule. Why should a new iPhone or iPad model be introduced only in the fall?
Apple’s legacy problem, tied to Steve Jobs, will diminish over time. Likewise, as Apple launches new products which change or create product categories, expectations of annual success will diminish. And, finally, as Apple takes more control over component manufacturing, the problem with being the biggest kid on the block may diminish.