Without money in the bank and a willingness to use it, the technology industry does not advance, companies do not grow and prosper. But money alone is not the determining factor for future success. What is?
Money, Decisions, Discipline
Apple is my hobby. Over the past 20 years I’ve owned and used nearly every product of substance that came from Apple; hardware to software.
What has happened since the turn of the century, a few years after co-founder Steve Jobs’ return, is nothing short of miraculous.
In industry after industry Apple has succeeded while well heeled competitors have failed.
Along the way, Apple has racked up massive profits and value, returned tens of billions to shareholders, and influenced large swaths of the technology industry; specifically PCs, smartphones, tablets, retail stores, customer service, and software.
How did all this happen? It started with ideas, then decisions, followed by development, then a willingness to bet the farm (financial resources), followed by an uncanny ability to leverage one success to another.
All that requires an inordinate amount of discipline.
Consider the list of Apple’s basic revenue and profit generating products. Mac, iPhone, iPad. Relative to competitors in each industry, Apple’s product line is rather small. Apple under Steve Jobs became the master at corporate focus and discipline.
For all the obvious attention to detail and discipline, 21st century Apple as a company has a few bruises; examples where the obvious could only be seen in hindsight. The Cube, and MobileMe come to mind.
Apple’s sheer size and limited product line also work to hinder the company’s progress.
Could Apple make a larger screen for the iPhone? Yes, but what took it so long? Size. Apple sells far more smartphones and tablets than any manufacturer, so getting the latest and greatest components is a challenge. Smaller competitors require much smaller orders and manufacturing runs, so may have better or newer components than Apple.
In many cases, Apple is the tech industry arbiter of features and functions, the caretaker for taste, the yellow brick road to riches which others blindly follow. Apple’s competitors don’t need to spend much on research and development. All they need to do is make a product look and feel like an Apple product.
Recently, Samsung, Amazon, Microsoft and a few others have tried to out Apple Apple by introducing products that are not like what Apple sells. Samsung’s Gear smartwatch seems a dumb failure. Amazon’s Kindle Fire is a cheap knockoff tablet, while the Fire Phone is full of gimmicks that benefit only Amazon. Even Microsoft tried to innovate with a non-Apple-like hybrid tablet-cum-notebook; largely another failure.
Let me summarize Apple’s influence on the technology industry this way– Apple leads while others follow and fail, and where others lead, they also fail.