For the past few months I’ve been reading about how poorly Apple is doing in the face of competition from Google, Microsoft, cheap Chinese knockoff smartphone manufacturers, and every other technology company that wants a slice of Apple’s big profit pie.
Microsoft has been the hot potato the past month with its so-called innovative Surface Studio desktop PC, the hot Surface Book notebooks, Windows 10 everywhere, and now there’s word that the company’s executives want to run Windows 10 on smartphones and tablets. How will Apple respond to Microsoft’s threats?
Apple Doesn’t Care
We often hear and read about Apple hype, Apple arrogance, Apple price gouging, and Apple’s customers being little more than technology sheep willing to fork over exorbitant prices to receive lesser than standard hardware. Somehow or another in all that criticism, Apple doesn’t care. I think there’s something to that.
Apple cares about what Apple thinks is best for Apple, and best for Apple’s customer base. How is that different from Microsoft? Or, Google? It is different for Samsung, though. The Galaxy smartphone maker cares what Apple does so it does not need to invest money into R&D, but that’s a different issue.
Apple has a secret that hides in plain sight, and that makes it a bit more difficult to see because critics and competitors have their own agenda and don’t want to know what Apple’s agenda really, truly, deeply is, or if they do, they don’t work like it.
The secret? Usability, meet quality.
Simply put, Apple’s executives, designers, and engineers enjoy designing, building, and distributing quality products that provide a better overall user experience. Really, it’s that simple. That explains why Apple doesn’t care much about feature comparisons, doesn’t care much about hardware specifications, doesn’t care much about what anyone else does, but does care about how customers respond to Apple products.
Take the iPhone 7 as a recent example. Critics howled at how bad it will be, and once it launched laughed because the design was much the same as the previous two years. “Move along. Nothing to see here.” Except that everything inside was new, the camera was the best ever, and the improved package means the supply chain is constrained again thanks to higher than expected sales.
Let’s look at Watch. I hear the word failure tossed around all the time regarding Watch. Is it a failure? For some, I’m sure, but for about 15-million customers, Watch is a delight, a good accessory for the iPhone that minimizes fishing to answer a call, check a text, or to view heart rate while jogging.
Fair enough. Let’s compare iPhones to Google’s highly acclaimed Pixel smartphone. Critics love it. But did Pixel advance the state of the art? No. It’s an incremental improvement over Nexus, and not as good overall as an iPhone 7 (water resistant, stereo speakers, et al). What about Microsoft? The Surface Studio is touted as innovative, yet it still runs Windows 10, works like a very, very large iPad, and it’s a desktop; the one category among PCs that is dropping faster than all others.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has doubled down on Windows 10 and now plans to bring it to Qualcomm CPUs sometime next year. That means a Windows 10 smartphone and tablet that can run Photoshop or Office. How cool is that? Already Apple’s iPad Pro models run rings around most Windows-clad notebook PCs, tablet hybrid or not, so what will Windows 10 bring to a mobile device that isn’t already there?
What’s so innovative about that?
Besides, everyone knows that future Microsoft products are always better than anything Apple currently ships. But the big secret that no one talks much about is that Apple doesn’t really care. The company has charted a course, stays on course, delivers iterative innovations almost regularly, and disruptive innovations every few years; just like always.
And that leads me to the dark side of that secret. Whatever Apple has coming from the future is not apparent.