Healthy competition in the technology arena keeps companies on their toes, helps to improve products, and, supposedly, in the end, we consumers are better off because our favorite product manufacturers benefit from competition as much as we do from having more choices. So, how is competition good for Apple?
Raise. The. Bar.
At the basic level, competition helps to spur innovation because technology makers or software developers are required to improve their products; sometimes with iterative innovation (improvements), sometimes with disrupting or revolutionary innovation. Either way, competition and choice are what makes the world go round, and each raising of the bar means advancements are made.
At least, that’s how the story goes.
Apple raised the bar of personal computing with the Mac’s and the point and click user interface. It took Microsoft a decade to catch up, but it did, and Windows dominated the Mac in a few short years. Apple raised the bar of portable music and media management with the iPod but less than a decade later the handwriting was on the wall, and the iPod and iTunes new competition was the smartphone.
Apple answered the competition with the iPhone, and the rest, as they say, is history. Well, the next decade as nearly every smartphone today resembles the original iPhone in 2007. Along the way to these disruptive innovations Apple faced furious competition; from Microsoft back in the mid-1990s, and Android, Samsung, and Chinese smartphone makers in the 21st century. All of that competition spurred Apple to build an inviting, cohesive, curated and cultivated ecosystem where hardware and software and services work together to form a set of platforms with usability, security, and privacy built in.
In that regard, competition has been good for Apple. We saw where Microsoft failed and became stagnant with Windows XP once the Mac became lesser competition. We see the problems Google has with Android fragmentation. Apple and its customers benefit when competition raises the bar of quality and usability, and we see Apple continue to carve out markets with new products.
Is competition bad for Apple?
Yes. Competition also means theft of intellectual property; either inadvertently or outright. Why does Google’s Android OS look and work like Apple’s iOS? Why does Windows look and work like a Mac? Why are the best Windows PCs simply clones of MacBook Pro models? Why does Samsung’s Galaxy line of premium smartphones look and feel and work much like a new iPhone? These competitive situations exist because intellectual property theft is rampant in technology, and few companies set the de facto standards. Apple is one of them. In that regard, competition– whereby designs, functionality, capability, and usability are stolen from Apple– is not healthy.
What can Apple do to protect itself?
Not much. This is the nature of business. Someone invents a wheel. Someone else invents the same wheel but with prettier hubcaps, so the original wheel inventor needs to up the game to keep pace with competition.
Apple’s competition is both good and bad for Apple but it’s more good than bad. Look at how much money Google, Samsung, Microsoft and other copy cat technology companies have saved in R&D expenses throughout the years.