Can you name a few technology companies that set the standard for design and usability? No negatives for putting Apple, Inc. high on your list. How do other technology gadget companies compete with an industry leader the likes of Apple?
Differentiation. It’s a key component of product marketing. Companies that set the standards require competitors to, well, differentiate their wares by, uh, um, doing something different. How do Windows PC makers, smartphone makers, and tablet makers differentiate their wares from Apple, Inc. products?
In a nutshell, that’s about it. Apple lives in the premium end of the product spectrum so competitors– almost all of them– are forced to differentiate their products with lower prices and more features. That is a difficult challenge because it has negative impact on gross margins, another component where Apple is the industry leader.
What else? Competitors have found they can upgrade their products more frequently than Apple because Apple has a growing reputation of selling old products as if they are new.
Apple has an old product problem that seems to border on, 1) executive incompetence, or, 2) complete disdain and disregard for customer sensibilities, or, 3) an understanding that their customer base just doesn’t care whether what Apple sells is new or old; they’re lemmings who will buy anyway.
I know what you’re thinking. “Examples, Jeffrey?” Yeah, a few.
Mac Pro – The Pro was launched for orders on Friday, December 13, 2013, or 1,580 days ago. It hasn’t changed since, though configuration options have. Everything about Mac Pro says old. We don’t know the date but since Apple already announced a replacement Mac Pro, this one is End-of-Life. You can buy one today for about the same as it sold for years ago.
MacBook Air – March 9, 2015 is the last major upgrade, 1,129 days ago. A speed bump came last year, but it still runs a 5th generation Intel Inside while the chip company ships 8th generation CPUs. MacBook Air does not even have a Retina display. Windows 10 PCs sell for far less with better hardware. Why is the MBA still around? Apple sheeple continue to buy it and think it’s new. It’s not.
Mac mini – 1,273 days ago Apple pushed a new Mac mini out the door. Nothing has changed since and we’re coming up on 3.5-years. The mini runs Intel’s 4th generation Core CPUs and has a Thunderbolt 2 port while Windows 10 PCs have 8th generation Intel Inside and Thunderbolt 3 ports.
What’s going on? What prevents Apple from simply upgrading the a few components in the mini and Air? Retina display. 8th generation Core chips. Thunderbolt 3. Updated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Surely the engineering cannot be that difficult for Apple?
AirPort Extreme – I own an AirPort Extreme and I bought it three or four years ago. Apple still sells it 1,766 days later. The same one. The only improvement has been the Airport Utility.
iPad mini – this is almost as shameful, especially since Apple introduced two new iPad Pro models and two new iPad models since iPad mini was launched about 939 days ago. That means iPad mini is stagnant while iPad has had two upgrades– at $329 each, and iPad Pro has had two upgrades. Walk into an Apple Store and you can buy an iPad mini. For more money than an iPad with a much larger display.
iPod touch – Yes, Apple still sells iPods but you’d be hard pressed to find one at the Apple Store. Think more than 1,000 days ago. Since then, Apple has moved on to an A-Series 9 chip, an A-Series 10 chip, and an A-Series 11 chip. I would like to think Apple could make iPod touch a useful device for those who want everything in an iPhone except the phone.
Apple’s competitors easily differentiate their products simply by using newer components and upgrading every year or so. Apple has a bunch of products which haven’t seen anything new in three to four years, but the company still wants customers to believe they’re new.