Apple as Bumblebee

James Surowiecki had a piece on Apple in last week’s New Yorker; far better than Tim Wu’s ham-fisted “open beats closed” piece, but similarly flawed in terms of baseline assumptions:

Over time, Apple has succeeded despite (or because of) its disregard for the conventional wisdom about what works in technology markets: it has built hardware and software, kept its platform closed, had long product cycles, and emphasized quality over price. It’s always been the proverbial bumblebee: it shouldn’t be able to fly but it does. A wobble in flight is all it takes for people to proclaim its inevitable crash.

Like The Macalope (who had a great column this week, go read it), I found this passage very telling. I have long argued that Apple’s business model is simple and seemingly obvious: make high-quality products that people want to buy and sell them for a profit. Yet many people continue to look at this and say, “That shouldn’t work”.

As The Macalope wrote:

The bumblebee analogy is more apt than Surowiecki details. The reason this myth started was because people tried to apply formulas to bees that weren’t apt. Just like a bee is not a fixed-wing aircraft, Apple is not a steady growth company like Johnson & Johnson, or a market-share chaser like Amazon.

Monday, 4 March 2013