Apple’s Strategy

Ben Bajarin, arguing that we shouldn’t be surprised if Apple releases none of the new products in 2014 — TV set, smartwatch, bigger iPad, bigger iPhone — that many pundits claim it “has to”:

The broad claims that are made about what Apple should do are almost always based around competitive reasons. Folks claim that because Apple’s competition is doing something that Apple should also or they will lose. Yet what I love about Apple’s strategy is that it is never around what the competition is doing. Apple marches to beat of their own drum. This is fundamentally mis-understood by so many. In fact, Apple’s strategy is best understood within the view that internally they literally believe they have no competition (I personally believe this also but that’s the subject of a much longer essay.) Apple has customers not competition. The decisions they make as a company are not based around what their competition is doing but around what is best for their customers. Like it or not, this is their strategy.

It’s an interesting way to think about Apple, and it mostly fits. It certainly helps explain why Apple, and Apple alone, has never been part of the CES herd. [Update: The final clause of that sentence originally read, “… and Apple alone, is sitting out CES again this year.” The “again” was my main point, thus the rewrite, but as Nilay Patel points out, other big American tech companies like Google and formerly-perennial CES keynoter Microsoft aren’t at CES 2014, either.]

Phones are the one major product line where Apple clearly has competition — not because any other phone maker has produced a rival device that Apple need worry about, but because of the role that carriers play. Carriers own the networks, and carriers sell most of the phones on their networks. And so of the four aforementioned new products Apple is widely speculated to be releasing this coming year, the one I think we’re most likely to see is an iPhone with a bigger display. Make the iPhone line-up akin to the iPad Air/Mini — simply a difference in size and price, with no significant difference in quality or performance.

Monday, 6 January 2014