Does Apple have a secret recipe for business?

Discussion in 'Apple, Inc and Tech Industry' started by neutrino23, Aug 13, 2010.

  1. neutrino23 macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2003
    Location:
    SF Bay area
    #1
    We all know a lot about Apple products, how well they are designed, how well they work together, how nice the stores are, etc.

    I'm wondering, how much of that is corporate culture (sort of built-in, native talent) and how much of that is explicitly thought out. We don't get to see the inner workings of Apple but we see the results. Based on that, can we infer that they have a detailed game plan they follow or is this the result of a lot of smart people making good day to day decisions?

    If it is an explicit game plan, then it seems another company could learn how to do this and adapt that plan for their own business and resources.

    In the 90s Apple was chaotic. There were all sorts of models, some barely different from each other. Even after Steve first returned there was still a lot of individuality in the products. Somewhere along the line, maybe after the stores opened, Apple looks a lot more cohesive. I had a sense that all the parts were working together like Swiss watch.

    Some small facts stick out. In one keynote Steve mentioned that some 85% of the population of the US lived within 5 miles of an Apple store (I may have the numbers wrong). Something like that doesn't happen by chance. They had a marketing group figure out how to get the maximum exposure for the stores.

    When they think about a new product do they have some elaborate mind map worked out that they follow to figure out pricing, size, weight, etc.? Do they have anthropologists and psychologists on the design team to give them outlines about how people perceive the world so they know not to make something too big, too small, etc. or do they rely on the talent of Jonathan Ives and his team?

    Most of the design teams I've worked with, except one, have been amazingly casual and pretty much left to their own devices. I'm kind of in awe how Apple (whether you like their products or not) seems to have worked out how to make a science of their whole business.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. *LTD* macrumors G4

    *LTD*

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2009
    Location:
    Canada
    #2
    Yes.

    Simple recipe: User Experience, User Experience, User Experience. Plus an indefatigable commitment to this no matter what the cost.

    There you have it.
     
  3. rhett7660 macrumors G4

    rhett7660

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2008
    Location:
    Sunny, Southern California
    #3
    Glad to see *LTD* is back. Was waiting to see what he/she had to say about this thread. :)
     
  4. G4er? macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2009
    Location:
    Temple, TX
    #4
    Whatever Apple is doing I apparently exist outside of the curve. Apple used to sell computers that I wanted to buy. There were choices available. Now Apple designs for a very select group and you better hope you fit into it. Desktop computers with glossy screens and laptop parts. Or the Mac Pro. But absolutely nothing in between! All I want is a small desktop computer that can fit an optical drive and two internal hard drives and an upgradable graphics card. And let me choose my monitor. Nothing extreme or fancy in that request. But after using Apple computers since the early 90s I find myself stuck waiting for Apple to remember the buyers that kept it going. I don't want or care about phones, or music players, or laptops or tablets or battery chargers. I want a good, basic Apple desktop computer but Apple doesn't seem to care. The two markets where Apple really first got a lot of people using their computers was education and desktop publishing, my wife and I. School now uses PCs and while I'm not in desktop publishing anymore I still want to use an Apple computer. I feel like I'm trying to hold out for nothing. Apple's secret recipe for success seems to be forget about your previous customers and only go for the new ones.
     
  5. cherry su macrumors 65816

    cherry su

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2008
    #5
    The Mac mini is mostly laptop based, but the iMac is now mostly filled with desktop class hardware, save for the RAM. Unfortunately, the glossy screen point still holds. :(
     
  6. Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

    Joined:
    May 19, 2002
    #6
    Yep, and it is the reason Steve Jobs has picked up so much Disney stock.

    They need magic, and the only way to do that is grind up real pixies for their pixie dust.

    Now that is a place you don't want to get in the middle of a reduction in force, and a benefit reduction ordered by the accountants.
     
  7. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2007
    Location:
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    #7
    I think there is another thing Apple has done. They've decided that they will sell products that they think will get people excited, and they will make that product the best that they can, which to Apple often means paring back the features to the bar minimum. And if your needs aren't met by the product, then you can lump it.

    I actually applaud this philosophy. Too many products try to do too many things, so they are complex and don't do anything really well. It is not hard for Apple to make products that shine in their category because the competition too often includes so many features, the product doesn't do anything well. By focusing on simplicity Apple can deliver the "User Experience, User Experience, User Experience." [*LTD*] that they are known for.

    That's why people like G4er? (above) are unhappy, and they don't understand why Apple doesn't cater to their needs. If Apple built what G4er? and others wanted, Macs would end up like any other PC - complex, buggy, and not as easy used. They would be Feature Rich and User Experience Poor.

    Ironically, the iPhone is the exception. It is a complex device that does many things..... though apparently using it as a phone is it's weak point. [Ok, I'm kidding, I'm kidding..... mostly...:D ]
     
  8. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2009
    Location:
    Boston
    #8
    I wouldn't say a secret recipe, but they have been quite astute in identifying areas where high profit and innovation can converge. The iPod, iPhone, and iPad are recent examples.

    Up till now, they've had a hip, cool reputation as well. The recent issues with the iPhone 4, while a commercial success has tarnished that image.
     
  9. MisterMe macrumors G4

    MisterMe

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location:
    USA
    #9
    You are working on assumptions that are more than 30 years old. Apple's strength in education was due to the Apple ][, a computer that went on sale in 1977. The Mac never achieved the strength in education that the Apple ][ had. It did, however, help create the destop publishing market.

    But I digress.... You claim to want a "good basic Apple desktop computer." This is an undefined phrase. Presumably your "good basic Apple desktop computer" has certain well-defined features. It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. You would be well-served to visit the Apple Store online to price-out an iMac, Mac mini, or Mac Pro--desktop computers all--that meets your needs.
     
  10. danjames99 macrumors member

    danjames99

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2006
    #10
    I think Apple must have an ideology of differentiation in the computer market. I think they are concerned with the long-run.

    I agree that Apple has a strange neglect of it's "middle-ground" -- the people who might want a quad-core or better computer without purchasing a new monitor. There's no pure desktop Mac that meets anyones' needs between the Mini and the MacPro.

    I'm sure they considered that if they did a MacPro-Mini that had an i5 chip with open PCIe slots and a spare bay or two for extra hard drives, it would sell well. It would obviously tempt many people who'd otherwise buy an iMac, MacPro, or chuck it all and buy a Windows PC.

    They doubtlessly decided that the tuna-net of that desktop race is something they want out of. Go on to the Dell or HP Web site and look at the choices for desktop work stations and you'll get vomited up a dizzying array of machines with multiple cases and hardware configurations, with confusing price differentials. No doubt, Apple has said, hey, we know most banks or insurance companies are not going to put Macs on every desktop in a 400 seat office. They say go ahead and use Dell and Windows, and we hope it works for you.

    The mere portable chips of today far outperform destop gaming powerhouses of five years ago. Five years is beyond a lifetime in the computer industry, but Apple is dedicated to "thinking different(ly)". And for the long run.

    I think they're forgoing customers they could be servicing better today for the sake of maintaining a brand that will continue on a consistent design specification so that their product line will be around 10 years from now when there won't be any practical differentiation between the size of desktop or portable components.
     
  11. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2007
    Location:
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    #11
    Triple-O sauce. Trust me. If you know BC, then you know that Apple has the secret to Triple-O sauce...... :)
     
  12. Jaro65 macrumors 68040

    Jaro65

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2009
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    #12
    When you say "they", you're really referring to SJ, right? I wonder where Apple would be (will be) without his vision and execution skills.
     
  13. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2002
    Location:
    Location Location Location
    #13
    Can I LOLz???

    All G4er wants is a desktop that's modular like a Mac Pro, but less powerful than a Mac Pro. The Mac Mini isn't really modular with the exception of allowing for any monitor. I doubt Apple isn't offering such a desktop because it would spit blood if they tried. ;) Of course they could design one and make it just as reliable as any other Mac product they make (this coming from a guy who just found out that his new 15" MBP's ethernet port doesn't work :eek:).

    Lets not get carried away with excuses. They don't offer one because they decided not to. I highly doubt it's a design or reliability issue, so it's like a business move of which I don't see the aim of.

    Actually, I'm convinced that the reason Apple doesn't offer such a middle-ground system is because there is no way for Apple Marketing to make the product "cool". Seriously. The only way to make a medium-sized desktop be cool and marketable is to design it as a Cube v2.0 or something. Otherwise, there's no way Apple would make another tower unless they could claim that it was the most powerful ABC, or the smallest XYZ. They're not here to actually offer solutions anymore. They exist to make cool things, and if they can't find a marketing angle for it, I doubt they'd touch it.
     
  14. arkitect macrumors 601

    arkitect

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2005
    Location:
    Bath, United Kingdom
    #14
    You mean, like this?
    [​IMG]

    No, not really…
     
  15. Bernard SG macrumors 65816

    Bernard SG

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2010
    #15
    I agree with most of the *positive* analysis above.
    I would add a few more:

    1. Commercially speaking, Apple behaves as a leader: they don't worry much about the competition's pricing. They go for their bold approach which generates huge profit margin as compared to their competitors (obviously, this requires that their products and services are actually top notch to justify the price tag). While this makes sense now as they are effectively a leader somewhat, it was much less obvious 10 years ago, yet that was already their strategy.

    2. As a result of 1. above, they have a huge cash war-chest that allows them to go for an unmatched level of R&D to stay ahead of the pack.

    3. They have huge balls, take bold risks. iPod, iPhone and just recently iPad were all very risky projects that had big potential to be massive failures. It's quite telling that the idea of tablets has been around for more than a decade but never took off; but then Apple comes up with iPad and BOOM! millions units sold in a few weeks and the product is already a household name for the tablet category, slaughtering the Netbook sales. Haters can say what they want but no other tech company currently has the guts to take such bets.

    And as already mentioned by others above, simplicity is the key. It doesn't go without trade-offs but at the end of the day it makes the user happy overall and Apple succeeds.

    When Steve Jobs said Apple loves its customers, it was not just rhetoric: although the word "love" might be a little bit too much, it's a fact that, compared to the competition, Apple makes a genuine effort to look at its customers as people rather than walking wallets.
     
  16. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2009
    Location:
    Boston
    #16
    No, I meant they. While SJ has been instrumental in apple's turn around and vision for the future and vision for some of the projects but he's not the only one at apple creating ideas, apple is full of very smart people. Apple's success with Tim Cook at the helm during Jobs medical leave is proof in point.
     
  17. G4er? macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2009
    Location:
    Temple, TX
    #17
    With that thought I can see why in the automotive world you now see so many front wheel drive crossovers instead of vehicles like my 2001 Jeep Cherokee. My Cherokee has the full time transfer case which is really like all wheel drive but also can operate in 4 wheel drive high and low range. Plus it is rated to tow 5000 lbs and has rugged live axles instead of more delicate independent suspension. Why offer something like that when you can just sell front wheel drive CUVs? Just concentrate on the people mover aspect and forget about all the other things they used to do. The Cherokee stayed in production for 17 years so Jeep must have done something right offering a vehicle that can do many things. Jeep is now offering more models but most of them are lacking features previous Jeeps had. Kind of like Apple perhaps? Apple is concentrating on certain things but seems to be ignoring others.

    I don't believe I am asking for a complex computer, just one that Apple isn't building right now.
     
  18. belvdr macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2005
    #18
    Jeep was owned by DaimlerChrysler, so that's what's changed them. You can see less Jeep in them and more focus on what Chrysler has always done.
     
  19. PerfSeeker macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2010
    #19
    As if you know anything about corporate/enterprise needs. Stick to your iToy.
     
  20. Jaro65 macrumors 68040

    Jaro65

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2009
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    #20
    I certainly don't dispute the fact that there are many highly talented people at Apple. In fact, as likely everyone else here, I very much hope there are. Tim Cook is obviously a capable individual from the execution perspective, no doubt about that. But while you can train someone how to adhere to the standards of operational excellence, the creative vision that has been a key factor in Apple's success may not be that easy to share and develop. I just hope that SJ is addressing that as well.

    Do share you wisdom, please.
     
  21. SnowLeopard2008 macrumors 604

    SnowLeopard2008

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2008
    Location:
    Silicon Valley
    #21
    Make the user happy. FIRST PRIORITY IS USER EXPERIENCE. This includes the retail stores for product hands on, high quality products, polished software, carefully selected hardware (power consumption vs battery performance), customer support, etc. In all of theses is where Microsoft and Google fail with their Windows and Android stuff respectively.
     
  22. neutrino23 thread starter macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2003
    Location:
    SF Bay area
    #22
    What I meant by secret recipe is does Apple have an explicit business plan that they don't share publicly or is it more sort of day-to-day improvisation? I would interpret your response as in favor of saying they have bright people making good choices every day as opposed to a set of rules they follow.

    I kind of go along with that but I think there is more to it. Look at Microsoft. No question there are boat loads of really bright engineers there but somehow they have trouble getting organized. I've seen other companies as well that were filled with drama and a lack of decisiveness that combined to hold them back. I'd go so far as to say it is more important to cut down on the drama and meetings than it is to increase the IQ of the staff.

    I hadn't thought of this before but I'm now thinking that the reason that Apple is so hard to copy is that it has something to do with the personality of the company (for lack of a better word).

    I travel a lot on business and have been in discussions with a number of large corporations. I've been struck by the fact that most companies have identifiable characteristics that often outlast individual managers. It is as if new hires are chosen for compatibility or they quickly adopt the company mindset after joining.

    So even if another company in an unrelated business could learn Apple's explicit business plans (outlines for store siting, rules for how often to upgrade products, management structure, etc.) they might have trouble implementing them if they had too many drama queens or if management was tone deaf regarding design or customer support.

    I'd say that Apple will probably do fine after Steve leaves for at least a decade or so because the personality of Apple is solidly in place. Apple will change, different choices will be made, but it will still be Apple. Beyond that is anyone's guess. Look at how HP suffered after the loss of its founders.
     
  23. *LTD* macrumors G4

    *LTD*

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2009
    Location:
    Canada
    #23
    How did "corporate/enterprise needs" find its way into this conversation?

    By "secret recipe for business", OP means "secret recipe for the TECH business."

    I doubt at this point Apple actually needs to cater to the enterprise directly when Apple gear is already finding its way into it anyway. The enterprise is dominated by low-margin high-volume cheap boxes, often running awful software that's at least several versions behind current versions of said awful software.

    And yes, I work in a corporate environment and we do have IT staff. They're the stereotypical Windows IT drones.
     
  24. 87vert macrumors 6502

    87vert

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2008
    Location:
    Pittsburgh, PA
    #24
    yea they do, I'll let you in on the secret. Don't just sell a product sell a culture/lifestyle. Then you can have fan boy's that will defend it till death.

    Google is trying to do this with Android but they won't be able to because android users are dumb :D
     
  25. Paintball613 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2008
    #25
    They have a vertical business model where they try to make/do everything themselves. It has been very successful for them.
     

Share This Page