Monday, 2 June 2008

Innovation at the core of Apple

As the week of the Apple WWDC event approaches, at which the 2nd generation iPhone is expected to be announced, I want to highlight perhaps the less obvious innovative aspects of that company.  Apple is well respected, even by many of it's critics, for the innovation of it's products.  This is true of not just the iPod and the iPhone but also its range of Mac computers.  But the innovation of the company stretches way beyond the technical design and features of its hardware and software.  

In many internal ways, Apple thinks different. The direct hands-on influence of the CEO is one such organisational aspect.  But from a business perspective, the way the company does many tasks is significant.  Take the management of it's product portfolio - unlike many companies who will launch more and more products which add to the size of the portfolio, Apple has a track record of being clinical with withdrawing old products when introducing new ones.  The discontinuing of the iPod Mini at the time that it was the best selling music player and just before the key holiday buying season and its replacement by the iPod Nano caught all its competitors off guard and re-defined the standards that the marketplace was trying to attain.  

Another example is the way Apple approaches its retail operation.  This is innovative in so many ways ... from the store design and layout (most retailers would baulk at the idea of so much open unused potential merchandising space, particularly in such high value retail locations) ... to sales staff incentives and roles ... to the free services and experiences it offers its store visitors.  

So as Steve Jobs makes various announcements next week, I will also be looking for some of the other innovations in terms of clever but subtle strategic approaches which make it very hard for other companies to copy Apple's success. 

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