6 Reasons Apple Is So Successful

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Mike Segar / Reuters

Apple's iPads and iPhones are displayed inside an Apple store in New York City on Dec. 7, 2011

One of the more interesting questions I get asked about as an industry analyst who’s followed Apple since 1981 is why Apple is so successful. It’s an honest question because to those unfamiliar with Apple, the company’s rise and current dominance in non-PC devices is somewhat puzzling.

Most people have a working understanding of the fact that Apple lost the PC wars to Microsoft, and only nominally understand that when Apple created the iPod and then the iPhone, the company started to go in a new direction. And anyone who’s gone into an Apple store knows full well that Apple’s customer service and stores represent the gold standard for selling and supporting tech gadgets. But beyond that, the reasons why Apple is really successful are still a mystery to many.

(MORE: 50 Best iPhone Apps 2012)

There are plenty of books about Apple that talk about everything from Steve Jobs’ history to tenets of Apple’s business models to secrets about Apple’s internal-management ideas. However, after years of watching Apple up close and personal and having to deal with every one of their CEOs, as well as interacting with various Apple execs over the years, I would like to suggest that the reasons the company is successful can be boiled down to six key principles that make it very hard for competitors to compete with Apple.

1. For any product that Apple creates, the people who create it have to want it themselves
So many times with projects I do with other tech companies, the goal is almost always based around the technology first, followed by whether or not people really want to use it. Geeky engineers are dazzled by the technology at their disposal and often create something because they can. But Apple’s approach is quite different. The engineers who are creating Apple products actually make them for themselves. And Jobs was the chief “user” of Apple products when he was alive. All of Apple’s products are based on the fact that Jobs represented the real customer. And his engineers had to come to grips with that when designing a product. It has to be something that they personally couldn’t live without.

2. The products have to be easy to use
Jobs was a stickler on this point. While industrial design is a critical component of any product Apple makes, if it is not easy to use, it is considered worthless to the consumer. This is what drove the company’s user-interface designs from Day 1 and is still the mantra pushed to the software and hardware engineers every day they go to work. All of the products they create have to be intuitive and easy to understand and learn. As technology has become more intricate and users want more features, the task of keeping things simple is sometimes difficult. And Apple creates tools for power users and rookies, which can mean a broad range of ease-of-use issues. But even with that, Apple is the only company I deal with where ease of use is more important than the product itself. Apple makes this a critical goal of its approach to creating anything for the market.

(PHOTOS: The Apple II Turns 35)

3. Keep things simple
I was in Paris in the past two weeks and had talks with various French telecommunications officials about many mobile-computing issues. But one conversation I had in particular emphasizes this keep-it-simple point. We were discussing how to compete with Apple — a major pastime for all Apple competitors and carriers these days — when the question of why Apple is really successful came up. And one exec nailed it when he said he felt that the real reason Apple is successful is because it has one product; in this case the iPhone. It minimizes the decisionmaking process for the consumer by making things simple. The person speaking was with a carrier in France, and he said that in their stores, they have to have as many as 25 different models of phones available. That makes it hard for his staff to be really knowledgeable about all of them all of the time, and their customers just have too many options to choose from.

But Apple only has one iPhone model, and anyone who has gone into an Apple store understands that every staff member there knows a great deal about each of the four major products carried in its stores. Apple doesn’t have five iPhone models to choose from; it has only one. While this may seem limiting given the amount of smart phones available to users, the truth is the reverse. Our company has done consumer research for over 30 years, and consumers constantly tell us that while choice is nice, in reality they want the process of choosing a tech product to be simple and not complicated by a plethora of choices.

Yes, there are tech-savvy people who like more choices and sometimes even like complexity, but from years of experience as a market researcher, I can tell you that in the end, the majority of users are not tech-savvy, and keeping things simple for them is a plus. Apple understands this in spades and is never tempted to add multiple versions of an iPhone, iPad or even more than one or two types of iPods. This makes buying an Apple product simple. And consumers seem to appreciate this considering the huge number of iDevices that are sold each year. I know the tech media and techies are the most vocal about this issue of choice, but in the end, while choice is good for competitive pricing, what nontechie consumers really want is simplicity.

(MORE: The Inventor Of the Future)

4. Offer great customer service and in-store experiences
Jobs understood one of the major conundrums of technology: even if you create products that are easy to use, the variety of things that people want to use technology for often creates complexity. Because of this, consumers at all levels may need some hand holding from time to time. I was one of the most vocal critics of Apple when it introduced its first retail store in Tokyo in 2002. I thought it was crazy for Apple to try and go into retail. At the time, and even today, tech retail stores are in decline while big-box stores like Costco and Walmart sell products on price and nothing else. I thought that if price were the issue, an upscale retail store would be DOA. Wow, were other naysayers and I wrong about Apple’s retail strategy.

Apple uses this conundrum to its advantage. Because it keeps product SKUs simple, the salespeople inside the stores know the products really well. Notice that when you go into an Apple store and are greeted by one of the sales staff, you’re not asked, “How can I help you?” Instead they ask, “What would you like to do today?” They go right to the heart of any technology user’s question, a question that’s always related to what they want to do with the technology the user is interested in.

And once you explain your needs, they take care of it on the spot in most cases. Or if you need more hand holding, they turn you over to the Apple Geniuses. No wonder 50% of people buying Apple products are new to Apple. Apple’s products are simple to understand and use, but if you do have a problem, Apple can take care of it at their stores or over the phone quickly.

(PHOTOS: Apple Announces New iPad)

5. Apple only makes a product if Apple can do it better
Apple normally doesn’t invent a new product or product category. Sure, the company did invent the first commercial PC with the Apple II, and the Mac improved on PCs with a graphical user interface and mouse input. But since then, all of Apple’s other products have been recreations of existing products. Apple did not invent the MP3 player; Apple reinvented it and made it better. Apple did not invent the smart phone; Apple reinvented it and made it better. And Apple did not invent the tablet; Apple reinvented it and made it better.

As Apple designer Jonathan Ive said recently, “Our goals are very simple — to design and make better products. If we can’t make something that is better, we won’t do it.” Clearly, Apple applied that thinking first to iPods, then smart phones and more recently, to the iPad.

6. Apple stays at least two years ahead of its competitors
This is the one that scares Apple’s competitors the most. While those competing with Apple are just getting products to market that are competitive, Apple is already working on the products at least two years out. For example, the new iPhone that will most likely go to market in October was designed and signed off on two years ago. And the iPhone the company is working on now is for the fall of 2014. The same goes for the iPad. The new iPad that we will most likely see next March was signed off on two years ago. The one that’s being worked on now we will probably see in 2015. This is a nightmare for Apple’s competitors and will continue to be for some time.

(MORE: What Would Steve Jobs Do?)

Besides having geniuses in design, software and retail, Apple also has the cash to invent components, manufacturing processes and things like that, which almost makes it impossible for the competition to make any real headway against Apple. And don’t let the fact that Android has become the No. 1 smart-phone operating system make you think that it’s the big winner. Yes, Android has gained ground by the sheer numbers of companies and products pushing Android. But the real measure of success is in the profits, and Apple is making as much as 70% of all the profits in smart phones and about 85% of the profits in tablets. Just ask any Android competitor which they would like more, market share or profits. You’ll get the answer relating to the real measure of success in this market.

These six principles may seem a bit simplistic given the fact that Apple also has great software, industrial design and a powerful ecosystem of content, apps and services as part of the company’s success equation. However, I can tell you that from my three decades of following Apple, it’s these six key principles that are what really makes it successful. And as long as it adheres to them, it’s pretty likely that Apple will continue to grow and command a relatively large share of the market in the company’s product categories where it competes.

Bajarin is the president of Creative Strategies Inc., a technology-industry-analysis and market-intelligence firm in Silicon Valley.

MORE: Would Apple Create a Smart Watch? If So, When?

32 comments
NTUB10436009
NTUB10436009

Apple成功的六個關鍵(為什麼要選擇蘋果)


Apple為什麼可以這麼成功?以Apple非PC主導者的地位,他取得這樣的成功在很多人心裡是匪夷所思的事,大部分人都知道,Apple在和Microsoft的PC戰爭中失去主導地位,但只有少部分人知道,當蘋果轉戰iPhone時,這家公司已經為自己開啟了全新的領域。


每個走進蘋果專售店的人,都能發現他們高超的行銷手段以及產品服務,但除了這些,真正使蘋果成功的原因仍存有許多謎題。


有許多書總是款款而談任何蘋果中賈伯斯的崛起、企業流程的秘密和內部管理的祕訣,不論如何,根據鉅細靡遺的觀察蘋果有小到大的市場,以及蘋果的CEO的結果,蘋果能使其他公司難以與他競爭,卓越而出的原因,應該可以分為以下六點。


1.蘋果創立的任何產品,都是因為人們需要而生


有太多時候,企業創造產品並不是因為人們想要,而是建立在技術上。工程師研發產品常常只是因為他們技術上可以做到,但蘋果則完全不同。蘋果的產品完全由他們內部工程師自行製造,且當賈伯斯仍在世時,他是蘋果最大的"使用者",他要求所有的產品都要回應客戶的實際面需求而創造--也就是要回應賈伯斯他自己的需求,這份堅持也深深地融入他們的理念之中。


2.產品就該容易使用


賈伯斯非常堅持一點,那就是容易使用。當蘋果公司在設計工業零件時,若是無法容易使用,那麼那就是對顧客無用的產品。從這項理念被推廣開始,直至今日,已經成為了他們設計使用者介面的宗旨。當未來科技進步的越來越複雜,容易使用、學習和理解,對使用者而言是非常重要的,然而,這項任務並沒有看起來的那麼容易,所以當蘋果為他們的客群如此設計時,就等於是開啟一個關於"易於使用"的領域。


3.讓事情簡單一點


在一家手機店中,至少要擺滿25種不同種類的手機,每個員工也必須精通每一隻手機的操作與功能,這代表員工必須花費更多的時間來了解它們,而他們的顧客也會在走進店內的同時,面對太多眼花撩亂的選擇方案。


其中特立獨行的,就是蘋果了,他的iPhone只有一種使用模式。這看起來似乎限制了智慧型手機發展的可能性,但根據蘋果30年以來的客戶意見,他們說,有選擇固然是好,但實際上他們其實需要的只是簡單、不複雜,不要太多選擇的系統。


有人覺得,客戶還是需要更多複雜選擇的。或許是,但那只是對少部分精通技術的人而言,事實告訴我們,大部分的消費者都不是精通技術的人,蘋果了解這點,所以從不在iPhone加入太複雜的功能,維持Apple產品的簡單。


4.給客戶一個完美的消費體驗


賈伯斯清楚知道科技往往面臨到的問題:即使你創出一個非常簡單的產品,使用者還是會想用複雜的方法解決他們面對的事。


面對這個問題,蘋果用他們服務將危機變成了優勢。一旦你面對技術上的問題,可以利用他們的電話客服或造訪他的的店,他們會直擊問題核心,並通常當場快速解決。


5.蘋果只做更好的產品


蘋果通常不會去發明一個新產品。當然,過去這家公司曾發行第一台商用電腦Apple II,在電腦上創新圖型式介面以及鼠標,但除此之外,他們並沒有更多的嘗試發明,例如,蘋果並沒有發明MP3,而是改變它,使得他幾乎變成全新的產品;他們也沒有發明智慧型手機,卻成為其中佼佼者;蘋果更沒有發明筆記型電腦,而是重新發明。


向是蘋果設計師喬納森‧伊凡所敘:"我們的目標很簡單--就是製作更好的產品。如果我們不能使它更好,就不如不要製造。"


6.永遠保持領先兩年


這是蘋果最令他競爭者恐懼的原因之一,當其他企業才發表他們的產品,準備跟蘋果競爭市場時,蘋果的產品其實早就營運兩年了。例如,蘋果發表的iPhone在他發表的兩年前,就已經被設計出,並簽署核可了。


除了它非凡的設計、軟體和細節設計,蘋果同樣有許多亮點。它有充足的資金可以供他發明產件、研究生產流程。這使得它的競爭對手很難使出什麼真正重創蘋果的手段。


你或許會想,Android成為智慧手機系統的第一品牌了,難道不能擊敗蘋果嗎?不要讓這些言亂誤導你了,當然,Android在企業及產品推廣上,它得到了驚人的數量回饋,但企業要成功的真正主因是利潤,而蘋果使他在手機上的獲利高達七成,在電腦上達到八成五。若你做一個試驗,詢問Android的競爭對手,是想獲得市場,或是獲得利潤,來擊敗Android,答案都會指向同一個結果--利潤。


這六點可能讓你覺得把蘋果其他能力弱化了,例如其實它們也有很棒的軟體、工業設計以及很棒的有系統性的內在、APP及服務,但無論如何,真正使蘋果達到現有高度的原因還是出自這六點,而只要蘋果保持現在這六點,他們必定會走得更遠。

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MatthewFrederick
MatthewFrederick

"6. Apple stays at least two years ahead of its competitors"


LOL! wow, not true across the board, in their computers they at min 6 months behind. On phones and features anywhere from 1-2 years behind both Android and Windows phones..

Even when this was written 2 years ago apple was behind on everything but the iPad / tablet market.


HimmatChawla
HimmatChawla

@MatthewFrederick I KNOW right? I hate Apple more than anything. I love Android. And I don't care about price. Its about the features, which Apple products don't have. Why is everyone crazy about iPhone?? I don't understand. What IS there in Apple. Apple is at least 2 years behind its competitors. Android has so many features... And SIMPLE???? Downloading songs is IMPOSSIBLE on iDevices. First you create an iTunes playlist. Then you connect your Device. Then you "sync" it with your Device for songs. And heck, the Device doesn't turn ON when you buy it unless you connect it to iTunes. Where and when did Apple get this "wonderful" idea? Apple can't do anything. Android is just mistaken as a phone for poor people who can't afford iPhones. I'm rich. Some of my friends are too. They love Android as much as I do. I hate people who like/want/have an iPhone.

literacyisgood
literacyisgood

This article was a fluff piece 2 years ago.

Now its even more obvious to the non-cultists that the emperor wears no clothes.

thelazypolygon
thelazypolygon

The name Jony Ive isn't mentioned anywhere in this post. That's a shame seeing as how he is the main man behind Apple's design. 

DrDavidStephenson
DrDavidStephenson

I agree with all the points the author made about Apple. But I feel there is another factor, that may even be the most prominent. There was, and still is, real marketing and advertising genius behind it all. From the very first ads for the ipod, there was always a sense that to have an Apple product was to be in-vogue, fashionable and cool. For many, it is a status symbol and signifies being a member of the hip class that is embracing social media and leaving old paradigms behind.


cj0620
cj0620

How the eff are they simple and user-friendly?  I have recently discovered that the iPad we use at work has neither a USB port (maddening) NOR the ability to delete a LOT of photos at once in a logical way.  Are you freaking telling me I have to SIT there and WASTE TIME tapping the screen a hundred times to select each photo independently, then pressing Delete???  Are you telling me that Apple people, who are 'creative' people, who spend lots of money on products like these and then take lots of photos, can't back up their hundreds - or thousands - of photos onto their computers via Photo Stream, and then press Select All and delete all the photos at once?!  

I really can not believe that Apple products are touted as being so user-friendly.  They are absolutely maddening. 

ShaneMiDag
ShaneMiDag

@cj0620 Just plug it into your computer. It will ask you if you want to import your photos into your library on the computer and then prompt you after that if you would like to delete the photos off of your device. 

sents2012
sents2012

Really a very good article. Well done great research and understanding. I will use this in my business,

GeneralBacon
GeneralBacon

They are not two years ahead.........they are using two year-old technology.

ShaneMiDag
ShaneMiDag

@matthewbennion If that was the case, then Apple would have been sued a long time ago for copyright infringement.